Towpath Consultation

There are a lot of things about this really are irrelevant to CycleBath. It’s an existing poorly maintained, rough, and mostly muddy towpath that becomes almost unusable in mid-winter. In fact the erosion is so bad that the Canal and River Trust have been desperately looking for money to fix the path for years. The CCAG fund has given them this opportunity to make it accessible and mud free all year round for all users, walkers, pushchairs, wheelchairs and, of course, cyclists. What they seem to not get is that the council officers chose how to spend the CCAG money, not CycleBath. I don’t think it’s a bad spend of the money, but it could have been better allocated to create better networks.

However there are people that want to portray this as a mission by CycleBath to tarmac it, fell all the trees and make it good for cycling. I’m ok with that. I honestly do not care what happens to the towpath as long as the full width of the towpath and path connecting the towpath to Grosvenor Bridge is made use-able all year round. It helps get more people cycling. It helps a lot more people use the path in mid-winter. It makes it accessible to all.

I will admit there is a young tree over a massive hole caused by a stream eroding the Grosvenor bridge path that probably needs removing as part of repairing the stream bridging point. It’s a safety issue. The other trees on the path are magnificent and only one tree marginally impacts the path width, but should not be cut down.

There are obviously major issues with the current useable width and the poor interaction between bad users of the towpath. A lot of close passes by people cycling and some collisions. Making the full width (2.5m) of the towpath use-able all year round and promotion of the towpath code of conduct should solve these issues. It’s worked on other towpaths and even on the Two Tunnels. It has a good chance of working here. Doing nothing is simply not an option given the chance the CRT has to finally make this a more accessible path and better for ALL users. Education is key to managing bad behaviour.

Talking about bad behaviour, “Collective responsibility”, the act of lumping all “cyclists” into one group and then blaming them seems to be the name of the game here unfortunately. Just remember CycleBath is focused on creating infrastructure good enough for you to let your kids cycle to school. Fixing an existing poorly maintained path that is slowly being eroded away is way down the list of our priorities. Getting your child safely to the path is WAY more important.

Now go sign the petition. We need a public consultation.

Radstock, A Sign of Failure

Cyclists Dismount Sign

“Cyclists Dismount”. A sign that causes a facepalm moment for anyone using, or wanting to use, a bicycle for transport.

Why?

The obvious answer is that if you have to dismount and wheel your bike to continue your journey then you might as well have not bothered to get the bike out at all. The message is: “Don’t use your bike here. We don’t want you here. Please come by car next time. Or not at all.”

No one expects a piece of road so badly designed that they’d have to get out of their car and push it in order to continue their journey, so why should another mode of road transport be treated any differently?

“Cyclists Dismount” is a sign of failure. Failure to design. Designed to fail.

Continue reading Radstock, A Sign of Failure

CycleBath Meeting Towpath Write-Up

It was exceptionally fortunate to have David Fearne there. As K&A Trust chair he was able to keep people informed. It was re-assuring to know that anything done to the towpath would be done to exceptionally high standards and must preserve the heritage of the K&A waterways. The CRT are GOOD people.

