Amazing* Wrexham cycle path

I posted the following photo on Twitter last week and it gained a fair amount of attention due to it showing something of a rarity in the UK: A cycle path with priority over a (minor) road (and its accompanying pavement) from Wrexham.

However, when put into context, this cycle paths is less impressive than it seems. Whilst it does have priority over a road (Cilcen Grove), the road in question has no real reason to exist; it links the roundabout to the right of the shot to a residential area to the left of it, but this function is also provided by the wider road visible in the left background of the shot (Hazel Grove), which this cycle path does not have priority over.

The cycle path itself is part of a wholly-inadequate facility which (presumably) aspires to help cyclists deal with the roundabout to the right of the shot. In addition to being circuitous and requiring cyclists to give way multiple times, this facility requires cyclists travelling east-west on Rhosnesi Lane to Price’s Lane to cross Rhosnesi Road to join this path, travel at least four times a far as on the road and then cross Price’s Lane to rejoin the road where this provision suddenly ends. Any cyclist unfamiliar with this provision heading in this direction may be tempted to join the off-road facility on the correct side of the road, but this facility does not permit its users to join Price’s Lane, instead forcing them onto Chester Road (southbound) for a few hundred metres until they can rejoin the road and do a U-turn to get back onto Price’s Lane.

Looking down Cilcen Lane towards the residential area

The last leg of the circuitous route for cyclists heading from Price’s Lane to Chester Road (southbound)

Looking down Cilcen Lane to the roundabout

Because of the poor quality of this facility, I have not seen it used by any of the other cyclists I occasionally encounter in Wrexham. Sadly, this junction could have been designed successfully for all users; pedestrian, motorist or cyclist if it had been fortunate to be under the jurisdiction of the Dutch. As it currently exists, it is just a motorists’ roundabout which has had some money wasted around its periphery.

Places for People

I came across this earlier today in Macclesfield. It’s nothing out of the ordinary, a van parked illegally, partially on double yellow lines and at the intersection with a minor road, blocking the route for pedestrians and making it less safe when they do try and cross. The sort of thing you might see hundreds of times in a typical week in the UK. What tickled me was the company branding, the van belongs to a company called Places for People.

Towpath Closure Mystery Solved

I managed to get a decent amount of time out of the bike yesterday. Before leaving the city centre, I bumped into LC and Northwest Is Best who were taking pictures for their new joint project. I cycled into the city with LC who was on her Pashley, Vita. We cycled through the newly re-designed junction on Booth Street East, which seems to have been re-designed with the aim of decreasing cyclist safety and discouraging cycling.

When the weather is nice, I usually travel to Rochdale by riding to Failsworth and then continuing along the canal. As the weather was so nice, and the traffic so bad, I decided to get onto the Rochdale canal in the city centre and use it all the way. This goes through some of the less bike-friendly parts of the route and some of the more dilapidated parts of Manchester, but was still fairly pleasant.

I had previously spotted that a section of the Rochdale canal towpath was closed, at the time it seemed to be for no apparent reason.

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The beginning of the closed section. Yes I am riding the towpath on a Brompton

The crushed gravel surface is new. This section of the canal had previously been nothing more than a narrow rut in the earth, forming one of the two sections of the route which were essentially impassable after rainfall.

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The work has not yet finished, the crushed gravel path ends abruptly and the old path can be seen continuing on.

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Further on some of the groundwork had been completed but the crushed gravel surface has not yet been put down.

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The crushed gravel path returns a bit further along, suggesting that this whole section of canal will have a lovely new path.

The fun wasn’t over yet though, as I reached Sandbrook Park, I noticed my steering was off and looked down to see a front wheel puncture, the first front wheel puncture I’ve had in my entire life. Luckily I had a spare tube, unluckily my mini-pump is Presta only, and Brompton-sized tubes are generally Schraeder. I later managed to borrow a pump and get the bike into good shape for my ride home later that evening (On-road, via Oldham to avoid the ups and downs).

Vehicular cycling can be nice when there are no other vehicles on the road.

Census: Shape the Future of Transport

These are the two questions relating to transport in the census.

H14) In total, how many cars or vans are owned, or available for use, by
members of this household?

• None
• 1
• 2
• 3
• 4 or more, write in number

41)  How do you usually travel to work?

