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.

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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.