Category Archives: Leicester

More views of progress

I like this new graph on Veloviewer

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If you use Strava and don’t currently use Veloviewer then I can’t recommend it highly enough. A huge feast of wonderful ways to look at your rides (and runs). All for only £10 a year.

As another way of monitoring progress I’m playing again with the Leicestershire Sustainable Travel Challenge. The Stravel phone app is pretty poor (generally it measures distances very, very generously). Despite only starting to record all my work miles on 15th November I’m currently ranked 7th for the month, however, only 52 people have put anything in this month (which given the hassle is not really a surprise).

Anyway something that currently interests me is that I have been closing the gap on my 2012 ride distance. In year to date comparisons I’m about 300 miles behind at the moment. It would be nice to beat that (although I put in a lot of miles between Christmas and New Year in 2012 to complete a Strava challenge to ride 500km between Christmas Eve and New Years Eve).

Another new target from Veloviewer is to increase the size of the blue square in the map below.map square

The blue square sows that the largest square in which I have ridden in every map square inside it is a 9×9 box. By cycling in 4 more squares I can increase this to 11 by 11 (although the lack of roads in some squares makes this more challenging).

I wonder how much bigger I can get this by the end of the year.

Leicester City failures create more danger

Yesterday evening I went to the Leicester Cycle Campaign Group’s regular meeting.

On the way it was nice to be able to celebrate a triumph over the idiocy of Leicester City Council and Sainsbury’s as after over a year, numerous letters, mentions at every Cycle City meeting and a Freedom of Information request they have actually removed the posts from the middle of the shared space around the new store on the Melton Road.

However, as I approached Belgrave Circle (where the flyover used to be) a bus nearly sideswiped me off my bike (First Buses, number 26 at about 6pm). This was in the two lane section approaching the roundabout, where the new cycle infrastructure has not yet been opened. The bus was in the outer lane, over taking me and approaching static traffic (closer to us in my lane). When 2/3 of the way past me he suddenly came sideways into my lane (about 1/3 of the way across the lane) before weaving back into the right hand lane.

I was already slowing because of stationary traffic ahead at the red light. He knew I was there as I was in the primary position, lit up with 3 very bright front lights and 3 very bright rear lights, he had pulled out around me.

The City Council website still says

3. What provisions are being made for cyclists and pedestrians during and after the project? 

Safe pedestrian and cycle access will be maintained throughout the works. Once complete, improved cycle and pedestrian access will be provided. There will also be marshals on site to direct cyclists and pedestrians to safe routes.

This is untrue. Despite a number of complaints to customer services there has never been any support for cyclists throughout these road works, this incident is but one of many which is unsurprising on a roundabout with 2 lane approaches and 4 lanes on the roundabout.

Since November the Leicester Cycle Campaign Group have been trying to discover from the City Council what is actually being built for cyclists at this junction. It is clear that it is significantly different from the drawings we have been shown (which included a central segregated cycle track) but it is not at all obvious how it will work (for example there are trees planted in what looks like shared space and how northbound cyclists will use it is very unclear). So far our requests not been answered.

My route was:

Elapsed Time Moving Time Distance Average Speed Max Speed Elevation Gain
03:53:19 00:51:47 10.49 12.15 21.70 341.21
hours hours mi. mph mph ft.

They should be banned!

This morning was cold, foggy and very icy! I rode to Rothley to take their annual Methodist Covenant Service. Despite the -2.5 degree temperature, fog and ice all over the road most car drivers did not slow down, they did not give me more space (I was lit up like 3 Christmas Trees), they did not take more care to only overtake when it was safe. Many had no lights on. In my view they should be banned!

If you drive so that it is only good luck that meant you didn’t kill someone then we should be able to take away you license.

In my view at least six drivers this morning were so bad they deserved to be stopped and have their vehicle confiscated immediately.

That included the driver of a Corsa heading towards Rothley at well above the 40mph speed limit. How they didn’t crash as they tore round the bend to the bridge over the river Soar.

It included the drivers of two cars who felt their journey was so important that they just had to overtake me without lights on when there was an oncoming car. With a frozen gutter puddle to my left it was terrifying.

It included the drivers of two Range Rovers and one big Volvo SUV who all swept past without moving out of their line at all to give me any space. Note that nobody was coming the other way, this was indifference, laziness and some kind of entitlement.

Volvo claim to be interested in improving safety. So why are they not developing black boxes to record their drivers behaviour and to stop the car if it is driven dangerously. They claim to be able to be able to detect cyclists so why don’t then they immobilize the car immediately if it passes too close to a cyclist or pedestrian. The driver could be made to get a release code from their insurance company (and pay an increased premium each time).

By contrast my thanks to the 3 drivers who politely and properly waited until there was proper space to overtake and the 2 drivers who did obey the law and wait for me to pass a parked car on their side of the road before proceeding.

Sadly Leicestershire County Council believe that only motorised vehicles matter. My leading worship and visited elderly people in their homes does not have any value because it was not done by car, hence they are uninterested in working for safer roads for anyone other than drivers.

Anyway, here is my slow and cautious route from today.

[Ride id=236619907]

Practical combinations that only a bike can facilitate

Some Christmas traditions appear to have been lost. This year nobody bought me any socks or toiletries. Although remembering the choices of some, now long departed, Aunts maybe this is not all bad.

So I needed to get both some new socks and some shower gel and shaving cream. Plus I’m trying to lose a few mince pie remnants from my middle.

The practical answer was to wait for the rain to stop and then cycle to Next at Thurmaston Shopping Centre for some socks. Nice and quick with the only delay being all the cars circling the car park looking for a space and not looking for anyone else at all. Unlike those car drivers I was able to find a space to park, under cover, less than 20 yards from the shop entrance. I guess that by the time I got back to my bike with my socks some of them were still trying to park or taking their life into the hands of others as they walked across the car park danger zone towards the shop.

Anyway, for me onwards. I continued into Leicester along the Melton Road/Belgrave Road. I apologise for the frustration is causes car drivers when they are holding each other up and I carefully nip past them. Some take that as a challenge and with lots of revving engines scream past me, only to slam their brakes on again at the next lights or turning car. What they forget is that even if they get ahead of me I’ll more than make up for it as I’m allowed to cycle right up to the shop I’m visiting. In fact I lock my bike up about 3 small shops away from Lush and go straight in. Meanwhile all those car drivers will still, at best, be walking out of the car park at least 1/2 mile from the shop.

It did amuse me in Lush when the lady at the til said “Oh you must really like our ‘Dirty’ products”. Not especially but I don’t like the smell of strawberries enough to shave in them and you have very few ranges of products for men – no maybe not very few, maybe only one ie the aforementioned ‘Dirty’. Still the products are made in the UK, are made by a company that does not try to avoid UK taxes and are made without animal testing. Always good when the money I spend can be recycled around our own economy generating jobs and income so that we can fund our NHS etc.

From Lush I decided to get a little exercise so I came home via

  • a quick look at Jubilee Square (yes I do hate the name, wish it had been named after something local or worthy). The long queue of cars did seem to mean that it is fairly traffic calmed at the minute, although one taxi seemed to be on a tour of the pedestrian areas of the square by driving around the new monument thingy.
  • the new cycle track crossing of the Southgates slip road at St Nicholas Circle. The post with the toucan button and indicator is appallingly positioned for cyclists coming from Jubilee Square and heading for DMU (or vica versa)

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  • A quick flypast Jane’s site. See Planning Permission At Last
  • I then tested the shared use cycle facility along Bennion Road. It has been “finished” for months and yet there is still not a single sign to show that it is shared use.

My rather roundabout route was:

Elapsed Time Moving Time Distance Average Speed Max Speed Elevation Gain
01:45:11 01:25:27 17.48 12.27 33.78 652.89
hours hours mi. mph mph ft.

By the time I got home the temperature was just below freezing and my feet in old trainers were just starting to notice it, although overall nice and comfy.

Total elapsed time was 1 hour 45 minutes and I’ll bet that with just the two shopping stops it would have been hard to better that much by car – and there would have been all that expense of fuel, parking as well as the running costs of the car.

Going public on a goal for 2014. The Leicester Sprint Triathlon

Time to go public! Following the esteemed and scary example of my boss (@RachelParkinso2) I have decided that a goal for 2014 should be to enter and complete the Leicester Sprint Triathlon. It is a convenient event for me as it is not on a Sunday, includes indoor swimming and is nice and local.

As a Sprint event it is a 400m (16 lengths) swim, 20km (12.5 miles) cycle and a 5km (3.1 miles) run.

Just to be clear. I have never done a Triathlon before (nearest thing was to ride the cycle section of a relay triathlon last year). I used to swim a lot, although never very fast and not very much front crawl. I haven’t successfully run 5k since I was about 15.

So I don’t have a target time, just to finish will make me very happy. As far as the 3 elements of the race are concerned I am not worried about the cycling which I can use as a bit of a rest (or if feeling strong an opportunity to catch-up with some people).

As for the swimming I know I can swim 16 lengths, but my goal will be to train enough to do them all as front crawl which is far beyond what I can do at the moment. The entry form asked for an estimated time, I had no idea what to put as I haven’t timed myself yet!

The running is a much more scary thing! I tried the NHS Couch to 5k programme last year but gave up because it was causing me lots of knee pain. I’ll try the same programme this year but will take it slower so I probably won’t be able to run the whole distance by May, although I should be able to still finish (not on my knees though because they are always the biggest problem).

BJ52YHA always blocking the Melton Road Cycle Track

This car is starting to really annoy me. So when I have a moment I pause to take a picture as I try to ride along the Melton Road.

20131129_134423

Notice from the tyre marks how often the driver parks here. Note the other cyclist forced onto the pavement because this car is completely blocking the cycle track.

20131127_175157

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I have passed this car parked here many more times than I have taken photos, frequently it is not the only car parked on the cycle track.

Note that all the nearest houses have driveways with space for more than 1 car, I have never seen the driveways full.

Makes you wonder how this bollard got broken doesn’t it.

20131202_220816

 

Sainsbury’s show consideration for Cyclists safety

After my warnings ab0ut the dangers of the posts at the new Sainsbury’s they have now done something to make it safer for cyclists.

No, don’t be daft! Of course they have not removed the posts!

Instead they have implemented a way of making sure they can blame the victim (the cyclist being the victim in case that wasn’t obvious).

ie they have added some paint.

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and

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The second is worse than just adding the paint. When you look, the junction of the segregated cycle track and the shared space has been bungled in a big way. Tight corner, odd surface and a sign hidden behind a tree.

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If it wasn’t for the flash bouncing off the sign would you see it?

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Hard to be anything but lost for words really isn’t it!

 

Note that this is part of a collection of blog posts about the infrastructure (paid for by Sainsbury’s, designed by Leicester City Council) around the new Sainsbury’s store on the Melton Road in Leicester North. I have written about the postsother problems with the junctionthe failed safety auditthe process questions the City Council want to avoida simple way to have radically improved the junction at very low costwhat a good design process might have come up withhow they have forgotten to tell cyclists how to get into the store and Sainsbury’s and lost desire (lines)

The story has also been picked up by the Leicester Mercury.

10 reasons why I ride a bike in Leicester

At the regular meeting of the Leicester Cycle Campaign Group this evening conversation turned to why we love cycling in Leicester. I’m sure I have done this before (I have put some links below), but another go won’t hurt.

I love getting around Leicester on a bike because:

  1. 20131202_115512It is fast. There are some shortcuts not available to cars and I can go direct to the door of my destination. Or sometimes inside, like today:
  2. It is convenient. I know how long it will take me and it does not change according to the time of day or roadworks or crashes.
  3. It is pleasant. I never get stuck in a queue and I can choose to ride through parks and along the river
  4. It connects me with people. I can chat to my neighbours, I can pause when I see friends, the schoolchildren who know me often shout Hi to me
  5. It is flexible. I can change my mind, add extra stops, fit in extra errands, adjust my schedule all very easily because journeys are predictable, there are no queues and no worries about parking
  6. It is fun. I love riding bikes, it makes me happy to move along by my own power. I love the daily miracles of  of balancing on two wheels and noticing improving skills.
  7. It allows me to eat more cake without dire consequences for my weight 🙂
  8. It causes far less hurt and harm to other people and the planet than the alternatives
  9. It saves me money (lots of money in fact!). No fuel, no parking, no huge purchase cost, much lower maintenance.
  10. It helps my local community and the local economy. I spend more money locally because it is so easy (fast, convenient, cheap) to do so.

What about you?

Some older relevant posts – handpicked by me 🙂 :

Despite all the posts Sainsbury’s forgot some signs

I have been getting at Sainsbury’s and Leicester City Council for the mess they have made of the junction of Melton Road and Troon Way/Watermead Way. See

Anyway, we went shopping there yesterday (yes by bike, traffic on a Friday afternoon is terrible, we would have been crazy to drive).

We were trying to find our way in and find the bike parking. It turns out that my original guess (south side of the vehicular entrance) was wrong. The best way in on a bike is off Troon Way. But despite all those posts there is not a single sign anywhere to tell cyclists how to get to the store. DUH!!!!

I wonder how a large company like Sainsbury’s can work so hard to promote themselves as having excellent environmental policies, how they can have huge posters everywhere explaining how this new store is so brilliant for the environment while being so totally useless about supporting staff and customers arriving by bike.

 

What Leicester City Council and Sainsbury’s could have done (2)

In my previous post What Leicester City Council and Sainsbury’s could have done (1) I took a minimalist approach to providing a safe infrastructure for the Melton Road junction with Troon Way/Watermead Way at the site of the new Sainsbury’s. Now I want to take a little more radical approach.

Political Support

Both Sainsburys and Leicester City Council make bold claims for their political support for the environment and for carbon reduction.

Sainsbury’s on the environment

Let us imagine the sort of design that would fit with a Supermarket chain that claims the following:

Respect for our environment

At Sainsbury’s, respecting the environment is about doing the right thing. We aim to be the UK’s greenest grocer, which is great for our business but even better for the environment.

Making a positive difference to our community

For us, retailing is about more than quality products and great service. It’s also about supporting and helping the communities where we work, and being a good neighbour. We aim for our stores to be at the heart of the communities they serve

Further more, let us imagine they wish to build a flagship store that is their most environmentally efficient:

Sainsbury’s new supermarket in Leicester is one of two ‘Triple Zero’ stores the retailer has just opened. It is Sainsbury’s most environmentally friendly store to date and uses the very latest technologies available to complement its industry-leading standard specification.

Neil Sachdev, Sainsbury’s Property Director, said: “We aim to be the UK’s Greenest Grocer and achieve our 20×20 target to reduce our operational carbon emissions by 30 per cent absolute. To do this we’re now building and running highly sustainable, low carbon stores.

Such a store would of course take into account the environmental impact of it’s customers travelling to and from the site, sadly though all their public messages about the environment ignore transport, it is the elephant in the supermarket.

Of course if you want to build a very environment friendly superstore it helps to do it in an environment friendly city, so let us consider Leicester City.

Leicester City on the Environment

Leicester makes bold claims:

Setting sensible targets

So with a Supermarket chain and City both committed to a sustainable and low carbon environment, to the local community and to healthy and active travel, what might they do for transport at a site with 1,000’s of homes within a couple of miles, a site at a major junction where there is a lot of congestion and which is at the junction of key routes into and around the city.

  • They would presumably have targets for the percentage of staff walking, cycling or using public transport to get to work. They would do all they could to encourage this to reduce congestion, reduce car parking needs and increase the health, wealth and productivity of their staff.
  • They would presumably have targets for the percentage of customers walking, cycling or using public transport to get to and from their store. They would prioritise access to the store for these customers recognising that by doing so they benefit the local community by reducing congestion, pollution and health care costs.
  • They would presumably recognise how key the junction next to the store was for access into and around the city. They would note that it is the most direct route into the city for the communities of Thurmaston and Syston (and beyond). They would note that alternative cycling and walking routes into the city are far less direct and are through unlit parkland that is on the flood plain and thus inaccessible at night and when flooded. They would note that the crossing of the river Soar from the junction is one of the few that does not flood (the next nearest to the North is the A46 which is 3 miles away, to the south it is Loughborough Road 1.4 miles away) and so is important for cyclists and pedestrians.
  • They would note how close schools were to the site and the safety issues that come from having an attractive supermarket across a busy road from schools.

Noting all these things creating safe, attractive and convenient walking, cycling and public transport routes to, from and past the Supermarket would be of the highest priority.

Designing the transport links

The roads by this site are all very busy. For example the Melton Road is a dual carriageway that has 5 lanes heading south into this junction. Troon Way has 4 lanes heading east into the junction. There are frequent tailbacks on all 4 arms of the junction.

The London Cycling Campaign has helpfully adopted a simple formula for when cyclists should be provided with high quality protected space. If speeds exceed 20mph (based on 85th percentile actual speeds not the speed limit) or 2,000 PCUs per day (passenger car units, a weighted measure see this pdf for more detail. Here is a bit more detail. The London Cycling Campaign claim this is similar to Dutch requirements although it seems to me that theirs are more finely grained and consistently applied which no British standard relating to safe cycling infrastructure has been. See the Cycling Embassy of Great Britain for some analysis of Dutch standards.

However, every road at this junction way exceeds both the 20mph speed limit and the 2,000 pcu per day measure. The suggestion from a City Council officer I met at the safety audit that cyclists heading out of the city should ride on the dual carriage way shows a worrying lack of interest or understanding of safety for people on bikes.

So, idiot engineers from the City Council aside, it is clear that this junction should have fully protected cycle infrastructure on every arm. Consider the map

If Sainsbury’s and Leicester City were serious about their environmental policies then they would be looking at making the following cycle journeys safe and convenient:

  1. North/South along Melton Road A607 to provide good access in and out of Leicester (especially for the Golden Mile) for people in Thurmaston/Syston (and the villages beyond). Also to the Rushey Mead Secondary school on the Melton Road.
  2. East/West along Watermead Way/Troon Way A563. This is a critical east/west connection for cyclists, especially at night and in winter when many will not want or be able to cross the river Soar in Watermead Park. It provides critical connections between work places, hospitals and residential areas
  3. North/South to East/West due to the strategic crossing of the Soar and the direct route of the Melton Road there are many routes that will turn at this junction. For example from Syston to Glenfield Hospital is from North to West. Syston to the General Hospital is North to East.
  4. Local Routes to Sainsbury’s. The closest homes are behind the store in Thurmaston and across Troon Way. However, access from Melton Road (North and South) as well as Watermead Way (Birstall is from 1 mile away) will also be popular.
  5. In the summer connections into Watermead Park and the Sustrans route along the River Soar would probably be popular for people who are less confident cyclists.

With roads as busy as these I believe that grade based segregation is the best solution. Toucan crossings are slow and inconvenient. In the UK these are never very responsive to the needs of pedestrians and cyclists due to the focus on maximising motorised traffic flows. Nor do they provide attractive options that encourage school children to cycle (especially they do not encourage parents to allow their children to cycle to school).

However, the UK also has a very poor history when it comes to the design of grade separated segregation. We build subways that feel dangerous and which flood. We build bridges that are eyesores as well as narrow with long detours on the steep ramps. There are examples close to Sainsbury’s and they are frequently ignored by pedestrians and cyclists like this:

The Dutch do things differently and the best recent example is the Hovenring at Eindhoven that I rode over this summer. (although Mark also mentions a somewhat similar roundabout in Norway).

Note how the Dutch solution is attractive (no more than that, beautiful)!

hovenring

Not only is it beautiful it also feels very safe. The ramps are gentle and wide, for the most part with grass banks rather than railings. The roundabout gives you a choice of directions so you can avoid other people to feel safe. There is great visibility from all directions and the road which also makes you feel safer.

There are other practical advantages to the Hovenring, installation was quick as large segments were simply lifted into place. Cyclists and pedestrians never have to wait and never delay motorised vehicles. Maintenance is easy as the Hovenring is wide enough and strong enough for normal maintenance vehicles to drive on it.

Imagine how Sainsbury’s could have used this in their publicity and as a sign of where their most environmentally friendly store was. What a great gateway into the City the Council could have made this.

Things would have been done very differently. Instead of all the roads rising upto the junction it would have been lowered by a couple of meters, this would have provided the material for the ramps. It would have made the slopes easy for cyclists and pedestrians. One exit ramp could have curved gently down to the store canopy (where no doubt Sainsbury’s would have thought of providing more than 19 Sheffield stands for bike parking). One ramp could lead to a new cycle bridge alongside Watermead way where currently cyclists have to ride with no protection on a very busy road with a 50mph speed limit.

With imagination and a commitment to their public policies Sainsbury’s and Leicester City Council could have produced something to be proud of, something that would have gone a long way to transform the way that people get around Leicester and to/from this store. With that imagination they would both have gained huge visibility just as Eindhoven is currently reaping the benefits of being see the world over as a leading city for cycling.

 

 

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