Loughborough & District
Cycle Users' Campaign

Pedal Power 46
September 2003

Cycle Industry Fund to support promotion of cycling

The Bicycle Association and the Association of Cycle Traders have jointly announced the re-launch of a levy on bicycle sales, to be used to support projects that encourage cycle use. The Cycle Industry Fund is expected to raise around £350,000 a year, and one beneficiary will be National Bike Week, which in future is expected to be supported jointly by the Fund and the Department for Transport (DfT).

Getting the cycle industry to work together to launch the Cycle Industry Fund has been largely due to the efforts of Phillip Darnton, former Chairman of Raleigh UK and now president of the Bicycle Association. He told Bicycle Business that the industry has "recognised that it must take action now if there is to be a flourishing demand for cycling in the future". "The industry has been dogged by falling prices and margins, and hence very low profitability as well as by a series of marketplace setbacks over the last three years, even since the foot and mouth outbreak".

A similar scheme was put in place in 1997 by the Bicycle Association, which raised £1m over 3 years to support the development of the National Cycle Network. The bicycle levy received only partial support from bike companies, with some of the biggest names not participating. The new scheme, which is to be launched on 1st October, looks set to have much wider support. So far, only Halfords has declined to be involved.

Phillip Darnton is particularly keen to use the money to support a new generation of young cyclists, on whom the future of cycling crucially depends. He points out that the UK now has the highest percentage of obese 10 year olds in Europe, something that more cycling could do much to address. .. With grateful acknowledgment to Bicycle Business, www.BikeBiz.com

Some Thoughts on the Epinal Way Extension and Cycling.

Like it or not the EWE extension is here. It may please some and make life easier for others but it has probably created as many problems as it has solved, not least for cyclists. Many of us now have a more direct (and probably safer) route to and from Quorn, either on the shared cycle path or on the road (the 1m strip down the side of the road is not a cycle lane; it is to discourage heavy lorries from driving close to the edge, and breaking it up!).

Traffic flows have changed. There is a lot more traffic and earlier, especially in the morning. I have no difficulty beating cars from Park Road to Ashby Road roundabouts (on the substandard cycle path), even at 8.15 (not school run traffic, the usual cause of Loughborough's congestion). Park Road is much busier, presumably with people rat-running to the new road (from the M1 via the improved Snell's Nook Road?) and avoiding the busy stretch. The dreaded 'traffic-calming' (a euphemism for speed bumps) may yet happen to this stretch of road. Even the 'calmed' Beacon Road seems busier. The narrowed sections of road, and erratically driven cars negotiating the obstacles provide more hazards for two-wheelers.

They said it couldn't be done, they would have to loose a lane, but a Pelican was installed by MacDonalds. A triumph of people power (and political will) over blinkered design. The short stretch of 30mph (for what it is worth) is a significant partial victory. (The 40mph dual carriage way is faster than the single carriage way derestricted!)

I had a long discussion and exchanged correspondence with one of the engineers last year when I raised a number of concerns over the design, particularly of cycle facilities and I followed that up with a phone call to the Highways department.

I was assured that street furniture would be sited to maximise space for pedestrians and cyclists. While it is better than most there are a lot of intrusive posts around the Toucans, particularly the one on the Epinal way arm (by the car wash). I have not yet encountered a cyclist waiting to cross here (not that there is any cycle path to cross to!), but there is insufficient space to pass. The two arms outside of the car parking by the shops are 'cycle only' and lead to the official cycle crossing of Park Road - a pedal for you life across three lanes. If you then try to turn up Park Road towards Tesco beware of cars cutting the wrong way through the gap between the traffic islands. The 'elephant's feet' marking the cycle crossing will be added along with the missing markings and 'edge-line' soon. I was told by a county engineer recently that this area around the roundabout is not yet finished and all the markings for the cycle path will be added when the surfaces are completed. The missing cycle racks that used to be here have not returned, nor is there space for them. The pedestrian crossing is only a narrow and dog-legged Pelican because the County was too mean to buy a small strip of land to put a proper Toucan in. The cycle path in front of the Ling Road shops seems like a poorly thought out compromise with its narrow 'car-door' strip and cluttered pavement.

I have tried to use the roundabout but that too has its own special hazards. The lanes are badly lined up so many cars cut corners and swap lanes. The 'spiral' lanes provided on other roundabouts is far better. (It is just as bad in a car; I have tried it.) The official response was 'we'll see how things have settled down in six months'. Presumably there will have been sufficient accidents by then.

The EWE is better than it could have been, but is not really 'cycle-friendly'. Pedestrians may be benefiting but there has been no thought to use the opportunities to improve public transport. At the end of the day all it has done is move the traffic holdups around Loughborough.

