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.


Brian Vigurs said...

Over time this particular part of McMullen road has undergone changes. Originally the fence was high right to the edge of the access hatch to the drain cover and a pole stood at the side. Neither was there any fencing to the edge of the block paving, possibly introduced after comments by the DCC.
So at least someone - possibly in authority and with the agreement of the owners of the properties - has requested a tapering off of the fence and the removal of the pole (cannot remember what was atop it).
Maybe after the reported accident the council decided on further step in order to protect users of the path, the erecting of the barriers. Albeit the above negative steps after the “Bull had Bolted” for council permission must have been granted at some date to allow the erecting of the fence which exceeds the 1 metre limit for fencing / walling that boundaries a pavement / road in the first place. The fence today may have been replaced – it looks new - as permission was granted some years ago when the car ultimately ruled.
Perhaps we should look at it from a safety aspect even though this could be construed as a negative attitude as my Grandchildren used to fly down this path even though the old grey haired fellow behind shouted “Slow Down”. Now they have to.
Probably in law the driver who hit a pedestrian / cyclist using the path would be held responsible and perhaps in his or hers defence the high fence could be used, in which case whoever gave permission may end up besides the driver, though I am no lawyer.

wuppidoc said...

Why not just paint the part of the cycle path, that crosses this drive from these few houses,in bright red with a white cycling sign on it, so that even white haired drivers realise they are crossing a cycle path.
You can then take the fences away and use them somewhere else to protect vulnerable traffic members from stronger traffic members.

And paint is cheaper than metal fences, by the way.

wuppidoc said...

Brave new thinking is needed.

Brian Vigurs said...

I’m a strong believer in the more we get cycling, the more we will find that cycling infrastructure improves and more notice will be taken by the authorities as they need votes to stay in power. At this time there are not enough cyclists of the “Lets improve” state frame of mind to exert big political pressure.
Most of the everyday cyclists I see commuting couldn’t give a dam about the infrastructure, they cycle to work either to save money, live close by to work, wife needs the car or they cannot afford a car, though this type of cyclist will increase in numbers as the cost of running a car goes up.
The people we need to get on bikes are those who deem it dangerous, and in order to do this effectively all over darlo (and other towns and cities) we would need to spend millions building dedicated separated cycle paths and tracks at the expense of car space, and even before the introduction, nay just at the planning stage, it would be democratically – the key word for any change - thrown out.
Like most things that are not considered “Normal” in society, and by that I mean riding a cycle for everyday needs, it will take a long, long time to evolve. The mindset needs to change, a mindset that has for years centred on car use. It’s going to be a slow progress to reach a cycling utopia.
One of the worst kinds of publicity that we as cyclists can get at this date is one of accident, injury and pain, even if not the bike riders fault.
So perhaps we should continue with safety barriers “here there and everywhere” and cycle tracks away from roads in order to encourage more to cycle for pleasure, a natural progression to “Hey, this is fun, I’m going to cycle to work” may well be the result.
The increase in users of the National Cycling Network points to this as a positive way forward for the U.K. and a far bigger and more effective cycling voice could be the outcome. Maybe push the “Cycling for enjoyment” movement, encourage and help the council organise more family orientated “pleasure rides” and if to do this means spending funds DCC hold, have a membership fee. (Most campaigns do).

My Grandchildren may well join them as long as they slow down at that private road, without the barrier perhaps they won’t and fly over the bonnet of a car looking down on the cycle picture. Then I’ll join the driver, who lets be honest like most drivers today does not see many cyclists, (and probably the council) in court after attending a funeral heavily reported in the local press with folks saying “Sod cycling”.
Yes, I know it’s a negative attitude.

wuppidoc said...

Exactly, not just negative but also conservative, which derives from the Latin word "conservare", which means to keep things as they are.

It is not attractive to cycle in an environment like this. And as David Hembrow says in our film: If it is not attractive, people will not cycle.

And as to democracy: Sometimes you need a little bit of political courage to start with new projects or to support the unknown like a good cycling infrastructure.

Britain can obviously cut 25% of the state budget and nobody runs away, so why not reallocate public expenditure to good and sustainable cycling infrastructure???

The Cycling Campaign also developed ideas of cycling infrastructure that are not expensive and still better than what we have now.

I like to be positive and not complain.

Brian Vigurs said...

I’m not saying that cycling “On road” infrastructure should be halted or reduced. What I am saying is that to give impetus to change we need more folks on bikes using them.
I often together with my wife cycle all over the North making use of “Off road” cycle tracks, and over the years the increase in use of these has increased enormously. Pleasure cycling.
“And as David Hembrow says in our film: If it is not attractive, people will not cycle.”
Look at the sales figures for Halfords, bikes are selling but you are not seeing them being used in towns. They are strapped to the back of a car on a weekend. Mums, Dads and kids.
When I see this I think that if the same type of cycle paths were to be found in towns, we will see more of the bikes not strapped on the back of a car even though this type of attitude goes against the grain of campaigning. But folks are cycling, is that not the key?
Just spend some time sat astride a bike on the Skerne cycle paths on a sunny day at the weekend and you will see lots of families out pedalling. The off road section of Route 14 that runs at the side of the road for some distance at the weekend is similarly used. I could go on.
Why do they use them? There are “Off road”, away from traffic and “Attractive”.
To be frank we cannot in all honesty look forward to councils removing much car space on our roads until we get more political weight behind us, but what we can do is peck away at this attitude on an ongoing basis and throw some weight in getting the pleasure cyclist, including families, to pedal in towns using what we have “On the ground” now.
Make 2011 the “Year for the bike” in Darlo – Organise rides and publicise them (not the day before, and not on here, but in the paper and flyers) – Get a few riders to ride into the town centre against a car at peak time to show how much easier and quicker it is. (The Echo agreed to cover this in 2010, but I could not get enough volunteers). The possibilities are endless, and the increase in support

Anonymous said...

Does make a lot of sense.

Anonymous said...

Just ride on the road, and circumvent the problem. Shared-use paths beside roads are nearly last in even the (incredibly pro-car) DfT's latest guidance when it comes to the hierarchy of provision.

Darlo is blessed with a fine network of off-road cycle networks (which I'm sure we all used before they were given NCN status), but we also need to use the roads. Otherwise, we accept the second-class status implicit in the absurd rat's mazes around roundabouts, traffic lights, and in giving up our priority while using cycle paths beside roads. The roads are also ours.

Anonymous said...

Oh dear oh dear oh dear. Sorry, but f you think using the road network "as is" represents some kind of refusal to accept our second class status, you're crazy!

Roads as currently configured are designed for motorised traffic, not bicycles. They need radical changing. Refuse our second class status by demanding first class!

Anonymous said...

I don't disagree: but until we have the same legal rights as our contintental cycling cousins (i.e. priority on cyclepaths beside roads and assumed liability), building off-road provisions is going to be a waste of time.

Until these things are put in place, more training of cyclists should be the priority: bloody-mindedness and thick skins aren't easy to learn, but none of us start out as harden urban warriors, so it is possible.

Dean (desperately trying to remember his goooogle log-in)

Anonymous said...

No, no, no, we are doomed to cycle on roads to be killed by the hand of the car (driver). Let's accept that and get on with it.

Let's accept that and not ask for any safe cycling infrastructure.

Yes, let the 10 year old cycle on the road, blood may be shed, he will learn..
Yes, let the youngster on his BMX bike out on the road, he might be killed or vice versa, who cares?

Why do you think (THINK) Denmark, Holland or Germany built cycle paths?

Clearly to annoy cyclists, no doubt about that.

Stop being so self centred. If you can make it, everyone can. Or are there any doubts about that??

Anonymous said...

I am sorry, but I am tired to hear this nonsense about cycling on main and busy roads.

Please travel to countries like the Netherlands and have a look.

And cycle there and come back and cycle on North Road in Darlington.

I am awaiting your report.

Anonymous said...

I have cycled in the Netherlands and Germany - it works, as I said, owing to the legislation protecting cyclists - Automatic priority when crossing roads and presumed liability on the part of the motorist. As long term goals these are laudable, but in the short term cyclists simply need to develop thicker skins and ride more assertively.
Driver training would make the greatest difference, but chances of that happening are slim to none. We also need to remember that cycling ain't that dangerous - North Road, as someone mentioned, is easy to cycle along, as the speed of traffic is so much lower owing to the volume of traffic. Ride assertively and you'll be fine (see Cyclecraft for details). Imparting cconfidence to the town's budding cyclists is the most immediate target. There's already sufficient infrastructure, and all the new infrastructure is designed to get cyclists out of the way of cars, rather than to aid the progress of cyclists. See the loopy cycletrack alongside Staindrop Road.
Dean (still trying to remember his goooogle login)

Darlocycling said...

This debate always seems to divide people, yet as dkahn states elsewhere, and dean suggests here, it's a question of survival strategies now and longer term campaign aims.

Assertive cycling, and training for it, is simply a way of surviving crap conditions. If we want more people cycling now, they need to be more assertive. However, there are plenty ways to do this. One is put yourself nearer the middle of the road and fight with the traffic. Another is to assert your right to cycle gently and carefully on pavements where the road is too busy.

Like the American south, stepping off the pavement as white racists passed by was a survival strategy for blacks. But racism, based on the premise of white supremacy, needed challenging. I would argue that the Cycling Campaign exists to lobby for changes in current policy, which is clearly based on car supremacy. (These barriers are a clear symbol of this). So we should all try to work together to lay out strategies for achieving these changes.

wuppidoc said...

Now it is enough, blokes: North Road is easy to cycle along?

It is scary!!!!! Ask the girls in the project "Beauty and the Bike", look at our short film we published on Youtube after the project. North Road is clearly named as SCARY by a girl that is not easy to frighten.

So it is all down to personal judgement? The truth is that we have only 3% of all trips in Darlington done on bicycles. Because North Road is "easy to cycle along"??