Wednesday, 4 September 2013

A summer of Space for Cycling

2012 was billed as the summer of cycling and although we did well at the Games, for me 2013 has been the real summer of cycling. Well, at least for me!

Last week's kerb love in post was a bit hard-core (!) and this week, I needed something easier to write (OK, I am lazy). So, here is a round up of my Summer of Cycling and what I hope to be seeing by this time next year.

The summer started of traditionally enough with rain, but it soon improved. The dark, grey and cold of winter was soon left behind - is it me or was last winter really depressing; we had a sunny winter the year before!

So, the summer started in June with the announcement that CS2 in London was to be extended from Bow to Stratford with the work starting that month. It got delayed, but is on site now and despite some concerns about the cycle track width at Bow with the floating bus stop, Bloggerland and the Twittersphere has been quiet - expect the engineer's view when it is finished.

I then pondered the cost of infrastructure for cycling done properly and not surprisingly, a proper job is magnitudes more than paint'n'logos and I had another pop at the ridiculous costs for High Speed 2.

Next, I asked followers to sign the petition to Get Britain Cycling which needed 100,000 to be considered for a debate in Parliament, but as you will see later, they pooped themselves and had a debate anyway. 

Sustrans' CEO, Malcolm Shepherd, receiving the award.
Image from Sustrans.
I also asked for people to vote for the Sustrans Connect 2 project in the National Lottery Awards 2013 (which it won!), despite my vested interest as a volunteer and being involved in one of the 80 or so schemes. We later found out that Connect 2 has helped open up many more opportunities for walking and cycling.

Depression descended again at the end of June with the Government's publication of it's flashback to the 1980's roads building programme"Investing in Britain's Future" did not mention cycling or walking at all and for roads, it was all about "yet to be published" DfT crystal ball gazing traffic growth data which has been wrong (massive overestimates) for decades. But a glimmer of positivity was funding to try and clear a chunk of our huge highways maintenance backlog. Oh, I had another pop at HS2.

July started with a trip to the Transport Research Laboratory to play with cyclist traffic signals as part of the work TRL was doing for TfL in trialling lots of things which could improve cycling infrastructure in the UK.

After yet another cyclist death on London's Roads, I looked at a detailed redesign of a junction on the A11 at Aldgate and the need to keep through traffic on the main road network. This junction was on a route I regularly take into the City (for leisure), but I tried a parallel route, Cycle Superhighway 3, which gave me some good ideas and was paradise compared to CS2! But, I did find out that CS3 was pretty much a rebrand of some good ideas already there and there was even a single frame on Google Streetview to prove it!

The red mist descended at the end of July where I responded to Eric Pickles' (Communities Secretary) idea to let people park on double yellow lines to revitalise town centres. My goodness, he must be stuck in the 1980s with Arthur Daley!

August started with the Prudential RideLondon FreeCycle which had 8 miles of the City and Westminster closed with thousands of people cycling in complete safety. What I didn't mention at the time was Ranty Junior came with me and we cycled to the start via CS3 in safety (sadly it was bikes in the car to get to Barking though).

I then went back to the TRL a couple of days later to play with a bus stop bypass for cyclists (or floating bus stop) and had a quick compare with other European treatments. There were a couple of very helpful comments left on that post - part of the purpose of this blog is for me to learn stuff as well as rant!

Towards the middle of August I looked forward to the London Cycling Campaign's Space for Cycling ride planned around Parliament to coincide with a debate of the All Party Parliamentary Cycling Group's "Get Britain Cycling" report. 

I also took part in one of the Pedal on UK Rides with Sustrans over the summer which celebrated the Connect 2 project. Pedal on UK will ended at Glasgow on Saturday (7th September) with a festival celebrating the completion of the Bridge to Nowhere!

It was then I posted my deeply important critique on kerbs which brings me full circle. But, wait, there is more as the summer wasn't quite over (and it seems to still be here so far this week!).

On Monday evening, I blasted into Central London to join the LCC Space for Cycling protest. Despite the sun in my face all the way in and the horrible traffic along CS2, I was early and was worried about the few people there. But, by the time we moved off just after 18:30, there were thousands of us, many wearing red; LCC red!

Space for Cycling was a joy which rivalled the FreeCycle, except this was no leisure ride. People on bikes of all different shapes, sizes and ages (and not only the bikes) had turned out. It was not a sea of hi-vis (I even switched to a red cycle shirt for the night), just normal people wanting to cycle. I did chicken out and got the train home and crashed out following Twitter on the Parliamentary debate where around 100 MPs of all partied endorsed the APPCG's report - looks like the Government is falling behind public and now political opinion!

So, my thoughts about where we will be at the end of next summer?

The extension to Cycle Superhighway 2 between Bow and Stratford will have been operational for a few months and there will be plenty of comments about it. I will give it the engineer's eye at some point and I predict that there will be flaws, but there will also be calls to extend it properly into the City - perhaps it will link to CS3?

We will know the result of the London borough elections which will be held in May 2014. I wonder if the national mood will be reflected locally and just how safe are the Lib Dem and Conservative councils, especially in outer-London and also Westminster. Of course, Labour needs to take cycling (and indeed walking) seriously too - an interesting time (for me at least!).

I think it is also pretty certain that the London Cycling Campaign will be gearing up for London-wide and local protest action in the run up to the borough elections. Given enough notice, thousands will turn up as this week showed.

We will have had another RideLondon festival which may well need to cover a larger area of Central London to fit in those wishing to ride traffic-free streets and perhaps we may get some safe feeder routes this time.

Closer to home, I will continue to blog technical posts to try and spark some debate and get inspiration for the day job. I will probably still work on schemes I don't like, but as a professional, I need to remain impartial and give balanced advice - but, things are slowly changing for better it seems.

Who knows, I may have even undertaken a study tour across the North Sea, as after a half-joke in the office, even some of my car-centric colleagues didn't laugh - they were interested? Just need to convince somebody to fund it - what do you say, Boris?

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