Thursday, 17 December 2009

Funding cycle infrastructure

I spent a day in birmingham at the Sustrans office learning about the process for bidding for funding for Sustrans infrastructure.

Perhaps one of the big differences in between the Netherlands and the UK, and indeed probably all of Europe, is the funding of cycling infrastructure.

Sustrans is a charity and its aim is to promote sustainable transport in the form of walking, cycling and other low impact methods.
It is probably best known for its National Cycle Network which is gradually emerging across the UK both on and off road. It probably says more about the attitude to cycling from governments than anything else that it falls to a charity with no income other than its  supporters and any fund raising activities to instigate the National Cycle Network.

A large amount of the funding for the initial phase of the network came from the National lottery, although this had to be match funded from other sources.Local Government has contributed to the development in many cases - more of this later - and the tax levied on landfill has helped in others.
Each local Authority has to produce a Local Transport Plan which usually last for 3 to 5 years and is OKd by the department for Transport. These determine the amount of money to be spent on all forms of transport, including roads, and cycling gets a small percentage.

When funding from this source the main things being looked for are travel to work and shops, safe routes to schools and a little for recreational cycling. So where the National Network leaves urban areas the chance of funding from LEAs is low as there is a very limited annual budget.

A section of the national Cycle Network passes through Leamington. It is part of route 41 which begins in Bristol and ends in Rugby. There is a section running from Bristol to Cheltenham and a few short sections, both on and off road, up to Stratford on Avon where it is then sign posted on minor roads to Warwick.
From Warwick it is mainly off road to Leamington

 and then leaves Leamington on the canal

until it joins the old rail bed towards Rugby.

This section runs for about 3 KM before it ends at the Fosse way where a bridge was removed when the railway closed. This road is busy and fast, although only a single carriageway and crossing at road level is very dangerous.

So far any attempt to get a bridge and then surface the remaining 8 kilometres that are unused has been unsuccessful due to no funds being available from either the Lottery fund or Local Authorities.
We are now starting a campaign at local level t
o try to get funding - probably upto £2 Million with a bridge, £1.25 without is a guestimate.

Whilst this section of the route would not be particularly useful for commuting or schools it would provide a long safe off road recreational and touring route, some 18 miles of off road.
What would have happened in the Netherlands? Well the funding seems to be very different, either National or Regional Government and I understand that monies from housing developments has to subsidise recreational routes, not in town as here.
Perhaps David Hembrow can comment on the funding differences?

Sunday, 13 December 2009

20 mph speed limits and cycling

George writes "I see this as a much more practical way forward for British towns and cities than hoping for a network of cycle tracks:"

In other words a 20 mph limit would result in increased cycling and a much safer environment for cycling and walking.
A recent report seems to support that view  - "The introduction of 20mph speed limits in areas of London has contributed towards a 50 per cent reduction in the number of children killed or seriously injured on the roads.
Research published online in the British Medical Journal examined casualty rates between 1986 and 2006 and found that in spite of a steady decline in the number of road casualties in London, the additional effect of the 20 mph zones was a reduction in casualties and collisions by an amount that has taken over 20 years to achieve on roads without them."
However similar results have not been apparent in the Netherlands. As David Hembrow reported  on his blog in May "recent report from the Fietsberaad shows that merely having lower speed limits is not quite enough to get adequate safety for cyclists.

The Netherlands now has over 30000 km (18000 miles) of roads with a 30 km/h (18 mph) speed limit. These roads are safer than 50 km/h ( 30 mph ) roads, but not as safe as they used to be. The number of cyclists and pedestrians injured and killed on them is rising as drivers become more familiar with the lower speed limits and break them more often. In the last ten years the figures have risen from 2.4 to 11.7 serious woundings per 1000 km of road. Two thirds of accidents involving children 11 and under occur as they cross the road."
So it appears that whilst lower limits are to be encouraged, especially in towns and residential areas, they will not on their own result in more cycling and less accidents.

