Charnwood's TPP Bid accepted
The Loughborough and Shepshed package bid for transport improvements was one of only 10 new projects across the country that has received government approval due to its emphasis on improvements for users of public transport, cyclists and pedestrians.
This will enable many relatively low cost improvements for non car users to be implemented. In particular it is hoped that the cycle route between Shepshed and Loughborough will be completed. This will be a much more useful facility than had originally been feared since traffic controls are to be introduced at the motorway junction which will allow cyclists to cross the slip roads whilst traffic is stopped.
Part of the basis of the package bid was the commitment to try and reduce the reliance on cars and as part of this the Council is making commuter parking both more expensive and less convenient. No doubt most readers will have observed the reaction from some of the commuters but to borrow a phrase from our former Prime Minister, "If it ain't hurting its not working".
THE DERWENT MAIN CYCLE ROUTE
- Ariadne Tampion
This route is on the drawing board at Charnwood Borough Council and was discussed at the last Cycle Consultative Committee meeting. It is essentially a 'safe route to school' for children from the Nanpantan area to Garendon High and Burleigh. It has off and on road sections, but the principal point of contention was that it crosses several busy estate roads.
The original idea of the Council Officers was that it should just be left to cross these roads with no assistance; but that staggered barriers should be provided on the cycle path to slow cyclists down on approach to road crossings. I suggested that maybe the 'traffic calming' could be used to best effect on the estate roads for the cars. This idea was initially tut-tutted out as being unacceptably radical. Then I went back with 'as a mother' the crossings were 'unacceptably dangerous' - considerably worse that crossing the roads at an ordinary junction, because car drivers would not necessarily be expecting to see cyclists crossing.
This time the officers wavered. They suggested speed tables at the points where the route crosses the roads. I said that would be great. But Charnwood Borough Council planning officer Tony Herrington warned that the Emergency Services would probably object, as they were objecting to all road humps, which was slowing down progress of all traffic calming schemes using humps. I thought they were taking a remarkably narrow view. Surely with the humps there are fewer collisions so fewer trips to scrape people off the road?
Since the meeting I have had a phone call from Kevin Aitken, Charnwood Borough Council highways officer, to say that instead of speed tables he was working on 'build-outs' (as defined by the Sustrans manual), where the road is narrowed rather than raised at the point where the cycle route crosses it. I agreed that this was a reasonable alternative, especially if it would satisfy the Emergency Services!
So it looks as if we are on course for a 'safe cycle route' for schoolchildren that may be worthy of the name, in that it doesn't simply abandon users where they need most help. One cheer, certainly. However, I feel inclined to save the second cheer until we see it on the ground; and the third cheer definitely needs to be withheld until the entire road network can be described as a 'safe cycle route' giving door-to-door travel for everybody.
Recently we spent a weekend in York, well known as a cyclists' Mecca with Dutch-level figures for cycle usage rates.
So we were sad, on walking from the station to the town centre, to notice a number of badly done street closures which never get photographed or videoed for cycle planning conferences!
There were certainly more cyclists on the road than in Loughborough, but the most overpowering impression was one of impending motor vehicle gridlock. Sitting on a bus the following day was the most frustrating crawling experience I have had since I had the misfortune to be on the No. 11 town service on the day they closed Nanpantan Road following a car crash.
Dare I suggest that the work that has been done in York may not be,
as we had all believed, the results of environmental idealism?
Maybe, just maybe, it is the result of sheer necessity. For if
York had the same modal mix of traffic common in other U.K. cities,
it would have ground to a complete halt years ago.
From your roving reporter
I recently had the good fortune to spend four weeks in British Columbia, Canada and Washington State, USA. Although it was a working visit, I was able to hire bicycles for the journeys between my accommodation and workplaces in Sidney, B.C. and in Sequim, Wa.; I did, of course, take advantage of the opportunity to explore further afield by bike in the evenings and weekends.
My impressions of conditions for cycling in Canada were generally favourable. Most motorists seem to proceed in a much more relaxed manner than in Britain; this may be partly a function of Sidney being a sleepy seaside town, but even in nearby Victoria, a city with a population similar to that of Leicester, traffic seems far less threatening. 30 kph speed limits are common in Canadian towns, and drivers generally observe them; 30 kph is roughly equivalent to the 20 mph that most campaigners here recommend as a speed limit suitable for residential areas.
In general, both pedestrians and cyclists are treated with greater respect than in Britain. If a pedestrian steps out into the street, motorists will simply stop to let her/him cross, rather than hooting and cursing as tends to happen here. Thus, although streets tend to be wider than here, the street environment is less threatening to pedestrians.
One intriguing feature of the Canadian road scene is the 4-way junction. At crossroads that are not big enough to warrant traffic lights, it is normal for neither of the roads to have priority. A recipe for chaos, you might imagine; but in fact, because it forces everyone to stop, it seems to result in an improvement in safety. Incidentally, roundabouts, the great curse of British cyclists, seem to be absent from the Canadian scene.
However, not all is bliss on the Canadian roads. The road-builders have done their damage just as in Britain. A major highway slices through the residential area on the inland side of Sidney, severing most of the minor roads it crosses. However, there are still plenty of very pleasant minor roads in the nearby countryside, and Victoria seems to have a reasonable cycleway network. Cycle campaigning is active there; I arrived at the end of a local Bike Week, during which several mass participation cycling events had been held.
To comply with Canadian law, I had to wear a cycling helmet for the first time in my life. I didn't find this a great imposition, and soon got used to it, although I did end up with a sweaty head on those rides where I decided to ride more athletically. I still prefer to feel the wind in my hair (it helps to keep my hair curly!), and would have serious reservations about helmets being made compulsory in this country.
Sequim, situated between the Olympic Mountains and the sea, is an even smaller place than Sidney. It is near Dungeness, so named by the explorer George Vancouver because its sand-spit reminded him of Dungeness in Kent. The Sequim-Dungeness area boasts a network of country lanes to delight any English cyclist; and for when one wishes to burn up a bit more energy there are some good climbs to be had on the roads that penetrate the foothills of the Olympics. There is a mile of cycle track along an old railway, including a very useful bridge over the Dungeness river, though it is not easy to find. We complain about poor signposting on the Loughborough cycleway network, but the local authority in Sequim seem to have classified their cycleway as "Top Secret"! It is intended to continue the cycleway to cover the 15 miles from Sequim to Port Angeles, the ferry terminal for crossings to Victoria.
Major roads in USA (and Canada) generally have a generous hard shoulder, which functions as a cycle lane. The problem is that in some places the hard shoulder disappears, and because motorists are not used to seeing cyclists on the main carriageway, these sections are more dangerous than if there had been no hard shoulder anywhere.
I did spend a few days in Seattle, renowned as the USA's most cycle-friendly city. All the buses have bike racks mounted on the front, and these seem to be well used. Incidentally, the bus services in and around Seattle are excellent, and cheaper than here - although this enlightened attitude to public transport is not typical of the USA. There is also a good network of cycle paths, especially near the University of Washington.
In summary, there are many good features for cyclists in the areas I visited, but Canada and USA are still at least as far as Britain from adopting a "cycling culture" as found in many continental European countries. Cycling is still regarded as primarily a leisure activity rather than a means of transport, although this is at least partly explained by the greater distance between settlements and the spread-out nature of cities in USA and Canada.
Company Car Taxation encourages un-necessary driving
From The Times - 29 Dec 1997
"Company car drivers are clocking up as many as 8.2 billion miles a year in bogus journeys to beat the tax man. Arriva Automotive Solutions, one of Britain's biggest fleet companies, which surveyed 5,000 company motorists over a period of 18 months, says average business mileage almost triples in March and April just before the end of the tax year so that company car drivers can reduce their tax bills by 35 per cent. Yet the journeys are hastily arranged trips to far flung outposts of the company empire simply to clock up enough miles to beat government imposed thresholds."
This confirms what most people have always believed and shows how ridiculous basing Company Cars taxation on business mileage is. The personal benefit to the Company Car driver is the miles he covers privately each year for which he only has to pour petrol into the car (in some cases not even this). Thus we should be campaigning for the tax to be levied on private mileage since other forms of transport cannot compete in Company Car households where motoring costs are so low.
Members may wish to write to Andy Reed MP at the House of Commons or E Mail him (firstname.lastname@example.org) regarding this matter.
Integrating Trains and Bicycles
Cycle Campaigners have long advocated the close integration of bicycles and railways, seeing it as the ideal system for park and ride, as well as a convenient means for transporting their bicycles to places outside of normal cycling range. Problems such as travel information relating to bicycle carriage, advance booking, access routes, secure high quality cycle parking and ramps are all matters that need to be futher addressed if bicycle/train usage is to be maximised.
Midland Mainline wishes to encourage the integration of cycles and trains and Mr. Clive Tilley, Sales and Marketing Manager of Midland Mainline agreed to give a talk on this subject in November but unfortunately business commitments prevented him attending. The postponed talk will take place at John Storer House at 7-30pm on Monday 12 January. Please try to come along and bring your friends. Non members welcome.
Leicester Road Pricing Experiment
A trial scheme in Road Pricing being conducted in Leicester has confirmed once again that many motorists would see their families starve before giving up their precious box of rusting steel on wheels. Initial evidence suggests that most motorists are prepared to pay 4 pounds a day rather than use public transport. A daily charge needs to be as high as 6 pounds to deter motorists from entering the city centre.
The Economist ran an interesting feature on this subject in its edition of 6 December 1997. Beginning with "Few affairs have been more passionate in the 20th century than that between man and his motor car." , it goes on to say that "Actually, the role cars play in global warming is not the pressing question. More important is the enormous local damage (in terms of pollution, noise, ugliness and wasted time) caused by traffic congestion - and the great cost of the orthodox solution to that problem, which has been to keep on building roads.
The underlying problem is clear enough: cheap car-travel has been based on an illusion. Only by making drivers pay for the costs they impose on society can the demand for motoring be brought into line with the restricted supply. The choice for drivers is simple: queue or pay.If roads continue to be operated as one of the last relics of a Soviet style economy, then the consequences will be worsening traffic jams and eventual Bangkok style gridlock.
Improving public transport is another frequently proposed alternative to road pricing. If only the buses, underground systems and railways worked cheaply and efficiently, then motorists would leave their cars at home. All the evidence, sadly, suggests otherwise.One European study found that halving bus fares would reduce car use by less than 1%. Drivers are so wedded to their cars that they will be deterred only by higher motoring costs or regulation."