Sunday, 9 February 2014

Route to the coast from Halesworth

Some extensive work has been done by the Beccles and Bungay Cycle Strategy Group on setting out the options for cycle routes to the coast from Beccles and Halesworth.

Recent improvements to the National Cycle Network in Halesworth include the provision of an attractive traffic-free path from the town centre to the south of the town. The new Millennium Green Cycle Path joins a quiet lane adjacent to the Mells level crossing where the National Cycle Network Route 1 heads west towards Walpole and continues on towards Framlingham.

The northern section of the Suffolk Coastal Cycle Route is currently unsigned but is designated as Regional Route 41 of the National Cycle Network. It passes from Dunwich to Bramfield via Wenhaston. It crosses the A12 at Hazels Lane near to Hinton.

BBBS route leaflet
The desire is to create a National Cycle Network link from Halesworth to the Suffolk Coast & Heaths AONB making the connection between Halesworth railway station and Southwold, Walberswick and Dunwich and thus improve the sustainable transport opportunities for people accessing the AONB. This link can take advantage of the new path across Halesworth Millennium Green and connect with the end of Regional Route 31 in Southwold.

The route out of Halesworth through Wenhaston is already up to National Cycle Network standards. Similarly the track across the Bailey Bridge between Southwold and Walberswick is an existing cycle route of good quality.

The route between these two sections is where some hard choices have to be made.

One option (green) is to follow the Regional Route 41 as far as Wenhaston, then take Wenhaston Lane towards Blythburgh and continue towards Walberswick and Southwold on the byway that is the remains of the defunct Southwold Railway line to meet Regional Route 31 at the Bailey Bridge.

The other option (purple) is to follow Regional Route 41 along the Mells ‘Back Road’, Heath Road to Bramfield Road, Back Road and Back Lane to The Street, Wenhaston and then to Hazels Lane, crossing the A12 and continuing to the Dunwich Road B1125. From there is a byway to Westwood Lodge and a quiet lane to Walberswick.
All of this latter route is existing highway and currently low in traffic density, though a watch should be kept for any housing development proposals. A recent retrospective planning application for a caravan park and a application for a Travellers’ campsite on Hazels Lane has raised objections because of traffic.

While shorter and offering more amenities along the route, the green option would require considerable surfacing and ground works with a huge environmental impact in a very sensitive area of the Blyth Estuary. Though it can be cycled already, in winter is it not much more than a muddy track. A crossing in Blythburgh would be safer than the other option as it would be within in the village 30 mph zone, though this stretch is still the site of frequent accidents.

While a crossing of the A12 within Blythburgh has many advantages, it is the impact of creating an all-weather cycle surface in the estuarine environment that tips the scales towards taking the route to the south and that is the preference the Halesworth Bicycle Team will put forward in a Supplemental Planning Document to Waveney District Council.

Following Regional Route 41 will require improvements in two locations needing careful consideration:

A. A12 crossing Hazels Lane TM 43640 73908

The A12 at this point has the national speed limit (60mph) and the visibility to the south is poor due to a curve and slope on the road. This crossing was the site of multiple fatality night-time road accident in 2006 caused by impairment and dangerous driving when a southbound car in the wrong lane hit a northbound car head-on killing five people.

Improved visibility can be achieved for the west-east crossing by creating a cycle crossing point a few metres to the south of the junction so that cyclists can see vehicles coming around the corner and up the slope towards the junction. Unfortunately this would not help the east-west crossing movement. A cycle crossing facility north of the junction would give good visibility in both directions but to achieve a good level of visibility it would need to be beyond the splay of land owned by the Highway Authority. A crossing within the land owned by the highway authority would provide a limited benefit but the addition of a cycle-activated sign to warn motorists of the presence of cyclists crossing the road would help.

B. The byway from “Five Ways” to Westwood Lodge

This byway is already well used by cyclists and is marked as the Southwold to Dunwich cycle route on the Walberswick National Nature Reserve leaflet. It is popular in Summer.

There are, however, some deeply rutted sections and surface improvements need to be undertaken to bring the route up to acceptable standards. The total length of byway that needs improvements amounts to a few hundred metres. In some locations the level of the byway has been eroded well below that of the surrounding land and to rectify this will require a significant quantity of imported material to be brought in. The imported material needs to be appropriate and respect the environmental interest at this site. It may be beneficial to impose a TRO on the byway to prevent public use of the track in motor vehicles. This should not impact on the local access.

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Brompton Dock: best bike hire solution yet

For some time Suffolk Bike Aid by its participation in the Halesworth Bicycle Team has been trying to entice an entrepreneur to establish a cycle hire scheme in Halesworth. There are several potential sites on the Millennium Green or just off the pedestrian-friendly Thoroughfare. Ideally we'd like to see this facility at the train station for business and recreational visitors alike.

