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.