Wednesday, 6 October 2010

To Brum on a bike

A couple of weekends back I attended a regional Sustrans training day in the centre of Birmingham. (will try and write this up sometime). This and a good forecast was reason enough to try and cycle my way into the centre of Brum - something I have fancied doing for a while.

Planning a quiet / traffic free route proved a little harder than I imagined - in particular trying to find out cycling conditions on the extensive canal network proved difficult. I eventually managed to get hold of a copy of the excellent Birmingham Cycle Map , which I found more practical than the online mapping

The route I eventually settled upon was from Stoke Golding to Kingsbury Water along quiet lanes through Atherstone, Baxterley and Hurley and then picking up the Birmingham and Fazeley canal just outside Kingsbury Water park at Bodymoor Heath. I intended to pick up the Birmingham and Warkwick canal at spaghetti junction, but I wasn' paying attention and in the end followed the Birmingham and Fazeley canal all the way (actually Sustrans route 535) to my destination in Digbeth very close to the city centre.

So how did I find it and would I do it again? Well despite having two punctures (my fault because my back tyre was past its sell by date) the answer is that it was great and I would deinately consider doing it again. Progress along the upper section of the canal from Kingsbury to around Minworth was a little slow and consequently the whole trip of 26 miles took about 2.5 hours each way. The route was very easy to find - the only place I got lost was within Kingsbury Water Park, but this is a very pleasant place to be lost. The upper part of the canal was not always ideal for cycling - a couple of potholes on the towpath that I had to walk around and one which I didn't, but should have (narrowly avoided a swim!!).

The canals through Birmingham was fascinating, but disappointingly there was precious little boating. Next time I want to spend more time in the centre exploring some of the other canals.

Anybody fancy a trip?

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

15th NCN Anniversary ride - Market Bosworth

Well what a lovely day we had - great company, great weather and great cycling. Things were not looking quite so bright as the 2pm start time approached and the first raindrops appeared from nowhere and we rang around people who had booked, but had not shown up.
Frustrating then that after all our hard work promoting we were only 8 riders plus 4 volunteers. Never mind the 8 people who joined us were very friendly and enthusiastic. We got the briefing done and we were on our way as the weather (thankfully) cleared.
Alan lead the way (easy job) and Eric road shotgun. Keith and Jane made sure everybody was OK and that junctions were safe to cross.
First stop Carlton where we had a quick stop and checked that the pace was comfortable for everyone. From Carlton we went under the railway and over the canal (the first of many crossings that day) and we were then on Route 52 heading south. A quick stop at the Water Park (wind was a bit fresh to linger) for toilets and ice cream (only Eric was mad enough) and we were on our way again - now heading towards Stoke Golding and our tea stop.
We continued to follow Route 52 along quiet country lanes through Coton in the Elms and Shenton and soon found ourselves in Stoke Golding where Jane and Ruth were waiting with tea and homemade cakes. The weather was nice enough to sit outside and it was difficult to tear ourselves away to get back on our bikes.

The return journey was a little hillier - a climb out of Stoke Golding into Dadlington and again from Shenton Station past the Bosworth Battlefield entrance towards Sutton Cheney. We were lucky enough to see a steam train at Shenton. From Sutton Cheney we picked up the gated road and were soon back at our starting point in Bosworth.

We think everybody had a good time - some kindly wrote emails to say so. I know that the volunteers enjoyed it. We were fortunate that the weather was kind and that we had a great bunch of people. But credit is due to all the group who put a lot of effort into promotion and planning.
I failed in my role as photographer for the day, but Ruth bailed me out by taking some at our tea stop - not many cycling pictures I'm afraid though - you will find them here The route if you are interested is here
So what are we doing in 2011?

Thursday, 9 September 2010

Sloes and signs on the 52

Just thought I'd say that I pruned the sloe (blackthorn) bushes in Snibston Discovery Park on Tuesday 7th September. The 52 has been looking very nice recently, it is awash with sloes, blackberries, rosehips and an apple tree. I'm surprised Ray Mears hasn't been spotted on it.

The sloe bushes in the Snibston Discovery section have been pruned back and I have several pounds of the fruit are now in my freezer, awaiting transfer to the gin bottle. The blackberries on the 52 also taste pretty nice. Get out and enjoy them!

On signing, there are now signs directing you from Snibston Mine on Ashby Road and the jitty on Ravenstone Road (near the Council Houses). The sign from the jitty takes you towards Snibston Discvery Park entrance. Near the Snibston Museum, there is an important sign directing you either left (Grange Nature Reserve, 1/3 mile) or right (Ravenstone 1 mile). Left takes you up the big pit bank and then onto the turning for Coalville and the nature reserve. Straight on takes you along past the golf course, straight on towards Ravenstone. These will need checking along with the route signs as they are local 'feed in' routes to the 52. It shouldn't take very long to do them, no more than 10 minutes.

Coalville is now covered in Sustrans stickers!

This is a substantial bit of signing. My objective when I get back will be to measure some distances with my cycle computer and get some decent 'point to point' signage up. The resources are there, we just have to be diligent enough to work it out, send off for them and put them up. This should hopefully make the route more user-friendly and provide more information than the ubiquitous 'Bosworth Trail' signs.

Sunday, 29 August 2010

Skyride 2010

We have just come back from running a Sustrans stall at Leicester Skyride. Great event! Say whatever you will about Sky as an organisation, but you have to take your hats off to Skyride for getting bums on bike seats - and young ones at that. It was particularly great to see so many families with young children cycling.

Our stall was in the Town Hall square which was manned by an enthusiastic band of volunteers (thanks to all of you) from both the Leicester and West Leicester groups. We were kept pretty busy most of the day, ranging from kids (lots of them) who wanted ballons (we ran out), stickers and badges to parents and other adults who wanted to know where to cycle - particularly traffic free as a family.

Our focus was on providing local information both about cycling locally and Sustrans as an organisation. We had some A1 display maps of Leicester and Leicestershire extracted from the Sustrans mapping (which were very useful) and a range of cycling leaflets and maps from Leicestershire Council. On the Sustrans front we had a range of leaflets and we plugged the "free your bike" leaflets getting some 22 completed and giving away at least twice as many again for people to take away and fill in. We "sold" a box of puncture repair kits for donations of a £1.

As always it was the local information which was of the most interest. The most common question being "where can we cycle traffic free with children?". Here the "Where to cycle in Leicestershire leaflet" proved popular (we ran out of these), the A1 display maps (and local knowledge) also helped answer this question. So many people (again) said "do you have a cycle map of Leicester?" - when oh when will the council ever finally get this published? If you are all as frustrated about this as I am why not email the council and tell them - maybe this email address will work

Map rant over, I personally very much enjoyed the day and everybodys company. I think we served a useful function and provided some useful local information to people that I am not aware was available anywhere else, and in doing so raised awareness of Sustrans.

Before we forget the day it is perhaps worth reflecting what we might do differently next time. Heres my "starter for 10" - why not use the blog comments or email me with your thoughts:

  • bring some paperweights and or more leaflet display stands or choose a less windy day!!
  • more ballons (and any other childrens freebies that might be available)
  • probably a bit overstaffed in the afternoon - I think 3 people was about optimal, but it did give the chance for people to take off and look around.
  • we could augment our A1 maps to show local leisure cycle routes (particularly off road) - it would also be useful to be able to display the available council maps / leaflets
  • we all need a better way to explain Sustrans simply, concisely and consitently to people who have never heard of us - maybe we need a bit of a script
  • we produced an A5 flyer for the West Leicestershire ranger group, but we have never got it printed up - we should look at doing this

...and thinking beyond the stall itself heres a couple of thoughts, I will probably take these thoughts along to the Sustrans rangers day in Birmingham on 25th Sep. Happy to take others along as well if you are not going to be there ...

  • could the "free your bike" pack also include local council cycling leaflets?
  • why aren't Sustrans more engaged with Skyride at a senior level - where else can Sustrans engage with so many potential cyclists?

Bosworth Farmers Market Aug 2010

August saw us returning to Bosworth Farmers Market with the focus very much on promoting our "Fresh Air Miles" led rides on 4th and 12th September. Alan, Eric and Joe manned the stall and we had a little more space than last time. Eric's fixed wheel bike proved a useful prop and generated attention.

We still only managed to sign up two people for the rides despite quite a lot of interest. Still the weather was kind to us and we managed to pass on useful information about cycling locally. The Gopsalls ice cream and the beer afterwards went down well!!

Monday, 26 July 2010

Bosworth Farmers Market - Jul 2010

Tom and I spent a useful day at Bosworth Farmers Market on 25th July. I thought I would do a bit of a report as we are due to attend again next month on 22nd August.

Overall it was a very worthwhile day. We spoke to a lot of people - some cyclists, some not and had quite a lot of interest in Sustrans and our planned led rides in September. It is amaing how many people have unused bikes in garages!! We arrived at 9:00 when the market started and left about 1:30 - market finishes at 2:00, but is quiet after 1:00. Between 10:30 and 12:30 it is really buzzing.

We ended up with a good spot at the entrance to the market and had enough room for a small table. The roller banner (see picture) worked really well, but it is not really designed for outdoor use - however we were next to a handy bollard that we could strap it to and it was fine!

Because space was limited all the information we used was:
- free your bike cards; people fill these in and send off to get an information pack about cycling local to them
- our FreshAirMiles led rides flyers
- Hinckley cycle map
- "banana booklets" - general info about Sustrans / cycling and also has supporters form

We probably should have counted what we distributed, but I would say about 25 cycle maps (we ran out of these), 30-40 led rides flyers, 20 free your bike cards and half a dozen "banana booklets" plus a few balloons and badges.

The other thing was that you do need to actively approach people. Initially they are suspicious that you are either trying to sell to them or con them! Once you get over this hurdle then people are more than happy to talk and we got into all sorts of interesting conversations about cycling and the world in general.

They are happy to have us back next month, but we may not get the same spot. Personally I can recommend the Gopsalls ice cream although next month I am hoping we are next to the wine rather than olives!
PS The penny farthings and old bikes (see slideshow) just happened to be passing - can't remember what club they were from.

PPS. I have subsequently tried to get hold of more Hinckley cycle maps, however they have none left (they printed 10,000). They intend reprinting, but this may not be in time for next month.

Saturday, 24 July 2010

Route 63 to Moira and beyond

Last week I had a proper chance to ride Route 63 north west through Measham and on to Moira and Church Gresley where the route currently ends. I thought I would share a few thoughts and some pictures that I took...

Going west from the Route 63 junction with Route 52 (south of Heather) the route heads through Newton Burgoland and arrives in Measham by quiet country lanes. At Measham (by the library) the route becomes traffic free and uses the Ashby Woulds heritage trail to Moira and Conkers. Beyond this there is more offroad riding through the National Forest to the current end of the route at Church Gresley.

I really enjoyed riding the route - especially the offroad section which I think would be an ideal venue for future child / family friendly cycling events.

The route was well signed and maintained (well done Shawn) and all I did was to clip a few branches overhanging branches. There were just a couple of issues as I saw it:
  1. The trail was difficult to pick up in Measham (Keith and I have put up some signs now, would be interested to know if othrs think this works)
  2. Route 63 currently follows two different routes around Conkers (straight through or a canal detour to Conkers Waterside).- You can see this on one of the slide show pictures and map - I found this confusing. Having spoken to Patrick he says that current best practice is that there should only be 1 route and that we should "unsign" the canal loop. This seems a shame and I would like to find an alternative. I will discuss with Shawn.

If any of you have not cycled the route before I would recommend a trip out. A personal favourite spot for me Moira Furnace on the Ashby canal section.

Happy cyclin


Thursday, 8 July 2010

The Coalville Gap II

Here are some photos of the fairly non-standard signage for the Route 52 'Coalville Gap'. The main aim of the signs is to give non-locals a rough idea of where to go, to tell them to dismount for certain sections and to emphasise the unofficial/unfinished nature of the Route.

I have put up several 'Route under Development' stickers under the signs to let cyclists know that the Route is unfinished and the 'NCN X' sticker to let them know that they are leaving the NCN.

The photo on the left is next to the Sustrans mile post near the Council Offices. The photo on the right shows the Kane Close-Margaret Street path.

The route I have signed is not perfect because of the narrowness of paths, frequent dismounting etc It is enough to stop someone not from the area getting lost. Given the frequency of vandalism (including to the previous map/notice I affixed to the mile post and the removal of some stickers already!), I think the map box idea was a non-starter.

The next target is to get some signs up around Snibston Discovery Park and some destination signs.

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Notes from joint meeting with Leicester Sustrans group

Jane and I attended a joint meeting with the Leicester Sustrans group on 19th June in Leicester. The meeting was arranged by Katie AT (Sustrans Volunteer Coordinator) and was attended by Patrick Davis (sustrans Area Manager) and about 10 rangers from the Leicester Ranger Group.

The meeting was enjoyable and informative and an opportunity to meet so fellow rangers in one of our neighboring group. The Leicester group has a big patch which includes the city centre but also extends as far east as Market harborough. The two groups meet along route 63 at Bagworth. They have about 20 volunteers on the books and so are quite a big group. Their liaison ranger has just stepped down and Rory James has just taken on the role. At the meeting they decided that their priority is on route maintenance and signing. With some town centre and off road sections this is a much bigger challenge for them than us.

A few other points of interest that arose at the meeting:
  • Lush (the new bodyshop?) are cycling from store to store using the NCN whereever possible - they are looking for some assistance with routes
  • Leicester Skyride happening again this year - planning is just starting
  • I am going to hold an events pack (promotional material) for use by both groups
  • Useful Sustrans contacts:
    Andy Cope (route monitoring)
    Jane Chapman (signing Guru)
    Kate Jones (events)

Sustrans promotions (more info on )

  • “more haste less speed” – getting authorities to act with more haste to help develop sustainable travel solutions. Aim is to double the number of sustainable journeys by 2020
  • 15 year anniversary of NCN – Sept 11th
  • Smilelage / free your bike – fill in a form and get back info pack about cycling locally to you
  • Fresh Air Miles rides September – currently about 30 of these in planning
  • Bike Week 19-27 June
  • Change You World 28 June- 3 July – swap a car journey
  • Festivol 16-19July now has 80 people signed up (limit is 100)

Saturday, 1 May 2010

NWL Cycle Map

LCC / NWLDC are producing / publishing a cycle map for North West Leicestshire. This will be along the same lines as the Hinckley cycle map with rural NWL on one side of the map and urban areas Coalville (and probably Ashby) on the other. The map will actually be produced by Cycle City Guides and it is planned to be published in early autumn.

Keith and I have been invited to sit on the working group to develop the map and the first meeting was held at Moira on 22nd April. In addition there were representatives from the National Forest, CTC, LCC and NWLDC. There was some discussion at the meeting over the format and content of the map, but this was pretty much a done deal given that they had recently produced the Hinckley map -that said the Hinckley map is pretty good.

We got given homework!! We were given some rural maps of the NWL area and some coloured felt pens and they want us to use our local knowledge to mark up the maps with recommended cycle roads and routes. We have to complete this by 7th May and there will be a follow up meeting arranged to review (date tbc). Keiths' Castle Donnington work can be input to the map - albeit in rather less detail. At some point we will be given the urban maps of Coalville and Ashby and will need to go through a similar process - Joseph's input would be particularly useful at this point.

We will also need to think about launch and promotion.

At the meeting Alan Leather (National Forest) gave an update on plans for a National Forest Cycle Centre. This will be a purpose built mountain bike centre targetted at beginners with about 8 miles of green and blue trails. The site is about 160HA just outside of Moira. Plans have been passed, funding is in place, construction is due to start in the summer with completion in March 2011.

I also asked about the Leicester city centre map and was told that its publication is imminent! so that's good news.

If anybody would like to contribute to the NWL maps then please let Keith or myself know.


Route 52 gap through Coalville - meeting with NWLDC

The meeting with the district council on Wednesday 31st March 2010 went ok. I had a chat with Steve McCue and one of his colleagues (Richardson?) for twenty minutes or so.

Discussion re: the 'hole' in the 52 in central Coalville

NWLDC is committed to the "Coalville Vision" plan, which would see developments along several parts of the proposed NCN52 route through Coalville. NWLDC will not put in a cycling facility and then have to withdraw it a few years later. Consequentially, NWLDC do not envisage completing the route until they have made progress with the Coalville Vision plan. Steve McCue to check with the Planning team and ask if the NCN52 is integrated within the Coalville cyclcing plan and what cycling routes they plan to develop in the Coalville area.

My suggestion to put up plastic boxes containing maps of the town centre was supported. Leicestershire Orienteering club has put some similar boxes up in Snibston Discovery Park and they are quite good.

I agreed to have a look at boxes for these and then to ask Sustran to clear it as an expense. I have also had a look for a better map and the map in the middle of the new 'Coalville Town guide' is very good- it just needs one of two streets tacking onto the white space on the left. I'll contact NWLDC and ask them to help me with this.

Cycling promotion in NWLDC

NWLDC can arrange promotion for led rides quite easily. They are looking at led rides around the following weeks:

National Family Week 31st May-6th June

National Bike Week 19-27 June 2010

Their led rides are normally organised by the CTC. It was suggested that we should co-ordinate our efforts with them.
The big event in Coalville for Family Week is a picnic at Snibston Discovery Park on Monday 31 May 2010 12:00 - 15:00. This might be a good place for us to have a stall or hand out some leaflets.

Joseph North

Friday, 29 January 2010

NCN Route 63 Traffic Counts

Heres a bit of a geeky blog...

I spent a cold and pretty dull 1/2 hour counting traffic at the cross roads that forms the junction of the the B582 and B585 just north of Nailstone (see map). If you remember (see previous blog post) these roads provided options for rerouting NCN 63 avoiding Battram Wood. I collected the data on a weekday morning (around 10am). I would like to repeat in the rush hour but I will need some help at it was a struggle to log each vehicles entry and exit from the junction. For any fellow geeks I have put the traffic flow below (doubled up to give an houly rate). I have numbered the roads (see map) to avoid confusion (I hope!)

I would draw the following conclusions:

  1. There seems to be a high percentage of lorries (18%) and as high as 25% on the B585 going north.

  2. The busiest road is the B585 going north - this is in fact the road that Route 63 takes further north when it emerges after Battram wood

  3. The east - west route along the B582 is more lightly loaded (this was identified as part of the black route in the previous post)

I having been trying to find standards for traffic flows for cycle routes, but have not been able to find any recommendations from Sustrans - I will ask Patrick. I did find some standards for the EuroVelo routes (long distance cross Europe cycle routes) which says: "Shared on-road routes should normally carry less than 1,000 vehicles per day and only in exceptional circumstances more than 3,000 vehicles per day".
I don't know how to convert an hourly daytime flow to a daily rate. I came up with a factor of 20 which sort of assumed very low night time flows, but more at rush hour. This would give daily flows of around 1000 - 1500 vehicles per day.

The single bike recorded wasn't me by the way!!

Heres the data ...