WIth easy access by train, loads of interesting independent shops, quiet backroads leading to delightful pubs and a variety of nearby attractions inland and on the coast, which is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Halesworth is the ideal base for a cycling holiday in Suffolk's gentle expansive landscape.

Halesworth also has a 1.5 km cycle path across its Millennium Green which makes up part of National Cycle Route 1, the 20 km Halesworth Wheel route, guided cycle rides by Sustrans volunteers, cyclist-friendly B&Bs and cafes, Huggy's Bike Shop and not least of all our Bike Aid network.

At a sustainable transport conference in October Bike Aid came across the well spoken Harry Scrope and the Brompton Dock cycle hire concept. 

We've always been a big fan of Bromptons but ride a cheaper Dahon ourselves because of the more accessible price. The price of a new or secondhand Brompton fairly reflects though, in case you don't know, that it is a stupendously well-engineered bit of kit made in England by craftsmen. It folds down to become one of the smallest on the market yet unfolded it barely compromises on any aspect of riding performance.

Folding bikes can be carried in the boot of a car or in a boat and taken on buses and trains as luggage whereas, with Greater Anglia's new cycle policy, full-size bikes and so their own hire bikes cannot. You can fold a Brompton to put it under a desk and keep it safe. A rigid bike needs a lock and racks or shelter. Folding bikes extend Suffolk's sparse public transport into the furthest corners and so encourages ridership on all forms of sustainable transport.

A folding bike also has many advantages as a rental bike because it takes up less room to store them in an enclosed cabinet that protects them from the elements and vandalism. We reckon the visitor to Suffolk that hires a Brompton folding bike would be more likely to use it and retain it for longer as they can carry it and store it wherever they go.
Harry gave a very convincing pitch on how the Brompton Dock beats the 'Boris Bike' model and told us we would need £25,000 to install the solar-powered rental station and stock it with bikes, incidentally about the same cost as an automatic ticket machine at a railway station. Tech blog Bike Radar rode a Brompton Dock in Manchester and was more than positive. It concluded "the Brompton Dock really does the have the revolutionary potential to make cycling integrated with many other forms of transport a realistic option for millions."

Brompton Dock scheme being unveiled in Warrington

A Brompton Dock facility can produce huge savings on staff transport costs for their sponsors and many have returned a profit for borough councils. Even after Barclays cough up £5 million in sponsorship, the Boris Bikes lose £8 million a year. Harry cited the Whittington Hospital as one case study saving a fortune on taxi fares by offering its staff free Bromptons stored at docks across their facilities.

The Brompton Dock costs the hirer a very reasonable £2.50 per day with an annual subscription of £20 or alternatively £5 per day with a £1 subscription. Businesses get discounts for staff schemes too. Harry cited an impressive rate of conversion but many customers sign up straight away at the higher rate, such is the consumers' faith in the product.

By our reckoning hiring a Brompton as needed is competitive with ownership on hire purchase and avoids any storage and maintenance headaches. On that score, we think the Brompton is less trouble to maintain than many others folders and rigid bikes we've ridden, so it can survive hire use perfectly well.

Therefore, against such a useful model, it is disappointing to learn that Greater Anglia's cycle hire scheme rolling out in East Anglia will cost its users £10 per day. 

Suffolk Bike Aid reckons as soon as someone installs a Brompton Dock nearby, Cycle Station hire bikes will have to plummet in cost or will sit unused. That could impact the additional services of the Cycle Point repair schemes Greater Anglia have promised. Unless the parent company Abellio acts soon, this will hurt the reputation of bike hire and cycling as a public transport investment. Bike Aid would like to suggest to Greater Anglia they install Brompton Docks at their rural stations and naturally Halesworth would be the ideal place for a pilot project.

Who would have thought that a British company can go one better than the Dutch on cycling but that's innovation and progress.

Vandalised Velib in Paris Photo: Luc Legay

As far as we know Abellio don't plan to provide cycle hire in Halesworth anytime soon so if someone else wants to put one near a station with 73,000 rail passengers per year, please get in touch and we can discuss what inducements could be available. There would certainly be support from a number of regional and national cycling bodies and organisations in the town.

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Railway Bicycle Stations in Stuttgart

Original site in German:

At the Möhringen, Vaihingen, Bad Cannstatt and Feuerbach railway stations in Stuttgart, Germany, bicycle service stations will clean, repair and store your bicycle. Open from Monday to Friday 7 AM - 8 PM, the bicycle service stations also have bicycles available for hire. The hire machines have been donated by the public and refurbished by the scheme and cost between €3 -5  per day.

The operator of the bicycle service stations is a social enterprise that helps young unemployed people on their way to a job.

People using the DLR in London will love the way bicycles are carried on its similar light rail transit system as well.

But before we get too excited, it's only the Stuttgart to Degerloch Zahnradbahn where you can find these open bike-cars along a two kilometer line because this particular train climbs 200 meters from the station. It must make for a fun ride home.

Stuttgart is the capital of motoring with Daimler AG, Porsche and Bosch being headquartered there but has ambitious goals for cycling as cyclists make up 20 percent of the total traffic. Local government is working to expand the cycling network and provide other services that make cycling attractive:
  • 160 km of cycle track is available - more than twice as much as 20 years ago.
  • Route planning by an online bicycle route planner.
  • A fleet of electric rental bikes has been offered since 2011 to also help flatten Stuttgart's many hills.

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

How the Dutch got their cycle paths

The lesson here is public demonstrations made it happen. Does that have to happen in the UK as well?

Thursday, 30 May 2013

A free country

1000 miles. No money, no bikes, no clothes and no clue. 

One of the founding principles of Bike Aid is that it will rely on the generosity of people to be hosts to provide assistance to any cyclist if they need it and that guests will repay their hosts with whatever their conscience thinks is just or whatever their means will allow. We think, on balance, this will more profitable for those concerned and society as a whole.

While many scoff at relying on such altruism, we find it already works well. For example, 'honesty boxes' are still thriving and a delightful feature of the Suffolk countryside.

So we're very pleased to hear, though long after it happened, that after thorough testing, this altruism is alive and well all over the UK.  

In September 2006 photographer George Mahood and composer Ben Cocks left Land’s End wearing nothing but Union Jack boxer shorts heading, where else, to John O' Groats and aiming to get there solely on the kindness of strangers to provide their clothes, transport, food and accommodation.

Eighteen and a half days later and without spending a dime they arrived well fed, well rested, fully clothed and on bicycles. Along the way they met many very nice people and drank deep from the well of human kindness and raised £1000 for charity.

And, had it not been for a prototype Bike Aid host, it would have taken them longer because sure enough, on the tenth day of the trip George reports:

...Soon after Ellesmere we unknowingly crossed the Welsh border. George heard a sinister hissing of air, and then saw a huge thorn poking out of The Falcon’s front tyre. We had no puncture repair kit, or pump. We walked to a nearby house, but they couldn't help and asked us to try next door. Peter, the man who answered the door, kept laughing at us for some reason, but lent us a pump and repair kit, and within minutes The Falcon was fixed. It turned out to be the only puncture that either of us received on the entire trip, and it is quite fitting that Wales made its mark on our journey. If it hadn't been for the thorn, we would've passed through Wales un-noticed, and would not have experienced the Welsh generosity shown by Peter.
They were accompanied by a film crew and so hope to produce a documentary. Meantime there's a jolly amusing book to enjoy.

Visit George’s website for the rest of the story and George's slide show of the many other OFFICIALLY very nice people like Peter who helped them.

An original 'Bike Aid' host
Peter, if you are still a Bike Aid host, please get in touch and we'll put you on the map and the blog.

Friday, 24 May 2013

Cycle Safety in the UK

I was sent this by Georgia Penny from who is working on behalf of Osbornes Solicitors LLP who produced this infographic highlighting the benefits and risks of cycling in the UK. It illustrates the need for legislation to protect cyclists.

There is also a video version of the infographic here.

The popularity of cycling has increased hugely in recent years. The number of people who own a bicycle has doubled over the last 10 years and there are continuous campaigns which are run to improve cycle safety. However, there is still a lot which needs be done before we can say that cyclists and motorist are travelling together in a harmonious way and before those travelling on two wheels are completely safe.

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Host Profile: The Pink Pitstop, Bankside
Through Cyclehoop Bike Aid heard that Better Bankside have introduced London’s first free cycle repair workstation. We have written to them asking for some background info to complete this profile.

"The Pink Pit Stop" is a bike stand that fits any bike with a track pump, tools including tyre levers and an adjustable wrench.

The tools are tethered by aircraft cables. We don't know where you can obtain a puncture repair kit nearby, we hope a local shop stocks them but what if the stranded cyclist didn't have any money with them? This difficulty is what the Bike Aid concept overcomes.

While providing two out of three essentials (spanner, patch and pump) ain't bad, without access to a small patch and some glue, that cost pennies, a puncture becomes a major hassle.

Our critique of these stands is also they may become a 'tickbox' of cycle infrastructure provision without a thought to the social aspects of cycling and its potential to build communities. If the stand is not located in an amenable place, it won't be used by people for routine maintenance, especially if the tools are worn. Emergency use is statistically small so difficult to justify on cost, hence why we advocate the no-cost Bike Aid model. We wonder would cyclists put a burred wrench onto their exquisite soft chrome nuts? However, a cluster of these stands in a park near a cafe could perhaps become a social space; a meet-up place for social cycling. But rather than be provided blind, we think they should be provided in response to demand, say if a local people lobby for one to be placed in their community so giving the providers some confidence it will be used and that those users will take 'ownership' of it. 

The Pink Pitstop is located at the Better Bankside Community Space, 18 Great Guildford Street, SE1

Sunday, 19 May 2013

Millennium Green Cycle Path Ride

At yesterday's (18/5/13) opening of the Millennium Green Cycle Path the sky was very overcast but today there was bright spring sunshine, so it was a perfect opportunity to to show how the new path makes it more pleasant and safer to reach Halesworth from Bramfield, Walpole or Wenhaston via the Mells Crossing, which is now part of National Cycle Route 1.

The little Flip camera used was a bit shaky as it was only mounted on a Gorilla Grip on the handlebars but you get the idea. Plenty of cyclists and dog walkers were out making the most of it,  showing how the  path now extends the use of the Town Park into the Millennium Green. At the end of the route Edwards Restaurant in the Thoroughfare is usually open on Sunday mornings and it welcomes the hungry cyclist. Still a bit left to do on landscaping, installing the 'kissing' gates and rationalizing the signage. The cattle grids proved passable on 20 inch wheels.

Saturday, 18 May 2013

Millennium Green Cycle Path Opens

For everyone, forever.

Suffolk Bike Aid rarely goes on the road to events but as hundreds of cyclists were expected to come to the opening of the Millennium Green Cycle Path in our home town of Halesworth on Saturday 18th May 2013, we thought we should be there to welcome them.

View the Millennium Green Cycle Path in a larger map

Eventually several of the 250 or more cyclists attending did need to avail themselves of the donated  tools and pump we had brought along so it was a successful day on that front but also we spoke to many people who said they would like to host the kits in their own communities.

The night before we knocked up these information panels and were able to make an exhibition stand from bean poles to hang them from. We carried everything; table, chair, tools and pump to the event on a bicycle. We hope that inspires others to emulate taking bike aid to events.

But enough about us. The main event had splendid turnout with two Suffolk MPs and several County, District, Town and Parish councillors showing their green credentials by coming on bicycles. A large contingent of friends of the late Brian 'Boysie' Tate came en-route to St. Mortiz on a fundraising ride in his memory along with several Sustrans officers and volunteers and Suffolk County Council's Cycle Challenge who were conducting video interviews. A large marquee was kindly provided by the Lions Club of Halesworth and all the bunting made by the community for the Jubilee got yet another use. A pay-what-you-can stall serving home made food and drink encouraged people to be very generous and the takings reportedly exceeded expectations, proving Bike Aid's ethos that trust has greater efficiency than control.

The event organizers and project réalisateurs Halesworth Millennium Green Trust asked local schoolchildren to submit designs for bicycles of the future and a held a fancy dress competition for decorated bicycles. Several prizes were given to worthy winners and speeches of thanks made before the ribbon cutting by a pupil of Edgar Sewter Primary School.

The Millennium Green is owned by the people of Halesworth and will be so forever. With a grant from the Department of Transport, the charity Sustrans acquired and donated the land for the path adjacent to the green but a small plot prevented joining this to the Town Park until a Green Party district councillor urged Waveney District Council to acquire the land from a bankrupt developer, so unifying a patchwork of gifts by local philanthropists and the town council's efforts of more than forty years ago. In the last seven years HMGT volunteers have spend countless hours on negotiations, fundraising (still more to do), debating the virtues of hoggin versus tarmac and a great deal of hard physical labour to remove dangerous structures, buried railway lines and undergrowth before the contractors could begin the work. They and the contractors then battled the worst winter weather anyone can remember against a closer and closer deadline right up to the day. Without a doubt it has all been utterly worth it. The town park has been vastly extended into the Millennium Green, children now have a safe environment to learn to cycle on, people on an industrial estate have a safer way to cycle to the town's shops at lunchtime and people (of all ages) in buggies can go deep into a nature reserve on its hard surface.

The HinT pay-what-you-can coffee stall did very well. Many people were over-generous 

Design competition with work by local schoolchildren 

Cutting the ribbon on years of hard work 

Bike Aid supporters from Halesworth in Transition, Town Council and Sustrans 

Uncredited photos courtesy of Halesworth Millennium Green Trust. Others require permission.