There was a lot of fear about what a smooth surface will do to the speed of cycling along the towpath. It was good to get the focus on to the benefits to everyone else. The path currently excludes people with disabilities and families with pushchairs.
It was emphasised that any work to the towpath would also include promotion of the towpath code of conduct. The towpath code of conduct is a key part of educating bad users, not keeping the path in a bad state of repair to hopefully curtail bad behaviour.
Further to this, Cllr Lin Patterson emailed me this morning and stated that a public consultation will be held by Cllr Martin Veal (Cabinet Member for Communities Services) [TO BE CONFIRMED WHEN] on this. I will see you there.
I will keep people informed as I find out more. I have informed the CRT of this meeting. Hopefully they will be in attendance.
Of note, I sent Martin an email and in it provided him a timeline of CycleBath’s involvement. This is important for people to read:
Quick Timeline:
  1. Nov 2014 : £114M CCAG Money announced.
  2. 30 Dec 2014: CycleBath hold workshop to determine their request to the council’s Cycle Forum on the 7th of Jane 2015 for what the BaNES bid should be.https://docs.google.com/document/d/1yAZSp_9Tkp9DCE_YUEMO_uCpXmdekMNX4_b4i8yRgIY/edit?usp=sharing
  3. 12 Jan 2015: With much negotiation this is the final letter: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1qgaIvltlwrtmd0fjVQN1S9S_NeQebB-Ig3fRxgMgX2I/edit?usp=sharing ads the council officer has decided the CCAG bid will deliver two new bridges and the repair to the towpath. LEP money would be bid for to provide the Weston and Newbridge Hill routes CycleBath desperately want done.
  4. March 2015: £3.8M CCAG money awarded. Cycle Forum is held, CycleBath begins it’s work on it’s own proposal for expanding the CCAG Bath East to connect better with communities. http://cyclebath.org.uk/ccag-bath-east/ A public consultation is promised.
  5. Elections blow things up. No consultation is held.

Important Information:

  • Before the CCAG money came along, council had allocated £180k to upgrade Larkhall path and part of towpath in the 2015/16 budget. This can still be used to ‘fix’ towpath connections.
  • The Canal and River Trust, Sustrans and the council have been trying to find money to do urgent maintenance on the K&A towpath for many years. CCAG solved this for them. http://cyclebath.org.uk/2015/06/17/the-towpath-and-getting-things-wrong/
  • Towpath is cared for and owned by the CRT. They are unbelievably tough when it comes to what is done to the towpath.

Cycle and Walking Audit Tools – A present from Cycle Bath to BaNES councillors and council officers

Somebody once told me that every single councillor is there because they believe they can do good. I honestly believe that. I, however, do not expect every councillor to immediately have the knowledge to be able to engage with the council officers in a constructive manor.

So when it comes to public realm schemes, councillors “trust” the officers to get it right, or even trust other councillors with more expertise in that area to help them get it right. So a project is delivered, campaign groups and residents watch and then begin to give feedback through letters/email/talking/shouting. The councillors then go back to the officers and “get it fixed”.
This is how Cycle Bath had some of the posts moved on the Widcombe scheme. It was nonsensical to put the lamp post in the middle of the path and not on the edge out of the way.

It’s a very re-active approach, costly and time consuming. You wait for it to be built, then raise a concern.

A better pro-active approach that tries to get the design right at the beginning of the process is needed.

Continue reading Cycle and Walking Audit Tools – A present from Cycle Bath to BaNES councillors and council officers

The Towpath and getting things wrong

When you campaign for better cycling infrastructure to get more people cycling, you can very quickly get focused on fixing what you perceive as issues and move on from what you see as the obvious. The upgrade of the towpath and ramp was one of those things that I, and Cycle Bath, saw as an obvious thing. As can be seen by the Cycle Bath CCAG Bath East bid the ramp and towpath are pretty much mentioned in passing. The focus is on connecting communities to schools and the heart of the city. Getting more people cycling.

I’d like to apologise to the people that signed the letter in the chronicle. The way this has all gone makes me feel uncomfortable and I don’t think my “I know a little bit more about the history of the towpath upgrade” attitude has in anyway helped.

I also think the fact the council’s Cycle Forum promised a public consultation on the work and then this never materialising has not helped either. Again I think (I do not know) this comes about because, from the council’s point of view,  the upgrade of the towpath and ramp are “obvious” and there is a previous “agreement” in place with the Canal and River Trust to get this done . I believe (I do not know) that the CCAG bid money has now been limited to the towpath and  ramp upgrade, and this is why the public consultation will not happen.

For the people that love what the towpath currently is, this is a low blow. I cannot apologise for the lack of a public consultation. It was not mine to give. I had written multiple emails over the months trying to get the date of the consultation.

