Category Archives: Contact Your Councillor

Selling cycling

One of the problems councillors have is the message they get from their constituents. I’ve been told that almost on a weekly basis they get a complaint about the behaviour of “cyclists” riding on pavements. As somebody that lobbies hard for more cycle infrastructure, I am asked to justify having the council spend resources on delivering cycle infrastructure when “you cyclists” behave so badly and what am I doing about them as chair of CycleBath?

I’m very much sitting between a rock and a hard place. It is the design of the roads that is driving this behaviour and preventing “normal people” from cycling. To solve it you need to re-allocate space and start treating cycling as a 3rd form of transport. This takes money which “we cyclists” do not deserve.

My concern now is that initiatives like Highways “Safe Routes To Schools” will just have councils delivering shared paths as a solution for cycling. This will just result in even more letters and complaints. Shared paths, through design, tell users it is ok to cycle on footpaths.

We cannot expect “normal people” to share road space on major routes with HGVs.

But I think this article is right, we need to change the way cycling is perceived. It is about having 8 year olds cycling to school without parents worrying. It is about cycling as a mobility aid. It is about being able to pop to the shops and carry more stuff home. It is about staying connected to your community.

Councillors need understand it is not about cycling clubs going on 100 mile rides or racing down a wooded hill. There is a huge chasm between cycling as sport and cycling as a form of transport.

If councillors cannot see the benefits to their constituents of investing in cycling. If all they see and hear about is the bad behaviour of “lycra louts” and aggressive pavement cycling, then the onus is on people like myself, like yourself, to educate, to positively engage with councillors.

I also think many of the bike companies operating in this space have a responsibility to change the message they are putting out. That it is not just about the sport/leisure of cycling, but about the practicality of everyday cycling and the health benefits it brings to yourself and your community. More importantly the different style of bikes that are needed for everyday cycling. Their marketing message needs to change.

It’s not an easy ask, because no other group I know is collectively held responsible for the actions of others. I do not blame the president of the AA for speeding motorists. There are just inherently bad road users and cyclists being an outlier group are more harshly judged.

Yet I cannot blame somebody for pavement cycling. I feel very uncomfortable having a 40 ton HGV pass me. That person riding on pavements could ride significantly faster on roads, not having to deal with pedestrians, side roads and street furniture. It will take them far longer to get to their destination. They do it because they fear riding on roads. The behaviour constituents complain to their councillors about, is determined by the design of the road.

Provide cyclists with their own segregated space and this behaviour will vanish. This takes money from an ever shrinking council budget and what the councillors are hearing from their constituents and seeing with their own eyes, we “cyclists” do not deserve a road space safe enough for children to ride to school.

So I’ve rambled on a bit much here, but there is one final thing you can do. As part of your Council’s Capital Highways programme you will see a significant amount of money being spent on road re-surfacing schemes. These are opportunities to place a road on a “road diet” and implement advisory/mandatory 2m cycle lanes, or even convert a quiet rural road to a cycle road. Engage with your parish and your councillors and educate them. This is how New York city transformed itself. When you resurface, place a road on a road diet.

As Easy As Riding A Bike

The biggest barrier to cycling uptake is the physical environment. Survey after survey, study after study, shows that it is road danger – and in particular, the unwillingness to share roads with motor traffic – that prevents people from cycling. When that barrier is addressed – even on a temporary basis in the form of events like Skyrides – cycling suddenly materialises, thrives and flourishes, quite naturally.

Southampton SkyideSouthampton Skyide

London Skyride London Skyride

By contrast, we should be deeply sceptical of claims that the way individuals behave or dress while cycling has any bearing on cycling uptake. That behaviour, the way people dress, and the way the current cycling demographic is skewed towards men and away from the young and the elderly, isn’t the problem, merely a symptom of the actual problem. Or as Beztweets puts it, ‘a product of the true barriers to participation, not a barrier itself‘. Sure…

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Does the Parks Department discriminate against the disabled?

As part of the Enterprise area development, a section of the river path is being upgraded and to facilitate access when the lower section floods a new path through Green Park has been established. A path that will see the most use in the wettest weather has been built from compacted gravel and clay.

I have no idea who made this decision, but this is a utility path. A path that needs to be fit for all wheels ALL YEAR ROUND. The purpose of this path is to facilitate the movement of people in wheelchairs, mobility scooters, push chairs, various bicycles and people on foot.

WHY WAS ANYTHING OTHER THAN BITMAC CONSIDERED??????

This is a long-term maintenance nightmare and discriminates unnecessarily against wheeled users.

Even the Canal and River Trust are refurbushing the towpath with a bitmac substrate. It provides the best accessible surface and long-term maintenance free approach. Admittedly they like spraying their surfaces with gravel chips but these are bonded to the surface.

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Machine laid bitmac is a phenomenal surface for so many users and paths can last 40-50 years without any maintenance. If there is an issue with the appearance, despite all the other paths in the park being bitmac, then a spray and chip surface can be applied as the CRT are doing.

The council officer who decided to use this “soft” surface probably did it to make it look nicer. This is short-sighted, discriminates against wheeled users, and builds in significant maintenance costs down the line.

My suspicion is that this is driven by Parks department. I really hope not, as this indicates a policy/design approach which discriminates against people in wheel chairs.

This path is style over substance. It significantly impacts wheeled users and creates a long-term maintenance cost to the council. BUT hey I guess it looks good…

How to solve pavement cycling

In BaNES we have Partners and Community Together (PACT) meetings. The last one was dominated by people demanding what the police are doing about pavement cycling. The simple answer is to give Cyclists their own space.

There is a picture that has done the rounds recently about a street in Amsterdam comparing the 1970s shot next to one taken recently. It’s subtle to notice, but there is no pavement cycling in the recent picture.

Continue reading How to solve pavement cycling

Seven Dials, what happened to the Monmouth Street contraflow?

Seven Dials consists of a new shared space and a swathe of Traffic Regulation Orders to develop a more direct cycle network through the implementation of cycle contraflows. The Avon Street contraflow was applied for on the 15th of January 2015. If you look at the scheme map, you’ll see that the Monmouth Street contraflow is key to delivering the scheme as it provides a direct on road contraflow route into the scheme for cyclists:

Seven Dials Missing Monmouth Street Contraflow
Seven Dials Missing Monmouth Street Contraflow

So in theory as part of the delivery of this scheme, this TRO SHOULD have been applied for at the same time as the Avon Street TRO, sometime around the middle of January. So what happened? Why did council officers not apply for this TRO?

Continue reading Seven Dials, what happened to the Monmouth Street contraflow?

Call To Action: BaNES has a £1.6 Million underspend and it needs spending!

It’s that time of year again where the council works out how much it’s spent and what it can or cannot afford to do. It looks however like the council has underspent ( http://democracy.bathnes.gov.uk/documents/s34426/Appx%201.pdf ) and there is a possibility that with a little persuasion, your local ward councillor might be able to help you spend some of it on cycling.

These cannot be big things or even things that take a long time to arrange, as the money needs spending by the end of March however there is no harm in asking for more cycle racks in your ward or maybe a repair job or two. List of councillors available here. Get stuck in 🙂

Call To Action: Where is the vision for the Enterprise Area Master Plan?

A “call to action” is where we ask people to contact their councillor and/or MP on a specific cycling related matter. It is vitally important that they hear from regular people and not just ‘those Cycle Bath people’. It changes their stance on how important cycle provision is, the way the council allocates cycle infrastructure budgets, and ultimately the way the council officers (planning) see the need for good cycling provision.

All we are asking is for 3 minutes of your time to send the email below. If you want to get more involved then have a look here but copy and send the email below first!

Continue reading Call To Action: Where is the vision for the Enterprise Area Master Plan?