Wednesday, 18 September 2019

Government make a nonsense of their cycling safety review





This is the bizarre story of how two years ago the government, which continues to invest next to nothing in cycling safety, managed to contrive to make cycling less safe.

They did so by a rule change to allow parking on some cycle lanes without first consulting with and then not telling  any local authority nor Cycling UK about it.
(The photo shows a car preparing to turn left by straddling the solid white line of a cycle way).

This act of vandalism came to light following the Department for Transport’s (DfT) 2018 review of cycling safety when eagle-eyed Roger Geffen, Cycling UK Policy Director, discovered to his alarm a secret rule change at odds with the Highway Code.

He now fears it could become incorporated into the next edition of the road user’s bible and that will certainly undermine cycling safety on cycle lanes.

I will attempt to explain in a nutshell what I have gleaned from the detailed explanation of the complex legislation surrounding this matter, published on the excellent Cycling UK website.

You know those solid white lines on cycle lanes which we all love because vehicles are not allowed to park on them? | Well, vehicles are allowed to park on them now.

Well, not all cycle lanes with solid whites! 

The DfT decided that solid white lines put down before the rule change in 2016 will remain sacrosanct - it remains an offence to park a vehicle in them.

It is the cycle lanes marked with solid white lines put down after the 2016 rule change where a driver is now permitted to park his or her hazard. 

But how to tell the post 2016 lanes from earlier models?

Will anyone know?  Are records kept of when the white lining was put down!  Are they date stamped?

Geffen warns that this is a situation which could become really messy and he is striving to get the DfT to drop their new ruling.

He told Cycling UK magazine:  “We now have a situation where the Highway Code is out of step with the law. So, unless the Government reverses the 2016 rule change, they will soon need to make a change to the Highway Code which will worsen cycle safety, as part of a review that is supposed to improve cycle safety.”

STOP PRESS.

No money for cycling in the government’s recent Budget.

No change there, then – not even small change!

So much for Extinction Rebellion’s urgent call to reduce carbon emissions (rapidly rising, according to the latest news) which could be achieved by promoting cycling as an alternative to always using the car.

Instead, they now permit motors to go where no motors were allowed to go before, into protected cycle lanes.

*I no longer doubt the intelligence of  computers after the spell check

on this piece recommended changing the abbreviation DfT to Daft!













Saturday, 7 September 2019

Council inspectors to monitor Velolife cafe!





I learn in Cycling Weekly this week that the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead are to post council inspectors to monitor cycling behaviour at Velolife Café, in their ongoing and absurd bid to stop “cyclist meets” there – whatever constitutes such a meet; the council cannot explain this even to themselves and say they don't want to stop cyclists going there!
But if riders should do whatever it is the council say they shouldn't be doing - appear to be meeting -  the café will be in breach of planning rules and the owner could face legal action.

The real reason for the council’s shit behaviour of course is to pacify nearby residents who have apparently complained cyclists are a nuisance. One complaint was that they have impeded a local resident's access to reach his home via a driveway customers  cross to reach the café.   You would think that could be cleared up by advising customers  to keep the drive clear.

But when a council inspector denied that cyclists were a “visual disturbance” and lowered the tone of the area it would seem there is more to this than story than meets the eye and we can only presume that someone had said that they were.

It was encouraging that the council quashed that viewpoint but confusing they have persisted in their harassment of the café owner and cycling clubs over a condition in the planning rules they cannot explain adequately, making matters worse by the threat of legal action against the café owner.


Thanks to crowdfunding, Velolife Café has received over £18,000 in donations to help pay for their defence, if this goes to court.

In the meantime, the inspectors are moving in for teas and a slice. And to spy on the pedalling customers.

Where will it all end?

Could we see a park and ride scheme being set up down the road in either direction of the café - near Reading - to spare the residents the nuisance of witnessing the arrival of cyclists on bikes.

Cyclists would be required to leave their bikes in the park and ride area and board closed prison vans loaned from a security company, one rider per cell. I don’t know how many each van will take, eight riders, maybe?
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           Parked ready to ride
 Anyway, in this way they could arrive at the café unseen, exit the vans and

go directly into a covered walkway, like those connecting aircraft to terminal buildings.

These arrangements will, at a stroke, spare the residents from a “visual disturbance” of seeing riders in funny, gaily coloured cycling garb. And spare them the racket of all those freewheels, not to mention the horror of overhearing laughter and merry chat.

Once inside the café, inspectors, wearing jack boots and black shirts bearing some sort of insignia will be tasked to determine whether the cyclists are in a “meeting”.

Two cyclists together OK. Three or more…that could constitute a planned meeting! Break it up.

But how to prevent this in the first place? 

Easy.

First of all, cyclists shoud only be allowed at the counter one or two at a time.

They must sit only in pairs at tables shielded on both sides by high-sided screens so they cannot see adjacent tables. In the style of voting booths.

An inspector will monitor each pair to see they do not exchange result sheets or race programmes - which may be interpreted as a meeting of some sort -  and that they only speak in whispers.

Hopefully, this will all be sorted before October 31 when, in the event of a No Deal Brexit things might take a sinister turn.

According to the latest Private Eye, the army are set to take over running local council services because local civil servants will be pressed into service by Whitehall to help deal with the chaos and disruption expected as we leave the EU.

Best to see Royal Borough’s operation as a dry run in public control if Nigel Farage’s Brexshit Party win the general election and impose martial law.

Tea and a slice, please. No sugar.






Tuesday, 27 August 2019

Council still at war with Velolife



Ryka's Cafe at the foot of Box Hill in Surrey, famous as a magnet for 100s of bikers, cyclists, and walkers either solo or meeting in organised groups...no bother!



Council digs itself deeper into a hole over legal threat to Velolife Café



Last Friday, Velolife café owner Lee Goodwin was still facing the threat of legal action if cyclists meet in organised rides in breach of planning rules; say the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead Council.

A week after this absurd story first broke attempts by both Cycling UK and British Cycling to persuade the council to soften its aggressive approach have only

resulted in the council digging themselves deeper into a hole.

This dispute kicked off when the council received a complaint that cyclists at the café were considered a nuisance by local residents.

Just how they were a nuisance wasn’t explained.

We have since learned two things. It seems likely that the sight of cyclists upset someone or some persons. Lowered the tone of the neighbourhood!

I venture to suggest this after reading a comment from council inspector who denied that the “visual effects” of cyclists congregating at the site was “harmful to the character and appearance” of the area. 

Which suggests to me that some discriminating nasty had said they were?



But the real reason for the upset appears to be access.



We now learn that next door to Velolife is a small cottage. There is a drive way to the cottage and this passes the side door to the café.  The driveway separates the café from the café car park and bike sheds.

It means that people who have parked cars or bikes there then walk across the driveway to reach the café.

The complaint is that, on occasion, the owners of the cottage, who have right of access over the drive, have at times not been able to access their property.

It must be added that the Velolife business does not own the drive. The drive is the property of the freeholder of that land.



Now, if a resident complains that access to their home is being impeded, the council should look into this and act to determine the weight of the claim.


Instead, it seems the council have gone to war by trying to put off cyclists going to the café in the first place!

They had first targeted cycling clubs by threatening them with legal action if they organised rides to and from the café and then rescinded that

by saying cyclists are welcome to use the facilities “but must not arrange organised meets that start, end or stop at the café.”



If they do so Velolife café could face legal action.


When pressed by Cycling UK to define exactly what constitutes  an organised ride or meet, the council declined to explain. Probably because they don’t know.





This is the sort of satire we enjoyed from Monty Python, and which had us in stitches. The five minute argument comes to mind. The Ministry of Silly Walks.

Except this is real for the owner of the café, a nightmare. 

The Royal Borough has demonstrated they do not know the first rule of holes. Which is, when in one, stop digging.












Saturday, 17 August 2019

Council threatens legal action against cycling clubs organising rides!


STUPID:  lacking intelligence; unable to think clearly.

The council of the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead are stupid, say Cycling Weekly in their editorial (August 15).

Cyclists have been threatened with legal action if they meet up at the Velolife Café to go riding!!!

Apparently, a number of local residents had complained they were being disturbed by cyclists.

It’s an amazing story and you can’t help but wonder if being stupid is part of the wider condition which has given rise to discrimination against “others”.

Is this stupidity in the Royal Borough part of the contagion spreading rapidly across the planet?  Stupidity on the grand scale was first identified in the USA a few years ago when Trump was on the ascendancy to the presidency. There was a tee-shirt with this warning message, “Never underestimate the power of the stupid.”

And so it proved. The stupid condition then spread to the UK effecting 17 million people who voted to “Leave” the European Union.

If this is so, the tentacles of the stupid are now spreading like bind weed across the nation.

A particularly virulent strain seems to have wrapped itself about the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead in the form of discrimination against cycling.

So what has the Royal Borough done?  Cycling Weekly report they threatened cyclists “with legal action for just meeting for a ride, claiming they were a nuisance” and then the council clarified this further by adding “around Velolife Café near Reading”.

You couldn’t make this up.

The café is a former pub and the issue centres on its new use as a café with a “cycling theme”. It includes a workshop and some retail sales.

The council wanted the former pub to be used as a community facility, and they say its use as a cycling facility has not complied with planning permission.

Surely, it has! It’s a community facility with a cycling theme!

This did not cut any ice with the council and a certificate of lawfulness was served in the enforcement notice.

This is bureaucracy gone mad. You might think it could be sorted without resorting to the threat of legal action. We don’t practice black magic, or rev our cars up in the car park. Well, I don’t even have a car.

 Perhaps the council were influenced by Channel 5 tvs stupid programme casting cyclists as the enemy of motorists.

On the other hand, perhaps this is the work of THE computer. 

Planning application is fed into computer. Computer reveals that not all the boxes are ticked according to whatever.  Alarms go off. Lights flash. A Dalek voice barks “Ex-ter-min-ate, Ex-ter-min-ate”.

Council employee with instructions not to question the computer does as the computer bids, hits a red button.  In a trice legal letters fly across an executive’s desk and, coming as they do from the computer which knows no wrong, dutifully signs them off and out they go first class.

Or maybe not. Perhaps there really is a Mr Halfwit directing this operation.

I can recall no such council hostility shown Bike Beans Cycle Café in Ashtead, Surrey, a wonderful café which once operated a cycling club and became a cycling centre for led rides. When it closed after a number of years it was because the proprietor had other business ventures to pursue.

The Windsor and Maidenhead council made themselves look even more foolish when they sought to clarify their first declaration - by saying cyclists are welcome to use the facilities “but must not arrange organised meets that start, end or stop at the café.”

So in other words cyclists can use the café just so long as they don’t cycle there!

This would be a laugh if it had not caused the proprietor so much stress.

It all smacks of authoritarianism.

Meanwhile, since all this kicked off the council leader has paid the café a visit, so perhaps there is hope. Apparently not.

BREAKING NEWS:

After meeting with cycling  organisations Cycling UK and British Cycling, a few days ago at which it seemed matters had been partly resolved, the council then issued another statement rowing back on their first.

This from Cycling UK, defenders of cyclists’ rights dated August 15.

"Cycling UK was informed a few hours ago that the Council had informed Mr Goodwin (Proprietor of Velolife) today that, notwithstanding their statement that no action would be taken against clubs attending Velolife, Mr Goodwin still needed to ensure that clubs did not use the café as a stop before, during or after organised rides, and that to do so would breach the terms of the draft injunction the Council has sought.

BREAKING NEWS 2.