The Parade in Leamington is perhaps a good example of the problems associated with a 20 mph limit. When the scheme was being planned it was intended that all town centre roads would have a blanket 20 mph limit but this was quickly dropped when then police said it would be unenforceable.
Apparently if 20 mph limits are set they have to be "self enforcing". In other words lots of bumps and other features to slow traffic. If they are to be enforced by traditional means then frequent repeater signs are needed as 30 mph is the default limit. The dEpartment of transport also requires that the speed before the implementation is sufficiently higher than 30 mph - " if the observed 85th percentile speed is within 7 mph or 20% of the proposed limit, the new limit may be introduced. For 20 mph speed limits it is recommended that the 20% figure is applied. If observed 85th percentile speeds are above 24 mph, then it is unlikely a 20 mph speed limit would be appropriate, unless traffic calming measures can be provided."
SO with minimum humps or other slowing features the speed is often above 20 mph and the police will not enforce.
Other problems with such a limit seem to me to be that fit sports cyclist will often exceed 20 mph so can be slowed by cars and an everyday cyclist may ride at 10 mph so the speed differential is still great and being hit by a tonne of car at 20 mph will still hurt - a lot! 

So by all means press for 210 mph but what we really need is decent cycling infrastructure.

Sunday, 6 December 2009

Cycle Accidents - poor infrastructure = more

Two recent reports highlight how with good separate cycle infrastructure you can reduce cycle accidents dramatically.Here is a report on cycle accidents in the UK :

Department for Transport figures released today show that 820 cyclists were killed or seriously injured in the three months to June this year, a 19% increase on the same period of 2008. More minor injuries rose 7% over the same period.
During the same three months pedestrian deaths and serious injuries dropped 8% year-on-year, while those for car drivers and passengers fell 4%. Motorbike users saw a 5% rise, however.

The CTC  noted that statistics gathered by Transport for London showed that in recent years around 5% of cyclists killed in the capital had been jumping a traffic signal at the time.
"It's not a big factor, but it could be something. It is fair to say that particularly in London, riding behaviour has deteriorated in recent years."

Compare this with the Netherlands :

Nationally the total of bicycle accident deaths hovers around 200.
In Amsterdam about 6 people die in bike-related accidents yearly.
16 million Dutch own 18 million bikes.
About half the population of the NL rides a bike once a day.
The average distance traveled by bike per person per day was 2.5km in 2006.
The bicycle is used for almost a quarter of all journeys, and 35% of journeys below 7.5km.
Overall traffic safety in NL is the best in Europe with 45 deaths per million inhabitants per year.
You’re more likely to die of murder in the US than by cycling in the Netherlands.
You’re more likely to die by drowning in the Netherlands than by cycling.

As the main difference between the two countries is in the cycling facilities and the larger number of cyclists that these encourage I can only conclude that if we are to cut deaths and injuries for cyclists here in the UK we need to spend real money on real facilities, not token white lines on roads.
This of course means a complete sea change in attitude and approach from both National and Local government, and from some of the cycling organisations here in the UK.

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Cycle infrastructure - Assen v, Leamington

A recent post on David Hembrow's blog shows some before and after photographs of provision in Assen

If I compare these with the situation in Leamington it seems that the local authority is more likely to build infrastructure like that in this photo

Than this

Yes they are before and after photos!

I will get out and about and post some photos of recently built examples soon.

Whilst trying to establish just how much is spent on cycle infrastructure in Warwickshire (unsuccessfully)  i came across this document which gives the Counties plans for cycling.
Note that the figure for cycling to work - and that may well include schools! - in Warwick District is 3.5%.