Tim Birkinshaw


Radio Saga

Back in July I had an unexpected phone call from one Steve Merrick, a DJ on Saga 106.6FM, who had discovered the Campaign via our website and wanted to interview somebody about it on his programme. I agreed to do this. Careful preparation paid off, as Mr Merrick asked if I were a professional PR person! I managed to cover the ground (our reasons for existence) in a shallow but comprehensive way and deftly fielded the one hostile question (about cyclists being yobs who ride on pavements and through red lights). That bugbear of cycle advocates, safety, was never mentioned and helmets stayed deep in the drawer. There has been no feedback whatsoever, but if anybody at all listens to Saga FM (and I have my doubts!) general awareness of the issues will have been raised in a positive way. The episode has certainly shown us another benefit of being on the Web.

Sorry Saga

If you use Park Road or Beacon Road you will be familiar with the speed cushions now being installed. I objected at every stage to these obstacles on the grounds of the difficulty they cause to tricycles. But my objections were doomed to failure due to a course of events that I have seen many times before.

Council officers prepared a draft scheme. They assured everybody this was for consultation purposes only, but in reality they had already invested so much time and effort in it that its status was less suggestion, more high-inertia default.

Public consultation drew broad support from local residents. The vast majority of people do not have the time or the inclination to become anoraks on traffic calming features. They just know that they are bothered by excessive traffic speeds and volumes and will buy into anything that promises to 'get rid of it' even as they jump into their own cars every time they want to go out.

Formal objections to the scheme go to a Traffic Regulation Order Committee of Councillors; until recently at Borough level, now at County. Many Councillors take the view that their role is to think 'strategically' and the detail should be left to officers. They overlook the fact that the devil is often in the detail. They want to avoid the hassle and delay of having the scheme redesigned. The only thing that can change things now is if a sufficiently powerful councillor decides things should be changed. Only a few members of any given council have this power and it is the luck of the draw whether any of them care (typically rather low odds). The objector can use careful reason or appeal to compassion (I have done both) but it can be ignored by those who have the power to do so, who will then instruct the officers to prepare a statement justifying the status quo. The arguments on paper may be as leaky as a sieve (and they are - officers appear confused about the purpose of the scheme, apart, of course, from spending the money which their colleagues in the planning department cleverly squeezed out of the developers) but that is not important because the objectors have no further power to challenge them.

Fortunately for me, I no longer have to make four-times-daily escort journeys along Beacon Road, but on occasional trips so far I have found the situation even worse than feared: on a trike you just do not know which way to go, although with familiarity I suspect the optimal path will be identified. With any cycle there is the requirement for frequent changes of course, speed, or both, which for the human engine results in tiredness and dissatisfaction with the journey. As the biggest selling point of cycling is that it makes you feel good, traffic calming schemes which are not designed to allow all pedal powered road users to maintain speed and course through the obstructions are bad news for cycle advocacy.

Authorities may try to convince us as cycle advocates that traffic calming is good for cycling because it reduces motor vehicle speeds and sometimes volumes (although displaced traffic in the absence of any genuine reduction strategies will be found causing the same problems on another route). But we need to remember the inviolable physics and physiology of the case and stand firm. The only real solutions to speed are law enforcement and in-car technology and the only real solution to volume is reduced motor vehicle use, however achieved. (They're doing OK in London!)

These, however, will be longer term developments and the proliferation of speed cushions (I think they are the cheapest traffic calming feature currently available as they are pre-cast in a factory, which enhances their attractiveness alongside the preference of the emergency services for them) I consider to be the most serious current threat to cycle freight and 'all-ability' cycling, which as we know are crucial to the evolution of a truly sustainable and socially inclusive society. In the shorter term I think the best approach may be to campaign for more restrictive conditions under which they may be used and I shall be putting some effort into this now Isobel is starting school.

Sad summer saga

I was deeply disappointed by the turnout for the July Invitation Ride: the four members of my own family plus two predictable loyal stalwarts. This event has the potential to be an important part of our grass roots work, and the grass roots work has to become a more important part of our campaigning now that the politicians are going backwards. The school holiday should not have been too much of a problem overall (although our Secretary sent his apologies because of this) because it was not particularly an event aimed at young families and many child-free people take pains to avoid going away at this time. Let's try to do better next year. The date will be Monday 12th July so write it in that tiny space in the back of your diary now, please, and I look forward to seeing you and your guests next summer.

But if that was bad, the pub social was worse! John and I can share ideas and experiences and have a laugh together at home most evenings - it would be nice to have some extra company on these occasions. Looking forward to seeing you at Christmas......(Monday 8th December)

Risk in cycling falls

A Dutch analysis shows that cycling has become safer in recent years, even though car use has increased. Between 1980 and 2001 cyclist fatalities fell by 55% relative to use, a little more than the 48% fall for car drivers.

Risk in using different modes depends primarily upon a person's age. Between 18 and 29, more car drivers are killed per distance travelled than cyclists, whilst elderly people are more at risk cycling. -
Nieuwe kansen voor lokaal fietsbeleid, report of Fietsberaad (Cycling Advisory Council). October 2002.

