Category Archives: – Cycles and Cycling

Cycle-paths die in Suffolk’s free market

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It is impossible to cycle along this cyclepath. SCC has not maintained it for 2 years

Since Conservative-run Suffolk County Council divested its Highways maintenance services to the efficiencies of the private sector , its not only the roads that are in bad repair. Cycle paths abutting the A12 are in a  disgraceful state of disrepair, and many can no longer be used for cycling. This forces vulnerable cyclists back on the A12 amidst the fast traffic and HGVs – a situation the cycle-paths were specifically created to remedy.

Last week  I discovered for myself that the A12 cycle path between  Woodbridge and the Ufford turnoff is not only overgrown, but in places it has actually disappeared.

Travel was a choice between walking our bikes on the ‘cycle path’ or cycling on the A12. We chose the former as safer – but the damage to my own bicyle’s inner tube and front tyre was irreparable because of the thorns and brambles across the path.

Unfortunately we will  have no option but to cycle this route tomorrow. Does my disabled companion – who has catastrophic epilepsy – take her chance on the A12, or add an extra half-hour to an hour to her thirty-minute journey  battling through the jungle where a cycle path used to be?

It is not a choice Suffolk Highways should be offering her, me, or any other cyclist, in this, the self-described ‘Greenest County.’

I have  written to the Cabinet member for Highways and the Deputy Director of Highways Operations asking for their assurance that they should abandon this policy of wilful neglect and restore these paths to a usable condition immediately.

Not only is the path overgrown, somebody has kindly left an enormous pile of thorns across it. Gee, thanks
Not only is the cycle path overgrown, somebody has kindly left an enormous pile of thorns across it. Gee, thanks

What’s been happening May-June 2014

FIrebreakers1 (1024x692)Proposed Woodbridge Fire and Police station merger  Woodbridge residents were invited to a drop in session on Thursday to view proposals to extend and merge the existing fire station with the police station. Plans and information were unveiled at the event and representatives from both services –  together with myself – were on hand to discuss the proposals.

Suffolk already has four shared stations at Ixworth, Elmswell, Debenham and Framlingham. The aim of the Woodbridge plans is for the services  to become even more cost effective, allowing the services to work much more closely together .The funding for the Woodbridge project will be shared between the two services and it is hoped that the government will provide grant funding for the building works

Although there were concerns – mainly about parking and increased transport – response to the consultation was broadly favourable.

The design includes:

  • An extension to the front of the fire station, which would provide new office accommodation for Suffolk Constabulary.
  • Provision for five new car parking spaces for police use and cycle parking to the rear of the site.
  • A new garage to the rear of the station to accommodate an emergency vehicle, and
  • Much improved facilities for staff and the community and better access for the public

If approved, the work would commence in summer 2014 and will be completed for March 2015. There would be no disruption to fire and police services during the building works

People can continue to provide feedback via email: Fire.BusinessSupport@suffolk.gov.uk, quoting ‘Woodbridge Consultation’.

End of CSD – Customer Service Direct  On 1 June SCC moved CSD – Customer Service Direct – back in-house.  CSD,  in which BT had a majority stake alongside the county and Mid Suffolk councils, handled SCC’s  financial administration, IT, and personnel functions. The councils’ call centres were also operated by CSD

The cost of the contract was initially £301 million, but this increased to £427 million over 10 years as more functions were added to the service.

A hard lesson has been learned here. Proof, if proof was needed, that outsourcing services doesn’t always make savings and is not always best.

The PCC – and Thoroughfare Parking  At the Suffolk County Council AGM in May, the Police and Crime Commissioner  Tim Passmore presented details of his year, saying “ My role is to ensure the policing needs of our communities are met as effectively as possible, bringing communities closer to the police and building confidence in the system. My job is to listen and respond to the needs of the people of Suffolk; bringing more of a public voice to policing.  If you have an issue that you would like to raise, please contact me via the website, www.suffolk-pcc.gov.uk or call 01473 782777 .”

I took him at his word, and, meeting him shortly afterwards I raised the issue of police enforcement of parking in the Woodbridge Thoroughfare. He promised to look into this urgently.

Suffolk Reading Scheme This year’s reading scheme will be on the theme of the Mysterious Maze. As ever, the Woodbridge Library is on the lookout for volunteers to help local children read their books over the summer holidays.

Suffolk Records Office consultation  Suffolk County Council received over 500 responses to a recent consultation to improve Suffolk Records Office opening hours.

The consultation was on proposals to reducing weekday opening hours, improving the service on a Saturday and developing a key online presence.66% of respondents felt the proposals would bring a positive improvement to the service.

There was a majority of support for closing the office one day a week to allow improvements to the online accessibility of information and digitised materials. Respondents also showed great support for an improved Saturday service and later opening times, although some felt not opening until 10am was too late. In consequence SCC will bev blooking to open each  record office branch for 35 hours a week: 9.30am – 4.30pm, Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

Let’s Look Out for Each Other Cycle-Drive campaign   SCC has launched Let’s Look Out for Each Other  – an educational campaign that encourages both cyclists and drivers to share Suffolk’s roads. Each week approximately four cyclists are injured in Suffolk with almost three cyclists killed or seriously injured every month.

4% of adults in Suffolk cycle at least five times a week – as opposed to the national average of 3%; and 20% of adults in Suffolk cycle at least once a month -5% above the national average of 15%

Driver error has been attributed to 68% of all collisions in Suffolk.  In 77% of cyclist casualties at or at or near a junction, the cyclist have not been culpable; however, in 2 of the 3 recently recorded fatalities the cyclist was at fault.

Roadsafe top tips for drivers and cyclists when using the road are:

Cycling:

  1. Ride positively, decisively and well clear of the kerb – look and signal to show drivers what you plan to do and make eye contact where possible so you know drivers have seen you
  2. Avoid riding up the inside of large vehicles, like lorries or buses, where you might not be seen
  3. Always use lights after dark or when visibility is poor
  4. Wearing light coloured or reflective clothing during the day and reflective clothing and/or accessories in the dark increases your visibility

Driving:

  1. Look out for cyclists, especially when turning – make eye contact if possible so they know you’ve seen them
  2. Use your indicators – signal your intentions so that cyclists can react
  3. Give cyclists space – If there isn’t sufficient space to pass, hold back. Remember that cyclists may need to manoeuvre suddenly if the road is poor, it’s windy or if a car door is opened
  4. Always check for cyclists when you open your car door
  5. Avoid driving over advanced stop lines – these allow cyclists to get to the front and increase their visibility

Further information can be found  at http://www.suffolkroadsafe.net/cyclists/ or http://www.suffolkroadsafe.net/drivers/

County Councillor’s Surgery  My surgery dates for the next few months are:  Saturday 21 June, and Saturday 19 July. There will be no surgery in August. Surgeries are at Woodbridge Library 10-12 as ever. All welcome

 

Health risks of NOT cycling

Just when you thought it was safe to stay in the car…

We’ve heard a lot  this autumn about the dangers of cycling:  enough to return a lot of people firmly to their cars – and discourage others from leaving them.

Will this save lives?

SMallerroad health

It doesn’t look like it, does it?

The health risks of inactivity are gigantic and all-embracing.  Stop the scare stories and concentrate on every measure to support cycle safety and confidence.  We in Suffolk need to get cycling before we kill ourselves by not doing so

Cycle danger “must be designed out”

Six cyclists have died on London’s roads in less than two weeks.  Several others have been seriously injured.

A horrifying thought for cyclists and non-cyclists alike. And particularly thought-provoking for a rural cyclist like me who has had to make frequent cycle trips across London, visiting my child in hospital. I’m a sensible, careful, confident cyclist, but clearly just being  sensible, careful and confident is not enough. If  I were killed, who will look after her?

Every death on the road is the death of someone who was needed by someone, was responsible for someone, is missed by someone .

Three of these six tragic fatal collisions involved lorries, the rest coaches or buses. For years these large vehicles have posed a threat to cyclists and pedestrians completely disproportionate to their numbers – and both in and out of London. There are a number of factors likely responsible, but design of roads and lorries come right at the top. This video shows  the shocking extent of a lorry’s  blind spot.

The kneejerk reaction is to blame the cyclist. “You wouldn’t be in danger if you don’t ‘come up’ on the inside of a lorry.”  Right.  Easy peasy lemon squeezy. Unless the lorry ‘comes up’ on the outside of you, that is.

You wouldn’t be in danger if you wear hi-viz  …have bright lights …stick to the rules of the road ..maintain your bike properly …cycle defensively… etc etc.”

No, my friends, this is not the case. You will be in danger if you don’t do these things –  but you are far from safe even though you do.

Boris Johnson’s latest bright idea is that safety can be achieved by a ban on cyclists with headphones. Another example of missing the point completely:  when I had a near-fatal encounter with an HGV, I wasn’t wearing headphones. But the HGV driver was.   Having failed to spot me – all neon yellow and glittering lights –  in front of him, he was unable to hear either my air-horn or my screams.   Banning  headphones will only add to safety  if the ban is all-embracing.

CTC’s view is far more balanced.   All it is asking is that Boris Johnson  should “apply the most fundamental principles of safety management to this dreadful situation as a matter of urgency. In other words, the danger must be designed out and reduced at source to stop more unnecessary deaths“.   CTC suggests this should be by:

  • Re-designing and re-building major roads and junctions to optimise safety for cyclists and other road users, rather than optimising the motor traffic  flow;
  •  Insisting hauliers operate vehicles of the most cycle-friendly design . Models  already on the market feature lower and more transparent cabs to give drivers a better, direct view of the road;
  • Keeping lorries off the busiest roads at the busiest times.

Training and awareness activities – for lorry drivers, for cyclists, in fact for everyone –  would come next  says CTC and “their purpose should be to minimise whatever risks cannot be eliminated at source by the measures listed above“.

Here, I would counter Mr Johnson’s simplistic notion, with a reductio ad absurdam of my own.  Cycle safety on roads (whether city, town AND country) is not a matter of headphones, its a question of whether you’re plugged in to reality. And I would suggest that these days very few drivers are. The modern vehicle is built to give one a feeling of virtual travel – insulated against sound,  smell, atmosphere,  action, weather.  So to ensure people drive safely maybe we should be reintroducing these elements into their travel?  perhaps we should require vehicles that drive in rush hour to drive with their windows down? their roofs off? They could enjoy the vicarious experience of being a virtual cyclist.

From which it may be a simple step to getting out from behind the wheel altogether

What’s been happening in Suffolk, October 2013

This month’s report has a lot to do with a number of different forms of transport: rail, road, bus AND cycle – and also has a sentence in Anglo-Saxon embedded in it:

Greater Anglia Cycle ‘consultation’  Greater Anglia’s draft cycle strategy consultation finished on 1 November. It worried a number of people – from intercity commuters, to public health officers, to those involved in tourism to your average working godger.  And me (needless to say).

Details were nebulous but  it seemed  (when you cut through seemingly deliberately unspecific verbiage) that the rail company was proposing to remove cycles from an unspecified number of their trains – up to and including all of them – preferring people to keep bicycles at each end of their daily journey or to use Greater Anglia’s own version of Boris bikes at an extra cost of £3.80 a day.

The impact of this would be felt by all cycle rail users, but most particularly those with fewer choices: those using the trains from stops in in rural areas, second-class passengers, those with complex journeys, and of course the young and less affluent.

Suffolk travellers would be particularly at risk because it seems as if decisions are being proposed on the basis of the status and usage of out of-county stations (London, Norwich, Cambridge) with little concern as to the situation of the passengers who have to join or leave the trains on the interim stops in Suffolk.

I have blogged elsewhere the response I made to this consultation as your County Councillor, LD spokesperson for transport and rail-travelling cyclist

Sexual Health: Ipswich clinic  Free and timely Sexual Health care was instituted  by act of parliament in 1917 because the powers that be  – even in that pre-NHS time – recognised how important this was to the health of the whole country. Apparently there were more soldiers out of action because of untreated sexually transmitted diseases than were  wounded in action!

At the end of October, the Sexual Health clinic at Ipswich Hospital, which was purpose-built in 1991, was to close. Public health is now a county council remit. Although a number of interim measures are being instituted to ensure some continuity of services. I asked Full Council:  Can you please tell me what  facilities for immediate STI diagnosis (eg microscopy), for immediate on-site free dispensing of drugs (as opposed to by prescription collected from a pharmacist) and for co-ordination of contact tracing  Public Health is ensuring are put in place in the immediate aftermath of closure?

I was assured that these will continue at the hospital for the immediate future.

Park & Ride Ipswich Buses have taken back the running of the Ipswich Park & Ride services  at Martlesham and Copdock. Passengers will even  have access to free wi-fi as they travel.  Park and ride tickets will also  be valid on other services run by the company in the town. I consider this to be excellent news. If they decide to reopen the Bury Road park and Ride – as I have been calling for, since its incomprehensible and foolish closure – it will be even better news.

However  I have been contacted by a local parish councillor who asks if it is still correct that the County Council underwrites these services by over  £600,000 pa, pointing out that if this is the case, the business rate payers of  the rest of Suffolk are ‘giving Ipswich businesses a handout’ . He further adds that every P & R  bus journey needs a minimum of 20 passengers to offset the equivalent environmental impact of cars etc.. I am inquiring about this.

Tolling the A14? Suffolk County councillors are more or less united in criticism  of  government proposals to toll the A14. At full council,  the SCC administration accepted my party’s view that years of underinvestment in Suffolk railways has left us with rail services from Ipswich to Cambridge and Peterborough which fall well short of what is required for effective day-to-day operation and amended their motion on A14 tolls accordingly. Although there are government plans for a number of enhancements to the UK road network,  the A14 improvement scheme is the only one with an inbuilt plan for tolling. A s – in its current state – the rail system is unable to provide a viable  alternative to a tolled A14, it makes any decision to toll doubly unfair, because there isn’t the capacity for a reliable public transport alternative .

Anglo-Saxon Attitude  Suffolk County Councillors received an impromptu lesson in Anglo Saxon from Lib Dem group leader Dave Woods, when they agreed to name the Council Chamber ‘King Edmund’s Chamber’. (King Edmund ruled  East Anglia from about 855 until he was killed by the Danish Great Heathen Army in 869AD. He was initially patron saint of Suffolk,  but then went on to become patron saint of England, before being deposed by St George.)

While the other group leaders described Suffolk’s  Anglo Saxon patron saint in terms of his geographical location, origin and community spirit,  Cllr Wood quoted the maxim by which King Edmund lived:  Gif þu eart to heafodmen geset, ne ahefe þu ðe, ac beo betwux mannum swa swa an man of him (which, roughly translated means:  If you become a ruler, don’t be puffed up, but  be amongst people as one of them.) This, said Cllr Wood, was an excellent maxim for all elected officials to live by. And after he had translated it, the other parties agreed

Continuing Complaints: Ticket Machine at Woodbridge Station I continue to have complaints from people regarding the unreliability of the ticket machine at Woodbridge station. The latest complaint (today, 6 November)  was from a constituent who told me that “this time it said it was printing the tickets and then didn’t deliver. I now have to buy some more and collect them on the train. Now there is over a £100 out of my bank account awaiting a refund for two lots of tickets. I blasted Greater Anglia but they say the machine is not theirs.”  I am raising the issue with Greater Anglia.

Locality budget: Grit bins, Benches – and possibly an Ice Rink  The latest applications from my locality budget are for grit bins, benches and potentially an ice rink to support shopping in Woodbridge at Christmas. I very much hope the latter comes to fruition as it seems an excellent idea for generating Christmas footfall.

Having started the trend for funding local gritbins from the county councillor’s locality budget,  I suspect we are the market  town in Suffolk with the most (something like 37). This is excellent . However, the system relies on the public spirit of local volunteers, who remain thin on the ground. Having myself cleared miles of snow and ice along Ipswich Road and California over the last three years I would urge all our younger and most ablebodied councillors to put their shoulder to the broom too.  Many hands make light work.

My next County Councillor’s Surgery is on Saturday 16th November  10am to midday, in Woodbridge Library. No appointment necessary, but you may have to wait at busier times