Category Archives: Campaigns

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

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.

Private Hire vehicles in bus lanes – A statement from Portsmouth Cycle Forum

Bus lane sign

A decision to allow private hire vehicles (PHVs) into bus lanes in Portsmouth has been deferred by Cllr. Ken Ellcome.  The proposal was opposed by Hackney Carriage drivers, a local bus operator, Sustrans and Portsmouth Cycle Forum.  Road safety professionals in Portsmouth City Council also advised against it.

PHVs and taxis provide affordable door-to-door transport, an invaluable service, but being a professional driver in Portsmouth is very challenging. The city is increasingly congested and competition for fares among over 1750 registered PHV & Taxi drivers is intense, making driving a tough way to make a living.

Portsmouth Cycle Forum were opposed for good reason, as there is a serious safety concern.  There is a disproportionately high level of accidents between minicabs and cyclists in the city, a figure that is much higher than in other cities, and police data shows that the most common cause is driver error.

Portsmouth Cycle Forum chairman Jon Spencer said:

“Portsmouth has a major congestion problem, so we need to develop attractive alternatives to private car use.  The bus lanes which are used by cyclists and taxis are a foundation of this and to open them up to more vehicles will be a huge backwards step, making the roads much less attractive for cyclists and ultimately leading to worse congestion.  We wish to work constructively with all parties to make Portsmouth a safer and more pleasant place for all.”

At the suggestion of the Leader, Cllr Donna Jones, Portsmouth Cycle Forum has published a discussion document called “A City to Share” which sets out a vision of a city fit for the future. It’s free to download from acitytoshare.org.

The next Portsmouth Cycle Forum open meeting is on Thursday 12 February at 7pm at the University’s Park building.  There will be a debate on how to make the main routes in Portsmouth safe and welcoming for cyclists. Members of the public are welcome.

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.

A City to Share – follow up with Donna Jones

pcf-city-strategy-portrait-hr-thumbOn Tuesday 2nd December Portsmouth Cycle Forum also met with the leader of PCC, Cllr Donna Jones, and the Cabinet Member for Traffic & Transportation Cllr Ken Ellcome to follow up on the launch of our cycle strategy, A City to Share.

In attendance were Cllrs Jones and Ellcome, PCC Head of Traffic & Environment Simon Moon, Assistant Head of Traffic & Environment Marc Griffin, British Cycling Southern Region Recreation Manager Jo Downing, Sameen Farouk (a key contributor to the strategy development) plus Jon Spencer and John Holland of Portsmouth Cycle Forum.

Cllr Jones’s immediate focus was on the development of a major cycling event in the city. It’s too early to announce what that is but it could be very exciting and commit PCC to year-round support for cycling for several years to come. Cllr Jones also committed to engage with the minister for cycling, Robert Goodwill and minister for Portsmouth, Matthew Hancock to find out how Portsmouth can be reconnected to the main stream of cycling funding that it currently seems excluded from.

I was particularly pleased to hear that Simon Moon is planning to redraft the city’s LTP3 policy partly in response to our strategy. LTP3 is really the main body of transport policy for the city and much of the city’s transport funding comes through it. So that is a really, really positive development. He also committed to work in partnership with Portsmouth Cycle Forum in doing that.

Useful discussions were had about how to further raise the profile of the strategy with neighbourhood fora and businesses. We maybe seeking volunteers to help with that soon. There were two key issues we raised in writing following the meeting as we had run out of time:

  1. PCC officers are currently working up an EOI response to the DfT Cycling Delivery Plan. Given the unfortunate failure of the Cycle City Ambition and, more recently, LSFT2 bids it is obviously vital that this EOI meets a positive response. We are very keen to support the development of Portsmouth’s EOI response in any way we can.
  2. Plans to redevelop the city’s coastal defences are now well advanced, with the first section covering a long section of Southsea seafront open for consultation. In the past, whilst campaigning for the western part of the seafront cycle route, we were assured that when the new coastal defences were built that would be the opportunity to improve cycling on the seafront. Unfortunately, any cycle provision is absent from the plans now presented. It seems a shame to spend circa £20 million on this stretch of the seafront and do nothing to solve the long standing problem with cycling here. If we do hold a high-profile event then the seafront is an area I’m sure we’d love to include. It will be a real pity if a once-in-a-generation opportunity to introduce some attractive, safe cycling facilities on the western seafront has been missed.

There is a consultation running right now on the coastal defences if you’d like to have your say – check our article which will lead you to it.

Thanks to the Councillors and officers for their time. We look forward to some speedy progress.

A Short Tour of Portsmouth

Our Route
Our Route

Cycle Forum committee members Jon Spencer and Mike Dobson took a cycle tour of the city on Monday night Portsmouth City Council’s Assistant Head of Transport Marc Griffin and Active Travel Officer James Roberts. Along for the ride was Simon Pratt, regional director of Sustrans. The aim was to review the current cycle provision in the areas visited and we plan to take more rides to cover other areas in future.

The areas we covered were:

  • Guildhall Walk. Difficulty of accessing narrow contraflow cycle lane to Winston Churchill Ave. Convoluted routes mean many cyclists take illegal shortcuts across pavements in this area.
  • King’s Rd / Museum Rd roundabout which seems to assume that cyclists will always turn left.
  • Insufficient cycle parking on Osborne Rd.
  • Difficulty in entering the redesigned Palmerston Rd South. This allows cyclists to ride contraflow but there isn’t room for them to enter if vehicles are using the junction.
  • Shipwright’s way grass / mesh cycle path on Common near Duisburg way. Unlit, rough, wet, slippery. Wholly unsatisfactory.
  • Pier Rd / Clarence Pier. Lots of road space. No cycle provision at all despite a fatality here in 2010.
  • Clarence Esplanade – complete lack of cycle provision. Westbound cyclists passing close to rear of echelon parked cars. A highly dangerous configuration.
  • South Parade / A288. Cyclists forced fo cross and recross to reach A288 where they will shortly be forced to cross again to reach seafront cycle route.. No provision at all at South Parade.
  • A288 / St Helen’s parade. Sweeping left turn onto St Helen’s parade encourages drivers to take the bend at speed. If a cyclists is heading straight on along the Esplanade they can routinely expect to be overtaken and cut up by left turning vehicles.
  • Seafront Cycle Route. One of the best cycle routes we have but sadly below par. The route is narrow at its widest, but frequently further narrowed by island bus stops. These are hard to see in the dark and have caused accidents where cyclists have ridden into them.
  • Henderson Rd. Seafront Cycle Route ends abruptly and cyclists have to cross two lanes of traffic on a poorly sighted bend. This is often obstructed by illegally parked vehicles.
  • Bransbury Park. Narrow route, obstructed by hard to see low bollrads and a very narrow chicane at the North End. This is the first part of a quiet route from the seafront to the Eastern Rd which is unsigned.
  • Route through St James’s Hospital to Eastern Rd. This is a quiet route to connect the Eastern Rd and the seafront. It is potentially at risk from the redevelopment of St James’s hospital. It works well if you know the city well, but would be impossible to find and follow for a visitor. Many twists, turns, and give way points.
  • Eastern Rd cycle path. Issues with narrowness – especially in segregated sections where it is impossible for two cyclists to pass without one crossing the line. Poor surface, unlit sections hidden behind trees put off female cyclists. Lack of waiting space at crossings, e.g. Tangier Rd. Very difficult & dangerous junctions (e.g. Anchorage Rd).
  • Eastern Rd bridge. Very narrow and difficult for two cyclists to pass. Proximity of high speed traffic make this intimidating. At night the problem is worsened by the glare of headlights from oncoming vehicles.
  • Farlington Roundabout. Extremely convoluted & time consuming route for cyclists. Encourages risk taking.
  • Eastern Rd Rail Bridge. Narrow route further narrowed by bus stops. Hard to used junction at Walton Rd where cyclists is expected to turn 90 degrees in about a metre of space.
  • Tudor Cres / Peronne Rd Bridge. Excellent Bridge for cyclists and pedestrians over A27 but very difficult to access from the South.
  • A2047 Coach & Horses Gyratory. High speed traffic often turns across cyclists. Inconsistently marked bus lanes. One of the most dangerous spots in the city.
  • A2047. The most dangerous Rd in the city. Bus lane part way southbound, nothing northbound. Narrow and very busy and highly congested by legally and illegally parked vehicles.
  • Fratton Rd / Victoria Rd N roundabout. Convoluted and time consuming route for cyclists. Crossing of Fawcett Rd unclear and off road route on Victoria Rd N very narrow. Markings on cycle crossing of Victoria Rd N have been burnt off.

This was a really useful opportunity to explain in detail why some of the infrastructure in the city fails to encourage cycling. We’d like to extend our thanks to Marc, James and Simon for taking the time out to do this.

The future of Southsea’s coast – consultation

Storm tide in SouthseaA CITY TO SHARE includes accessibility for all to our coast and heritage. The proposed new flood defences for Southsea seafront present a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to complete a missing section of the seafront cycle.

Do you want a cycle route along the seafront between the two piers so that you and your family can cycle without fear of being squeezed or reversed into? The consultation has a question on cycling so it’s important to respond.

See the link for details of the consultation roadshows or study the plans online. Don’t forget to fill in the feedback form to answer that knotty question!

The consultation closes on 29 December 2014.

www.escp.org.uk/…/future-southseas-coast-consultation

A City to Share – UPDATE

A City to Share
A City to Share

Read the full document at acitytoshare.org – join the debate on twitter using the hashtag #acitytoshare

On Monday 3rd November Portsmouth Cycle Forum will launch “A City to Share”, its strategy to put safe cycling at the heart of Portsmouth’s transport policy.

The proposal will  be presented to city leaders at a launch event hosted by the University of Portsmouth. It sets out a vision for the city where there is space for cyclists, drivers and pedestrians to co-operate with each other and treat one another with courtesy and respect.

Cllr Donna Jones invited Portsmouth Cycle Forum to propose improvements to transport in the city, following an open letter it wrote to the council in August 2014. The challenge now handed back to all local leaders in the strategy is how to work together to deliver these changes.

“A City to Share” sets out a vision where cyclists and pedestrians who live, work, study and visit Portsmouth can be safely accommodated alongside drivers. The strategy aims to deliver a steep reduction in the number of accidents involving cyclists and pedestrians by changing the way the streets are designed.

This means cost-effective interventions to make cycling a viable alternative to the car as it has in other thriving cities like York, Bristol and Cambridge.

Jon Spencer, Chair of Portsmouth Cycle Forum, comments: “Only about 4.6% of commuting journeys in Portsmouth are made by bike, which is significantly lower than the 16% seen in Cambridge. We believe that with the right infrastructure in place Portsmouth could be an ideal city for cycling, and aim to see the percentage of commuting journeys rise to 10% by 2020, and 20% by 2025.”

“Making changes to the city to enable many more people to cycle safely will benefit everyone. It will bring great benefits to the health, wealth and wellbeing of the whole city. The people of Cambridge are fitter, healthier and longer lived than the people of Portsmouth and we’d like to see Portsmouth catch up.”

Ian McCormack, University of Portsmouth Environment Manager, said “The university supports the initiative of the cycle strategy for the city of Portsmouth, which will benefit students and staff.”

British Cycling’s campaigns manager Martin Key said “British Cycling wants to see more people on bikes. We can inspire people to cycle but what will really make the difference is if we make cycling a more desirable way of getting around. This strategy has the vision and ambition to make to make the city a healthier, happier and more active place to live.”

The strategy focuses on the recognised potential benefits for the community in Portsmouth. These include:

  • Health – Regular physical activity like cycling for short trips will help address obesity and ensure the people are healthier for longer.
  • Economy – Shoppers who mainly visit through walking, cycling or the bus will visit more shops and more frequently supporting local high streets. This relies on addressing road safety to help overcome fears of cycling in Portsmouth. Reducing congestion will benefit all businesses.
  • Liveability – Improving safety and reducing traffic along residential roads to support cycling will help children get to school and visit nearby friends. As more people switch from travelling by car to walking or cycling, it will reduce the demand on scarce parking spaces in the city.
  • Environment – The primary source of air pollution in Portsmouth is motor traffic. When residents in the city switch from cars to cycling to make short trips, it will help reduce the estimated 600 preventable deaths a year in the city due to air pollution.

By working together with residents and businesses in the city, the council can start to address the vision through key practical interventions it can start to deliver immediately such as:

  • Establish a cross party sustainable transport working group to oversee delivery of the strategy goals;
  • Consult on and deliver a cycle safety action plan to address the level of cycle accidents;
  • Allocate resources to assess the suitability of cycling provision in each neighbourhood to augment the Portsmouth Plan;
  • Research options to create space for cycling on main routes;
  • To work with public transport operators in Portsmouth to consult on how to support the increasing number of customers who switch to cycling in the city after disembarking in Portsmouth;

The strategy will be presented at a public meeting of the Portsmouth Cycling Forum on Thursday 13th November 2014 in Room 0.08 of Park Building, University of Portsmouth on King Henry I Street.

Footnote

Inevitably printing and promoting the strategy comes at a cost. If you’d like to make a donation to help us fund it we’d be delighted and eternally grateful. The fundraiser page is right here.