On Monday 3rd April 2017 BBC radio Suffolk had picked up on the story about grass verges being torn up by car parking, and there will be a crack down on people parking in the verges and pavements in some areas in Ipswich.
As someone who doesn’t have a motor vehicle in the household and has a toddler who is walking about, sometimes in a buggy, pushing her buggy, walking beside me while I’m pushing my bike before or after my commute; or now starting to use her trike; I find pavement and grass verge parking particularly inconsiderate as it can be difficult to get past.
One of the comments by Mark Murphy was “there’s no chance that we’ll ditch our car any time soon”. I found this highly ironic when Ipswich Star on the very same day launched their excellent Ditch the Car campaign.
It also prompted me to check the stats on the car or van availability from the last census in 2011 to see what proportion of people in Ipswich and Suffolk don’t have access to a car. The results table “KS404EW – Car or van availability” has the information and is available on the Nomis part of the Office for National Statistics site.
Within Ipswich 27.8% of households have no access to a car or van, which is a rather significant proportion likely due to the closeness of various amenities such as schools, shops, and work to where people live, and the frequent local bus service.
All categories: Car or van availability
No cars or vans in household
1 car or van in household
2 cars or vans in household
3 cars or vans in household
4 or more cars or vans in household
sum of all cars or vans in the area
For Suffolk the percentage of households without a car is lower at 17.9%.
I very much look forward to the success of the Ipswich Star’s Ditch the Car campaign and seeing the number of households without a car increasing in the next census.
Every match day or evening match at Portman Road there is significant congestion and air pollution increases in Ipswich. There have also been reports of parents getting stuck in the traffic and having to pull over to comfort their young baby until the traffic calmed down, with the town now being a no-go area on match days.
Suffolk County Council as part of their greenest county strategy, have decided that football matches at Portman Road are to be banned until such time that Ipswich Town produce and implement a travel plan to cut the amount of motor traffic coming into the centre of Ipswich on match days/evenings.
Suggestions for the travel plan include:
subsidising the Park and Ride bus, which already pretty much goes past the stadium, including extending it’s running times to cover evening matches;
banning the use of car parks surrounding the stadium by cars and using them for cycle parking instead; and
I can see why the advice would help to reduce the probability of a theft as it would make it harder to cycle away, however I was rather annoyed with this advice. On my bicycle it’s not easy to take the saddle or wheels off. It would likely add an extra 10 to 20 minutes each day, with the additional risk of the front wheel not being connected on correctly, or the electrical connector to the hub dynamo for the lights and USB charging wearing out.
Where I live, I have to go through 5 auto closing doors, and find it extremely annoying, especially when you can’t get the bike through the door unless you hold the door open. It’s something small which has discouraged me from using the bike as often as I have in the past, especially for the more spontaneous journeys, and taking the wheel off would make it even less likely.
Knowing the above I fear that the advice would discourage people from choosing the bicycle for many journeys, particularly the shorter journeys.
For people who have quick release wheels and/or saddles, the advice may work, however for others this is likely to discourage the owner from cycling instead.
On my Dutch bike, and my wife’s Pashley, we have frame locks which stops the back wheel from moving when locked, and you must have the key in the lock to use the bike. I’d really like to see more bikes in Britain with practical wheel locks as they are a useful and discrete security device that is always there. Ideally frame locks should be supplemented with another lock to attach the cycle to an immovable object, some frame locks allow you to insert a cable lock, so you don’t need to carry a separate lock.
I wonder what the root causes of cycle theft are? I wonder if there’s any link to the benefit sanctions and other cuts the government are making… Hopefully some day we can revert to the good old days where you don’t need to worry about things being stolen, as is currently the case in some rural areas.
On 30th May 2015, I led a Cycle Infrastructure Tour around Ipswich. It was an excellent day where we had people from Cambridge, London, and Edinburgh, along with locals including Andrea McMillan who is writing the Cycling Supplementary Planning Document (SPD) for Ipswich Borough Council.
There’s a route map shown at the bottom, and photos are clickable to either a larger version, or through to the Mapillary page so you have the location and nearby photos too.
We started at Ipswich Railway Station and had a discussion regarding the future plans, including the change to the layout inside Ipswich Station, and some of the current issues, such as the cycle parking being tucked away around the back, and not sign posted, which should hopefully be improved as part of the station redevelopment.
On departing the station, a couple of police officers noted that it was the first occasion that they had seen the Bike and Go bikes out in use. This isn’t surprising considering you can’t rock up at the station and hire a bike, instead you need to plan at least a week in advance to sign up online. There is no automated process at the station either, so you have to wait in the queue for a member of staff to get the key for you.
On departing the station we crossed the road and headed along to the cycle path on the pavement, to the side of the Encore hotel. It was noted there is a lot of cycle parking, however it’s not sign posted, sheltered, nor in an optimal configuration as some of the stands wouldn’t be able to be used when there were bikes in some of the stands. It’s almost as though the developer was required to include some cycle parking for the site (which includes residential and shops), so placed in one corner, rather than spread around the site.
We then headed over the Sir Bobbie Robson Bridge, which is a cycle and pedestrian bridge which was put in as part of the developer to the south of the river. At times it can be a bit on the narrow side thus significantly slowing down cyclists. A wider bridge would reduce the level of cycle/pedestrian conflict. After the bridge we turned left to join NCN51 westbound.
At the 2 large London Road junctions we had a short discussion highlighting that the junctions are designed for large amounts of motor vehicular traffic, with pedestrians and cyclists significantly inconvenienced by having to way 2 or 3 times to cross the road. On some of the lights it was difficult to see the red and green man when standing close to the signal due to the angle they were looked at. Due to the time that pedestrians have to wait they often cross in a gap in the traffic instead of waiting.
On heading up London Road, the visitors from London noted that there were already bus stop bypasses in existence as you were cycling along the pavement legally. However few people recognise them as such.
Just past the London Road allotments there is an pedestrian access route into the residential areas, however there are some significant barriers in the way, which make it difficult to use. Enabling this for cycle use and sign posting the route would mean that people have a mostly traffic free route from Chantry via London Road and NCN51 into Ipswich town centre.
At the junction of London Road and Robin Drive there was a discussion regarding the double dog leg crossing which makes it difficult for pedestrians and cyclists to cross as they have to wait 3 times to cross London Road. Also if you are on a bike with a long wheelbase or have a trailer, extreme care is required to get the corners right for the dog legs.
The parallel residential part of London Road is generally nice to cycle along due to the low levels of motor traffic, and the hedge between you and the main road. This separation is a common design element that is used in The Netherlands. However the road could do with being resurfaced as it’s getting uneven, so can be tough to cycle on.
At the next junction it was noted that the cycle path (on the pavement) that leads from Suffolk One just stops at the traffic lights, rather than there being a toucan crossing to allow people to cross the road safely. There is a significant issue where the students at Suffolk One drive there and there is no car parking for students. This was a deliberate decision to discourage driving, however due to the distances that students need to travel and little alternative transport, they just park in the local to the annoyance of the neighbours. Small things like a missing toucan crossing at the end of a cycle path contribute towards people not walking and cycling.
Cycling along Scrivener Drive, Shepherd Drive, and the start of Hawthorn Drive was rather intimidating due to the narrow road width and heavy traffic, particularly coming from the A12 and A14. Something needs to be done to make friendlier alternative routes in the area for people on bikes.
The rest of Hawthorn Drive has a significant issue which is resolvable with minimal impact on motor traffic. The road is wide with a houses on both sides, and occasionally shops, amenities, etc, with grass verges which are often parked on, even so there is space in most front gardens. There is also a problem of traffic islands, where drivers will try to squeeze past you. It’s a rather intimidating experience, especially if you are not able to cycle fast.
It would be possible to remodel the road such that there is the pavement, separate cycle path, parking, traffic lanes, parking, separate cycle path, and finally the pavement on the other side of the road. There would be some points where there would only be cycle parking on one side of the road only, or not at all near junctions. This design would be typical of a Dutch distributer road, and would mean that the local school children have a safe route to walk and cycle to school. There are many schools within a small area, so this would be a big impact, especially with the current significant complaints about the school run problem.
At the Hawthorn Drive/Mallard Way roundabout we had a discussion regarding the roundabout, as it’s significantly larger than many other busier roundabouts in the town, yet has very low traffic volumes, and has very wide corners so drivers can go round it with only small reduction of speed, and could easily injure a pedestrian or cyclist. Someone pointed out that the roads were probably originally designed so that the grass verges could be changed into an additional car lane instead at a later stage. Mallard Way could get a similar treatment to the suggestion for Hawthorn Drive.
We then heading along Stone Lodge Lane West, Birkfield Drive (which has the space for similar treat meant to Hawthorn Drive and Birkfield Drive), and into Carolbrook Road, where we followed a cycle path through Ellenbrook Open Space to reach National cycle network route 1 to head back into town. This section of NCN 1 is off road, and one of the better sections through Ipswich, however it’s very short before you are back on the road again.
Heading along NCN1 on Stoke Park Drive can be rather scary, and isn’t somewhere I would be keen on taking young children due to the cycle lanes stopping for traffic islands where motor vehicle drivers regularly try to squeeze past you. I’ve seen occasions where car drivers accelerate past on the other side of the road on the wrong side of the island, or cut in just before the island. The cycle lane is less than the 1.5 metres wide, and it’s hard to fit a bike in never mind including some passing distance. Towards the end there is a right turn into Bourne Park, which wouldn’t be easy for less experienced cyclists.
The cycle path through Bourne Park is pretty rough gravel, and is tough going for adults, and extremely difficult for young children to learn to ride a bike. If there was a smooth surface through the park, and around it to make a circuit, there would be an ideal environment for children to learn to ride a bicycle, and play in the park. This is something that is really needed in this part of town, as there are few places which are safe traffic free environments for children to learn.
On heading out of Bourne Park the NCN route swings north just to run parallel to the rail line along a narrow path which is overgrown with vegetation, and sometimes has flytipping at the north end. It’s not a pretty sight considering it’s the flagship national cycle route 1, and non standard bikes would struggle to get along the route.
To save us going up and down a hill, and to also see another bit of cycle infrastructure, we headed off the NCN1 temporarily and headed along Wherstead Road. This is one of the main routes into town from the south, and connects with the A14. The road starts wide and gets narrower, particularly at the point where it goes under a rail bridge (for goods trains to get into the Port of Ipswich). Shortly after the rail bridge, there is a cycle access off on to the quieter residential streets and a toucan crossing. The cycle slip road requires you to come off the road at an angle which means that you either have to slow down and/or swing out in the middle of the road. Alternatively you can follow the route many in the group choose and head on to the pavement early which was a more natural route to follow. It would be a fairly cheap change to remove the railing and increase the dropped kerb, which would make it safer. The point where the cycle path joins the road is rather tight and there would be problems for people with cargo bikes or trailers.
Onwards we rejoined NCN1 again briefly and headed quickly to The Brewery Tap via the waterfront as we were running a little behind schedule at this point. The waterfront has some traffic free sections, and has some heavy pedestrian use. This makes is problematic at weekends and in the evenings when there are heavy pedestrian flows. I have come across a regular local cyclist who didn’t realise that it is two way for cyclists, whilst only one way for motor vehicles.
After lunch we headed up Cliff Lane and followed National Cycle Route 51 out to Ravenswood. At the junction of Cliff Lane and the entrance to Holywells Park we stopped for a chat. There’s a significant school run problem in the area (which has been on BBC Radio Suffolk in the past). There is also a similar issue with people driving to visit the park often with children.
During the cycle along NCN51 to Ravenswood, the Londoners on the ride noted how quiet the residential streets were. This is in part due to the route being filtered, and the residential roads being the furthest possible from the main access routes to the residential area. It is a much longer route, and many locals will choose shorter routes, such as Clapgate Land and Nacton Road instead, especially into town downhill, as it’s much faster and more direct. The NCN51 route is quieter, safer, and sign posted.
At the point the Morland Road joins to the cycle path through to Raeburn Road there is currently a confusing NCN51 sign for people coming from the east, which suggests the route is into town only. Either that sign should be taken down, or it should be updated to show the route goes in both directions. Turning right takes you into town, and left towards Ravenswood and Felixstowe.
Ravenswood is a fairly new build housing estate, built on the old Ipswich Airport (final flight January 1998). The estate was designed to be environmentally friendly with many cycle and foot paths, limited car space, traffic calming measures and a frequent bus link into the town centre.
Through Ravenswood the NCN51 cycle path is very good if you are passing through the area, as there is minimal interaction with motor vehicles. However if you are trying to get from the main cycle paths on to the residential streets, it is very difficult to do so, and the cycle paths are around half the width they need to be. Often you have to cycle on the road where drivers can be rather intimidating. Ravenswood has one of the highest cycle to school rates in the county.
On the edge of the Ravenswood estate there have been 4 new major chain restaurants built in the past year. Sheltered cycle parking has been provided, however little consideration has been given to how you get from the cycle paths of the car park to the cycle parking. It’s as though it’s been stuck in some unused corner as a requirement of the planning permission, rather than properly planning the cycle parking in so that it is easy to get to.
The staggered toucan crossing on Ravenswood Avenue by The Thrasher roundabout is quite tough to use on a bike, especially if you are in a group of people on bikes, have a trailer on the bike, or a cargo bike, the crossing becomes very difficult. Some of the tight corners at junctions within the estate are also very difficult with non-standard bikes.
We then headed through Futura Park which is a new retail area built in November 2012. There were some additional racks added by Waitrose and John Lewis shortly after they opened as they were fully utilised in the first week of opening. There is legalised pavement cycling for people to get to and from the shops, however once you get to the main road, Ransomes Way, the pavements get rather narrow. Also the plans for the junction outside the Sainsburys and Homebase will require people to plan ahead if they want to cross with the toucan crossing. Ransoms Way is also having the 2 lanes (1 each way) turned into 3 lanes (2 towards roundabouts, and one leaving roundabouts). I’d rather a cycle track or possibly a wider pavement to be implemented instead to reduce the conflict with pedestrians, and encourage more people to cycle to the shops.
Heading along Felixstowe Road back into town, cyclists start on the pavement, and around the borough boundary cyclists are taken on to the road in a cycle lane with heavy and fast (40 mph speed limit) traffic and no protection between cyclists and the motor vehicles. Just after the roundabout we stopped on Bixley Road for a quick discussion. I have seen families walking their bikes around the roundabout and then getting back on to cycle on the pavement afterwards. This roundabout is a stumbling point for encouraging more people to cycling due to the crucial link it provides with various parts of the town, including being on the main ring road route of the town.
Due to the heavy motor traffic on Bixley Road, I chose a route that took us on to quieter back roads pretty quickly along Princethorpe Road, Temple Road, Chilton Road, Foxhole Road, and Heath Lane where you get to a cycle path, which is a back entrance to Copleston High School, and the end of the back access road to the hospital. However it looks from the signage that you can’t cycle in this direction to get to the hospital, even so it would be a useful link to the hospital avoiding the main roads.
We stopped within the hospital grounds on NCN1 to discuss the hospital cycle access. The main A&E has some good quality sheltered cycle parking, however cyclists are expected to share the road with motor vehicles. Other departments have large cycle parks near their entrances, however it’s generally of the wheel bender designs, so people will try to lock their bike in a similar manner to a Sheffield stand, such that the bike is supported. Some of the cycle parking could be better sign posted for example similar to a bus stop flag post to encourage usage, and so that people can see the cycle parking from a distance. The north cycle path on to Woodbridge Road doesn’t connect with other cycle routes well, nor gives a nice transition back on to the road.
From the hospital we followed National Cycle route 1 back into town, on the way we stopped off on Rope Walk, which is seen to be one of the best cycling facilities in the town as through motor traffic stopped on this section of road, and it means there is a safe reasonably quiet route from here into town. Just beforehand, Kings Avenue and Milner Street are a significant rat run in the morning peak, and need to have the rat run closed to through traffic to make the route more pleasant and also reduce motor vehicle congestion since drivers on St Helens Street are letting drivers out which then reduces the flow of vehicles from entering the traffic lights at the bottom of Grove Lane, Spring Road, and Warwick Road.
At the junction of Rope Walk, Waterworks Street and Bond Street, there is an interesting arrangement whereby cyclists just have to give way to traffic from the left and don’t need to wait for the green light. It can be a bit narrow to get through if you are on a wide cargo bike or have a bike trailer.
We headed through the town centre which was quite quiet with it being the end of the day. We stopped off in Arlingtons Cafe to have a final discussion and review of the day.
The was a lot to look at, and several other places I’d have liked to have gone to discuss too. I’m planning to run some more rides at a slower pace so that there can be more discussion at the stops.
After complaints about significantly increased levels of aggression on the roads, I’ve heard about some radical new plans by Suffolk’s Roadsafe team to make sure that their education programme gets to every road user in Suffolk. The poster campaigns, tv adverts, the website, and road shows are only allowing them to talk to a very small proportion of people who drive, cycle, or walk in Suffolk.
From today, 1st April 2015 the Suffolk Roadsafe team will be out running roadblocks on every entry point to the county, with some other roadblocks at strategic locations. Minor roads on the county boundary will be closed to motor traffic. At the roadblocks drivers will be asked random questions from the driving theory test. If the driver passes then be allowed on their way.
If drivers struggle with the questions the driver will be held to get some additional training. This is likely to affect people who have forgotten the rules of the road since passing their driving test, or passed it a long time ago and not kept up with the new rules since.
They are also planning to provide a variety of pedal cycles so that drivers can experience what it feels like to be someone on a bicycle. Random drivers will be selected for this to encourage more mutual respect between modes, through experiencing what it’s like using the other modes of transport.
Train passengers are not forgotten about either as the Roadsafe team will be working with Abellio Greater Anglia to broadcast information over the tannoy, and road safety information leaflets being given to passengers.
There will be long delays on the roads, however they are hoping this scheme will make the roads a friendlier place for all road users. If drivers continue drive without courtesy to others the Roadsafe team are looking to work with Westminster to pass some new laws, which mean that anyone who can’t pass a driving test at a random point in the future will have their driving license revoked.
As someone who passed my driving test a decade ago and was priced out the market by the insurance companies, I haven’t driven a car since. Thus I generally use the bicycle as my main mode of transport, when I’m not walking or taking public transport. The bicycle is also a great way to get away from the computer screen and get some exercise.
Trying to follow a map or GPS can be hard, and can involve some stopping and starting. I much prefer to follow signed routes, or follow signs to places. This is relatively easy to do in The Netherlands, however in Britain the place name signage is usually aimed at motor vehicle drivers only. This means following place name signs can be difficult.
Alternatively there is the National Cycle Network which is mostly signed routes, with occasional place name signage. However I then hit another problem, with these cycle routes during the winter and after heavy rainfall, and that is mud. On several trips recently on the National Cycle Network I’ve found my bicycle caked with mud. Here some examples photos from Norfolk:
On another part of the path that wasn’t quite so muddy, I came across a family trying to encourage a 2-4 year old to cycle their bike however the surface was difficult for me to cycle, so no wonder the child was throwing a tantrum. If a young child can’t cycle on a cycle route all year round than it simply isn’t good enough.
When I go out for a bike ride I don’t expect it to end up caked in mud and to have to spend several hours cleaning and maintaining it, which I wouldn’t have to do if it was a good quality surface.
Can I put in a claim to the relevant councils for failure to maintain the path thus having to spend time cleaning my bicycle and the extra maintenance required? Had the councils put in a proper maintenance plan when they created the cycle routes originally they wouldn’t be in their current muddy state, hence the reason for thinking about claiming. It’s all very well councils spending money on new cycle routes and facilities, however if they don’t ensure the current routes are kept in good condition, they aren’t going to encourage more people to cycle, rather put of the ones who currently do.
After some discussion with Sustrans, I have discovered that there is a plan to upgrade the above path to a higher standard, however it’s taken a lot of campaigning to get to the stage of producing a plan with the council. Would putting in these claims make councils put more money towards cycle path maintenance? How long is it going to take to upgrade all of the other cycle paths across Britain that are bumpy or muddy? When will central government have a significant pot of money for upgrading current cycle in a similar fashion recently announced for the potholes?
A week ago I was cycling along London Wall and past the Museum of London roundabout, and noticed some changes with paint and traffic cones. As you arrive at the roundabout you choose which side of the cones to go on depending on whether you are turning left or taking the straight on or right exit. Left turn cyclists are given protection by the paint and traffic cones, whilst the straight on or right turn cyclists are mixing with motor vehicles.
Then on the roundabout left turn cyclists are expected to give way to other cyclists coming round the roundabout as they about to exit the roundabout. Are these give way lines really needed? Can’t cyclists nicely merge together without needing to have priorities like motor vehicles require? There is enough space to have 2 cyclists side by side without impacting motor vehicle traffic, thus this shouldn’t be an issue.
Most importantly I’d like to question why cyclists who are not turning left are expected to mix with motor traffic? This is not going to help encourage inexperienced cyclists to use the roundabout. Will the cones stay there long term? Or will the cones be removed with motor vehicle drivers simply ignoring the white paint? Could drivers complain at cyclists going straight on or turning right for not using the cycling facility (i.e. being to the left of the cones/paint)?
Why not follow the tried and tested Dutch designs for roundabouts since there’s plenty of space? Both David Hembrow and Mark from Bicycle Dutch have blog posts explaining Dutch roundabouts, thus I won’t go into detail here.
Over the past few years I’ve noticed a huge rise in the number of parents, particularly of younger pre-teenage children getting involved with cycle campaigning. This was particularly evident in the discussions at the November 2014 Cycle Ipswich meeting, where several parents commented about the problems that they have with cycling locally with children.
One of the local parents has had abuse shouted at her for cycling with children in Ipswich, with several noting that some people see cycling with children as child abuse. Yet in other parts of Ipswich there are some of the highest levels of cycling to school in the country due to the quality of the cycle infrastructure. There are some schools where letting or encouraging your kids to cycle is seen as a bad thing, however it is simply the lack of a suitable cycling environment, or the head teacher and/or governors not understanding the cyclists often choose alternative quieter routes, that cannot be used by car.
An interesting comment by the local MP Ben Gummer at the meeting was that he felt safer cycling in London, than in Ipswich. My wife on the other hand has the opposite opinion. So if the local politician avoids cycling locally, when they will happily cycling in central London, what hope have we with other people?
Parents are increasingly concerned about the school run, the obesity crisis, and safety on the roads when their kids cycle. There is an increasing recognition that streets could be much safer to allow kids to be able to cycle, whereas currently there are so many barriers to getting good quality, segregated cycling facilities that allow everyone to happily cycle without a fear of being killed or seriously injured at some point on the journey. Fake “20s plenty” school safety zones don’t make the roads safe for kids.
Of course one cheap solution, such as what is happening in Haddington, and Edinburgh, where the use of cars is banned on streets surrounding schools during school arrival and home times, would be much more likely to make it safer for kids.
I believe that the increasing number of people who are considering cycling with children as a mode of transport is helping to fuel the dramatic shift in cycle campaigning that has happened. There is still a long way to go until there is consistency by campaigners, council officials, and politicians in the recognition that the current infrastructure isn’t good enough, and there needs to be a dramatic improvement in the quality of the infrastructure to be able to get more people cycling.
On Sunday I was cycling from near Needham Market back towards Ipswich along National Cycle Route 51, when an incident occurred that reminded me of the Nice Way Code’s “Think Horse” video. It got me wondering what if car drivers had to treat me the same way I had to treat that horse?
The section of the cycle route I was cycling along is a bridleway with a couple of tire tracks. As I approached the horse, rider, and person walking the dog beside them, I slowed to the same pace as them in the hope that they would wave me past.
Shortly after the point in the picture above, the path curves around and then drops down the hill. The horse seemed a bit timid hence why I did just try to pass. The horse rider then turned round and asked me to wait until she’d got to the bottom, which I happily did.
Now going back to the Nice Way Code and the “Think horse” video. Does that mean if I’m at the bottom of a hill and feeling a bit scared by the drivers passing me, I can turn around and say that they need to wait at the bottom of the hill until I get to the top? I wonder how the driver would react? Would being able to do this encourage more people to be able to cycle? Or would drivers just think you are completely bonkers? Maybe it could be seen as a light punishment to all drivers for the few bad ones out there? Surely there can’t be anything wrong with tarring all motorists with the same brush?