Cycling NEL

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There’s a new public group on Facebook for all interested in cycling in North East Lincolnshire (on the east coast of England, for all those who view this blog from abroad). Please feel free to get involved with it. The whole idea is simply to promote all forms of cycling and a cycling culture in the area.

Geographically it’s a perfect place for cycling, very ‘Dutchesque’, but it seems until there is a visible genuine demand for better facilities and infrastructure things will improve only at a snails pace, as those involved in advancing the cycling agenda on the local council feed on the crumbs that fall from the motor traffic table, so to speak.

As we see cycling taking a more prominent place in the nations transport agenda with the planned Crossrail for Cycling in London and various campaigns, notably Space4cycling, Stop Killing Cyclists, 20splenty, etc, it’s clearly time for cycling to have more of an impact locally here in NE Lincs.

Upcoming events in NE Lincolnshire

Get your free lights, free hi-viz and free bike check at one of these upcoming events around the area.

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The serious need for separated cycle space

Photos from Grimsby Telegraph

Photos from Grimsby Telegraph

There have been two tragic fatalities in Grimsby in the space of a few of days, both related to cycling. A 72 year old pensioner was knocked down by an 18 year old man cycling in a pedestrianised area of top town on May 20th and, although she was believed to have only suffered minor injuries, she died just 17 days later after spending 11 days in hospital.

The second incident happened this morning at around 4:30am near or at the junction of Freeman St and Wellington Rd. A cyclist in his 20’s was hit by a truck and died shortly afterwards. You can read the Grimsby Telegraph reports here and here. Our condolences and sympathy go to both families.

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Now, I do not condone people cycling where they shouldn’t, on pavements or in pedestrianised areas. However, whatever the rights and wrongs of either of these situations, there are serious points that need to be made and that need to be heeded and learned from.

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There’s no accounting for someone flaunting the law, whether that be a pedestrian, a cyclist or a driver. However, our town suffers from very poor provision of space for cycling which often results in people cycling technically illegally. In pedestrianised areas why can’t there be separate cycling lanes, so that people walking and cycling are both provided for? There’s plenty of room, and most cyclists would respect the different spaces and stay on the cycling lanes.

Cycling on pavements: someone I know, a middle-aged lady who was riding her bike back from the hospital two weeks ago, was verbally abused by a man walking along Scartho Rd because she was cycling on the pavement. Now, bear in mind there were 4 lanes of busy traffic and absolutely no provision of space for someone to cycle. It was a very busy road and this person chose to ride on the pavement in order to not be knocked off her bike by a car. As I say, this man took great offence at this, verbally abused her and physically blocked the way. Although she tried to explain she was only on the pavement because it was not safe on the road due to the heavy traffic, he continued being abusive. Unsurprisingly the lady was very upset by this, and the situation was only resolved by the mans’ embarrassed wife pulling him out of the way.

This question of cycling on pavements is compounded by the fact that the Council permit cycling and walking on some pavements but not on others. In my opinion, this is a fudge, good for neither walkers nor cyclists, and should not be presented as a solution. There needs to be separate space for people walking AND for people cycling.

Only by separating the spaces on our roads, and providing a space for cycling, can these issues be resolved. Just look at most roads – there’s space for cars and trucks, there’s a pavement for pedestrians, but cyclists might get a painted line at the side if they’re lucky! Even then, many motorists ignore it and drive without due care and attention of cyclists. These are facts that I witness almost everyday.

People say cyclists ignore traffic lights on red and cause their own danger. Maybe some do. But again, almost everyday I see cars going through lights on red. Virtually everyday I see drivers ignoring cyclists and creating dangerous and hazardous conditions for cycling. So please don’t blame it all on cyclists.

The responsibility for accidents and injuries clearly needs to be judged on each and every situation, but danger and hazard can be designed off our roads with proper provision of space for cycling and good design. It’s NOT rocket science! To find out how to do it just copy the solutions the Dutch have developed over many years. I’ve written about many of them on this site, but follow the links to other websites which provide a very detailed and comprehensive study of Dutch design and examples.

Home Zone

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This is a quietened street in Grimsby, near the junction of Victor St and Oxford St, and it represents a step forward! It’s signed as a ‘Home Zone’ street, where children can play, where car access is restricted and slowed and where residents generally enjoy a more community-based environment.

It would be even better if there was no through access for vehicles. For instance, a row of bollards placed mid-way would enable cycling and walking through but would  prevent cars and vans from making it a short-cut.

It’s a creditable initiative and one that should be replicated on more residential streets.

Bargate

Cycling along Bargate, an arterial route into and out of Grimsby centre, is truly to take your life in your hands. There is simply not enough room to squeeze four lanes (and at one stage five lanes) of traffic into this road. The route heading out of town becomes two very tight lanes of traffic between Welholme Rd and Nuns Corner. In the other direction, there is a bus lane for a short distance.

Reclaim the inside lane for space for cycling. At present there is nowhere for cyclists to go. Is this really acceptable?

Reclaim the inside lane for space for cycling. At present there is nowhere for cyclists to go. Is this really acceptable?

This is the same road linking the University Centre of Grimsby College with the town centre, and is frequently filled with students. Yet amazingly there is almost no provision for people wanting to use a bike along this road.

Instead of cramming Bargate with four lanes of traffic, why not make it three lanes and a space for cycling? Reduce the outbound direction to one lane for traffic and convert the other lane into a separated cycle lane, from just before Welhome Road (where it becomes two lanes) through to Nuns Corner. This would create a safe space for people to cycle towards the college.

Begin the separated cycle lane here, just before Welhome Road junction (outbound from town centre)

Begin the separated cycle lane here, just before Welholme Road junction (outbound from town centre)

By also providing a cycle path from Chantry Lane through St James Square to Wellowgate and on to Brighowgate, this would then create a usable through-route for people commuting to & from the industrial areas of Pyewipe and the Humber Bank factories through the town centre and on to the residential areas beyond Bargate.

The sign says "In the interests of safety, cyclists please dismount." What is so unsafe in having a cycle lane on one side of this underpass and through St James Square?

The sign says “In the interests of safety, cyclists please dismount.” What is so unsafe in having a cycle lane on one side of this underpass and through St James Square beyond it?

Riding into town from the college cyclists have the Bus & Bike lane as far as the junction with Westward Ho. What happens when a bus wants to pass a cyclist or group of cyclists? At least it’s meant to be a car-free space. From Westward Ho junction onwards there is no Bus & Bike lane, so create a separated cycle lane by taking space from the two lanes of traffic up to Welholme Road junction, and extend it from there on up to the junction with Dudley St.

At present there is no provision along this stretch for cyclists. The road space does squeeze up as it passes Westlands Ave and onwards, but that is no reason not to provide a space for cycling. The present arrangement of squeezed lanes on Bargate between Welholme Rod and Nuns Corner sets the precedent for ‘thin’ lanes, so there’s no excuse for not having a ‘thin’ lane in each direction between the Westlands Ave junction and the junction with Dudley St/Cartergate/Deansgate/Grosvenor St, so that space for cycling can be accommodated. This stretch of thin-laned road could also incorporate a 20mph maximum speed limit to increase safety.

These changes would make cycling along Bargate safer and would therefore encourage people to use their bikes more to come into town and to commute through it. The changes would not cost a vast amount and could be implemented quickly. They would also show the council are serious about prioritising cycling in North east Lincolnshire.

 

No, it’s not the narrowest cycle path in Britain!

A little bit of paint in Grimsby has received a lot of publicity this week! The local paper, the Grimsby Evening Telegraph made what was basically just a whinge into a story, which then made it onto the Daily Mail’s website.

In my opinion, it’s not a story. Yes, cycling infrastructure could be a lot better. Yes, the cycle paths we currently have are not as good as those in Copenhagen or much of the Netherlands. However, this little shared cycle path in Great Coates is an improvement on what was there previously.

The shared pedestrian / cycle path in Great Coates, Grimsby.

The shared pedestrian / cycle path in Great Coates, Grimsby.

The view along Great Coates Rd back towards Grimsby.

The view along Great Coates Rd back towards Grimsby.

Now, I don’t believe shared cycle paths are the way forward, but what has been reported is not a fair reflection of this little cycle path. Locally, the council often identify the edge of a shared pedestrian/cyclist pathway with a white painted line, as in this photo of Weelsby Rd near Ladysmith Rd junction.

IMG_00000365The cycle path in Great Coates is just a shared path. The line doesn’t represent the cycle lane on one side, the pedestrian area on the other side. The line is just an edge marker on a shared path. There’s no story here. The council have improved the path by resurfacing it. No problem. It’s better than before!

On the other side of the road is the Healing pedalway, another shared pathway linking Grimsby and Healing. It’s not perfect but it is off-road and that’s better than sharing the road with HGV’s & cars.

The Healing Pedalway on the other side of the road.

The Healing Pedalway on the other side of the road.

Considering the minscule budget that is allocated to cycling infrastructure, I think the work already done in North East Lincs is pretty good. What we need is a switch from a car-centric focus to one that puts people first, with a far greater proportion of the transport budget going into high quality cycling infrastructure.

Cycle Hub

The relaying of the frontage of Grimsby train station (can we call it a Plaza? 🙂 ) is almost complete, and the Cycle Hub entrance is now more accessible without all the barriers and roadworks.

It’s a significant development for cycling in our area and already is being well-used by NELi cyclists! As well as secure and attended parking inside, there is a free parking facility immediately outside the Hub.

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Please don’t block the bike lanes!

Sometimes, it’s a real battle!

