Tag Archives: Leicester City Centre

Transforming cities

This video demonstrates the way a city centre can be transformed for better.

I visited Copenhagen many times over nearly 20 years from the mid 1980’s so I have seen how nice the city centre was but how much better it got as speeds were brought down over a wider area and how more facilities were added for pedestrians and cyclists. I worked with friends who lived with frustrations that as car drivers it got harder to park but who also loved the life and energy and social atmosphere that grew where ever the streets were reclaimed from cars.

In Leicester the pedestrianised streets get busier and busier with people which makes a huge contrast with the nearby streets that are smelly, noisy and unpleasant places to be due to the clogged up traffic.

Imagine if Leicester took a long term view of it’s streets and started reclaiming them in an organised way. Keep cars out of the city centre, block more streets to buses, taxi’s and vans. Provide faster cross city cycle routes than mean we only ride on the main pedestrian areas to actually get to the shops rather than to commute.

Imagine if all the main routes into Leicester were transformed into pedestrian and cyclist friendly places. Think how vibrant the Belgrave Road could be if the restaurants could have outside seating, if the pavements were wider and full of people. If there were little noise and pollution from cars, if you could wander freely from shop to shop without being in danger from cars using it as a race track. All it would take is a clean sweep down the road leaving a minimised two lanes (one in each direction) with effective cobbled speed humps, wide cycle tracks on each side, wider pavements cleared of obstructions (the debris of a car focused street in terms of signs etc all blocking the pavement) for pedestrians, a 20mph speed limit and pedestrian/cyclist priority at every junction (so the pavement and cycle paths go level past every side street with cars giving way to get turn on/off).

Look again at the thriving streets in Copenhagen, they have not always been like this. I have been to many of them when they were car dominated and there were few successful shops and businesses, where it was unpleasant at night, where there were few people about.

We could transform our cities. As Leicester claims to be both an Environment City and a Cycle City it would nice to hope that someone has experienced the amazing changes that can come by a change of priorities away from the car.

Hat tip: If Things Are Not Good For Business, They Will Be Changed

Visibility

I am not thinking here about high vis gear (I don’t wear any) or bike lights (I generally have 2 front and 3 rear lights) but instead about being noticed.

What I like about bike visibility is the potential to bring us together as communities. The effect is multiplied when you ride an unusual bike. However, on any bike you are much more visible to the wider community. People notice you and interact with you, there is not the same detachment and anonymity that comes from being inside a tin box.

For example tonight someone commented that their son-in-law had seen me on my bike in Leicester City Centre. If I had driven to Leicester I would have been invisible and anonymous.

I find this an encouraging feature of using a bike for transport, it is human scale and for me that is always a better thing.

On the other hand if we can increase bike traffic to the levels that are needed to make significant progress on the key issues (child safety, congestion, oil dependency, obesity, pollution) then maybe one of the effects will be for people on bikes to lose some of this visibility (which comes from doing something that is sadly all to rare) while car drivers gain visibility (which might act as an incentive to behave better).

If cycling levels become significant we might lose the visibility from being unusual but we will not lose the human scale and human interaction. These have huge potential to make our communities better places, more friendly and safer.

Yet again as I reflect on the advantages to society in having significant levels of cycling (and I think the benefits start to kick in at about 10%+ of all journeys by all people) I wonder why anyone would be against it.

Improved Cycling facilities: Birstall entrance to Watermead Park

Fantastic. A new entrance has been installed between Birstall and Watermewad Park (the entrance off Whites Lane).

It is now passable by bike and even by my Bullitt cargobike. Not easily passable as the gap narrows to less than the width of my handlebars so it takes a bit of manhandling to get through. Still that is a lot better than what we had before. I wonder if the designers of these barriers have actually seen many bikes? Do they test these barriers with many bikes (Jane’s very ordinary town bike also has handlebars wider than the gap). What about families with children on childseats, in trailers, on tag-a-long bikes or tandems?

However, I am not going to complain as it makes a nice change as this is the first piece of infrastructure change in this area that I have seen since September that has not actively made things worse for cyclists.

So many thanks to whoever it is in Birstall, Charnwood or Leicestershire that got this sorted. I am pleased that I now have an alternative to cycling through Thurmaston when going from Syston to Birstall or Leicester City Centre.

