Category Archives: Opinion

Here’s what we did this summer…

Written by: Ian Saunders, PCF Chair

It’s been a busy few months for us on the committee as a number of large scale projects start to turn corners and lurch into the view of deadlines during the autumn.

Quite a lot of time was taken to respond to the planning application for the Southsea Sea Defence works. We have responded to previous consultations but this time there were actual designs with technical drawings to which we could respond. Lots of them…

Although we recognise the need to improve our sea defences we are disappointed that the designers have not committed to a genuinely safe cycle route along the seafront.

Portsmouth City Council’s Seafront Masterplan (a separate planning document) envisages a continuous cycle route from Gosport ferry to Hayling ferry. The coastal defences do not cover this length in full, but where they do, we expect them to provide a route fit for purpose.

The plans show some very modest improvements on what we have today, but some of the planned sections make cycling more hazardous, or less enjoyable, with little separation between bikes and cars. The designers have also failed to do anything about the existing problem faced by cyclists of having to switch sides at several points along the seafront.

Our thanks go to Roger Inkpen for compiling all the comments into a cohesive document which has been cited by others responding to the application as well, which you can read hereherehere

At the same time as this seafront defences application went live, we were asked by the Council to be a part of the consultation for a new safety scheme along Goldsmith Avenue as part of a wider east / west active travel corridor. The aim of the Goldsmith Avenue scheme is to add protection to the existing cycle lanes in the form of cycle lane defenders and wands between Fratton Way roundabout and Fratton Bridge roundabout. One of the two Francis Avenue junctions would be closed to motor vehicles, and an informal pedestrian crossing added to aid movement between Lidl and the bus stop on the opposite side of the road.

This road has a poor road safety record, and is perceived as a barrier to east-west cycling in the south of the city for commuters, school children and others. The on road painted cycle lane is constantly parked over by local businesses, forcing people riding further into the carriageway and into the path of a high flow of motorised traffic.

We were pleased to see proposals that physically segregate cyclists from motor vehicles in some areas, but we do appreciate that this route is constrained for space due to the railway line and private properties on each side. We see the proposals as an opportunity to improve on the current layout, but remain concerned that there is not enough sufficient width through the entire length of the scheme to maintain separation from traffic throughout. The proposal to include defenders and wands however means that a precedent could be set, as could lead to installation at other sites in the city.

Committee member Mike Dobson has been our representative on the PCC Air Quality Steering Group; set up to investigate and assess how the city might be able to meet air quality targets ahead of a clean air zone being imposed by Government combined government departments DEFRA and the DfT – known as the Joint Air Quality Unit, or JAQU.

The Council has chosen a band B charging zone which includes buses, taxis and trucks but not light goods vehicles and private cars.

Since launching our ‘A City To Share’ strategy in 2014, we have made it clear that to reduce congestion and improve air quality, cycling, walking and public transport improvements are required to offer residents, workers and visitors to the city a true alternative to travel. If we could reduce the number of internal car journeys on Portsea Island itself, that would go a long way to improving the situation for everyone. But we need the correct infrastructure and investment to make these alternative options attractive enough for people to switch modes.

Part of that infrastructure would be a network of safe, consistent and connected cycle lanes. The next two projects aim to develop and quantify exactly that:

The Local Cycle and Walking Infrastructure Plan (LCWIP) – LCWIPs, which came in under the Government’s Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy (CWIS), are defined as a “new, strategic approach to identifying cycling and walking improvements required at the local level”. Planning policies, it says, should “provide for high quality walking and cycling networks and supporting facilities such as cycle parking.”

PCC are currently developing their LCWIP and we have been involved in assessing the 10 route audits across the city as defined by their consultants WSP. Whilst the audits are in themselves a useful tool for the state of the current network, we feel as if too many of the suggested improvements focus on bringing up to standard what is already there rather than being more ambitious and showcasing what may be possible if there was some fundamental re-designing of road space in favour of cycling (and walking).

We’d like to see more suggestions of roads being closed to through-traffic to make it easier and quicker to cycle, rather than drive around the city; re-imagining cycle lanes as purpose built tracks by removing a second lane of traffic at junctions, and seeing a widespread roll-out of cycle specific phasing of controlled traffic signals to enable cycles to get away from a stop line in advance of the quicker, more powerful motor vehicles. If there is no stick for drivers to stop driving, why would they go for the carrot?

Those of you that attended our 2018 Annual General Meeting will have contributed to the start of our Pompey Tube Map of cycle routes. You can see it hereherehere.

