Tuesday 15 December 2015

Bike Aid increases footfall

Bed and Breakfast host Hayden Morris has kindly got in touch with Bike Aid to report that since joining the scheme; visits by cyclists in need of assistance have been averaging 15 per year. It's not huge in terms of footfall leading to additional trade for him but that is huge in terms of visitors to Suffolk being able to overcome an unexpected obstacle and so having an enjoyable stay and building Suffolk's reputation for hospitality. Each satisfied customer is likely to recommend cycling in Suffolk to their friends and that sort of advertising is worth a fortune.

Wednesday 4 March 2015

Suffolk Year of Cycling 2015-2016

Suffolk Bike Aid was very happy to facilitate the producers of this video which were employed by Suffolk County Council to promote Suffolk's Year of Cycling. We networked with local cycling groups and local people to announce a casting call and we were dead pleased with the turnout on Halesworth's Millennium Green on a Wednesday lunchtime. That's the Millennium Green Cycle Path through the town park in the frame below. Thank you Halesworth, you all did yourselves proud.

Keep up with all the events planned (and promote your own) in the year ahead at suffolkyearofcycling.co.uk

Tuesday 28 October 2014

Bike racks on buses allowed!

In 2009 I investigated why UK buses don't have the sort of bike racks they do in the USA, Canada and New Zealand.

Bus bike racks in New Zealand
I found there was a UK pressure group that was trying to do this but apparently bike racks were not allowed under EU legislation. A few petitions and I banged on about this for a bit and then gave up as the various authorities' advice was adamant it wasn't permitted.

Now somebody at the DfT has had another look at the issue and on October 17th the IVS unit informed Bikes On Buses UK that buses CAN have a bike rack on the front or back as long as the vehicle remains within its maximum permitted length. 
The moral of this story: never take no for an answer.

This breakthrough could have a real impact on the use of rural buses as it will extend their range and ridership. Like Bike Aid, it will help shift our dependence and mindset of a car-centric transport culture.

For years I took the 521 bus between Halesworth and Saxmundham and then would ride three miles by bicycle to my work at Snape as no practicable buses went there, so I bought a folding bike to take on the bus specially to do this. If the weather was fine or I had to stay late or had missed the bus, I would ride the bike the whole way. What was important was that I had many more choices enabled by combining bike and/or bus for my journey.

I am told that the Belgian coachmaker Van Hool already installs the mounting brackets on their UK-bound buses as 90% of their vehicles go to the USA where most bus operators allow bike racks.


Monday 20 October 2014

Bike Aid Saves The Day

Bike Aid host Hayden Morris near Saxmundham, Suffolk, has passed on this amazing feedback he got from two grateful cyclists assisted by Bike Aid.

Hayden wasn't at home at the time but Helen and Stuart Elmore from Cambridgeshire had hired some bikes from a local caravan site when they ran into mechanical trouble but thanks to spotting the Bike Aid logo outside Hayden's farmhouse, and with some willing helpers, they were able to quickly make repairs and enjoy their holiday.

Thank you Helen and Stuart for taking the time to acknowledge Bike Aid. Your gratitude obliterates any doubt that Bike Aid works as intended.

Monday 26 May 2014

More cycle racks and less parking ‘will revive struggling high streets’

