Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Shopping by Bike

An interesting northern online discussion has been taking place this month about shopping by bicycle. Kim Harding in Edinburgh has been arguing for better cycle access to shops, a tax on car parking space, and more convenient secure cycle parking. Tom Bailey in Newcastle  argues:

"You take places where the majority of shoppers are already walking, you make them a bit more bike friendly, you put in a few cycle routes covering the last mile or two in each direction and then you do a bit of advertising.  These places are called High Streets".

So how does this apply to Darlington? Back in 2007, as part of our ultimately successful campaign  for cyclist access to the newly pedestrianized town centre, we blogged an article about the economic benefits to retailers of cyclist shoppers, something that Kim echoes in his article. But just how convenient is it to shop in Darlington?

Well, once you are in the pedestrian area, and the comfort of access to it is pretty variable, shopping right in the centre is pretty convenient. There is good quality bike parking at a number of key points around the main shopping streets, from Northgate at the north end to Blackwellgate to the south. But try almost anything else, and you soon discover that the design of the pedestrian heart was carried out without cycling in mind.

Kim quotes Jan Gehl telling us to invite people to walk and bike in cities by developing quality streetscapes. He might have added that we should actually think about what it is like getting from A to B in these landscapes on a bicycle. Three examples spring to mind in Darlington:

1. Travelling from the town centre to the railway station, a major route for cycling in Darlington. Starting from the Pease Monument in the centre of town, you would hope to be able to cycle down the direct route towards the station, Priestgate. But no, this is one way for motorised traffic in the opposite direction, with no contraflow for cyclists. So there are two alternative options. One is to cycle round a large detour, taking in Crown Street, to arrive at the foot of Priestgate, and then on to the officially signed route to the station via Borough Road. The second is to use the cycle path below the Town Hall, but this delivers you to the wrong side of Parkgate, one of the busiest roads in Darlington. Many cyclists opt here for the obvious and use the pavement.

2. Travelling along Skinnergate and on to Duke Street. This is part of the pedestrianised zone between 10am and 5pm, so is relatively pleasant during these hours. But before and after it is used, one way, by motorised traffic. The fact that cyclists use the street in both directions appears to have confused motorists and police alike, judging from the reactions I have received whilst cycling along. A year ago, as previously reported, one motorist felt it necessary to stop me and tell me off.

3. Cycling to and from the town centre to the nearby Sainsburys on Victoria Road. This supermarket is just a few minutes' cycle from the town centre, yet there is simply no provision been made available for cycling access. Given that it lies on the dual carriageway that is the inner ring road, most cyclists choose to use pavements to access the store. Moreover, returning towards town via the obvious route (S. Arden Street), cyclists are confronted with two short one way streets going the wrong way.

A market town like Darlington still has enough small shops to make shopping by bicycle a pleasant experience. But the devil is in the detail. Planners have clearly not thought through properly what shopping on a bicycle means. These three examples do not require large sums of money to resolve. rather, as Jan Gehl says, they need planners to be thinking more seriously about how to invite cyclists to shop.

Monday, November 07, 2011

Why it is not enough to just train cyclists: Infrastructure is needed if you want to get people on bikes:

David Hembrow surprises us again with an excellent post about the "efficiency" of simple training for cycling: Without the development of cycling infrastructure (where it is needed not just where it does not disturb the car) the work of e.g. "Bikeability" will be done in vain. He also argues that with the (cheap) expense for cycling infrastructure Britain could solve some of its state budget problems.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Critical Mass Ride in Darlington?

Saturdays Critical Mass ride was a complete success.Not from the from the sheer number of people that didn't turn out for it but for the fact that it brought new people together and demonstrated a group of people riding bikes can promote positive reactions from non riders..Eight riders turned out,some in fancy dress,some dressed as they normally do for a bike ride.
The reasons for fancy dress were twofold,a bit of fun and also to soften the impact of a group of cyclists riding together in a busy town centre.The main reason behind the Critical Mass ride was to celebrate a birthday with a group of like minded people that have one common factor,everybody for whatever reason  rides a bike.

                                Photo by kind permission of Simon James.

The group gathered,greetings were exchanged and hands shaken.It was time for the off.A slow ride to South Park through the Pedestrian Heart and stopping briefly in the Market Square.
Making our way down Duke Street along Skinnergate turning left in Blackwell Gate and onto High Row.At this point readers may start to think how stupid can someone be to take a group of cyclists along a very busy pedestrian street on the busiest day of the week? well,I did and I am not stupid(educationally challenged yes but not stupid).But cyclists have a right to ride through the Pedestrian Heart,a right that was fought for long and hard by the Darlington Cycling Campaign,any day of the week.
The route was a cycled at walking pace,saying "hellos" and "thankyou's" to lots of people along the way.We had a "wow" factor and a really big "cute" factor and that was the in the form of a Tricycle complete with Mother and child in fancy dress,people even came up to chat to them and ask about using a Trike.And so it was that we headed on to South Park for Ice Cream and a drink.
Slowly the group broke up,other commitments,family duties,meetings to go to.Before we all drifted off we agreed on one thing,that we would do it again,soon.
So I say a big thank you to all that took part,Darlovelo,20's Plenty for Me,Darlington Cycling Campaign,Kranksbikes,Dr.Coffee's Cafe,Sally,Brian,Geoff,Mathew,Annie,Simon,Bel,Miri and Duncan.