This mapping exercise was an opportunity to see where members wanted to cycle, which routes they took, and to rank the general standard of the route. Interestingly the tube map did look very similar to the refined data of the LCWIP routes identified by other more scientific means collating data such as leisure, shopping, work and education centres compared to population neighbourhood centres.

We are currently breathing life into the Tube map and turning it into a ‘Big Map” using GIS mapping technology. We will then then overlay other data such as the LCWIP identified routes, the position of cycle counters in the city, as well as the existing infrastructure and PCC ‘Quieter Route’ network. Our thanks go to committee members Jon Riding and Tim Pickering for doing the number crunching on this project.

As well as these major projects, we continue with the day-to-day of cycle campaigning – identifying and reporting issues, watching out for forthcoming road maintenance projects and planning applications, and networking with councillors and officers alike to continue to push the message about needing safer cycle routes, better secure bicycle parking and continuing to raise awareness of our presence and what we do with the public and non-members.

We could do more, but we need help. Having lost around four members of the committee over the last 18 months, we are starting to hit the limit of what can be achieved from those still able to contribute some time to the cause.

We are particularly looking for local area champions who can be a point of contact for the committee who can advise or keep an eye on issues and projects around them. The Hilsea / Copnor / Fratton areas are of great interest to us as we do not currently have committee members living in those areas.

Other roles we are looking to fill are events organiser, website copywriter and communications Officer as all these have been restricted by the other work we have been under taking over the last few months. Even if you can give a few hours of your spare time every month, it can make a difference.

So now you’ve seen what we’ve been up to – if you’re interested in helping us out to create ‘A City to Share’, get in touch at [email protected]

A welcome to 2017

A happy new year to our members and subscribers. So what will 2017 bring the cyclists of Portsmouth?

As a result of winning some Government funding, the new Quiet Routes that PCC have been working on since last summer should soon be released.  PCC hope that by identifying 20mph roads, a network of routes can be created that are quieter and safer for those less confident cyclists to travel around the city.  This is a welcome initiative assuming that the routes are advertised and easy to follow once on your bike.

In conjunction with this work, an audit of all the cycling infrastructure routes and facilities has been undertaken by PCC, identifying the existing lanes, paths and parking that exist in the city.  This information – together with the quiet routes initiative – will form the basis for a new Cycling map for Portsmouth.  We will be studying this in great detail to identify the gaps in provision and work to improve areas that we believe do not serve cyclists to the extent that they should.

To that end, three of our committee members are attending the Cycling UK workshop day in London in late January to learn more about the computerized cycling tools that were demonstrated to us by Roger Geffen at our open meeting in November.  Our intention is to ask our paid-up members at our AGM in March to then identify areas in Portsmouth that can be targeted for future development.

However, most of the traffic congestion is down to the sheer numbers of vehicles on the road. To make a real improvement in congestion, pollution and journey times for everyone, the city needs to get people out of their cars, and reduce the barriers that stop people using a bike to travel around.

We need to identify and push to develop the routes that commuters might like to use.  Ideally, these should be fast, consistent, road-quality cycle lanes that are segregated from both road traffic and pedestrians with priority boxes at junctions and specific phasing on the traffic light system to aid safe resumption of one’s journey. The new lane is Goldsmiths Avenue appears to already have made a difference to traffic flows in the area for both vehicles and bikes.  There’s no reason why having set a precedent there that other roads that have double yellow lining should not also be similarly marked with cycle lanes.

Copnor Road has space at the northern end to install segregated cycle lanes similar to those created recently in Brighton.  With some extra shared path they could link up to the pedestrian bridge across the A27 into the Highbury estate and onto Cosham, encouraging those to the north of the city to cycle to work in the way that the Southampton Road and Langstone Harbour paths do from the west and east.

The perception of cycling in Portsmouth is that it is dangerous, and the official figures only back this up this impression.  For the fourth year in the last five, Portsmouth ranks as the most dangerous city in the UK for cycling casualties. Ours is twice the rate of the London Borough of Waltham Forest, which has a similar population density to Portsmouth. Islington has a population density three times that of Portsmouth, and yet the cycle casualty rate is slightly lower.

The improvements in London with the installation of cycle lanes and mini-Holland schemes, the latest of which recently opened just the other end of the A3 in Portsmouth Road, Kingston-Upon Thames, proves that if the infrastructure is invested in, it is used and improves participation.  A year on from its opening, and Waltham Forest’s much opposed mini-Holland scheme has seen traffic levels in 12 key roads in the “village” area of Walthamstow fall by 56 per cent, or 10,000 fewer vehicles a day.  The most vocal business owner opponent of the scheme, has now opened up a coffee shop in his building.

