Pedal Power
Issue 18
April 1996
www.ldcuc.org.uk

New Cycling Consultative Group

Charnwood Borough Council has established a Cycling Consultative Group to cover all aspects of cycling throughout the Borough including Road Safety, the Cycleway Network, Sustrans Route, cycle parking facilities and National Bike Week.

Many of the members will be known to Campaign members. It will be chaired by Cllr. Max Hunt, with Cllr. Ariadne Tampion representing the Planning Committee. Clive Davis will be representing the Campaign, Anthony Kay the Loughborough University Bicycle Users' Group and Patick Davis, Sustrans. Representatives from the Planning & Highways Departments, the Cyclists' Touring Club, Spokes, the Chamber of Trade, the University and the Police will also be invited to attend.

At the first meeting it was revealed that the local authority is hoping to improve local cycling facilities by widening the existing footway from the "Friendly Hotel" to the motorway for joint use, introduce cycle lanes on Shelthorpe and Alan Moss Roads and allow joint use of the footway along Belton Road.

Opening of Woodbrook Way

The Woodbrook and Ashby Way Cycle Path is to be opened as part of National Bike Week on Monday 3rd June at 8.30am, meet at the new cycleway bridge at Ashby Crescent. A cycle ride along the Epinal Way and Woodbrook Way will then follow and any members partaking are invited to adjourn after the ride to 32 Bramcote Road for Coffee and biscuits.

Picnic in the Park '96 - Saturday 18th May

Charnwood Environmental Action Group is once again putting on this event in Queens Park starting at mid-day and continuing until 5-00pm. There will be a range of performance artists including drama, dance and "participative projects". For more information phone 01509-269416.

Cyclists seen as main threat to civilisation

According to an account of the Barrow Neighbourhood Watch AGM featured in the Spring Issue of "Barrow Voice", priorities for action for 1996 were agreed as "cyclists riding on the pavements and without lights, horses on the roads at night; house security, crime prevention; door chains to be fitted in houses which are vulnerable : car theft prevention". Presumably speeding motorists are seen as upholders of the law who are impeded by unlit cyclists on the pavement and horses whilst hurrying to fit door chains and giving themselves time to lock up the car properly.

CONTRASTING APPROACHES TO THE PROMOTION AND PRACTICE OF CYCLING

The February and March 1996 meetings of the Campaign showed us two contrasting approaches to provision for cyclists. Both were fascinating in their own right; together they give us a picture of the thorny path on which our cause still travels!

In February, Johanna Cleary and Tim Hughes, the partners of Cleary Hughes Associates, cycle planning consultants, spoke to a packed room about their work. It soon became clear that their approach was radical. Telling us about a leisure network on the Somerset Levels and a cycle route component of a Coventry transport package bid, they revealed at once that they had shunned the possibity of miles of pavement-style cycle path in favour of concentrating on removing barriers. Their Coventry proposals included a toucan crossing of the A45, with its implications of interrupting traffic flow, whilst in Somerset they sought out disused railway bridges to complete links.

Anybody with experience of regular cycling can recognise instinctively that this approach is correct. Most of the time you bowl along quite happily on existing roads, the experience marred by the occasional point where you feel stressed and under threat - be it a large roundabout, a complex gyratory, or waiting at a side road for a gap in fast moving dual carriageway traffic. The importance of barriers should not be underestimated. I read a piece once about the creation of the Wiltshire Cycleway, one of the U.K.'s first on-road recreational routes. It included the comment that 'one difficult junction can deter potential users from the entire route'. Perversely, short journeys concentrate such barriers because the scope for varying one's route in limited. I can count three such points on my former work journey home from the Brush, but only one on the 120-mile trip to my parents' former home in Reading!

But the Cleary Hughes radicalism did not stop there. They believe firmly that encouraging cycling and providing for increased car use are simply not compatible, and are not afraid to say so. They then go further and say that not only car use but car ownership should be tackled - a difficult idea to stomach for many. But they are not afraid to lead the way by personally living car-free. They revealed that 'unlike many other cycle planning consultants' they actually ride bikes themselves. Most of their holidays are cycle camping trips. This could go a long way towards explaining why their ideas found such easy resonance with Campaign members present. It was a refreshing and inspiring evening.

In March we listened to Patrick Davis from Leicestershire County Council and Sustrans. He favoured the segregated cycle paths approach, with designated 'route networks'. A conflict of ideology soon broke out, mainly between myself and Patrick, but most other members threw in their pennyworth.

The justification behind special cycle paths and routes is based on the axiom that there are two kinds of cyclists - the 'hard' riders and the 'wobbly novices' who need to be enticed out of cars. There is of course some truth in this, as there is in any division of people into 'two kinds' (U and non-U and so on..).

However I believe that the bond between the 'two kinds' of cyclists is much stronger - they are both human beings with human bodies. Anybody who has cycled for more than a few minutes at a time knows what makes cycling tiring and unrewarding. It is not the distance, or even the speed (to a point), but a 'stop-start' regime, continually accelerating and decelerating.