Post Script;
As I was riding across town to meet up with the others,I noticed at the last two junctions cars had "given way" to me,stopped and let me turn when they had right of way.Making my way through North Lodge Park,several people said good morning.On arrival at the Arts CentreI thought about this and I wondered if it was because I was dressed as a Vicar.Was it the power of the cloth or the bicycle?

Friday, September 02, 2011

Birthday Critical Mass Ride

This event is open to anybody,you just need a bicycle to take part,so please come join in,meet new people and enjoy a cycle around town.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

A Bridge too far..............

A bridge too far........................

As a Cycle Demonstration Town,Darlington cycle users can have a hard time.We have cycle lanes,cycle routes,a cycle hire scheme and obstacles.It is the obstacles that give us the hard time.One of these obstacles is a railway bridge on the Haughton Road.It is on an arterial cycle route connecting the town centre to the Eastern Transport Corridor.The railway bridge is also on the main route to Darlington College and the newly opened College and sees a lot of traffic,vehicular,pedestrian and cyclists.
Approaching the bridge,on either side,is a cycle path.Clearly sign posted at the end/start of the cycle paths are "cyclists dismount" signs and "end of cycle route" signs.This does not prevent some cyclists using the footpaths over the bridge or using the road as shown in this short video clip.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Latest News from 20’s Plenty for Darlington

Darlington Friends of the Earth's Matthew Snedker continues to go from strength to strength with his work on the 20' Plenty for Darlington campaign. Here is his latest update on how the campaign to introduce 20 mph speed limits on residential roads - with out speed humps - is getting on.

First some national news
The Department for Transport has announced that it is relaxing the requirements for 20 mph signage. In a move to remove red-tape and allow local authorities more power to implement 20 mph schemes without unnecessary cost and constraints, the DfT has announced new relaxations to allow far more flexible town-wide 20 mph schemes.

Liverpool city council is entering into consultation over plans that could result in 70% of the cities roads having 20 mph speed limits. It is estimated that this plan could provide savings of over £5.2 million per year in costs associated with traffic casualties.

What has been happening in Darlington
After our successful Green Fair stall we were invited to attend the launch of Green Park’s new play area. It is a lovely space and local residents have worked very hard to update and improve the play facilities.
We met local residents and talked about all the benefits that 20’s Plenty for Darlington will bring. Face painting and the ‘Breaking distance challenge’ proved popular, we sold car & bike stickers and we added another 30 signatures to our petition.

We are pleased to announce that we have received support from George Dent Nursery School. Carol Dawson, head teacher, said "When the policy was explained to me I thought 'What's not to like?' If you care about children and other vulnerable groups how could you not support this campaign. It has been proved to be successful in other parts of the country and it's time we had it in Darlington."

More support comes from Acorn Dairy. Graham Tweddle  said “a 20 mph speed limit, would help reduce the noise generated by vehicles using the roads at night and also improve the fuel economy.” He also went on to say “What is of more concern, is the increasing number of sleeping policemen (of different styles) used by the council. These do have a significant impact on vehicle suspension.”

I have already had an approach from one councillor asking that roads in their ward be included in any trial of 20 mph speed limits.
Does your councillor know that you want slower speed on the roads where you live?

Community Carnival
We will be at the Community Carnival, with a stall in Stanhope Park. The Carnival takes place on Saturday 25th June between 11 am and 5 pm. Please come and meet the team and find out the latest news.

The next month...
I am arranging a meeting with Michael Straugheir, Traffic Management Officer, Durham Constabulary. We will be discussing the 20’s Plenty policy and looking at how to make Darlington’s streets saver for all road users.

I will be looking to meet chairs of the Borough Council’s scrutiny committees to discuss a formal request that they investigate the 20’s Plenty for Darlington policy.

You can get involved

As well as coming to see us at the Community Carnival there are plenty of ways to get involved:

  • Talk to you friends, neighbours and work colleagues about the benefits of 20’s Plenty.
  • Print out copies of our campaign leaflet and pass them around.
  • Print out copies of our petition and collect signatures, please ask for e-mail addresses so that we can keep people up to date with the campaign.
  • Contact you councillors. Let them know of your support for the campaign and ask for their opinions on road humps, child casualty rates and the latest news fro the Department of Transport. 
If you want to help with the campaign, you can contact Matthew at

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Stockton Cycle Festival

The first Stockton Cycling Festival will take place on July 16th and 17th 2011 and will give all people and abilities a chance to get involved.
There will be two main events - the Sportive Challenge on July 16th will be a mass participation and non-competitive event in which people can cycle anything from 30 miles to 100 miles. On July 17th, there will be a series of races on a traffic free circuit for everyone to become involved.
The festival will close with an elite race, giving people the opportunity to see at close hand a dramatic and fast-moving race by riders battling at high speeds on a tight street circuit.
There will be a chance to try lots of different bikes, learn to unicycle or have a go at stunt riding or join in on a virtual bike challenge.
Sustrans staff from The Hub, in Stockton will offer advice on bike choice, what to wear, local cycle routes avaliable in Stockton, or a bike checkup from Dr Bike.  There will also be guided walks and bike orienteering to help riders to discover new places.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Cycling Campaign Regular Meetings

Date:     Tuesday 19 April, 7.30pm
Where:  Baydale Beck Public House, Coniscliffe Road.

One thing that cropped up at our recent AGM was the need for regular get-togethers. Members want to be able to keep in touch and have their say. So your committee have agreed that in future we will meet regularly at the Baydale Beck Pub, a short, pleasant ride out from town, good beer, and food if you want it. Anyone interested in helping the Cycling Campaign with its work is welcome to come and join us. Dates of future meetings will be posted here in the near future.

View Larger Map

Friday, April 08, 2011

20 mph crucial say Transport and Health Group

More on our joint election campaign with Darlington Friends of the Earth for a blanket 20mph speed limit in the town's residential streets. New research entitled “Health on the Move 2” evidences why 20 mph limits in residential areas are key to improving the health impacts of local transport.

The book, published by the Transport and Health Study Group, evidences the interactions between transport, health and inequalities.  It firmly recommends making 20 mph or lower speed limits the norm for residential streets.  Dr Stephen Watkins, Chair of the Transport and Health Study Group, said:

“The difference between travelling two miles at 20mph and travelling it at 30mph is only two minutes.  Those who oppose this measure are saying that two minutes off journey times is more important than children’s lives.”

Large parts of the street system should be closed to through motor traffic (with a 20mph speed limits on vehicles using them for access) and developed primarily for walking, cycling and community interaction, according to a group of health and transport professionals in a book welcomed by the former Chief Medical Officer of England, Sir Liam Donaldson.

Traffic in streets reduces social interaction leading to people having fewer friends and less commitment to their community. As social support networks have been shown to increase life expectancy the group contends that creating “living streets” will increase community cohesion and improve health, as well as creating new cycle routes.

Health is impacted by transport in positive and negative ways.  Moving around is a way to access to goods, services, jobs and amenities.  Walking and cycling offer excellent ways to build activity into everyday life.  But transport also causes injuries, stress, disruption of communities, noise and air pollution, and emissions.   Transport’s effects exacerbate inequalities, with gains from motorised transport accruing particularly to the better off, while the adverse effects fall disproportionately on the disadvantaged.

The connections between transport policy and other policy areas such as health and economic inequalities are often ignored by local politicians, who tend to deal with such issues in a highly compartmentalised way. But candidates for the coming election would do well to compare the conclusions in this book with the aims of our council's core strategy for the next 10 years, One Darlington, Perfectly Placed. If they are serious about narrowing the gaps in life  chances, nurturing a strong, vibrant and cohesive borough-wide community, tackling the gaps in health and well-being across the borough,  and doing all that we can locally to reduce our contribution to global CO2 emissions (all verbatim quotes from that document), 20mph for residential streets is a crucial component in the solution mix.

Friday, April 01, 2011

With the Local Elections Approaching

With local elections due in Darlington on May 5th, Darlington Cycling Campaign has joined forces with Darlington Friends of the Earth to ask all council candidates whether they support a 20mph speed limit for all residential streets in the town. The Campaign has argued for such a policy since our 2007 AGM.

The full text of the letter, which is self-explanatory, is set out below.  Council candidates are free to comment on their position re a default 20mph for all residential streets below this post. There is also a Facebook group for the 20'splenty in Darlington campaign here.

Dear Candidate,

With local elections approaching, politicians and voters alike are looking for policies that make real improvements to the lives of people in the borough of Darlington. You may be aware that in surveys conducted last year over 80% of members of the public were in favour of 20 mph for residential roads. This mirrors the developing view across the country that our current speed limit of 30 mph is just too high in residential areas where it is inevitable that vulnerable road users will be at greatest risk.

In fact, if we compare it with the speed limit in Northern European towns it is 60% higher than the 30 kph (18.5 mph) limits that they have for residential streets. No wonder perhaps that 92% of pedestrian deaths are on urban roads in the UK and at 21% we have a higher proportion of pedestrian deaths on the roads than any of our European neighbours.

In Hilden, Germany, the setting of their 30 kph limit in the early 90's was the foundation of them encouraging cycling and walking. In fact now 23% of in-town trips are now made by children and adults using bikes instead of cars.

You may be wondering about how much this would slow down our car journeys and cause congestion. Well, the campaign is only for residential streets to be changed with most A, B and arterial roads remaining at their current speed limits. As almost every house, office or school is within 1/3 mile of such an arterial road then the maximum increase in journey time would be just 40 seconds. Surely worth the benefit in lives and injuries saved.

