Archive for the ‘Transport’ category

A40 Corridor Consultation

November 6th, 2015

SWLeafLogoNewThe bottom line? More information required.

Sustainable Witney is worried about the quality of decision making on such an important topic and is requesting more information to come to an informed decision.

You may wish to do the same. You have until Sunday 8th November to respond to the consultation.

Sustainable Witney’s response in full:

FAO: Oxfordshire County Council

 

Response to Investing in the A40 Consultation 6 Nov 2015

 

Sustainable Witney strongly supports further investigation into the train and tram options for relieving congestion along the A40 Corridor.

 

Oxfordshire County Council has raised some interesting options for discussion, but has not provided enough information to make an informed decision on what will be the best longterm solution. No figures are given for the potential of each option to move people from their origins to their destinations in the future. Also, the consultation might be more accurately titled “Investing in the A40 Corridor” rather than just the A-road itself.

 

Sustainable Witney is concerned that OCC commissioned an engineering feasibility study into a dual carriageway between Witney and Oxford without properly investigating the potential of the other options too. This gives the impression that OCC has already decided what the longterm solution will be.

 

Sustainable Witney is dismayed that West Oxfordshire District Council has decided to support the dual carriageway as the longterm solution while stating that it does not support the train or tram options at all. There simply is not enough information at this stage to form such a conclusion. Again, it gives the impression that the longterm solution has already been chosen.

 

OCC and WODC recently backed a road solution in Witney which has cost the county and the district dearly in terms of legal costs, lost funding, lost officer time, and a depressing delay in resolving congestion within the town. We desperately need better, rigorous, evidence based decision making in the future.

 

The West Oxfordshire Local Plan 2031 gives anticipated housing delivery in the Witney and Carterton areas as 3,685 and 2,571 respectively.

 

  • What effect will that have on congestion in the towns themselves?
  • What effect would a dual carriageway east of Witney have on travel behaviour within those areas?
  • What effect could a light rail system have on travel behaviour within the towns and to Oxford and beyond?
  • What are the public health implications (something the district council is now responsible for) of locking the communities along the A40 corridor into a future of road based travel?

We are grateful to OCC for opening this conversation, now please let us have a thorough discussion.

 

Brigitte Hickman
Chair, Sustainable Witney

Woodford Mill Lighting Petition

September 24th, 2015

WitneyBUGBadge2014If you haven’t seen it or signed it yet you have until tomorrow to add your name to the petition calling for solar lighting on Woodford Mill meadow.

Better still, do it now!

The path from West End to Mill Street has an unlit section of 100m which makes the path unusable for many people – personal security is a major issue here in the winter, as is running into people or being run into by people you can’t see and who can’t see you.

Whether you walk or bike, be part of the change and sign today!

 

Witney Bus Services Threatened

September 12th, 2015

Version 2

The following bus services serving Witney are under threat: 18, 19, 213, 214, 215, 233, V1, V24, V26, X9 and X15.

From the Bus Users Oxford website

“Nearly 10% of buses in Oxfordshire rely on County Council subsidy. The County intends to reduce or end subsidies from June 2016. Its “preferred option” is to end all subsidised buses in peak hours, evenings and Sundays. But it is also considering an option to end all subsidised buses, including off-peak Monday to Saturday services.”

If you or a relative rely on any of these buses and would like to see them continue you have tomorrow and Monday to let Oxfordshire County Council know why that service is important to you.

You’ll find an online form to give your response towards the bottom of this consultation page.

Yet Another Proposed Crossing in Bridge Street

July 19th, 2015

Give or take a day or two, it’s precisely a year since we last wrote about a proposed zebra crossing in Bridge Street, and here we are again writing about another one.

 AnotherProposedCrossingInBridgeSt

Last year’s consultation resulted in a decision to go ahead with that crossing – sitting midway between the newsagent and the decorating merchant – in October 2014. The report summarising the scheme cost, proposed position of that crossing, along with the pros and cons, can be found here, and the minutes from the meeting where the decision was made can be found here, including this statement concerning funding:

“Addressing comments received regarding timing of this scheme in relation to other major projects in Witney such as Shores Green and the West End Link [an officer of OCC] advised that as neither scheme had been confirmed delivery was therefore open ended. As a result the 30,000 vehicle daily flow on Bridge Street would remain suggesting a strong case for a scheme to come forward now rather than wait for major schemes to come forward.  Funding for this scheme was available until 2017 and as no decision on other major infrastructure would be taken before then any delay beyond then would mean the finance would be lost.  Also there was no guarantee that other major schemes would significantly reduce flows.”

Apart from the odd way this item appears to be being dealt with (the decision was never subject to a ‘call in’ – item 17 of Overview and Scrutiny Procedure Rules) you might be forgiven for thinking that the new proposal is in addition to the original crossing because the S106 funding put aside for this is £115k according to page 61 of the local Infrastructure Delivery Plan – we could have two zebras for the price of what was presumably put aside for a signal controlled crossing. (The priority and timescale column may need updating from ‘2014-2019′ to 2014-2017’ given the above statement on funding.)

Page61WOIDP

However, the consultation letter circulated to key stakeholders and local residents makes it clear this is an either/or choice:

“This is an alternative location to the one which was consulted upon last year which provided a link between the Newsagents and Otters Court / Mill Lane. However, due to the level of response in opposition to the crossing at this location, this new location is now being considered.

To help us make a decision whether or not to proceed with this proposal, all comments would be much appreciated both for and against.”

So what are the merits of a crossing on the bridge itself at the very southwestern end of Bridge Street?

Without a similar arrangement across the Mill Street arm, which is also difficult to cross and used more often, it seems beneficial but insufficient in itself for the current and potential pedestrian activity at that location. We note that the Infrastructure Delivery Plan mentions a future ‘refuge’ to make crossing Mill Street slightly easier, however, given the County’s and the District’s fine words on encouraging walking in Witney, we would expect to see a zebra crossing there too. That would get us almost all the way to our proposal for that end of the street which we laid out in last year’s post.

With a pedestrian friendly Mill Street crossing, and as an addition to a crossing at the northeastern end of Bridge Street, how could anyone object to this proposal? Unfortunately, that is not what is being offered here – it’s either this or the proposal from last year. We understand that a zebra crossing adjacent to the mini-roundabout at the Newland/West End junction was considered but discarded in favour of last year’s proposal, so there are no other possible sites on offer for this single, pedestrian friendly crossing in Bridge Street. We also understand that there are no new grounds for objections to the original crossing proposal approved last year.

The consultation results will be considered and a decision made on this new crossing proposal on 3rd of September. If you have a view as a current or future pedestrian on the relative merits between these two crossings in Bridge Street, you have until this Friday 24th July to let the County know. We suggest you send it to the same contact address given here for last year’s consultation.

And finally, Sustainable Witney would like to say thank you to everyone at OCC involved in trying to come up with a viable solution to crossing this most contentious of streets in Witney. It’s much appreciated.

Crosstown Route Ride

January 24th, 2015

WitneyBUGBadge2014Meeting at the corner of Burford Road and Deer Park Road (near West Witney Sports Ground) at 1pm on Sunday 25th January for a gentle pootle across Witney.

This is joint ride with local councillors to identify what needs to be done to create the first safe signed route across Witney between the existing cycle paths on the Burford Road and Oxford Hill.

There’ll be a short discussion of the options before riding the route across town from Sustrans NCN 57 to the cycle paths on the corner of Oxford Hill and Jubilee Way that lead to Eynsham/Oxford and Long Hanborough.

Organised by WitneyBUG and Sustainable Witney.

Community path petition handover

September 22nd, 2014

Hands up who would like a safe, off-road walking/cycling route between Eynsham and Botley. If you put your own hand up, you’re in good company; 4,000 people have signed a petition created by local group Bike Safe for a path running between Eynsham and Botley, via Farmoor. At the moment, cyclists have to use th B4044, which means sharing a single-track road with double-decker buses.

Eynsham to Botley is only 5km, a comfortable cycling distance, but many people are put off by the density and speed of the traffic (the speed limit is 50mph). So they get in their cars, contributing to the motorised traffic on the road, which contributes to putting off potential cyclists, and so on. That vicious circle could be ended by the provision of a safe, convenient alternative route. That’s why the B4044 community path campaigners will be handing over their 4,000-signature petition to Councillor Ian Hudspeth on Wednesday (24th September).

Cllr Hudspeth will be cycling from Eynsham to Hill End Centre before the petition is formally handed over. The campaigners are looking for as many people as possible to escort him and show support for the campaign. All are welcome. The ride will assemble at the junction of Orchard Road and Eynsham Road at 2pm before riding to Hill End. The ride should only take five minutes (see route). They still need at least 30 more cyclists to make the escort really special – can you join them? If so, please email hannahenmaarten@gmail.com as soon as possible.

Proposed Crossing in Bridge St

July 17th, 2014

Oxfordshire County Council Consultation: Bridge Street, Witney – Proposed Zebra Crossing

In 2003 three crossings were identified and proposed along Bridge Street in the ‘Witney Integrated Transport and Land Use Strategy’, none of which were ever realised, although a pelican crossing in the centre of Bridge Street was consulted on and rejected: possibly because of local objections to the removal of the small amount of available parking there; possibly because of fear of stop-start traffic movements adversely affecting air quality (Bridge Street is one of West Oxon’s two Air Quality Management Areas, the other is in Chipping Norton).

In 2010 the Living Streets Group met to put together a practical proposal to make Bridge Street and the junctions at either end more pedestrian friendly which consisted of zebra crossings at the North end…

BridgeStreetNorthProposed

…and at the South end…

BridgeStreetSouthProposed

Through the West Oxon Sustainable Transport Forum the group were made aware of the Complementary Traffic Measures Study which proposed a number of changes to make the centre of Witney more walkable and bike-able as part of the Cogges Link Road plans and which referred back to the consultation for the pelican crossing:

6.2.12
The consultation suggested three potential crossing locations to several businesses and residents living in the vicinity of Bridge Street. There was strong opposition from local residents to a pedestrian crossing on Bridge Street, with increased vehicle emissions, disruptions to traffic flow and a perceived increase in noise being cited. Recommendations offered by residents included a zebra crossing at either end of Bridge Street, on approach to the junctions with Mill Street and Newland. The report recommended further public consultation and advised new proposals to implement a pedestrian crossing on Bridge Street that would gain local support.

Well, we all know what happened to the CLR, but the Complementary Traffic Measures are just as relevant with the Shores Green Slip Roads and this latest zebra crossing proposal seems to be taken from its recommendations:

Pedestrian Facilities – Bridge Street Recommendations
24. Provide a pedestrian crossing within the existing desire line.
25. Retain parking spaces.

Now, eleven years after the Witney Integrated Transport Strategy, this is the position of the 2014 proposed zebra crossing:

BridgeStreetCrossing2014

It’s not clear how the desire line has been arrived at. Perhaps it’s the point where those people that do cross feel it’s become safe enough to do so when heading into town, or when coming from the Aquarius development in the bottom left of the picture. Given the length of time it’s taken to get another proposal for a crossing on the table it would be ridiculous to oppose it, but it doesn’t resolve the problems at either end of the street for people whose desire lines run elsewhere.

So we say yes to this crossing, but yes to more crossings at the junctions.

In the meantime, problems for people in West End and beyond using the S1 and S2 services could be eased by not forcing them to walk all the way up the hill on Newland to/from the Oxford bound Staple Hall stop.

It’s probably not common knowledge but the National Transport Data Repository gives locations for two bus stops in Bridge Street. If the Oxford bound stop were implemented now, before OCC have finally delivered viable alternatives for the 30,000 vehicles travelling through Bridge Street daily, many people could be saved an unnecessarily long walk. So how about activating one of the bus stops in Bridge Street too?

Don’t forget to respond by 25th July to the Oxfordshire County Council Consultation: Bridge Street, Witney – Proposed Zebra Crossing

Connecting the Dots

July 6th, 2014

EthanolFour years into Oxfordshire’s transport strategy and here we are embarking on another multi-stage consultation for Local Transport Plan 4. The official reasoning makes a case for it but can the goals and objectives of a strategy covering two decades really have changed so much that it warrants starting from scratch? We’ll be taking a look at the detail following tomorrow’s Connecting Oxfordshire meeting (7pm, Mon 7th July, Henry Box School).

Connecting Oxfordshire conjures up the idea of places joined together, settlement to settlement, Carterton to Witney, Witney to Oxford, but that’s only one level of local transport. The hyperlocal is at least as important – how we move around within settlements – and it’s the one we consistently fail to make more efficient, pleasant and healthy. Travelling along better local transport links is one part of the solution, not having to sit in 15 minutes of congestion at either end is the other.

The only major road project during four years of LTP3 to be planned, signed-off and (soon to be) built in Witney is the Ducklington Lane junction improvement. It started out with a £2 million budget and a brief to future proof it for a predicted 2030 level of motorised traffic. When the engineering contractor Atkins ran the junction through its capacity modelling software ‘computer said no’; it didn’t have enough lanes for stacking. That’s a technical term for temporarily parking vehicles at a junction so a queue doesn’t back up so far that it adversely effects the next junction upstream.

DucklingtonLaneJunctionWestApx5

(Edited to update diagram to Option A4 in Annex 5)

What to do? Quite a large area around the junction is deemed highway land and during a site visit Atkins’ engineer noticed the B&Q corner “doesn’t go anywhere” (the business park being hidden behind a very large hedge) so no crossings or pavement to it would be required. That was a boon to a modeller of motor traffic because it meant:

  • the pavement removal would give more space for traffic lanes,
  • more time could be retained for traffic movements.

Stacking traffic is only part of the equation for a signalised junction, there also needs to be a enough time available to clear the stack during each light sequence so a growing remainder doesn’t back up over time. Adding a proper Toucan crossing to reach B&Q would scupper the junction’s maximum capacity in the traffic model.

BikesAtBandQPathToBandQ

Despite bikes being regularly parked at B&Q, and people beating paths through the bushes to it, the traffic counts showed low numbers of people walking and cycling on the western arm of the junction, supporting the removal of the pavement along with the potential to cross there. If you’ve tried it you’ll know why; it’s relatively risky and far from pleasant. It’s so unpleasant and off-putting in fact, a sympathetic observer might conclude that the people counts ought to be multiplied by a factor of about 100 to take that into account. Traffic models can’t empathise neither can they model people walking or cycling.

During the consultation bike users requested better access which resulted in a 2m shared path along Thorney Leys to an informal pedestrian crossing, with a refuge, to Thorney Leys Business Park. Oxfordshire County Council could not provide an official, safe and convenient bike route for the employees and visitors to B&Q and the rest of the businesses there. ‘Encouraging’ people to cycle and relieve congestion doesn’t yet stretch to giving them a place to do it.

I don’t think we’ll get another chance to put that right for a very long time and this corner of Witney will continue to be cut off from the bike network for now, and will remain so when the junction eventually starts to operate at its designed capacity in the late 2020s. All that tarmac poured, rolled and marked out, sat there through rain and shine, developing potholes, waiting for that day. Does that sound innovative to you?

So perhaps Ian Hudspeth, the architect of Connecting Oxfordshire, is right, the Local Transport Plan does need a revamp from the top down. I’m not so sure. Cycling and walking were high priorities for all settlement types in LTP3, including Witney, but that had no influence when it came to providing people with a safe and convenient option to cycle to Thorney Leys Business Park. Not considering walking and cycling until after the road layout for the junction was complete was a failure to plan for walking and cycling; good policy made no difference to an old process.

Come along tomorrow and ask Ian how he’s going to fix that for short journeys at the hyperlocal level, as well as for the local transport links to and from Witney.

 

Zebra in Bridge St – Consultation Deadline

July 2nd, 2014

Oxfordshire County Council are consulting on the proposed installation of a Zebra Crossing in Bridge Street.

Consultation closes on 25th July and the results will be published on the 9th of October.

Connecting Oxfordshire & LTP4 – Henry Box

July 1st, 2014

Connecting Oxfordshire meeting, 7pm at Henry Box School, a debate about the future of transport in Oxfordshire.

London to Barcelona, by train, in daylight hours

June 23rd, 2014

TGV, exterior We wrote back in February about the new TGV service from Paris to Barcelona. In early May, Kate and I had a chance to try it out. How was it?

In a word: great. We’ve been doing the journey London–Barcelona (well, Witney to Alcossebre) for a few years now, as my parents live out that way. Over a year ago, Kate blogged about the sleeper train options then available, and while we’ve always loved the sleeper, the TGV will now have an extra-special place in our hearts!

We still recommend Loco2 for booking trains, and The Man in Seat 61 for information about European rail in general, but specifically crossing Paris to make the connections. But there are other options, as we detailed previously, and hopefully the information below should also help to take some stress out of the journey for you, leaving the pleasure of the TGV behind.

(Witney to) London

Eurostar singles can be £35 per person, far enough in advance. Note that you need to plan to leave London early, to get the 2pm (Paris time) TGV. We opted to stay over in London with family, so as to comfortably make an 0830 Eurostar. Tracking back, you’d probably want to leave Witney on the first bus of the morning, at around 0545, to get an 0630 train and across London in good time for an 0800 check-in.

If you buy a “London International” train ticket from Oxford—you need to produce your Eurostar tickets at purchase and on demand during travel—then you’ll have at least some options if you miss a connection and it’s not your fault, under the international conditions of carriage (CIV). This ticket also includes an onward tube connection to anywhere in Zone 1: so Paddington to St Pancras, depositing you just below the Eurostar terminal and the signposting is pretty good up to the check-in desks.

Across Paris

You’ll need to change from Gare du Nord to Gare de Lyon (not Gare d’Austerlitz, where the sleeper is.) For this, you have to use the RER-D rather than the metro-5. They both leave from similar locations—under the GdN concourse—but the RER is a bit further to go, at both ends. Also, at GdL, you have to keep climbing, as it has several floors. Look for “Acces Grande Lignes”, and the station layout maps here might help.

Seat 61 is brilliant on this change. The best bit? A video of the 20-minute journey, edited down to 2 minutes. Follow his advice and it’s hard to go wrong.

In theory you can do this journey in 20-25 minutes. In practice, leave at least an hour: we left two hours, then had a drink in the Jazz Cafe (under the slightly-too-posh Train Bleu restaurant) and soaked up the atmosphere.

The TGV: Paris to Barcelona

TGV, interior The best bit! The TGVs are like double-decker Eurostars, with loads of space; from the top deck you get an amazing view: the foothills of the Alps around Dijon, the saltwater flats and bays near Narbonne, and the snowy Pyrenees overlooking Perpignan.

The journey was smooth and quiet, the carriages clean and comfortable, and the whole experience somewhat magical. At one point, near Carcassonne, we looked down from our windows to see a village square, peopled with old gentlemen playing petanque in the evening sun!

Single tickets on the TGV can be as cheap as EUR59, but note that the buffet car has a restricted choice of food. So pack snacks, books and water, and before you know it you’ll be in Spain! We left Paris just after 1400, and arrived in Barcelona Sants at 2040: six and a half hours.

Onward travel

At that time of night, there aren’t many local services still running. In the end we took the airport shuttle, where we met our long-suffering parents. It’s something we’re looking into so hopefully there’ll be another update later! If you’re willing to stay a night in Barcelona – no great hardship! – then local services to Benicarlo begin in earnest at 0930.

In total, our journey from door to door was about fourteen or fifteen hours. It sounds a lot compared to a plane flight but once you factor in getting to and from the airports, and going through security, and checking in well in advance, then the journey times start to become comparable. Certainly the train journey, if you leave plenty of time for connections, is much less stress on your body: the holiday starts at St Pancras!

And besides, compared to air travel, European rail is more civilized, welcoming and friendly. Security checks are minimal, packing requirements cursory. Stations and carriages are spacious, and you can get comfy if you’ve small children or mobility problems. You can bring your own food, and almost as much luggage as you can carry: in eight years I’ve never seen the limits enforced. And the lower environmental impact (perhaps 1/20 of flying’s CO2-equivalent emissions) makes journeys more sustainable, helping to secure a future for many more such trips.

Anyway, you should hopefully now have everything you need to plan your own trip. So have a pleasant journey: or is that bon voyage, or even buen viaje?

Two for one entry at Cogges for cyclists this Bike Week

June 16th, 2014

To celebrate Bike Week 2014 (happening this week!) the lovely people at Cogges are offering 2-for-1 entry to the museum and gardens for cyclists, all week.

You and a friend should turn up on site using some kind of bicycle or similar, to take advantage of the offer; I’m reliably informed you don’t actually need to wheel it all the way round the museum! There are bike racks just outside the cafe and shop area; more exciting news about them to follow later….

A new way to save on train fares

May 14th, 2014

Do you do a lot of your rail travel with another person? A new railcard allows you to save money when you travel as a pair. The Two Together railcard gives you a third off train fares – and it´s valid for a much wider area than the Network Railcard.

The person you travel with could be a friend, partner or colleague, but it does have to be the same person every time for the Two Together card to be valid. You both have to sign the card and supply a photo before you can start using it.

Another point to note is that it´s not valid on the morning rush hour (before 9:30am Monday to Friday). But at just 30 pounds it´s still well worth it for frequent train travellers.

Read the terms and conditions or the FAQs for more information.

Licensed ecological surveyors sought

March 26th, 2014

We’ve written before about the fantastic campaign to build a community path between Eynsham and Botley. The proposed path would run alongside the B4044, providing a safer alternative to this busy road for cyclists and pedestrians. A group of determined residents have been working hard to make this project a reality and they’ve just received a funding boost which could mean that construction of the path starts as soon as this summer.

However, the campaign group have been advised that they need to carry out a detailed ecological survey of the area proposed for the path (the grass verge alongside the B4044) in order to find out whether or not there are any rare or protected species living in this area. They are urgently seeking one or two licensed, qualified ecological surveyors to carry out this work. The work has to be done in the spring so would have to be started this week or next week. (If it can’t be started very soon, this could delay the whole project by several months.)

If you are a qualified ecological surveyor, please ring Ian Leggett on 01865 862614. And if you know of someone who might fit the bill, please show them this blog post!

Using a Bike for Short Journeys: Part 3

March 19th, 2014

Following on from Part 2: Parking, pavements and potholes – dealing with the stuff you have little or no control over.

AssenShoppingCentreParking

So, we’ve got our bike, our basket and our lock and we’re stood outside the shop/pub/café/jobcentre looking for the other half of the parking puzzle – a sheffield stand. Even in cycling nirvanas like Amsterdam and Copenhagen there aren’t always enough purpose made stands or suitable pieces of street furniture to go round, so for short term parking their answer is – take your own.

Hang around outside a supermarket or in a café lined square across the north sea and you’ll see bike parking organically expand as people roll up in regular rows, kick down the bike stand and remove their keys from the ‘nurse’s lock’ – quicker than you can park a car with central locking. It works as well in Horsham as it does Groningen…

In the UK the bike stand went the way of the chainguard, mudguard, luggage rack and anything else that made a bike more useful but a little bit heavier – it became another unnecessary accessory for the sleek-lightweight-dream-of-speed and the mud-flinging-all-terrain-two-wheel-tractor. Like so many bike related things, it’s another case of back to the future for the ever so simple but remarkably useful bike stand.

Think of weight as your friend; a sturdy steel bike properly equiped for the short journey is a lot harder to pick up and runaway with. For longterm parking, or just peace of mind, you will need a sheffield stand or equivalent. Don’t have one outside a favourite place? Bike parking is one of the easier infrastructure problems to solve and your local authourity can be very accommodating if you find the right person to talk to. A local bicycle user group can help with that.

Depending where you happen to be in the UK, finding suitable routes to make those short journeys between A and B can be a major headache. If you live alongside the Bristol-Bath bike path the biggest problem you’ll have to contend with is its popularity. If you live alongside an urban motorway it’ll probably involve a journey via Z, and possibly S, H, I, and T too, assuming a reasonable option exists at all. If you were unaware of it until now, it really pains me to have to break it to you that a bike user’s lot is not always the simple, carefree one I’ve painted up to now. It’s an unfortunate fact that using a bike for short journeys in our current environment is very often not as convenient, comfortable and secure as jumping in a car. Unless that is, you break a few rules. Bear with me.

If there’s no reasonable alternative I have no qualms about riding on pavements. For me, walking and pushing my bike at the same time is a far more difficult feat to perform than riding it. My bike is my mobility aid, which when you think about it is the same for everyone, just more of an aid to some than others.

My wife on the other hand never rides on the pavement, she invariably gets off and walks. Her tolerance of unpleasant road environments is also lower than mine so when we’re somewhere new I quite often find I’m riding along talking to myself. When I do, no questions asked, I hop up onto the pavement and we continue at walking pace until we’re past the traffic jam or the nasty junction. We have an understanding.

With PCSOs and NAGs you’ll find the situation is just as black and white but without the understanding. You’ll have to make your own judgement about where it’s reasonable to cycle and where it isn’t. It’ll depend on you and on the particular context you’re in, but on the whole you’ve got a fair chance of being seen as what you are, a human being popping to the shops or doing the school run, rather than the oft cited spawn of the devil dead set on a mission of thoughtless death and destruction.

PoliceBikesYou might like to know the actual law concerning what is and isn’t legal when it comes to riding a bike away from the road, because it’s not as black and white as most people believe, police included, but to be honest it’s quite complicated and difficult to remember. What’ll probably serve you better is something the current Secretary of Transport was reported as saying recently which reiterated guidance from 1999:

“The introduction of the fixed penalty is not aimed at responsible cyclists who sometimes feel obliged to use the pavement out of fear of the traffic, and who show consideration to other pavement users.

“Chief police officers, who are responsible for enforcement, acknowledge that many cyclists, particularly children and young people, are afraid to cycle on the road, sensitivity and careful use of police discretion is required.”

Given it’s such a rare sight these days, it’s heartwarming to think that even chief police officers can picture parents doing their best to shepherd children to school during the morning rush in spite of the best efforts of the DfT and our country’s legislature. However, remember that it’s still at the discretion of the officer on the scene so you may have to agree to disagree, take the fixed penalty notice and then decide what to do about it afterwards.

If cycle training is suggested as a solution and, for example, you’re not riding up the high street because you simply haven’t summoned up the courage to do it yet, then that might be an option you’d find useful. If you’re at the other end of the spectrum and you know how to ride a bike through traffic’s high tide but despite being able to do it you simply don’t want to – perhaps you can think of less scary ways to self harm – then say so.

Just keep in mind that neither you nor the upholder of the law are in a position to fix the cause of the problem on the spot, so a good outcome is making some small headway in acquainting police officers with the notion that using a bike is a legitimate means of transport in a criminally inadequate environment.

PotholesLeaving the pavements and getting back on the road, when the traffic’s not shaking you up a pothole probably will be. The Mayor of London recently discovered a corker on his own roads. Piling into a pothole hiding beneath a puddle, Boris took a tumble and had to retire his trusty steed Old Bikey.

“Now it was dead, killed by – the weather. Yes, amigos, it was slain by the rain.”

It makes an ass of his assonance but London’s Mayor really needs to know that Old Bikey was slain by the rain AND the regular repetitive forces of heavy traffic. Heavy both in number and mass. Old Bikey destroying, injury causing potholes don’t occur on well constructed roads with just bikes on them no matter how much it’s rained. How many potholes do you come across pedalling on the pavement?

In the short term the only thing you can do is report the hole and wait. It could be a long wait – the size of hole that tends to trouble bike users is somewhat smaller than the minimum required to trigger a repair. And it’s likely that as budgets tighten that minimum will increase again, but sit tight, like weeds and beer bellies, potholes always get bigger.

The long term solution has taken a depressingly long time to gain traction in the UK but thankfully for us it’s finally making progress: don’t put bikes in the wheel tracks of heavy vehicles on main roads – put them on a bike path. If you’re using a bike for short journeys, or would dearly love to, you’ll be wanting some space like this to do it in. Sign up here to learn more and when your councillor knocks on your door asking for your vote, ask him what he’s going to do about creating space for cycling where you live.

Not everyone’s on board yet, so if some uber-fit, dazzlingly bright cycling experts on barely equipped bikes should ride up and tell you that you’re doing it wrong, that you don’t need bike paths and that roads already go everywhere you need them to, I suggest you point them to cycling’s sadly unsuccessful pothole campaign and ask them why the AA treat them as a joke.

In part 4 I’ll be taking a look at the attitudes towards, and the expectations of, people using bikes for short journeys.