From Cycle Bath’s point of view we do not connect communities, we do not get child friendly routes from communities to schools and the heart of the city. We do not fix Batheaston to Bathampton, no toucan upgrade across London Road and no new toucan on Beckford Road into the back of Sydney Gardens and connecting to the Cleveland pools. It means years of campaigning to get the extra bits done to get safe routes to the towpath.

Now if possible I’d like to get into why Cycle Bath and the council thought the towpath upgrade was “obvious” and it comes down to a planning objection letter linked in the heated discussions on the Bath Chronicle website.

Continue reading The Towpath and getting things wrong

Mulberry Park – Curo and BaNES Highways department failing future generations

I get it. I get that as any part of a development there is a point where what happens at the edges of the development are no longer in the hands of the developers and it becomes an issue for the council officers, in particular Highways.

Screen Shot 2015-06-06 at 16.16.37

However I think Curo have a lot to answer for here. They have a blank canvas to build on. Their focus appears primarily on connecting the development via a cable car to the city centre. They seem to have ignored the vibrant Combe Down village centre on their doorsteps. Highways have done little to help here either.

Continue reading Mulberry Park – Curo and BaNES Highways department failing future generations

Front of Bus Cycle Racks, the DVSA says no.

[Foreword 8th of June 2015: There are moves afoot to try and create a working group of Local Authorities, MPs, the DfT, Bus Companies, and hopefully a co-operative DVSA. Should you wish to be involved, please contact Ben Howlett, the MP for Bath.]

Before I get into the details of this, I have to thank First Group for their immense support and effort throughout this process. They have been exceptional. It is almost solely down to their partnership with bikesonbuses.com that we got to where we did. I also have to stress that at no point did the bus with the rack leave the workshop. So on with the bad news.

My last mail made it clear we do not on principle accept cycle racks on the front of British PSVs. If a VTP5 was submitted for this vehicle modification it would be refused because of the large number of sharp projections from the rack itself as well as any cycles carried increasing the risk of injury in a pedestrian impact. As a secondary issue I consider the view to the front will be seriously compromised towards the nearside pavement where we want drivers to have a clear view of any relatively short people including children at the kerbside.


I am sorry but you have wasted your time and money creating this example. 

Driver and Vehicle Safety Agency – Email sent to First Group 3rd of June 2015

The Bath pilot for front cycle racks on buses cannot now go ahead. There is much that can be said about the above but it is also important to state that the DVSA did not physically inspect the rack. They were sent the following photos.

Continue reading Front of Bus Cycle Racks, the DVSA says no.

Cycle Route Audit Tool or how to get Local Authorities thinking about cycling.

Bath and North East Somerset Council, like most councils, is a hodgepodge of different departments looking after their own fiefdoms. This can result in very narrow thinking when it comes to individual projects. It also makes it very difficult for councillors to direct policy. Councillors are usually not experts in street design. Neither should they be.

We need to give councillors the tools to ‘manage’ all the departments delivering schemes in the public realm. This is something that the Wales recognised when they created the Welsh Active Travel Guidance. Inside this guidance was the Cycle Route Audit tool. A tool Local Authorities can use to look at existing and upcoming schemes and evaluate them. A tool that enables councillors to tell their council officers that a scheme MUST hit a score of 35 out of 50. A tool that allows councillors to drive policy. A tool that will give us better officers building better public spaces.

The Cycle Route Audit Tool

London Road, an example of bad BaNES management.

There are a lot of people wading into the London Road issue. Many of them believe, now they are elected, that they are able to come up with quick fixes to a broken design. Mostly this is focused around removing the “dangerous” cycle build out that was specifically requested by transport experts to protect people cycling along London Road. As an amateur who spends most evening reading up on best practices I’m going to try and have a go at fixing London Road.

Continue reading London Road, an example of bad BaNES management.

Working, Living, Cycling, and campaigning for better cycle infrastructure in Bath, UK

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