Friday, 18 July 2014

Cycle cultures


Whoosh they were gone. I shouted for Cav and the whole team Quickstep until my lungs burned. They had control of THE Tour De France with 2k to go, barreling in toward Patliment Street as the sun burned down. Until that is Spartacus spoiled the party. Then with everyone else in the fan park I watched the bottomless heartbreak unfold.

Next day in Starbeck and Kittel rides past in pole position, I clapped but I had hoped to be cheering a Manx man. Was this the tour where the baton was passed from one great sprinter to another? I hope not, Cav seems too great a rider to just fade away. I hope he has a few more stage wins in him. 

Post Grand Depart and the Cycle Harrogate Peleton heads for the continent. Stage one Germany: Lubeck and Bremen. Two Northern German towns one workaday, one with a bit of tourist glamour. Cycle lanes were everywhere as were cyclists. Lots of shared use pavements with no more than a white line down them. The give way markings at the junctions are set back and cars do indeed give way to bikes. 

Everyone just gets on with it. Lots of people ride bikes, not Lycra clad athletes just people getting about. I start off as a pedestrian forgetting to look out for bikes, but after half an hour it's second nature. The roads seen a little quieter as far as car traffic goes around town. The autobahns are still busy enough and my battered old SUV hugs the inside lane as Mercs torpedo past and we head north toward the ferry to Denmark.

If Germany was an emerging bike culture Denmark was a country where bike use is an accepted fact of life. Copenhagen is ramned with bikes. I'm guessing 20 percent of traffic is two wheeled. This in a bustling capital city built on a series of Islands where it rains a fair bit. The Danes have shed loads of bike infrastructure. There are vast bike parks at the stations, with endless rows of commuter bikes in them. Lots of segregated cycle lanes and through the smaller parts of town with narrower roads, there are lots of car slowing traffic bollards to ease (but not stop car traffic). This means you drive closer to 20mph though town but you keep moving. All this makes it easier for bikes, pedestrians and cars to rub along. Again not much lycra, few helmets or drop bars, just normal people in everyday clothes getting on with their lives

Everyone said this was how it was on the continent, that it can and has been done. I have seen it now, it is so, it is good.

 I should now once more get wound up about Harrogate and the UK's failure to get proper serious about cycling but I will not. Harrogate is a town that is now post Tour we are on the world map, A town that now can attact cycle funding like Coldplay attract negative critism. A town that now has some small but growing political will and an ongoing bike debate but not yet enough of either I fear to tip over the statues.

I should rage, rage against the dying of the light. Rage at North Yorkshire County Council's outdated traffic plans, which still put the car first, last, always. Yet here on the 58 parallel of Sweden's West Coast.Where at 11 O'clock at night the light will still not die. Light which shines upon a sea of small islands off the Bohuslan Archipelago. I think it is time for me to roll the dice and move on.

As of now Cycle Harrogate will be campaigning no more. I'm going to be offering cycle training soon under the Cycle Harrogate name. I might make a few quid, I might help more people cycle, that's what I'm about. Some of what I do will be in partnership with Harrogate Borough Council. Some may well involve North Yorkshire County Council. I will have more details mid August. So I will berate, lobby and cajole these organisations no more. 2 years is enough. Whatever I might think about some of what they do I can have more impact getting people using what we have. If I have had any impact at all that's great but it time to move on. From now on If you want better biking in Harrogate it is your turn to bang the drum and do your bit. I hope someone or maybe many of you will do just that. We had a truly Grand Depart we now need to build a Grander cycling Legacy. 

If we build it they will come.

Dave Prince July 2014

Friday, 27 June 2014

Play fantasy Tour de France



I posted this last year. Other than the venue for stages one and two its nearly all still true. But this time they are coming TO OUR TOWN

Its that time again Wiggo is out but Froome looks on form and the behemoth of Cav looks as good a bet as ever. Its tour De France time. Get yourself by a telly at about 4.15 in the afternoon for the next few weeks. The nice people over at velo games run a fantasy Tour De France game, league, thingy. You pick a team and as the results roll in stage by stage you get points and somebody wins.
This year Cycle Harrogate are running a mini league so you can see how you compare with other local folk and maybe consider a career change if it goes well. This time  you will be watching "your" riders for real.
If you want to join in and play along you sign up then pick a team. Next click the join league button at the bottom. Its a bit fiddly but you will work it out. Its free and no cyclists are hurt during the making of your team 
This is the league code you need: 27161101 to join the Cycle Harrogate League

The winner gets well nothing, but the kudos of being the best team manager in Harrogate unless any of our local cycle shops want to put some prizes up? Oh and don't pick anyone in my team, I'm usually rubbish. Mind you, that Cavendish fellow looks fast for a Brit.

Posted on 27.6.14 | Categories:

Saturday, 31 May 2014

This years hot ticket




This from Andy Grinter, about an exciting one off Performance by the West Yorkshire Playhouse in Knaresborough, as well as a chance to talk to some of the people involved in the drama. It will sell out as there are not many tickets, I would suggest if you want to go you act now.



"Beryl"
excerpts from the West Yorkshire Playhouse production
of the play by Maxine Peake
at the Frazer Theatre, Knaresborough.

Start: 12 June 2014 7:30 pm.   
Tickets: £5 from Art in the Mill Knaresborough. Tel 01423 862963

To celebrate Yorkshires role in this years Tour de France, West Yorkshire Playhouse has commissioned 'Beryl' a special stage adaptation of Maxine Peakes acclaimed 2012 Radio 4 play, 'Beryl: A Love Affair on Two Wheels'
'Beryl' celebrates the extraordinary sporting achievements of Morley cyclist and one time Knaresborough resident, Beryl Burton.
Running alongside The Playhouses production of Beryl are a series of events outside of the theatre to celebrate the life of Beryl Burton and her outstanding achievement in the world of cycling.
The Frazer Theatre are proud and excited to be hosting one of these events on Thursday 12th June at 7.30pm.

Actors from the playhouses production of Beryl will perform a short extract of the play. This will be followed by a short talk and a Q&A event with director Rebecca Gatward the actors and Beryls husband Charlie and daughter Denise Burton-Cole.

About Beryl Burton:-

It was 1954 when Beryl Charnock met keen cyclist Charlie Burton. In those days they cycled in clubs and once Beryl started she was smitten, not only with Charlie but by the thrill and freedom found on two wheels. Beryl was better than good, she was the best and she was determined to stay that way.
Five times world pursuit champion, thirteen times national champion, twice road-racing world champion and twelve times national champion. Her accolades include time trials, former world record holder, former British record holder, numerous sports awards an MBE and an OBE.

Beryl Burton was one of the most astonishing sports people ever to have lived but with her down to earth, no-nonsense approach to life and to success, she remains a mystery.

Posted on 31.5.14 | Categories:

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

If you want it you can have it



Can't decide whether to sell this story as local government going wrong or right, it is a bit of both. Here goes, Liberal Democrat councillor and prospective parliamentary candidate Helen Flynn is trying to get Sustrans gawd bless 'em to do a feasibility study on how Harrogate could build more bike infrastructure. Here is her briefing document on what she proposes.

I'm supporting it, not because I'm a Liberal Democrat, I'm not. For what its worth, politically I'm somewhere to the left of Denis Skinner on taxation and somewhere to the right of Jeremy Clarkson on personal freedom, so finding a political party to align myself with has always been tricky.  

I'm supporting it, because I think it is the most useful, cost effective thing we could do as a town currently to try and solve our congestion problems. It won't solve the problem but it might mean we have a way of getting some more people onto bikes or walking and that, will do for me. 

It's not sexy though a feasibility study is it? The Beryl Burton story had a nice human interest angle. A feasibility study, just screams dull. But without a word of lie this is the one that could actually make a difference long term. 

Getting a Top Coat on the Beryl Burton Cycleway cost 80K  this is a mere 15 grand but it could prime the pump. What worries me is at the moment people are arguing that the Tour De France legacy will be funding that was in place before the Tour De France even had Harrogate in it's sights, that is just a distortion of where we are. At the moment when the current money is all spent (soon) there is no funding for cycle infrastructure in the medium term and no plans to get any.

How about this angle to sex it up a bit...

Local Council in Tour De France town refuse gift horse from Cycle Charity.

Sustran's have offered to do the study for 15 grand. Which is well under what it would cost them, but they are in the bike infrastructure business, so they want it to happen, this is a good offer from the best outfit we currently have in this country. 

Sustrans know that funding for cycling is sporadic, unpredictable and when it is around you have to grab it fast and hold on tight. One thing they have found is if you have a feasibility study full of what they call "shovel ready' projects. When the money is there you can be first in the queue bidding for it.

Helen Flynn has asked HBC to help with funding, as of today she has 3.5K pledged from local businesses and individuals. HBC said no, I suspect because she is a Liberal and well they 'aint. It's not a lot of cash is it? So it is a political decision, which is poor but then transport policy is political so, here we are.

So she is looking to you the local community. If you are a business and you want to help talk to Helen you can get her here: Helenflynn@me.com , If I had the money I would fund it myself.

If you are an individual, muggins here is going to be setting up a crowd funding campaign as soon as I can get details off Helen of where to send the money. I was going to set it up with my own bank account, but how dodgy does that sound?

Wouldn't it be great if we had the money in place before Cav got here. If as a community we could show our council that we want this stuff.

It can be done. When I'm not riding a bike I'm a climber. The UK bouldering team (small climbing with crash mats) had a sponsor pull out last month. They crowd funded the necessary 12K sponsorship in 24 hours so they could compete. It came from people like me, I was in for a tenner.

Then something incredible happened. I wrote a piece to the climbers saying how we were all behind them now and they climbed for us too as we had put our hands in pockets and maybe they would climb a little better knowing this. On Sunday Shauna Coxsey won the first british gold medal this country has ever won in bouldering, in Gridlewald. I'm not saying it made any difference but I'm not ruling it out.

Sometimes if you put your money where your mouth is the effects can be extraordinary. If as a town we said we want this and if you won't fund it we will, perhaps a few people in the soon to be new and I believe slightly more than 15 grand in cost, council offices would have to sit up and take note.






Posted on 13.5.14 | Categories:

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Who wants to be famous?

Just got this sent my way

From: "liz stainthorpe" <liz.stainthorpe@hotmail.co.uk>
To:
Subject: Brief - cyclists Video Shoot - Alistair Griffin - Tuesday 15th April

Hoping you and your cycling pals may be able to help. We are shooting the music video to accompany "The Road" next week just outside Leeds and need some cyclists as extras. Hoping you might be able to add to my numbers. We need 20-25 people.]

Here are the details for the video shoot. I have attached a basic outline of the video and some references for the era/style of the shoot.It's very "classic". These pics are what Alistair will be wearing so are reference only.Please do come back to me with any questions.I should have the exact location and timings later this week.

Cheers. Any questions please give me a callSpeak soonKind RegardsLiz07967 327709
Project: Be part of "The Road" video shoot - the official song of the Grand Depart featuring Alistair GriffinDate: Tuesday 15th AprilTime: daytime - probably 3 hours max. Arrival time @1:30pmLocation: TBC probably Otley/Harrogate area. Scargill ReservoirWe are looking for approximately 20 to 25 cyclists. Minimum 20Mixture of men and womenAged 20-40

Styling: Specifically not dressed as professional cyclists… i.e. no lycra, everyday clothes. think more spring/summer than winter they need to look as though they are out on a casual Sunday ride through the countryside. Civilian clothes, not cycling clothes.Please see the attached images for the style of the characters in the videoWardrobe - Colours - must be Grey, Brown, Black, Off white. No strong colours. Natural colours. Nothing garish. Bring some options. smart/casual rather than formal but nothing too ill fitting. We can help with this with some references at a later date if anyone is unsure.Bikes - mixture of styles and types - if you have any less "techy" bikes please bring thoseRequirement: to cycle in a group along a country road past the singers, parting either side of the singers as you pass them

Make your own way there No fee An artist waiver form will need to be signed as well as a confidentiality agreement No photography/tweeting/social media posting allowed on the day (sorry)Amazing experience on the set of the video for the official theme of Yorkshire's Grand Depart
Contact details: liz.stainthorpe@hotmail.co.ukIf you have any questions please call Liz on 07967 327709If yes, please send your name and contact details - email address, daytime telephone number:Thanks!
Liz
Posted on 9.4.14 | Categories:

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Liberal Democrat Helen Flynn responds to Cycle Harrogate's questions

This from Helen Flynn in response to my recent questions in the run up to the Council elections.

1. If elected how will you work to get more people in Harrogate cycling as part of the Cycle Yorkshire 10 year plan? The whole agenda rests largely around behaviour change which takes time. Think how long it took to stop smoking in public places--a long public information campaign to describe the benefits and get "buy-in". So, much of the work will be about having an ongoing "conversation" (achieved through PR, poster campaigns, partnership working, etc) with people about the benefits of cycling both for them from a health point of view and from an environmental point of view. Engaging with young people through schools and with employees through the workplace will be critical. I am sure the council can do more, but needs leadership and priority setting.

2. What are your priorities for new infrastructure and funding in Harrogate and Knaresborough to make cycling and walking easier? I would like to take forward the idea of Harrogate and Knaresborough as a cycle town with the necessary investment in infrastructure to make it a reality, rather than incremental change. The problem with incremental change is that it is not joined up, so you can end up spending more money than if you have a big plan. Like all these things, it's about having a vision and then a timetable for achieving it that is realistic (in this case quite a long one, I would imagine). I would ideally like a private/public partnership to make it a reality, and to make it more sustainable, and get more buy-in.
3. Are you in favour of 20 mile per hour speed limits on minor residential roads around our towns?
Yes
4. Will you support our plan to double the spending on cycling locally from the current 2% to 5% of the road budget for the next ten years?

Yes,

5. What initiatives will you bring forward to get more people active and impact on heart disease and stroke rates as part of local government's responsibilities under the recent NICE guidelines? This would involve partnership working with the HaRD CCG and probably the Health and Wellbeing Board as well, to see what monies they have to bring to the table and what other funds might be available, and to work out achievable initiatives that will make a difference. To me the health agenda is the really important agenda driving the need for people to cycle more, so this is an area that is particularly important to get right.

6. Will you support the funding of £15,000 to fund a feasibility study into cycling and walking in Harrogate?
Yes and am actively working on getting private sponsorship even as I write!



Posted on 2.4.14 | Categories:

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Question time - Calling local politicians and candidates




We have elections coming in May, I don't know if there is such a thing as a cycling vote in Harrogate, I suspect there are just a fair few people who already cycle and would like it to be easier and a few more who would take to two wheels if it was.

I posed some similar questions a year or so ago and got some limited responses but I think as a town we have moved on since then.

If local people care about cycling and if your read the advertiser a 40 page spread on the tour suggest it sells newspapers, at least when the show is coming. Here are a few questions that it would be nice to get some answers to.

1. If elected how will you work to get more people in Harrogate cycling as part of the Cycle Yorkshire 10 year plan?

2. What are your priorities for new infrastructure and funding in Harrogate and Knaresborough to make cycling and walking easier?

3. Are you in favour of 20 mile per hour speed limits on minor residential roads around our towns?

4. Will you support our plan to double the spending on cycling locally from the current 2% to 5% of the road budget for the next ten years?

5. What initiatives will you bring forward to get more people active and impact on heart disease and stroke rates as part of local government's responsibilities under the recent NICE guidelines?

6. Will you support the funding of £15,000 to fund a feasibility study into cycling and walking in Harrogate?

As ever I will publish the responses I get and I won't comment until after the elections.


Posted on 1.4.14 | Categories:

Friday, 28 March 2014

Cycle Yorkshire Cycle Harrogate



Cycle Yorkshire was launched yesterday the official Grand Depart legacy brand, the link is to their prospectus. It's a welcome to Yorkshire initiative. I was hoping to be at the launch at the International Centre but I had to work after taking the Wednesday off as the NUT were on strike. So I was on childcare duties.

What to make of the initiative? I have argued for a while now that cycling has failed to progress in these parts as much as it should have, due to a lack of strategic planning. Well this is a ten year plan so that's progress, there are five main objectives
1. Provide access to and training for bike riding
2. Increase the number and awareness of cycling events and increase participation for all age group and abilities.
3. Improved infrastructure & travel planning advice to make cycling an attractive travel choice
4. Support and increase awareness of community led cycling businesses
5. Promote cycling in the region as a leisure, sport and travel activity
They are all laudable aims and there are some targets for increased participation levels to so that's great as well. It seems to be a joint initiative between York Council and Sustrans and that is also good news.

How will it affect Harrogate? Well there is a question. My worry is that we drop off the back of the group or worse do no more than we were going to do anyway Andrew Jones has praised the initiative but when you get down to detail most of what looks set to happen round here is money that was committed before the Tour swung our way.

If as a town we are really to benefit from this legacy we need to look at how we can do more to deliver increased levels of cycling. I like the idea of number 4 - promoting social entrepreneurship to build some cycling businesses, something we are set up to do in Harrogate. That has links to training and the leisure cycling market. We already do well for event participation and I think it's reasonably well promoted, but we could do more outreach to target people who have never even thought about riding a bike for fun.

It's objective number 3 that's for me is the potential stumbling block. That is about infrastructure and easier travel choices, at least it made the list. Alas better infrastructure which has a huge effect on participation levels costs money and currently once the LSTF spending in Harrogate is over, I see no new money being earmarked to be spent on cycling infrastructure over the medium term.

If we are not careful, or more to the point if we don't plan for it we will be back to arguing with a reactive highways department for piecemeal provision rather than working together to build an integrated network. We need to put some money where our mouth is. A commitment from our politicians to a 5% slice of the Harrogate roads budget for cycle and pedestrian infrastructure for the next 10 years would make these fine words real.

My concern is that whilst this initiative looks great on paper and I welcome it, without a Harrogate specific cycling plan we run the risk of missing the peleton on this one.




Posted on 28.3.14 | Categories:

Monday, 17 March 2014

It's not about the bike - Nidd Valley Road Runners


I haven't been riding my bike much recently. I was a bike commuter for 6 years but a change of job means lugging tools around rather than pedalling. What cycling I have been doing has been with my kids and as a family. The kids are mad for it, I suppose we will be doing loads more.

So to close my activity gap, I have been doing a bit of running. To lose a bit of weight and to improve my climbing grade. Climbing has always been my one true exercise love and I guess it always will be. It engages your brain as much as your body, think of it as outdoor chess, with pull-ups. It has gotten me to places few have been and I have a lifetime's worth of memories already. I write on a climbing blog here if you want more about that game. Running though makes you feel off the scale good, even when your pavement pounding near your backdoor. It turns out your bodies own endorphins produce a better high than any chemical you could ever put into your body, who knew?

I re-started running after a long break as Mrs Cycle Harrogate had caught the bug, joined a club and it's something we can do together when we get the chance.

She joined Nidd Valley Road Runners and Saturday night was their annual dinner at Harrogate Golf Club. I expected a load of young emaciated stick insects talking about times and PB's that would bring me out in a cold sweat. I was very wrong. At 45 I was one of the younger ones there and there were all shapes and sizes. Everyone did talk times actually, runners do but I was expecting to feel chronologically inadequate and I really didn't.

I got taking to a guy in his late 70's. he had done 26 marathons and didn't start running until he was 40. His marathon personal best was 3 hours 17 minutes which is proper good and he posted it when he was 56. He talked about a Berlin Marathon in the early 80's when the wall was still up and about  sneaking behind the East German side the day after as he had connections. He had a twinkle in his eyes and he still puts in the miles every week. I hope I'm half as vital when I'm his age, I might just look forward to my old age if he can be my inspiration.

His wife was near by, she has a terminal cancer diagnosis, but she was there amongst friends and seemed to be loved by one and all. I thought when she is gone the guy would have this club, a place to be amongst like minded people and although he looked a bit scared, his future looked a dam sight better than a comfy but bleak and lonely chair in a nursing home, which will be many of our fates.

I got nattering to a guy who had just done his first marathon. A year after he started doing the excellent Harrrogate Park Run. A 5K challenge on the Stray 9am every Saturday. There are over 300  of these across the UK. We did one down in Nottingham after a gig last month. Me with a medium sized hangover, still good fun. A new one has just started at Fountains Abbey which would be a cool place to spend a Saturday morning. We talked Park Run times (runners do), he was a tad slower than me, but I could no more run a marathon than I could free Syria, respect. If you have never park ran you should. Its free, register online and simply turn up. There are all shapes and sizes there too. I sound like I'm on commission, I'm not.

What shone thorough from the whole evening at the golf club was the, lets call it shared, individual endeavour. Everyone was competing but against themselves and they were doing it as a group, mutually supportive and having fun. The exercise will keep them alive a lot longer than clean living and self denial and its all free at point of use. We need more of these type of clubs in Harrogate. We are an ageing population and we need to get people moving if we are to impact on our stroke and heart disease rates. They have a junior section which has just started. When I have finished brainwashing my kids into the joys of mountain biking, camping, climbing and the outdoors. I might try and get them doing a bit of running with this lot they, could do worse.

Posted on 17.3.14 | Categories:

Thursday, 13 March 2014

Short term Hire Bikes at the Station - use them and tell your friends

Picture Patrick Dunlop stray Fm
There have been short term "Boris" style bikes at the station now since Christmas. Seems nobody knows and nobody is using them. Quite why Northern Rail and the bike hire company  have done nothing to promote them is beyond me and Patrick Dunlop at Stray FM.

Anyway they are available for short term hire if you need a bike for a few hours, tell your friends who are coming by train. If the people who are supposed to be promoting them won't, I will. It seems unlikely people will use them if they don't even know they are there.
Posted on 13.3.14 | Categories:

Saturday, 8 March 2014

Mint - Moutainbiking in Timble Woods



I took my kids to Swinsty/Fewston today to ride the new'ish Yorkshire Water Moutainbike trial.
One 8 year old and one 5 and a half. I wasn't sure if it would work out, but work out it did. You park in the car park by the dam, bizarrely there is a separate car park 50 metres away for horses and bikes, to protect who from who I'm not sure.

Come out of the car park take a right down the minor road to the junction at the other car park. Then head left and pick up the bridleway at the bottom of the short hill and follow it along through a gate. When you come to the woods and a junction, head left uphill toward the road. You will see the bike signs stencilled on the trees and a track heading off right, that's the one you want.

Or ride uphill  on the road from the car park and you will see a gate on your right after maybe 500m that's pretty much the same place. I wanted to get the kids away from the traffic so we went via the trails.

The first few hundred metres where really muddy in places, we had to push a fair bit. At one stage I was carrying two bikes, so the kids could wade though. It will be drier in a few weeks. As you get toward the top of the wood the path levels out and the fun starts. It's  the best part of a Km downhill not too steep with whoops and berms, drops offs and a few jumps which are all avoidable via "chicken runs". My youngest avoided most everything and still had a ball. The eldest whizzed off till he got to far ahead and waited, but he had a grin like an inflated frog when we caught him up. The last section was best of all.  Tree trunk balances some huge rocks to avoid or take on and a nice section of big ramps with lines of varying difficulty depending on your skill level. I bottomed out my front fork a few times, it's been a while.

We headed back to the car park, the kids were jabbering like the Jabba the Hutt and singing "everything is awesome". You know what? For an hour or so in a wood on the banks of the Washburn Valley, they were spot on.

There are loads more trails in the area we didn't ride them but you could probably put a longer fun loop together. A few years back I got onto Blubberhouses moor and came down the old road on Kex Gill that was a nice ride too if your young, fit and keen.

Here is a bit of a sketch map based  on Yorkshire Waters Image which is a bit of a shocker to read on their webpage as it rotated in a daft way, and the description is a bit crap too. Hope this helps as this deserves more riders, I rated it.



Posted on 8.3.14 | Categories:

Thursday, 6 March 2014

The vision thing - Harrogate the bike town




Helen Flynn Lib Dem councillor and prospective parliamentary candidate for these environs has been ruffling feathers recently. She has blogged about why we need to make Harrogate a bike town, I agree with her, we do. She has also had a pop at Borough and County Councils and "the Tories" for not all working together to make this happen, with a few caveats (some people are working hard), I agree with her. Thing is she is detail lite and she risks alienating the people who are already working hard to make Harrogate a bike town, that would be counter productive

I have to say she got on my nerves a bit. It all seemed a bit "well if we just thought big it would happen". Then I got to thinking I have been beating on the doors of local government and local politicians for two years trying to raise this very agenda and it has got us all, well not that far. I have whinged in the past that the Liberals weren't interested. At least now they are I should give them the benefit of the doubt. So I have put my dummy back in. There seems no harm in dreaming big, hell the Tour De France is coming. Here as a plea for unity but also in a spirit of ambition are some thoughts. Not just off the top of my head but trying to look at what has worked elsewhere in the world. At least finally we seem as a town to be having the debate.

