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Geeks win prizes (for cycling)

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Given all the fuss about Birmingham “council cuts” and “cycling expenditure only benefits young white men”, has the authority really hired a PR firm to promote a bizarre geek-oriented “Cycle Challenge”?

[Birmingham city council Newsroom, “5,000 journeys set to be taken in cycle challenge”, By KrisK – September 16, 2014]

City cyclists have taken over Birmingham’s roads as part of the Birmingham Cycle Revolution September Cycle Challenge, which is on track to log over 5,000 cycled journeys in September.

Birmingham commuters abandoned their cars in a bid to clock up the most BikeMiles and top the September Cycle Challenge leader board. Since September 1, cyclists have logged over 3,500 journeys with more journeys being cycled daily in the run up to World Car Free Day on September 22.

Businesses can still register for the challenge which is running throughout September and take the opportunity to top the September Cycle Challenge leader board and be Birmingham’s leading cycling business.

Birmingham organisations including Brindleyplace, Birmingham’s Children Hospital, Millennium Point and Aston University, have embraced the cycling project and inspired their employees to sign up to the challenge to go head to head to win rewards, vouchers and discounts.

Speaking about the September Cycle Challenge, Sara Wilkes, Energy, Environment & Sustainability Assistant at Aston University said, “Birmingham Cycle Revolution is a great initiative for the city and we’re excited to be taking part in the September Cycle Challenge.

“We’ve had 25 Aston University employees sign up to the challenge and we’re pedalling like mad to get ahead in the leader board! We’re seeing more people cycling to work and around the University and the September Cycle Challenge is definitely encouraging people to dust off their bikes.”

Businesses involved in the challenge signed up to Birmingham Cycle Revolution’s recently launched Birmingham Cycle Rewards website, birminghamcyclerewards.com, and PleaseCycle app and encourage employees to log BikeMiles and earn rewards as they cycle.

During the challenge, users log their journeys through the PleaseCycle app which uses a GPS tracking system to accurately record the route the cyclist has taken. The data is then automatically uploaded to the Birmingham Cycle Rewards website where BikeMiles are saved and can be converted into rewards.

The free PleaseCycle app provides users with practical fitness tips and allows them to see how many calories they have burnt and how much money they have saved by cycling. Users can also run challenges between colleagues and friends and use the website’s leader boards to track who is cycling the most.
[…]
The Birmingham Cycle Revolution project aims to encourage cycling through a raft of improvements and initiatives. A target has been set to increase cycling to account for 5 per cent of all journeys in the city within the next 10 years and for cycling to represent 10 per cent of all travel by 2033.

For more information or to register your interest in the September Cycle Challenge, email cycling@birmingham.gov.uk

For more information about Birmingham Cycle Revolution, visit http://www.birmingham.gov.uk/BirminghamCycleRevolution
[…]
Press enquiries:

Beth Meads – Willoughby Public Relations

0121 456 3004 – beth@wpragency.co.uk

Julia Willoughby – Willoughby Public Relations

0121 456 3004 – julia@wpragency.co.uk

Kris Kowalewski – Press & PR Manager – Birmingham City Council

0121 303 3621 – kris.kowalewski@birmingham.gov.uk

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Written by beleben

September 19, 2014 at 3:08 pm

Posted in Birmingham, Centro, Cycling

Cycling and Birmingham canal towpaths, part two

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Pushbikes are a low-impact and efficient means of local transport, but on-road cycling in Birmingham is a risky and intimidating experience. Could Birmingham city council’s Cycle Revolution deliver a “step-change in levels of cycling in the city”? A key feature is the creation of a wider network of cycle routes, incorporating upgraded sections of canal towpath.

However, it is far from clear that the works proposed could produce a functional cycle network consistent with the “step-change” aspiration. As ‘strawbrick’ commented, canal towpaths are generally spaces shared with pedestrians.

Canal view looking north, Golden Hillock Road

Canal view looking north, Golden Hillock Road

Much of the Cycle Revolution towpath network is unlikely to be suitable for anything other than recreational cycling. It could not handle the intensity of traffic seen on (for example) the Bristol Bath cycle path in Fishponds. In the planning of the Birmingham Cycle Revolution, there seems to be a gulf between aspiration and capability.

Written by beleben

September 17, 2014 at 8:49 am

Posted in Birmingham, Centro, Cycling

Cycling and Birmingham canal towpaths

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In December 2013, Birmingham city council announced plans to improve canal paths, in support of its Cycle Revolution.

Birmingham city council announcement on canal improvements for the Cycle Revolution

Birmingham city council announcement on canal improvements for the Cycle Revolution

[Birmingham city council]

Under the canals element of the programme, 30 km (almost 19 miles) of towpaths would be upgraded to provide a smoother ride for bikes, while improved lighting, new access points to the cycle network and better signage are due to be introduced too.

The work would be carried out on behalf of the city council by the charity Canal & River Trust.

CRT’s project manager for the Birmingham Cycle Revolution was good enough to provide the following information.

[CRT]

Our project is funded by the Department for Transport, with the funds being administered by Birmingham City Council (who have funds for other works outside the CRT remit) to resurface a total of around 25 km of towpaths, plus the improvement of a number of access points to the canal and the installation of at least 2 new ones. The areas of work covered by the project were jointly proposed by BCC and CRT and we began in January with the resurfacing of 2 km of the Birmingham Main Line Canal towards Winson Green. Since then we have completed 3 km on the Birmingham & Fazeley canal from close to the NIA out to the M6 Spaghetti Junction, along with approximately 4 km of the Worcester & Birmingham Canal from King’s Norton towards Birmingham city centre. Other areas of resurfacing work currently underway include the completion of the W & B Canal to Granville Street, further lengths of the B & F Canal from under Spaghetti Junction towards Minworth and we plan to commence works on the GU from Fazeley Street to the Ackers in the coming month or so.

[…] There are no plans to install new lighting along all of the towpaths, but we do hope to be able to improve some existing lighting around the Gas Street Basin area. You also asked about smoothing over canal bridge surfaces – this is not something covered by the project, as many of our foot and basin bridges in the Birmingham area have brick paved surfaces, some of which are of heritage value and can’t be altered without good justification and a sensitive solution.

In Birmingham’s depths of winter, it gets dark about 4.30 pm, so the lack of lighting is obviously going to be a significant obstacle to using towpaths to encourage active travel. The lack of cyclable surfaces on canal bridges is also a big minus. No-one wants to keep getting on and off their bike at every bridge they come to.

Another problem on the Birmingham canal network is poorly implemented anti-motorbike access railings. In some cases, these make bicycle access difficult.

Written by beleben

September 16, 2014 at 11:51 am

Posted in Birmingham, Centro, Cycling

Not an idiot, or an engineer

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Councillor Deirdre Alden has responded to criticism of her comments about cyclists, saying that she is “not an idiot”, Cycling Weekly reported.

[“Birmingham councillor answers critics after claiming cycling is ‘discriminatory’”, Chris Marshall-Bell, September 12, 2014]

[…] “These grants have to be spent by a certain time of else the money is rebuked. Therefore decisions are rushed and rushed decisions are not always the right decisions.

“We are in a Cabinet system and therefore I do not make the decisions. I am not an engineer also. But why is the Equality Impact System not be taking into account?”

Is it true that cyclists are predominately young white men, and if so, is that a reason for not backing the cycle mode?

Average distance cycled, Great Britain, 2011

In urban environments, the non-user benefits of cycling can be large (as Amsterdam and Cambridge demonstrate). Bicycles outperform motorised public transport in terms of roadspace utilisation, noise, greenhouse gases, and air quality.

Written by beleben

September 13, 2014 at 12:46 pm

The Aldens on cycling

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[Birmingham Post, 11 Sep 2014]

[…] at the Edgbaston District committee Coun Deirdre Alden (Con, Edgbaston) said she was concerned that such a large amount of effort and investment was being spent on a mode of transport predominantly used by young men.

“The vast majority of cyclists on our roads are young, white men,” she said.

She added that, while there were exceptions, “most elderly people are not going to cycle, and it would be dangerous for them to start on our streets now”.

The councillor said disabled people did not benefit from cycling and that “women of any ethnic group who wish to wear modest clothing, and I count myself in that category, are not going to cycle. It is a discriminatory form of transport”.
[…]
And Coun John Alden (Con, Harborne) argued cyclists should be licensed and insured like motorists are if they wished to use the road.

Councillor Robert Alden on cycling

Written by beleben

September 12, 2014 at 12:20 pm

Posted in Birmingham, Centro, Cycling

Bikes and metropolitan public transport

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Although local authorities in Britain purport to encourage travel by bicycle, cyclists and would-be cyclists continue to be marginalised in town planning and transport policy. In Birmingham, the level of municipal antipathy was such that it took three years to install a single ‘Cyclists crossing’ road sign. (Earlier this month, control of the council changed hands.)

Bicycle-enabled public transport can offer advantages to travellers (including motorists) and wider society, so it’s disappointing that aspiration, policy, and action are so badly attuned. In the West Midlands, millions of pounds have been spent on park and ride by transport authority Centro, but almost nothing on bicycle-enabled transit.

Front-mounted bike rack on public transit bus in USA - pic by Buchanan-Hermit, Wikimedia Commons, CC-BY-2.0Outside of London, Britain’s local public transport is dominated by buses, on which the facility to transport bikes is effectively non-existent. Some cities in the United States allow pushbikes to be transported on local buses, generally by means of a rack mounted externally on the vehicle front. For various reasons, this arrangement is not well suited to the British environment. However, enablement of combined bicycle-and-public-transport journeys should be a priority in urban planning. For city neighbourhoods not served by rail transit, consideration should be given to using large capacity buses, similar to TfL’s New Bus for London, to allow 1 – 2 bikes to be taken onboard.

Objections to carrying bikes on transit are usually about capacity or safety. Even nominally ‘high capacity’ rail transit systems can have total or near-total prohibition of cycle carriage. Sometimes, folding bikes are allowed, but these are less affordable for many people.

On Manchester’s Metrolink tramway, concern about bikes becoming projectiles in an accident led to transport authority GMITA (now TfGM) turning down requests for onboard cycle carriage. And in the West Midlands, Centro has stated that new supposedly ‘high capacity’ CAF trams will not be carrying bikes.

Conversion of railway to tramway has actually reduced green transport options, as can be seen with Metrolink in Oldham. In future British urban rail systems, the facility to carry accompanied bicycles should be designed-in (as with wheelchairs and pushchairs).

Many prospective mixed journeys only require bicycle use at one end, and for these, cycle stowage at the transit boarding point should be ideal. However, where bicycle parking has been provided, it has tended not to be very good. The ‘facility’ at Stechford railway station is an example. It consists of two Sheffield stands, in the open air, at the foot of a flight of steps, insecurely si(gh)ted, with no closed circuit tv coverage. Why public authorities choose to have infrastructure designed by non-cycling non-public-transport users, is unfathomable.

Written by beleben

May 29, 2012 at 8:33 pm

Awareness, cyclists and pedestrians

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According to Transport for London, more than half of all cyclist deaths are caused by collisions with goods vehicles.

Risk can be minimised if lorry drivers and cyclists alike are aware of each other and behave responsibly.

Current heavy goods vehicle design is extremely problematic for pedestrians and cyclists. The Metropolitan Police Exchanging Places video shows some of the many blind spots for drivers of high-cab heavy goods vehicles.

The Transport Research Laboratory has published reports on heavy goods vehicle blind spots, but they are not freely readable on the internet, and they charge £35 or something for each report. So here’s a summary of a 2009 TRL report, from the Backhouse Jones website.

Thursday 27th August 2009

The Transport Research Laboratory (TRL) has recently published a DfT commissioned report on heavy goods vehicle blind spot modelling.

This report is in follow up to a previous trial carried out by TRL in 2006 which indicated that blind spots exist even with vehicles equipped with the latest specification mirrors in compliance with Directive 2007/97/EC which requires up to six mirrors to be fitted to hgvs. Since 31 March 2009, Directive 2007/38/EC requires most hgvs over 3,500kg manufactured since 1 January 2000 to be equipped, on the passenger side, with wide-angle and close-proximity mirrors which fulfil the requirements for Directive 2003/97/EC.

The report describes the findings of a study by TRL to investigate the direct and indirect field of vision from three hgvs and to identify areas alongside each vehicle where a passenger car or vulnerable road users such as cyclists could be hidden in a blind spot. Supplementary devices including aftermarket mirrors and a fresnel lens (a thin plastic lens that is pressed against the passenger door window) were then added to the vehicles and measurements taken to identify the ground plane field of vision offered by each device, and to identify how effective each device was at eliminating the potential blind spots.

The report concludes that even the latest vehicles with a full compliment of six mirrors still have blind spots to the passenger side, and TRL tests have proven that the most effective solution to reduce this blind spot is the use of a fresnel lens. Fresnel lenses have been issued by VOSA to foreign hgv drivers in an effort to reduce side-swipe incidents from left-hand drive vehicles. They have also been historically provided by the Transport for London’s Freight Unit to FORS members. […]

The Department for Transport is now considering what can be done to reduce heavy goods vehicle blind spots further in light of the report findings. […]

According to the Stichting Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek Verkeersveiligheid (SWOV = Institute for Road Safety Research in the Netherlands) Research Activities Number 47

Blind spot crashes happen when a truck turns off and fails to notice or is unable to see the cyclist who is positioned immediately beside or in front of the truck. SWOV has been studying the blind spot issue at regular intervals. Over the years, several measures were taken to prevent this type of crashes. Some of the blind spot measures were the result of European legislation. During the 1980s, for example, the so-called kerb-mirror was made compulsory, and during the 1990s this was the case for side underrun protection. In 2003, the Netherlands made the blind spot mirror compulsory. The extra attention and media publications accompanying the introduction of this measure were probably the reason for a reduction of the number of blind spot casualties in 2002 and 2003. Unfortunately the reduction was only temporary. In 2007, the EU came with new, stricter rules for the visual field of trucks. The introduction of a front view system which makes it possible to see whether a road user is positioned immediately in front of the truck was new for the Netherlands in those days.

Three causes

In 2008, SWOV made an extensive study into the causes of blind spot crashes and possible solutions. Three main causes were identified:

• The visual field is still insufficient, especially for high trucks that were manufactured before 2007 and do not have front view system.

• Truck drivers do not make the best possible use of the different mirrors or these mirrors are not adjusted correctly.

• Cyclists insufficiently take account of the fact that trucks have a limited visual field.

Measures

In SWOV’s opinion, the ultimate solution for the blind spot problem is a structural separation of trucks and cyclists. How this must be organised and what the economic consequences will be, requires further study.
[…]
The traffic mirror, also known as black spot mirror, is mounted on the pole carrying the traffic lights to provide truck drivers with a better view of cyclists at the right-hand side and front of their vehicle. This mirror has been found to barely influence truck driver behaviour and is only effective while the truck is stopped in front of the mirror. Therefore, the mirror is not effective at the location where the driver has to carry out the after check.

Of course, HGV blind spots are also a matter of concern for pedestrians. Segregation of traffic types in urban areas presents a number of problems. It may be that road space has to shared to some extent, so there needs to be effective risk assessment and control for the traffic concerned. For goods distribution in cities, there could be benefits in restricting lorry movements by time of day, or enforcing the use of particular types of vehicle. In the 1950s and 1960s low cab tractor vehicles were used in British cities, and this type of design may have some benefits in the urban space.

The need to be able to take effective observation is not restricted to HGV drivers. For example, there may be a need to revisit the legal requirements concerning cars with dark film on the windows. And there needs to be prohibition of irresponsible behaviour such as people attempting to drive motorised vehicles through a narrow slit in a costume.

Written by beleben

March 7, 2012 at 1:35 pm