CYCLING FOR HEALTH, A RIPOSTE
The November meeting of the Campaign was addressed by Len Almond of the Exercise and Health Group at Loughborough University. The health benefits of cycling are not news for Campaign members! For me, the most interesting thing to come out of this meeting was the contrast between the Health Agenda and the Transport Agenda.
The Transport Agenda has tended to dominate discussion on cycling in recent years, and this has been intensified since the last General Election as a result of John Prescott's enthusiasm for integrated transport. For local authorities (Borough, District and County Councils) the big problem is rush hour traffic congestion, and promoting cycling has been seen as one way of reducing numbers of cars on the roads during peak hours. The 'target audience' for campaigns has been anybody who needs or wishes to travel at these times of day.
The Health Agenda is quite different. The big problem is the health risk associated with low levels of physical activity. With limited resources (as ever!) to run a campaign, a 'target audience' is sought which is reasonably homogenous and with high potential gains from increased physical activity. Mr Almond had identified middle-aged men, and was pursuing methods of getting them to do short leisure rides at weekends.
Whilst I am all in favour of middle-aged men cycling for pleasure at the weekend, I fear that too much emphasis on this aspect reinforces the present unhelpful public perception of cycling when we need to be fighting it and working towards a genuine cycling culture. But what I found most depressing about Mr Almond's approach was the way he chopped the population up into categories, and then asserted for each group so defined that they would not cycle. When he got to 'people will not cycle to work' and 'people will not escort primary aged children to school by cycle', it all began to sound rather hollow, as most members of the Campaign do one or both!
However by turning this argument upside down, I think a more positive way forward emerges. If you split people into categories you will find, within each category, a few who do cycle. These few individuals can then be seen as potential ambassadors for the cause. How can we make their lives easier and more pleasant so that they will evangelise more? How can we make their lives so easy and pleasant that all those whose lives they touch will want to emulate them? That, I am convinced, is the way forward: not a single category of people identified to be got cycling en masse; but seedcorn cyclists nurtured in each and every walk of life.
What do other members think?Ariadne Tampion
CHARNWOOD CYCLE CONSULTATIVE COMMITTEE
Due to an administrative blunder we didn’t attend the recent meeting. However Steve Bulman was kind enough to allow us to use his notes.
Following my involvement with the Action for a Better Charnwood process, I was nominated by that group to attend the Charnwood Borough Council's Cycle Consultative Committee, which I'm likely to be attending on a regular basis in the future.
At the most recent meeting, there was good news in that extra resources have allocated to cycle facility development and maintenance by Charnwood Borough Council, with the main duties being carried out by a local who is a cyclist.
Updates from the main officer in charge (Kevin Aitken) included:
- Completion of cycle path from Shepshed to the Old Ashby Road by end of March, including signalling of the roundabout at Junction 23. Further work will be commenced in the next financial year with the new budgets.
- Removal of the "wiggles" around trees on the Ashby Road cycle path (currently in progress).
- Installation of extra bollards on the cycle/pedestrian path on the central reservation section outside the nearest university gate on the Ashby Rd to stop it being used as a cut-through/parking bay.
- Provision of a Toucan crossing on the Epinal Way between the Forest Rd roundabout and the pelican crossing between the College of Art & the University.
- New (specially flash) cycle way signposts which are claimed to be student-proof (!) will be installed when they have permission to put them up (highway regulation kick in as they are bit non-standard by design, apparently)
- Development of a path behind the cemetery, linking through to Ling Rd (which continues the line of the Epinal way for a bit to the South East) which may interest folks cycle to Quorn/Mountsorrel. This currently exists but is overgrown/has pinch points and 90 degree bends, etc. They intend to remove bends, put down a good surface and install lighting, and have the support of the residents whose gardens back onto the path. There are a few problems with how to get around some trees.
Kevin also said that he had purchased a number of cycle stands and was looking for suggestions for where they might be best deployed. Areas need to be in public ownership and where cycle stands would obviously help. As an example, he wishes to put some on the paved area outside the job centre in Loughborough. Suggestions for other such areas, particularly outside Loughborough, would be welcomed are stand a good chance of being taken up. If you have a suggestion, please email it to be and I will forward all suggestions together unedited. They are looking to deploy the stands quickly, so I need your ideas by the middle of February.
Also, if you have any requests for maintenance/remedial work, I can act as a central contact for those, too (again, just email me). If you'd rather contact the team directly, get hold of me and I'll give you contact details.
Finally, the chairman of the Cycle Consultative Committee (Mike Ellis, who represents the interests of Loughborough University) agreed to send out the "aims and objectives" of the group, and to place an agenda item on the next meeting to debate how these stand and how they might need review/amendment. This I found very encouraging, and I found the group open to and welcoming of ideas put forward by the attendees these included pedestrians committee consultants, Sustrans, Cycle Touring Club, Loughborough Cycle Campaign and Charnwood Wildlife representatives, as well as Leicestershire County Council (12 attendees in all).
If you have suggestions in this area, please contact me and I'll try & take your comments along.
I hope you all find cycling in 1999 easier and more rewarding than in 1998.