You may also be wondering about the cost and inconvenience of all those speed bumps. Well, many authorities are using changed Department of Transport guidance which encourages lower speeds to be set without necessarily involving physical calming. With education, consultation, social pressure and some enforcement, authorities such as Portsmouth have implemented a council wide default 20 mph limit for residential roads without any physical calming at all. While we are on the subject of cost, latest DfT figures (for 2009) show that the cost to Darlington of Road casualties is £16,435,990. Even more alarmingly the DfT estimate that the total cost of sedentary lifestyles to Darlington is an eye-watering £23,752,582 per annum.

Other authorities are taking Portsmouth as an example and Transport for London recently announced the intention for all London Boroughs to adopt 20 mph as the default for residential roads as part of the Breaking Point report. Lewisham, Islington and Southwark have already implemented such a default.

Most significantly City Councillors in Norwich recently unanimously voted to have a default 20 mph in residential roads. Such support from all local political parties shows how 20's Plenty is a universal aspiration for communities, constituents and politicians rather than a party political one.

At the time of writing this letter I have just heard that Warrington Council have voted to increase the number of residential roads that will be protected by a 20 mph zone by 200 and a Hartlepool scrutiny committee has recommended to the council adoption of Total 20 for the town.

And of course 20's Plenty saves lives. A recent PACTS (Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety) identified that child casualties fell by 67% where 20 mph schemes were introduced. I do hope that Darlington people can rely upon you to follow through this excellent policy for the sake of its communities. It would have all the following advantages:-
  • Encourage modal shift to walking and cycling leading to healthier children and adults.
  • Lower pollution
  • Lower noise
  • Create a better environment on residential roads
  • Save lives and injury
Most people involved in transport development recognise that, at some time, 20 mph will become the default speed limit for all residential roads in the UK. Darlington can "hang on" till such a time and in the intervening period vulnerable road users in Darlington will die or be injured as a result of such a delay. The sooner we adopt the 20's Plenty initiative then the greater the saving in lives and injury and the earlier the benefits in quality of life on our streets. There are already 5.4 million people in the UK who have the benefit of living in places where it is agreed that 20 mph is the correct speed limit for residential roads.

Darlington children and adults want and need 20 mph as a default speed limit in the roads where they live and 20's Plenty For Us will be continuing its campaign for early adoption of this life saving move. I trust that our communities can count on your support for this initiative and that Darlington can be a "can do" authority when it comes to taking such sensible steps to make all our lives better and safer.

Please pledge your support for default 20 mph speed limits on Darlington’s residential roads and add this promise to you campaign. If I can assist in explaining the initiative, its benefits or its implementation then I would be very pleased to help.

Yours sincerely

Matthew Snedker

01325 488313 or 077 80 80 70 59

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Velo City - from Copenhagen to Seville

Velo-City Global 2010 from Velo-city Global 2010 on Vimeo.

Velo-City, the annual international conference about everyday urban cycling, provides an excellent focus for cycling advocacy best practice from around the world. Last year's event in Copenhagen was, not surprisingly, wowed by that city's track record in encouraging more people to cycle as part of their everyday lives. Though it must be repeated, much of the wowing can also be put down to PR. We ourselves have worked in Bremen, which has more than twice the amount of off-road cycle paths as Copenhagen - and that excludes green areas like parks and riverbanks. And of course it has been well documented elsewhere that much of the Netherlands has far superior standards than Copenhagen.

The 2011 event opened yesterday in the Spanish city of Seville. To coincide with this year's event,  a new magazine called Cycling Mobility is being launched there. Darlington is featured in the publication via an article about Beauty and the Bike. But there is also a substantial piece about Seville itself, and how the city transformed itself in just a few years from a car-dominated and congested regional capital to a cycling-friendly place to live. In less than six years, Seville has increased cycling's share of journeys from 0.2% to 6.6%, with the number of people cycling daily from 2,500 to 70,000. This compares with Darlington's figures, regarded in the UK as a great success, of 1% to 3% over five years.

Spain is not noted for its cycling-oriented mobility culture. So how come Seville has been so successful?  The article lists seven action points that were central to the plan:

  • DO have a thoroughly researched master plan that develops cycling as an integral part of the transport system
  • DO create a fully linked network of routes that offers the public a practical, pleasant and convenient means of transport
  • DO ensure that cycle lanes are safe, and physically separated from cars where necessary
  • DO make sure that cycle lanes follow main routes where there are shops, public transport points and people
  • DON'T go for the easy option. Creating routes around the back streets is straightforward but not always best. 
  • DO expect stiff political opposition when trying to fund projects like these.
  • DO remember that the alternative is to continue to spend billions on new roads which will simply add to the problem.

Seville offers an example of what can be done with strong political will. Most of these action points echo exactly what Darlington Cycling Campaign has been advocating for our own town. With local elections looming here in May, there is precious little sign that such political vision will be on offer for the voters of the borough.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Spring is Sprung - Darlovelo Celebrates

Spring is here! And Darlovelo celebrated today by bringing some of its new dutch bikes out to show off to the public. The bikes are available for long term hire for a small fee.

