Weve reached another moment in the passage of time related to cycling in Bournemouth and the U.K, This time last year a one year ‘trial’ of shared space started in the very centre of Bournemouth town. As I wrote and said on BBC South interview at the time, active travellers have been crossing the Square by bike for decades without incident, and will keep doing so. Research shows that bike commuters tend to follow a very repetitive pattern, as you would expect on the way to and from work being when most cross Square trips are made, with a lessening of the frequency all day when pedestrian shoppers fill the town centre. Up until 10 A.M delivery vehicles clog the pedestrianised areas, which seems to somehow vanish from most peoples consciousness anyway. Happy to say that there have been no serious cyclist- pedestrian incidents at all during this last year, other than a very small minority of idiots speeding- just like a small minority of idiots speeding on the roads in vehicles, people are perfectly capable of interacting in shared spaces provided they exercise a little awareness of each other. Lets hope the media write this up well and it continues for perpetuity.
This year end post seems timely as I covered recently about the end of LSTF here , todays post rounds up some other aspects relating to cycling in the U.K and my 30 years of bike commuting and active travel. Some of the Organisations/ charities that employ staff to promote cycling are restructuring in advance of the end of financial year, shrinking staff numbers and end of Government local sustainable transport funding grants that Bournemouth benefitted from. From spring 2016 the amount of central Government funding for cycling looks uncertain, even with a good few years just past, the amount in total treasury expenditure on cycling promotion is miniscule in comparison with what is continually spent on road building for motor traffic. So where are we at?
All eyes are on London now for the opening of the Embankment European cycleway, the biggest single infrastructure change of recent years in the U.K. All the local authorities in the regions will be looking to see how this becomes accepted, and continuing their plans, despite the lack of funding designing continues. Locally Authorities will be writing up the summer results of promotions, and preparing for the winter which will be once again left to the dedicated cyclists to lead on. Once the Bournemouth central station rebuilding is completed that will be towards the end of visible signs of change to the built environment. There’s been some great work done around town, removal of barriers and junction rebuilds has shown Council willingness to innovate, and while small distance cycle routes wont make a change to most peoples travel habits, seen in context this isn’t a surprise. Again- the amount of funding given to infrastructure for cycling and active travel is so small within the whole of Local Authority and Government expenditure we can only see this as indicative of the U.K’s slow response to growing problems caused by vehicle dependency.
In Poole changes are initiated even more slowly than in Bournemouth, little to report there other than the Seaview work by a staff member who thankfully works for Bournemouth now again. There have however been some small changes on Ashley road and other places, without the conviction to make designated cycle infrastructure some of this work could be seen as infrastructure by stealth, narrowing junctions and roads to the extent that on a bike its actually impossible to ride anywhere other than in ‘primary position’ So traffic speeds have been slowed in many places in Poolemouth, and the slow adapters are getting used to it. We still strangely don’t suffer so much with congestion that people are changing habits though, there aren’t really more groups of people on bikes around junctions and lights than in 2008 when I first moved here. Despite the fact that the East- West queues continue daily at peak times, locals seem content in that very British way to say ‘traffics bad’, writing off a few hours a week spent in queues as ‘just the way it is’ for them. Another year goes by. Guess that unlike bigger towns such as Bristol, the time loss incurred by drivers across Poolemouth just isn’t enough to make major change in travel habits. This piece on ‘Ten reasons why reducing automobile dependency makes sense’ was written a year ago, in Australia. Worth a read as these aspects are applicable to U.K as well, incredible that change happens so slowly with such evidence all I can do is try and lead by example.
So a short round up, I had hoped to have brought my Underground style map of cycle routes in the area into availability by now, a year at least since it started, but If anything when it does come out-those routes vs queues will still exist, despite not all being designated cycle routes, they do get you between places in our area by the most efficient routes. Directional perfection and no queues to wait in buy the most efficient vehicle that has ever existed- the Bicycle.
If youre interested in Cycle Infrastructure and the topics in this post, built environment or cycling in general come along to the next Bournemouth Cycling Forum meeting 07 September at 6 P.M at the town hall-Bournemouth.