Most roadside cycle paths enforce this regime, which can be exacerbated to a high degree by the need to dismount and manhandle one's machine around obstacles, as is common on Sustrans paths. Rolling resistance is increased by an irregular surface, the norm on special cycle paths, making cycling even harder work.

The crucial point is, that there is no conflict between the needs of the 'two kinds' of cyclists. Conditions which enable the strong cyclist to go fast are the same as those which enable the weak cyclist to go at all.

The danger of providing special paths for novice cyclists instead of removing barriers from the universal cycle route network that is our road system (a fact recognised by West Sussex County Council at least) is that it may give them a distorted idea of what rider and machine are capable of. Discovering cycling to be slow and exhausting, they may immediately discount its use as functional transport. They may infer that cycling anywhere other than on a special path is impossibly dangerous. Enjoying the 'greenway' aspect of Sustrans paths and the public art, they may drive with bikes on the roof to the nearest stretch of cycle path and ride along it.

If we seek to deter people from driving to other activities, do we really want to encourage them to drive to go cycling? By freeing up the road network for cycling we can exploit its most basic benefit - that it can be done from your own front door. We can offer not just a network of a few thousand miles, but of several hundred thousand miles, accessible to all with an Ordnance Survey map, not only with specialist, hard-to-get information. The information problem should not be underestimated; it is still not uncommon to meet young lads touring on a Little Chef map.

I recall my first experience of CTC riding, as a hopelessly naive 18-year-old, unfit and anorexic, with a thoroughly unsuitable bike (a ladies Raleigh Traveller). Thanks to encouragement from clubmates, on one occasion I completed 60 miles. A few months later I bought my first lightweight tourer and never looked back. It is easy to put on weight, too, when you feel good about your body and what it can do; and when a club culture of gannetting overrides elusive media images of slimness.

I recall the retirement speech of a work colleague. As an apprentice in the 1940's, he decided to go to France. His bike he described as 'a roadster'. On the first day he cycled down the A1, through London, and stopped for the night at Maidstone.

Every year, hundreds more people find that they too can ride from London to Brighton. THAT is the capability of the bicycle, and we should be shouting it from the rooftops. The so-called 'hard' cyclists are just ordinary people who have had the opportunity to discover it for themselves. Sustrans, of course, admits that some cycling will still be on roads, and includes country lanes in the Inverness to Dover route. But the designated lanes will be traffic calmed. I personally am horrified at the idea of infestations of traffic calming appearing on country lanes. How refreshing the Cleary Hughes approach, the need for a culture change, to ask 'why do people have to go fast in the first place?'

Road humps victimise the very people who are part of the solution, cyclists and bus passengers. The way ahead must surely be in better law enforcement and genuine safety technology in vehicles. Unfortunately the most effective method - of replacing seatbelts, air bags and crumple zones with a steel spike protruding from the steering wheel - is unlikely to be politically acceptable. However, intelligent speed governors offer a way forward that is likely to be eventually, if grudgingly, accepted by everybody.

Another alarming revelation was the plan to 'trunk' the Epinal Way once the extension is built, and make it the A6. Patrick was enthusiastic about this, arguing that 'serious money' would then be available for classy crossings. I cannot agree that traffic-generating road building on the scale proposed is ever justified. This vision of conflict and delay, pollution and noise, appalls me. Traffic reduction has to be the preferred option.

To give him credit, Patrick acknowledged my points and agreed with many in principle, but cited problems with the 'fogues' on the County Council (don't I know it!). If I want to accentuate one point it is this: we cycle with power from our own bodies, and if the cycle facility designer does not minimise that effort, cycling will be correspondingly unattractive. We MUST give an easy ride to the mother laden with small child and shopping, for it is only by educating the next generation about sustainable travel patterns that there is any hope for the human race and the planet.

Ariadne Tampion

A Century of Carnage

The car industry's back-slapping hundreth birthday celebrations in January were spoiled by protesters drawing attention to the 430,000 deaths in the UK alone from road accidents since statistics were first kept in 1926. At a special service in praise of the car at Coventry Cathedral, an activist removed her clothes and shouted anti-car slogans, and in Birmingham, Friends of the Earth beamed a giant cine image at guests arriving at the 'Celebration of the Century' banquet given by the Motor Manufacturers and Traders.

On the same day, Friends of the Earth launched its 'Cars Cost the Earth' campaign, urging drivers to give up their cars for two days each week to demonstrate to the Government that they want to see less traffic on the roads. Friends of the Earth's campaign aims to secure the entry of the Road Traffic Reduction Bill into Parliament this November. Launched by the Friends of the Earth, the Green Party and Plaid Cymru in 1994, the Bill would require the Transport Secretary to draw up a phased strategy to achieve a 10 percent cut in traffic volumes by the year 2010.

According to Roger Higman, Senior Transport Campaigner, "A hundred years of car-dominated transport policies have left Britain polluted, congested, criss-crossed by tarmac and stressed out by road rage. We can no longer tolerate this devastation."

Drivers intending to cut car use will send their pledge to the Government urging action.

For a pledge card, ring 0171-490 1555

(Source - London Cyclist April/May 1996)

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