Cycling as Utility Transport in 2017

An occasional post promoted by support I’ve had on a number of suggestions I’ve made, which largely focus on what is already available in this area to improve, mainly my routes which are written up on the Poolemouth Cycle Routes page  

These suggestions have been submitted to both cycling officers in Poolemouth, and Cllr’s whom I have one to one contact with and indeed in some form work for as a Council contracted Bikeability instructor.

This post will outline how in the routes I ride every day nothing changes.   My attendance at the Cycling Forum in Bournemouth has been 8 years, in that time the only significant piece of actual building for cycling has been Castle Lane West phase 1/ (july 06 2015) What we have seen in the Forum are designs, for individually priced and designed schemes. These originate from agency staff contracted to Council, and some Council staff. Some are valuable possibilities that never get approved, why is that? These schemes have to be approved by supervisory Engineers, they then go to consideration by panel of Elected Councillors for approval. At the same time some of these schemes go to public consultation, generally related to where the funding is coming from. Council Portfolio Member for Transport, Sustainability & Carbon Management will make final decision on schemes. Heres an example of Approval granted for the recent re-classification of Wimborne Road . Developer funded road schemes are treated differently though, as they are regarded differently to the work of Councils. Eg. recent Edinburgh changes.

Local Cllrs in Forum-there are perhaps 2/ 3 attendees who cycle around Bournemouth, amongst the 20 others regular and commuting cyclists, however when they attend full cabinet meetings they are the complete outliers amongst Councillors, tasked with persuading Elected members that changes need to be made on transport. Despite the fact that Active travel is written into every Local Transport Plan, and the manifold benefits of having more people cycling short journeys are obvious- changes in the built environment to make this happen still have massive barriers within Councils all over U.K. For Poole the cycling officer has just over 1 year in post. I have 30 years riding on roads experience.

Unfortunately many of the staff dealing with these changes are benighted, local engineers who aren’t informed of wider work going on, for example scheme providing protected lanes in Westminster Bridge the most peopled space in London.  Silo working by Local Authority staff means that unlike those who are following these developments nationally, such as bloggers and campaigners, the building going on in other areas is missed. Under-informed staff therefore see each scheme they work on as a way to gain credibility amongst peers internally. Here is an important example of how designing Infrastructure works or dosent.

Not as part of an essential on-going change. This might be why my suggestions on very simple changes that could give great benefit to current users get overlooked So far then about what are the barriers to change, what is happening?:-

Middle Chine 140905
Middle Chine 140905

On the Quiet openings. Heres two examples of openings that Councils have done on the quiet. Middle Chine- Bournemouth, the signing on this linear route from West Cliff Rd. to the seafront reads ‘considerate cycling welcomed’ with Blue info signs. This is the only chine of the 7 in Poolemouth that has this designation, the rest have either no signage or 1970s paint ‘no cycling’ Other one is the opening of a route into and out of Upton Country Park Poole, Here the old style pen kissing gate has been removed to allow mobility scooters, bikes, tandems, trikes and other wheels to access the surfaced track. Both of these designations have happened in my time here, the former I wrote about other chines which especially Branksome would be superb as a surfaced route direct to the beach- the number one attraction in Poolemouth. Reason why these two on the quiet changes have happened without any promotion is due to Councils being reluctant to publicise for fear of upsetting anti-cyclists. Elected members of Councils don’t want to lose any of their vested interests and potentially jeopardise their re-election on making changes that will be unpopular. The latter one is also much better as part of a route between Poole and Hamworthy entirely off road. Here the circular gates are typical in loads of other locations in Poole that have these barriers to active travel that simply stop anyone but the most dedicated users. Bourne Valley Greenway a case in point again. Fear of the chance for motorbikes to abuse the access is the main reason these brilliant routes don’t get opened and remain whilst brilliant routes- only for the dedicated.


There was recently an announcement that Poole Borough have won DaFT money for road improvements, less than 20 Councils nationally won the bids they put in for this money. 6 schemes are suggested which will primarily be re-surfacing. These are Wimborne Rd -George Rbt, to Fleetsbridge. Ringwood Rd- Seaview to Old Wareham Rd. Alder Road(all of) Blandford Rd- Port to Boro Border. Magna Rd, Queen Anne Drive to Boro Border. You’ll have noticed I’ve mentioned Queen Anne Drive already as a suggestion.

Poole cycling officer gets 50K a year to put into infrastructure, separately  to  this new road funding. It wont be put into much more than fresh paint on the roads for bikes as its primarily for surfacing for motor vehicles. At present theres work going on Longfleet Road near Poole Hospital, resurfacing. All Local Councils now need to be seen as doing something for Active Travel, and so they will always say in press and in meetings they prioritise cycling and walking. What this often means like in that most recent example is adding painted cycle signs to existing pavements-where there is the width. Engineers haven’t the money or inclination to build protected routes, even when there is the space. Easy to add a bike symbol onto something that is for pedestrians and call it ‘shared use’ It avoids the hard reality that if you build decent cycle lanes they will be used, and where they are discontinuous they will be ignored by road users. This is symptomatic of the era we are living through.  I will be looking for evidence of the following upcoming which is stated in upcoming ‘Cycling strategy draft action plan’ for the area:-“permeability improvements by undertaking reviews of opportunities for retrofitting” To me that means fixing all the current areas that are brilliant but limited by poor surfaces, gated barriers, no lighting. Many of the Areas featured on Poolemouth Cycle System, We were asked to supply the Council with ideas for Cycling- I have done this so post acknowledges that and asks where is the action?

Ringwood road

The 6 Schemes mentioned above contain 1 unique opportunity. Seaview to Old Wareham road on the south side already contains the 1970s paint work you see in the picture. Re-prioritising the side road exits and entrances here and providing a continuous protected cycle lane is completely manageable here in the space available. Anecdotally the Officer has told me that of the 5 side roads that meet Ringwood road here, 3 of them could be closed to through traffic, which he will be suggesting to engineers. Having cul-de-sacs that would have filtered permeability promotes the short walk to local tescos and cuts out tiny local motor journeys. This is a test case for the Area over the next year. Maintaining the same paint jobs will result in the same usage. At peak times commuting cyclists will still be filtering through the queues of near stationary vehicles as they do today.  Many of the other re-surfacing jobs, even though they contain parallel cycle routes with adequate space for protection, will only see carriageway re-surfacing, a sad indictment of the priorities.

Everything I’ve written here isn’t imaginary. You can take part in consultations, come to Forum meetings, talk to staff and see designs. It just puts things in context to highlight a few specifics and await the results from people who are supposedly tasked with changing culture through the built environment. The people I talk to about these changes have some good ideas, they want to make environment better and are pro-cycling. Well meaning staff. Only problem is that like me working at the ground level, their suggestions don’t make it to wider fruition, largely due to the organisational barriers outlined above. Unfortunately for Britain unless tough action is taken and unpopular decisions made about how people get around- decisions of those in senior positions, the nation will continue to become increasingly obese, inactive and living in pollution caused by too many queuing motors. Everyone knows this, it’s a shame only a few of us are leading by example.

I saw some photos recently of Amsterdam in the 1970s, they showed streets that looked like G.B urban streets, i.e full of cars. Point being made here is that it took Nederlands 40 Years to change culture for Active Travel, well if G.B is just starting that will mean I’ll be 86 before we get to Dutch levels.  In some ways wish I didnt  get so worked up about it all, I could have been out on my bike instead of writing this. Thanks for reading.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *