Jeremy Vines’ commuting experience

Jeremy Vine on his bike. Photo from Daily Mail.

Jeremy Vine on his bike. Photo from Daily Mail.

Jeremy Vine, the popular Radio 2 presenter, has written of his traumatic experiences as a cyclist on Londons streets in this newspaper article. He is not a lycra-clad cyclo-warrior, he’s just someone who wants to use his bike to get to work, thus saving money, getting fitter and healthier (and consequently reducing traffic congestion, pollution and noise).

However, his experiences reflect the dangers the current road set-up presents to anyone wishing to commute by bike. It’s of course much worse in London, but the same dangers apply to other towns and cities in this country to one extent or another.

This is another example of how implementation of the Bike Tube proposal would revolutionise urban transit. It would totally separate cyclists from traffic and, at the same time provide a comfortable and sheltered-from-the-weather cycling environment.

Cycling, in itself is not dangerous, but cycling in the midst of ignorant and abusive drivers is!

 

Vision: Pro’s and Con’s (1)

In order to clarify the vision for cycling, I believe we first need to clearly recognise what the benefits of cycling are. However, as things stand today, there are clearly drawbacks to cycling as well, and we’ll look at those in part 2. Here though, are the main benefits of cycling:

Health: However you use a bike, when you cycle it helps you get healthier. Whether it’s using a bike to cycle into town, to cycle to work, to go for a leisure ride in the countryside or you’re into speed cycling, when you cycle you’re getting active. This is good for you! Your body was designed to be active! Inactivity is contributing to the levels of obesity in our society that is in turn putting huge strains on the NHS. Cycling helps you be healthy. As a result, you’ll be less likely to suffer from colds and general illnesses, so you’ll need less time off work due to sickness. 🙂

Fitness: When you ride regularly, such as commute to work using a bike, your levels of fitness rise. When you’re fitter you feel better in yourself. By being fitter, you’ll be able to do more and enjoy a wider range of activities, such as other sports, walking, etc. 🙂

Money (1): It’s simple! If you go by bike instead of by car you’ll save money on fuel! I bought my bike three years ago on a Cycle to Work scheme. What it cost me per month was largely offset by the amount of fuel I saved by cycling to work instead of driving. After one year the bike was paid for and so every time I cycle instead of using the car I save money. Simples! Also, as I use my car less by going places using my bike more, I’m putting less wear and tear on my car, reducing my maintenance costs, less miles on the clock means less wear on the tyres etc, etc! 🙂

426789_207343026032111_113958825370532_297191_1722255124_n

Money (2): People often criticise cyclists saying they don’t pay road tax. Well, road tax was abolished a long time ago, and what drivers are charged is actually Vehicle Excise Duty (VED). This is calculated on how polluting your vehicle is, so that the more your car pollutes the atmosphere, the more you pay. Sounds fair enough? Of course. So, as cyclists create no pollution it’s fair enough we don’t pay VED! 🙂

Environment: Leading on from the last benefit, by cycling you create less pollution, which is obviously good for the planet (as people are want to say these days!). It’s also good for us here and now, though, because who wants to breathe in polluted air full of exhaust fumes? Not me!

Environment (2): Not only is it engine fumes that pollute the air, but also cars create noise! Noise pollution from traffic is something we almost don’t notice until we get away from it and realise how much nicer the place is when there’s no road noise. When you cycle, you make almost no noise. 🙂

There’s two more benefits that are less tangible but no less real:

Fun: Cycling is enjoyable. The actual act of cycling is a pleasurable thing. I’m not talking about cycling into a head wind and heavy rain, that’s not much fun of course, but I mean the simple act of cycling is fun and enjoyable. 🙂

Anne-Katrine in Copenhagen (phot from Copenhagen Cycle Chic)

Anne-Katrine in Copenhagen (photo from Copenhagen Cycle Chic)

Cool: In many places around the world, people are realising it’s actually pretty cool to cycle, too. It’s long been cool to cycle in places like Copenhagen and The Netherlands, but look at the various Cycle Chic websites and you’ll see how cool it’s becoming in lots of places including New York, Montreal, Malmo in Sweden, Berlin, Barcelona etc, etc. 🙂

Making bicycling a priority in Indianapolis

Another excellent Streetfilms short video featuring Indianapolis (in the USA) and the progress made there under the leadership of Mayor Greg Ballard. He’s clearly a firm believer in attracting young men and women “to come and raise families and build businesses” there, and he’s doing that by making the city more liveable by embracing and prioritising cycling.

“Across the nation, many big-city mayors of both political parties are embracing the bicycle and livable streets. As you’ll see, Indianapolis’ Mayor Greg Ballard believes in creating a city that attracts young people and families because it’s good for business and good for the future. And part of that equation is making the city safer and more enjoyable to bike in through infrastructure investment.

Mayor Ballard has expanded the number of miles of bike lanes from one (in 2007) to over 75 and plans are for that to reach 200 by the year 2015. In addition, the city has seen the grand opening of the magnificent Indianapolis Cultural Trail which features eight miles of protected biking and walking lanes through the heart of Indianapolis.

Mayor Ballard also does it with his body and voice. He now personally leads four bike rides per year through the city encouraging people to get healthy, have fun and see their city from a different perspective. And how do you know he’s a true cyclist? He’s got two bikes.

But this mayor is going beyond bicycling. Indianapolis has committed to moving their entire fleet of city vehicles to post-oil technologies by 2025 and is already making great progress in meeting that goal.

You should definitely put Indy on your list as a place to go bike this year.”

 

Transport Planners please watch this

A picture is worth a thousand words, and this short video absolutely shows why we need better cycling provision. I really hope the transport planners do indeed watch this. If the Government and our local councils are really interested in getting more people cycling (and the levels of obesity and poor general public health, costs of fuel and polution, levels of traffic gridlock etc etc, clearly demonstrate we certainly need more people cycling), then we quite clearly won’t achieve this with roads that are unsafe for cyclists. And most roads in NE Lincs are unsafe for cyclists!

Making cycle lanes safe

The painted on cycles lanes on the roads of NE Lincs offer no protection at all, and are frequently parked over and ignored by drivers. For example, yesterday I was nearly knocked off my bike whilst riding in a cycle lane. An unmarked grey Ford Transit (registration FV12 EOK) taking a left turn from Weelsby Rd into Ladysmith Rd far too fast, cut across the cycle lane and came within a couple of inches of me. It was extremely dangerous.

The cycle lane itself is badly designed, forcing traffic turning left to cross it. Designing-in conflict like this will only lead to problems, as I experienced yesterday. Much better to have taken this particular cycle lane to the left of the junction and provide a crossing with cycle right-of-way at the lights, with drivers turning left having to give way to cycles.

The painted on cycle lane goes straight on, forcing traffic turning left to cross it.

The painted on cycle lane goes straight on, forcing traffic turning left to cross it.

How much better it could be! I came across this page on peopleforbikes.org this morning, showing how various cities provide a degree of separation to their on-road cycle lanes. These various designs provide a level of safety from vehicular intrusion that we simply don’t have! Can we have some please? I don’t like feeling I’m in danger when I’m in a cycle lane, even with a flashing rear light in daylight! There are numerous different styles shown on the linked page but they all provide separation and safety.

Half-wheel bollards in Seville separate the cycle lane from the road, giving the cyclists protection from careless drivers.

Half-wheel bollards in Seville separate the cycle lane from the road, giving the cyclists protection from careless drivers.

Stolen bike?

One of the uses of this blog can relate to stolen bikes. Obviously, if you’re a bike owner you’ll want to record the serial number and any other identifying features of yours and your families bikes. What I also recommend is, take a photo of your bikes as well. Should your bike be stolen, as well as contacting the police of course, also send the photo of your stolen bike in to this blog by email (cyclingnelly@yahoo.co.uk) and we will feature the photo(s) of your bike in a ‘Stolen Bike Alert’ post.

It’s a way of visually alerting all local readers of the blog to the fact that the bike in the picture has been stolen, and should they come across it anywhere they can contact the police and, through the blog, get in touch with you so that hopefully your bike can be retrieved.

It’s an idea to try and combat the threat of bike theft. I hope it helps!

Take clear photos of your bike, like this example, then should it ever be stolen, send the photo(s) in to us at the blog & we'll feature your photo in a Stolen Bike Alert.

Take clear photos of your bike, like this example, then should it ever be stolen, send the photo(s) in to us at the blog & we’ll feature your photo in a Stolen Bike Alert.

Complete streets: It’s about more than just bike lanes

Another great video from Clarence Eckerson Jr at Streetfilms, with a number of significant learning points. I particularly love the fact that even in NYC they want to plant trees and flowers and plants to beautify the streets! This is to be the subject of an upcoming post, but the opportunity to ‘gardenise’ our towns and cities is, I believe, a key potential by-product of prioritising cycling. Read the rest of the accompanying article here.

Over the last four years, New York City has seen a transportation renaissance on its streets, striking a better balance by providing more space for walking, biking, and transit.

Investment in cycling can increase bike journeys, study shows

I was going to do a Twitter link to this, but felt this was worth featuring as a post. This is a great article on The Guardian, looking at the clear benefits of investing in cycling infrastructure compared to investing in roads. Thanks to James Barker for the link.

The Department for Transport must endorse a new study that proves spending to achieve a goal really works.

     Environment     Bike blog Bike blog     Previous     Blog home Investment in cycling can increase bike journeys, study shows The Department for Transport must endorse a new study that proves spending to achieve a goal really works Beta     Share 182     inShare8     Email Bike Blog and Spectator : Cyclist by a green bicycle traffic light If local and national government invested in cycling, there would be a quantifiable increase in the amount of cycling and a corresponding drop in journey made by private motor car, researchers found. Photograph: Sami Sarkis/Getty Images Investment in cycling can increase bike journeys, study shows. The Department for Transport must endorse a new study that proves spending to achieve a goal really works. op in journey made by private motor car, researchers found. Photograph: Sami Sarkis/Getty Images

Investment in cycling can increase bike journeys, study shows
The Department for Transport must endorse a new study that proves spending to achieve a goal really works
Photograph: Sami Sarkis/Getty Images

Financial investment in cycling can increase the share of journeys undertaken on bike, according to a new peer-reviewed study. This might seem like a do-bears-poop-in-the-woods sort of question but it’s not always cut-and-dried that spending to achieve a goal actually works. Look at roadbuilding: billions of pounds are pumped into constructing new roads in order to reduce congestion, yet congestion keeps on increasing.

However, if local and national government invested in cycling, there would be a quantifiable increase in the amount of cycling and a corresponding drop in journey made by private motor car, found the researchers from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, who published their work in the journal Social Science & Medicine.

For public health reasons this is exceedingly good news but to a car-centric Department for Transport (DfT) the study poses a problem: there’s a deep fear of being seen to be waging a “war on motorists”. The work is based on the Cycling Demonstration Towns project by Cycling England, a quango abolished by the government in 2010. I asked three people at the DfT for comment on the study, which also highlights the health and environmental benefits of cycling, but none replied.

Read the rest of the article here.

Get those tap-ins!

Sometimes footballers try to score the perfect goal, like the one Jack Wilshere recently scored for Arsenal. Of course, those sort of goals are wonderful, but just as valuable are the simple tap-ins from 6 yards. They all count! It doesn’t matter how they go in, just score them!

Jack Wilshire scoring his goal of the month recently for Arsenal

Jack Wilshere scoring his goal of the month recently for Arsenal

Today I was off work and the weather was so beautiful, a perfect autumnal day, so I went for a little ride. To use the footballing analogy, it was very interesting to see how many opportunities there are for some simple cycling infrastructure ‘tap-ins’ along the route of my ride. Not every improvement in our infrastructure needs to be a big project (AKA the wonder goals), there are lots of ‘tap-ins’ available.

My ride took me from Weelsby Rd left onto Park Avenue and then right along Barretts Recreation Ground. This is just asking for a little bit of spending on a proper surfaced cycleway and some lighting. It’s a short cut from the busy Weelsby Rd to Scartho Rd (exiting at the swimming pool), and it just needs a little TLC.

The pathway through barretts 'Rec', looking towards Scartho Rd.

The pathway through barretts ‘Rec’, looking towards Scartho Rd.

Barretts 'Rec' pathway brings you out at the swimming pool car park

Barretts ‘Rec’ pathway brings you out at the swimming pool car park

...with a nice separated pathway taking you up to Scartho Rd itself (slightly obscured by the lovely bright sunshine!)

…with a nice separated pathway (top centre) taking you up to Scartho Rd itself (slightly obscured by the lovely bright sunshine!)

Then along Scartho Rd, where there is a good separated cyclepath. It needs a continuous cycleway though, from one end of Scartho Rd to the other. As I say, I think the cycle path itself is good but could be better if it wasn’t up and down all the time. Make it a level surface for cyclists and give the cycle path priority over the drives and roads, so that it’s they that have to drive up and down and not the cyclists. Otherwise it’s pretty good.

The separated cycleway on Scartho Rd, showing the 'driveways drops'.

The separated cycleway on Scartho Rd, showing the ‘driveways drops’.

Same location but facing the other direction, back towards Grimsby.

Same location but facing the other direction, back towards Grimsby.

Approaching the roundabout at the end of Louth Rd on the separated cycle path (good)......

Approaching the roundabout at the end of Louth Rd on the separated cycle path (good)……

...but exiting the roundabout onto the A16 (bad!). And just when you need it most, the cycle path  just disappears!

…but exiting the roundabout onto the A16 (bad!). And just when you need it most, the cycle path just disappears!

At the end of Louth Road there is a proper separate cycle path, which is great. It takes you round the roundabout and then…….. Oh dear! Onto the A16, Peaks Parkway: “Join the 60mph traffic folks and be careful!” What kind of infrastructure is this that places cyclists in harms way, on a pretty rough surface too? There’s loads of space here for a cycleway, separated from the traffic.

Turning right onto the A1098 Hewitts Avenue and it’s the same criticism as above. Again there’s plenty of space for a cycleway. Passing the junction with Peaks Lane, there is at least an off-road path here, but it’s very narrow and very bumpy. Once again there’s loads of space to turn this into a first class cycleway.

Lots of room here for a proper cycleway, as the path separates from the road behind a copse of trees.

Lots of room here for a proper cycleway, as the path separates from the road behind a copse of trees.

The surface on this pathway is very bumpy and unpleasant to ride on. If this was wider and properly surfaced, it would be so much better!

The surface on this pathway is very bumpy and unpleasant to ride on. If this was wider and properly surfaced, it would be so much better!

In all of these examples, it wouldn’t actually take much to turn them into something really worthwhile from a cycling point of view, and it would once again earn NELC lots of Brownie points for not a lot of outlay.

Lessons from London

There have been a number of high profile deaths of people killed by trucks whilst cycling  in London recently. At the recent inquest into the deaths of Brian Dorling, 55, who died in a collision with a lorry on the notorious Bow roundabout, and French student Philippine De Gerin-Ricard, 20, who was hit from behind by a lorry on CS2 at Aldgate Gyratory, Transport for London were heavily criticised for ignoring multiple warnings.

Philippine De Gerin-Ricard and Brian Dorling, who both died whilst cycling on London's streets. (Photo from iBikeLondon)

Philippine De Gerin-Ricard and Brian Dorling, who both died whilst cycling on London’s streets. (Photo from iBikeLondon)

At the inquest, Transport for London were exposed for having ignored warnings from the Police and various cycling campaigns. Not only that, it was shown they had instructed their own consultants to ignore cyclists at one particular junction, and that they had ignored their consultants report that stated Bow Roundabout was so dangerous that traffic signals and separated cycle lanes should be installed. (Read a full report from iBikeLondon here)

Even yesterday, there was another “accident” in Camden, where a woman was knocked off her bike by a truck. Thankfully she wasn’t killed, but that’s not the point. She could have been. I say “accident” but in reality these aren’t accidents at all. They are the natural consequence of bad design, and as such they are completely predictable.

Locally, last night there was a serious accident at the junction of Peaks Parkway and Hainton Ave at evening rush hour. I don’t have any more details at this point, but on our own roads we have plenty of examples of bad design leading to hazard for people walking or cycling.

The more one looks into this whole subject you begin to realise just how much death, injury and carnage is caused by road accidents in this country, but also that much of it could be avoided by better design.

Some say the problem is cyclists riding dangerously, getting in the way. I’ve no doubt some do. You do see people cycling without lights in the dark. You do see people (usually youths) riding dangerously across roads without any regard for anyone else. I accept that. People should certainly ride safely and appropriately.

But I also see so many more examples of people driving dangerously, of drivers ignoring the safety of people walking or riding bikes by driving far too fast. Only last week, a stupid driver almost hit us by racing around in a residential area.

A typically dangerous situation, familiar to many cyclists. (Photo from London Cyclist, originally BBC)

A typically dangerous situation, familiar to many cyclists. (Photo from London Cyclist, originally BBC)

What can be done to improve matters? There are many things that can be done, some for minimal cost, that will greatly improve matters. These will be looked at in a future post. The question is: do our planners really want to improve things, or are they happy with the status quo? Are they prepared to change things in order to improve things? Will they be like Transport for London, who compromised their designs knowing that would result in death and injury, or will they be like local authorities across the Netherlands, who actively value the quality of life of their residents by prioritising cycling in their planning?

%d bloggers like this: