Saturday 29 September 2012

Something good, finally

I am dreadfully aware that I am not singing praises. But I'd hasten to add, that I am keeping my ear to the ground, and I am not singing because there is little about that requires serenading.

However, this is worth a mention.

Cath and I cycled along our usual getting-out-of-Newcastle route and came across this wonderful setup.

Newcastle have remodelled Brunton Lane to remove through-access by private car and prioritised sustainable modes (walking, cycling and public transport). What previously was a free-for-all bully-wins scenario, has now been altered to look like this:

To put it into words
  • walking: footpath (curiously widened in places, further along)
  • cycling: continuous (woohoo!) cycle lane, using bypasses
  • public transport: controlled access by rising bollards
Well done!

Private car access is now via Great Parkway... no major hardship, though one suspects that the Mothered Motorist had a few things to say during the consultation phase.

Thanks, again, go to the council for standing firm.

For the overall spacial context have a look at this map.

View Great Park access in a larger map

Saturday 22 September 2012

DfT dead-end

DfmmT's obsessive campaigning for behavioural change (rest assured a pinch of victim blaming is always lumped in for good measure) has gone off with a backfiring bang this week. It must be clear that this patronising ill-informed promo initiative is showing DfmmT's desperation. Here's their sad piece.

DfmmT really hit the decks. Big Bully Nanny has to eat humble pie, go back to the drawing board and scribble on some real cycle ways and seriously...


Saturday 15 September 2012

Motorway coverup

Newcastle's central motorway... some still call it CME (Central Motorway East) as there was a CMW planned too. I think discussions have veered away slightly from that.

The CME: an eyesore, something that severs the city, rips its fabric apart, a huge hangover from the 60s, and a barrier to the western communities - Heaton, Byker, Walker - to get into town biking or walking.

It's simple really. Cut and cover. It sits in a concrete channel, so the cut has been done. Now we just have to cover it. You can compensate for the construction and general  user emissions by creating a linear park on top. It has been done elsewhere. Boston springs to mind.

Central Motorway - a coverup

Next cut and cover projects: Gosforth High Street, then Coast Road...

Gotta think big to get big minds thinking.

Are you a proper cyclist?

I witnessed some awkward fumbling and stumbling (in words) this week. Sentences like "X is a proper cyclist" and "that's real cycling" were uttered in my presence. I kept calm as there were bigger fish to fry (infrastructure and funding) at the time.

But it remains a frustration, more than a niggle: the UK and its bad-quality cycling debate. I am not surprised people, amongst them cyclists themselves, argue the toss over what "real cycling" is.

Straight from a horse's mouth: the UK just fumbles on. We've reached saturation point. It has stagnated as a national average at 2%. With the bad provision that we've got cycling levels will not go beyond 10% modal share (locally, in places).  The current "infrastructure" will not carry more cyclists; especially the young, the old and women are excluded.

The current infrastructure is the obstacle to a real cycling culture, where cycling's not just tolerated as a niche, as an oddity or something that the less-well-to-do do.

To disperse any doubts here are some real cyclists:



Sunday 9 September 2012

Forgiving road space

I believe in the importance of ethics and moral values. I think forgiving is important. Probably even much more for the person in question than the one forgiven. As a UK cyclist you learn to forgive. You have to. Otherwise your mind'd be occupied all day, or you may even stop cycling. (Or you may have never taken up cycling as the conflict and the process of constant forgiving feels too unfair).

The way we "run" our roads is flawed with creating conflict situations where it's not necessary. Puts the strongest first. There's little respite for the more 'fragile' road users. It's all rush-rush, fast, chop-chop, quick, nip-nip and very very impatient.

As a cyclist on UK's roads you are either keeping up, or causing conflict by holding-up. The two modes simply don't mix. And please stop talking about confident cyclists! Why? It's grossly missing the point. What we need for mass cycling (that's the ultimate goal isn't it?) is confident and skilled engineers and urban architects.


The problem is that our road space is not forgiving.

And as a result you, the pedestrian and cyclist, have to be. The onus is put on people. Cyclists and pedestrians - squishy and vulnerable on the road - take the slack and brunt of this inadequacy. As a cyclist in Britain you either have "no heart" (nothing can touch you, you cycle through thick and thin, you may not know any better) or you fit into the "protester" category (cycling despite the cycle provision, almost to make a point). I am the latter.

Other countries of course get this right.

They do do their risk assessment - properly - and provide the appropriate physical measure, let that be a cycle lane, a cycle path, a cycle bypasses, cycle-friendly traffic calming and lights, walk and cycle tunnels, etc etc etc. One of the indicators for the existence of a forgiving road system is the types of bicycles that you see.

You start to spot a different kind of bike. More civilised looking ones, less sporty. Possibly like the one below. A work horse. Slow but strong and effective.

The premise is that people do make mistakes. It's human. In a forgiving road space this human flaw is designed in so that the risk is designed out. And the space becomes self-policing. For the UK that means that more safe space must be handed over to cycling, and that's a political issue...

Bless you!

Forgive, forgiven, forgiving.

Cycling in the UK, it asks for constant forgiveness from the weaker road user. This injustice can't be forgiven; it lingers on my mind whenever I get on my bicycle and a long time after I get off my bike.

Our space requires to be made forgiving.

001_ (60)

Going to a wedding in style

Style. Well, readers will know by now it's not my bag. I am from the non-style fashion league. But we've got some real cycle chic on offer in Newcastle. So. Here's one of the leading lights - @claireprospert - and her take on...

Going to a wedding.

In style.

Some relevant detail first.

Tree heart and pearls at the rear...

Going to a wedding in style

Lovely handlebars with roses and ribbons at the front...

Going to a wedding in style

Here she comes... all smiles...

Going to a wedding in style

Will she ride it? Will she...?

Here she goes... she's off. Cycling to a wedding.

Going to a wedding in style

Saturday 8 September 2012

Sustrans in the city, please

I love Sustrans routes. They are good! I adore the Coast to Coast. An off-road stretch on the NCN72 (along Newcastle's quayside) even gets me into work. And, just the other day, I sampled the Berwick to Edinburgh stretch on the NCN1 (Coast and Castles) with @cathscaife. Loads of nice quiet roads. There was the space and the environment to chat along and while our time away.

The mental picture of cycling with a cuppa in your hands, is probably most fitting I suppose. Although at one point we did get a bit nervous "Oh, is that the time?" and speeded up a little. There are some short sections with fast careless motor traffic, where cycling is uncomfortable, and you would not advise a family ride along there. All in all, it was a benign bike ride. Arriving in Edinburgh for the fireworks finale was a fantastic welcome. And meeting @kim_harding was a major highlight too. Thanks, Edinburgh.

All positive then?

Windy route
Bypass on windy back streets in the countryside
The urban section in and around Edinburgh was - of course - Land of Silly Cycling.

And what struck me also was the route map. It's along quiet back country roads, twisting and winding which does not get people to work or shops. It's thumbs-up for leisure not so for everyday living. Sustrans have build this fantastic national network between towns, villages and cities. It's nice. For enjoyment and tourism. It's all play, but has little live and work in it.

Sustrans has to get into our cities. Right in. Straight to the point of the matter. They have to get stuck in with More Haste Less Speed, forging their own words into action. It seems they have to get their campaigning hats on once more. They've been lying-in-waiting for too long.

Making links from cities to the National Cycle Network would be a start. From train stations especially would make good sense for mode integration.

A message for Sustrans
There is an opportunity in Newcastle.

Quite unbelievably there is now a stretch through Newcastle city centre - NCN725 - Great North Cycleway (Darlington to Blyth). A great cycle way currently in name but not in nature. Yet. I wonder what Sustrans will do. Will they get their campaign book and design standards out to 'march' on town hall and do what More Haste Less Speed advocates?

Or will they sit back and be associated with a rather rank route? We had Sustrans for the country. Can we now have Sustrans in the city, please?

Tuesday 4 September 2012

Cabinet reshuffle: New line up

New roles are announced, including quotes:

Kermit the Frog
"My media skills and experience of leading a multifaceted merry band will make this government successful, and the funniest ever!"

Ms Piggy
PM: "She'll be good for pompous state occasions!" (Arms were twisted on this appointment. )

Paddington Bear
Too humble to comment. PM: "PB has sound experience of dealing with the unknown with total humility and integrity" 

The Very Hungry Caterpillar
"I will draw from my own experience, and lead the transformation of the economic system to sustainable growth"

"I will make everyone feel at home" (not sure Elmo's read the job description)

Petit Prince
"Hat? Elephant! We simply require a new look at things"

Cookie Monster & Swimmy
"Working together, will get us there" and "Blubbblubb"

Hello Kitty
"They listen to me, you know"

Womble Madame Cholet
"I have first-hand experience of setting up sustainable activities and make them work"

Alice in Wonderland
"I wonder why. I just went down a rabbit's hole!"

Not available for comment. Attending important honey business. PM: "His stoical Zen approach will help"

The Lorax
No comment available at the time of appointment. Away on Grickle-grass business. PM: "Demonstrable working knowledge of effects of a finite world"

Mother Clanger
"There is some extensive experience of other rocks in the sky (what do you call them?), that's probably the reason. Now excuse me. Tiny, can you fetch some blue string soup?"

The Gruffalo
"They say I have assertiveness"

the mouse Frederick
"I have done it before myself, writer, composer, poet" *blush*

"Yea, bit miffed about that"

Comment: Congratulations all! The gender split could be better. We caught some ministers on a ministerial outing. 

Happily ever after.

Saturday 1 September 2012

Cycling is safe - a foolish argument

I agree that cycling is a question of human rights and social justice and does not require a majority (on bikes). It should be progressed because it's the right thing to do. It only requires politicians to enact the acts, policies and plans they've put in place FOR cycling.

Get on with it!

Furthermore these "cycling is safe" and "stop Us versus Them" arguments that are swilling round the system (yawn, zzz) are a complete distraction from solving the actual problem.
  • "stop Us versus Them" is a behavioural change argument, which is lovely, cuddly and friendly enough - even so inoffensive that AA President repeats it repeatedly from his High Chair - but ineffective if the public doesn't take to their bikes for fear of traffic
Cueing nicely to this.
  • "cycling is safe" does NOT ring true with the public. Take this as the best example of misguided safety views that I've seen to date, so blinded they cannot even see what's wrong.
Too remote a thought that it could be the speed and volume of powerful MOTORISED traffic and the lack of space for cyclists that's the real problem. And NOT the mum, incidentally doing the right thing for a better future for her child. (Sadly we have plenty of examples of that reaction in Newcastle too. It's truly frightening how warped our society's thinking has become.)

Talking about warped. The Chancellor joins the fray by putting the economy before the planet. Not sure how that's going to work either, George. Logically, philosophically or even physically.

Osborne - state(ment) of denial

Car (Fouling of Land) Act 2012

To address the imbalance and allow the true price of motoring to be outrightly accounted for, I propose a Car (Fouling of Land) bill to be passed through Westminster (may contain nuts) with immediacy.

Newcastle is leading the way it appears...

Car Fouling Act

The cost of motoring does not reflect the damage that we do by allowing "access all areas" by private car. It's like an open day. Every day.

Health, pollution, social exclusion and inequalities are not accounted for in the price. Making motoring massively subsidised by society. And unsustainably so. Just imagine a world where everyone drove around in a car.

It's simply impossible.

Space limitations for one thing.

The Categorical Imperative forbids it.

The age of individualised motor transport build on chillingly cheap oil has peaked. We blindly  ambled over the summit, and it's all downhill from here.

An uncontrolled tumbling is to follow.

Unless we reign in the Rise of the Machines, we'll get truly bugged by the Matrix. Knock, knock, Neo.

Would you answer the door?

How would we explain the enormous egg on our feeble faces to our children? Of ostrich  proportions. The carpet has a whole elephant swept under it. But it's still in the room. Remember the hat of Le Petit Prince? He holds his little head in shame, shaking. As are the Wombles. And the Clangers, the Lorax, the mouse Frederick et al.

Even the Hungry Caterpillar gets a stomach ache by overcompensation, and subsequently restrains itself on Sunday.

This posting is brought to you with a smile, and of course inspired by my recent reading such as The Energy Glut and Traffic Jam. Don't do it! But buy it and READ it. Busy life, don't happen to have the time? Well, why not WATCH this instead...