Cycle use targets 2006-11
There is a need to set targets which are realistic yet sufficiently challenging within the given timescales.
Cycle use in Warwickshire has been steadily declining for a number of years and mirrors the national decline in cycling levels. Census data shows that cycle use for journeys to work has declined from 5.6% in 1981, to 3.8% in 1991 and to 3% in 2001. This continued decline marks a movement away from our stretching target set in 2000 to double cycle use in major urban areas by 2006 and double it again by 2011.
The adoption of this ambitious local target demonstrated our commitment to help meet the national target of tripling the number of cycling trips by 2010 compared with a 2000 base. Performance against both the national indicator and our local indicator has been disappointing; indeed the national target was abandoned in 2004, being replaced by a general aim ‘to increase walking and cycling in the next 20 to 30 years’.
Cordon count data points towards declining cycling levels between 2000/1 and 2003/4. However, in 2004/5, cycle flows into town centres increased from the previous year to levels close to those recorded in 2000/1.  Similarly, whilst all three of the automatic counters in place prior to 2004 recorded a decrease in cyclists between 2002/03 and 2004, an increase was recorded at six out of the seven automatic counter sites between 2004 and 2005. Although these results are encouraging, it is clearly too early to know whether this marks the start of a positive upward trend in cycle usage. It is against the longer term background of declining cycling levels in Warwickshire that it has been decided to set the following five year target for cycle usage:
‘To maintain the amount of cycling in Warwickshire at 2004 levels by 2010’.
In addition to past cycle usage data, a range of factors have been considered when setting this target, including car ownership levels, cycle network density, barriers to cycling and impact of promotional activity. It is considered that increasing cycling levels is a long term challenge and will depend both on behavioural change and achieving a density of cycle route networks, both of which will take a number of years.
Progress towards this target will be monitored through data collected from the existing 7 automatic counters and will form the baseline against which progress on increasing overall levels of cycling is measured. The target will be reviewed regularly through the Annual Progress Report process.
Cycle usage on new and improved cycle routes
Whilst cycling levels across the County have been steadily declining for a number of years, investment targeted at key routes where demand for cycling is greatest could bring about a localised increase in cycling levels.
Therefore, in addition to the overall target for cycle usage, we will also set a target to:
‘To increase cycling by 5% by 2010 along routes where new cycle infrastructure has been introduced’.
This target will be monitored by carrying out pre-implementation and post-implementation counts of cyclists along new cycle routes, to monitor the impact of new infrastructure on cycling levels. On new off-carriageway routes, automatic cycle counters will be installed to monitor increases in cycling. However, it is not possible to install automatic counters on new on-carriageway cycling infrastructure and therefore manual counts will be carried out.

Thursday, 26 November 2009

Pavement cycling and cars on pavements

There is a constant number of complaints here in the UK about pavement cycling and it seems to feature in papers and even in parliament. It is illegal to cycle on the pavement and can lead to an instant £30 fine. if the pavement is designated as a "shared use" then it is OK to cycle on it.
Cars appear. however to be able to drive across pavements, and indeed along them, with. impunity.
The integration of pedestrians and cyclists seems much more tolerated in Europe and I have not been aware of many difficulties whilst cycling in Europe. Perhaps cyclists are better behaved over there, or is it a cultural thing?
My attention has been drawn to an article in City cycling - - where it is reported that a group of students at Imperial College in London where fined £30 each for cycling over the pavement to reach the cycle racks, which were as is normal in the UK sited at the rear of the pavement.
What made it even more worrying is that there was a dropped kerb to allow cars to pas over the pavement.
it appears that the law is different for bikes and cars.

Sue Rider there "legal eagle" makes the following observations - "The rules governing cycling on the pavement are slightly different from those concerning cars. If we look at motorised traffic first, it is clear from the Road Traffic Act 1988, s.34(2) where it states that: "It is not an offence under this section to drive a motor vehicle on any land within fifteen yards of a road, being a road on which a motor vehicle may lawfully be driven, for the purpose only of parking the vehicle on that land"
that in order to access parking cars are explicitly allowed to cross a pavement.

Cycles, however, are covered by the Highways Act 1835, s.72, which is a little more severe. There is no specific mention of accessing parking, since it probably wasn't even considered at the time of drafting. Instead I expected to see mention that cyclists could not proceed 'along' a pavement on their bicycle. But I was wrong. There is a basic prohibition which can be seen in the clause: "If any person shall wilfully rideupon any footpath or causeway by the side of any road made or set apart for the use or accommodation of foot passengers..."

Simply being 'on' the pavement is an offence. Which brings out a bit of an anomaly. Were I to arrive back at my abode at the same time as the beloved, if he were to drive into the driveway (for he deludedly drives to work) then he does so perfectly legally. I follow on two wheels, and immediately commit an offence. the law is actually quite clear on this matter, despite the illogical nature."

Monday, 23 November 2009

Darlington experience

Just a quick note to point you to David Hembrows excellent blog where he has a video of Darlington Media Group's production Beauty and the Bike, which is to have its premier on the 9th of December in Darlington in the UK.
As he points out it is all about the infrastructure, and none of the girls wear helmets!

Friday, 20 November 2009

Crazy cycle lanes in Leamington town centre

Nothing really illustrates the difference in provision for cycling in Assen and Leamington more than the onroad provision of space for cyclists.
Here in the UK all that is needed it seems is a pot of white paint and a bike symbol.
Here are a selection from the centre of Leamington

As you can see the Parade which is the main shopping street goes uphill and here they have thoughtfully provided a nice white line to keep buses at bay! Note the clever way in which it suddenly ends as the pavement is built out so you can race the bus for the road space.

Here just around the corner is a special lane for those wishing to try cycling over cars.

Here at the top of the Parade a short stretch of cycle lane connects to a forward box to enable right turns ...

If it is not full of buses of course.
The Parade should of course be pedestrianised and this was discussed about 9 years ago when a considerable sum of money was made available for improvements to help "vulnerable road users" - walkers and cyclists. After many fraught meetings the town traders convinced the authorities that trade would suffer and the money was spent on widening the pavements, some speed tables and the cycle lanes!
Did you notice the lack of bicycles - I wonder why?
In Assen where there is no space for seperate facilities they use either bicycle roads where the only cars are those going to properties on the road and there is no through way, making for very little traffic or have two cycle lanes one on each side of the road and with no centre line in the road. Cars can drive in the cycle lanes when there are no cyclists and pull out to overtake any cyclists they catch up. However, as the road width is such that if a car is coming the other way they cannot pass one another so they must wait behind the cyclists until it is clear.

Here is the essentially pedestrianised centre of Assen, cars can come in but so few do as they are not really catered for!
Did you notice the number of bikes compared with Leamington?

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Here is a video from David Hembrow to show what happens in the Netherlands when cyclists have to navigate traffic lights. Compare this with british designs!

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Advanced stop lines

Here in the UK the provision of advanced stop lines at traffic lights combined with cyclist boxes is seen as a way to help cyclists through junctions controlled by lights.
They also have a cycle lane leading into then, sometimes next to the curb, other times in the centre of two lanes of traffic.
They just don't work. Either the lane leading to the box is blocked by parked cars or traffic waiting for the lights, or the box is full of car- or in this case bus!

In assen cyclists have dedicated traffic lights, but of course any suggestion that a similar setup is provided here is dismissed as impossible.

Friday, 13 November 2009


One difference from Assen is that Leamington Spa has a river, but then Assen has canals, Leamington also has a canal.
The problem with the river Leam is that it cuts Leamington in half, the early development of the Spa took place South of the river and is now the old town, a bit more run down than the posher north side. I live south of the river and the main shopping is north so have to cross it frequently.
There are only really three bridges that link the old town and the north side, two road bridges and one pedestrian bridge. One of the road bridges is quite narrow and not an ideal way to go. The other at the bottom of Parade - the main shopping street - has painted cycle lanes but is still not too pleasant. i will return to the story of that bridge in later posting.
The way a lot of us cycle in is over the pedestrian bridge which is pleasant but can cause some conflict if you don't take care. Interestingly there used to be no cycling signs at each end of the pathway over the bridge but these disappeared when it was discovered that it is in fact an old bridleway which means cyclists and horseriders can use it.

The other side of the bridge there is a pathway with some interesting graffiti - meant surely for dutch riders on tall bikes!

Of course all the bridges are listed structures so cannot be altered so what would happen in Assen? well a new bridge of course!

Monday, 9 November 2009

On street parking ...

One of the things that can be a real difficulty around here is the large amount of on street parking, due in part to the nature of the housing, Victorian and Georgian houses with no drive ways or garages.
This can cause some difficulty when cycling as you need to allow a distance from the vehicles to avoid opening car doors. it also means that when cycle lanes are provided they often pass on the outside of the parked vehicles but immediately adjacent.

 Here is a typical road leading to the town centre with parking both sides. not much traffic but a different story at rush hour.
The few occasions that I came across anything similar around Assen they seemed to overcome it by running the cycle lane inside the cars, and usually with a separating kerb.

there are even worse situations in Leamington where echelon parking has been implemented. here the cars park nose in to the kerb at an angle and cycling behind these is extremely dangerous.
the photo below shows a wide road just round the corner from where I live that used to be the road of choice to cut into town and for my sons route to school, but then they put in echelon parking to satisfy the demand for parking from the residents. This was despite protests from cycling groups. the out come is no one rides this way any more...

Of course if there were better facilities perhaps there would be less cars and then less parking and .....

Thursday, 5 November 2009

With a few simple adjustments...

Back to Leamington. I have just ridden into town, about 1 mile each way, ideal bike distance!
On my journey I encounter a number of obstacles that could so easily be overcome with simple adaptations.
This is not to say that a comprehensive bike network would be the ideal way forward but just to ease the journey you could -

put a cycle path through this blocked off road. This is just round the corner and the road has been blocked off to stop through traffic, this of course makes it an ideal cycle route as there is no traffic; but the only way through is onto the pavement (illegal) and dodge any pedestrians to reach the main road.

the same happens at the end of the road opposite -

So why not do it? Well I suspect that the residents would object - bringing undesirable cyclists etc, and you would have to cross the pavement so a " cyclists dismount sign would be needed! apparently no such sign exists in the netherlands.

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Milton Keynes Redways

Perhaps a little strange to be talking about Milton Keynes when the blog is about Leamington Spa and Assen but i have just returned from a trip to Milton Keynes and think that there are lessons to be learnt.
unfortunately I did the trip by car as I was delivering back all my equipment having just retired from my assessing with the Open University and carrying it all by train and bike would have been impossible.
I do , however, sometimes travel by train and use the Redways - the network of cycle/walking paths, so called due to the red tarmac.
Milton Keynes was a new town started in 1967 and designed on a grid network of roads and totally separate Redways. the roads are mostly dual carriageway and have a 70mph speed limit. The Redways follow some of the roads but are mainly totally separate and often dive under complex underpasses especially at junctions.
Now given this extensive network you would expect a large number of cyclists, well you would be wrong; cycling in Milton Keynes is not that great, I am unable to even find numbers! (was 4.2% in 1998)
So why should this be so, after all I am asking for cycling infrastructure like the Netherlands and here is a town with apparently that type of provision and it doesn't seem to work.
Is it true that the English are lazy, will jump in a car rather than walk a 100 metres or is the weather just too awful?
I think that we do indeed suffer from "car love" and a belief that cycling is hard work and that we will always get wet and cold, but there are enough people who don't and they should be out there on bikes.
My thoughts are that the road infrastructure is such that you can get across Milton Keynes in a very short time, parking is plentiful and cheap. so little incentive to give it up.
The Redways are poorly designed in parts, there are numerous dog walkers and pedestrians and the wander around often taking a longer route than the roads. The direction signposting is almost none existent and when it is often vandalised and points to strange destinations.
The low usage and the fact that they are quite hidden also worries some users who are afraid of being attacked, unjustifiably I think.
Perhaps one of the main reasons is the poor publicity which has been fuelled by comments from cycling activists, mainly sporting cyclists rather than ordinary people using bikes.

The chief critic is John Franklin author of Cycle Craft who contends that they are more dangerous than cycling on the 70mph dual carriageways and even round the roundabouts that drivers barely slow down for. He states "Cycling safety has long been a controversial subject in Milton Keynes. Many people perceive motor traffic to be the main danger to cyclists; cycle paths such as the Redways which keep cyclists away from motor vehicles are therefore thought de-facto to be the safest routes for cyclists to use. There is, however, considerable evidence to challenge this view. and proceeds to give that evidence including:
"At a considerable proportion of accident locations Redways are below national standards. Poor visibility - frequently due to vegetation - is the biggest single cause of accidents, but other common causes include sharp bends, steep gradients, bollards, slippery bridges, loose gravel (particularly on leisure routes) and mud (often a result of inadequate drainage). In short, features which are not compatible with the inherent limitations of a bicycle.

Another common accident cause is as a result of the very poor user discipline on Redways. Observation suggests that cycling on the left is more the exception than the rule and frequently cyclists and other users take insufficient care for the hazards that are present.

Arguably this is not helped by a complete absence of centre lines and other reminders to keep left, and the unsuitability of many paths for typical cycling speeds. 50% of respondents to the 1993 survey said that the Redways are not well suited for cycling at their preferred speed whilst others travel faster regardless.

Some of the most serious Redway injuries have been as a result of head-on collisions between cyclists; a type of accident that is a common cause of cycle path fatalities. On Redways, bad forward visibility, sharp bends and wrong-side riding have invariably been the cause of cyclists colliding head-on. Serious injury has also resulted after collisions with dogs, which may leap unforeseen from dense path-side vegetation." A lot of this seems to be the lack of cycle skills rather than the infrastructure.
Redway accidents seem to afflict all kinds of cyclist, including those who might be regarded as highly skilled. The unique environment of Redways is probably a reason. It may also be significant that some of the most serious road injuries have been suffered by people who normally cycle on Redways, but who have been forced to divert exceptionally through path closure, flooding, etc. Cycle paths are thought by some to lead to a decline in cycling skill."
If you want to see the whole article go to
This is I find a typical stance taken by many cyclists in the UK, usually long standing clubmen or racers who have cycled on roads for all their lives and believe that the introduction of cyclepaths will result in the loss of the right to use the roads. They see cycling as a sport or recreation, not as everyday transport.

Sunday, 1 November 2009

There are some good cycle paths in Leamington....

Lets start on a positive note, there are some good examples of cyclepaths in leamington-

This one for instance, although it runs into Warwick, but Leamington and Warwick are joined up so I think we can count this! it goes behind a newish housing development for about a Kilometre and is part of a "safe route to school".

as you can see there is a pedestrian path alongside - the black slightly raised part and for some reason pedestrians don't like walking on black tarmac they prefer the red so often you are dodging walkers and dogs.
Then it rejoins the pavement alongside the main road -

and here you can see the strategically placed telephone pole to help you practice your bike handling skills! this is a feature I never saw in Assen. How difficult is it to move a pole?

Now comes the really good part - at every side road, and there are several, the cyclist has to give way to any traffic emerging. Contrast that with Assen where the cyclist has the right of way across the vast majority of junctions. Also the law is different, a car colliding with a cyclist in Assen would automatically be seen as the guilty party. If you collided with a car here it would be your fault as you did not give way.
Here is Assen, not the width of the path and the lack of pedestrian footway. also not on pavement but a true dedicated cyclepath.

and from david Hembrow's blog a photograph of a long crossing in the netherlands. Note the "sharks teeth" road markings - if the tip of the triangle points towards you you have to give way. Here they all point at the cars!

Saturday, 31 October 2009

what this blog is about

After visiting Assen in the Netherlands this summer (2009) and riding around the area following rides suggested by David and Judith Hembrow having a guided tour with David I realise just what can be achieved in cycling infra-structure.
I also realised that Assen has virtually the same population as leamington Spa my home town.
The contrast in provision for cyclists could not be greater; although there has been some progress here in recent years we still have no real
So I decided to start this blog to highlight the differences and to try to get improvements here in the Uk and in my home town.