Category Archives: Campaigns

Open Meeting – Making Space for Cycling (UK)

Our next open meeting will take place at 7pm on Thursday 17th November.  The venue will once again be LT2 in Richmond Building at the University of Portsmouth. We’ll be joined by Roger Geffen MBE, Policy Director of Cycling UK. Many of you may remember Roger, who last joined us in January 2014 to talk to us about CTC’s national campaigns. CTC has since transformed the more campaign focussed Cycling UK.

Cycling UK is preparing for a second phase of its national Space for Cycling campaign, in partnership with local campaign groups.  It aims to create better places for everyone, by enabling people of all ages and abilities to cycle for any local journey.  As well as enabling members of the public to call on councils to commit to planning high-quality cycle networks – and to finding the funding these will require – we are also creating a Space for Cycling toolkit.  This will support local campaign groups and councils to work constructively together on planning local cycle networks and prioritising schemes, using a suite of IT tools and crowd-sourced data. This will strengthen the hand of local campaigners – as local authorities seek their support for their funding proposals – while boosting their credibility, their visibility in the local media, and their supporter base.

This should be a really interesting meeting and a great chance for us to engage with Cycling UK’s national campaigns and to use them locally to help us make cycling work for Portsmouth. Put the date in your diaries.

October 2016 – what a month!

Our interim Chair, Ian Saunders writes: as October comes to a close, it’s been quite a month for the cyclist in Portsmouth.

On the positive side of the equation we had a successful Pedal Portsmouth Glow ride last weekend on the closed roads along the seafront while the Great South Run was using the space. The Petersfield to Queen Elizabeth Country Park cycle track has finally been completed, and Ned Boulting’s one man show ‘Bikeology’ came to the New Theatre Royal to discover his thoughts on cycling culture and cyclists and experiences of the Tour De France over the last 15 years he has worked on it.

There has also been some new infrastructure ‘installed’ along the east bound Havant Road, although depending on who you speak to and their previous experiences, the addition of paint is either a positive or a negative in terms of giving space and creating awareness of cycling. And that’s just the cyclists!

However it is all overshadowed by the release of the cycling casualty figures for the UK, and Portsmouth’s place at the top of table of the worst cities to for cycle safety. Jon Spencer has outlined the salient points on our website here and although the figure of 888 per million of population is down from 2014, it is not coming down fast enough. Therefore we are now writing all PCC councilors and the city’s MPs to get them to commit to halving the accident rate by 2020 as was outlined in our City to Share strategy presented to them two years ago.

Amongst the recent news stories about cycle casualties, traffic congestion, and new infrastructure being planned and installed, we’ve seen comments from the Council Leader and her head of Traffic and transport, but not the cabinet post holder for the department. Six months into his tenure, we are yet to hear publically of Councillor Fleming’s plans on how to combat congestion and pollution in the city, other than increasing the fees for the third parking permit at an address.

A good place to start might be our next Open Meeting on Thursday 17th November, and he would also be able to hear Cycling UK’s Campaigns and Policy Director Roger Geffen MBE talk about the second phase of their national Space for Cycling Campaign which will call on councils to commit to planning high-quality cycle networks, and to finding the funding these will require. Perhaps then we can start to reduce the unnecessary accidents on our roads.

And related to that final point, the clocks go back this weekend (October 29th), so the mornings and evenings will be darker and he days will (probably) be duller and greyer as we arrive in winter. Please ensure that you use your lights while cycling and ensure you are seen.

Cycle Casualties 2015

The Department for Transport has recently released road safety statistics for 2015 and once again Portsmouth is shamed by the rate at which cyclists are hurt on our roads. We have the worst rate of cycle casualties of any city in England. A few London boroughs do have a worse casualty rate but taken as a whole London is safer than Portsmouth. Portsmouth also topped this unenviable league in 2014, 2012 and 2011.

Portsmouth’s cycle casualty rate for 2015 was 888 per million of population. This is very slightly better that the 2014 figure, but this is likely to be no more than a statistical blip. The city’s leaders have taken no concerted action to address road safety, despite our exhortations, preferring to wring their hands and claim there is little they can do because Portsmouth is such a crowded city.

This excuse does not stand up to close examination. England’s most densely populated area, Islington, is nearly three times as crowded as Portsmouth. Islington has a population density of 14,517 people per square kilometre compared to 5,141 in Portsmouth and yet the cyclist casualty rate is slightly lower in Islington with a rate of 882 compared to 888 in Portsmouth.

Waltham Forest, which has recently implemented a ‘mini-Holland’ scheme of cycle infrastructure improvements has a population density of 6,849 people per square kilometre. This is a third more than Portsmouth and yet the cyclist casualty rate is only 409, less than half the rate in Portsmouth. This goes to show what can be achieved with good infrastructure, even in densely populated areas.

It’s time our leaders recognised that this is happening on their watch and it is their problem to solve. It is not a dry statistic to be regretted and ignored, these are the residents of our city being hurt (or worse). Each of these casualties represents a day, week, month or even lifetime ruined or lost. Even minor accidents can have a huge effect on the victims, as the case studies at the end of this piece show.

It is past time to start taking cycle safety seriously. The city is gridlocked and desperately needs people to get out of their cars, but people are understandably put off by the danger on our streets.

For too long Portsmouth City Council has been putting in a token effort at cycle safety. That has to change. We are calling on councillors to commit to halving the cycle casualty rate by 2020. Their first step has to be proper funding for road safety and to recruit a world-class traffic engineer with expertise in cycling infrastructure to lead on it.

It is the first responsibility of government in a democratic society to protect and safeguard the lives of its citizens. Cyclists are citizens and the government of our city is currently failing us. Now is the time to act. It’s time to lift the city from it’s humiliating position as the most dangerous city for cyclists in the UK.

Read Simon’s story
Read John’s story

Sources

ONS Population Density Map
DfT Accident Statistics for 2015 (Table RAS 30045)

Anyone up for a challenge?

Portsmouth Cycle Forum needs a chair. I’ve been proud to serve as the chair of Portsmouth Cycle Forum for the last three years but work and family commitments are making it impossible for me to continue.

The chair’s role is to lead our campaign and act as a focus for improving cycling in the city. It’s been an honour (and I don’t say that lightly) to serve as chair and it’s with enormous regret that I’m stepping down. I do, however, intend to continue to serve on the committee to support the new chair.

I announced my decision to step down as chair at our AGM and at our Open Meeting in April. Unfortunately a volunteer was not forthcoming to replace me so I agreed to continue for an interim period of three months whilst a new chair was sought. That three months has nearly passed and I fear, as I have less time to steer the campaign, that things are drifting and momentum is being lost.

I’m hoping that there is an enthusiastic volunteer out there, willing to come forward and lead the forum on the next step of its evolution. We’ve done some great work developing a transport plan for the city in A City to Share and that’s ready to be taken forward.

Portsmouth desperately needs a strong cycle forum to hold politicians and local authority officers to account. Portsmouth is a city made for cycling yet it’s one of the most dangerous places to cycle in the UK.

A strong cycle forum needs a strong leader. Could that be you?

All change at Kings Road roundabout?

As a response to meetings with the Portsmouth Cycle Forum and others traffic engineers have remodelled the Kings Road roundabout in Southsea. Unfortunately instead of being extensively changed to make it a safer roundabout for cyclists, pedestrians and motorists the roundabout has instead had minimal change at maximum cost.

Jon Spencer, Cycle Forum Chair, attended the meeting with Portsmouth City Council traffic officers. ‘I’m really disappointed with what has happened at Kings Road roundabout. In the meeting we talked about a complete overhaul of the roundabout including soft separators between the car and cycle lanes and making it the first Dutch style roundabout in the city. The layout now is hardly any different from what was there before and actually has some more dangerous features like the cycle lanes rejoining the main highway at right angles to the traffic.’

The Kings Road roundabout has one of the highest cycle accident rates in Portsmouth and this redesign will do little if anything to reduce that rate.

Portsmouth Cycle Forum is also pushing for a commitment from the council to be honoured that they are consulted on the future lay outs of other dangerous roundabouts in the city which are currently under review. This is as part of our campaign to halve cycle injury statistics by 2020

 

2016 Annual General Meeting

On the 21 April we had our AGM.  These are the minutes:

  1. Welcome and introduction by the Chairman.

Jon Spencer welcomed everyone to the Annual General meeting.

  1. Minutes of Annual General Meeting of 20 March 2015: They were approved without dissent.
  2. Matters arising from last AGM: None.
  3. Chairman’s Report 2016:  Jon highlighted the highs and lows of the year and thanked those who had given their support, time and financial contribution. The full text is published here:

Chair Report 1516

5. Treasurer’s report and accounts:

Roger presented the detailed accounts of the Forum.  Thanks to the increase in annual subscriptions from £5 to £10 last year we are on a much sounder financial footing, although there was a fall in members from 66 to 60.  This is being addressed by regular reminders for those who need to renew.  The report can be found on the website. The meeting approved the report without dissent.

PCF Accounts report 15-16

6. Elections:

Jon has been Chair for 3 years and is finding the commitment too much to bear.  He stood down and asked if there were any nominations for a replacement.  None was forthcoming so Jon has agreed to stay as interim Chair for 3 months.  He urged members to think about candidates and we will need an EGM to elect a new Chair.  Jon also asked for nominations for vice-chair and secretary.  Jon also explained a little about the roles.  No nominations were forthcoming and so both will need to be chosen at the EGM.  Roger was only candidate for Treasurer and was willing to continue.  Other roles for committee members were explained.

Chairman: Jon Spencer will continue for 3 months as interim.  Replacement to be decided at EGM.

Vice-chairman: to be decided at EGM.

Secretary: to be decided at EGM.

Treasurer: Roger Inkpen was the only nomination. He was elected nem.com.

Notice: an EGM will need to be held by mid-July.          

7. Committee members: A communications officer is needed to co-ordinate posts for the website, Facebook, Twitter and chase stories for newsletters. Jon Riding agreed to take this role.  Roger will continue organising rides.  The following were sole nominations and were elected nem.com. en bloc:

Joe McGannan John Holland
Mike Dobson Phil Kirkham
Tom Hart Nicola Waight
Jon Riding Jacek Kopecky
Matthew Winnington Ian Saunders

8. Close: The Chair thanked all for attending.

The AGM closed at 7.45pm.  This was followed by an exercise to follow-up the City to Share cycle strategy.  Feedback from this will be uploaded to the website.

Election Meeting

Election time is nearing, with a councillor up for election in each of the 14 wards across the city on the 5th May. We’ve invited the representatives of each party to speak at our next meeting and we’ll be asking them to commit to halving the rate of cycling casualties on Portsmouth’s Roads by 2020. We’ll be inviting every candidate in the election to come along too and we’ll be writing to them individually to ask them for their support.

The main focus of the meeting will be to give you a chance to ask questions of our politicians about their plans and views on cycling.

The meeting will take place in Lecture Theatre 3, Richmond Building of the University of Portsmouth at 7pm on the 28th April.

Please let us know if you are planning on coming to this meeting by booking a place here. The meeting is free and open to all but it is REALLY helpful for us to know how many people are coming.

Click here to attend this meeting

Call for funding for A City to Share

At the meeting of the  Full Council meeting today, 9 February,  Portsmouth Cycle Forum made a deputation calling for some of the £3.5M transport budget to spent on cycling.

The proposed budget for of  2016-2020 includes major repairs to the Eastern Road  bridge and to upgrades to traffic lights throughout the city yet nothing to implement the aims of PCF’s strategy document “A City to Share”

The deputation was written by PCF Chairman Jon Spencer and delivered by Vice-chairman John Holland,  The text is as follows.

“I am here to ask you to commit some of your transport budget to implement A City to Share, the cycling strategy developed by Portsmouth Cycle Forum at the leader’s behest.”

“The city has become woefully congested and there are rightful concerns that this will put off visitors, residents, events and investors. This problem has been widely discussed and the proposed budget includes a £3.5M investment to attempt to relieve the problem.”

“We are asking councillors to remember that transport is about moving people, not vehicles – connecting customers to business and keeping the lifeblood of our economy flowing. Portsmouth’s roads are at capacity and there is just no space for the increased movements of people that will be required to grow our economy. Spending £1M on smarter phasing of traffic lights can’t address this fundamental problem.”

“£1.8M of your £3.5M investment will be on remedial works to the Eastern Rd bridge. This in itself will offer no new transport capacity unless widening of the narrow, obstructed pedestrian & cycle path is included. This is the major cycle route into the city and this section falls woefully short of DfT standards. It is not accessible to disabled cyclists and at times can be frightening to use. It is common practice in The Netherlands to add cycle capacity to older bridges by adding new cantilevered paths at each edge. This is comparatively cheap and will create a gateway for cyclists worthy of our city.”

“What is needed is a smarter, cleaner, cheaper and more space efficient way to move people. People on bikes take up far less space than people in cars and so many more people can be moved. If more journeys can be made by bike, and less by car, then everyone wins. We reduce the congestion and get a healthier, happier and more productive city into the bargain.”

“This won’t happen by itself though. Throughout the city roads need to become more attractive and forgiving to cyclists. This is not hard to do – many, many cities have gone down this path before us and achieved transformational results. The plan to do this exists in A City to Share, a document that has been praised and supported by politicians of all parties. So we’re asking you to turn those words into action and used some of your proposed transport investment to fund the implementation of A City to Share.”

“There is more to cycling than big ticket events. The city needs to be made fit for purpose for everyday cycling and we ask for PCC to commit to that. We need the bread and butter of safe and easy everyday cycling before we can enjoy the cake of the Tour de France.”

“The MP for Portsmouth South, Flick Drummond, has been pushing central government to support A City to Share. We’d like you to support her. We are asking you all to build cycling into your plans, allocate funding to implement the goals of A City to Share, prioritise improvements for cyclists (for example to the Eastern rd bridge) and to crucially to formally adopt the targets presented in A City to Share, including halving cycling casualties by 2020.”

A City to Share may be downloaded from acitytoshare.org.

Parking on our High Streets

High Streets are trending on the Twitter feeds of Portsmouth’s Conservative leadership at the moment, with the leader of the city council Donna Jones and Portsmouth North MP Penny Mordaunt both championing the plight of shopkeepers in North End. And let’s make no mistake, those businesses need a champion – times are tough and our high streets are shadows of their former selves.

The latest high-profile casualty in North End is the Co-op store. This large convenience store, which had its own dedicated car park, raises some awkward questions about the story our politicians are telling us about the problem though. They tell us the problem is about the availability of parking and trumpet their efforts to squeeze more spaces on to the street. If that is the case then what has gone wrong for the Co-op, a shop with it’s own car park?

The declining fortunes of our high streets were studied by councillors on the Economic Development, Culture and Leisure Scrutiny Panel earlier this year. Portsmouth Cycle Forum gave evidence to that panel and a report was approved on the 18 March. The report is available here and we wish that Cllr Jones and Penny Mordaunt MP would read it before they act further.

The problem on our high streets, especially Fratton / Kingston / London Road, is that they are trying to be too many things:

  • They are trying to be major distributor roads, carrying people and goods in and out of the city – Fratton / Kingston / London Road is also the A2047 and one of the major North-South roads on the island.
  • They are trying to be shopping streets, where people get out of their cars to buy things.
  • They are trying to be streets where people live, eat and relax.
  • They are trying to be car parks with on-street parking right outside every business.

They cannot be all these things and the consequence is that they have become the most people-unfriendly places imaginable. They are highly polluted. The traffic is hellish. Parking is impossible. The A2047 has more casualties along it than any other road in the city and is amongst the most dangerous stretches of road in Britain.

The result is that people don’t want to spend any more time than they have to in these places. People may stop outside a particular business, run-in for what they came for and get out as fast as possible but that’s hardly a model for economic growth. These streets need to be turned into places people want to visit.

The politician’s rhetoric, that squashing in more parking will make everything better, is positively dangerous. Squashing in more parking will just make things worse. Traffic a bit more squeezed, roads a bit narrower, the air a bit dirtier. A few more pedestrians and cyclists will be injured (or worse), a few more local children will develop asthma and the benefit to businesses will be negligible or nonexistent. Businesses will still close down and politicians will wring their hands and say “we did our best”.

Our politicians are currently presiding over a policy of danger and decay on London Road and our other high streets. It’s time they took some real positive action to address it. It’s time to transform our high streets into places people want to visit. It’s time for A City to Share.

Near Miss Project needs you!

The Near Miss Project is back for its second year and it needs your help. The project, led by Dr. Rachel Aldred at the University of Westminster, studies cycling incidents that don’t result in injuries, but may profoundly influence people’s experiences and behaviours or even give an indication of where future collisions may happen.

The findings could be used by planners and policy-makers; to inform street design, for example. The team will also use the data to engage the public in an informed debate and help all road users better understand how a minor incident might affect a person cycling.

To take part, just pick a day between 19 October and 1 November when you’ll be cycling, sign up online and record your experience here or visit nearmiss.bike for more details and last year’s findings.

Southsea Seafront Cycle Lane Safety

The seafront cycle lane in Southsea that runs from South Parade along to Henderson Road  has come in for some criticism recently after a pedestrian fell over a kerb which separates the parked cars from the cycle lane.  

Portsmouth Cycle Forum regret this incident and wish Roger Homer a speedy recovery from his injuries. We do feel, however, that his request for the islands to be removed would be an ineffective use of public money that would not utilise the best return for the taxpayer.

We would like to see improvements made in other areas of the city where cycling collisions are much more frequent, these need to be urgently addressed before a fatality occurs. The recent publication of the DfT statistics, showing that the accident rate in Portsmouth has worsened since last year, proves that the city has roads which need drastic improvement.

Crashmap shows that the junction at Albert Road, B2154 and Victoria Road,  B2151, had two serious crashes involving people who cycle last year. Albert Road had 6 bicycle-vehicle collisions with 3 serious and 3 slight injuries last year. St George’s Road at the entrance to Gunwharf Quays had 4 bicycle-vehicle collisions, 2 serious and 2 slight injuries last year.

These, along with other cycle crash hot spots, being altered would be of far more benefit to Portsmouth than of using the money to remove the seafront islands. The cost to the taxpayer of the injuries sustained in these crashes are on average £235,791 for serious injuries and £24,887 for slight injuries (ref). The costs of the incidents described above can be estimated at just over £1.3 million pounds. This would likely have covered the costs of the required junction improvements several times over. 

The function of the “islands” on the seafront cycle route is to protect the people using the cycle lane from opening car doors.  If the islands were removed then it’s likely we would see an increase in cars parking closer to the cycle lane as there would be no physical barrier. Motor vehicle doors opening into the cycle path would cause a huge hazard and lead to increased, not a reduction, in injuries, which nobody wants.

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.

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.

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.

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.

 

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