Darlovelo organiser Annie Ravazzolo is also leading cycle rides around Darlington over the coming weeks. They will be heading off from the Arts Centre at 2pm on Saturday 26th March and Saturday 9th April. You can bring your own bike or try out one of the Darlovelo collection of  Dutch style bikes. A contribution of £2 is requested (which can be offset against membership, if you decide to join).

Its a great way to get out, meet people and learn about the cycle highways and byways of Darlington.

If you are under 16 please ensure you are accompanied by and adult.

Please contact if you plan to come, or log on to facebook and join the event.

Friday, March 04, 2011

Whoops - No Brakes! Never Mind, I've Got a Helmet

An email from the Environmental Transport Association today announces news of the latest campaign to force everyone under 14 to wear a cycle helmet. The call for compulsory legislation comes from the Bicycle Helmet Initiative Trust, a charity that promotes helmet use amongst children. Their latest campaign will shortly be hitting every school in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, in the form of teachers' packs and DVDs. 

But there are a few catches. Despite widespread evidence showing that head injuries amongst children occur in a wide range of circumstances, and particularly whilst in a car, this campaign is targeted at under 14's only when they are on a bicycle. Second, the campaign is being funded by GEM, the motoring organisation. What would a motoring organisation be doing funding a campaign that wants to see cycle helmets compulsory for under 14 year old cyclists?

But perhaps most remarkable of all, GEM themselves have produced a "guide to safer cycling" featuring a child on a bike with a disconnected front brake. This potent brew of motoring interests, cycle helmet compulsion and dodgy brakes has provoked a stream of critical comments on the GEM blog. Have a look for yourself. Interestingly, whilst I've been writing this, GEM have pulled the link to the document in question.

The sad thing is, this is precisely the sort of "advice" that reaches our decision makers via well-paid lobbyists, whilst the real knowledge that is out there about cycling safety, and has been regularly featured on this blog, gets routinely ignored. 

Perhaps the last word should go to our great friend and film-maker Mike Rubbo, who made this short film a while ago about an Australian cyclist who refuses to obey the compulsory helmet law down there.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Anything But an Accident

Anti-cyclist attitudes amongst a minority of motorists in Darlington are well known.  We have had many reports of aggressive drivers shouting and abusing cyclists on our streets. And I have previously blogged about the reaction to cyclist Norman Fay's death on the Croft Road in 2008.  Most traffic planners, and many politicians, in the UK blindly continue to encourage this kind of "the roads belong to us" attitude amongst motorists. But this shocking video from Porto Alegre in Brazil is in another league.

It shows a motorist deliberately ploughing through a large group of cyclists. The incident took place last week during a Critical Mass Ride there. It has provoked a string of solidarity rides in Latin America, and indictment of the driver for attempted murder. It is not a video for the squeamish.

Critical Mass rides reveal the poverty of current traffic management thinking in countries like our own. Cyclists are expected to share road space with motorised traffic, but when there are enough cyclists on the road we suddenly become "an obstruction".  My own understanding is that "congestion" is the correct term, and that it is an issue at the top of the agenda for traffic planners to do something about - like providing better infrastructure.

And I refuse to label this post "accident"!

You can see more world-wide condemnation of the incident on Beauty and the Bike's Facebook page.

EDIT: Picture from the Buenos Aires solidarity ride:

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Darlovelo Spring Ride

When: 12 March · 14:00 - 15:30
Start at: Darlington Arts Centre, Vane Terrace.
An opportunity to test out Darlovelo's Dutch bikes and prepare yourself for the spring. The ride should last about an hour, with a refreshment break. Please book a place by contacting Darlovelo. There will be a small charge of £2 for the hire of the bike and if you are under 18 please ensure you are accompanied by an adult.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

2011 Annual General Meeting - 18th February

The Darlington Cycling Campaign is holding its Annual General Meeting this Friday, 18 February at  Darlington Media Workshop, (behind the Arts Centre, Vane Terrace). The meeting will provide an overview of what has been achieved for cyclists in Darlington throughout 2010 and will include an illustrated talk featuring current examples of Darlington’s cycling infrastructure demonstrating what has and has not been achieved. This will be followed by a question and answer session.

Darlington Cycling Campaign Chair Nick Bagshaw said:
With savage cuts looming for all public sector organizations, it is more important than ever that people take every opportunity to voice their concerns and draw attention to the issues that impact upon their daily lives. More and more people are considering using their bicycle for that short trip to the shops or to get to work. The question is does our current and planned future provision for the everyday cyclist meet that need? This is where the work of the Darlington Cycling Campaign is focused, to raise the concerns of local cyclists with the decision makers”.
The message then, is simple - if you love riding your bike, ride a bike for the convenience it offers, or would like to ride your bike more often, but have concerns about doing so, then come along this Friday and share your thoughts with some fellow cyclists.  We look forward to meeting you.

Entry is open to all and secure cycle parking is available at the Arts Centre
The event is being held at Darlington Arts Centre on Friday 18th February, starting from 7.30pm in the Media Workshop, Entry is free and open to all.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

65% of Motorists "Don't Have a Clue" About Emissions

One of the main arguments made by UK politicians, and indeed many cycling campaigners, is that people can be "persuaded" to cycle more once they realise its health and environmental benefits. Accepting UK road infrastructure as "immutable fact", they believe that people can be "nudged" in the direction of cycling through little changes in behaviour. So how open to ideas about environmental benefit are non-cyclists? Well, a good place to start, given the tiny levels of regular cycling in the UK, is with motorists.

A new study by car comparison site car buzz  asked new car buyers what they looked for first in a new car. The result is summarised in the graphic above.  Most were, not surprisingly, most interested in price, seating space, and running costs. Only 1% considered CO2 emissions important, and of these two-thirds did so to save money. Only one in ten expressed concern about the environment, ie just 0.1% of all surveyed.

This echoes an earlier survey conducted by the Environmental Transport Association in 2008, which found that 65 per cent of drivers “didn’t have a clue” how much CO2 they produce when driving. The survey also found that men are less worried than their female counterparts about the effect their driving has, with younger drivers being more environmentally aware.

But most UK cyclists are also car drivers. Might there be some sort of conversion to environmentalism once we mount the saddle? Although there is no definitive equivalent survey for cyclists available - most cycling-related attitudinal surveys seem to be asking non-cyclists "what would make you cycle?" - anecdotal evidence such as the proliferation of T shirts like this one would suggest that at least some cyclists rank environmental reasons as important.  On the other hand, the few times cyclists are asked to say why they cycle, they come up with all kinds of other - often philosophical and contemplative - reasons. Helping the environment, it seems, is all a bit too altruistic for most people.

It is clearly a waste of time hammering on about moral reasons to get people cycling more. At the end of the day, cycling needs to be more convenient, cheaper, quicker and more pleasant than driving. Good quality infrastructure delivers this. But as long as our politicians gaze upon our urban roads without any awareness of how backward our urban environment has become, they will continue to declare that a UK cycling experience of necessity involves rubber knickers.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Town Centre Cycling

Today, the Borough Council's Economy and Environment Scrutiny Committee receives a report about cycling in the town centre during 2010.  As most people will recall,  when the centre of Darlington was pedestrianised, there was considerable resistance from a number of quarters to the idea that cycling could be part of the new arrangements. But following a number of studies, including our own, that showed that town centre cycling posed little danger to anyone, the council backed cyclists. At the same time, and to calm the fears of others, it agreed to set up a monitoring programme and regularly review the decision. Today that review takes place.

You can download the full report here. Here are some interesting extracts:

  • "whilst cycling continues to increase across Darlington and at high levels through the town centre, no personal injury accidents have been recorded by the Police and incidents reported to the Transport Policy team do not show any collisions between a cyclist and a pedestrian."
  • During this period, there have been three collisions between pedestrians and cars (two taxis and a private car) in the Pedestrian Heart.  The private car failed to stop. The manner of the reporting suggests that the pedestrians were at least partly to blame.  All injuries were described as slight.
  • The only cyclist/car accident reported was not strictly within the Pedestrian Heart.  A car decided to do a U-turn at the Stonebridge/Tubwell Row/Crown St mini-rdbt.  A cyclist attempted to avoid a collision, contact was minor, but as a result he collided with a kerb and then a wall.  This was rated as a serious injury.  There is no comment as to prosecution or outcome of injury.
  • There has been only one 'reported incident' in the year - by a cyclist, of cyclists:  ".. two young cyclists overtook him at close proximity on Tubwell Row and then appeared to nearly collide with two pedestrians before performing a dangerous overtaking manoeuvre on a car."

A representative from the Campaign will be at the committee meeting today to argue that the monitoring  process should now be terminated.

Monday, February 07, 2011

Cyclist Safety - Two Approaches

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Ever since the death on the A167 Darlington to Croft road in June 2008 of cyclist Norman Fay, and the serious injuries sustained by his friend and fellow cyclist John Stephenson, I have been meaning to blog about the circumstances, and the wider ramifications, of this tragedy.  The Cycling Campaign has for some years now been calling for a separated cycle path along this stretch of road. As is clear from the picture above, for most of the length of the road, this is eminently possible on the grass verge. It is widely recognised as one of the most dangerous for cyclists in Darlington, and indeed discourages many residents of Croft and Hurworth with whom we have talked in the past from cycling at all.

When Norman and John's accident occurred, the Cycling Campaign raised the incident at the following Borough Council's Transport Forum (which has now, by the way, been abolished). The response was appalling. One death, and another life-threatening injury it seems, was not enough to justify considering any kind of cycling facility. Some members of the committee took it upon themselves to laugh at our concern.

We also attended the inquest into the tragedy, which took place in September 2009 in Chester-le-Street. The inquest was extensively reported here in the Northern Echo. As the article noted, in this accident the driver of the car involved never faced prosecution.

This incident reflects the two core problems for cyclists in the UK - lack of infrastructure where it is actually needed, and motorist behaviour. But it also reflects a third and related problem - the attitude of our establishment to cyclist safety. This was brought home to us all, literally, in last night's episode of Top Gear, when cyclists' "favourite" Jeremy Clarkson jokingly suggested that cyclists deserve to be "cut up" because they don't pay road tax. Top Gear is one of the BBC's top income earners from sales abroad. A campaign of complaints to the BBC about the show has already been initiated, and follows hard on the heels of comedian Steve Coogan's attack on the programme's presenters for their casual racism.

Disinterest in cyclist safety locally, and institutionalised backing for aggression nationally, reflects a deeper belief in the UK that cyclist safety is something the cyclist should worry about, not wider society. So the one element of Cycling England that gets retained following its demise next month will be Bikeability, the cycle training programme - training, that is, for survival on our car-oriented road system. If cycling safety was really deemed a collective concern, society at large would take much greater responsibility for developing safer infrastructure. Now, what little that was being developed nationally is to be dropped. Cyclist safety will be strictly a private affair.

Contrast the reaction in Darlington to the Croft tragedy, and the BBC's love of Top Gear, with how the media in the Netherlands dealt with an accident involving cyclists and a car, as described in this great little video from Mark Wagenbuur.

EDIT: In the light of all the Jeremy Clarkson hoo-ha today, one member of the Cycling Campaign has suggested we jest back:

Friday, January 28, 2011

2011 Annual General Meeting - 18th February

The 2011 Annual General Meeting of Darlington Cycling Campaign will be held at 7.30pm on Friday 18th February, in Darlington Media Workshop, at the rear of Darlington Arts Centre. The Annual General Meeting shall:

*receive an annual report from the committee
*receive a financial statement from the Treasurer
*elect officers and committee
*consider amendments to this constitution
*consider any motions from attending members

If you would like to have any matters put on the agenda for discussion, please forward these to us by email by 10th February, after which an agenda will be sent out with further details. If you would like to view our full constitution, click on our constitution page.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Local Transport White Paper - So Farewell Cycling

We better get used to it. There are going to be a lot of goodbyes in the coming weeks and months, as public sector cuts kick in, coupled with the new government's declared end to the love-in - oops, I mean war - on motorists.

Last Thursday came the first cycling farewell in Darlington - the council's Cycle Forum. The Forum gave local people - cyclists or not - the chance to get involved in the local authority's ongoing plans for cycling. This became especially important once our status as one of the first Cycling Demonstration Towns was announced in 2005. The Council explained that they could no longer justify the expense of officers' time at the Forum, especially as attendance by the general public had dropped.

Next to go will be the coordinators of the Cycling Demonstration Towns initiative, Cycling England. Use the link whilst you still can! Sacrificed in the government's so-called bonfire of the quangos, Cycling England had a paltry £60m a year to spend on cycling, or £1 per UK citizen. This compares with about £25 per citizen in the cycling-friendly Netherlands.

But now that funding is set to drop even further, to something like 20p per person. The new government's Local Transport White Paper sets out plans for the demolition of direct national funding for cycling, and its replacement with a competitive pot of money for all sustainable transport - including buses. Meanwhile, cycling funding will be reduced to sustaining Bikeability, the cycle training initiative. Then, the Local Sustainable Transport Fund will have an impressive £560m to spend - but over 5 years, and for all sustainable travel options. An excellent analysis of the Local Transport White Paper can be found here, on the excellent Lo Fidelity Bicycle Club blog.

In the name of "localism", the coalition refuses to take responsibility for a coordinated policy to increase cycling numbers. Meanwhile it announces 24 new road schemes. As Transport Secretary Philip Hammond said, " I am pleased that spending on transport was treated as a priority for the Government in the Spending Review."

With local authority budgets set to be viciously squeezed, the next farewells are likely to be the various cycle-related jobs currently attached to the public sector - whether directly employed, or via organisations like Sustrans.

It's not openly stated, but the lack of any coherent policy to make cycling attractive - like developing the kind of infrastructure enjoyed in countries with high levels of cycling - is the other side of the Bikeability coin. As the Lo Fidelity Bicycle Club blog states: "you can train all the people you like to cycle, and even experience a slight rise in numbers, but if the roads look dangerous, then the numbers will fall again and the expense would have been in vain. There’s a reason cycling is flatlining at between 3-4% and (the Local Transport White Paper) doesn’t address it directly in any way".

British cyclists don't need cycle paths! What they need is good quality training that gives them the guts to get out on these busy roads and tussle with all the new motorised vahicles that are going to enjoy all these new roads! So come on chaps (assuming the continuing exclusion of chapesses)! British cyclists have balls!!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Learning from Copenhagen (and elsewhere)

More evidence that informed thinking about successful cycling policies is coalescing around the Cycling Campaign's call for a move towards high quality and safe infrastructure on our arterial routes, couple with traffic calming on all residential streets. An interesting exchange of letters between Richard Lewis, a principal town and transport planner at the London Borough of Newham, and Dave Horton from Lancaster University, asks how much we can learn from the "Copenhagen model", a somewhat PR-influenced shorthand for "best European practice" as spelt out lucidly and repeatedly by our friend from Assen, David Hembrow.

Dave Horton visited Copenhagen at the beginning of December as part of a wider piece of research called On Our Own Two Wheels, documenting the experience of riding a bicycle in cities around the world. The exchange of letters followed that visit.

As David Horton concludes:
I think increased provision of specific and segregated cycling infrastructure might be key to getting the velorution rolling. The current and massive problem with otherwise wonderful initiatives such as Bikeability (a UK cycle training scheme, not to be confused with the Danish research project of the same name!) is that, given the existing cycling environment, we’re destined to lose the vast majority of those we train. However well we train them, only the hardy minority will stay on their bikes for long. We have strategically to crack, and then mine, the current dominance of car-based urban automobility, and the establishment of cycling corridors – a la Copenhagen and (in a fashion) London – on key, highly visible arterial routes seems one way of doing so.

This echoes the conclusion of Darlington Cycling Campaign following the completion in our town of the Beauty and the Bike project, which we published a year ago. What is becoming clear is that such policies cannot be delivered at a purely local level, whatever the new government rhetoric about localism. Local cycling policies are dominated by the DfT's and CTC's hierarchy of provision, which ironically puts infrastructure at the bottom of the list in a table of "considerations" for local authorities to follow. Unlike the fate of Cycling England, this particular policy is likely to survive for some time.

Dave Horton concludes his post with notice of a gathering of like minds at The Phoenix Digital Arts Centre in Leicester on Saturday 4th and Sunday 5th June 2011. Perhaps this will come up with strategies for making national in the UK, cycling policies that clearly are "best practice" elsewhere.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Northern Rail Cycling Forum

News that the Northern Rail Cycling Forum is coming to Darlington next week is a timely reminder of that company's attempts to encourage integration between two forms of sustainable travel. The forum brings together a range of cycling organisations with representatives of Northern Rail at regular meetings held around the North.

Despite their leaky and ancient rolling stock, Northern have an excellent and helpful policy towards cyclists. I, and many friends, have found their staff to be extremely accommodating and helpful. You get the feeling that, if they had the money - or state encouragement - Northern might start investing in the kinds of carriages that are used by cycling-friendly operators around Europe. As part of that cooperative approach, the Campaign has been invited along next Wednesday to the Dolphin Centre.

Sadly, our colleagues from Newcastle Cycling Campaign have had less luck. There, Nexus-run Tyne and Wear Metro use "health and safety" considerations to ban cyclists from bringing their bicycles on to their trains. Metro train drivers are known to call the police out to evict a cyclist from an otherwise empty carriage. Newcastle is currently going through the consultation stages of a cycling strategy for the city, as well as its Local Transport Plan 3. Neither mentions the metro bike ban. Newcastle Cycling Campaign have raised this strongly in their response to LTP3.

Which leads us neatly to what we thought we had in store in the near future, the Tees Valley Metro. Funding was in place and work was ready to commence - until the Con-Dem government came along. Like much else in the area, the whole project is now up in the air, thanks to the government's spending review.

So for now we are stuck with Northern's rickety old trains. But at least they have pleasant staff who are welcoming to cyclists. A reminder, perhaps of the days when British Rail once catered for somewhat more of us:

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Red Rag at Red Barns?

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Last year, the otherwise excellent cycle path along McMullen Road was cruelly interrupted by the installation of the above barrier. Just when the Campaign thought that such needless interruptions had become a thing of the past, this appeared. The logic is sadly obvious.

Cyclists approaching this point from the south are riding down a relatively steep incline. Here, they cross a side street into the Red Barns estate. Because of the incline, it has been deemed insufficient for cyclists to have a "give way" sign painted on the cycle path. So a barrier has been installed. Apparently, this followed an accident, though details have so far not been forthcoming.

So why is this junction dangerous? The only reason that there is any danger is the totally obscuring fence that the residents have been allowed to build, and which can easily be modified so that emerging drivers can see the path, but passing pedestrians and cyclists cannot look into the adjacent property.

When we took the above picture we witnessed the result - a young cyclist simply jumped the pavement 20 yards uphill and continued his journey on road, rather than stopping and negotiating the barrier.

This stretch of cycle path was the subject of Campaign consultation when it was first mooted a few years ago. At that time, we urged the council to begin the process of driver education by giving cyclists right of way at this junction. The reason was simple. The side road is in fact a private cul-de-sac servicing a handful of houses. Traffic is so light that even the most dedicated petrolhead could not argue that giving way to cyclists constituted a great inconvenience. And without the obscuring fence, there would be a perfectly clear view between cyclists and any emerging vehicle.

To many, this might indeed seem like little more than an inconvenience to cyclists. But the philosophy behind its construction is deep rooted in the average British traffic planner's psyche. As the little inconveniences aggregate together into a giant pain in the bum, it is little wonder that the UK continues to be a world loser in the cycle rates league, and a world leader in the crap infrastructure league.

Next week (Thursday 20th January, 6.15pm in the Town Hall), the Campaign will be bringing our views on this little gem to the council's next Cycle Forum. This is open to anyone with an interest in cycling, so please join us if you can.