Here is my vision of what Harrogate would look like as a bike town.

Harrogate as a bike town would be somewhere my 8 year old son could ride around on his bike. Not on his own at least not past the local shop, but with me and the rest of the family. There are places where this can happen currently but after you have ridden to Ripley and down the Beryl Burton there aren't that many others. If he wants to ride on any of Harrogate's main arterial roads his dad would just laugh at him and tell him to keep watching the telly.

Harrogate the bike town will integrate and sign its existing piecemeal but reasonably extensive off the road cycle network and get people to be aware of what we have.

Harrogate the bike town will have high quality commuter friendly routes to the cities of York and Leeds. These seemingly car only accessible destinations will attract a surprising number of commuters. Some will do it one way and bring their bike back by public transport.

Harrogate the bike town will have separated on road provision for bikes on Knaresborough Rd, Skipton Road, Leeds Road and Harlow Hill. This won't be a crap 1m wide strip on the road but will involve some form of physical separation from the traffic like what the Dutch do and we are beginning to do in forward thinking towns over here.

On all minor residential roads in Harrogate there will be a 20mph speed limit. This reduces cycling fatalities and accidents more than any other intervention and it makes these roads easy to cycle on.

Harrogate the bike town will have cycle parking at all public transport stations and you will be able to take bikes on public transport, no drama, no booking.

25% of all car journeys in Harrogate will be undertaken by bike or on foot. People will think back as they drive easily around and remember the bad old days when the Skipton Rd was one of the most congested roads in the country.

Harrogate the bike town will have a more car and HGV free centre. This will make it more bike and pedestrian friendly. When this was tried in New York in a few neighbourhoods it increased footfall to businesses too. A free park and ride bus scheme operating from the showground will bring additional business to the shops there as well as allowing people easy access to the town centre which is considered a retail gem due to its mix of high quality shops and historic architecture and relaxed feel. A bike hire scheme operating from the showground will allow those that want to, to get into town along the new Greenway extension.

In Harrogate the bike town all primary and secondary schools will have traffic free routes from their main catchment areas to allow walking and cycling to them and there will be safe cycle storage when you get there.

The Tour De France memorial sportive will be an event of national significance. Mark Cavendish will turn out one year and repeat his near legendary performance from Stage 1  2014 despite being older than three quarters of the field, perhaps form is temporary and class is for ever after all?

GP's will offer cycle training amongst a range of other exercise therapies and discounts on bike purchases to their patients as treatment for the increasing range of diseases linked to sedentary lifestyles. As a result of this intervention despite having an ageing population Harrogate will have one of the highest senses of well being in western Europe.

Harrogate the bike town will be a popular overnight stop on the Way of The Roses coast to coast cycle route. This green tourism will be bringing some high spending affluent customers to a town that is now appealing to a broader demographic than it did in 2014.

Commuting rates by bike will be 25% of all journeys in rush hour. local employers will be delighted by the reduction to their sickness rates and the increased productivity from their staff.

All of this will have been paid for by increasing the existing 2% spend as a proportion of the roads budget to 5% for a 10 to twenty year period. For Harrogate in 2014 this will mean investment rises from approximately 200K a year to half a million quid.

There will have been resistance to most of the above from what is a fairly conservative (small c) town but in hindsight people will agree that Harrogate the bike town is now a nicer, healthier and even more affluent place to walk, cycle and drive around than it was in 2014.


Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Good news and looking forward - Rejoice

I don't know if you saw Inside Out, the local BBC news magazine programme on Monday 24th February? It was a Tour special. It featured  Paul Ogden contrasting cycling Harrogate to Leeds with a commute in Holland. Suffice to say it was a lot easier in the Netherlands. He was riding from Harrogate with some of Harrogate Nova. Predictably they left him for dead after a few miles. Anyway it got me thinking that there really is is no decent route for cyclists from Harrogate to Leeds that doesn't involve quite a lot of time on some very busy and fairly narrow A roads. Roads which are about as bike friendly as the Daily Mail would be if Jeremy Clarkson was guest editing. I was wondering, perhaps joining up the two urban blobs with some decent cycle route should be something we should try to aim for as a benefit for both the tourism and the commuter markets?

This thought was after I have had quite a few people emailing me who are staying in Leeds for the Tour. They were asking for decent traffic free routes from Leeds so they can ride into Harrogate for the finish of Stage one. I have had to tell them that you take your chances with the traffic or you get the train.

I rode the new Hollybank Woods Sustrans route, the part of the Greenway that links Ripley to Hampsthwaite with my boys on Sunday. It's not far, maybe two miles but it's a lovely ride through the ancient woods. It starts down the side of the castle. It's not officially open yet. In fact we snook around the bridleway closed signs and avoided a solitary digger as lots of other people were doing. Feeling slightly naughty with woody Guthrie's mis-quoted words from This Land is Your Land ringing in my ears, we headed on.
As I went cycling I saw a sign there
And on the sign it said "No Trespassing."
But on the other side it didn't say nothing,
That side was made for you and me
 My youngest boy went for the full mud slide, dismount on the minor road at the Hampsthwaite end and looked like a creature from lord of the rings as he stood up oozing and sobbing. He got back on the bike to his credit and a spicy apple ice-cream that tasted like mulled wine to me (bad thing), sorted him out.

A good trip, recommended.


