Saturday, 27 April 2013

South Tyneside shops - cycle parking survey (to be updated)

This is a survey of the cycle parking at various shops, mainly major national chains across the South Tyneside area. Cycle parking frankly ranges from the very good (but not perfect), to the utterly crap, and then to none.

I am rating them with stars out of 5 with 5 being the best obviously. and 0 being no specific parking whatsoever (locking to signs doesn't count). These ratings are aimed at being objective, but are purely personal. If any stores get  upset, then fix the parking.

Asda Boldon ****

Undercover sheffield style stands in the corner of the multi story, and close to the store entrance.

Also plenty of room for trailers.

Access for bikes through the car park could be better though.

Morrison's Jarrow ***

Plenty of Sheffield stands very close to the main entrance and ATMs and even room for a trailer.

Very good safe and car-free access from the NCN14 cycle path. 
Only down side to this installation is that it's not under cover

Viking Centre, Jarrow ***

Installations of 4 and 5 sheffield stands at the 2 entrances to the
centre, besides the several outside Morrisons. Not signed or undercover, but visible and easily accessible. Also lots of room for trailers 

Asda, South Shields *** 

Sheffield stands, but slightly out of the way, although near the ATMs. I could see no signage pointing out the parking at all. Also not undercover, although right next to a undercover car park for cars, and Asda provide covered parking for their trolleys

Aldi,  Laygate, South Shields ***

5 sheffield stands almost opposite main entrance. OK for bikes, but limited space for trailers. No signage, but easy to spot however

Iceland, Laygate, South Shields **

2 sheffield stands tucked away in a corner of the car park out of site of the entrance, and when I visited hidden by 2 home delivery vehicles.

Lidl, Frederick St, South Shields * 

Wheel bender style "stands" fixed to the trolley bays. Half of them blocked by a large pallet of compost

Tesco, Newcastle road. 0 stars    

No cycle parking at all. As this is my closest store I have challenged them.

The original parking was apparently at the back of the store and badly damaged by a delivery truck.

I was told that replacement cycle parking was planned during a store refit, scheduled for Feb 2013, but has not happened yet.

Pets at home, 0 stars

No cycle parking at all, despite a large paved area in front of the store. Perhaps cyclists don't own pets!

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

How not to encourage people to ride bikes...

If the masses are ever to be convinced that riding bikes will save their money, lives, and planet, then they need to be convinced that cycling is fun, convenient and safe.

Not suggest that the best way to be safe is to dress in garb resembling a police officer from a distance, like Bike Week has done on their twitter account here. This is just another notch in the arms race! Need to get the message to drivers to look, not make cyclists wear fancy dress!

Or to offer free "survival kits" to newcomers when they complete a cycling introduction course like this scheme in Gateshead. Give stuff away, but call them "goody bags" or similar. Wikipedia defines survival as "the struggle to remain living" Hardly the stuff to get mothers and children riding.

I know these guys mean well and do a lot of good and hard work promoting cycling, but at best these do not help to "normalise" riding a bike, and just perpetuate the myth that it is dangerous.

Sunday, 21 April 2013

How to make a cycle-unsafe crossing by not thinking holistically

Near to me is a traffic signaled crossroads across a dual carriageway linking two 20mph zone residential estates. Below is the crossing looking east to west. The legal alternative to this crossing when cycling (opposed to dismounting & pushing) is approximately 300m on the dual carriageway upto the next junction, and then loop back along winskell avenue.You can see the junctions on Google maps
It's illegal for bikes to use this junction even though it's between two 20mph zones and about 5 metres
The bus lane which is approximately 50 metres doesn't permit cyclists, prohibiting cycles from legally travelling straight across between the estates. The lights for busses are sensor controlled, and do not trigger for cyclists forcing a jump of the red.

The pedestrian crossing, not in the above photo, but just to the left, isn't a Toucan, but a pedestrian only crossing, cyclists need to walk over, which is not convenient. The crossing also has railings to corral the pedestrians as shown below.

Corralling pedestrians like cattle, Oh, and pedestrian only so bikes cannot use
There is a cycle crossing put in ACROSS the bus lane parallel with the dual carriageway as part of the John Reid Road cycleroute which has NOT been extended north of this junction
Perversely, there is a sensor controlled cycle crossing over the bus lane
The easiest and cheapest solution to this would have been to include cycles in the Traffic Regulation Order when the bus lane was created or by subsequent amendment of the order and the signage. Since they considered bikes crossing the bus lane how could they not consider the crossing of the main road.

