Saturday 20 April 2013

Age, wisdom and foresight

Crappy Great North Road
Great North Road - not so great

I have waited for almost a year before posting this. I had hoped the discussion had moved on from then but I haven't heard much from them since - and not by lack of trying on my part. This is not to offend or cause affront - this is to inform. So. The Newcastle Elders Council delegates met up with a group of cycling group advocates in May 2012. When meeting up  - unfortunately and bizarrely - we didn't even get to talking about the vital subject of people-friendly civilised places.

Guess what? Pavement cycling and personal stories of it dominated their agenda. They were totally blinded by it. An "I-am-a-CTC-member" woman disproportionately hogged air time with her "all cyclists belong on the road" propaganda. Judging by the Elders Council newsletter Cllr Nigel Todd put in a great voice for cycling and cyclists previously. Even so, this Elders Council newsletter states 
"anyone riding on the pavement (unless it is a designated shared path) is breaking the law"
and disturbingly concludes with 
"P.S. Have you checked where your grandchildren ride their bikes?"
suggesting that even children should cycle on the road under all circumstances.

The answer to this of course is that it's about better delineated space and space clarity, we did try to explain just that. With space at a premium, and safe space even more so, it is road space that must be taken away from driving and parking. Not the other way round... space taken from pedestrians like it was done on Newcastle's Brighton Grove and is now planned for Fenham Hall Drive. So wrong!

When sending this roadcc link to my contact at the Elders Council four months later (September 2012) the answer was "You didn't try to chat to Elders Council, you did talk with us; it was a lengthy exchange of viewpoints I'd say!" Non-committal. Rather unclear. And. Quite English. In December 2012 I tried again and sent this academic's look at pavement cycling, by Dave Horton. And received no reply.

Newcastle Cycling Campaign will of course continue working with Newcastle's Youth Council to hopefully speak to the Elders Council again in a more positive and informed setting. 

Until THAT meeting takes place however - be very assured, that the wise folks at the Newcastle Elders Council want your kids to cycle on the carriageway of a 40mph road. Like the one pictured above where strangely, parents are wary. And children therefore cycle on the pavement.

Or not at all. And child obesity sores.

Let's call the Elders Council 'thoughtless' for the time being.


  1. I have a similar post brewing, but I can not write due to sheer anger. I posted a picture from our school run, showing a large 4 lane main arterial road into Manchester. It was completely gridlocked with cars and more worryingly lorries and buses. Next to it is a pavement so wide you could happily drive two cars side by side along it, more than enough room to accommodate some form of cycling infrastructure. I asked the twittersphere how my child should get to school along this stretch of road. Mostly people could see how easy it would be and how effective it would prove if the children had a safe route to school. All apart from one friend. One very intelligent friend. Who suggested that his place was on the road. In traffic at a standstill. At eight years old. Taking his chances with aggressive motorists locked inside their own world, many of whom we see day in day out on their phones. My heart sank. I was and still am, shell-shocked. That people could think that it is right to put a child on a busy road to further THEIR right to road space. I am seething.

    1. ^This. It just shows the twisted priorties of many people in the UK, and the blog article mentions the institutional blindness by the authorities to what they are saying in terms of the effect of their policies on kids. Always remember that it was kindermoord and the designing to keep kids safe that started much of what we admire in cycling provision in Europe.

      aka Jitensha Oni

  2. Taking away space from people and giving to motor vehicles is plain wrong.

    In my experience shared paths are the laziest and most thoughtless option Councils employ so that the cycling provision box can be ticked.

    Too often they are simply not wide enough. they need to be wide enough to allow 2 bikes to pass comfortably as well as pedestrian space, and also to allow handtrikes, and other disabled and wider equipment such cycle trailers to pass.

    I have had it commented to me by a Council officer on Tyneside (not Newcastle to be fair) that painted segregation lines cost money to maintain so are not specified.

    If new paths are being laid then surely it is not too much to provide a kerb as a segregation.

    Also all too often shared use signs are put up by councils, with no repeater or end signs. This encourages pavement cycling and fosters the thought amongst people starting to ride bikes that it is legal to ride on the pavement.

    The shortsightedness of most cycle routes to end with the rider having to ride on the pavement to find a dropped kerb also reinforces the view that all pavement cycling is legal.

    Councils need to get their act together and realise that road and pavement space is for the safe transit of all people regardless of transport mode, and that they have a duty to provide, and not doing so is simple negligence.

    If the people in charge cannot act for the safety of all then it is their responsibility to stand aside for others that can and do act in the best interests of all.

  3. It is totally irresponsible to let any cyclist, young or old, male or female, sporty or everyday cyclist share their space with a vehicle that can kill them easily at 30 mph, the normal innertown speed limit.

    But the crazy thing is that we even have cyclists out there who ask for being able to mix with cars - in continental Europe. Spoilt brats, they find their cycling infrastructure too slow, too narrow, overcrowded - and unsafe. But instead of campaigning for better infrastructure, not realising what they got already, they find it safer out on the road. And they even say, it is cheaper for the council not to have to provide anything for cyclists. Can I tell you that most of them are men between 18 and 44?

    But an Elders Council, a group you would think on the wiser side, who is not responding to its duties and the obvious: to make kids' ways to school on bikes safer: They need to be kicked out of office! That is indeed cheaper for the council.

  4. One of the big problems with cycling in the UK, it has fragmented into many small groups all wanting different things. The CTC does a great job, but its trying to be a Jack of all Trades, Master of None.
    There is also the council side, that as far as they are concerned there isnt a problem because there are so few injuries so nothing needs to be done. When the reality is no one, or very few are prepared to cycle.
    Of course not having any big political leaders prepared to put real clout behind cycling issues does not help.

  5. Thinking a little bit more about this and who represents me as a cyclist.
    Why do I feel bad at the thought of of changing from the CTC to BC?
    BC is better value for money than the CTC, they seem to want and are vocal about the same things I want in cycling, although I am not a racing type. Just listening to Chris Boardman tells me where I should be putting my money.
    Yet I still have reservations about switching.
    BC - British Cycling

    1. @Cycling Punk
      I had your reservations too but have just switched. BC seemed "wrong" due to the focus on sport cycling (not me at all!) however the work they are doing and Chris Boardman's extremely reasoned debates and championing of proper infrastructure really hit the spot for me. I miss the print magazine from CTC (the on-line stuff from BC isn't as nice) but for the same (but cheaper) 3rd party cover and supporting the work they are doing I have thrown my lot in with BC this year.