Saturday, 8 December 2012

They don't make safety posters like these anymore!
Remember the : "Think once, think twice, THINKK BIKE!" ads - they applied to all two wheelers. Its just that the motorbikes would take away a chunk of car for the trouble. Those dented wings and doors that don't shut properly can serve as an expensive reminder to open your eyes.

Thursday, 21 June 2012

Drainage Work on Route 52.

On the morning of Friday the 15th of June, Robert and I ventured out to a section of route 52 – so fortunately placed at his back door – that he had wanted to work on because of it constantly collecting rainwater flowing down the slope, - great for the plant life on both sides but not so for path users. To aid it on its way down we dug through the grass on the downward slope at key points, with the effect being noticeable almost right away. Now the water drains much better, although it’s probable the makeshift drainage ditches will soon be filled with vegetation, making this something to be repeated on a fairly regular basis. Robert also cut back thorny plants such as blackthorn and dogs rose that had begun to encroach on the path.

Once that was completed, we followed route 52 to Gracedieu Priory so I could learn more about the route and Sustrans in general. The trail seemed well managed, though just as it reaches the turn-off to the priory and the end of the woodlands a tremendous rotten branch had snapped off an Ash tree, presumably in the previous nights storm, taking with it a fair deal of neighbouring Sycamore branches. Being too large to move and blocking the path almost entirely, attempts were made to report it, - it will not be long before removal.

All in all, a productive day and the route has been improved somewhat. A crying shame, though, that the sporadic downpours were not avoided. 

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

NCN52 Weddington Way – Inspection Ride

On 05th June 2012 I performed an inspection ride of NCN52, between Higham-on-the-Hill and Attleborough, Nuneaton. The ride was dual purpose; 1, to check the state of the Weddington Country Walk / Coventry Canal off road section and 2, to perform a reconnaissance ride of the braided section of the route that passes through the town centre. The latter was to make recommendations for possible renumbering, as per current SUSTRANS practice concerning split or braided routes.

My findings were as follows:

A.      The Weddington Country Walk (WCW) is overgrown in two places:

1.       Weeds are crowding the path in places between the A5 and A444.

2.       Where the path near Sandon Park becomes very narrow, Hawthorne & Nettle are growing through the fence on both sides, making riding quite hazardous

B.      There is a lot of damage to signage (see photographs) along WCW thus:

1.       Reminder sign damaged at farm track over bridge near A5.

2.       Damage to “Busy Road” warning sign near A444.

3.       Signs damaged or completely torn away at Sandon Park.

4.       Graffiti over sign on Stoney Road.

5.       Signs damaged at entrance to Coventry Canal – Midland Road.

C.      The Railtrack improvements and diversion of railway lines, means that the Stoney Road area is in a state of constant flux and will be for a considerable amount of time. This will cause requirement of frequent updates to signage.

D.      There is very little signage along the Coventry Canal in either direction, this requires rectification. Signs that are in place are damaged or covered with graffiti.

E.       The signage of the “alternative” braided route, via Nuneaton town centre is rather sporadic and ambiguous running in a Southwest direction; running Northeast, some of the signing is almost non-existent.

F.       At Pingles Park (The Wem Brook Trail) the white “National Cycle Network” direction signs (as shown in Photograph 6) have all suffered damage, most missing at least 1 arm some having none.

I conclude that the on road route via Nuneaton town centre, is possibly the more viable route to sign as route 52. I suggest that the route via Weddington Way, Sandon Park, Stoney Road and the Coventry Canal could be renumbered as NCN (52) or (52A) or Regional Route RCN (52) or (52A). This should be applicable between where the route diverges at the A444 Weddington Road and where it reconverges, with the Coventry Canal at the Shepperton Business Park. This option will require less expenditure for replacement of signs.

I am prepared to perform some of these corrections, between Higham-on-the-Hill and Shepperton Business Park, but I also think that the Nuneaton group should have a chance to share in the improvements.

Kev Regester – West Leicestershire Ranger – NCN52 Weddington Way

Freshairmiles - quality not quantity!

We ran two social rides out of Hinckley on the evenings of Monday 27th May and Mon 4th June. Our target audience was specifically a group of adults who had just completed cycle training courses run by Leicestershire Council. The idea was to provide a social activity and introduce them the local network of lanes so that they could try out their new skills in a safe environment.

I publicised the rides by turning up at two of their cycle training evenings, talking to them about Sustrans and the planned rides and also handing out contact details and flyers for the rides. There seemed to be a fair amount of interest albeit that there were probably only 10 or so regular participants. We did not publicise the rides any wider in fairness.

Unfortunately the interest did not translate into people turning up for the rides on what turned out to be two of the better evenings for weather. The weather for the first ride was glorious.

So we had just Tina along for the first ride and she was joined by Judy for the second ride. In the end the other planned ride leaders were "stood down" and I took the ladies out on my own. On the first night Tina was keen to go further so we extended the planned ride and did an extra loop out to Shenton station - probably 15 miles in total. The second night was a bit cooler so we contented ourselves with the planned loop out to Dadlington and Stoke Golding stopping for a well earned drink in the George and Dragon. The ladies said they enjoyed the rides and I certainly did. Both of them intend to continue with their cycling so thats great.

This is now our third year of running freshairmiles rides and we have still not cracked how to get joe public along. I am tempted to get myself trained as a Skyride leader next year and go down the skyrides local route - they have a bigger marketing budget than Sustrans!

Sunday, 22 April 2012

NCN524 Blaby to Higham-on-the-Hill – Test Ride

A few souls (with nothing better to do) met up in Blaby, at 0930 on Sunday 22nd April 2012. Our Objective: to test the viability of this route, as a new part of the National Cycle Network, linking some parts of South-West Leicestershire, that until now, had been overlooked.
Those Present:
James Lowe, Alan White, Eric Ludlow, Robert Robinson, Jack Riggal and Myself.

I think that everyone enjoyed the ride and the general consensus was that this was a good, viable route, to add to the network. The weather stayed on our side for most of the way, only turning bad on us with a brief downpour, near Wykin, close to our Journey’s end at Higham. Even then Jack scared the weather into submission by donning his waterproofs.
The journey went pretty much without incident, apart from maybe two points to mention:
1.       The gradient around Croft Hill, beat me, forcing me to get off and push, much to my shame, considering all of my counterparts managed it, several of them carrying more senior years than I.
2.       Despite much cajoling and multiple pleas, Eric was adamant in his refusal to perform any stunts at the Watery Gate Lane ford, near Thurlaston. A missed opportunity methinks, especially considering an almost captive audience.

The trip was approximately 16½ miles, only slightly over my estimate and took just less than 2½ hours. We did identify some areas that require attention, as the route develops, listed thus:

Infrastructure Alteration Requirements
1.       Whetstone / Blaby
Grove Road & A426 – Blaby By-Pass Roundabout
i.                     Footpaths need upgrading to Share use Pedestrian & Cycle paths, all around the roundabout, to allow safe negotiation of junction by pedal cyclists.
2.       Narborough
Coventry Road, B4114 – King Edward Ave & Huncote Road
i.                     Divert cyclists onto Northern pavement (upgraded to shared use) on Coventry Road, between Cedar Crescent and King Edward Ave.
ii.                   Upgrade Pelican Crossing to Toucan Crossing.
iii.                  Upgrade Western pavement of B4114 – King Edward Avenue to shared use Cycle/Footway, between Toucan Crossing & Huncote Road.
iv.                 Continue shared use Cycleway, into Huncote Road (on Northern pavement) until Just before car parking lay-by.
v.                   Install appropriate signage, on roads, pavements and posts, informing cyclists where to leave or rejoin main carriageway, at these alterations.

3.       Hinckley
Barwell Lane, B4667 – Ashby Road & Barrie Road
i.                     B4667 – Ashby Road; Eastern pavement – Upgrade to shared use, between Barwell Lane & pedestrian crossing.
ii.                   Upgrade Pelican Crossing to Toucan Crossing.
iii.                  B4667 – Ashby Road; Western Pavement – Upgrade to shared use, Toucan crossing and Barrie Road.
iv.                 Install appropriate signage, on roads, pavements and posts, informing cyclists where to leave or rejoin main carriageway, at these alterations.

A very big thank-you to Alan, for providing refreshment and an excellent chilli to round off a very pleasant day.
Kev Regester
West Leics Sustrans Ranger
NCN52 (Weddington Way)

Sunday, 1 April 2012

Ride out to Loughborough

Sad I know, but I had been fascinated by the Loughborough Cycle map which shows a number of numbered cycle routes through and around the town. On a lovely spring day myself, Eric and Robert took a trip out to Leicester via NCN 63 and then NCN 6 north to Loughborough. A couple of problems following 63 which has quite a few twists and turns but we got there without any real problems. We then picked up NCN 6 which was more straightforward and has recently had some posh new signs.

Refreshment stops at the Abbey Park cafe and then a well earned pint at a canalside pub in Loughborough which went down very well.

From here we headed off in different directions for home - me a hilly ride through Charnwood fo
rest and Eric tried the towpath. Robert opted for NCN 6 / 52. Before we split Robert and I followed a part of Route 3 from the pub. This looks like a bit of a ring road around the town. Anyway it delivered me from the pub to the Uni where I picked up the road to Nanpantan The route was well signed and the cycle route was all on dedicated cycle paths by the side of the road.
Bit tired by the time I got home, but a great day out.

Thursday, 29 March 2012

Sunday 25th March was a beautiful day for our workday on NCN Route 52 in Gracedieu woods in Thringstone, Leics.  Our work party of 7 consisted of Eric, Shawn, Ben, Kev, myself (Robert), ably assisted by Jack (a new volunteer) and my son Alex.  I arrived by car at about 10 15 am  with a trailer full of wheelbarrows, spades, shovels and sweeping brushes,  some of them had been borrowed from kind neighbours.  I quickly set up notices informing the public that work was being done on the path.
As soon as the volunteers arrived  we set about trying clear a section of an old railway cutting (originally the Nuneaton to Loughborough line) -  about 230 metres need to be cleared of collected debris. This consisted of leaves which had by now composted down, an ideal growing ground for the blackberry bramble (the cyclist’s favourite bush - anyone who has caught one in the crook of their arm riding at speed knows why they are favourite!)   In total we managed to clear about 150 metres, removing 100+ barrowloads of  assorted debris - brambles, old bits of branches etc.  We increased the narrow path back to a comfortable 2 - 3 metre width, finishing at 1.00pm - not a bad morning’s work.

I was pleased at this point to depart to a local hostelry as I was feeling somewhat tired and in need of refreshment; I don't know how those helpers who had cycled to Thringstone summoned up the energy to ride home, as they had already cycled in for about 1.5 hours. Kev - who had been transported by car to the work site and then unloaded his bike and trailer, intended to make the return journey by bike which apparently would take about 3 hours. Thanks very much to you all, a great effort and I am sure that this will be appreciated by all who use this route.
Footnote: several local residents commented on the day that they were pleased to see the clearing work being done, as this is a very popular section of route 52 and well used by both cyclist and walkers.
thanks again to all involved.
Robert ROBINSON Ranger on NCN 52, 6, 15 Coalville to Wilson

Reclaiming our streets

Inspired by campaigns such as Sustrans "Free Range Kids" and The Times Cycle Campaign I decided that 20mph speed limits were the answer for my own village of Stoke Golding. However as I started to dig around and talk to people the answer became less clear to me. I took a step back and thought about what I was trying to achieve. The answer to this was easier - I wanted streets where people could live, play and socialise rather than it being just a thoroughfare for cars. In short I wanted to hand back streets to the people who live there - but how to do it?

Traffic speeds are critical, but streets also need to look and feel like a "place" rather than a highway. This can become a virtuous circle as research shows that drivers will naturally slow when there are people about and when the street "tells" them they need to go slow. This is generally talked about as "natural" or "psychological" calming. Designed correctly you should not need lots of hard calming measures such as speed bumps. This is all very well for a new development, but harder to achieve for existing streets.

I took a trip out to have a proper look at the neighbouring village of Higham on the Hill which is a "home zone". This has been done very nicely - not too many signs, no speed bumps, but subtle changes in road colour and texture, narrowing of roads. Planters, benches and attractive bollards. All great, but a whooping price tag of £400,000!!

This set me talking to the DIY Streets team at Sustrans. Their premise is that there are effective changes that can be made to streets
at low cost. A build out here and there, some changes in road texture or colour or a planter or two. The key here is that some of these can be done by the community themselves. This keeps costs low and builds ownership. They passed on some very useful resources that give some principles for street design, and also some ideas for how you can enliven streets - a temporary or moveable street cafe or a street side art gallery for example. Anything that will bring the community out and allow them to reclaim their streets.

So whilst I haven't given up on 20mph limits, I now believe that they are not enough on their own. At best they will achieve a marginal reduction in speed, but that alone will not be enough to reclaim the streets.

So where do I go from here? Well I have a slot at the Annual Parish Meeting in late April where I am hoping that I can achieve buy in to the vision and get support from the Parish Council and community. What I would then like to do is:
- start properly campaigning for reduced speed limits in the village;
- pick a particular problem and get some changes implemented on the ground; I think this is key to building momentum and credibility
- get an streets design for the village identifying affordable changes (Sustrans DIY Streets team can do this)

As ever funding will be a challenge, but we can but try. I will keep you posted through the blog as this develops.

I have unearthed quite a few good resources during my research - get in touch if you are interested and I may be able to point you in the right direction. Equally if anybody out there has been there / done it I would love to hear from you.

Monday, 26 March 2012

Leicestershire Cycle Training

Leicestershire County Council are running adult cycle training courses again this year. There are courses in our patch at Hinckley, Barwell and Coalville. We are looking at how we can support the newly trained cyclists. More details here

National Cycle Network – Route 52 Signing Ride

Hi all, on 2nd January 2012, I took a trip out to Nuneaton, to attend to the signing of a part of NCN52, under my care. My partner Jean dropped me off, with my step son, George and our bikes, near the junction of the Coventry Canal and Midland Road.

We had a lot of signing to take care of around the ramp linking the Coventry Canal to Midland Road, especially following the route in a South-West direction. There was no sign directing cyclists off of Midland Road, and the addition of a sign with a “↙” arrow was needed to clarify “doubling back” onto the tow path, at the bottom of the ramp, in order to follow the route.

The signs exiting the canal (travelling NE) were a little clearer, but I placed the arrow pointing up the ramp, for clarification. Again there was no signing at the top of the ramp, indicating a left turn onto Midland Road.

This may seem like a dense placement of signage in a small area, but at the same time, much needed to avoid confusion and ambiguity. Yes over-signing can lead to confusion, but it is far better than undersigning or non-signing which leaves everyone lost. The first time I rode this route, even armed with a map, I gave up at this point. I was back at home looking on google satellite & street view, before I discovered where the route went.

My advice – Imagine you are directing a stranger (to the area) along your route. If you have ridden for a while and there has been no sign, place a confirmation sign. It is reassuring that you are still on the right track. There is nothing worse than the feeling “Have I taken a wrong turn?”

Our next area of concern was Stoney Road. Exiting right onto Midland Road needed a replacement sign, for a damaged one. Further along Network Rail are doing some track alterations and demolishing a bridge, new signs were required to follow the now diverted course of Stoney Road.

We then set off along our off-road travels, along the Weddington Country Walk, pausing to place a 52 sticker that was missing. George and I erected a couple of Safety Signs where our route crossed the main A444, Weddington Road.

The last 3 signs were placed in Higham-on-the-Hill, to help allay confusion, or to confirm the route. My other half then collected us at a farm entrance, off Stoke Road, helping us hang our bikes on the back of the car, before setting off home.

A cold but pleasant way to spend the first bank holiday of the year; we have made a photo diary of our efforts, just to keep a record. There are no “before” shots, as a blank fence or post would present you with little interest.

Kev Regester – Ranger NCN52 (Weddington Country Walk)