This was raised, and although the points were acknowledged, the comment was made that cyclists can safely and legally cross by dismounting and wheeling their bikes across the pedestrian crossing and using the short off road links to bypass the bus lane, and that this was preferred as it would minimize conflict with pedestrians. Hardly enlightening and constructive advice from the transport officer responsible for cycling!

Junctions like this need to be made safe and as convenient for people who ride bikes, as they are for drivers. If not then there is no chance of encouraging people to leave their cars at home.

Saturday, 20 April 2013

From the archives - Another bank holiday - Another cycling trip

This is the account from the Swaledale Outdoor Club's cycling trip to Cockermouth YH during Mayday bank Holiday weekend 2000 written up by myself for the club's newsletter. there was originally a number of photos, but these were digital and accidently deleted years ago... Anyway to the story

At the May Day weekend, several members of the SOC's Cycling Section spent a few days on the edge of the Lakes based at Cockermouth YH exploring some of the less touristy areas of north and west Cumbria.


Whilst the other poor souls were still stuck in work, the weather had finally come good, and I loaded up the bike looking forward to a good ride across to Cockermouth.

I headed up through Woodland, Eggleston, and Mickleton before starting the last long pull over the pennine watershed heading to Brough. My legs felt surprisingly fresh following the previous weekends escapade, and I climbed strongly in the sunshine. Once I had plummeted down into Brough it was a nice saunter through winding lanes towards Appleby. The closest I came to hassle from motorised transport was when I was "buzzed" by a WW2 fighter flying around for about 1/2 hour. Appleby was skirted round and I soon arrived at Penrith for some lunch.

From Penrith I headed to Greystoke, and then joined the C2C route heading towards Keswick. Several sections of this route actually run along the eastbound carriageway giving a continental feel as approaching vehicles pass your left shoulder.

The C2C route also utilised several sections of the old road, and the last few miles past Keswick are on the old railway line. The whole route generally is very rideable except for a few steps where the A66 bypass crosses. From Keswick I continued round the C2C and then made the mistake of taking the Cockermouth fork which after using good surfaces suddenly left me with a choice of a very steep and muddy woodland track, or the A66 - I chose the A66 for the couple of miles to Dubwath where I could drop back off it and take the minor road through Embleton into Cockermouth.

Once in Cockermouth, I raided the local supermarket, and with some vague directions from the tourist information office went in search of the hostel. When I found it, I was still 20 minutes only, and had to wait along with a walker until 5:00pm when the hostel was opened up by the voluntary warden. Like Slaidburn the week before Cockermouth is no longer staffed by a paid full time warden, but by a series of committed hostellers putting something back into the organisation from which they've had so much pleasure for many years.

Liz, Paul, Ray and Lil arrived during the early evening and accompanied me into town where we proceeded to boost the local economy by downing several jars of Jennings finest. We were just walking back when I received a call from Helen to say that they were walking down, so just to be sociable I headed back into town for the second time.


Saturday dawned cloudy , and judging by the moaning so did several of the party, or was that because some of us rose at 7:00 am?

After breakfast, and enough tea to float several battleships we headed off. Peter and Paul decided to have a real mans ride and tackle Hardknott and Wrynose passes. I would have gone but my legs were tired from 90 miles the previous day, and I've done them before. Honest!

The rest of us meandered through loads of lanes, managing to avoid A roads and Workington before completing the last couple of miles on the reivers route into the centre of Whitehaven. Once we found a suitable cafe,we proceeded to refuel. Roland having a serious cream fest - Allegedly there was a waffle hiding underneath but it took Roly nearly a week to dig down to it!

After myself and John fed the local bike shop's till, we took the C2C heading to Ennerdale. At first this skirts through several housing estates, but the route, on a disused railway, is well used and respected with very little litter and no glass, which is a total contrast to local urban routes. The route also has lots of interesting sculptures and art along the way.

A Sculpture on the C2C near Cleator Moor

The route follows the old railway line for several miles before dropping onto minor roads winding past Loweswater heading upto Whinlatter pass. We left the C2C at this point heading straight up to Cockermouth and the hostel under blackening skies, pausing for tea in the town centre at Pop's Chatenooga diner. Pop, who by the way reminded me of Pop in the BBC's League of Gentlemen coincidence? seems to have something of a takeaway/diner monopoly in this area as we counted 2 in cockermouth and another in Aspatria just up the road.

Evening saw half the party eat at the hostel, whilst myself and the rest, hit the local pub for a mixed grill apiece, befoe meeting up with the rest of the party in "The Bitter End"


Various routes were discussed over breakfast, and eventually most of us decided to stay together and head east to Caldbeck where Liz had promised us an excellent cafe stop. Ray and Lil cycled across towards Skiddaw, and then had a day walking on the fell. Roland took his car and headed down to Wasdale to walk down there.
The bridge over the river Derwent, at the top of Bassenthwaite Lake

We stopped at "Trotters and Friends" for tea, as Liz had wanted a look at the pigs. However the reality didn't match the brochure, and we all left unimpressed with the cafe and the farm. We then headed past Overwater to Caldbeck.

Only 4 miles left to the cafe. Great!

After the cafe stop Brian, John, and I headed back as the others wanted to look around the gift shops. We had a very pleasant afternoon in the spring sunshine meandering towards Wigton before heading to Aspatria, and then back to Cockermouth.

Myself, Brian, John and Roland again headed down to the pub for a meal. We had finished and were just downing a pint when we spotted the others walking past with an addition. Is it? no it couldn't be, could it? Yes it's Martin!!

We drank up and then joined up with them in The Bitter End. Martin had plenty of stories as usual. Also as usual we left Brian, and Martin in the pub. They made it back to the hostel with about 30 seconds to spare.


I packed up after politely refusing all offers of lifts for both myself, and my luggage to cycle back home. I managed to get about 4 miles before I had to turn back because of an minor but painful injury, and then cadge a lift back. I returned to the hostel just as the ride was setting off to head towards Maryport but I was even unable to attempt that ride, and instead spent the day dossing around Cockermouth before meeting up with everyone again at 3:15pm to head back to the North East. Once loaded up the cars, especially Brian's looked like Tour de France team cars.

The SOC team cars ready for departure outside the hostel

Thanks to Helen for organising the accommodation, and to everyone else for their company, and to Martin, Brian, and Helen for getting myself and my stuff back home again.

From the archives! - The SOC's Easter Trip to Slaidburn YH - 2000

This is the account from the Swaledale Outdoor Club's cycling trip to Slaidburn YH during Easter 2000 written up by myself for the club's newsletter. there was originally a number of photos, but these were digital and accidently deleted years ago... Anyway to the story


I loaded up the bike, and headed off to meet up with Peter and Roland at Marske bridge. After underestimating the wind and the terrain, I arrived 15 minutes late, to find that Peter had just arrived as well, and Roland was just behind.

After persuading Roland that cycling to Slaidburn would not be much further than going home and getting the car we headed off across to Downholme and then Redmire. After being battered by the wind across the tops, we blasted down into Redmire hoping for some respite. unfortunately it was not to be found, and we continued to push the wind through Carperby, and Askrigg, to Hawes. Roland enlightened us to the intricacies of time theory as we cycled along.

After we refuelled at Hawes, we climbed up to Ribblehead, still into a crushing headwind. Once at the summit we quickly donned waterproofs as we could see an approaching shower hiding behind Ingleborough, waiting to pounce. Climate Control had looked at their Ladybird book of weather and decided to chuck everything at us including rain, hail, and lightening.

We dropped down Ribblesdale to Settle in very mixed weather, and found a cafe to dry out a little and refuel. After several cups of tea, and some gorgeous chocolate and orange cake we headed out though lanes towards Tosside where Liz and Helen passed us in the car, offering to carry our bags for the last few miles. Being the hard threesome that we are, we naturally declined. We finally pulled into the hostel about 40 minutes later where there was a much earned pot of tea waiting.


There were some very unenthusiastic cyclists on saturday morning, and as everybody was tired from the ride across we decided on a fairly shortish ride, and so we headed along the dale to Newton, and then Dunsop Bridge where the group all said Ahhh! at the ducks and ducklings. We then headed across to Chipping where we stopped for tea and some "bungo" soup. According to the menu, it's called "bungo" as everything is bunged into it! We had a slight detour so John could check out a camping barn nearby.

We then had a very pleasant ride though the lanes towards Clitheroe in spring sunshine, with frequent pauses to allow people to remove winter clothing. Liz left us just outside Clitheroe to head back to the hostel early.

In Clitheroe, we left Roland guarding the bikes, whilst we went and explored the castle, and enjoyed the views across to Pendle hill.

On the walk back to the bikes we bought ice creams from an seller who seemed to more interested in what we were up to, rather than sell us 99s. The rain started to fall as we left Clitheroe, and as we drew closer to home, the rain became harder, and once on the final climb the hail and lightening started again.

