Visions 3– Chine Rides.
This has been on my do write list for a while, its going to quite a bloggy blog so compared to most of my factual writing this is a bit indulgent. Chines are the main subject matter and I’m going to include culture and recollection from working in cycling for coming up to ten years. Chines are a Bournemouth and Poole locality feature, a wooded valley that goes south to the beach. Years ago John Grimshaw who started Sustrans rode down here, and after enjoying a chine ride opined that the whole area was like a ‘Centreparcs by Sea’ which Ive always liked as a vision. We have the best ways to get to the seaside by bike in the chines, we should be celebrating active journeys to the beach. I see these places as a way to integrate leisure cycling into the very fabric of the area, with encouraged, waymarked, mapped routes. The sort of routes that myself and others use every day.
From Flaghead in the West to Durley Chine by Bournemouth pier we’ve 7 Chines that are a joy to ride bicycles down, of course they slope down to the sea so exiting is uphill, but you can always then ride along the flat seafront to you exit point later. My own association with alum Chine from Westbourne comes from a Grandfather who came on holiday from here every year when I was pre- 10 age and used to walk us down when there were still red squirrels resident. Some of them have wonderful Victorian Bridges over them, Alum perhaps the most spectacular, and you can visit Skerryvore which was the home of Robert Louis Stephenson author of Treasure Island at its head. Ive mentioned Branksome Chine in ‘Routes vs Queues’ posts previously here,
Starting very close to Branksome station this rates as the best bike-train journey link to beach in the area, a superb pine- lined route that is a magical way to arrive at the sand. If local Councils worked together on this, Chine promotion could in itself become a USP unique to Britain, cut out thousands of journey queues and tame the East- West traffic that blocks up the conurbation during busy times. Cycling hasn’t been previously encouraged on these seafront routes, it takes political guts to introduce changes that while are obviously so beneficial, and thankfully it looks like this is now changing- see the signs.
Have been teaching lots of 1 to 1 adults classes on road cycling recently, and came across one student who lived in Luton and had a good talk about the place. In 2005 -7 which I spent teaching Bikeability there in schools the Council won national Awards for their cycling promotion work, colleagues made the first inroads into providing a good training service and building infrastructure to enable active travel. Strong memory of those times is that engineers and planners weren’t encumbered by a massive range of older Councillors resisting their ideas. Decisions were made and cycle routes and re-designating existing routes went ahead. Not sure if that was because its Luton, a town Council in one of the most ethnically diverse areas in Britain that is tolerant of change, but compared to the hand wringing about those sorts of changes that presently happens in Bournemouth and Poole it seems radical. We presently have one Councillor whos actively promoting cycling and active travel Michael Filer, and he needs help. All Councillors aim at their sole mission of getting re-elected to their wards, and seeing the figures for what they claim in expenses I can see why, It must be a good gig to be on, although the decades spending time getting elected and age reached on the way brings it firmly within the realm of elder citizens. Standing up for something that in a conservative area is resisted takes courage, which brings me on to next topic. Sub-urban areas seem to be all struggling with making culture change happen for cycling, why? Theres now more staff in Council offices paid to promote it than ever. Is it that culture change is so slow because people are habitual? My first theory of why people are happy to spend hours queuing in cars was based on population density, Up until a couple of years ago Britain was the 2nd most population dense country in Europe after Netherlands, now we are number one. With less space around them and more people, the idea that being in the car, effectively your space with your own music, clothes, smells, control was the answer for the queues. Now I believe that its even deeper seated than that. As habitually as people take the same road routes, they LOVE to queue, think about it, you can easily write off a whole waking day per week spent queuing in traffic to and from work because you just accept it. Much as its complained about every day, it happens in shops, in bars, and in cars. We are a nation of queue lovers, which means that culture change, travel culture change will be as slow as everything else to change here, I estimate another 20 years work before we get anywhere like the Netherlands, and return to 1950’s levels of activity.
On the beach yesterday I was watching the bikes going along, thousands of them, these people could also ride every day, could also be a part of making big changes happen. There wasn’t any aggro, there were Sunday roadies in full lycra alongside hire bikes, elder ladies and kids on balance bikes. When the local paper prints stories about cycle promotion sometimes the reaction is so strongly anti its unbelievable, is this conservatism? a suburban attitude that’s holding back positive change? Its hard to define what keeps things so the same, people wanting to be stuck in the same routines that support the resistance to change on the roads and getting people making healthy travel choices? Pictures in this post show middle chine, passing yesterday I noticed these new signs, a small step in the right direction towards a future that encourages active travel for all the benefits we know about. Perhaps in due course the whole bay will have this promotion, there’s plenty enough room for segregated paths if that’s what you like too. Vision, its worth having not just for yourself.