Police advising people about riding bikes on a no-cycling Newcastle street where vans are allowed

Northumberland Street is a wide shopping street in Newcastle upon Tyne. Before it was fully pedestrianised in the 1980s it was part of the A1 between London and Edinburgh. In peak times it is thronged with shoppers, but during off-peak hours cars, vans and even HGVs are allowed to access the street. However, cycling is banned at all times. This morning Newcastle Police tweeted that officers were “advising cyclists” who were using Northumberland Street yet, ironically, in the photograph featured in the tweet there were two vans shown behind the police officer. Is it not rather strange that cyclists can be stopped for cycling on a street where motorists can pass at will?

Newcastle Police weren’t singling out cyclists in this morning’s call for road safety there was also this tweet aimed at motorists.

Last year a stallholder on Northumberland Street started using a megaphone to tackle what the local newspaper called “rogue cyclists”. That is, any cyclists spotted riding on Northumberland Street, which is often cluttered with vans, many of them belonging to stallholders.

Smallholder Karl Fitzpatrick complained that: “Nobody takes into consideration all the ‘no cycling’ signs which are on every other lamppost. I find it really annoying.”

Inspector Darren Adams, of the Newcastle Central neighbourhood policing team, told the Evening Chronicle: “Bicycle related offences are a neighbourhood priority which officers are tackling.

“Since November 2014, over 70 people have been spoken to about cycling related offences.

“Officers try to educate the cyclists rather than simply prosecute them. As a result the majority have been either verbally warned or have received letters of advice, while three repeat offenders have been summonsed to court.

He added: “There are signs on Northumberland Street and I would remind cyclists to heed these warnings.

“The restrictions are there for a reason – for the safety of both cyclists and pedestrians.”

Many towns and cities have restrictions on cycling in pedestrianised areas even though there is strong evidence that cyclists and pedestrians can mix safely. For instance, a 1993 study by the Transport Research Laboratory found that in 66 hours of video footage of pedestrian areas, not a single collision between a cyclist and a pedestrian was observed.

The study, commissioned by what was then the Department of Transport, found that “cyclists adapt their speed to pedestrian density, and dismount if necessary.”

When Leicester rescinded its ban on cycling in the city’s extensive pedestrianised areas there were no reports of collisions between cyclists and pedestrians.

Borders Bike Festival of Scotland rebrands with a little bit of help from a Spanish cycle company

The Borders Bike Festival – a combination of a Marathon mountain bike event and the Selkirk Raid, a mountain bike enduro event – is now known as the Orbea Borders Bike Festival after the Spanish cycle company agree to become lead sponsor. The festival is organised by Selkirk based Durty Events, organiser of the Aviemore Triathlon, Craggy Island Triathlon and the Celtman. Local trailbuilder Pete Laing – who designed the original Glentress 7 Stanes and Golspie trail centres – is responsible for course design.

Paul McGreal from Durty Events said: “We are delighted to be returning to Selkirk for the 2016 Marathon, and the new Selkirk Raid event. The Scottish Borders have some excellent trails, and it’s one of the few areas in Britain that can provide a proven, challenging marathon course over a single loop.”

There are two fully marked courses with distances of 50km and 75km – something for novices, intermediates, and hardcore racers alike.

The 50km course can be completed as either a Marathon, or as the brand-new-for-2016 Selkirk Raid.

There will be four timed Special Stages, all descents. However, for every 5 minutes over a target time, five seconds is added to your time for Special Stage 5. So, dawdle too long at the top of Stages 1 -4, and you risk adding time to your Stage 5 time. Ride too fast and you might be sub-optimal on Stages 1 – 4.

The courses feature a mix of natural and hand-made singletrack, twin-track forest roads and old drove roads. Riders will visit the valleys of the Rivers Tweed, Yarrow and Ettrick. The 75km course will also include some of the very best man-made trail centre routes at Innerleithen. The 50km and 75km routes will include a few special timed ‘Enduro’ sections.

The Selkirk MTB Marathon and Selkirk Raid will take place on Sunday 1st May and the event will be based at Selkirk Rugby Club in the Scottish Borders. The event has been held for around 13 years, and has been organised by Durty Events since 2013.


Chill out to ride and drive safe this winter, urges CTC and AA

CTC and the AA have joined forces to issue a list of winter guidelines to ensure cyclists and motorists share the road safely during the current cold snap.

With lying water now freezing over on thousands of roads, and the sun low in the sky, the CTC and Britain’s largest motoring organisation advising road users to tread, pedal and drive carefully.

CTC has drawn up six tips for cyclists, while AA President Edmund King has reminded drivers to give cyclists an even wider berth in the icy conditions than they usually do (which isn’t usually wide enough).

CTC advises cyclists to:

Deflate – grip is improved by increasing contact with the road. Letting a little air out from your tyres can make a real difference.

Slow down – icy conditions and narrow cycle tyres at speed can be a recipe for disaster. Give yourself more time and, if in doubt about conditions, take it easy.

Keep out of the gutter – this advice stands no matter the conditions, but with the recent rain and following a freeze the sides of roads can be treacherous. Seek the primary position where you can.

Chill pill – if you do hit some ice or a similarly slippery surface, sudden steering movements and sharp braking can see you go from the vertical to the horizontal in record time. Relax and ride it out or, if it’s an extended stretch, consider walking the distance

Stay seen – low winter sun and the longer nights can make the cyclist’s visibility all the harder for other road users. If it’s dark make sure you have the appropriate front and rear lights (a legal requirement) and if in the day, watch out for that low sun – it’s a hazard for all road users.

Dress appropriately – layers are best for trapping in warm air and can help you regulate your temperature while riding. Pay particular attention to your extremities like hands, feet and head, these are all set to suffer more in the cold. Also consider bringing a thermal top in case you need to stop for a long period of time.

AA President Edmund King said: “All road users need to ensure they get into a winter mindset. People need to appreciate that potentially they will not stop in the same sort of distances they normally would.

“This cold snap comes fast on the heels of heavy rain. Puddles have now frozen over and cyclists face a minefield of icy patches, especially at the side of the road where so much water has accumulated because drains have been unable to cope. Drivers need to bear that in mind and give cyclists a wider berth when overtaking.

“The low winter sun can also be a particular problem at this time of year, especially as it is at its most dazzling at the end of the morning commute and the beginning of the evening rush hour from 4-5pm, when the roads are at their busiest.

“We would advise drivers to get up at least 10 minutes early to give time to prepare the car. Don’t drive off like a tank-commander, with a tiny hole cleared in the windscreen. Clear all windows using a scraper and de-icer to ensure good all-round vision.”

The AA website provides detailed advice about winter driving and coping with snow, cold and ice, as well as a list of general tips for drivers regarding cyclists.

King stressed: “Cyclists have the same rights on the road as drivers.”

He added: “Drivers should give as much room as practically possible when overtaking a cycle – Highway Code Rule 163 illustrates one car’s width – they may have to move out to avoid hazards like drains, potholes, or other debris on the road that you may not be able to see. And now ice has added to the potential dangers.”

MPs and a Lord urge Transport Secretary to do more for cycling

MPs – and a Lord – from the All Party Parliamentary Cycling Group met with Secretary of State for Transport Patrick McLoughlin yesterday, and pressed him on his department’s lacklustre support for cycling.

MPs Ruth Cadbury, Alex Chalk, Dr. Sarah Wollaston and Steve Brine were joined by Lord Berkeley. They asked the Transport Secretary to clarify the funding for cycling following the recent reduced settlement in the Comprehensive Spending Review. The MPs and Lord Berkeley also urged
McLoughlin to chivvy his department along over the adoption of National Design Standards. London and Wales have been sharing a “Best Practice Base” to share knowledge but nationally little appears to moving.

McLoughlin said that he will be “very mindful to fund cycling bids submitted through the Local Growth Fund.” When challenged on the APPCG call for spending £10 per head, per annum on cycling (one of the APPCG’s 18 Get Britain Cycling recommendations), he said he while he could not guarantee it, there is no reason why “all the pots of money available to cycling, won’t add up to £10 per head”.

The APPCG members also asked McLoughlin to follow the lead taken by the Highways Agency and ensure that all DfT-funded road schemes are “cycle-proofed”.

As HGV-related cycle deaths has been a major issue for the APPCG, members sought assurance that the Transport Secretary would focus attention on initiatives that reduces deaths and serious injuries of cyclists under the wheels of heavy lorries. Initiatives discussed included incentivising hauliers to invest in direct vision lorries, encouraging site developers to transport heavy loads by rail rather than road, and for the DfT to work with other departments to consider hypothecating fines to make enforcement regimes more affordable for police and local authorities.

Ruth Cadbury, co-chair of the parliamentary cycling group, said: “The Secretary of State shared our concerns over the safety of cyclists and I feel encouraged that he will pursue the suggestions that we made, particularly encouraging Local Authorities to cycle-proof their roads, based on the Highways Agency model.”

Fellow co-chair Alex Chalk said: “I was encouraged by the Secretary of State’s comments about funding streams available through the Local Growth Fund. It is delivering those safe cycle schemes that will be key to getting more people onto bikes.”

Training is not an alternative to good infrastructure, confirms trade body

TABS, the Association of Bikeability Schemes, has issued a statement confirming that it does not believe cycle training takes the place of good cycling infrastructure, such as cycleways. This topic is often controversial on social media, with some cycle advocates stating that the money pumped into Bikeability by the Department for Transport would be better spent on protected bicycle infrastructure.

Bikeability is “cycling proficiency for the 21st century”, designed to give the next generation the skills and confidence to ride their bikes on and away from roads. TABS is a body set up to represent the cycle training industry.

The TABS statement is short and to the point:

“Training is not an alternative to good infrastructure but one of many measures that encourage cycling.”

On social media it is sometimes mentioned that Dutch children don’t need cycle training because they can get to and from school on protected cycling infrastructure. In fact, Dutch children do receive cycle training, partly because they sometimes have to share roads with motor vehicles.

Tej Mistry, the CTC representative on the TABS board, said:

“The importance of infrastructure is clear, as is the continued requirement for improved conditions, facilities, and engineering advancements.”

Mistry added: “Fundamentally, cycling is a safe activity whether for leisure, recreation or transport. Encouraging people to cycle brings an array of wider benefits.

“A key element to increasing levels of cycling is education through cycle training to support the development of new cyclists through confidence-building and skills development. Training, especially for young people through Bikeability, will drive long-term health and social benefits for society.”