I’m so glad I work shifts! To ride through the centre of Grimsby at peak times every day would be a nightmare! Usually I avoid these times, but when I’m working on a late shift I have to ride through the centre of town at lunch-time. It’s a battle getting through the traffic! (How people cycle on London’s streets I don’t know!)

Yesterday was one such day and frankly it was a unpleasant experience! The general level of ignorant motorists giving no respect to cyclists doesn’t help, and neither does trying to cross Victoria St after exiting the wonderfully named Grime St (coming from the cycleway alongside Asda). Five lanes of traffic with no central reservation! Help! It certainly needs a ‘Bike Island’ there.

But it was one incident in particular that made me angry. There’s no way this should be acceptable behaviour:Eleanor St bike lane dangerously blocked by a works van.

This is Eleanor St it and features a principle bike lane heading into the town centre with two oncoming lanes of motor traffic. And completely blocking the lane is a Virgin Media works van. This situation is very dangerous, as anyone cycling here has to swing out into the oncoming lane to get past the obstruction. I stopped to explain to the two workers from the van this was dangerous and they should not be blocking the cycle path. They replied it was perfectly legal and their vehicle was adequately signed.

It’s true they were signed to the oncoming traffic but not to any cyclist approaching along the bike lane. However, I don’t believe it is legal for them to have parked there. A little further on I encountered two traffic enforcement officers, and I asked them was it legal for a vehicle to park across the bike lane. I was told if it was a blue signed bike lane then it was an offense to park a vehicle there.

Looking along Eleanor St in the other direction on a previous occasion. It is a blue-signed bike lane.

Looking along Eleanor St in the other direction on a previous occasion. It is a blue-signed bike lane.

This lane is indeed a blue-signed  bike lane, so they were illegally parked. This on top of another Virgin Media vehicle photographed blocking the new CS2 extension in London whilst it was actually being opened by Boris! Is it part of the job remit at Virgin or something?

Another Virgin Media vehicle (in the background) photographed blocking the new CS2 extension bike lane in London this week.

Another Virgin Media vehicle (in the background) photographed blocking the new CS2 extension bike lane in London this week. (Photo courtesy of Sam Dansie/Twitter)

The main point I was making then, and the reason for this posting, is to demonstrate this is clearly unsafe behaviour. The amount  of bike lanes we have in NE Lincs is small and they are mostly inadequate, but even the ones we do have are constantly parked over by cars or trucks. You see it all over the area. You don’t see cycles parked across roads, do you? There would be an outcry and probably before long the police would attend to stop you from blocking the highway. So why is it OK to block the bike lanes? Because there’s no action taken when this happens.

So the question I want to pose is this: Can we please have some action to prevent motorists parking in bikes lanes, creating unsafe situations for people who just want to use a bike to get around town?

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.

Prioritising cycling: Grimsby town centre (1)

Ellis Way & Eleanor Street

Credit where credit’s due, and the separated cycleway that runs under the train line alongside the Asda store is an example of how things can be done well. The cycleway, although only a short distance, is separated from both the walkway and the road, it’s surfaced with a smooth asphalt which is pleasant to ride on, and overall it works very well. More cycleways like this would be very welcome!

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However, there is just one criticism: the exit at the traffic lights at Asdas. It could be so much better if it brought you out onto the road straight into a cycle lane, like the one on Weelsby Road near the junction with Ladysmith Road. Instead, it’s a blunt give way straight into the path of oncoming traffic.

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The exit from the cycle path at Weelsby Road onto the cycle lane. Notice how it brings you out straight into the lane, and not having to give way to oncoming traffic.

The exit from the cycle path at Weelsby Road onto the cycle lane. Notice how it brings you out straight into the on-road  cycle lane, not having requiring a give way to oncoming traffic.

Coming from the cycleway by Asda’s along Ellis Way, crossing Hainton Square brings you on to Eleanor Street. This is a popular cycling commute route for those coming to/from Cleethorpes/Humberston heading to/from Grimsby town centre and on to the industrial areas further west.

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Eleanor Street is something of a rat-run! It has a cycle lane heading into town running contra to the one-way traffic, separated only by a line of paint. This lane has a rough surface and feels dangerous whenever there is oncoming traffic. In the other direction, there is no cycle lane and the cyclist has to share the road with two lanes of speeding traffic. This is plainly unsafe.

This stretch of road could be hugely improved by making the following changes:

  • Make the right-hand lane exiting Ellis Way onto Hainton Ave a right turn only lane;
  • Make Eleanor Street a single lane for motorised vehicles, heading away from the town centre (one way, as it is now);
  • This would create space for a separated cycleway on both sides of Eleanor Street, similar to the one pictured earlier on Ellis Way.

This would greatly improve the safety of cyclists on this key link road, and greatly enhance the cross-town route. It would also send the message that cycling is being prioritised. The effect on traffic queues would be no greater than those created on Weelsby Road and Hainton Ave (by the changes made on Pasture St and by creating Peakes Parkway).

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