Meanwhile to those who plan cycling facilities I would urge you to visit the Netherlands or read up on Dutch standards for cycle infrastructure and start working on providing us with facilities of that standard (see this paper on  making cycling irresistable in several countries) . With the prospect of fuel rationing within 10 years, continuing fuel price rises, the obesity problem and the senseless deaths of so many children you need to really get a move on in rapidly providing the sort of facility that will make people feel safe so they are willing to get out of their cars.

Car centric planning is killing our Children and destroying our hope of a good future.

 

If it could always be like this #ride:7miles

This afternoon to aid in my rehabilitation after my wisdom tooth operation Jane and I ventured out into the cold.

Yes we went to Starbucks, but we went the “pretty” way through Watermead Park. The roads from home to the northern entrance to Watermead Park are quieter than the main Melton Road. We then had a nice ride around the lakes coming out into Thurmaston at Miller Street (the only way from Thurmaston in and out of Watermead accessible for a cargobike).

We went very gently and it was lovely.

When you can ride on good separated cycle routes (and Watermead is at least separated from cars if not from pedestrians and dogs) then a gentle potter of 7 miles is really easy.

If people in Syston had a segregated cycle ride to Thurmaston Shopping Centre (and therefore also to Roundhill College) then I am sure lots of them would ride because it is so easy (the direct route is only about 1.5 miles). Instead almost nobody cycles because the route has been made so cycle unfriendly.

Similarly if the cycle route from Syston into Leicester City Centre worked properly ie

  • was actually complete (the last bit from Abbey Park into town is dangerous and very unclear)
  • properly surfaced (the bit between the Space Centre and Abbey Park has cracks wider than many bike tyres and huge bumps caused by tree routes)
  • with proper access from Syston itself (replacing the new “traffic calming” on Wanlip Road with something that does not make cycling more dangerous would be a start, but much more is needed).

then many more people would ride from Syston into the city which would help considerably with the congestion that makes Leicester one of the slowest cities in the country.

 

Dangerous driving by TNT Van 9840

In this picture we see a TNT delivery van driving along the pedestrianised Gallowtree Gate in Leicester City Centre.

IMAG0283

This is from the TNT Fashion Group who can be contacted on 0116-232-0011

The picture was taken at 10:48am on a very crowded Friday. As you can see Gallowtree Gate was particularly narrow and busy due to the Market Stalls.

There are electronic bollards to restrict access to Gallowtree gate.

So why was this van allowed into this pedestrianised area during such a busy time?

Reduced stress Christmas Shopping

Today we went for reduced stress Christmas Shopping. So here are our top tips for getting the Christmas Shopping done with less stress:

  • Order lots online 🙂 We use a variety of fair trade organisations such as Traidcraft and charities for many of the presents we buy. Much reduced stress from not having to fight through crowds of shoppers and from the good feeling that comes from buying good that have been fairly traded and where our money helps others.
  • IMAG0250When you go shopping make a nice day of it by cycling into the main shopping centre (for us Leicester City Centre is only about 6 miles). We didn’t check the temperature this morning (our only thermometer is part of the car dashboard). But it was quite cold (below freezing anyway) Although nothing like Copenhagen 🙂
  • Gloves are critical, a nice hat helps. But elsewhere we both ended up removing a layer after a while.
  • Having bikes with cargo capacity is helpful. I think the ultimate would be a Bullitt with the lockable aluminium box. You could just move from shop to shop locking the shopping in it as you go to save you having to carry it all.
  • The money you save on car parks and fuel can be used for nice fair trade coffee 🙂
  • As you are not dictated to by traffic jams or availability of car parking you can be more flexible. Zipping across town for a specific shop is easy.
  • You can also enjoy  a nice cake with your coffee as you will burn off the calories as you beat the cars home 🙂

The only downside is the attempt by car drivers to pass their stress onto you with crazy overtaking, usually combined with a sudden stop. How come so few car drivers look ahead of the bike they are dying to overtake in order to see that there is a stationary car 20 metres ahead. Or a long queue of cars unable to overtake a bus, in which case why overtake the bike that is already in the queue. Coming back through Thurmaston this was particularly noticeable, makes you wonder just how many car drivers have had their brains destroyed by some mystery virus. Maybe it is particularly triggered by darkness outside.

