Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Bike racks on buses allowed!

In 2009 I investigated why UK buses don't have the sort of bike racks they do in the USA, Canada and New Zealand.

Bus bike racks in New Zealand
I found there was a UK pressure group that was trying to do this but apparently bike racks were not allowed under EU legislation. A few petitions and I banged on about this for a bit and then gave up as the various authorities' advice was adamant it wasn't permitted.

Now somebody at the DfT has had another look at the issue and on October 17th the IVS unit informed Bikes On Buses UK that buses CAN have a bike rack on the front or back as long as the vehicle remains within its maximum permitted length. 
The moral of this story: never take no for an answer.

This breakthrough could have a real impact on the use of rural buses as it will extend their range and ridership. Like Bike Aid, it will help shift our dependence and mindset of a car-centric transport culture.

For years I took the 521 bus between Halesworth and Saxmundham and then would ride three miles by bicycle to my work at Snape as no practicable buses went there, so I bought a folding bike to take on the bus specially to do this. If the weather was fine or I had to stay late or had missed the bus, I would ride the bike the whole way. What was important was that I had many more choices enabled by combining bike and/or bus for my journey.

I am told that the Belgian coachmaker Van Hool already installs the mounting brackets on their UK-bound buses as 90% of their vehicles go to the USA where most bus operators allow bike racks.


Monday, 20 October 2014

Bike Aid Saves The Day

Bike Aid host Hayden Morris near Saxmundham, Suffolk, has passed on this amazing feedback he got from two grateful cyclists assisted by Bike Aid.

Hayden wasn't at home at the time but Helen and Stuart Elmore from Cambridgeshire had hired some bikes from a local caravan site when they ran into mechanical trouble but thanks to spotting the Bike Aid logo outside Hayden's farmhouse, and with some willing helpers, they were able to quickly make repairs and enjoy their holiday.

Thank you Helen and Stuart for taking the time to acknowledge Bike Aid. Your gratitude obliterates any doubt that Bike Aid works as intended.

Monday, 26 May 2014

More cycle racks and less parking ‘will revive struggling high streets’

Suffolk Bike Aid supports the Times' Citoes Fit for Cycling campaign but finds it ironic that a lot of Times content is behind a paywall. Here to ensure access is a recent article regarding the impact of cycling on high street footfall:
Struggling high streets should do away with car parking spaces and replace them with pedestrianised zones, cycle lanes and bike racks to boost business, according to transport experts.
Mary Portas, the retail expert, recommended in 2011 that cheaper car parking was key to reviving the high street. Chris Boardman, the former Olympic cycling champion and policy adviser to British Cycling, disagreed yesterday, offering instead a “counter-intuitive” solution.
“It is well evidenced that replacing car parking with cycle access or pedestrianised zones doesn’t hurt business,” Boardman said. “Stats show cyclists spend less per visit, but they visit more often.”
British Cycling said: “Evaluations of pedestrian improvements in Coventry and Bristol show a 25 per cent increase in footfall on Saturdays and predict £1.4 million in benefits respectively.”
Boardman said that retailers should be shown how the number of shoppers can be boosted by moving car parking spaces off streets to nearby car parks.
The addition of protected cycle lanes on 9th Avenue in New York led to a 49 per cent increase in retail sales, compared to a 3 per cent uplift for shops on other local streets.
He explained: “New York used paint and planters to mark out cycle lanes for a six month trial, which didn’t cost much, and told local retailers if they didn’t like it, they would remove it.”
The Times accompanied Boardman yesterday as he took his local MP for West Wirral, Esther McVey, on a cycle tour.
Martin Key, of British Cycling, said: “Shops tend to over-estimate how many people drive to them. And you can have 10 bike spaces for each parking space.”
Adrian Lord, an infrastructure expert, said: “Those who arrive at high streets on foot or by bike tend to spend more, over time. This is especially true of local shops rather than big supermarkets. With cars, people are often looking at their watches because they have only 10 minutes left on the meter.”
Eric Pickles, the Communities Secretary, last year criticised some councils for having an “anti-car dogma”. Boardman said: “It isn’t ‘anti-car’ it’s ‘pro-people’.”
In West Kirby, Boardman’s home town, he wants to remove car parking on The Crescent, a parade of shops, and create a pedestrianised zone with cycle parking for a six month trial. It would cost £12,000.
Andrew Smith, a butcher at AI Roberts, said: “It would be perfect. It would bring more people in. Restaurants could have tables outside. People are scared of change, but they would adapt.”
Nicola Hulley, who runs a clothes shop, said: “It would be good for business, though we would need to be able to unload our stock.”
McVey, the local Conservative MP, said there would need to be car parking for elderly or disabled people and that such schemes need consultation and advanced warning.
“You wouldn’t want someone to go to the butchers and all of a sudden realise they can’t park outside, so they drive up the road to a supermarket,” she said. “People have to know in advance, have a trial period and, if it does work, that would be brilliant as it would work for everybody.”

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.