Book now for Autumn Conference

This year's Autumn CCN/CTC Cycle Planning Conference is being hosted by Pedal Pushers, the Sheffield cycle campaign. It will take place on Saturday 18th October at the Earth Centre in Conisbrough, which is 10 miles NE of Sheffield and 5 miles SW of Doncaster. Conisbrough station is adjacent to the venue. Speakers include NCS Board member Dr Alison Hill. Cost of the conference is £18, including an organic food lunch. A booking form may be downloaded from the CCN web site www.cyclenetwork.org.uk, or contact Cherry Allan at CTC (01483 520735).

Conservative transport policy

The Conservative Party has revamped its transport policies, and Iain Duncan Smith Leader of the Opposition, signalled that a new Conservative Government would scrap Labour's strategy of penalising the motorist. Calling for fair treatment to passengers, motorists and taxpayers, Tim Collins MP Shadow DfT minister stated "There will be an absolute commitment from the Conservatives to provide a Government who will be on the side of the motorist". He announced a series of changes including a comprehensive review of speed limits leading to 80 mph maximum on motorways and lower levels in villages, use of fewer speed cameras by removing those that are revenue-raising and focusing on road black spots, and increasing the usage of intelligent traffic policing.

It will be an offence to use a hand-held mobile phone while driving from 1st December 2003. The Conservative's press release asks "Why are cyclists explicitly permitted to use hand held mobile phones when motorcyclists and motorists are not? (22/07/03 Conservative News Story).

Road casualties down in 2002

There were 3% fewer road casualties in 2002 compared to 2001. The number of cyclists seriously injured in 2002 fell by 9% to 2,320, and the number of cyclists killed fell by 6% to 130. Total cycle casualties fell by 11% in 2002 to 17,107. This fall is encouraging, and as recent DfT cycle figures show cycle usage as rising during the same time span. More comprehensive analysis of casualty figures will be published later in this year. (26/06/03 DfT press release).

Traffic levels rise

Traffic levels rose by 2.6% from 2001 to 2002, with rural traffic growing faster than that on urban roads. See www.dft.gov.uk/transtat . Road traffic statistics for Q2 2003, also indicated traffic volume increases of 1% compared to the same period of 2002. This follows similar growth in the first quarter resulting in traffic growth of 1.2% for the first six months of 2003 compared to the same period of 2002. Traffic on minor rural and major urban roads went down by 2.8% & 0.5% respectively compared to the same quarter in 2002, but increases of 3.1% and 3.2% were seen on major rural and minor urban roads. (31/07/03 & 07/08/03 DfT press releases).

Prime Minister's Questions

Asked about the resources and powers of the police and LAs to overcome antisocial behaviour, the Prime Minister replied that "talking to police officers shows that they believe that the combination of powers to close down crack houses and take action against juveniles in respect of airguns, spray paints and bicycles, and the ability to use FPNs without the whole hassle of having to go to court, will make a significant difference to our local communities". Are bicycles that much of a problem? (02/07/03 HofC 383).

Danger - Cyclists with "Big Macs"

A pensioner was turned away from a Norwich McDonald's drive-thru because he arrived on a bike, despite the fact that an off-road cycle path runs right through the premises. His order was refused as a matter of policy because, as a spokesman said, '"Our primary concern is for the safety and welfare of customers. The thought of people riding bikes with a drink in one hand and a meal in the other should explain why it may not be safe. We do have a sit-down restaurant cyclists are welcome to use, but the drive-thru is only for cars." It was not explained why car drivers are considered safe driving off with a drink in one hand and meal in the other. From CCN News

Cycle Helmets Update

A new international web site, www.cyclehelmets.org, has been launched to provide access to a wide range of information about helmets that is not commonly available. Site content is expected to expand over the coming months.

In Alberta, Canada, figures from nine health regions show a sharp increase in head injuries in the 6 months following the introduction of a mandatory helmet law for under 18s. From 1999 to 2001, the proportion of head injuries among all bicycle-related injuries treated by hospital A&E departments remained relatively constant at just above 5%. The helmet law took effect in May 2002 and by October of that year the proportion of children suffering head injuries had risen to over 10%. Canadian Injury prevention specialists have urged caution in interpreting the statistics, but admit that the results are disturbing. Alberta transportation spokesman Leanne Stangeland said that he hoped that the law had not increased risk-taking behaviour. "Our legislation was put in place to keep kids safe, not so they take more risks," he said. .. Edmonton Sun, 12th July 2003

Early Cycle Lighting Exhibition - Loughborough Museum Queens Park 4th to 28th September 2003

This exhibition from the National Cycle Lamp Collection shows the development of the cycle light from 1880-1914. Oil, candle and acetylene gas models, sourced from Europe and America are on display, together with images demonstrating their use.

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