Suffolk Bike Aid supports the Times' Citoes Fit for Cycling campaign but finds it ironic that a lot of Times content is behind a paywall. Here to ensure access is a recent article regarding the impact of cycling on high street footfall:
Struggling high streets should do away with car parking spaces and replace them with pedestrianised zones, cycle lanes and bike racks to boost business, according to transport experts.
Mary Portas, the retail expert, recommended in 2011 that cheaper car parking was key to reviving the high street. Chris Boardman, the former Olympic cycling champion and policy adviser to British Cycling, disagreed yesterday, offering instead a “counter-intuitive” solution.
“It is well evidenced that replacing car parking with cycle access or pedestrianised zones doesn’t hurt business,” Boardman said. “Stats show cyclists spend less per visit, but they visit more often.”
British Cycling said: “Evaluations of pedestrian improvements in Coventry and Bristol show a 25 per cent increase in footfall on Saturdays and predict £1.4 million in benefits respectively.”
Boardman said that retailers should be shown how the number of shoppers can be boosted by moving car parking spaces off streets to nearby car parks.
The addition of protected cycle lanes on 9th Avenue in New York led to a 49 per cent increase in retail sales, compared to a 3 per cent uplift for shops on other local streets.
He explained: “New York used paint and planters to mark out cycle lanes for a six month trial, which didn’t cost much, and told local retailers if they didn’t like it, they would remove it.”
The Times accompanied Boardman yesterday as he took his local MP for West Wirral, Esther McVey, on a cycle tour.
Martin Key, of British Cycling, said: “Shops tend to over-estimate how many people drive to them. And you can have 10 bike spaces for each parking space.”
Adrian Lord, an infrastructure expert, said: “Those who arrive at high streets on foot or by bike tend to spend more, over time. This is especially true of local shops rather than big supermarkets. With cars, people are often looking at their watches because they have only 10 minutes left on the meter.”
Eric Pickles, the Communities Secretary, last year criticised some councils for having an “anti-car dogma”. Boardman said: “It isn’t ‘anti-car’ it’s ‘pro-people’.”
In West Kirby, Boardman’s home town, he wants to remove car parking on The Crescent, a parade of shops, and create a pedestrianised zone with cycle parking for a six month trial. It would cost £12,000.
Andrew Smith, a butcher at AI Roberts, said: “It would be perfect. It would bring more people in. Restaurants could have tables outside. People are scared of change, but they would adapt.”
Nicola Hulley, who runs a clothes shop, said: “It would be good for business, though we would need to be able to unload our stock.”
McVey, the local Conservative MP, said there would need to be car parking for elderly or disabled people and that such schemes need consultation and advanced warning.
“You wouldn’t want someone to go to the butchers and all of a sudden realise they can’t park outside, so they drive up the road to a supermarket,” she said. “People have to know in advance, have a trial period and, if it does work, that would be brilliant as it would work for everybody.”

Sunday 9 February 2014

Route to the coast from Halesworth

Some extensive work has been done by the Beccles and Bungay Cycle Strategy Group on setting out the options for cycle routes to the coast from Beccles and Halesworth.

Recent improvements to the National Cycle Network in Halesworth include the provision of an attractive traffic-free path from the town centre to the south of the town. The new Millennium Green Cycle Path joins a quiet lane adjacent to the Mells level crossing where the National Cycle Network Route 1 heads west towards Walpole and continues on towards Framlingham.

The northern section of the Suffolk Coastal Cycle Route is currently unsigned but is designated as Regional Route 41 of the National Cycle Network. It passes from Dunwich to Bramfield via Wenhaston. It crosses the A12 at Hazels Lane near to Hinton.

BBBS route leaflet
The desire is to create a National Cycle Network link from Halesworth to the Suffolk Coast & Heaths AONB making the connection between Halesworth railway station and Southwold, Walberswick and Dunwich and thus improve the sustainable transport opportunities for people accessing the AONB. This link can take advantage of the new path across Halesworth Millennium Green and connect with the end of Regional Route 31 in Southwold.

The route out of Halesworth through Wenhaston is already up to National Cycle Network standards. Similarly the track across the Bailey Bridge between Southwold and Walberswick is an existing cycle route of good quality.

The route between these two sections is where some hard choices have to be made.

One option (green) is to follow the Regional Route 41 as far as Wenhaston, then take Wenhaston Lane towards Blythburgh and continue towards Walberswick and Southwold on the byway that is the remains of the defunct Southwold Railway line to meet Regional Route 31 at the Bailey Bridge.

The other option (purple) is to follow Regional Route 41 along the Mells ‘Back Road’, Heath Road to Bramfield Road, Back Road and Back Lane to The Street, Wenhaston and then to Hazels Lane, crossing the A12 and continuing to the Dunwich Road B1125. From there is a byway to Westwood Lodge and a quiet lane to Walberswick.
All of this latter route is existing highway and currently low in traffic density, though a watch should be kept for any housing development proposals. A recent retrospective planning application for a caravan park and a application for a Travellers’ campsite on Hazels Lane has raised objections because of traffic.