These improvements are within the scope of Portsmouth City Council.  However, as the cycling community, we need to build the pressure to improve things in our favour.  Imagine Mini-Holland schemes during business hours around Cosham High Street, Albert Road or Palmerston Road – the latterly is effectively already installed – making the areas more pleasant to negotiate whether on foot, public transport or bike.

The re-development of the island’s flood defences over the next decade gives us the opportunity to create a true coastline leisure cycle trail to allow exploration of areas visitors may never discover.

Work on the western side next to Hilsea Lake from the Mounbatten Centre to Portsbridge Roundabout will start this spring, necessitating the closure of the much-used shared coastal path.  Work is due to take three years, and there are plans to install a temporary cycle lane along Northern Parade.  We are asking the council whether they are aware just how well used that path is.  Not everyone will be confident enough to rode on a busy road, and so this appears to be an ideal opportunity to trial a segregated route on what is one of the wider roads on the island. And if it proves to be popular, why should it not remain installed after the work adding to the cycle infrastructure in the city?

With no local elections in the city due in 2017, the pull of the ballot box to appeal to voters has disappeared and some experimental schemes could be trialed, monitored and evaluated to see whether they work. Who knows, perhaps they may even lead to a reduction in the casualty figures?

But we can only do so much as a committee of volunteers.  As much as we lobby, badger, cajole and complain at councilors and officers, we need help to keep the issues at the forefront of their minds in every transport and planning decision they take.

And it is with the creation of that bigger voice where you, the regular cyclist comes in.  We need your support.  We’d like you engaged in the process.

Bring to the attention of the council officers poor road surfaces or junctions that endanger cyclists.  Enlist the support and lobby your ward councilors directly to improve our facilities and infrastructure.

In the event of an accident, ensure it is reported to the police, as official casualty figures are an important way to maintain the pressure on the local politicians to develop space for cycling.

Encourage the next generation getting on their bikes wanting to emulate Mark Cavendish or Lizzie Armitstead to use the roads safely and confidently, to be seen, and to respect other road users and pedestrians.

And please consider supporting or becoming a member of Portsmouth Cycle Forum.

I look forward to seeing you at one, or more, of our 2017 events or out on the road enjoying the freedom cycling can give you.

Tailwinds to all….


Ian Saunders

Acting Chair, PCF

January 2017

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.

Gridlocked Again

Just over two years, in response to the city being plunged into gridlock by a lorry fire, we wrote an open letter to all councillors asking them to take action to prevent this from happening again. This is the event that triggered the leader of PCC, Cllr Donna Jones, to challenge us to come up with an alternative transport plan for the city. Our response was A City to Share, a strategy prioritising Active Travel to reduce the level of traffic on our roads.

This weekend, with the partial closure of the Eastern Rd bridge for maintenance, we were gridlocked once again and more of the same is scheduled for next weekend. Portsmouth’s road system operates at the limit of its capacity. It only takes a small event to tip the system into gridlock – that is what happened two years ago, that’s what happened this weekend and that is what is likely to happen next weekend.

So what has been done in those two years, and why are we still facing this same problem? We’ve certainly had no shortage of words of support – politicians of all hues put their names behind A City to Share when it came out. But what action have we had? Well there have been some positive changes, but too few to make a significant difference so far, and we’ve had some backward steps too.

On the plus side parking is being removed from Goldsmith Avenue and a new cycle lane added on the north side. This is an important step – using busy routes like goldsmith avenue for the storage of stationary vehicles narrows the road and causes conflict. This makes a dangerous and intimidating environment for cyclists. It would be great to see similar changes on other narrow A and B roads in the city, it would enable the creation of safe, direct and attractive cycle lanes that could really tempt people out of their cars.

We’ve also had a series of Sky Rides as well as some major cycle events. Great as these events are, though, they are unlikely to get more people to choose cycling as a way of getting around until we make the streets more pleasant to cycle on.

However, we’ve also had some backward steps, like the removal of the Mile End Rd bus lane and Portsmouth is still congested. Portsmouth still has an obesity problem. Portsmouth still has dangerously polluted air. The way to tackle all these issues is to reduce people’s dependence on private cars yet our politicians are still doing too little to achieve this.

We can only repeat our plea of 2014: “We are calling on you to act now. Plans need to be made now to fix our transport system. Portsmouth needs a plan to put sustainable transport at the heart of these plans and to come up with a joined-up strategy for sustainable transport. Portsmouth Cycle Forum is eager to work with councillors to improve travel in Portsmouth and support sustainable growth.”

We came good on our promise to work hard, delivering a sustainable transport strategy for free. Now it’s time for our politicians to really start delivering on their side of the deal.

Mile End Road bus lane removal – An alternative solution

Mile End Road approach to Church Street roundaboutAt the Special Traffic and Transportation Decision Meeting on 13 March the Leader of Portsmouth City Council, Councillor Donna Jones, decided that the section of the southbound bus lane on Mile End Road between Haversham Road and Church Street should be removed and the space given to general traffic.

Cllr Jones proposed this as a solution to the problem of peak hour queuing traffic on the M275 which has increased at the location since the opening of the Park and Ride in 2014.

Portsmouth Cycle Forum would like to propose an alternative solution which would ease the problems of merging traffic and which would see the retention of the bus lane.


The Mile End Road southbound bus lane extends southwards from Rudmore roundabout and it has been in existence for many years. Archive satellite images from Google Earth show the bus lane to be in place in 1999.

In 2014, extensive changes were made to the road markings on southbound carriageway of the Mile End Road to coincide with the opening of the Park and Ride at Tipner. One of the measures was to force all traffic travelling from Rudmore Roundabout to merge with the inside lane of traffic arriving from the M275. It is this location which is the root of the traffic queues as a traffic lane had been removed. Previously the Rudmore traffic could proceed to the Church Street roundabout without merging.

The reason for the change was the conversion of the inside southbound lane of Commercial Road to a bus lane reducing the number of traffic lanes there from 3 to 2. PCC traffic engineers concluded that the number of traffic lanes for traffic travelling straight ahead at Church Street roundabout should be reduced accordingly on safety grounds.

Current arrangement

The Mile End Road approach to before Church Street roundabout has 4 traffic lanes.

  • Lane 1: (the inside lane) is for traffic turning left onto Church Street
  • Lane 2: is for traffic proceeding to Commercial Road
  • Lane 3: is for traffic proceeding to Commercial Road
  • Lane 4: is for traffic performing a right turn to travel north along Mile End Road.

Note that lane 1 is a continuation of the bus lane which stops short of the roundabout.

Alternative Proposal

The alternative proposal would once again permit traffic from Rudmore Roundabout to reach Church Street roundabout without needed in merge into the lanes arriving from the M275 and would retain the bus lane. It would be achieved as follows:

  • Lane 1: extend the bus and cycle lane right up to traffic lights, with solid white line.
  • Amend the traffic lights so that there is separate phase for lane 1 (the bus lane). When at green the lights on the other lanes would show red thus giving buses priority yet preventing conflict traffic turning left onto Church Street and buses proceeding straight ahead. The bus lane lights would be activated by approaching buses.
  • Lane 2: designate for other traffic turning left into Church Street.
  • Lane 3: designate for straight ahead traffic.
  • Lane 4: designate for straight ahead and right turning traffic

We accept that this solution will be more expensive than the simple but destructive removal of a section of the bus lane as it involves changes to the traffic lights but the advantages are clear. We ask that it or similar arrangement should be implemented.

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

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.

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

Tommy Godwin, Year record holder (source
Tommy Godwin, Year record holder (source

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.

Reflections on Rule 5 and Real Cyclists

Tom Simpson
Tom Simpson

Recently the topic of The Rules has popped it’s head up in a couple of discussions over on the book of faces. I should say up front, for people who worry about these things, that The Rules aren’t real rules. They are meant to be a tongue in cheek guide to how one should present oneself and one’s bicycle if one wishes to be seen as a ‘real’ cyclist (what is a real cyclist? Good question, and I’ll come back to that).

The rules are much beloved amongst our lycra clad brethren, both as a source of fun and spiritual guidance. I say this fondly for I am not unfamiliar with the stretchy wonder-material myself. However, these days I am an audax rider rather than a racer and we’re a non-conformist bunch who don’t worry about rules too much.

It is Rule 5 which has been causing controversy on our facebook group. Rule 5 simply says ‘harden the heck up’. Except it doesn’t say heck, but this is a family forum. It is illustrated with a humorous video of cuddly ex-Australian serial murderer Mark ‘Chopper’ Read swearing at a series of hipsters (hurrah) and children (boo).

