Saturday, 15 January 2011

Start of a revolution

The reason for the blog title will become clearer soon. For a variety of reasons too boring to detail, I found myself last November in a situation where I was able to make some cycling connections.

Our village school has clicked with Sustrans and has had great success with Bikeability training courses and Bikers’ Breakfasts. I was at a consultation meeting where Bucks County Council presented an interesting paper on the factors influencing/impeding the take-up of cycling as a pre-cursor to funding four pilot schemes relating to training, loan bikes for starters/returners, led rides and a home to hub pilot involving a school or business.

I spoke up and said that our village school would be a good candidate for the pilot and the councillors present took up the suggestion with copious enthusiasm.

One of the strands in the presentation I heard that hit home was the need for destinations to have secure parking for bikes. I gave up my gym membership about 8 years ago because three one hour recreational rides per week is more fun than pounding away on a treadmill or rowing machine. But it had never occurred to me to use my bike as a way of getting around.

Thinking about how practical it was for people to use bikes around our village I identified the most likely destinations within a three mile radius of the village centre. Only the school and the doctors’ surgery have cycle racks installed. I emailed the vicar asking for a rack outside the church hall and he responded positively. I emailed the village hall treasurer and discovered that they had bought some racks a few years ago but hadn’t got round to installing them. The parish council has installed Sheffield racks in its two recreation grounds.

Having accidentally become a cycling activist, I felt compelled to use a bike whenever possible for journeys up to five miles.

I started last week and quickly discovered that my cheapo lights from Aldi aren’t appropriate for use on unit country roads. I’ve used my bike for five of the six local trips I’ve made around the village this week.

What has surprised me most is that outside the rush hour (when there is significant through traffic) our roads are very quiet. Typically on the 1.3 mile ride to the village hall, I’m passed by only two or three cars going in the same direction. I’ve yet to encounter an HGV. Everyone who has passed me has given me a wide berth, so my cycling has been nothing but pleasurable.

And the Transport Direct journey planner has been a reliable predictor of journey times. I can confirm that it takes no longer using the bike than the car. I’m certain that I can park right outside my destination so the extra time taken cycling is made up by not having to look for a space in the car park and walk further to the entrance.