Tag Archives: dorset

An armchair seaside safari

As usual, for those who missed out on the latest infrastructure safari, here it all is in an armchair edition that you can ride through in Google Maps in the unlikely event that you’ve got nothing better to do:

http://goo.gl/maps/oD2di

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A seaside safari, again

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Back in August, Jim led a successful seaside safari in Worthing and Brighton, on which we looked at the good, the bad, and ugly bits of south coast infrastructure for cycling… while, of course, having a nice leisurely bicycle ride beside the beach in the sunshine.

Despite the latest easterly’s feeble attempts at bringing us one last delivery of snow and ice, it can not be too long before we have to start thinking again about days out on the south coast. I am therefore proposing a seaside safari to Britain’s sunniest town and original seaside holiday resort: Weymouth.

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Weymouth could be an interesting little case study for infrastructure: a somewhat smaller town than those we’ve visited on previous safaris, with the inter-urban Olympic cycle track on the main road into the town and, like Bristol, a growing network of away-from-road multi-user paths, including the Rodwell Trail railway path. It also has some infrastructure on hills.

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I’m proposing Saturday 18th May (while folk at the other end of the island are Pedalling on Parliament), meeting at Dorchester South at 11:52, for the (6 full-size bicycles per train) arrival from Waterloo. Folk travelling from or through Bristol would arrive five minutes earlier a couple of hundred yards away at Dorchester West. We’d spend an hour or two — depending on how fascinated everyone is by the infrastructure design — covering the 7.5 miles / 12 kms of mostly traffic-free route to the sea front for lunch, followed by options for further rides (probably the Rodwell Trail out to Portland Harbour and Chesil Beach), ending at a pub near to Weymouth station, or else the option for folk to split off for their own family afternoons with the Punch and Judy shows on the beach.

But that’s only if enough people express an interest. Is anybody interested?

Update: I have had sufficient interest here and on twitter/email/etc to give the go ahead exactly as described above. And cheap advance train tickets have just gone on sale today. If you want to reserve bicycle spaces with your ticket, I’d buy from the East Coast website. Though those with railcards (including the Network Card) might find that a flexible walkup ticket is not a bad deal on the weekend.

Cycling to the Olympics? It’s easy, and delightful, and all demographics are doing it.

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Almost a year ago I wrote about the opening of a new 5 mile cycle track, linking Dorchester and Weymouth, built alongside the busy main road that links Weymouth, and the Olympic sailing events, to Dorchester and the wider world. It was not bad — with the exception of rail trails like the Bristol to Bath Path, perhaps it’s the best inter-urban cycleway in the country. Not that this can be considered very great praise.

I thought I’d take a look and see how it’s working out for Weymouth, and I put a little of what I found in the couple of hours I spent in town in this flickr set. Continue reading

On the village high street

This post is part of a series, starting at “So what would you do here?” and On rural main roads, on making cycling an attractive mode of transport in rural Britain.

Big busy fast main roads are the major barrier to making journeys by bicycle for most of the rural British population, and proper high-quality cycle tracks are the most plausible solution to that problem. It would be nice to be able to reclaim all the roads from the fast cars and big trucks, make them places where people can happily ride bicycles again, but that doesn’t seem likely for a long time. At the moment, providing dedicated inviting space for bicycles alongside them is the only proven solution.

In some cases the same solution could be applied to rural settlements: enabling cycling by reallocating some of the roadspace from general traffic to bicycles, as in this village on a busy road and intercity bicycle route between Arnhem and Nijmegen in the Netherlands:

But more often the reverse is true of rural villages. Not only is it difficult to provide cycling space because of the constraints of very old streets, but the political will is the opposite within villages than without: speed is unpopular and most residents want the cars tamed and the streets reclaimed for people. It is just about possible to calm these streets, with the right engineering, and the will to do it exists — not because of anything to do with cycling, but because people live and work and shop and raise their kids in these places.

That’s part of the Dutch model, where they recognise that roads, whether we like it or not, have become routes for motor vehicles, while streets must be places for people but where, with the right engineering, a limited number of motor vehicles can be accommodated.

On this country road near Assen the speed limit drops to 20mph when it enters a village… Continue reading

“So what would you do here?”

Chris Beazer says:

I do a lot of cycling on B roads, C roads and unclassified roads because that is where the most enjoyable routes are. Will somebody explain how “cycling infrastructure” is going to make my riding safer (and I have been knocked off my bike several times when riding on the aforementioned roads which I think are as dangerous as roads in cities and towns) as I don’t seem to see designs which are applicable to other than cities and towns? My understanding is that the “cycling infrastructure’s” objective is to segregate motorised traffic from non-motorised traffic. I am interested to find out how this will be implemented across the many hundreds of thousands of miles of minor roads throughout the country.

A lot of blogs that look at cycling provision and policy have been focusing on cities — especially London — probably because most people in the UK live in towns and cities. It’s where there’s most to be gained. But there are people out in the country, where car dependency is an even bigger problem than in the cities. And the situation, the consequences of car dependency, and the solutions to it, are not the same in the country as in the city.

But once again, this is a problem that the Dutch have largely solved. They have people out in the country too, they get places by bicycle, and we could learn from that.

I’ve picked a typical British rural area, a place of scattered farms and villages with the occasional market town amongst them, in which to explore the sort of treatments that would allow people to comfortably cut car dependency. Rural Britain is not uniform — there are places with higher and lower population densities, steeper and flatter terrains, and all sorts of different needs — but most of the rural population lives in places not unlike this. I picked this example simply because I grew up under the blue pin, in a very small town called Stalbridge:

Stylised map of a few of the relevant features: Towns, villages, ‘A’ roads, ‘B’ roads, railways, county boundary.

The population of Stalbridge is about 3,000. It is very lucky to still has its own primary school, GP, and half a dozen independent shops, including a small supermarket, post office, and a bicycle shop. There is some light industry — we pack fudge and do things with wires — and a lot of agriculture. Centres of employment, culture, and retail in the region are Yeovil (18km), Dorchester (30km), Weymouth (40km), Poole/Bournemouth (40km), and Salisbury (40km).

High schools — particular targets for increasing cycling — are marked on the map by green pins. Most kids go to Sturminster, 6km south-east, on council-funded school buses. The nearest railway station is in a village, Templecombe, 5km north. There is one not very convenient bus, which goes to Sherborne and Yeovil. The A303 (10km), motorway in all but name, links to the rest of the road network

All of the towns lie on ‘A’ and/or ‘B’ roads, but some villages and many scattered dwellings are connected only by the extensive network of little old lanes, most of which are barely wide enough for vehicles to pass. To complicate issues, the Dorset/Somerset administrative county boundary (the faint line) cuts through several of the transport routes close to the town.

The area is set up for car dependency. The market towns in which one can find retail, services, employment and education, and the railway stations from which one can get to the major cities, are all within a very comfortable cycling distance, but cycling here, as in all of the UK, has been made difficult and frequently unpleasant, giving most people little alternative to the expense of running a car.

How would I go about fixing that? I’d change the main roads and I’d change the minor roads — but not the same way. I’d make it quick and easy to ride to ride to school and to work. I’d pave over some of the countryside — but with a significant net gain in unpaved tranquil rurality. It would cost a bit of money — but less than the cost of not doing it. Posts all this week.

Updated to add:

On rural main roads

On the village high street

On country lanes

Getting to school in the countryside

Weymouth: on the right track, and the road to nowhere

It’s always sad to see a town’s residents asking for a bypass, citing the fact that their town centre is choked with traffic. Here’s some traffic heading south out of Dorchester, county town of Dorset, about to cross over the 1980s bypass and onto the main road to the seaside resort of Weymouth, six miles and a big chalk hill away. It’s as much traffic, or more, as there was before the bypass was built.* Continue reading

Shaftesbury Cycle Revival

I went to school in a small Westcountry market town — Shaftesbury, in Dorset.  Built on a chalk hillside, Shaftesbury’s claim to fame is a steep cobbled street of simple picturesque cottages, a street you might recognise from one of the most memorable adverts in British history:

Last Sunday saw the inaugural “Shaftesbury Cycle Revival“.  I was going to pitch something to the local paper that would riff off the event in order to communicate some of our cycling themes to an outside audience.  But in the end it pissed it down all day so I stayed in, and I think it would be unfair to review an event I didn’t actually attend.  But I don’t mind dumping my thoughts crudely on the blog, with the disclaimer that the event could always have been completely different to how I imagined it.

The point I was intending to make, of course, is that in the classic Hovis advert a boy pushes a sturdy steel delivery bicycle, with sensible mud-guards and stylish fixtures.  And the name of the event and publicity around it implies that it was intended to be a “revival” of that scene — a “revival”, I assumed, in the sense of a play or an act.  And yet, what we got (at least, what the website implies we got) was a bunch of lycra-clad athletes on racing bikes and kids on mountain bikes racing each other.

If that’s a “revival” of the Hovis advert, then a family visit to the Budleigh Salterton Donkey Sanctuary is a revival of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

The event is an excellent illustration of all that is wrong with mainstream British thinking about cycling.  As Dave Horton explains, on the rare occasion when it is not just dismissed as a children’s toy, the bicycle is typically seen only as a sport done by dedicated sportsmen or a hobby practiced by weird hobbyists.  And it is not sport cycling that is in need of a revival in this country.  Racing is as popular as it has ever been in this country and it’s one of the few sports that earns the nation medals.  And mountainbiking has come from nothing to be a popular and generally quite well provided for activity in less time than has elapsed since the Hovis advert aired.

What does desperately need a revival at a time when the people of Shaftesbury are complaining of fuel costs, insufficient town-centre parking, and a narrow and car-clogged High Street, is a cheap and simple alternative way to make the short journey into town — the bicycle.  We know exactly why the sensible sturdy bicycle transport of the Hovis advert faded almost to nothing (it has nothing to do with hills), we know that there is latent demand for cheap and simple transport, and we know the interventions which would successfully unleash that latent demand.  I think we’ve probably rehearsed those arguments and the evidence-base for them enough times on the blog, but it would have been nice to have the excuse to give them an outing in a new venue.

None of this is to denigrate racing cycling and mountain biking and the people who enjoy those activities.*  I am merely indifferent to them, just as the average car driver has no interest in formula one, and the average pedestrian would guess that “bagging a munro” has something to do with the waste products of canine digestion.  Only with bicycles do you get magazines that put a feature about olympic athletes next to a news item about commuter infrastructure.  And that’s all part of the problem.

* except all the mountain bikers who were making their way over Rannoch Moor to Fort William two weekends ago, bikes strapped to the back of their camper vans.  Not impressed with their skills…