If one does the sort of cycling that involves ‘challenges’ – going very fast or very far then Rule 5 will inevitably come into play sooner or later. There will be times when legs are jellied and flesh is weak and one has to ‘harden the heck up’ to get home. But cycling doesn’t have to be like that. Some of us like challenges and choose to cycle like that, but it doesn’t have to be so. Cycling can just be a simple and gentle way to get around or have a day out in the country if that’s how you prefer it.

Perhaps the most famous adherent of Rule 5 is the much-lamented Tom Simpson. Simpson was the first british professional cyclist to wear the yellow jersey in the Tour de France and to win the World Road Race Championship. However, Simpson’s willpower exceeded his stamina and he rode himself to death on the baking slopes of Mont Ventoux in July 1967. So, Rule 5 perhaps needs to be treated with a little caution.

This brings us, in a roundabout way, back to the question of which is the real cyclist? Is the one who dons lycra and cycles 200km or more any more of a cyclist than the person who just uses their bike to get around? I think the key word in that question is actually ‘person’. In the end we’re just people on bikes and it doesn’t matter who is a ‘real cyclist’. We’re all frail human beings, however tough we like to think we are we.

The context in which Rule 5 has raised it’s head in discussion on our Facebook group is urban cycling. Specifically that cyclists should stop complaining about being forced into conflict with traffic, ‘harden the heck up’ and get on with it. It’s fair to say that a number of people were uncomfortable with this concept.

The reality is we live in a city which desperately needs more people to ride bikes. Ordinary people to ride ordinary bikes in ordinary clothes to do ordinary things. That’s what a bike is in the end. A brilliant tool for getting around and doing other things. In Portsmouth we desperately need more people to make more ordinary journeys by bike  to make themselves and the city a healthier, wealthier place to live.

Cycling in a city is a fabulous way of getting around and needs to be accessible to everyone. As soon as you say ‘rule 5’ in that context you’re effectively saying that cycling is only for the strong, those who laugh in the face of danger. I don’t think that’s helpful.

Rule 5 is not helpful in weaving the fabric of society. If we applied Rule 5 to all social problems there would certainly be no NHS. People would just ‘harden the heck up’ instead of flopping around in hospitals all day. Take it to its logical conclusion and we’d all just be cavemen.

Rule 5 is useful if you’re halfway up an alpine pass with the Tour De France about to slip through your fingers. Rule 5 is not useful if you want your children to be able to cycle to school. If you’ve had a conversation in which an apparently redoubtable adult tells you that they’re too frightened to cycle then it’s obvious that Rule 5 is not the answer. We need the design of our roads, the way we use our roads and the way we enforce the law on our roads to change.

So, by all means, read ‘the rules’ if you like that sort of thing. If you go out for long rides have a giggle about them with your chums. I certainly have. But please don’t mistake them for real life.

An Open Letter to Councillors

A27 Lorry Fire
A27 Lorry Fire

Dear Councillors,

Last week a lorry fire on the A27 brought Portsmouth to a standstill. The traffic delays caused by this incident quickly spread and paralysed traffic across the city. Buses were stopped. Ambulances were delayed. Appointments were missed. Families were kept apart. In short the health, wellbeing and economy of our city were on hold.

This was just the latest in a series of events that have exposed the fragility of Portsmouth’s traffic system. As you know too well, there are only three road routes in and out of the city and all run at near-capacity. A single incident on one is all that’s needed to create gridlock that lasts hours.

The number of cars coming in and out of our city is at an all time high and is forecast to keep growing. That means incidents like this will become more common. Maybe they’ll become weekly or even daily occurrences. In that situation the economy of our city will lose all viability and life for the citizens will be bleak.

This presents a serious risk to the future of our city. The traffic levels in our city are presenting a real hazard to us, the citizens. Air pollution is worsening and accident casualty levels are high bringing ill health and injury to far too many families.

The people of Portsmouth need you, our elected leaders, to come to grips with this problem. Our transport system no longer serves us and needs a radical redesign. The people of Portsmouth deserve a reliable, safe transport system. A transport system capable of supporting our economy in the future without putting us in peril.

Cycling is recognised as one of the cheapest, safest, fastest and cleanest ways to get around an numerous other cities have turned to the bicycles to transform their transport systems. They have found that the bicycle brought affluence as well as clean air and safe streets. It is so often said that Portsmouth is an ideal city for the bicycle that it has become a cliché. Yet little has been done to make it happen.

There will always be a need for people to drive but it should be much easier for people to make the choice not to. Well designed, convenient and safe cycle infrastructure will enable people to leave their cars behind when they are not needed. This will reduce the burden on the city’s infrastructure and benefit us all.