After taking shelter in an old barn whilst we regrouped we sprinted the last couple of miles to Slaidburn and the cafe.

The evening was completed by Liz and Helen serving up a fantastic meal which they had prepared. Many thanks for their hard work, it was much appreciated and enjoyed by everybody. Once food had been scoffed and the washing up done, about half the party wandered over to the pub. a bout of "people watching" followed, where it was observed that about 90% of the people in the pub had what was soon christened the "slaidburn nose". A case for Mulder and Scully perhaps? Or was it just a local pub for local people?


We were not woken by the usual birdsong, but by Peter singing happy birthday to himself! We would have preferred birdsong!

Sunday started off foggy, but the sun soon burnt through, and it was decided to head off to Dunsop Bridge and the Trough of Bowland. Ray and Lil joined us after walking on Saturday. At Dunsop Bridge we pleasantly wasted a few minutes watching the ducks being fed and occasionally fighting between themselves! We soon headed off up the climb of the trough in brilliant sunshine, and as the climb dragged on, the party spread out.

Myself and Peter waited as everybody regrouped at the top. A small amount of the usual horseplay saw John getting dragged off Valerie's back and almost dumped into a puddle! We tore off down the descent, and spread out again on the following climb, regrouping at the summit, about a mile before Lowbrow Farm Tearooms, which were excellent and are heartily recommended to anybody in the area. Once fed and watered, we continued to descend, and then turned to head along the valley towards Caton, and then Wray. At Wray, we spent a while walking around the village admiring all the scarecrows which were on display as part of the annual village scarecrow festival.

The best exhibit was the one which caused Liz to jump halfway across the road when it greeted her with "Hello Gorgeous!" when she walked past. We were warned when setting off to beware off the giant catapillar, but of course it was a dragon chasing St George up and down the main street. From Wray, it was a pleasant ride back over Catlow Fell to Slaidburn, Peter earning his "superhero" badge for ploughing on ahead to keep the shop open.

Once back at the Hostel, I quietly managed to get everybody to sign a card, and then we presented Peter with the card, a small present, and a birthday cake complete with candles.

Once again Liz and Helen rustled up an excellent meal from the remains of the previous night and a few extras.


Monday dawned sunny which lifted everyone, until it started clouding over. Once everybody except myself and Valerie wimped out and placed their bags in Helen's car we departed. The Dawes-Ballard express swung into action at the top of the first climb, and we tore back home, pausing for refuelling at Ribblehead, and Leyburn. Myself and Peter split at richmond to go our separate ways.

Many thanks to everybody for their great company during the weekend, and to Peter for the wonderful ride back on the Monday. Special thanks to Helen and Liz for cooking 2 wonderful evening meals, and to Liz for organising the Hostel booking. Finally happy birthday greetings were given during the weekend to Peter, Helen, and Roland.

Shared paths - The lazy Council's infrastructure

Not really shared when
you have to give way
Clagging tarmac down & a sign doesn't
make for quality cycle infrastructure
In my experience shared paths are the laziest and most thoughtless option Councils employ so that the cycling provision box can be ticked.

Too often they are simply not wide enough. they need to be wide enough to allow 2 bikes to pass comfortably as well as pedestrian space, and also to allow handtrikes, and other disabled and wider equipment such cycle trailers to pass. I have had it commented to me by a Council cycling officer that painted segregation lines cost money to maintain so are not specified. 

The photos below are from the shared path though Temple Park in South Shields. An excellent specially built shared path, but why wasn't it built with segregation? And why put the barriers there? A couple of bollards would have done the same job, and permitted easier access for disabled cycles and trailers etc. Make them removable, and the council road sweepers can run along every now and again to sweep up the glass!

But the entrance barriers restrict access
Nice and wide once on the cycleway

If new paths are being laid then surely it is not too much to provide a kerb as a segregation. The example below on NCN 14 at Tyne Dock in South Shields is a first rate example of quality segregation for a few hundred metres at least!

Great split level segregation for a few hundred metres
Also all too often shared use signs are put up by councils, with no repeater or end signs. This encourages pavement cycling and fosters the thought amongst people starting to ride bikes that it is legal to ride on the pavement. 

The shortsightedness of most cycle routes to end with the rider having to ride on the pavement to find a dropped kerb also reinforces the view that all pavement cycling is legal.

Councils need to get their act together and realise that road and pavement space is for the safe transit of all people regardless of transport mode, and that they have a duty to provide, and not doing so is simple negligence. 

If the people in charge cannot act for the safety of all then it is their responsibility to stand aside for others that can and do act in the best interests of all.