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Our children’s freedom is compromised by lack of transport choice

Today my local paper have published a brief opinion piece about how our children’s freedom is compromised by lack of transport choice. I wrote it after being inspired by work from Judith and David Hembrow of The Campaign for Childhood Freedom and The Cycling Embassy of Great Britain.

I hope you agree with the sentiment.

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Source: The Cycling Embasy of Great Britain

It’s hard to dispute that children today have less freedom than their parents did when they were young.

Surveys show that parents now fear traffic more than “stranger danger” and say that it is the main reason they are reluctant to let their children play outside. We do have relatively low road casualty rates in Sheffield but at a great cost – our children have lost their freedom.

Children aren’t allowed to play or travel on their streets independently because of road danger. Respiratory illnesses like asthma are on the rise, obesity levels are increasing and children have fewer opportunities to socialise.

Children’s freedom and independence is restricted by their parents’ understandable fear of traffic. We can’t judge parents for trying to take the best care of their children in the environment we live in, but it doesn’t have to be like this.

We should look to our neighbours in The Netherlands for inspiration. They have made their towns and cities safe and welcoming for children. More than 90% of children ride a bike to secondary school and the average age for independent travel to school on foot or by bike is 8.6 years old! They have achieved this by tackling the cause of the problem rather than removing the victims.

This change in attitude came about 40 years ago after Dutch parents protested following a sharp rise in road deaths and injuries as car travel increased. They called for the streets to be made safe as part of the “Stop De Kindermoord” (“Stop child murder”) protests.

The result was incredible, many roads were closed to through traffic and an extensive network of cycle-paths were built. Bike use which had been in decline started to rise as people gained confidence in going out on their bikes with their children, and sending them out on their own. Their children now have a degree of freedom which children in Sheffield no longer experience. UNICEF consistently rates Dutch children as having the best well-being of all the world’s children.

Can you imagine cycling to school with your children, let alone allowing them to walk or cycle unsupervised?

Our streets can be scary places and are definitely not somewhere you’d want your child to cycle if you had a choice. For those that want to cycle but are unwilling to ride with fast or heavy traffic, normally the only alternative is a longer, much less convenient route on backstreets which often doesn’t even take you where you need to go. The only realistic choice for most parents is to take the car rather than the bike. The biggest losers from this are our children.

We need to transform Sheffield into a place where people of all ages are free to walk or ride a bike without being fearful, without sacrificing convenience. We need to make it the obvious choice.

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National Cycle Network in Sheffield – Increasing HGV traffic with no provision for cycling

If Sheffield is serious in its plans to get more people cycling then National Cycle Network routes need to be protected from heavy industrial traffic. Planning applications which increase traffic levels on designated cycling routes need to be rejected if they fail to incorporate adequate protection for cyclists.

Some time ago I wrote about a National Cycle Network route in Sheffield which was under threat from industrial development.

Today we hear that planning permission has been granted for the doubling in size of a recycling facility which will significantly increase the level of HGV traffic through the area.

Clay Wheels Lane - This child has chosen to cycle on the footway.
Clay Wheels Lane – This child has chosen to cycle on the footway.

HGV traffic along the NCN route will rise from 16 articulated lorries (30 tonne) and 18 rigid lorries (24 tonne) per day to 36 articulated lorries and 41 rigid lorries per day. There is no cycle infrastructure or alternative route for people cycling.

There is no mention of the adjacent National Cycle Network route in the planning application even though it has been identified as one in the Sheffield Local Plan Planning Policy (below). The access road on which the cycle route runs is described in the Transport Assessment as

3.6. Claywheels Lane is a two lane single carriageway road that serves a number of industrial premises used by goods vehicles. The junction with the A61 is currently subject to turning restrictions but the junction is being remodelled as part of an adjacent Sainsbury’s store development.
3.7. There is one other route to the site via Limestone Cottage Lane. However this road contains a low arched bridge with restricted headroom of only 10’ 6” which precludes its use by any delivery vehicles.

Clay Wheels Lane

The 3 objections pointing out the impact on the cycling route seem to have been ignored. The only mention of traffic safety in the decision notice is a requirement to have car parking approved by the local authority before the expansion happens.

Sorry NCN users, you’re going to have to share the road with more HGV traffic for now.

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Removed – Sheffield’s most dangerous cycle facility

About a year ago I highlighted a problem with a new cycle facility in Sheffield. A cycle lane which allows cyclists to turn right at a normally left turn only junction.

This video shows the problem, there just isn’t enough space for a large vehicle and a bicycle to use each lane at the same time.

Scheme Layout - Cropped and Shaded
Scheme Layout – Cropped and Shaded

This junction was subject to a safety review which found that this part of the design wasn’t safe an needed to be changed. The outcome of this was to change the layout and this finally happened in the past month.

P1090119The chosen solution has been to remove the cycle lane approaching the junction.

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The junction is safer now, but the opportunity has been missed to really improve this junction. There is enough space in the road to narrow the opposing carriageway and move the cycle lane further out – this was an option presented in the road safety audit.

Ideally move the cycle lane northwards so that it enters the island more centrally (i.e. where the current nib of the island is) so that a turning bus does not encroach into it.

But an alternative was offered.

remove all of the on-carriageway parts of the cycle lane altogether but retain the cycle lane through the island

This is the solution that was chosen. If a cycle facility in Sheffield is dangerous, it gets removed rather than fixed.

Of course, there are much better solutions for right turning bicycles. We could have created a segregated cycle track on the inside of the traffic, controlled it via a traffic light and routed bicycle across the junction at the same time as the pedestrian phase. This removes the need to move into the centre of the road to make the right turn. Examples from The Netherlands from Bicycle Dutch are here and here.

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Urban Cycling Guide DVD – Unintentionally highlighting problems with UK city roads

Leeds City Council have commissioned and created a DVD called the ‘Urban Cycling Guide’. You can watch some parts on their YouTube channel.

Urban Cycling Guide DVD
Urban Cycling Guide DVD

It covers how to cycle in a busy urban environment, covering common scenarios like roundabouts, multi lane roads, dual carriageways, side roads, cycle lanes, advanced stop lines and gyratories.

It has been filmed on the roads of Leeds, York and Sheffield by two cyclists with video cameras showing multiple angles. It seems like a very good way to teach good cycling technique. I’d recommend watching it, you’ll certainly get something out of it if you cycle on roads like these.

But the film highlighted to me the problems with cycling on the roads of these three Northern cities.

A frame from the Urban Cycling Guide DVD - You have to make your own space here
A frame from the Urban Cycling Guide DVD – You have to make your own space here

Roads in our country, and especially in cities, have all too often been designed with one objective; carrying high volume, high speed motor vehicle traffic. They’ve been transformed over the past half century from places where people live, work and play to places where the motor vehicle dominates to the detriment of all other uses (walking, cycling & public transport; children, adults &  elderly; playing, socialising & liveability).

To ride a bicycle safely on these roads (the roads in this DVD) you need to use vehicular cycling techniques, be constantly vigilant and take an assertive road position.

This mother and child would be excluded from the roads in this DVD
This mother and child would be excluded from the roads in this DVD – From http://www.cycling-embassy.org.uk

Cycling on these roads is intimidating and therefore those that brave them are predominantly young assertive fast male cyclists. Cycling on UK roads is not inclusive (families, children, elderly) and this must change if cycling is ever to be a realistic choice of transport for most people. The priorities we use when designing our roads needs to fundamentally change. The conflicts between road users need to be dealt with and resolved though better design, if we ignore these conflicts people will be pushed off of the streets through fear, forced into cars, increasing inequality, reducing health and harming the environment.

I fully support campaigns like Love London, Go Dutch, the Cycling Embassy of Great Britain and David Hembrow’s Campaign for Childhood Freedom which push for a fundamental shift in our priorities.

We need to radically rethink the way we think about our streets and design our roads. Cycling will never ever be accessible to all if vehicular cycling on hostile roads is the only way to get around.

As CEoGB says at the top of their webpage, “Cycling for the Rest of Us”.

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National Cycle Network 627 under threat from industrial development

We need to protect existing cycle routes from industrial development and increasing traffic levels if they are to stay safe and be successful. Problems with planning on the Sheaf Valley route have recently come to light, NCN627 could be the next cycle route under threat from conflicting planning policies. Big investment in Peak District National Parks cycling funding could be wasted if we get this wrong.

Clay Wheels Lane and Beeley Wood Lane form part of the National Cycle Network route 627.


View Larger Map

The Clay Wheels Lane section is a key link in a longer route included in the recent Peak District National Park cycle funding bid, the “Little Don Link”

Little Don Link

The section through Clay Wheels Lane is earmarked for industrial development. There is already a new Sainbury’s Supermarket which provides sub-standard cycle facilities and there is an application to double the size of a local recycling depot (13/02199/FUL) which will double of the number of HGVs to the site which use the National Cycle Network road.

The local plan proposals map show this whole area is a priority industrial development site, the lilac colour indicates a “Business Industrial Area”.

Clay Wheels Lane

Sites P00258, P00241 and P00259 are priority sites identified for development of “research and development, light industry and general industry” businesses. Link to online map. These sites are right next to the National Cycle Network.

The map does show that Beeley Wood Road/Clay Wheels Lane cycling route needs improvement however we need to significantly improve upon the standards demonstrated in recent local developments to offset the harm from increased industrial development.

The Sheffield Planning Core Strategy includes a policy actively promoting this area for industrial and business uses as well as increasing volumes of traffic by building a new bridge across the river Don from Middlewood Road.

Policy CS10 – Business and Industry in the Upper Don Valley
Employment uses will be maintained and promoted in the Wadsley Bridge areas, including improvements to access and the local environment.
Industrial and business uses will be promoted in the Upper Don Valley with significant access improvements including bridging the River Don from Middlewood Road.

A bridge over the River Don from Middlewood Road would greatly improve the presently poor access, open up jobs to people living in Stocksbridge and also help to relieve congestion in other parts of the Valley.
Sheffield Planning Core Strategy

We should push for improvements to this section of the route before more development to keep cycling safe and safeguard this National Cycle Network route.

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Will my MP [David Blunkett] attend today’s cycling debate?

I doubt it

David_Blunkett_-8April2010

Early in August I wrote to my local MP David Blunkett asking him to attend today’s debate on cycling in the House of Commons,

I never received a reply. [update – a reply was sent by letter but I’ve been advised that it must have been lost, David is not able to attend]

The least we should expect from our MPs is representation in the House of Commons.

I signed the petition calling for this debate and I expect my representative in Parliament to attend.

Which Sheffield MPs will be attending today’s debate?

David Blunkett: Not attending

Paul Blomfield: Confirmed, yes

Nick Clegg: Unknown

Meg Nunn: Perhaps – if she has time!

Clive Betts: Unknown

Angela Smith: Unknown

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Recycling Money – How the Department for Transport reannounces funding for cycling yet again

Today the Department of Transport have re-announced £42 million of cycling investment previously announced in January, and lay claim to a further £54 million of local council contribution. Be honest with funding and stop re announcing investment.

Today the Government have been making announcements about funding for cycling.

The Prime Minister announces the biggest ever single injection of cash for the country alongside plans to make roads safer for those on two wheels.

£77 million will be divided between Manchester, Leeds, Birmingham, Newcastle, Bristol, Cambridge, Oxford and Norwich, while the New Forest, Peak District, South Downs and Dartmoor will each share a slice of £17 million funding for national parks. With local contributions, the total new funding for cycling is £148 million between now and 2015.

http://www.gov.uk/government/news/government-shifts-cycling-up-a-gear

So, we’ve got £77m, £17m and £148m. What are these figures and is it new money?

The £77m is for the Cycle City Ambition Grant, £30m of this was announced back in January 2013. So an increase of £47m.

The £17m is for National Parks Cycling, £12m of this was also announced back in January 2013. So an increase of £5m.

How about the £148m? This includes all previously announced DfT money, all new DfT money and all local contributions from local authorities (£54m)

Today’s announcement should really focus on the £52m which is new funding.

The Government have done this before, in January 2013

Minister announces record £62 million investment in cycling

http://www.gov.uk/government/news/minister-announces-record-62-million-investment-in-cycling

The real amount of new money made available was £42m, the remaining £20m for The Community Linking Places Fund Tranche 2 and the Dangerous Junctions outside London Fund had already been announced on 28th November 2012.

If you’d like to track these announcements going forwards then keep a tab on my page here: https://www.mattturner.blog/investment-in-cycling/

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Cycling Funding Announcements – Cycle City Ambition Grant and Cycling in National Parks Grants

12/08/2013 – There is an update to this post with more information here.

Tomorrow we’ll see the winning bids for the Cycle City Ambition Grants and Cycling in National Parks grants announced. From the press stories it’s not clear that £42m of this was already announced back in January 2013.

“PM to pump record £80m into cycling

The prime minister will reveal plans to turn three big urban areas into cycling cities as well as investing in a network of bike lanes in two rural areas”

The Times on Sunday, 11/08/2013

The story in The Times describes the Cycle City Ambition and National Parks Cycling grants which were announced in the last “record investment in cycling” in January 2013.

The Times reports that we’ll see investment of £80m, however these two funds only represent £42m of government funding. What is the remaining £38m?

Kaya Burgess points to one of the latter options with a cryptic tweet pointing out that The Times on Sunday story isn’t the full picture.

Whatever happens, I’ll update my page where I track all central government cycle funding announcements.

 

On a local level, tomorrow won’t be very exciting. Sheffield has partnered with the Peak District National Park in Derbyshire in applying for funding for a new link to get people to the Peak District Park.

Sheffield was one of the few cities to not submit a bid for the Cycle City Ambition Grant which I have criticised in the past. This firmly shows that Sheffield has no ambition when it comes to creating better conditions for cycling.

If there are new funds announced tomorrow then Sheffield has made it very clear that it won’t be bidding. They have stated that we have no schemes on the cards and that we’ll have to wait a couple of years before any new schemes ready for bidding.

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Irresponsible and dangerous workmanship on Sheffield tram track replacement

railreplaceweblarge

A few weeks ago I wrote a post about the dangers posed to cycling from tram tracks. I quoted from a Sheffield Council investigation into the safety of cycling around tram tracks. The report mentions the need for good quality road surfaces around tram lines.

In most documents regarding on-street cycle lanes it is specifically recommended that maintenance of the surface should be of primary importance, as cyclists are particularly sensitive to the quality of a road surface. Whilst in practice this is rarely implemented due to financial constraints, throughout the tram route the road has been remade and the surface re-laid and so is generally in good condition and can be expected to remain so for a number of years to come.

The rails have recently been being replaced in on street sections, this is what the on road tram tracks look like today on West Street in Sheffield City Centre.

P1080553 (Large) P1080551 (Large) P1080555 (Large) P1080534 (Large) P1080545 (Large) P1080537 (Large) P1080532 (Large)

The tram tracks should look like this.P1080543 (Large)It is now extremely dangerous to cycle around these tram tracks. There are now huge grooves running in the direction of travel parallel to the tram tracks. When cyclists comes across these they will be in serious danger.

Who is responsible? All of the companies charged with maintaining our roads. Stagecoach Supertram, South Yorkshirie Passenger Transport Executive, South Yorkshire Integrated Transport Authority and Sheffield City Council. All the responsible authorities should be ashamed of themselves for taking this insane risk with the safety of anyone who cycles along this road.

 

SYPTE_logosupertramP1050814.resizedSYITA_logo

 

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Aldgate gyratory and a separated cycle track gone wrong

A few weeks ago I joined the London Cycling Campaign protest ride in London to call for dedicated space for cycling. The ride happened because a lady was killed while cycling along Whitechapel High Street.

London Cycling Campaign Space For Cycling Protest Ride
London Cycling Campaign Space For Cycling Protest Ride

On my way to the ride I encountered Aldgate gyratory for the very first time (I’d read about this junction and plans to improve it but had never paid much attention). My initial reaction to encountering the junction was to get off my bike and push around.

I don’t know if I’ve ever encountered a more hostile looking piece of road.

Aldgate gyratory
Aldgate gyratory

I found it quite difficult even to walk around because the obvious crossing points were blocked by fencing.

Pushing not allowed?
Pushing not allowed?

Others had mastered the art of fence jumping and traffic dodging.

P1080298P1080297I encountered a segregated cycle track on one of the exits (Dukes Place).

Cycle track on Dukes Place
Cycle track on Dukes Place

I couldn’t believe what I saw though, the track ended just before a bus stop which lead to significant conflict when people rejoined the normal road from the bike track.

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Is this a prime candidate for a bus stop bypass? Are there plans to improve the design of this track?