We are calling on you to act now. Plans need to be made now to fix our transport system. Major changes are planned for the centre of Portsmouth with the development of the Northern Quarter to name but one. Portsmouth needs a plan to put sustainable transport at the heart of these plans and to come up with a joined-up strategy for sustainable transport. Portsmouth Cycle Forum is eager to work with councillors to improve travel in Portsmouth and support sustainable growth.

The time has come to take action.

Jon Spencer
Portsmouth Cycle Forum

Road Justice

Road Justice LogoToday a driver received a 12 month ban from driving and a suspended prison sentence for killing a cyclist on a straight road in broad daylight. The court heard that the cyclist would have been clearly visible to the driver for some 11 seconds before the impact but for some reason the driver made no attempt to avoid the cyclist and struck from the rear with fatal consequences. The cyclist was the husband and father of a now devastated family.  Read the news story here.

Contrast this with a case last December, where a cyclist was jailed for 12 months for causing serious injuries to a 12 year old on a pedestrian crossing. Once again, the pilot of the vehicle was inattentive and irresponsible – and undeniably at fault. Except that this time the consequences to the victim were less severe (serious injury rather than death) and the consequences to the perpetrator rather more severe (jail time rather than a driving ban and suspended sentence). Read the news story here.

There are obviously a myriad of differences between these cases, and care must be taken in comparing them. It is also beyond the ken of PCF to say either sentence is wrong on its own merits. We’re certainly not arguing that the cyclist in the second case didn’t deserve severe punishment for his actions.  However, these cases do seem to betray a certain lack of consistency in the justice system and they do seem to back the CTC’s view that the courts do not treat cyclists fairly – either as victims or as offenders.

The CTC’s road justice campaign aims to change this. Have you supported it yet? If not, maybe it’s time you did.

Check out the CTC Road Justice Campaign 

Central Cosham Improvements – Consultation by PCC

Portsmouth City Council is consulting on plans to improve Cosham High Street and has allocated £200,000 of public funds to spend on changes to the layout and street features between Vectis Way and Wayte Street.

Central to the proposals is the retention of the experimental one-way system which was introduced at the time of the closure of Northern Road bridge earlier in 2013. Cosham High Street was made one-way southbound between between Wayte Street and Vectis Way; Vectis Way and Wootton Street carried the northbound traffic whilst a short section of Wayte Street was made one-way eastbound only.

In addition to keeping this one-way scheme, changes in the plan include build-outs, trees and a significant increase in on-street parking.

Portsmouth Cycle Forum’s view on the improvements is mixed. We welcome the injection of £200,000 to improve the environment of Cosham but question the way the money is to be spent.

Our main comment is that the proposals focus on motor traffic flow and car parking with little, if any, attention to encouraging active and sustainable travel. The project’s worthy intention is to make this section of Cosham High Street a more attractive place to visit and shop but we don’t think that these proposals will achieve that aim.

At a meeting with the project team we learned that the most successful section of the shopping area is the pedestrianised northern part. We were told that it is not possible to make the middle section a pedestrian only zone because of the access needed to the adjoining streets, but it would seem sensible to reduce the traffic to an absolute minimum. This could be done by closing Wayte Street between Wootton Street and the High Street and restoring Wootton Street to two-way traffic. The High Street would remain two-way but with much reduced levels of traffic.

However, our impression is that traffic levels and speed are of no consequence; it’s the extra car parking that they want and that is the key driver to the scheme.

Recommendation 1 – re-present this consultation with at least three more choices including a “no change” option.

We understand that the proposals are largely as a result of consultation with local businesses. That’s all well and good, but the local businesses are not the only users of the roads. We suggest that the majority of road users are not local business owners. Have these people been asked their views? This “consultation” is not an open one. Here we are presented with one and only one solution. A true consultation should present several alternatives.

Recommendation 2 – Design the angled parking to modern standards as recommended by the Department for Transport, i.e. reverse in, drive out.

We looked at the parking and to our horror discovered that the proposal is for “echelon” style parking. Worse still, it’s of the old-fashioned and hideously dangerous, drive-in, reverse-out variety. The Department for Transport’s publication “Local Transport Note 2/08 Cycle Infrastructure Design” says “Echelon parking always needs careful consideration, regardless of whether the road is one­way or not. Echelon bays should ideally be angled so that drivers reverse into them. This means that they exit facing forwards and so avoid the need to reverse into the main flow to leave. It also means that, in contraflow cycling schemes, drivers again leave the bays facing approaching contraflow cyclists.”

