Archive for the ‘WitneyBUG’ category

Christmas Bike Cafe

December 8th, 2015

Make us your café stop on Sunday 13th December.

Open 10am – 2.30pm Fairspear House, Leafield. OX29 9NY

Delicious hot soup, mulled wine, teas and cakes

We are raising funds for the Witney Bike Project – each pound you spend will be matched by the Phillimore Charitable trust.

For more information contact Kath Cochrane 07729846778 or email

bike cafe poster

Near Miss Project

October 18th, 2015

WitneyBUGBadge2014Do you use a bike? Do you fancy being a small cog in furthering understanding of what it’s like to ride a bike where you are? Sign up with the Near Miss Project to complete a one day diary over the next two weeks and you’ll be providing local data for a national research project.

Using the ‘near miss‘ to analyse and improve safety within a system posing a risk to life began in the american aviation industry during the 70s. Air traffic accidents are rare but usually catastrophic when they occur. By fostering a culture where people can report the more common near misses it’s possible to look at the likely causes of catastrophic events before they actually happen.

As far as I’m aware this, now common, approach to health and safety has never been applied in a road transport setting before. Where it is used it tends to rely on a ‘no blame’ culture to work effectively, which might be an interesting starting point for a discussion on road safety and the hands-off approach of the authorities involved in designing, managing and regulating it.

This is the second year the project has run and one of the main findings from last year is:

“Cycling speed is the main factor affecting near miss rates: those who reach their destination at an average speed of under 8 mph have around three times more near misses per mile compared to those who get there at 12 mph or faster.”

Avoiding the temptation to speculate why that might be the case, it explains why a ‘fast roadie’ and a ‘slow shopper’ often have polar opposite views when it comes to safer cycling – their real world experience and their perceptions of it are significantly different.

Expect to see more insights from the data this year. You don’t have to have a near miss to take part (in fact a long term trend of reduction in the near miss rate ought to be an expected outcome of the DfT’s efforts on improving road safety) but your input is just as valuable.

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!


Wet But Worth It!

June 15th, 2015

PotterToThePottery2015Another Potter to the Pottery completed, and not as wet as predicted with only light drizzle to contend with on our way to Aston and back. The highlight was definitely the cake while we dried out (which my damp phone’s camera did its best to capture).

The promise of thundery showers meant our numbers were much depleted this year but leaders Mike, Stuart and I were joined by Kath, Alastair, Peter, Chloe and Jasper.

We’ll probably run the ride again this year to take advantage of the summer!

Bikeweek2015: Potter to the Pottery

June 7th, 2015

WitneyBUGBadge2014Start at 10am on Saturday 13 June at St Mary’s on Church Green for a gentle ride to Aston for tea and cake; back by 1pm. A fun outing for cyclists of any age and skill along bridle paths and quiet country lanes to an idyllic Oxfordshire village. All welcome!

(Organized by WitneyBUG, Sustainable Witney and Witney Mountain Bike Club)

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.

Carnival Conversations

July 14th, 2014


WitneyBUG’s stall offered some welcome shade during Witney Carnival this weekend while new members signed up and bike users from around the town joined the Space for Cycling conversation.

Common themes were: cycle paths – more of them, better maintained,  joined up, with lighting – “Please can we have all the cycle paths joined up so we can ‘actually’ safely cycle around Witney as a family and to work etc”; Witney to Carterton and Witney to Woodstock routes – “The road from Minster Lovell to Brize Norton scares me!” to which a local driver said “It scares me too!”; and the pothole pandemic – “Beautiful countryside spoilt by potholed roads.”

Twitter’s favourite speech bubble, reaching over 8,800 followers, was from Kizzie aged 10: “I think we should have a bike path on the road.” A visionary, dutch sounding solution from a future transport planner in the making.

GoActiveKMXThere was lot’s of interest in Witney Wheels for All which runs 1st Sunday of the month at the Artificial Turf Pitch; the Wheels4All KMX Karts were on the parade with Witney Mountain Bike Club and proved to be a big hit with the GO Active team on the stall next-door.

If you didn’t have a chance to get to the carnival and you’ve got something to say about using a bike in Witney you can join the conversation in the comments below, on our Facebook page, or using the email address on our webpage.

More importantly, tell your councillors as well. It takes political will, money and design knowledge to produce good conditions for cycling in towns and we need to make our councillors aware of just how important we think it is before they’ll take the next step.

Follow this link to send a letter to your councillor asking them to support Space for Cycling.




Seeing east Witney through different eyes for Bike Week

June 17th, 2014

The Saturday just gone, Witney Bike Users Group kicked off Bike Week 2014 with a cycling infrastructure safari. Leaving from Cogges at 1pm-ish, we meandered round the Cogges, Madley Park and Hailey Road estates, looking at cycling provision and what could be done better.

It was nice seeing familiar areas of the town through new eyes, especially at a genial pace and on such a sunny day. Somewhat less nice was the quality of the provision out there—the Cogges cycle racks hidden in bushes, the blocking metal gates and bollards that prevent any non-standard-size cycle or use of cycle trailers—but it was still cheering to start to see how cycling was starting to tie up across east Witney: from the bottom of Church Lane, there’s a continuous (if road-crossing) cycle track all the way up Madley Brook to join up with the Woodstock pavement path, which some of us hadn’t really appreciated before. Also, almost incidentally, our guide Kevin introduced us to a remarkable cafe: easy to get to, but hidden in deepest, darkest Elmfield….

All in all it was a great afternoon out, much more fun than you’d imagine from looking at cycling provision – plus we’ll get some great, useful information out of it to present to the council(s) and hopefully improve such future trips, both for idle flâneurs like ourselves but also for people simply wanting to get places.

BikeWeek2014: Potter to the Pottery

June 5th, 2014

WitneyBUGBadge2014Start at 10am on Saturday 21 June at St Mary’s on Church Green for a gentle ride to Aston for tea and cake; back by 1pm. A fun outing for cyclists of any age and skill along bridle paths and quiet country lanes to an idyllic Oxfordshire village. All welcome!

(Organized by WitneyBUG, Sustainable Witney and Witney Mountain Bike Club)

BikeWeek2014: Infrastructure Safari

June 4th, 2014

WitneyBUGBadge20141pm Saturday 14 June starting at Cogges Farm Museum. A slow ride looking at the cycle infrastructure of North and East Witney. Several stops along the way to make observations finishing back at Cogges Cafe to discuss improvements we’d like to see for bike users in Witney.

(Organized by WitneyBUG and Sustainable Witney)

Making Space for Cycling

May 21st, 2014

The most common question we hear at a WitneyBUG stall is: “Where can I take my children cycling?”

On Saturday, hosted by Caterham at the technical centre, Cycle Leafield attracted over 130 children to a closed road afternoon of cycling. Of course it’s not only children and their parents who want some space to use a bike. Wouldn’t it be nice if that space were on your doorstep and continued to the shops, to the schools and to work?

If you think so too please take a moment to ask your councillor to back the call to make Space for Cycling in and around Witney.


Upcoming events: energy efficiency, cycle users and swap shop

March 31st, 2014

This is just a quick reminder of three Sustainable Witney-related events happening this week:

Something for everyone this week! Kind of. But you should put those in your diary if you haven’t already; and if you want to be kept abreast of local and related meetings and news, you should definitely register for the Sustainable Witney website. In return you’ll email notifications of our posts.

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.


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.

Using a Bike for Short Journeys: Part 2

September 15th, 2013

[UaBfSJ Part 1]

BasketLights, locks and luggage – how to match your bike to your life and make it at least as convenient as the alternatives…

In the mid-noughties I spent a year living and working in a german town just north of Nuremberg. Even for Germany it’s quite a special place from the point of view of cycling and at that time had a modal share of 33%, meaning a third of all journeys in the town were being made by bike. One of the first things to strike me, other than the bikes when I strayed onto the cycle path, was the sight of men riding bikes with baskets. Years of social conditioning caused my cultural compass to spin everytime I saw a basket not paired with the fairer sex. What was it all about?

Convenience. The human/bike interface managed with a minimum of fuss by dropping any loose paraphernalia into the basket at the beginning of a journey and hooking it out again at the end. Plenty of cyclists that I recognised as ‘normal for the UK’ commuting longer distances, or perhaps regularly touring at the weekends and in the holidays, were using Ortlieb panniers but they were in the minority. For the various local jaunts that take from five to fifteen minutes, attaching, detaching and lugging around an expensive cycle specific luggage system appeared to be more of a hinderance than a help.

The basket is simple and versatile. Whatever you’re leaving the house with (bag, jacket, library books), whatever you’re coming back with (bread, eggs, beer) can all be dropped into this open access universal storage solution. Whether it’s wicker, wire, wood or even a plastic crate advertising a reassuringly manly beer brand, once firmly attached to the bike it’s unlikely to get nicked.

Poor security, or just the fear of things being pinched, is another barrier to regular bike use. Even for those that persevere, what seems like a sensible value-for-money solution can turn into a royal PITA if you can’t rely on it being on the bike when you return. Lights are a prime example of this.

BikeLightBecause lights aren’t always needed they’re generally considered an accessory. Someone who begins cycling over the summer months might not find themselves on a bike after dark until September and even then it’s probably occasional. If the lights will rarely be used why not get the cheapest? It’s silly to spend more on something you hardly use, right? That line of reasoning usually leads to detachable battery powered lights which although they’ve been chosen because they’re cheaper, it doesn’t mean having them nicked is OK so they’re never left on the bike.

This works for some people – tidy people with perfect memories and predictable lives. If you’re the kind of person who forgets to go to the loo before setting out on a long journey, can’t remember where you last saw your passport, or can’t predict when you’ll next be out beyond sunset, this will be the beginning of a series of infuriating fumbles in the dark that you failed to put a price on in the shop.

The first time you’ll need them they’ll be in the kitchen draw, the next time in your other bag, the fourth or fifth time the batteries will be flat and if you were organised enough to buy a spare pack (and remembered to bring them with you) you’ll drop the front light trying to clip the battery cover back on, in the rain, simultaneously cracking the case and breaking the switch that turns it on.

It’s not the end of the world, it’ll only take 30 minutes or so to push the bike home, less if you ride all the way on the pavement, but still plenty of time to reflect on the money you saved and what you did with it.

The alternative is to accept that you’re fallible and you’d like some lights that aren’t. Bike lights have improved dramatically in recent years and the combination of a hub dynamo and a quality front and rear LED light can be relied upon from one year to the next without the hassle of batteries or blown bulbs. Consistent illumination at the flick of a switch, automatic even, continuing for several minutes when stopped at junctions. I’ve never had dynamo lights stolen from a bike and I don’t know anyone else that has. They’re secure and convenient.


Cardiff (from Cyclestreet’s photomap)

Emerging from a shop to find someone’s walked off with your wheels isn’t. Not only will you have to walk home you’ll have to carry the bike as well as the shopping. More often than not this’ll be down to a glorious gift from the world of cyclesport; the quick release lever.

In cycle racing punctures are inevitable. Rolling resistance and weight are the key parameters when choosing racing tyres so the focus shifts to managing the flat when it happens. With a team car or a sacrificial domestique on hand to provide Sir Wiggo and Froome Dog with replacement wheels, the QR lever gets them back in the race within a few seconds.

For our ten minute trip to the library there’s little to be gained by arriving 30 seconds ahead of schedule and unless you’re the leader of a political party with a chauffeur in tow you’re unlikely to have instant access to a spare wheel. In our world, the real world, the primary goals are avoiding punctures in the first place and hanging on to our wheels. This is best achieved by purchasing a pair of the virtually puncture-proof Marathon Plus tyres from Schwalbe and steering clear of quick release wheels. That’s not to say there aren’t bike thieves out there with spanners, but you’ll have lengthened the odds by not making it so ridiculously easy for them.

Those odds will shorten considerably again if you leave your bike parked somewhere for several days though. The peace-of-mind solution for minimising your losses is a decent D-lock stored on the bike so it’s there when you need it. But bike parking’s not just about big locks. There’s a whole other side to the equation that we have little or no control over and I’ll be lumping that together with the other stuff that lurks beyond the garden gate in part 3.

Others have cracked this nut in the UK. A D-lock tucked into a back pocket for pinning a colour coordinated front wheel to its partner with lights attached to a messenger bag. That works too. Not a lifestyle choice most of the public will ever make, and a different MO to the one I’m advocating, but taken in the round it fits the profile of those who regularly make their local journeys by bike. A hipster roaming around Hackney and a vicar’s wife dropping off cakes to the WI share the key to short journeys – no matter where they’re going, their bike suits their clothes.

What About Us?

August 14th, 2013

NewInvestmentInCyclingUpTo2015Our Dave appeared to be promising us new cricket pitches for fracking this week – if we want them – but was far less generous with his announcement of cash for cycling. The nearest it gets to us is Oxford; precisely where OCC currently spends most of the county’s minuscule bike budget.

The new investment is being focussed, which is good, otherwise the (very approximately) £150 million over two years would be spread so thinly it wouldn’t stretch to an innertube each.

A direct comparison with investment to improve motor vehicle infrastructure shows us just how seriously the treasury takes cycling. If Dave were to pace out the road investment from his constituency office in the High Street to the threatened post office in Market Square, he would have used up his bike budget after the first two steps.

If he jumped on his bike and tried riding back on a Friday afternoon he’d be stuck in the traffic jam with all the motor vehicles trying to exit the centre because there’s no space for cycling. That’s why his constituents are all sat in cars. The only way it could be made worse is if the Pickle’s double yellow parking plan were implemented, bringing the High Street to a complete standstill.

It can be difficult to tell the difference between big numbers – millions, billions, zillions, squillions – so let’s look at the £1.4 million figure announced for Oxford. It happens to be almost identical to the sum being spent on the Ducklington Lane junction improvements. If you’ve looked at the junction proposal you’ll be aware that there is NO bike access planned to either the Thorney Leys Business Park or to Avenue One off Station Lane. It’s as if money put aside for road improvements can’t be spent on rectifying the historical lack of space allocated to cycling.

Dave has a solution to that – investment in ‘cycle proofing’ designs for trunk road junctions – which is good, but as described wouldn’t apply to the Ducklington Lane improvements.

I’ll leave you with Dave’s words because they’re far more positive and inspiring than what I can see being provided for Witney’s bike users. Why not ask him what he’s doing for his West Oxon constituents?

“Following our success in the Olympics, the Paralympics and the Tour de France, British cycling is riding high – now we want to see cycling soar. Our athletes have shown they are among the best in the world and we want to build on that, taking our cycling success beyond the arena and onto the roads, starting a cycling revolution which will remove the barriers for a new generation of cyclists.

“This government wants to make it easier and safer for people who already cycle as well as encouraging far more people to take it up and business, local government, developers, road users and the transport sector all have a role to play in helping to achieve this.”

On the bright side, I imagine we’re far more likely to see money invested here for cycling than fracking.