• Work mainly at or from home
• Underground, metro, light rail, tram
• Train
• Bus, minibus or coach
• Taxi
• Motorcycle, scooter or moped
• Driving a car or van
• Passenger in a car or van
• Bicycle
• On foot

Somehow, after seeing the posters, I was expecting transport to be a bigger part of the census. It is at least nice that bicycle is an option on question 41.

Mechanical Problems

I’ve had a few mechanical problems with the bikes this past week. The right hand pedal of Brompton has an aluminium outer cage, which I managed to snap whilst riding last week. Luckily replacement pedals are readily available and quite cheap. I expect that I must have hit the pedal on the ground one too many times, and the metal gave out suddenly whilst I was riding.

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A steel outer cage would not have failed quite so suddenly (if at all), and there would have been a negligible weight penalty compared to the aluminium part.

On Saturday evening, I had my first puncture on the DL-1 (and my first puncture at all in over a year). An industrial staple had worked its way through the tyre on the ride to a friend’s house and when I came to leave it had gone flat. When I got it home I attempted to patch it, but after applying the patch I kept found another hole. I decided to go to Bicycle Doctor for a replacement tube, intending to patch the old one to keep as a spare. However, after patching 6 holes (some of which were close together enough to use a single patch for) I found 3 more and decided to bin the tube.

Sadly, my front lamp mounting bodge-up also snapped this week. The aluminium reflector bracket I had re-purposed (admittedly it wasn’t designed for anything more than a reflector) snapped whilst I was riding over the high-quality road surfaces found in Stockport. Thankfully I ordered the proper Brompton bracket online last week, and it should be with me shortly.

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Before the bracket snapped

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Temporary solution until replacement bracket arrives from Brompton, this current solution slightly interferes with the front brake

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Remains of reflector bracket

With most bike components I’d rather have durability over miniscule weight savings. The puncture was the first one in over a year, thanks to choosing practical tyres designed for durability  over lightness. For non-competitive everyday cycling, why worry about a few extra grams here and there? Obsessing over bicycle weight can lead many people to make terrible decisions when choosing a practical everyday bike.

Crap Cycling Infrastructure in Waltham Forest

Yesterday I took a trip through Waltham Forest in outer London on the 56 bus. It was interesting to see some of the places previously featured on Crap Walking & Cycling in Waltham Forest. 
The cycling infrastructure I saw wasn’t a unique feature of Waltham Forest, practically every town in the UK has a few cycling facilities tacked onto the road somewhere, many of them terrible. What seemed to make Waltham Forest special was the sheer quantity of disastrous cycle infrastructure, combined with busy roads featuring an unusually huge level of on-street parking. The main road we travelled down could easily accommodate Dutch-style bicycle infrastructure if the space wasn’t being wasted on free parking for pimps. Even the vehicular cycling environment could be improved no end by removing the on-street parking.

A view from the bus, which I believe many have been legally travelling in the advisory cycle lane at the time

A legally parked car obstructing the cycle lane. Interestingly this is positioned just a few short metres away from the corner of the main road

 There is a reasonably good quality piece of segregated infrastructure here, which ends at a set of lights, without providing any cyclist using it with any way of safely rejoining the rest of the traffic.

There must be a whole 0.7 m width of high-quality cycle lane right there.


Another on-road cycle lane well below the absolute minimum width, conveniently situated next to those pedestrian cattle fences which facilitate the crushing to death of cyclists by HGV drivers. Floral memorials have been provided by the council in advance

There is a lot of attempts at infrastructure for cyclists to use in Waltham Forest. I chose that wording carefully, because I don’t feel that any of it is actually for cyclists themselves, more that it is for the benefit of motorists who want to get cyclists out of the way. None of the infrastructure I saw could have honestly been designed by anyone who ever actually rides a bike. The sad thing is, that the small pockets-like structure of the community and commercial centres which exist in many of the outer London boroughs are structured in a way that cycling really should be the easiest and best way to get around in them. As things are, I can see why as few as 0.8% of journeys in Waltham Forest are actually made by bike.
UPDATE:

On Saturday I was able to experience the crap cycling infrastructure of Waltham Forest first hand, as I passed through on my way to Paddington. The poor quality cycle-specific infrastructure was confusing at points, but at least largely ignorable. The factor which I felt endangered me the most was that not only are the bus/bike/taxi lanes here time-limited, during their off hours, parking is allowed in the bus lane. The net result of this is that cyclists are forced into the door-zone of these parked cars by the sheer volume of private motor traffic in the remaining lane. It would improve cycling conditions if the time restriction on the bus/bike/taxi lanes was scrapped altogether, or at least if they were in line with the bus lanes I have seen elsewhere in the UK and had double-yellow lines to prevent legal parking in them during off-peak hours.

The ride also took me through the Borough of Hackney, which whilst still very far from ideal for cycling was still a marked improvement in most respects.

Northern Ireland Cycling Ban

Or as you may have heard it reported, Northern Ireland compulsory helmet law proposal. Referring to it as a cycling ban may seem a bit melodramatic, but all you need to do is look to other countries where similar laws have been enacted. All of them suffered a massive drop in the rates of cycling as people chose other modes of transport where their freedom was less impinged accompanied by no change in head injury rates.

Cycling rates in Northern Ireland will drop if the law is enacted, and those who used to cycle will move to other forms of transport, mainly the car. More cars will degrade the living standards for everyone in Northern Ireland, through pollution, congestion and increased risk of injury on the roads.

Many of you may think, “That’s Northern Ireland, it doesn’t affect me here in England/Scotland/Wales.” Sadly however, it does affect everyone in the UK. Most simply put, if you want to visit Northern Ireland or are sent there for work, you can not longer cycle there without wearing a plastic hat. All of the wider benefits to society which come from increasing cycling rates work in reverse when you actively decrease cycling rates. For example, the healthcare costs will increase in Northern Ireland, both through sedentary health conditions due to the reduction in cycling, and increases in road casualties and air pollution illnesses. Everyone in the UK pays towards that.

The cycling ban is a terrifying step backwards for the revival of the bicycle as transport in the UK, placing responsibility for road safety squarely on the shoulders of the victims whilst cheerfully ignoring the root cause. It is an assault on the freedom of the people of Northern Ireland (and Great Britain too)  and the embodiment of everything which is wrong with policymaking in the UK as a whole.

Rail Replacement Bus

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A train, image courtesy of Northern Rail.

Yesterday, (Remember the weather yesterday?) I went to Rochdale station to get the 21:52 train back to Manchester.  When I arrived I noticed that trains were cancelled in both directions for unspecified reasons.  Technical failures happen from time to time, it is just inevitable.  Annoyingly, whilst bikes are accommodated on trains, when the time comes to run a “Rail replacement” bus, the company simply contacts a bus or coach company and more often than not bikes are not accommodated.  The short ride to the station had left me soaked through and cold as I stood looking at the departures board and the thought of leaving my bike behind was less than ideal.  I decided that as I was wet already, I would cycle the 27 km home in the torrential rain.  Roadies ride in this kind of weather all the time, so why couldn’t I?

Luckily I had my performance cycle clothing with me:

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Including a lightweight & breathable suede jacket, fast-wicking denim jeans and SPD Doctor Marten boots.

And my lightweight, crabon-fibré, aerodynamic racing bicycle (photographed on another day):

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I made it home in about 65 minutes, a personal best. I also managed to avoid stopping for 5 minutes to have a drink as I would normally have done, the wind and rain stopped me from getting warm and dehydrated.  When I arrived home I had a performance sports drink to replace those lost electrolytes:

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Obviously there is nothing at all wrong with sports-cycling, just the perception that cycling is a sport and that you necessarily need all of the associated gear just to get from A-B.  This acts as a barrier to the uptake of cycling by non-cyclists.  I think attitude and motivation are more important than cycle-specific clothes and sporty bikes. Mudguards help too.

How I wish this were a parody

I managed to stumble across this Department For Transport website, “Be Bright, Be Seen.” It is aimed at young children and after studying the site and playing the game, the main messages of the site seem to be:

  • Cycling and walking are very, very, very dangerous and abnormal activities
  • If you choose to engage in this kind of reckless behaviour, it is you, the child, the victim who is responsible for ensuring you do not become the victim of a negligent motorist
  • To do this you must dress up like an Xmas tree whenever you dare to have the audacity to want to cross a road
  • If you do somehow manage to live long enough to become an adult, it will be one of your basic human rights to drive a heavy & fast vehicle inattentively in the presence of children, without the terrible burden of any responsibility if you hit one, unless they are wearing the Xmas tree outfit that is. Then you might be partly to blame.

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Taken from the DFT’s victim-blaming website Flash game.

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Obviously the bitch had it coming. Taken from the same site.

I also found links to some “Educational material,” for children, again provided by the government. This included Amir’s story:

“After I’d opened up all they presents – they wanted to get the birthday cake ready – so I decided to go over to Jordan’s to show him the bike. I was sorted. I had my helmet, my trainers with the reflective strips and I even clipped on the lights and made sure the batteries worked before I set off. Well, it’d be dark by the time I was coming back, you see. You need to be seen by other road users. That’s really important. Be Bright, Be Seen. They’re always saying that in school. I was only going to Jordan’s so I didn’t bother with the pads or the gloves.

The road was quite quiet but there were loads and loads cars parked all the way along. Anyway, I’m going up and down gears, testing the brakes.

Then, just as I looked up, this car door suddenly opened – right in front of me. I tried to brake but it was too late. It knocked the wind right out of me. Banged my chin, broke my nose and cut all my hands up too. Good job I had my new helmet on.

This is a great way to promote healthy, ethical and socially responsible transport to the next generation. Pads and gloves as a safety measure? No mention of the fact that the motorist who doored him was responsible for checking that there was no oncoming traffic at the time. By the sound of it, the helmet didn’t do a thing to help him, as you’d expect.

“It’s not put me off my bike though. No chance. But I’ll be a lot more careful in the future. Deffo. Just as soon as I’m better… Two weeks and counting.”

I bet you will, it was your own fault that an adult opened a car door right in front of you after all. Being a kid is full of responsibility, I bet he can’t wait to grow up and get his driving license so he can do away with being responsible once and for all.

EDIT: Email the DfT about this awful site if you feel as I do. Hopefully a bigger blog which specialises in this kind of disgrace will help spread awareness of this DfT crap.

Canadian Road “Justice”

Another gem has been brought to my attention today via Copenhagenize.  Today is it the site Road ‘Justice’ a Canadian site which is almost a parody of the type of motorist we all encounter from time to time, the type of motorist who is often pandered to by foolish politicians such as Philip Hammond and by articles written in the Carnival of Indignant Windy Bell-Ends.  Rather than just write about it here, I decided to write to the site owner and congratulate them for their painfully accurate lampooning of this particular viewpoint:

Dear Sir,

This site is a brilliant, painfully spot on parody of the sort indignant and self-righteous motorist we have all encountered from time to time.  I love the standard clichés about "More bicycle trails and fewer bicycle lanes," which this kind of ill-informed motor-centric person often spouts.  I mean it is obvious that these "cycle trails" will either never be built or will not serve any useful transportation need if they are.  I also love the standard line about how bike lanes are "taking away road space from motor vehicles," as if motorised vehicles have exclusive rights to the road. It is depressing how many people believe this is the case, isn’t it? I also love the standard fallacy that increasing road capacity will reduce congestion. Sadly we have politicians who end up implementing doomed road widening and traffic flow "improvements," which inevitably just lead to a greater volume of congestion. I mean, nowadays we know that by reducing the capacity for private motor traffic in dense urban areas we can decrease congestion, as it makes more realistic, ethical options such as walking, cycling and public transport become viable, right?

Very clever to cash in on the anti-ethical, anti-environmental sentiment which often runs through the minds of the right-wing, self-centred motorist you parody here.  Some people seem to really resent that others may have made a transport choice which is better for everyone, in a multitude of ways, almost to the point of seeing it as a personal attack on them and their lifestyle choice. 

The whole helmet thing is pure gold too, after all most careless drivers don’t believe that they should have any duty of care to not kill people when driving their fast, dangerous, heavy vehicles around inappropriate, dense urban locations.  They often believe it is the cyclists’ duty to be as defensive as possible, making every concession to their wholly inappropriate choice of city transport.  The captions of the photographs capture this ignorant sentiment perfectly.

You seem to have the whole angry, self-important, militant and simple-minded motorists’ viewpoint satirised here very well. I can’t help but worry that some people might take the site at face value, maybe you should be even less subtle in your clever lampooning of this viewpoint.

Yours Sincerely,

[Douchebag]

I wonder if I will get a reply…