Correctly align echelon parking – where drivers reverse into the space – is already in place on Baffins Road and Clarence Parade. Both are busy A-roads and the parking does not cause drivers problems.

Why did a highly professional design team come up with the wrong design for angled parking? Has there been some political interference?

Recommendation 3 – Allow two-way cycling in the one-way (for motor traffic) sections.

One-way streets increase travel distances. Whilst a motorist will not be greatly inconvenienced, anyone travelling by active means will notice the difference. Fortunately, pedestrians are permitted to travel in any direction on a one-way street but cyclists, who also travel under their own power, will be subject to the same restrictions as motorised traffic.

The prevailing speed limits are 20mph.There are many examples of two-way cycling on one-way streets in Portsmouth. Other cities have adopted two-way cycling in one-way streets widely, examples include Brighton, the City of London and the City of Westminster. There is no recorded increase in traffic accidents as a result of two-way cycling in streets where 20mph is the speed limit. Many cyclists will ignore the no-entry signs and ride on the pavements.

Recommendation 4 – Add traffic calming for Vectis Way and Wootton Street

It is well documented that with one-way streets, drivers become used to the lack of opposing traffic and increase their speed. The proposals for the High Street include build-outs and chicanes which will mitigate speeding to some extent but there are no proposals for traffic calming on Vectis Way and Wootton Street. We have observed that traffic on these roads often exceeds the prevailing speed limit.

Recommendation 5 – Provide one southbound lane only (not two) just north of Wayte Street and change echelon parking to parallel.

Immediately north of Vectis Way, there are two southbound traffic lanes in the proposals. Why are two lanes needed? They may have been justified when Northern Road Bridge was closed, but certainly not once reopened. This section also has echelon parking. We would suggest that the two lanes should be reduced to one and that the echelon parking is replaced by much safer parallel parking and on both sides of the road.

The Cosham High Street Improvements consultation now closes on 20 June. See for details.

20’s Plenty, but not for Mr Plod

Pavement cycling, police style
Pavement cycling, police style

In a state of high-dudgeon at the recent PCC and Hampshire Police crackdown on pavement cycling (read the story in The News) PCF decided to contact Hampshire Police to see how they are dealing with the more serious issue of speeding traffic in our crowded streets.  After all, accident statistics tell us that the big killer of pedestrians is the motor car, not the bicycle.  In fact, you have a considerably higher chance of drowning in the bath than you do of being killed by a cyclist.  Therefore we were confident that, with public safety at the heart of everything they do, Hampshire Police would be taking the problem of speeding traffic seriously.

Or not.  It turns out that “It is ACPO policy that forces do not enforce 20mph speed limits”.  That’s  right – despite the fact that the 20mph limit in Portsmouth was put in place by a democratically elected, law making body, and is widely supported, Hampshire Police are not enforcing it.  Despite being public servants they seem to feel it is up to them to cherry pick which laws to enforce.

Clearly public safety is not at the heart of this.  The biggest danger on the streets is not irresponsible cycling.  PCF now plans to contact the new Hampshire Police and Crime Commissioner and ask him to review this as a matter of priority.

Read the full response from Hampshire Police here (it won’t take long)


Faster Lorries on Rural Roads – Action Needed!

Say no to faster lorriesThe DfT has opened a consultation on increasing the speed limit for HGV’s on single carriageway roads. This seems to be because many lorries ignore the current limit of 40mph anyway. This apparently gives the firms that do ignore the limit a competitive advantage as they are able to deliver goods more quickly.

If you don’t like the idea of being flattened by high speed hauliers on narrow roads, and perhaps would like to see the current limit better enforced, then please take the time to respond to the consultation.  This can be done online and is linked below.

James Callaghan Drive – we’ve invited Councillors and MPs to take a look on 25th November

view west along james callaghan driveYou would be forgiven for not immediately recognising the name of James Callaghan Drive, but many of you may have tried to walk or ride along Portsdown Hill Road. As you travel west the hill road changes into James Callaghan Drive and it is one of the scariest roads to ride along in Portsmouth. On the south side you have a Site of Special Scientific Interest and on the north side, old forts and farmer’s fields. Its almost in the countryside – birds are singing – grass, wildlife, trees and flowers are all around you.  Sounds like a lovely place to take the family for a picnic?

Wrong, it is used as an alternative route by people in rapid and often large vehicles that wish to get between Havant and Fareham but would rather not use the Southampton Road or the motorway. The speed limit is 40mph but often people are doing more than that! A vehicle passing you at 40mph is really very frightening especially on an extremely narrow road with no footway at all when you are on a bike, walking or riding a pony or horse. This is especially true if the road is less that 5 m wide for two-way traffic and has bends and undulations that mean the vehicle approaching at speed from the rear cannot see what is coming towards it on the other side.portsdown hill road

The result is that if you are trying to use the road and you aren’t in a vehicle you may have a hair raising time of it with lorries cutting you up, cars swerving towards you to avoid a collision with an on coming vehicle or simply a very impatient person behind you just waiting to take a chance with your life to get passed.

So just imagine you have a disability of any kind and then imagine you want to enjoy the gorgeous countryside on Portsdown Hill and look out over the fabulous views along the hill road, you would not have any opportunity to do so.  Just imagine you have a family and you and an elderly relative want to go out to the countryside and have a nice walk or ride along the hill.  Or maybe you work on the hill and don’t want to take a car or you want to visit some of the interesting places on the hill like the Peter Ashley Centre, the Equestrian Centre or the forts. You’ll have negotiate the busy road first, then make your way along the narrow and lumpy verge, if there is one, trying not to trip into the road. This is not for the faint hearted!

However, all of this could be changed and the area opened up to many more visitors and families if a simple amendment was made….. create a multi-user hard wearing path on the northern side of the road that bikes, walkers, the disabled and horses can all use easily, like the billy trail, made of compacted gravel maybe. There must be a material that would be suitable for all to use?

portsdown hillThen we can promote this as somewhere that visitors and residents can go to have a family day out, portsdown hillenjoy the view, walk or ride along the hill looking out over Portsmouth or the fields and the downs in the distance the other way. This simple solution is better value for money and more beneficial to all types of road users, especially the vulnerable ones, than the majority of the projects funded last year by the council.

second view of JCD

We are inviting all ward Councillors and MPs to come and meet us there on 25th November at 8.30 am  (although the traffic is fairly non-stop all day) to judge for themselves and formulate their own opinions on what it is like along this road if you aren’t ‘protected’ by a metal casing. Come along too and support us, or just express you point of view. If you can’t make it write a quick email to your councillor and MP


Danny Dorling backs the 20s and Portsmouth gets a mention

Professor Dorling is advocating the introduction of 20s nationwide in residential streets. He uses Portsmouth as an example of an Authority that has taken this step. We feel that the true benefits of the 20s will be felt when this excellent initiative is promoted and enforced in the city. If all drivers in residential roads in Portsmouth stuck to 20, cyclists and pedestrians could feel safer and be safer.

Danny Dorling is an author and professor of Human Geography who has dedicated his career to exposing the social costs of inequality. In his response to the What One Change question, Danny focuses on the Twenty’s Plentypicture of child design campaign for 20mph speed limits in all residential areas. Having been successfully adopted in several cities around the UK already, the campaign has already reported an impressive reduction in road deaths and serious injuries. However as a driver of broader social change, Danny suggests that the campaign’s benefits go further still – from the positive impact on our daily environment, to helping us re-engage with our community and campaigning for the bigger changes we want.


Are Cyclists Really Puritans?

The puritans are comingRecently the Economist held a conference on the theme “Creating tomorrow’s liveable cities”, at which the keynote was Eric Pickles MP, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government.  I heard an extract on the Bike Show and decided to write a response.

After his address Mr Pickles was asked a question, by Bike Blogger Mark Ames, about the his recent declaration that the so-called war on motorists was over.  His response was “Don’t be such a puritan. Not all of us can pedal up and down in rubber knickers you know …”, which struck me at the time as bizarre, and on reflection I think it’s an absolute inversion of reality.

I think lots of people who don’t cycle think that because cycling is so healthy for the body and for the environment it must be a miserable experience.  That’s just not true. When you have developed a little confidence cycling is joyful and liberating.  Cycling immerses you in the environment, it enables you to experience the city you live in or to escape it using just the power of your muscles.  It is fast enough to get you where you need to go but slow enough to enjoy the trip.

There is nothing puritanical about cycling.  The poor motorists, however – voluntarily trapped in boxes with no means of escape, bound up in pursuit of a dream of unlimited freedom that will never happen in their lifetimes, forced into ever increasing tithes and facing financial ruin – now those are puritans. If you want daily hardship with no prospect of relief drive a car. If you’d prefer to transcend the traffic and have a little fun on your journey then get on your bike.