Finally to end this little data burst from me, this quote from the excellent Gia Margolis, your local Sustrans Ranger about some more new developments on Harrogate's cycle network and some thoughts about where we could go next as a town.
The almost completed new Greenway from Hornbeam to the Showground and the Hollybank Woods path are already proving to be successful even though they are not officially opened. This is excellent news. On Sunday I took a group along the Greenway on to Clint then returned to Bilton Lane and cycled along to The Avenue. From there we cycled through Morrisons, Sainsbury’s and in to the Showground and on to Hornbeam Park. This route was about 17 miles with almost all of it on safe and good off road cycle paths. With the newly laid Beryl Burton we now have a fabulous network of cycle paths. 
Observations: 
  • The section from Bilton Lane to The Avenue is a mixture of good and very bad. 
  • The path behind Sherwood Drive needs some maintenance
  • Sustrans Rangers could look at this. 
  • The route from The Avenue to Sainsbury’s via Prospect Avenue and Morrisons is not signed.
  • These extended routes will provide a wonderful opportunity to attract local people to cycle to work, children and adults to cycle for pleasure. It could attract tourists to bring families to come to Harrogate with their bikes. 
  • Following on from the LSTF perhaps officers could consider an application to LEP to get funding to create a post that would bring more tourists to the area, and support local businesses. Also to complete unfinished routes. We welcome the LSTF projects that will make these routes well known to local people.
All in all the progress being made is excellent and we look forward to the next stages.


Posted on 25.2.14 | Categories:

Friday, 31 January 2014

In the news this winter


A bit of a news roundup from me about local  bikey stuff.

Harrogate Borough Council have now got onboard with the Cyclescheme that gets employees a cheap bike. Lots of big local employers in town do this now. HBC had been dragging their heels, but they have gone swiftly from heels to wheels and the scheme starts in April, good on them. Andrew at the big red bike co is delighted it's a scheme that works at his shop, this quote is from him.
Thank you very much for your efforts in this regard as hopefully we should benefit from this as a business as well as the Council’s employees who should receive a better service from businesses on their doorstep. Other local bike businesses should also benefit if they are registered with Cyclescheme. 
 Malcolm Margolis from HCA had been pushing for this for years and good on him for his tenacity.

We have a formal Tour legacy scheme approved finally. The route from Fountains Abbey via Ripley through Harrogate to Spofforth. This will be signed for cyclists. It won't all be traffic free but lots of it already is and there are plans to do more. It's going to cost 10 grand for the signs and Wheel easy, Harrogate Borough council, Sustrans and the Big Red Bike co have all chipped in about half the funding between them. Along with 5 grand match funding from NYCC to make up most of the remainder. As I write the scheme is £400  short. If you want to make sure it happens with a donation email Yvonee at HCA. If you contribute I will let it be widely known that you helped and be dead grateful. We aren't looking for huge donations every little will help. This route looks set to be the real start of getting some bike based tourism into Harrogate. Well other than the few folk who will turn up for the Tour!

Over in my end of the town, Harrogate Borough Council's park ranger. Sam Walker has filled in some potholes on the Starbeck to Bilton railway line. This after I offered to help with labour after someone got in touch. In the end we failed to arrange a time when I could be there to help, but good on Sam for getting on and doing it anyway. It rides way better now.

On Monday I recorded an extended interview with Gavin Rutter of Stray FM this week as part of their series about local bikey types as they begin their build up to the Tour. Quite way my particular brand of middle aged whinging is considered suitable for the radio I'm not sure, but it was nice to be asked. I hope I didn't whine on too much. We rode a bit of the Skipton Road and then a big of the greenway to contrast decent cycle provision with one of the busiest roads in the country. There was  quite a contrast. Broadcast date is mid February and Gavin is going to be to getting a few other local bike  people nattering too.

So that's you lot for now, on yer bike.


Posted on 31.1.14 | Categories:

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

The Curious incident of the Frox in the spotlight



Recently and curiously in Harrogate, a local shop puts out a sign saying you can park in the cycle lane. Twitter and Facebook go ballistic with righteous fury, the press get involved as does the national cycle media. The shop issues an apology.

Except there were a few more things going on here if you looked. Snooty Frox the shop in question put the sign up and got quite a few bike rider's backs up last weekend. It was picked up on a Saturday morning by Dales Girl on Twitter and by the Monday lunchtime the apology had been issued. So why did the shop think this was ok? Here are my thoughts.

I suspect the shop's customers mainly use cars to get there and the new bit of advisory cycle lane was making parking more difficult. Although there is some adjacent off street parking and a plenty of side street options nearby. It probably never crossed their mind that some of their customers ride bikes too. I heard from a few incensed bike riding customers of theirs who were really annoyed by the decision to put the sign out.

The shop had apparently sought advice over the sign from North Yorkshire Police and Harrogate Borough Council and been told it wasn't illegal. They were right it isn't, but the highway code on advisory cycle lanes says you shouldn't park in them unless it's "unavoidable", whatever that means.

Whatever the story behind the sign, good on Snooty Frox for seeing sense and doing the right thing, they look bigger as a business as a result of their decision, I wish them well.

So Snooty Frox if they were guilty of anything are guilty of seeing cyclists as OTHER (not customers definately) and so making their lives difficult was worth doing if it kept business nice and healthy. From their press release it seems they were miffed at not being consulted over the cycle lane in the first place.

Twitter was fairly quick to condemn the shop over the decision and I was guilty of that too. I suspect they didn't realise how much more dangerous roads become when you have to pull out of the cycle lane, round parked cars and into often quicker moving car traffic. Some of the comments on Twitter though seem just as likely to paint cyclist as separate and other as the actions of the shop. There were people offering the home address of the owner and suggesting graffiti on the sign. I even heard rumour of people suggesting mobbing the shop. I mean they only put a sign out, it's not like they built an elephant trap to catch bikes in the carriageway is it?

The police and the council appear not to have covered themselves in glory either or at least to have changed their minds when confronted with a small media firestorm. Their advice may have been correct to the letter of the law, but it was hard advice to defend morally when vulnerable road users were on the wrong end of their advice. They didn't defend it for long in fairness. I wonder how the original conversations went?

I was surprised and delighted by how many people in Harrogate cared about this and how much social media and the interweb can help speed up the arc of these stories. A few years ago I doubt this one would have got much attention or been resolved in 48hrs. Perhaps I would have got somewhere with a polite behind the scenes softly softly approach rather than the name and shame in public approach?  You know what that's not been my experience at all. If you want biking infrastructure in this town it helps if you shout and get the media involved or nothing happens. That has definately been my experience, that's a pity but it's how things seem to be.

This is after all only a fairly small piece of cycleway, that was argued for locally by activists. The kind of fairly low quality provision you get when there is no strategic plan in place for sustainable transport due to poor local government traffic planning. Planning based on prioritising traffic flow and car use in an increasingly congested urban environment. Local government still seem unable to consider the needs of bike riders at the  design stage and god knows we are asking them to often enough. It's just not in their DNA yet.

So here we are again playing transport ping pong over these issues. People falling into the familiar old roles of driver, businessperson, bike rider and Offended of Harrogate. What we need to do if we are to move on, is to see everyone as people who do all of these things, some of the time. If we give them, us, you an urban environment that makes taking sustainable transport choices easier they will do it more often. Congestion will ease, people will be healthier and if Portland's experience is anything to go by spend at the shops will increase too.

So after this little diversion in the media spotlight. It shines to other parts of the nation's stage again. We as a town will be back in it's relentless glare in July. Expect one or two more of these type of stories before the circus leaves town. For a little while longer, people care about bike riding in Harrogate




Thursday, 16 January 2014

Northern Rail fail


Mrs Cycle Harrogate is doing a day a week at the university in York. She likes a bit of learning and she was looking forward to starting.

She had a quick look at where the venue was in York. A bit too far to walk, but only 10 minutes on a bike and York is set up for bikes, she was excited. Then the wheels came off. She would need to get her bike to York on the train. Trouble is you can't just take a bike on the train. Northern Rail will take a massive two bikes but you can't book. So no guarantee you can get your bike on the iron horse. So your journey plans may or may not work. That's pants then, might as well say "We don't do bikes". Then she thought about hiring a Boris bike type thing at the other end, but the scheme in York isn't working yet. Then she looked at a bus at the other end and with the train ticket it was well over a tenner and was going to take another 25 mins on top of the train journey and life is too short, you know?

In the end she gave in and took her car with just one person, bad but perfectly understandable. That's how the roads end up full of nearly empty cars. Because we can't design an integrated public transport system that will let people make sustainable transport decisions. Even when they want to.

I raised this with Northern Rail on twitter and they said they were bound by their franchise and nothing could be done, it was the government's fault. I think they were wrong, I think what they meant was. We have a minimum service guarantee and as we are meeting it to do any more would impact on our profits. Suffice to say in the short term taking a bike to York on a train will be no easier.

 Now dear reader there is talk afoot about electrifying York to Leeds by Andrew Jones MP. That would be great, there would be an enhanced service, more trains. As part of that process if it happens, can we get some bikes on the trains and some WiFi? That would be nice. Rather than the current old skool rolling stock we have. Some of which  I worked on the design of, back in a time when I was still wet behind the ears last century. When people used drawing boards, cars had chokes and two Britain's winning the Tour De France was an impossible dream for fools.

And now in our dreamland we have won the hardest sporting event in the world, twice! Once with a rider who can't really climb all that well, that's amazing. I still get goose bumps thinking about Wiggo leading Cav out on the Champs Elysee. Yet we can't make daily exercise for everybody easy, in a country with a huge obesity and early death from inactive lifestyles problem. That's really pretty poor when you think about it.

Thursday, 2 January 2014

Send us your outdoor events, we now have a calendar



Lots of people have been sending me details of outdoor or bike related events. I forget some of these and some I blog about, this is a bit crap. Cycle Harrogate now has a calendar.  I will put on there every local bike related or vaguely outdoor, running, triathlon type event I know about. If you send me things I will add them in.

email cyclehgt@gmail.com

twitter @cyclehgt

facebook cycle harrogate

Cheers

Dave


Posted on 2.1.14 | Categories:

Saturday, 21 December 2013

A Harrogate cycling year - 2013


It was quite a year for Harrogate cycling was 2013. Here is a run through of some of the highlights that I know of.

The year started with some joy. North Yorkshire County Council  gave a commitment to resurface the Knaresborough to Harrogate, Beryl Burton cycle route. A good start to the year we had been campaigning for this to happen for six months.

As spring comes The Nidderdale Greenway from Harrogate to Ripley clears the last of many legal challenges and opens to an unbelievable level of enthusiasm. On a sunny day it resembles Oxford Street Christmas Eve, not a rural traffic free route. Sustran's route is high quality and provides some much needed traffic free cycling in the Harrogate district. In the first weekend some idiot knocks down an old lady breaking her hip and then scarpers, nearly taking the shine right off the whole shebang. Thankfully people get the hang and slow down and everyone rubs along a bit better. Its still really busy and I think if its possible for tarmac, loved. Local bike god Malcolm Margolis takes a bow for this one good effort

As summer turns into autumn there comes the welcome news that the greenway will be extended to Hampsthwaite. This move only takes a public meeting not the traditional three public enquiries, a heated debate in the advertiser, loads of money and a few years of everyone lives.

Our local media become rather cycle loopy as the realisation that the world's greatest cycle race is coming to town. You can't move for cycling stories in the paper and I seem to be getting calls from journos on a weekly basis, this is a pleasant change from fighting for a hearing in 2012.

Our local politicians come up trumps on the Beryl Burton after NYCC do the dirty and renege on their promise to resurface the whole of the by now badly eroded Beryl Burton route. Tory boy Andrew Jones MP puts his name to a campaign to get the whole route done as promised. His office and county councillors Richard Cooper and Liberal Democrat Anne Jones both go above and beyond to secure funding. Good work by our elected representatives. Best of all there seems to be wide public support for this. Lots of people make their views known, there is after all a constituency of bike riders out there. The politicians get most of the required funding From NYCC with Harrogate Borough Council stumping up the remaining 10 grand. Everyone claims victory, everyone was right.

The Hospital Trust who a year ago were being openly critiqued by me for ignoring numerous requests to promote cycling despite having staff sickness and parking issues now come good. We jointly work on a leaflet to get staff informed and launch it over a lunchtime in the canteen. What comes out of the experience for me is what little knowledge of Harrogate's cycle network many ordinary cyclists have. We badly need more signs and a map.

Good Fettle cafe opens. We visit, eat great cake and blog about the visit, their takings go up. Maybe a thousand followers is worth having?

Starbeck school who in 2012 were trying to ban kids using bikes to get to school change their mind and cuddle the bike. In the last week before Christmas the bike racks go in. I look forward to them embracing the bike in Tour de France year.

The Nidderdale Greenway is such a success that Harrogate's Big Red Bike Co start renting bikes out to folk using it. Ripley castle and Ice cream parlour are rubbing their hands as takings are up as bike riders are hungry and thirsty, take note Rudding Park.

Boneshakers a Harrogate institution closes. Maybe there was too much choice in town, maybe the internet is an easy place to buy a bike?

As I'm Christmas shopping I see the shiny new bikes of the hourly hire scheme at the station for the first time. They snook them in whilst I wasn't looking. I can't wait to to have a go soon.

Jo Armstrong HBC's all round, lets get people moving, good egg organises a Cycle Festival up on Killinghall Moor. Its a chance to celebrate all things bike and for those of us who try and promote this kind of behaviour to meet up and have a chat. I remember the pump track best of all and it was my youngest son's first bike ride on his own, he loved it.

The Local Sustainable Transport Fund which sounds posh but means 6oo grand is being spent on biking over the next two years is getting under way at last. It has a mover Mark Kibblewhite, who is getting a few bits of infrastructure sorted, but more importantly looking at mapping and promoting cycling on the web and via an app. We are still waiting for the shakers to really get going, but this should bring some real benefit to town over the next 18 months.

As you move round Harrogate this year you can see ordinary people riding bikes and you are seeing more of them. Not lycra clad Chris Froome clones but ordinary people riding bikes to get around. Its not a deluge yet, but a steady trickle has become a stream and lets hope it builds into a river.

North Yorkshire Water play a blinder and build a mountain bike track near Swinsty Resevoir that is putting grins on to experienced and relative novice rider's faces. I need to get on it with my own young riders, it looks mint.

NYCC take careful aim and seem to shoot themselves in the foot. After great work over the LSTF programme and doing the right thing by the Beryl Burton they revert to type. Maybe a leopard can't change all of its spot in one go? Despite some expert evidence, much lobbying, a media campaign and councillors repeatedly raising the issue with them. They can't bring themselves to paint some Advanced Stop Lines onto the ground at the Leeds Road Junction to give bike riders a break at this busy junction. It seems that once you prioritise car use on your roads and in your officers minds you can't un-learn a way of thinking that feels increasingly outdated and at odds with the Zeitgeist.

UPDATE Monday evening 23/12/2013
The above paragraph was current as I wrote it half an hour ago. I have just heard that NYCC Highways will look at possible solutions to this issue in the New year, see the quote below. Seems I was wrong about NYCC. Hey if all I have to be is wrong that's great. Happy Christmas everyone.
However please note that there may be the possibility of amending the design of the pedestrian island and white lining on Hookstone Road in order to accommodate a lead-in lane and ASL. We are presently working on the design and will provide you with an update in the New Year.
I want to finish with the opening ceremony to the Beryl Burton. The great and the good all showed up and so did a fair few local bike riders and that was great. It was cold down by the river late in the afternoon in November but they turned out anyway.

The mental image I will take with me into next years genuinely exciting cycling year, will be Charlie Burton's face as he and Denise his daughter, cut the ribbon and re-opened Beryl's cycleway. Charlie was Beryl Burton's husband. He is an old guy now. He seemed to have got used over the decades to Beryl Burton not getting the recognition she deserved in our towns of Harrogate and Knaresborough.

He was in tears that afternoon down by the Nidd, because as a town we had shown him that we cared about cycling and that we cared about his wife's legend and that made all the campaigning, speaking and whining seem worth every single moment.

Have a peaceful Christmas, all the best to you and yours from this often cynical old git.  Lets all have a bloody great, cycle drenched, party style 2014. A year that will be talked about by our grand children when they are old.



Posted on 21.12.13 | Categories:

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Leeds Road - Curiouser and Curiouser


If your new to this campaign. This one is about North Yorkshire County Council's Highways department refusing to make sufficient provision for cyclists at the Leeds Road junction which is being updated as I write. This despite it would appear many local politicians and a few people who really know what they are talking about thinking they should. This is your local government doing the wrong thing for the wrong reasons, despite David Cameron saying they should do the opposite.

I have written about the background to all this here and here.

Sustrans got in touch today. They had shown Tim Coyne at NYCC's response to our concerns about the Leeds Road junction to somebody who works for Sustrans. Anyway let me quote from the email.
...is our Sustrans Transport Engineering Manager and his opinion should hold some weight due to his experience. He is a Chartered Engineer providing support on the traffic and highways aspects of Sustrans’ projects, including developing skills within both Sustrans and external organisations through professional training, direct support and Sustrans website. Over the past 16 years he has gained extensive experience of infrastructure design for cyclists and pedestrians in the UK and abroad and is regarded as one of the leading experts in this field. From 2005 to 2011 he coordinated a team of expert consultants providing technical support to local authorities on behalf of Cycling England, in particular the Cycling City and Towns programme for which he was also on the selection Panel and Programme Board. He has worked in the NGO, public and private sectors
Here is what Sustran's (rather well qualified) it would appear Engineer had to say. Remember NYCC's argument is that the junction is not wide enough for Advanced Stop Lanes, these give bike riders a head start at traffic lights.
1m is typically the dynamic width of a cyclist so it is reasonable to assume that cyclists would have difficulty getting through a narrower gap. However, even on approaches with very narrow lanes I am of the opinion that there are still benefits in having an ASL box as experience shows that cyclists still manage to get to the front of the queue and the ASL gives them a legal space to wait. Cars are appreciably narrower than lorries so where just light vehicles are queuing there will be more space to get through and on multilane approaches if traffic is queuing in only one lane then the cyclist can use the other lane to reach the ASL.
So we are left with one engineer who claims this can't be done and one engineer who has been making junctions better for cyclists for 16 years saying ASL's are a good idea. They appear to disagree about where we should be going. So the saga continues.

Update 19/12/2013  See Malcolm Margolis's comment below, but basically we could use your help. Here is what we need, Malcolm puts it better than I can:
...we say that's unacceptable and are asking people to write to their local councillor (preferably county as county run highways) and/or Tim Coyne at tim.coyne@northyorks.gov.uk Malcolm Margolis, Harrogate Cycle Action
Please email Tim or your councillor, remember they work for you. Say you want Advanced Stop Lanes on all four sides of the junction. We can stop this poor policy, if enough of use show we care. This should be making a splash in the Advertiser next week, victory by christmas would be good for Harrogate not just its bike riders.

Posted on 18.12.13 | Categories: