Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Cyclists Welcome? Inverness' latest 'Cycle Path'

I'll let you be the judge!

So you start here:

Note the 'no entry' sign and the fact that you're going against the flow of traffic. It's not like it's a particularly wide piece of road either

So you pootle along for all of 20 yards when the cycle lane suddenly peters out:

Where do you go? Do you get off the bike and walk... do you carry on .... do you cycle on the pavement? You can see the the road narrows and it's unclear whether you can continue on the road. After all you'd be going against the one way system..

Then you hit the 'shared surface'. At least I think that's what it is? It's not really clear... the council didn't really bother to let anyone know.

At least there are double yellow lines to give a bit of definition and give folk an idea where the cars are supposed to not stop. No kerb though. And does anyone actually know what the grey bollards are for? Answers on a postcard please.

But look, the cycle lane is back, all ... uh... 4 metres of it? Thanks Highland Council for being so considerate to us cyclists!

But wait... this is a one way system and the traffic lights appear to have been switched off for traffic coming out of Ness Walk on to Young Street.. So if I try and go right I'm likely to get flattened by traffic who probably quite rightly aren't expecting me to pop out the 'wrong' way from a one way system.

The point is that cyclists should follow the rules of the road too and this rather bizarre cycle lane that they've created seems to be giving us cyclists a bit of a headache. I've tried to use it a couple of times but I really don't believe that it's safe to do so. I get looks of consternation from motorists when they see me cycling the 'wrong way' down a one way street. Surely it would have made more sense to have the cycle lane follow the flow of traffic not go against it?!

I gave up trying to figure it out and took a slightly nicer picture instead!

Thursday, 18 June 2009

Shared Spaces

As well as the Cycle Around Scotland stuff I’ll use this blog as an opportunity to witter on about issues relating to disabilities that I come across and that wind me up. (We’ll not mention the lazy individual at work who sees an empty disabled space as a legitimate parking spot, even though there’s nothing wrong with her other than pathological laziness. …..Did I mention she was lazy?)

The latest Government fad seems to be the introduction of ‘shared spaces’. This is an urban area that has been developed so that there is no clear definition between where the road and the pavement starts and finishes. A definition found on Wikipedia states:

Safety, congestion, economic vitality and community severance can be effectively tackled in streets and other public spaces if they are designed and managed to allow traffic to be fully integrated with other human activity, not separated from it. A major characteristic of a street designed to this philosophy is the absence of traditional road markings, signs, traffic signals and the distinction between "road" and "pavement". User behaviour becomes influenced and controlled by natural human interactions rather than by artificial regulation.[3]

One of the concepts behind shared spaces is that pedestrians and motorists make eye contact to establish who has priority….. that’s right… ‘eye contact’. Now that immediately puts blind people at a disadvantage for what I would imagine are fairly obvious reasons.

This doesn’t just affect blind people. Children and other more vulnerable road users are going to struggle with this. What about an individual with a learning disability who may not be able to decipher what the rules of the shared surfaces are? It might not be to everyone’s overly politically correct tastes but it has to be considered.

The Guide Dogs for the Blind Association have the following statement on their campaign website:

“Blind and partially sighted people, particularly guide dog owners and long cane users are trained to use the kerb as a key navigation cue in the street environment. Its removal, without a proven effective, alternative feature, exposes blind and partially sighted people to greater risk, undermines their confidence, and so creates a barrier to their independent mobility. The kerb is also vital for children's safety when using roads. From an early age children are taught as part of the Green Cross Code to Stop, Look, and Listen at kerbs. If these kerbs are removed, how will children know where to stop?

Guide Dogs supports the aim of creating attractive ‘people-friendly’ street environments but opposes the use of shared surface streets to achieve this. For background information on our previous campaigning work on the issue of shared surface streets, please read a copy of our Campaign report."

In Inverness we have a new shared space on Ness Walk, it’s all very pretty with benches where you can sit and take in the ducks, seagulls and goosanders on the River Ness. It has one particular flaw which will cause issues for the people that use it. It’s a one way street..... fair enough. It also has a cycle lane…. In a shared space? Ok so it only runs for a couple of metres at the start and finish of the space so I suppose that’s ok…. But it goes in the opposite direction of the one way traffic! I’ve used it on the bike and I’ve been given dirty looks by motorists and pedestrians as they quite rightly presume that I’m going the wrong way on a one way street. When you get to the junction to turn on to Young Street there is no safe way of doing it as there is no traffic control in place to deal with traffic (ie me on a bike) coming the ‘wrong way’ on to the junction

And why is it that Councils seem to be intent on installing uniform grey bollards that blend in to the rest of the street in these shared spaces? There's no clear definition on them and they seem to be at the perfect height for the unsuspecting person with a visual impairment to crack their knee off.

I'm going to take a few photos tonight and get them posted on here.

Sunday, 14 June 2009

Cairngorm Classic

No updates for a while, apologies to anyone who may have been following this..... anyone? :o)

The training has been going reasonably well, I've found a nice flattish 25 time trial route that takes me round the Beauly Firth. So far I've got my time down to about 1 hour 50 but I know I should be able to knock at least 2o minutes off that over the next few weeks. The goal... get it down to an hour! That means doing a steady 25mph but if I lose a bit more weight and get the hours in, it should be possible.

I took part in my first cyclo-sportive on Saturday. The Cairngorm Classic starts and finishes at the Cairngorm ski carpark at an altitude of 650 metres (ish). It starts with a fantastic downhill freewheel into Glenmore and on through Nethy Bridge round Spey bridge, Loch Garten and .... back up the ski road carpark. Ouch! I chose to enter the 50 miler being a way off having the fitness to do 100 miles in a respectable time. I set a target of 'under 5 hours and I'm happy, under 4 and I'm delighted'.

I'm delighted to say that I finished it in 3 hours 44 minutes. The results are here.

I was chuffed to bits to get up the final hill without having to stop and get off the bike to push. That was the bit I was probably most worried about, I didn't want to be seen as a bit of a bumbly!

Not a bad effort for a first go at a Sportive and if I hadn't stopped for a blether (and a flapjack or 3 ) at the feed station then I would have done it in even less time than that. The actual riding time on my bike computer reads 3 hours 30. So make of that what you will. (less time stuffing my face and more time cycling methinks!)

The weather was grim to start with. Heavy rain and a clagged in carpark made for a chilly start. I was soaked through within about a minute but that didn't dampen mine or anyone else's enthusiasm. The camaraderie was great and I didn't hear a word of complaint from anyone.

Hopefully HandOnEvents will have some photo's online soon. I'll post them on here provided the sight of my sweaty carcass doesn't give too much offence.