While shorter and offering more amenities along the route, the green option would require considerable surfacing and ground works with a huge environmental impact in a very sensitive area of the Blyth Estuary. Though it can be cycled already, in winter is it not much more than a muddy track. A crossing in Blythburgh would be safer than the other option as it would be within in the village 30 mph zone, though this stretch is still the site of frequent accidents.

While a crossing of the A12 within Blythburgh has many advantages, it is the impact of creating an all-weather cycle surface in the estuarine environment that tips the scales towards taking the route to the south and that is the preference the Halesworth Bicycle Team will put forward in a Supplemental Planning Document to Waveney District Council.

Following Regional Route 41 will require improvements in two locations needing careful consideration:

A. A12 crossing Hazels Lane TM 43640 73908

The A12 at this point has the national speed limit (60mph) and the visibility to the south is poor due to a curve and slope on the road. This crossing was the site of multiple fatality night-time road accident in 2006 caused by impairment and dangerous driving when a southbound car in the wrong lane hit a northbound car head-on killing five people.

Improved visibility can be achieved for the west-east crossing by creating a cycle crossing point a few metres to the south of the junction so that cyclists can see vehicles coming around the corner and up the slope towards the junction. Unfortunately this would not help the east-west crossing movement. A cycle crossing facility north of the junction would give good visibility in both directions but to achieve a good level of visibility it would need to be beyond the splay of land owned by the Highway Authority. A crossing within the land owned by the highway authority would provide a limited benefit but the addition of a cycle-activated sign to warn motorists of the presence of cyclists crossing the road would help.

B. The byway from “Five Ways” to Westwood Lodge

This byway is already well used by cyclists and is marked as the Southwold to Dunwich cycle route on the Walberswick National Nature Reserve leaflet. It is popular in Summer.

There are, however, some deeply rutted sections and surface improvements need to be undertaken to bring the route up to acceptable standards. The total length of byway that needs improvements amounts to a few hundred metres. In some locations the level of the byway has been eroded well below that of the surrounding land and to rectify this will require a significant quantity of imported material to be brought in. The imported material needs to be appropriate and respect the environmental interest at this site. It may be beneficial to impose a TRO on the byway to prevent public use of the track in motor vehicles. This should not impact on the local access.

Tuesday 15 October 2013

Brompton Dock: best bike hire solution yet

For some time Suffolk Bike Aid by its participation in the Halesworth Bicycle Team has been trying to entice an entrepreneur to establish a cycle hire scheme in Halesworth. There are several potential sites on the Millennium Green or just off the pedestrian-friendly Thoroughfare. Ideally we'd like to see this facility at the train station for business and recreational visitors alike.

WIth easy access by train, loads of interesting independent shops, quiet backroads leading to delightful pubs and a variety of nearby attractions inland and on the coast, which is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Halesworth is the ideal base for a cycling holiday in Suffolk's gentle expansive landscape.

Halesworth also has a 1.5 km cycle path across its Millennium Green which makes up part of National Cycle Route 1, the 20 km Halesworth Wheel route, guided cycle rides by Sustrans volunteers, cyclist-friendly B&Bs and cafes, Huggy's Bike Shop and not least of all our Bike Aid network.

At a sustainable transport conference in October Bike Aid came across the well spoken Harry Scrope and the Brompton Dock cycle hire concept. 

We've always been a big fan of Bromptons but ride a cheaper Dahon ourselves because of the more accessible price. The price of a new or secondhand Brompton fairly reflects though, in case you don't know, that it is a stupendously well-engineered bit of kit made in England by craftsmen. It folds down to become one of the smallest on the market yet unfolded it barely compromises on any aspect of riding performance.

Folding bikes can be carried in the boot of a car or in a boat and taken on buses and trains as luggage whereas, with Greater Anglia's new cycle policy, full-size bikes and so their own hire bikes cannot. You can fold a Brompton to put it under a desk and keep it safe. A rigid bike needs a lock and racks or shelter. Folding bikes extend Suffolk's sparse public transport into the furthest corners and so encourages ridership on all forms of sustainable transport.

A folding bike also has many advantages as a rental bike because it takes up less room to store them in an enclosed cabinet that protects them from the elements and vandalism. We reckon the visitor to Suffolk that hires a Brompton folding bike would be more likely to use it and retain it for longer as they can carry it and store it wherever they go.
Harry gave a very convincing pitch on how the Brompton Dock beats the 'Boris Bike' model and told us we would need £25,000 to install the solar-powered rental station and stock it with bikes, incidentally about the same cost as an automatic ticket machine at a railway station. Tech blog Bike Radar rode a Brompton Dock in Manchester and was more than positive. It concluded "the Brompton Dock really does the have the revolutionary potential to make cycling integrated with many other forms of transport a realistic option for millions."

Brompton Dock scheme being unveiled in Warrington

A Brompton Dock facility can produce huge savings on staff transport costs for their sponsors and many have returned a profit for borough councils. Even after Barclays cough up £5 million in sponsorship, the Boris Bikes lose £8 million a year. Harry cited the Whittington Hospital as one case study saving a fortune on taxi fares by offering its staff free Bromptons stored at docks across their facilities.

The Brompton Dock costs the hirer a very reasonable £2.50 per day with an annual subscription of £20 or alternatively £5 per day with a £1 subscription. Businesses get discounts for staff schemes too. Harry cited an impressive rate of conversion but many customers sign up straight away at the higher rate, such is the consumers' faith in the product.

By our reckoning hiring a Brompton as needed is competitive with ownership on hire purchase and avoids any storage and maintenance headaches. On that score, we think the Brompton is less trouble to maintain than many others folders and rigid bikes we've ridden, so it can survive hire use perfectly well.

Therefore, against such a useful model, it is disappointing to learn that Greater Anglia's cycle hire scheme rolling out in East Anglia will cost its users £10 per day. 

Suffolk Bike Aid reckons as soon as someone installs a Brompton Dock nearby, Cycle Station hire bikes will have to plummet in cost or will sit unused. That could impact the additional services of the Cycle Point repair schemes Greater Anglia have promised. Unless the parent company Abellio acts soon, this will hurt the reputation of bike hire and cycling as a public transport investment. Bike Aid would like to suggest to Greater Anglia they install Brompton Docks at their rural stations and naturally Halesworth would be the ideal place for a pilot project.

Who would have thought that a British company can go one better than the Dutch on cycling but that's innovation and progress.

Vandalised Velib in Paris Photo: Luc Legay

As far as we know Abellio don't plan to provide cycle hire in Halesworth anytime soon so if someone else wants to put one near a station with 73,000 rail passengers per year, please get in touch and we can discuss what inducements could be available. There would certainly be support from a number of regional and national cycling bodies and organisations in the town.

Wednesday 5 June 2013

Railway Bicycle Stations in Stuttgart

Original site in German:

At the Möhringen, Vaihingen, Bad Cannstatt and Feuerbach railway stations in Stuttgart, Germany, bicycle service stations will clean, repair and store your bicycle. Open from Monday to Friday 7 AM - 8 PM, the bicycle service stations also have bicycles available for hire. The hire machines have been donated by the public and refurbished by the scheme and cost between €3 -5  per day.

The operator of the bicycle service stations is a social enterprise that helps young unemployed people on their way to a job.

People using the DLR in London will love the way bicycles are carried on its similar light rail transit system as well.

But before we get too excited, it's only the Stuttgart to Degerloch Zahnradbahn where you can find these open bike-cars along a two kilometer line because this particular train climbs 200 meters from the station. It must make for a fun ride home.

Stuttgart is the capital of motoring with Daimler AG, Porsche and Bosch being headquartered there but has ambitious goals for cycling as cyclists make up 20 percent of the total traffic. Local government is working to expand the cycling network and provide other services that make cycling attractive:
  • 160 km of cycle track is available - more than twice as much as 20 years ago.
  • Route planning by an online bicycle route planner.
  • A fleet of electric rental bikes has been offered since 2011 to also help flatten Stuttgart's many hills.

Tuesday 4 June 2013

How the Dutch got their cycle paths

The lesson here is public demonstrations made it happen. Does that have to happen in the UK as well?