The ghost of F. T. Bidlake (The Father of Time Trialling a century ago) makes a timely appearance to suggest cyclists visiting Velolife dress all in black and leave at one minute intervals so as not to draw attention to themselves – just as they did time trialling in Victorian times to avoid detection when road racing was banned.

Monday, 12 August 2019

Giz us the money

Cycling investment frozen stiff

Gis us the money

Anyone watching the European cycle road race championships from Alkmaar in the Netherlands on Eurosport TV at the weekend can’t have failed to have noticed the well-designed cycle routes on every road.

Britain has nothing like it. Nothing even remotely approaching the provision for cycling in the Netherlands can be found anywhere in the UK.

And it is not for want of asking.

We’re asking again. Or rather Paul Tuohy, Chief executive of Cycling UK, is. He has written to all Cycling UK members and asked them to write to the transport secretary in a bid to get the government to invest in cycling.

The bid to get decent investment in cycling has become the longest running farce in the sorry tale of UK cycle campaigning because successive governments simply refuse to budge.

In 50 years the ending never changes.
There are good ministers who agree with everything the campaigners proclaim about the undoubted benefits to making cycling safer on the roads, that this needs serious investment.

And the government of the day then does fuck all about it.

Well, they pass the buck to Local Authorities who generally haven’t a clue –with the notable exception of Manchester today - still less any money.

Even so, the Bee Network initiative in Manchester, devised by former Olympic champion Chris Boardman, is being driven by cycling friendly Mayor Andy Burnham. And I wonder if it is written in stone that his work continues when he goes?

As regards the national picture, the sad fact is that in recent years the Treasury has gradually reduced spending on cycling to less £1 per person.

The day the government agrees to put the £billions into cycling as transport is the day pigs will fly.

Nevertheless, as hopeless as it seems, nothing ventured nothing gained.

Cycling UK’s appeal does deserve the wider support of the growing cycling public.  Even though the transport secretary will probably have no more luck than any other MPs have had over the past 50 years trying to get decent money for cycling out of the Treasury.

Why is this cycling investment a non-runner?  Word has it that after the War when motoring became affordable and car ownership soared, the government considered it wise to facilitate this growth so that drivers could motor anywhere they wanted.

And ever since, every government has feared doing anything that may be construed as a restriction of this precious right. And lose votes!

You might think that with the huge rise in numbers of people cycling – over £2million now ride once a week – the government might respond.

Surely, cycling is now vote winner. Especially as the majority of cyclists are also drivers.

Over to Paul who says: 

How does the Government hope to double levels of cycling without at least doubling the money it invests?

That’s the question I asked the Transport Secretary when I wrote to him last week.

Over 1,500 members and supporters also wrote to him asking the same question. Given changes in various ministerial posts in recent days it’s perhaps no surprise that we’ve not received responses yet, but the appointment of Chris Heaton-Harris MP as the Minister gives us a golden opportunity to pile on the pressure for proper investment in active travel.


Replying to constituents who wrote to him about our funding campaign, Mr Heaton-Harris said:

“It seems strange that for ages cycling has been seen as a niche activity, rather than a normal activity for all. If we can increase levels of walking and cycling, the benefits are substantial. For people, it means cheaper travel and better health. For business, it means increased productivity and increased footfall in shops. And for society as a whole it means lower congestion, better air quality, and vibrant, attractive places and communities."

I couldn’t agree more, and he’s now in a position to do something about it!

So, I’m writing to ask him to do just that, explaining that we’re currently facing a climate crisis, a congestion crisis, a pollution crisis and an inactivity-related health crisis.  Underpinning all of these is a long-term ‘underfunding of cycling and walking crisis’.

Good luck, Paul.




