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)