Sunday, 30 June 2013

Cycling's image problem

Cycling in the UK has a massive image problem.

Yea, there are lots of stories in the news papers and websites, about how cycling is "the new golf",  how  lycra is cool again (really..?), and that masses of people are taking to their bikes every weekend. Sportives, which are organised mass bike rides (not races) are the new fun runs with several across the country every week with hundreds often taking part.

Again every day you can find stories about cyclists doing wonderful rides to raise lots of money for very good and worthy causes.

Brilliant, wonderful more bums on saddles - All good yea?

No, actually it isn't.

Cycling is not just a sport for people with expensive carbon road bikes and mega travel full suspension mountain bikes, it is the best transport mode on the planet.

The UK though with the exception of a few places seems to be completely blind to the fact, and failing miserably.

To all these people that don the lycra and ride far and wide on a weekend put the bike back in the garage on Sunday evening and take the car to the shops, or to drop the kids of at school, or to work. I ask why?

The cycling lobby and campaign groups , media organisations and the bicycle industry need to make cycling transport as cool and sexy as cycling as a sport has become, and as cool and sexy as Copenhagen Cycle Chic makes it.

I think we need to possibly ditch some of the more preachy messages such as the "Take the fast lane, not the fat lane" which was ran in Manchester, and telling people that cycling is the good and right thing to do, cos frankly some won't do it out of bloodymindedness, and some don't care.

We all know that the infrastructure is crap and not fit for purpose, and a lot of people think the roads are unsafe. That doesn't stop the weekend cyclists from cycling. It shouldn't stop them from riding to the local shops for a pint of milk or a loaf of bread either.

Saturday, 22 June 2013

Estate on road to a better future... I don't think so

There was an article in the Shields gazette this week crowing that ward councillors had managed to obtain £50K to make the Holder House Estate in South Shields easier for drivers to navigate.

Residents apparently have been complaining about "vehicle access" and "lack of space to maneuver cars" on the estate. If you look at the estate on Google maps, you can see it's a relatively new estate, probably from the 70s/80s. The roads into the housing areas from the main access roads ringing the estate are dead ends, with lots of footpaths linking the roads.

View Larger Map
I had a quick tour up some of the roads (Fennel grove & Caraway walk) with the video running, and you can see the result below. It is quite boring though.

The only restrictions on vehicle access and maneuvering are ironically all the vehicles parked on the roads and pavements. Oh and the fact that the estate is a 20mph zone. I couldn't see any issue, and cannot see why the council are spending £50K.

Obesity and related conditions cost the authorities £50 million in South Tyneside alone. Nearly a third of the adult population in South Tyneside is obese. Worse still is the fact that 38% of children on South Tyneside are obese. Figures were taken from this article which makes grim reading

Instead of pandering to the whims and whines of the motorists, what the councillors and council NEEDS be do is enabling more cycling and walking on the estate, and links from it to other amenities across the borough, and discouraging and restricting vehicle use.

There is a public health issue here, and the council are effectively investing in making the problem worse. South Tyneside is a very car-centric area with low levels of cycling provision. What there is tends to be either shared paths or utterly abysmal. Below is the where the cycling provision takes over from the road by the Holder House estate, which is a small gap in the curb & a dirt bridleway

Below is a typical ST cycling link shared path (different estate) with no dropped kerb access.

Money needs to be spent on making the cycling infrastructure safe, convenient and easy and attractive to use. Education and "outreach" into the communities to get people on bikes is also very important.

Yes, there are some tough and unpopular decisions to be taken, but the councillors are elected to work for the good of the community and to better it. This is just short termism populist pandering which will have a far deeper negative impact on the community than making a handful of drivers slightly less miserable.