Monday, 22 July 2019

King of the Peak





As Wales' Geraint Thomas battles to  defend his Tour de France title from France's two stars Alaphillipe and Pinot, both striving to bring the host nation its first victory since Bernard Hinault in 1985, I am reminded of a smaller but nonetheless impressive showcase moment, at a UK Star Trophy road race in the 1980s.
Unlike on Le Tour where virtually every move can usually only be seen on TV  by the press corps  I was able to see the action I am about to recall in the flesh, so to speak.
This was on the Tour of Peak, a small race by comparison. But nonetheless, one of the toughest races in the  UK at the time. I was watching the master, Paul Curran in action, from our press car just behind the field. He had with him his tactically astute team mate Pete Longbottom. 
One or two press cars on the Peak; 100s of them on Le Tour!  
Occasionally you may be allowed close enough to see  the action close-up on Le Tour , for a while. But clearly priority is given to the tv and press photographers and essential support vehicles, a lot of traffic.
Which is why tv is indispensable on Le Tour.  No other way to report the action.
It's different on smaller races. Even smaller pro stage races, such as Paris-Nice, when you can usually get closer.  
But this story is not about the Continent, but about a top British amateur race and the mastery of 
Paul Curran when  he was in unbeatable  form.  Curran was always a good story. You just had to wait to see  how he played it.

The Cleveland international was a multi track and road champion, dominating the Star Trophy road race series.  In 1986 he won two Commonwealth Games gold medals, in the Team Time Trial and Road Race, and the following year he won the national road title.

Here’s a typical scenario of how and he and his Manchester Wheelers team dictated matters

in the Peak.  A small breakaway had established itself about a minute ahead on the first of two big circuits based on the Snake Pass.

After descending from the summit first time around, Curran escaped the bunch alone with seeming ease. He chased for several miles until he had the breakaway in his sights. Then he sat up.

What was he doing? 
Just taking a look?  
He was checking them out.
In fact, one look from a few hundred yards behind told Curran all he needed to know – the three in the break were not making much headway, their lead at about one minute. So he let them be – for a while. Let them cook. He’d have them back when he was ready!

Curran sat up and waited for the bunch.  So did we in the press car!
Some 30 miles later,  with the leading trio still only about a minute ahead, and on the second ascent of the Snake,  we saw Curran attack hard. This time for real.

He went clear alone.  All his rivals in the bunch knew that they, too, must join Curran if they were to be in with a chance of winning. Easier said than done. Especially with Curran’s wily teammate Pete Longbottom marking them.
We watched and waited behind them.

Half-way up the Snake, when Curran was a dot dancing up the slope in the far distance, a rider attacked out of the bunch.

It was Longbottom!  Taken by surprise, Curran’s rivals responded, forcing the bunch into one long line, snaking up the Snake in pursuit.

It took them a mile to reel in Longbottom, by which time they had reached the summit where Longbottom sat up, job done.  The bunch, perhaps wondering what had hit them, also eased. 

By which time Curran was out of the sight on the descent.

His challengers had been had!

Longbottom had successfully pre-empted their expected counter attack by acting first. He’d drawn their sting on the last decent place to make a counter-attack.  Stymied the opposition after which they seemed unable to organise an effective chase.
At which point we, too, left the bunch and drove across to Curran. We watched him sail  across to the break alone. And on the steep gradient of Winnats Pass some miles later, he surged ahead alone for the final miles for a splendid lone victory
And I was lucky to see this for myself, not on the tele. Which is why it stays so fresh in the mind.

Friday, 7 June 2019

BOARDMAN'S £1.5bn BEE CYCLE NETWORK CREATING A BUZZ


(pictures: A shared cycling and walking bridge spanning a  major road in Stockholm)



Work begins on Wigan scheme

MIGHT we one day look back and say that Wigan is where the Greater Manchester cycling revolution began in 2019? 

I don’t want to get carried away, not after so many false dawns in the  UK, but as I type this there are shovels at work on the Wigan canal towpath.  Work has begun on Olympic champion Chris Boardman’s blue print for Greater Manchester, the first major city wide cycling and walking network in the UK.

