Bike lane chalker gets $10,000 in funding pledges

Contrail is a route-marking gizmo riders attach to bikes and which, over time, creates a snazzy trail. The idea won a design competition in 2008, and went viral in early 2009 after it was picked up by BikeSnobNYC, but is vapourware no longer as the folks behind the scheme have just gone through the $10,000 funding ceiling on Kickstarter.com.

Pepin Gelardi of New York, the Contrail developer, said: “We want to encourage people to ride bicycles in their everyday lives. Contrail turns your bicycle into a paintbrush leaving a temporary mark of your bicycle’s path.

“You attach it to your bike and as you ride, it leaves a colourful line behind you. When many people ride with Contrail, the result is a colourful path which illustrates where bicycles are riding. We envision artists, non-profits and community organisations using our product to create art, promote their events and celebrate shared spaces.

“Our goal is to use Contrail in many creative ways to get more people on bicycles and to create safer shared spaces in communities around the world.”

If a great number of cyclists were equipped with Contrails they would leave a swathe of brightly-coloured lines: a do-it-yourself bike lane.

Contrail uses washable, non-toxic chalking fluid made from eco-friendly pigments. The lines on the road will fade with time and rain.

With $10,000 raised from 200+ pledges, Contrail can now become a reality. It could sell for $29 per unit. Pledgers get first dibs.

Non-profit organisations will be gifted units.

One of the ideas Contrails would like to see happen is a Safe Routes to School project.

“We want to develop a system of safe routes to bicycle to school. Local businesses will help fund signage and extra crossing guards to ensure that these routes are as safe as can be. To celebrate and illustrate the new paths, over a designated week students will ride from school to their neighbourhoods and back using donated Contrails. The result will be a path of lines that converge and grow brighter as they approach the school.”

Contrail has the potential to be used in many ways: perhaps it could even be used on led group rides with the leader marking a trail for others to follow?

Boris Bike scheme opens to non-members

In a week and a half, to grab a Boris Bike you won’t have to be an existing member of the Barclays Cycle Hire scheme.

The Mayor and Transport for London have announced that the Mayor’s flagship cycle hire scheme will go live to “casual users” on Friday 3rd December.

As of this date anyone with a Visa or MasterCard credit or debit card will be able to go to their nearest docking station and follow the on-screen instructions at the terminal to release a bike. The bikes are available 24 hours a day; seven days a week. Once the user has purchased their access period (for either 24 hours or seven days) the first 30 minutes of any journey will be free of usage charges.

The Bike Hub iPhone satnav and bike shop locator app also has location-data for all Boris Bike stands.

Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, said: “It is fantastic that the Barclays Cycle Hire scheme has not only proved incredibly popular but the system has shown itself to be rigorous and robust. Now it has been thoroughly tried and tested by more than a hundred thousand members we are ready for the next stage where anyone who fancies taking to two wheels can do so in an instant with a simple swipe of their card.”

TfL’s Managing Director of Surface Transport, David Brown, said: “Barclays Cycle Hire is transforming the way we travel around the Capital. The scheme is terrifically good value; around 95 per cent of all journeys made by Barclays Cycle Hire members have been under 30 minutes, which means that the vast majority of people using the scheme aren’t paying any more than their 24 hour £1, seven day £5 or annual £45 access fees.”

Deanna Oppenheimer, Vice-Chair, Global Retail Banking, CEO Western Europe and CEO UK Retail Banking at Barclays, said: “Barclays Cycle Hire is transforming London.”

Becoming a Barclays Cycle Hire member remains as the fastest way to access a bike with no queuing at the on street terminals (if any bikes can be found from 3rd December onwards). UK residents can start using the cycle hire scheme as a member for £4 – the cost of buying the membership key (£3) and their first 24 hour access period (£1). Currently the scheme has more than 100,000 members who have already made over 1.7 million journeys.

E-cars harm bikes, argues Sustrans

Sustrans Scotland fears that Scottish Government support for electric cars is taking cash and attention away from walking and cycling, genuinely sustainable forms of transport

In a press release headlined ‘Cycling investment hits pothole as electric cars take centre stage and CWSS appears to be scrapped’, Sustrans Scotland is voicing the fears of many sustainable transport campaigners: tried and trusted bikes are being sidelined by untried and largely untrusted electric cars.

Sustrans Scotland complains that yesterday’s Scottish budget announcement about a £4m increase for the ‘Sustainable and Active Travel’ isn’t all that it seems.

ecar ebike spot the difference

“Three quarters of that money appears destined to electric cars and low carbon vehicles,” said the Sustrans Scotland press release, a move that “rings alarm bells” at the charity.

John Lauder, Director of Sustrans Scotland said:

“The £4m increase to sustainable transport is bad news disguised as good news.  Investment in walking and cycling is proving value for money and cost effective. Investment in electric cars will not make the same return. People sitting in a car, however it is powered, for short journeys are not improving their health or the quality of life of neighbourhoods. Increased funding for the Transport Division of Transport Scotland, who deliver on sustainable transport, is welcome but taking the emphasis away from walking and cycling is not and totally undermines the Government’s delivery of the Cycling Action Plan for Scotland (CAPS).”

In England, the coalition Government scrapped Cycling England but is pouring billions into widening motorways and is paying £400m to roll out recharging infrastructure for electric cars. Furthermore, from January 2011, purchasers of electric cars in England will be eligible for £5000 grants. Purchasers of electric bikes are eligible for a grant of £0.

Norman Baker to face grilling from cycling MPs

Transport minister Norman Baker is to give a talk to the All Party Parliamentary Cycling Group on 1st December.

Entitled ‘The Government’s Cycling Policy’, the talk will be held in the Thatcher Room of Portcullis House.

The event is invitation-only.

Baker is the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport, with responsibility for cycling, walking and the eminently sensible ‘travel less’ initiative.

“Part of my brief as a transport minister is to sometimes encourage you not to travel. I want to be the first virtual transport minister,” he told the Daily Telegraph back in the summer.

“This isn’t just pie in the sky; it could really work with just a little bit of flexibility.”

Baker wants the DfT and the rest of Whitehall to set an example with officials and ministers using video conferencing to cut back on their own travel.

In a brave move, Baker will be at the APPCG meeting in the flesh. He’s expected to get a rough ride, both from MPs and invited guests such as representatives of cycling groups and members of the bike press.

'Greenest Government ever' relegates sustainable transport

Active travel projects won’t be funded until October 2011. Grants for electric cars start in January 2011.

Like other Government departments, and all in the name of transparency, the Department for Transport has released a Business Plan for 2011-2015. Cycling and walking organisations will not like what’s in the plan.

It’s big on fat grants for electric cars and rolling out a recharging infrastructure, but contains no mentions of creating any bicycle or pedestrian infrastructure. Starting in January, multi-car families will be able to get £5000 grants to buy yet more cars, but projects wanting cash from the four year £560m Local Sustainable Transport Fund will have to wait until October.

Cycling projects will have to battle it out with bus and pedestrian projects to gain a share of this fund. Transport minister Norman Baker has already pledged that some cash will go early to Bikeability but has yet to say how much. Cycling England estimates it would cost £50m a year to run Bikeability but the National Standard cycle training scheme for children and adults won’t get anywhere near that, fear cycle campaigners.

The DfT’s Business Plan is a 28-page PDF.

There’s an introduction from Transport Secretary Philip Hammond:

“Our vision is for a transport system that is an engine for economic growth but one that is also greener and safer and improves quality of life in our communities. By improving the links that help to move goods and people around, and by targeting investment in new projects that promote green growth, we can help to build the balanced, dynamic and low-carbon economy that is essential for our future prosperity.”

While the Government is backing High Speed Rail (the bulk of which will be paid for by future Governments, not this one), it’s also spending billions on widening the M25 and adding more lanes to other motorways.

“We will make big changes at the local level too, because we know how crucial good transport is to people’s quality of life,” says Hammond in the introduction to the Business Plan.

“So we will free local authorities from central government control, letting them decide their own local transport priorities and solutions.”

The result of this policy has been the turning off of speed cameras across the UK. While some have been turned back on because of excessive speeding, there’s now a general feeling in Local Authorities that any road calming measures are now seen by the DfT as a “war on the motorist”.

Hammond is pinning a lot of hopes on electric cars, even there are motor industry estimates that less than 9000 will have been sold by 2013. He thinks e-cars will curb congestion, even though they are the same size as cars with petrol-engines.

“We also want our roads to become safer, less congested and less polluted,” says Hammond.

“So we will support the introduction of the latest technologies, encouraging the use of electric and other ultra-low emission vehicles, to make transport cleaner and greener.”

Point number four of the DfT’s Structural Reform Priorities is to ‘Tackle carbon and congestion on our roads’. This will be achieved, believes the DfT Business Plan, by supporting “the early market for electric and other ultra-low emission vehicles, promote the more effective use of strategic roads by addressing the causes of congestion, and continue to improve road safety.”

The DfT also wants to ‘encourage sustainable local travel’ and will do this by encouraging “sustainable local travel and economic growth by making public transport (including light rail) and cycling and walking more attractive and effective, promoting lower carbon transport and tackling local road congestion.”

While motorways get billions, and electric cars get £5000 subsidies, Cycling England was abolished, a move described in the Business Plan as “the Department will no longer…fund and support arm’s length transport bodies where their activities are no longer required or can be better provided by other means.”

But these other means could take a while to set up. Bidding for the new Local Sustainable Transport Fund starts and ends in December but details on the entails” released on initial tranche of projects to be supported by the Local Sustainable Transport Fund” won’t be until October 2011. So, that’s almost a full year with no central pot for cycling or walking.

However, the DfT said it will “begin awarding Plug-in Car grants (25% of the price of an ultra-low emission vehicle, up to £5,000) to buyers of qualifying cars” by January 2011.

Further evidence of the DfT’s new windscreen perspective on the world are the ‘input indicators’, measures which we’re meant to be able to take the Government to task on. Rail and bus projects are “subsidised.” Roads are “maintained.”

There’s a “rail subsidy per passenger mile” and a “bus subsidy per passenger journey” but for motorists there’s a “cost of maintaining the Highways Agency’s motorway and A road network per lane mile.” There’s no ‘input indicator’ for local roads.