All posts by Jon Spencer

Pedal Portsmouth Report

At the Start
At the Start

Portsmouth City Council staged the inaugural Pedal Portsmouth Event today. Portsmouth Cycle Forum has been delighted to support Cllr Donna Jones in developing and launching this closed-road event. 

The event was wonderful and Portsmouth City Council must be congratulated on it. Cllr Donna Jones made the event possible and the team at PCC delivered a great event on a shoestring budget. The result was a real joy. Early estimates suggest around 3000 riders enjoyed the peace of a traffic-free seafront. In the words of one rider: “…it made you feel glad to be alive…! Roll on next year’s…!!”. We are looking forward to working with Portsmouth City Council to keep developing and promoting this event for years to come.

We now hope that Portsmouth City Council is able to look at ways of improving cycling on the other 364 days in the year. It’s sad to announce that figures released by the Department for Transport last Thursday show that once again Portsmouth is the most dangerous place in the country to ride a bike except for a few London boroughs. The number of cycle casualties increased from 906 per million in 2013 to 942 per million in 2014. The 2013 figure itself was an increase on the 2012 figure of 832 per million. The trend is depressingly upward.

Portsmouth City Council must capitalise on the success of this event and take positive action to tackle this horrifying number of cycle casualties. We would like the City Council to commit straight away to developing a comprehensive Cycle Safety Action Plan – the first step on the path outlined in ‘A City to Share’.

We would love to work with Portsmouth City Council to develop a cycle-friendly transport system fit for the 21st century. A City to Share has been recognised at the National Cycle Planning awards as one of the best in the country and the city can exploit that to win government funding. Portsmouth Cycle Forum is already working with Flick Drummond MP to do exactly that – we hope Portsmouth City Council will fully support us.

Thankyou PCC for a great day out, let’s build on it and create a better future for Portsmouth.

A Day Out in Town

Last Monday three members of the Portsmouth Cycle Forum took a trip to the big city to attend the National Cycle Planning awards. This was the inaugural year of the awards and we were shortlisted in the category of ‘Best Strategy’ for A City to Share. As the only voluntary organisation to be short-listed in any category we were delighted just to be invited and it was a real step-up in the reach and impact of our campaign to get a better deal for Portsmouth’s Cyclists.

We didn’t win the award, that honour went to Southwark, but our document was praised as the only one to feature inclusivity as a core theme. It’s worth reflecting that Manchester and Birmingham, two entrants for best strategy that didn’t make the shortlist, were both recently in receipt of £22 million grants from the Department for Transport’s Cycle City Ambition scheme. We’ve surely proven that our plans are as good, if not better, than those so perhaps now Portsmouth should qualify for DfT funding?

The awards ceremony itself was a great opportunity to network and we were able to build on existing contacts and make new ones. With keynotes from Philip Darnton (former head of cycling England), Andrew Gilligan (London’s Cycling Commissioner), Robert Goodwill MP (Minister for Transport) and Simon Smits (the Dutch Ambassador) it was a high profile event. It was fascinating to talk to the team from the University of Sheffield, who won the category for ‘Most Cycle Friendly Employer’. They have implemented some amazing schemes to get people cycling to work in the hilly north and have now reduced the mode-share of people driving to work to only one in five.

Protesters at Waltham Forest
Protesters at Waltham Forest

The day began with the launch of the mini-holland in Waltham Forest, which was disrupted by a small number of very noisy protesters. There were banners proclaiming ‘iron curtain’ and ‘prisoner in my own home’. All this despite the road closure being about 50 metres long with a short diversion around back streets. The only traffic that needs to be there is local, for residents, but before the changes it was a convenient route avoiding busy roads and lights for non-local traffic. We say well done to Waltham Forest council and the local councillors getting the flak for something that in a year or two every local shopping area will be demanding locally. An interesting note is that one of the strongest objectors before the scheme has now applied to open a pavement cafe! It’ll be interesting to see how the scheme beds in.

We can be very proud of the strategy we’ve developed and I’m looking forward to working with the Flick Drummond, the MP for Portsmouth South, in engaging with the minister to secure funding to make it happen. We’ve shown that our plan is every bit as good as those that have attracted substantial funds so there is every reason to be optimistic. I hope Portsmouth City Council will be committed to working with us in putting together an ambitious, forward thinking bid.

Finally, we’d like to express our gratitude to Cycle-Works Ltd and the Community Cycle Centre, who between them paid for us to attend the awards ceremony. Cycle-Works funded the three delegate places (not an insignificant cost!) and the Community Cycle Centre paid for our travel costs. Cycle-Works is a Portsmouth based manufacturer, reseller and installer of all types of cycle parking racks and stands. Cycle-Works was the first specialist cycle parking company in the UK and had been operating since 1996.

Cycle-Works Banner

It’s All About the Money

As some people may have heard, Portsmouth Cycle Forum was featured on Radio Solent last week. I was interviewed by Jessica Parker, in pouring rain, on a bike ride around the city. The interview was prompted by the short-listing of ‘A City to Share’, the cycle strategy we developed for Portsmouth, in the national Cycle Planning awards.

In the interview we covered a number of issues about cycling in Portsmouth, and the challenges that need to be overcome if we’re to implement ‘A City to Share’. You can hear my interview here.

What was exciting in the broadcast, though, was a later interview with Portsmouth South MP Flick Drummond. Since her election Flick has become a member of the All Party Parliamentary Cycling Group and has been working to get Portsmouth connected to the central government funding streams for cycling.

You can, for the next week or two, listen to Flick’s interview on BBC iPlayer (it’s about 1 hour 41 minutes in to the programme). She is calling for Portsmouth City Council to put together an ambitious bid to fund serious improvements to our cycling infrastructure. Her ambitions for cycling seem far in advance of those in Portsmouth City Council and we’re hopeful that she can help the city make significant improvements to cycling.

We are meeting with Flick later in September so we’ll keep you posted on what happens.

Being short-listed for the best strategy in the National Cycle Planning Awards can’t hurt us. We’ve already been short-listed ahead of Manchester and Birmingham, cities whose strategies have won them multi-million pound grants of cycle city ambition funding. The award ceremony is this Monday and it’s rumoured that the minister for cycling, Robert Goodwill MP, will be in attendance. What better way of showing him that Portsmouth has great plans for cycling?

Win or not we’ll still be working hard to get a better deal for bikes in the city. The nice words politicians gave us before the election in support of our strategy now need to turn into actions. Thats’s what we were calling for in our meeting last week. A City to Share identifies specific actions that must be taken to improve cycling and we’re calling on Portsmouth City Council to start work on those actions.

Pedal Portsmouth

Southsea Seafront
Southsea Seafront

Southsea Seafront will become a traffic-free paradise for cycling and walking on Sunday 27th September. The Pedal Portsmouth event is the culmination of a whole series of rides that have been developed by Portsmouth City Council in partnership with British Cycling and Portsmouth Cycle Forum.

The idea for a closed-roads event came from the leader of Portsmouth City Council, councillor Donna Jones in her enthusiastic response to the launch of ‘A City to Share’, Portsmouth Cycle Forum’s community developed cycling strategy for the city.

A four mile stretch of the seafront will be closed to traffic between 11am and 3pm on the 27th September. This will give people of all ages and abilities the freedom to enjoy the seafront, its amenities and their bikes. It will be the perfect opportunity to discover, or rediscover, the joy of cycling.

So, get yourself down to the seafront on Sunday 27th. Bring your bike and bring your family – everyone will be able to enjoy the read in safety. Just remember it is a relaxed, social event so there’s no need for speed. Stop for a coffee or an ice cream and enjoy the day.

Let as many people know about it as you can. Make sure this is a success for PCC and for all the businesses in the area. Who knows, it might mean it happens regularly in the future.

See a map of the traffic-free roads here.

Open Meeting – September

Public Bike Hire in London
Public Bike Hire in London

The next Portsmouth Cycle Forum open meeting will be held on Thursday 10th September at the John Pounds Centre, the doors will be open from 6:45pm for a 7pm start. Everyone is welcome to our open meetings, whether members or not.

Agenda Items

  • A City to Share has been shortlisted in the ‘best masterplan’ category at the national cycle planning awards. We’ll be discussing how to get the actions in the strategy implemented. Chris Ballingall will be calling for volunteers to help him take the ‘Transport’ theme of the strategy forward.
  • Cllr Ken Ellcome –  the councillor in charge of Traffic and Transportation – will give us an update on Portsmouth City Council’s programme. He will also be able to respond to questions and explain the actions PCC plans to undertake to implement ‘A City to Share’.
  • We’ll review how the state of the art for cycling infrastructure has moved on in the UK, looking at the latest developments from London and elsewhere in the UK.
  • We’ll have an update on the Wheels4All project, which has been opening cycling up to disabled people with a range of specially adapted bikes supported by volunteers.
  • And of course we’ll be talking about Pedal Portsmouth, the closed roads cycling event that will be held on the sea front on the 27th September.

The John Pounds Centre is just off Queen Street (map). Hope you can make it, the more people we can involve in our campaign the better.

Us and Them

The Portsmouth News today leads with the story of a man who was attacked by a gang of people because he was a cyclist. I heard about the story yesterday when the journalist rang me to ask me my thoughts, which he included in the piece. As ever though, I was caught on the hop when he called and there is much I wish I’d said.

Let me start by jumping back a couple of weeks. At the end of May the ‘You and Yours’ programme on Radio 4 ran a piece on cycling with the tagline ‘have you ever been put at risk by a cyclist?’ There followed a predictably bellicose selection of contributions from various disgusted citizens demanding taxation, regulation and preferably abolition of cycling.

This is a typical treatment of cycling in the media and is a symptom of a depressing ‘us and them’ approach to cycling and cyclists. Cyclists being, most definitely, ‘them’. Cyclists are portrayed as a lawless, dangerous out group. People not like ‘us’. Not decent people at all. In fact they are portrayed as something akin to vikings. Rapacious outsiders here to destroy society.

This portrayal is, of course, nonsensical. The problem though, is that reason and fact don’t cut through the hysteria that is created by these stories. Calm, rational contributors like Chris Boardman point out that cycling is a huge benefit to society and that people being hurt by a cyclist is incredibly rare. These reasonable voices are lost in the clamour.

My view is that the sad end result of all this is a poor guy getting beaten up in Southsea for riding a bike and wearing hi-viz clothing. He’s a cyclist. He’s one of them. Let’s get him. The cheap media furore painting cyclists as nothing more than an anti-social menace ends there. A guy getting hit with a vodka bottle.

Its time we got past this ridiculous ‘us and them’ nonsense. We can never have a grown up debate about fixing our cities until we do.

Portsmouth’s gearing up for a summer of cycling

Facebook Image Portsmouth

Portsmouth residents are being urged to get on their bikes and take part in free guided rides throughout the summer as part of the council’s partnership with British Cycling and Sky.

Starting on Sunday 14 June a total of 20 Sky Ride Local rides will be held, which will see trained British Cycling ride leaders guide groups across distances from three miles up to more adventurous 30 mile routes.

The Sky Ride Local events are part of a national campaign to get more people cycling for fun and fitness, and offer a fantastic range of themed guided bike rides taking place throughout the summer months.

The rides will explore different themes from city streets and parklife to waterway and woodland and the opening ride is an easy going four mile ride from Mountbatten to Cosham park.

Portsmouth is the ideal city to discover by bike, so now’s the time to pump up tyres, oil gears and check brakes.

Stewart Kellett, British Cycling’s Director of Recreation and Partnerships, said: “What better way to get some exercise, get outdoors and see your area in a new way than to join some of the themed Sky Ride Local bike rides taking place in and around Portsmouth this summer.

“The rides begin on 14 June, so there’s no time like the present to get your bike out. Whether you want to build your cycling confidence or already comfortable on a bike and looking for a challenge, now’s the time to register your free place on a Sky Ride Local bike ride in Portsmouth.”

Cllr Donna Jones, Leader of Portsmouth City Council said: “It’s essential to encourage residents to feel comfortable riding in the city. Cycling is on the increase and Portsmouth is an ideal place to enjoy on your bike. We particularly want to encourage families and children of all ages.

“SKY Ride Local and planned improvements for the road network demonstrate a commitment to cycling.

“The guided rides are a perfect opportunity for families and individuals of all abilities to cycle varying distances, you can choose a ride to suit your comfort factor.

“I’m looking forward to seeing many more residents enjoying the city and beyond by bike.”

Open Meeting – Seafront Cycling

Southsea Seafront
Southsea Seafront

Our next open meeting will take place at 7pm on Thursday 11th June at the John Pounds Centre on Queen Street. We will be joined by East Solent Coastal Partnership to explain the work to replace the flood defences around Portsea Island.  We think it is vital that any replacement should provide greater access for walkers and cyclists.

We’ll be focussing on Southsea Seafront as the replacement of the sea defences has long been touted as the opportunity to finally get a cycle lane in place along the whole length. Come along to have your say about how you think that should be done.

We need your input for a louder voice or we could end up with them replacing like-for-like – and we’d end up missing the once-in-a-generation opportunity to solve the problem of cycling on the prom.

Cross Party Support for ‘A City to Share’

UPDATED: Thursday 7th May

The response from candidates to our letter asking them to support cycling has been excellent. The letter asked for candidates to support our strategy, ‘A City to Share‘ and to commit to pushing for increased cycle funding from central government. We’ve had support from:

  • 31 council candidates covering all of the 14 council wards in Portsmouth.
  • 4 of the parliamentary candidates for Portsmouth North – Darren Sanders (Lib Dem), Gavin Ellis (Green), John Ferrett (Labour) and Penny Mordaunt (Conservative)
  • 5 of the parliamentary candidates for Portsmouth South – Flick Drummond (Conservative), Gerald Vernon-Jackson (Lib Dem), Ian McCulloch (Green), Mike Hancock (independent) and Sue Castillon (Labour)
  • 4 Council Group leaders: Donna Jones (Conservative), Gerald Vernon-Jackson (Lib Dem), Ian McCulloch (Green) and John Ferrett (Labour)

We’re hoping for more responses yet – there are 84 candidates across the 14 wards in the local election. However, we have had support from all parties including nearly all of the ‘big hitters’. The group leaders of the Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrat parties have all supported ‘A City to Share’. This is great news. When we wrote the strategy we identified the failure to gain of cross party as a key risk to its success. Well, we’ve got there. There is public commitment from all parties and from all the local leaders except UKIP so far. The number of council candidates supporting from each party so far breaks down as follows:

Conservative 3
Green 12
Independent 1
Labour 5
Liberal Democrat 6
UKIP 2
Trade Unionists and Socialists against Cuts 2

You can read the full responses from each candidate here. We’ll keep updating this document as responses come in. Portsmouth Cycle Forum is not affiliated or allied with any political party. This information is intended as an impartial view of how each party and each local candidate stand on cycling.

Open Meeting: Election Time

Vote BikeOur next meeting takes place on Thursday 23rd April at 6:45pm, once again in Room 0.08 of the University of Portsmouth Park Building, behind the Guildhall (map). It will be only two weeks before polling day the focus will be on the forthcoming local and national elections.

We’ve invited all local candidates in the election along. We’ve sent them all a letter asking if they will support our City to Share document to create a safer, cleaner and more attractive city, and a local and national commitment to £10 per head on cycling each year.  We’ll be posting their responses on this site as they come in and giving our analysis at the meeting. There will be plenty of time for questions.

In the Ministerial Spotlight

Robert Goodwill MP and Conservative Candidate Flick Drummond pose with a copy of A City to Share
Robert Goodwill MP and Conservative Candidate Flick Drummond pose with a copy of A City to Share

Last Thursday Robert Goodwill MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport, visited Portsmouth. The visit was prompted by a letter from Cllr Donna Jones, the leader of PCC, which was in turn prompted by engagement from Portsmouth Cycle Forum in a meeting following the launch of our cycling strategy, A City to Share.

The purpose of the Minister’s visit was to find out about the cycling initiatives taking places in Portsmouth and to discuss the measures needed to increase cycling levels. The Minister said that the momentum in the cities enjoying Cycle Ambition grant funding was such that fund could be diverted now to others, such as Portsmouth.

Cllr Jones mentioned the possibility of a Sky-Ride in 2016 but Sky’s sponsorship ends in that year.

Portsmouth Cycle Forum Vice-Chair John Holland was able to give a brief overview of A City to Share and the minister took a copy with him. He nodded in the right places and he mentioned the Government’s aim to increase cycle spending to £10 a head (with no date for achieving that though). Feedback is that the Minister is impressed with the strategy.

Following the meeting John Holland was joined by more members of the Forum to accompany the ministerial throng to The Hub in Winston Churchill Avenue. The Minister then took a “photo opportunity” bike ride along the seafront cycle route which was joined by Flick Drummond, Conservative parliamentary candidate for Portsmouth South. An ITV cameraman was in attendance.

Open Meeting and AGM

Cycling on Twyford AveOur next open meeting will take place at 7pm on Thursday 19th March at the John Pounds Centre on Queen Street [map]. As well as the AGM, which should only take a short time, we will be continuing the debate on how to make space for cycling on Portsmouth’s main roads.

The debate was started at our last meeting but ran out of time. At the coming meeting we will reopen the debate and this time make sure there is time to listen to everyone’s views.

Some great ideas were presented by Tom Hart, Rich Boakes and Kathy Azopardi. Come along to ask your questions and throw in your views.

At the meeting we will be looking for volunteers to form a working group to take the ideas forward. This is the model we used to develop our strategy ‘A City to Share‘.

Included in the will be our AGM. Elections will be held for the following posts:

  • Chair
  • Vice-Chair
  • Secretary
  • Treasurer
  • Membership Secretary

The other 7 posts within the executive committee are also up for election.

We aim to make the Forum as accountable and democratic as possible, and invite supporters to put themselves forward for these posts. Please reply by email if you wish to stand for any of these executive posts. If you have any questions, ask! If you have ideas about how the cycle forum should be run, or what it should be doing then please think about standing for our committee – we depend on enthusiastic volunteers like you.

Executive meetings are generally held once a month to discuss relevant and topical issues related to the Forum and cycling in general. They need not be onerous or time-consuming jobs – only if you want them to be!

Mile End Bus Lane Decision

Mile End Bus Lane
Mile End Bus Lane

Today at the Traffic & Transportation Cabinet Meeting Cllr Ken Ellcome decided to marginally shorten the Mile End bus lane. The recommendation from officers was to maintain the lane as is, but there was an alternative proposal to drastically shorten the lane.

Both Labour and the Liberal Democrats asked for the lane to be left as is, and three deputations – one by First Bus, one by Portsmouth Cycle Forum and one by a private citizen – also spoke against shortening the lane. Despite the recent clamour in the letters page of the local press nobody spoke in favour of shortening the lane.

Despite all of this Cllr Ellcome decided to shorten the bus lane by about 15 metres, as he felt that this would make it easier for traffic turning left from Mile End Rd into Church Street. In many ways this is a puzzling decision. It will make little pragmatic difference to traffic flow and will almost certainly not satisfy those who have been complaining about the road layout in so vociferously in the local news.

What it does do is symbolic. A cut is a cut and this reduces, even if only marginally, the sustainable transport infrastructure in the city. It will do nothing to encourage the modal shift away from the private car that the city so desperately needs. This will make matters marginally worse for cyclists by increasing the gap between the bus lane on Mile End Rd and that on the Church Street Roundabout. We predict it will have no net effect on the traffic congestion.

It is disappointing that Cllr Ellcome decided to over-rule the professional advice of his officers, the wishes of all three deputees and the opinions of the parties who between them represented a majority of councillors. The change is not positive, but perhaps it is significantly less negative than we’d feared.

Mountbatten Centre Velodrome Closure

Youth Racing at the Mountbatten Centre
Youth Racing at the Mountbatten Centre

Having a nearly 115 year unbroken run of riding and racing, the Mountbatten Centre’s Cycle Track was closed In March of 2014 by Portsmouth City Council (PCC) and the operator, Parkwood Leisure.  This was due to safety concerns following a fatal accident in a senior men’s race.

It is obviously essential that after such a serious accident a thorough review of safety takes place and all reasonable measures are implemented to avoid a repeat. That review has been done, lessons have been learnt and the required changes have been identified. It’s now time to get those changes implemented and get the track open for coaching again.

Sign the petition to get the track open

After initial closure for racing only British Cycling, PCC and Parkwood Leisure then banned all cycling at the track, including leisure riding and coaching. This blanket ban affects adults and children and makes no distinction between coaching and racing, even though these two activities are a world apart. This has resulted in the hundreds of children a week who were learning to ride their bikes there, safely in a traffic-free environment, being forced elsewhere and onto Portsmouth roads.  Many have just given up riding their bikes altogether. This, no doubt, will impact upon the City’s traffic volumes and obesity statistics in the coming years.

Local coaches, riders and racers have been left with a facility lying idle and a huge hole in the cycle skills teaching and racing activity in the area.  This has extended far wider than just Portsmouth, and has been to the detriment of all in Hampshire and wider counties.  Portsmouth is the custodian of a cycle track twice as old as London’s 1948 Olympic venue , Herne Hill, and in many ways unique in design in the UK being a ‘D’ shaped outdoor velodrome.

In the early phases of closure there were many requests to consider allowing cycle training and coaching to continue, culminating in media involvement and even a protest being held at the venue by young riders with nowhere safe to learn & hone their skills.

Since then the issue has seems to have been largely forgotten about by PCC, Parkwood and British Cycling with each organisation seemingly unwilling to take the lead. Portsmouth is allowing the 2012 Olympic legacy to slip through its fingers with this ongoing closure. Several of our cycling Olympians and World Champions, including Dani King and Rob Hayles, learned their cycling at the Mountbatten. Young riders now simply have no traffic free venue at all.

The leader of Portsmouth City Council, Donna Jones, has recently agreed to meet and dicsuss reopening the track and Portsmouth North MP Penny Mordaunt has given her support following a meeting with coaches. There is reason for optimism but to if you’d like to help ensue the track is reopened soon please add your signature to the petition here.

 

Female Cycling Champions needed for Portsmouth

Breeze Women's CyclingIn a bid to get more women cycling Portsmouth City Council has teamed up with British Cycling to recruit new volunteers to lead ladies-only rides.

Breeze is British Cycling’s biggest ever programme to get more women riding bikes for fun. Led by women for women, it relies on a hugely important group of volunteer champions to bring the programme to life.

The Council and British Cycling are looking for women from the Portsmouth area that will bring out the exciting, friendly and sociable elements of local bike rides. There is no need to be a cycling expert, just confident on a bike with heaps of enthusiasm!

The free one day course will be held at the Mountbatten Leisure Centre on 11 April 2015.

Find out more and book your place here.

Mile End Bus Lane – An Open Letter

Mile End Road bus lane southbound-cyclist   8sep14@1530-2Dear Councillors,

This Thursday Portsmouth City Council will make a decision about the future of the Mile End Road bus lane. The clamour from frustrated motorists has forced a re-evaluation of the road layout. Can we really afford the space for that bus lane?

The aim of removing the bus lane would be simple: to increase the number of vehicles that can get into our city. So the first question we have to ask ourselves is whether that is something we want.

Increasing vehicle capacity at the entrance to the city will have a knock-on effect on every street. The price will be more vehicles using each small residential street. More queuing traffic in the city. More competition for parking. More danger. Figures from the road safety charity Brake show that road casualties are increasing for the first time in 20 years.

Even if we do decide that the price is worth paying we also have to ask: will it actually work? Will removing the bus lane really help? The sober analysis suggests not. The queue on Mile End Rd will simply be replaced by several smaller queues elsewhere in the city with the net effect that journeys take the same amount of time. The bottleneck is not removed, it’s just in a different place. Bus passengers, including those using the successful Park and Ride, will be delayed and cyclists will be placed at greater risk.

The only way to realistically reduce congestion is to reduce the number of vehicles using the road. In order to do that we have to offer people alternative ways of getting into the city. The bus lane is such an alternative. The city council should be looking to increase its effectiveness, not to take it away. To do this will not make car journeys better but it will make the alternatives worse.

Please do not compromise the long-term wellbeing of the city for short term populism.

Jon Spencer
Chair
Portsmouth Cycle Forum

Open Meeting Thursday 12 February 7pm – Making Space for Cycling

Making Space for CyclingThe next meeting of Portsmouth Cycle Forum will be at 7pm on Thursday 12th February 2015 in Park Building, University of Portsmouth on King Henry I Street – just behind the Guildhall (map). The meeting will take the form of a debate, discussing we make the main routes in Portsmouth safe and welcoming for cyclists? Portsmouth has an exceptionally high rate of cycle casualties and most of these casualties occur on major roads which have 30mph speed limits.

Our recently launched cycle strategy, A City to Share, proposes that road space be reallocated from motor vehicles to bicycles to enable a step-change improvement in cycle casualty rates and the number of people getting around by bike. Exactly what changes need to be made to find and repurpose that road space were not specified.

For this meeting we have invited our members to propose ideas for how these 30mph roads can be changed to make them safer and more attractive for cyclists, whilst still offering good motor vehicle access to the city. We will pick out 3 or 4 ideas for short presentations on how to eliminate conflict between cyclists and motor vehicles on Portsmouth’s 30mph routes – each idea will then be opened to debate.

We hope that you will be able to come along and contribute.

Minicabs in Bus Lanes – Decision Due Thursday

The issue of whether or not Private Hire Vehicles (PHVs), often called minicabs, should be allowed to use bus lanes will be decided at Thursday’s meeting of the Portsmouth City Council (PCC) Traffic & Transportation cabinet. Portsmouth Cycle Forum are against the idea, as we’ve previously explained, and we’re reassured that the officers at PCC agree with us and have recommended that the prohibition on PHVs in bus lanes continue. The officer’s report is here.

We sympathise with PHV and Hackney Carriage drivers who are under great commercial pressure and whose ability to do business is greatly impacted by congestion. It is this congestion, which is having so many detrimental effects on the city, that must be tackled. Cycles, buses and both types of taxi all have an essential role to play in that.

Our current position opposing PHVs in bus lanes is based on facts. The safety record of taxis in Portsmouth is extremely poor (as a report from PCC illustrates) and until this is much improved permitting PHVs in bus lanes cannot, in our view, be considered. It would lead to an increase in accidents and an increase in fear of accidents: in short it would put people off cycling, resulting in more cars on our roads and more congestion. In other words, it would be counterproductive at best; dangerous at worst.

The decision will ultimately be made by the Conservative Cabinet Member for Traffic & Transportation Cllr Ken Ellcome. In the run up to that decision the issue has become extremely contentious. Portsmouth Cycle Forum created an event on facebook, to invite cyclists to attend the decision meeting.  This event  was joined by a number of drivers. Contributions from a small but vocal minority quickly sank to the level of insults and threats of violence.

We’re proud to say that cycle forum members all kept their cool in this discussion and explained their views with calmness, intelligence and patience, highlighting our shared goal of a less congested city that would benefit cyclists and taxis alike. We also recognised that this discussion was being dominated by a vocal (and regrettably aggressive) minority of PHV drivers who were doing their peers no favours, so, we took the decision to close it down.

We hope that PCC can work with the taxi trade to improve it’s safety record. Until then, especially given the aggression displayed by a minority of drivers, it’s not appropriate to consider allowing PHVs into bus lanes.

The decision will be made at a public meeting of the Traffic & Transportation Cabinet on in the Executive Meeting Room on Floor 3 of the Guildhall. The meeting is at 5pm on Thursday 5th February.

Private Hire Vehicles in Bus Lanes

PHV using cycle lane
A PHV making creative use of cycle-only lights on Flathouse Road

Portsmouth City Council is considering allowing Private Hire Vehicles to use bus lanes. To use technical terminology, a Taxi is a Hackney Carriage, and a Minicab is a Private Hire Vehicle (PHV).  A Hackney Carriage licence allows the driver to pick up fares on the street, and a few other perks, for example, in Portsmouth, Taxis may use bus lanes, but PHVs ay not.  Recently it has been proposed that PHVs should be allowed to use Bus Lanes.  In addition to buses and taxis, bicycles are also permitted to use bus lanes.

You may know that Portsmouth has more cycling accidents per capita than most other cities, but it may surprise you to learn that (according to PCC figures) Taxis and PHVs are responsible for a disproportionately large number of cycling accidents.  Taxis and PHVs represent just under 0.9% of registered vehicles, but are involved in 8% of all reported cycle collisions: and whilst cyclists make up only 4.7% of traffic in Portsmouth, they account for 21% of Taxi/PHV related casualties.  Disturbingly, the most common contributory factor is the “driver failing to look properly”.

Allowing PHVs into cycle lanes would result in more occasions when cyclists and PHVs are in close proximity, and thus increase the likelihood of cyclist casualties in the one place where they currently have some protection from general traffic.  Portsmouth Cycle Forum therefore conclude that in its current form this proposal is a terrible idea.

You can read our full response here: PHVs in Bus Lanes – PCF Response.

New Goals for the New Year: Big dreams and big miles

Tommy Godwin, Year record holder (source Tommygodwin.com)
Tommy Godwin, Year record holder (source Tommygodwin.com)

As 2014 sputters to an end and its last moments are vomited into the gutters of Guildhall Walk it’s a suitable moment to pause, reflect and plan. We’ve come a long, long way in 2014 and put cycling into the mainstream of political debate. In 2015 we need to capitalise on that. What we’ve achieved so far amounts to fine words and promises. Those are fine things but they count for little unless they are acted on.

2015 is a year for big goals and big achievements. It’s little known but in 1939 Tommy Godwin set the record for the most miles cycled in a year, covering some 75,065 miles. Tommy took only one day off during the year (despite the outbreak of World War 2) and that was to go to Buckingham Palace to meet the Prince of Wales once he’d passed the previous record. Tommy’s record has long been thought unbeatable. Well, in 2015 somebody’s going to try it.

Steve Abraham is one of the UK’s most accomplished long distance riders. He’s given up his job to try and break Tommy Godwin’s record in 2015. Starting on New Year’s day Steve will be cycling every single day of 2015, aiming to cover on average more than 205 miles per day. He’s operating on a shoestring budget so if you can support him (either financially or practically) then check out his website.

My personal goals are more modest – but still a big stretch for me. 2015 will see the 18th edition of the four-yearly Paris-Brest-Paris Randonnee. This 1200km event must be completed in a strict time limit (90 hours for me) and is something I’ve aspired to do for many years. I missed the 2007 event (broke my back) and the 2011 event (serious illness) so I’m determined to make it to the start line in 2015. I’ll have to qualify in 200, 300, 400 and 600km events first so 2015 will be a year of big miles.

So what about Portsmouth Cycle Forum? Big challenges for experienced cyclists aside, what about the challenge of getting more people riding bikes to go about their everyday business? How should Portsmouth Cycle Forum Challenge itself to make equally long steps towards that goal?

How about a cross-party group of politicians, council officers and stakeholders (like us) charged with achieving a shift from the private car to sustainable transport?

How about a dedicated budget to develop safe cycling infrastructure?

How about a commitment from PCC to double cycling and halve cycle casualties in the next 5 years?

How about the redevelopment of PCC’s transport policy to incorporate the ideas expressed in A City to Share?

Let’s make sure we build on our achievements in 2014 and make real change happen. There are challenges ahead – more budget cuts and reorganisations at PCC not least among them – but there are also opportunities. There are elections, general and local, and we need to get cycling on the agenda.

Remember that every single day next year Steve will be out there on his bike, rain, sun, hail or snow. Let’s take that indomitable spirit as our example. Let’s push ourselves as we push for change. We’ll need your help.

Happy new year to one and all.