It’s called the Bee Network and it will run to 1000 miles across 10 boroughs at an estimated cost of £1.5bn, serving 2.7 million people.

Today, about 250 million car journeys a year, of less than one kilometre each, are made by people in Manchester.  Those trips could be a 15-minute walk or a five-minute bike ride.

Many are for the school run.  In the Netherlands, 50 per cent of school children cycle to school, compared to less than 2 per cent in Manchester.

The Bee Network aims to address this by providing a safe alternative choice to always driving.



Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham,  who appointed Boardman as Cycling and Walking Commissioner, says.-   “Greater Manchester has a long history of doing innovative things and our approach to the Bee Network is no different.”

 “If we’re to cut congestion and clean up our air, decisive action is needed. I want to make Greater Manchester one of the top 10 places in the world to live and its action of this sort which will help to deliver that promise.”

This first section being constructed now is known locally as the “Muddy Mile”, along a stretch of waterway in Astley. It will run from Wigan Pier, through Leigh and across the Salford boundary to Monton and Patricroft. And presumably the mud will be a goner.

The £212,000 project is being funded by the Mayor’s Cycling and Walking Challenge Fund, The Bridgewater Canal Company and Wigan Council.

We shouldn’t be surprised if Boardman’s grand plan succeeds. As an athlete he earned the moniker of professor for his dedicated application of sports science to deliver his goals. Principal among them his famous Barcelona Olympic gold in 1992, which launched British cycling on its trajectory to greatness. And boosted Manchester’s bid to build Britain’s first indoor velodrome.

If Manchester sets the cycling trend, will other towns and cities follow?

So can Boardman bring the same clear eyed perspective in his sporting achievements to his latest desire to make cycling safer across the nation? And so enable the humble bike at last to be a major player in the integrated transport system so urgently needed to help reduce the carbon burning which otherwise promises to be the death of us.

Boardman’s is an ambitious project and it has wide public support.

Currently there are 42 schemes in the plans for the Bee network of cycling and walking routes across Greater Manchester. 

They include 319 new and upgraded crossings and junctions and 70 miles of segregated new cycling routes.

Some of these schemes are still to be approved by the Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA). Burnham has pledged £115m of the £160m received from the government’s Transforming Cities Fund for local transport improvements while £88m will come from local contributions.

So far they’ve got 204 million in committed spend across 42 projects and they are seeking additional funding. 



Plans include a cycling and walking corridor in Rochdale; a route between Manchester Piccadilly and Victoria stations; a cycling and walking bridge to link Stockport railway station with a proposed new interchange;   a continuous cycling and walking corridor between Salford Quays and Manchester city centre; and a ‘Mini Holland’ scheme in Levenshulme.  As the name implies, “Mini Holland” aims to emulate the street layouts in Holland prioritising cycling and walking over motor traffic.

All the schemes are due to be completed by 2023, said a Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM) spokeswoman. Investment in the schemes will represent around £18 per head per year on cycling and walking for the next four years, a massive increase on central government’s pathetic investment in cycling which has dropped to less than a £1 per head!

Mayor Burnham has risen to the challenge

You may recall Boardman’s bitter disappointment a couple of years ago at former prime minister David Cameron’s decision not  to provide Cabinet backing for the Get Britain Cycling Report, by far the most comprehensive transport blueprint for cycling across England.

Cameron, like a host of leading politicians before him, said cycling development should be left to the Local Authorities, knowing full well they don’t have the funding and in many cases nor do they have the political will.

Burnham has risen to the challenge in Manchester and who better than Boardman to realise them.  Their work has inspired two other Local Authorities to appoint their own cycling Czars.

They are the former BMX international and world track cycling champion Shanaze Reade in the West Midlands and Paralympic swimming and cycling Olympic champion Dame Sarah Storey in Sheffield.

As CYCLING UK said in their bi-monthly  Cycle, “if the new cycling czars inspire the public, politicians “may show us the money".