Urgent changes to Leicester City Centre

Today I was in Leicester City Centre between about 4:30pm and 6:10pm.

It was incredibly obvious that Leicester City Centre needs a transport revolution.

For the whole of that time, traffic in the centre of the City was almost completely stationary.

I walked from the Town Hall to Victoria Park and back, when ever I was on a road with cars they were barely moving.

When leaving I came out of the Bike Park at the Town Hall just after 6pm and the cars, taxis & buses were just not moving anywhere. Yet they were all aggressively edging ever closer to each other, unwilling to let pedestrians and cyclists through.

So the city centre is full of these vehicles going nowhere.

But worse than that. They are spewing out fumes, CO2 and particulates while going nowhere.

But worse than that. They are actively blocking the people who are moving on foot and by bike while they go nowhere.

Why do we let this happen?

My simple solution would be to close every single road inside the Central Ring to all motorised vehicles. I do mean completely closed with very limited exceptions such as:

  • Direct access to car parks within the Central ring. But only one route in and out for each car park with 20mph speed limit.
  • Coaches to have access to St Margaret’s coach station and nowhere else
  • Two bus routes across the city centre (one north/south and one east/west). Buses to be the only motorised vehicles on these routes (apart from taxi’s carrying or collecting a disabled person). They will be limited to a maximum of 10mph on these routes.
  • Taxis to only enter the City Centre if they are carrying or collecting someone with a disabled badge and then only on the two roads open to buses. Whenever they are within the central ring there will be a speed limit of 10mph.

To replace the cars and taxis that are currently in the City the following measures are needed.

  • Taxi ranks to be provided just inside the Central Ring (say 4 in total).
  • The City to support the provision of pedicabs for hire to replace taxis around the city centre (it is not very large and is mostly flat)
  • The City to implement Hire Bikes (like the Boris Bikes in London) all across the City Centre with safe segregated routes between the Car Parks, Shopping Centres, Stations, Universities, Theatres & Hospitals.
  • Massive expansion of secure Bike parking. Nowhere in the city centre to be more than 200 metres from a safe place to store a bike, the majority of these spaces with rain covers (it rains here).

Deliveries will to be sorted.

  • The main shopping  centres (eg Highcross) with specific delivery areas will have one route in and out with 10mph speed limit.
  • Elsewhere a complete ban on any motorised delivery vehicle within the Central Ring between say 8am and 8pm, outside these hours a permit will be needed (and should be paid for and there should be a limited number available)
  • A delivery system to be offered from warehousing around the Central ring by delivery trike (with electric assist). This will use trikes such as the Cycles Maximus with Electric Assist which are euro-crate and euro-pallet system compatible and can carry 250kg. Range is 30 miles and they can climb a 20% hill fully laden. This will be the only way to get deliveries during the day (unless using your own bikes or walking with a trolley).

Disabled access.

  • Mobility scooters to be available at several Car Parks, free to anyone with a disabled badge.
  • Taxis carrying or collecting a disabled passenger to be allowed to use the two bus routes through the centre, but no waiting.

Faster and safer for pedestrian and bikes

  • Much improved crossings for pedestrians and cyclists to be provided at every junction of the Central Ring. This will include bridges or subway (wide, well lit and direct routes with ramps) at key points (Rail Station, routes from Universities and Colleges etc).
  • There need to be Park and Ride car parks well outside the central ring. The car parks should be free with hire bikes available and safe segregated Cycle Routes (with priority at junctions) into the city centre. Buses also to be available (but not free).
  • The whole City Centre to gradually be re-modelled for pedestrians and cyclists by
    • All traffic lights removed.
    • Most  streets that are not bus routes to have a marked cycle lane down the middle (wide enough to be used by emergency vehicles) and the rest be pedestrianised.
    • The pedestrianised areas to have pavement, nice planting, seating areas, art displays, street vendors (non motorised, play equipment, cycle parking, park areas etc
  • The network of cycle routes into the City to be massively expanded in quality (full segregation, good surfaces, lighting, gritting, sweeping, direct routes etc)  and have a high priority at junctions (green wave, subways, bridges, …).

What a wonderful difference this would make to the City. How much more pleasant it would be to visit, shop, to arrive for work, to work in and to move about. Not only that but incredibly less frustrating for car drivers and much better for their health as well.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox

Join other followers: