Newsletter for Autumn 2012


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Front cover

Cycling Santa cartoon

Merry Xmas everyone and let us all work together in 2013 to make our towns and cities less polluted by cycling instead of driving.


Chairman’s Ramblings

As this is the last rambling for 2012 may I wish everyone a happy Christmas and a prosperous and healthy new year.

Recently we had the great pleasure to work with Dr Lynn Sloman on the Sustainable Transport Blue Print for Canterbury. Lynn is the author of Car Sick and was a board member of Cycling England the organisation that established a series of cycle demonstration towns. Sadly for the cycling world the government in its usual one step forward three steps back approach replaced Cycle England with the Local Sustainability Travel Fund which in real terms and regardless of good intentions means that things are even more diluted than they were before. Since Cycling England’s demise Lynn founded and is also a director of Transport for Quality of Life.

Lynn presented the blue print at a very packed and appreciative audience at the Dominican Priory in November. I was very impressed by comments and the reaction of councillors and members of the general public who attended the event. Having seen so many do little strategies and traffic proliferation documents in the last few years, it’s stimulating to actually read a document that looks at solutions and if promoted in the right way could have the potential to provide the basis of a campaign that society as a whole could buy in to. The Sustainable Transport Blue Print when available will be available to read in full on our website.

Looking back on the rest of 2012 in brief, we have been incredibly active responding to about a hundred planning applications and taking part in several consultations and attending conferences as well. We have lobbied local MPs on several issues and even attended a debate in Parliament in support of The Times Cities Fit for Cycling Campaign. Members of the committee have appeared on radio and TV, written articles for newspapers and no doubt been misquoted a few times as well. Along with the work the committee does on a day to day basis we have also attended 18 events this year which have enabled us to speak to thousands of people, local politicians, dignitaries and even a celebrity or two. We have distributed leaflets, maps, information, discussed local issues and even inflated a tyre and repaired a bike or two, courtesy of our Dr Bike service. We have visited Medway, Gravesham, Shepway, Dover, Swale and Canterbury Districts promoting Spokes and cycling. We haven’t managed to visit all the districts this year but we will certainly try and get to those we missed in 2013.

AGM

At the AGM in October we made some minor changes to the constitution which now allows us to recruit and co opt more members on to the committee. Several new faces joined the committee at the AGM. New members of the committee are Dr Gill Corble and Frank Guthrie from Herne Bay, Tom Rowland from Deal and Mark Bayliss who lives in Sandwich. Shepway Liaison Officer Paul Rees has now taken over as Rides Coordinator from Ian Rogers.

Ben Knox retired from the committee and as Vice Chair at Octobers AGM and the role of vice chair has been taken by Tony Purchese who will also carry on for the foreseeable future as Membership Secretary. May I take the opportunity to thank Ben Knox for all his hard work over the last few years.

Steve Fawke


Good news from Canterbury City Council: extensions to Great Stour Way and Oyster Bay Trail

Canterbury City Council will fund and deliver a new 270 metre long by 2.5m wide shared surface (pedestrian and cyclist) extension to the Great Stour Way.

The new length of path will complete the ‘missing link’ between Toddlers Cove and Whitehall Road at the Canterbury end of the route.

Work is scheduled to start on 3 December and finish within three working weeks just before Christmas. The total cost of the work is likely to be in excess of £20,000.

Part of this extension passes beneath the Rheims Way flyover and into the Westgate Gardens which are locked at night. This will mean information signs will be required to alert users of the dusk closure and to inform them of alternative routes.

A spokesperson for the Transportation and Environment section of Canterbury City Council commented:

‘We are very pleased to be completing this missing link which will make the Westgate Park complex and the Great Stour Way more accessible to people of all levels of mobility. This represents the first phase of a comprehensive restoration of the Westgate Gardens and adjacent green spaces as part of a Heritage Lottery Fund project which is expected to be implemented in 2014.’

It is hoped to extend the Oyster Bay Trail between Reculver and Whitstable. The coastal cycle route currently terminates at Swalecliffe and the proposed extension into Whitstable continues along the grasscrete path from Swalecliffe, and then onto the sea wall/promenade going past the skate park. The application for a change to the byelaw along the promenade to allow this route to be extended was made in August and the decision on this is likely to be made in November

Josh Theobald, Canterbury City Council


Aylesham expansion

In 2003 there was a flurry of excitement in Aylesham, with the involvement of the Prince’s Trust, local councils and the full backing of the then local MP Gwyn Prosser in a week’s brainstorming, followed by deafening silence. Now it appears to be back on the agenda.

Aylesham was established in 1926 to provide housing for the newly sunk Snowdown Colliery. Miners from all parts of the UK walked to Snowdown to find work. With a layout designed by Patrick Abercrombie, Aylesham seen from the air represents a pithead winding gear.

Now Dover District Council have granted permission for 1,200 homes and work is due to start next summer according to the developers Persimmon who have bought out the original developers Hillreed for £35.7m.

Original plans included 242 “affordable” homes, play areas, £100k for a skills training centre, £860k for sports and leisure, £623k for new bus services and £1.3m for improvements to the Primary School. The developers' offer was slashed to £16million in October 2009, with the training cash dropped, cuts to funding for bus services and sports facilities, and no agreement on contributions to Kent County Council for adult social services, youth services and libraries.

In March 2010 DDC agreed to enter into negotiations for a Deed of Variation changing some of the phasing of the ten-year scheme. The council takes on liability, instead of the developers, for Section 106 payments for community facilities, if the developers are not the ones who build to the trigger point for the payment.

In March this year a bid for £5.5million to the South East Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) by Dover District Council was put on a reserve list for Government Growing Places funding.

The bid is currently being considered. There was enthusiastic support for cycle paths in the original plan. Are they still there? Let us hope the baby does not get thrown out with the bathwater.

http://www.thisiskent.co.uk/Developers-say-Aylesham-village-expansion-start/story-17266939-detail/story.html

http://www.communityplanning.net/casestudies/001/001docs/pdfs/0303%20EbDReport5.pdf

Sam Webb


EU citizens call for 20mph to become the accepted normal urban speed limit

20mph speed limits are to be the subject of one of the first of the new European Citizens Initiatives which brings community issues right to the centre of European government.

20’s Plenty for Us are delighted to be collaborating with other organisations throughout Europe. We are using the new European Citizen’s Initiative (ECI) "30kmh – making streets liveable!" to call attention to the community popularity of 20mph/30kmh speed limits for urban and residential roads and for this to be seriously considered by the EU Commission.

The initiative calls for 20mph/30kmh limits to become the accepted norm for urban and residential streets with local authorities able to make exceptions where it is deemed that pedestrian and cyclist safety has been alternatively provided for.

20’s Plenty for Us are on the “citizen’s committee” which has submitted the ECI to the EU. Once validated as meeting the appropriate regulations (expected to take 2 months) then the committee will have 1 year to gain a minimum of 1m signatures (on paper or on-line) across at least 7 EU countries, including a minimum of 54,750 in the UK.

Already over 8m people in some of the UK’s most iconic cities live in communities that have adopted this policy and have decided that 30mph limits are inappropriate for most of their roads. Besides having 156 local campaign branches around the UK, 20’s Plenty for Us works with many community, health, transport and safety organisations across the private, public and voluntary sectors and will now be co-ordinating UK support for this initiative.

Rod King, Founder of 20’s Plenty for Us and one of the members of the citizen’s committee commented:-

“Many local authorities have made great progress in implementing 20mph speed limits in the UK for residential and urban streets. This important EU initiative goes further and recognises the universal aspiration of citizens and communities to enjoy the public space between their houses and share it equitably for motorists, pedestrians and cyclists.

‘30kmh – making streets liveable’ is an excellent use of this new EU process and we look forward to working with supporters throughout UK and EU to make all our places better places to be”

For more information on the initiative see www.30kmh.eu contact 20’s Plenty for Us


Articles for the next newsletter

Please get to the editor all articles and photographs for the next newsletter by mid January 2013. The email address is: newsletter-editor@spokeseastkent.org.uk

Emily Shirley


Spain as an expedition cycling destination

A delighted Gill in Quintanar de la Sierra, Spain

Those of us who attended Spokes AGM were treated to an enthralling talk by Leon McCarron who described his exploits while cycle-camping alone across USA and on to Hong Kong.

But even the hardiest cycle-campers amongst us might not relish encounters such as Leon described: a drunken psychopath with a loaded gun…… a bear trying to get into the tent….. being charged by a buffalo………tarantulas……

So, for those looking for a wonderful cycle-camping experience without such extreme excitement, let me recommend Spain.

We have done three such trips in recent years and these are the features of this destination which make it one of our favourites.

It’s easy to get to, and by pleasant, environmentally-friendly routes. European Bike Bus (www.bike-express.co.uk/) runs 4 or 5 times a month from early May through September, carrying bikes in a specially-adapted trailer. Nearest pick-up point is Dover Harbour. Relevant destinations are Rosas (Roses) in Catalunya, and Bayonne, in France, at the other end of the Pyrenees; the one-way journeys are of the order of 24 hours. The return fare, including bicycle, is between £239 and £259 per person - there is a discount for CTC members.

It is a long time to sit on a coach, it’s true, especially if you’re like me and cannot sleep sitting up, but there are frequent leg-stretcher stops, and cheap alcohol and hot food are available on board, so you can survive by drinking yourself into a stupor.

From personal experience, Catalunya is an excellent area for cycle-camping. There is an extensive cycle-path network, with good mapping available from local tourist offices, and plenty of campsites. There is a wide variety of terrain, from the coastal plain up towards the Pyrenean foothills.

For the stronger cyclist, there is a challenging route, 1,000km or so, along the Pyrenees between San Sebastian on the Atlantic coast in the west and Olot in the east and this can easily be extended to Rosas on the Mediterranean coast to form a Spanish C2C. For this route you can use the European Bike Bus, getting off at one end and re-boarding at the other. There is a rail connection between Bayonne and San Sebastian.

This Pyrenean route is described in an invaluable Cicerone Guide: “Cycle Touring in Spain” by Harry Dowdell.

The other way to get to Spain - and this really is the pain-free option - is with Brittany Ferries (www.brittany-ferries.co.uk). These run from Portsmouth (and Plymouth), to Santander and Bilbao, both twice-weekly. The time is the same as for the bus - around 24 hours - and ditto the cost, at £215 or so return, including berth and the small charge for a bicycle. The company’s attitude to cyclists seems reasonably friendly although the bicycle facility on board is rudimentary, i.e., a dark corner of the hold surrounded by jam-packed vehicles, and you get to tie your steed up yourself as best you can with a few bits of greasy rope. Upstairs, things are a lot more salubrious and the crossing is like a relaxed mini-cruise.

From either Spanish port there is a plethora of cycle-routes. One we have done is Santander - Bilbao - Madrid - Segovia - Palencia - Santander, about 1,000kms. The first half is, again, well-described in Harry Dowdell’s book.

Both ports are on the “Camino del Norte” route to Santiago de Compostela, or a couple of days’ pedalling away from the standard route, the “Camino Frances”, described in another Cicerone Guide: “The Way of St James”, by John Higginson. We have done most of both routes.

For the sadist, the Picos de Europa are easily accessed from Santander. We have not been there.

Camping in Spain is easy-peasy. Relatively touristy areas have camp sites. We used an exhaustive Spanish booklet called Guia Iberica, widely available in Spain, and I found it much more reliable than any website. It may be possible to order a copy by mail-order. Tourist offices in Spain are generally excellent and can provide all camping information for their area.

On our trip to Madrid and back, however, we were out of season (many sites close down after September) and out in the wilds, so there weren’t any sites anyway. This however makes for fantastic cycling and, as a corollary, fantastic wild camping. The latter was never ever a problem and camping by the side of a lake/in a pine forest/on a mountainside, miles from any human activity, was most memorable. And there were no bears! One dis-advantage of such wilderness is that villages and shops are thin on the ground and you do have to plan ahead when buying provisions and filling up with water.

Other attractions? The people we spoke to in the countryside were invariably hospitable and friendly; wine and coffee in village bars is ridiculously cheap; the terrain is stunning and ever-changing; the roads are incredibly quiet and in good condition; rail travel within Spain is cheap and seemed fairly bicycle-friendly to us - look at www.feve.es and www.renfe.es for the two companies.

Perhaps I have whetted some appetites. If so, I am very happy to answer any questions, especially relating to our own experiences in the three areas mentioned (Catalunya, the Madrid route and the Santiago routes).

c/o rangers@spokeseastkent.org.uk

Dr. Gillian Corble


Wanted: Webmaster

We are looking for somebody willing to take over the running of our website. The main skills you’ll need, or be prepared to learn, are HTML / XHTML, CSS, Mysql, XSLT, and PHP. If you’re interested please get in contact with our current webmaster, Gregory Williams, via webmaster@spokeseastkent.org.uk. We’ll happily go through the website in more detail to ease the transition.

Gregory Williams


Cycle census

Each year on a Wednesday in mid-October a number of Spokies count cyclists at many points around the city of Canterbury for 90 minutes in the morning. We do this such that we can see trends, and as such we capture multiple pieces of data: Adult vs. Child, Road / cycleway vs. Footway, Helmet or not and, starting this year, Gender. We also split our count up into 15 minute blocks of time such that we can see how the cycle flows change. In the past we’ve observed trends such as a high proportion of cyclists choosing to cycle on the footpath at major junctions such as the Wincheap Roundabout and Sturry Road roundabout, suggesting that at these locations cyclists don’t feel so safe on the road at these locations.

This year’s results show that at these locations approximately 1 in 4 cyclists choose to cycle on the footpath compared with an overall average of approximately 1 in 10. This year’s results also show that approximately ¾ of the cyclists we counted in Canterbury are male, that just under half of all of the cyclists choose to wear a helmet, and that schoolchildren make up approximately 1 in every 7 cyclists. By far the most popular location to see cyclists in Canterbury is outside the front of the Westgate Towers; this year we counted 214 cyclists (not to mention the countless pedestrians streaming past), which is more than double the next most popular location outside the Cross Keys PH in Old Dover Road. We also conducted a survey in June this year. Overall we’ve noticed that cyclist numbers in the city have been reasonably static over the years, but interestingly the proportion of cyclists cycling outside the Westgate Towers since the traffic trial there started has risen noticeably. It seems that the reduced levels of traffic have encouraged more people to choose to cycle here. Certainly the increased number of people cycling don’t suggest that cyclists generally feel nervous at this junction.

As always there’s lots more detail that can be found by delving into the data we’ve gathered, but alas we have limited space in the newsletter. The full data for our most recent and all of our previous cycle counts can be seen online at www.spokeseastkent.org.uk/census.php

Gregory Williams


Cyclescape is launched

In past newsletters we’ve mentioned the development of an online toolkit to help cycle campaigners. The toolkit, named Cyclescape, has now officially launched at the recent CycleNation conference in Bristol. The idea is to be able to be kept aware of all of the issues that cyclists encounter day-to-day together with suggestions of how obstacles can be removed to make it better for cyclists. Anybody that’s interested in a particular issue can track its progress and contribute to discussions with the end target of a successful resolution to the issue. E.g. perhaps you find that there’s never enough cycle parking spaces available when you cycle into town to do your shopping. Somebody else perhaps knows that the council is considering installing more cycle parking, but hasn’t decided where yet. The conclusion, after some discussion, might be putting forward some specific location proposals in the town centre to be installed by the council.

Cyclescape’s key functionality is based around drawing your cycling issues on a map. This makes it very easy for others to see exactly where the issue is and whether or not it’s relevant to them. It could also alert you to potential future issues. E.g. One person may choose to point out that a proposed new planning application could impact on an existing cycle route. Another Cyclescape user who commutes this route regularly would automatically be informed, allowing them to point out how it might affect them too. Ultimately the planning applicant could be contacted to alter the design being proposed such that it doesn’t adversely affect cyclists.

Cyclescape is free for anybody to register. Just visit www.cyclescape.org. Once you’ve signed up be sure to visit www.cyclescape.org/groups/4-spokeseastkent in order to join the Spokes East Kent discussions.

Gregory Williams


Who will win a race around the Towers?

Just before we went to print four stalwarts from the Kentish Gazette took on what used to be known as a Commuter Challenge. Starting out from Stonebridge Road all four covered the same 1.5 mile route to Canterbury Academy – formerly Canterbury High – to see who would get there first.

News editor Joe Walker drove, chief reporter Gerry Warren cycled, and reporters Ed Target and Alex Claridge ran and walked. They travelled along North Lane, Station Road West, St Dunstans Street, London Road, round the roundabout on Rheims Way and Knight Avenue to the school.

The first to get there was the bike in 7min 47sec at 10.85mph. Second was the runner in 9 min 59sec at 8.49mph. Third was the car in 15 min 17 sec at 5.53mph and last came the walker in 24 min 41 sec at an average of 3.43mph.

What is interesting in the report was the lack of traffic in Station Road West and St Dunstans. The car got to London Road first where the cyclist and runner passed it. Could it be that the real traffic holdups are the level crossing in St Dunstans and the roundabout where the A2 meets Rheims Way?

Gerry Warren observing the car took nearly twice as long as his bike said: “I’m convinced cycling is the quickest way of getting around the city – even more so since the towers were closed – but you do feel like you’re dicing with the traffic sometimes. I’d be all for designated cycling routes and would certainly promote their benefits.”

But there is a designated route to the Academy and if Gerry had continued along North Lane instead of going past Canterbury West Station he could have joined either the Stour Valley route or NCR1 at Westgate Towers which have brought him on traffic free routes straight to the Academy without having to go round that life shortening roundabout.

Sam Webb


Mists & Mellow Fruitfulness: foraging rides from Biketart in Barham

October is a great month to discover foraging - when apples are, literally, nature's windfall and a superb time to harvest sweet chestnuts for roasting. However, after one of the wettest summers on record, autumnal berries and nuts are scarce on the ground. Soft fruit such as blackberries, elderberries and hawthorn have been patchy this year but fear not, there are more tasty morsels to be found if you know where to look!

Being prepared to experiment with foraged food can be enormously rewarding – so, what to look for if you’re fancy rooting around the hedgerows when you’re out for a ride?

Start your foraging adventures with safe plants you can definitely recognise and leave mushrooms to the experts - as our Jez says, “If in doubt, leave it out!”

Rosehips are a tasty treat, packed with vitamin C to stave off those wintery coughs and colds. The heart shaped leaves Jack-by-the-Hedge are eaten raw, bringing a mild garlic flavour to salad and superb with soft goat's cheese. Finally stinging nettles - high in iron, they make a great spinach substitute but go for the young tips & cook to neutralise their stings. Try them stir-fried with cucumber and prawns.

‘Winter Berries’ foraging ride:

If you want to find new & exciting ingredients to cook with this autumn join us on a foodie adventure and forage for your supper!

Biketart is a local bike shop & cafe based in the beautiful Elham Valley. Being blessed with the outstanding countryside of Kent on our doorstep has inspired us to start a range of rides for cyclists of all levels on the roads and lanes around us!

Our first ride was on the 27th October at 10am. Alex & Jez showed participants how and where to forage, how to enjoy a great social ten mile ride & a spot of lunch too.

Proceeds from the ride are going to the Pilgrims Hospices charity. Call 01227 250115 or for the next cycle foraging adventure book online here.

* We can't guarantee to find what we're foraging for but we'll have fun trying - and only the worst weather will put us off so please dress appropriately!

Lesley Lindsay-Watson


Urban Air Pollution and Health

In the context of this article, air pollution is defined as the introduction into the atmosphere of chemicals that cause damage to human health.

We think of pollution as being a scourge of our present, industrialized time, but there are plenty of historical and pre-historical precedents. Soot found on the ceilings of pre-historic caves provides visible evidence of a dangerous carcinogen many millennia ago, and core samples of Greenland ice reveal evidence of pollution associated with metal smelting in classical times. The 3rd century BC Greek philosopher Theophrastus complained that “the smell of burning coal (in Athens) was disagreeable and troublesome” while the Roman philosopher Seneca in 61AD described “the stench of (Rome’s) smoky chimneys (with their) pestilent vapours and soot”. Both these ancient observations could well have come from a Londoner speaking in the 1950’s.

In the UK, the Industrial Revolution brought 19th century misery to London - Charles Dickens gives a vivid description of what we now call smog, in “Bleak House”. But 100 years after he was writing, things were no better, and one of the worst pollution disasters in history occurred - one which some readers may remember, and certainly our parents do - the infamous Great London Smog, or “pea-souper” of 1952.

The first anti-pollution legislation in the UK was that of King Edward I in 1272, prohibiting the burning of coal in London, with a further similar statute in 1306. Presumably neither of these worked and we have to wait until the mid-19th century for further legislation; between 1845 and the present day, there has been a whole raft of laws. All such laws are, however, aimed at curbing industrial emissions from burning coal. The Great London Smog triggered the very effective Clean Air Acts, and from that time on, industrial pollution has been controlled to the point that it is no longer a major concern for us in normal urban day-to-day life.

It was not until 1970 that the motor car came under the microscope, as vehicle ownership steadily increased. It was soon realised that lead (the “anti-knock” ingredient in petrol) pollution was extremely deleterious to the health of children, leading to behavioural and learning problems, and reduced IQ, and by 1985 the lead additive had been banned. But pollution is a many-headed Hydra: with lead banished, it was alarming to see the return of summertime smogs to UK cities in the 1980’s and 1990’s. These smogs are not caused by the smoke and sulphur from burning coal, but are a result of photochemical reactions between sunlight and motor vehicle pollutants.

The following data are from the World Health Organisation (WHO). At present, urban outdoor air pollution - and this is predominantly vehicular in origin - accounts for 1.3 million deaths per year, and this is a problem for all countries, developed or developing. The main pollutants in our streets today are particulate matter (PM), nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and ozone (O3) which is created photochemically when sunlight meets NO2. There is strong scientific evidence for a quantitative relationship between these air pollution levels and specific health outcomes, and the pollution level does not have to be high.

PM is a complex mixture of solid and liquid particles of organic and inorganic compounds small enough to reach the peripheral bronchioles and alveoli of the lungs, and thus to interfere with gas exchange. No threshold concentration has been identified below which no health damage occurs. It is emitted by diesel engines. Effects on health predictably include exacerbation of asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), cardiovascular damage and lung cancer. An increased risk of stroke has also been demonstrated.

Nitrogen dioxide is a toxic gas capable of causing significant inflammation of the airways and not only a poison in its own right but the substrate for the formation of another - ozone. It is produced from petrol engines. As you would expect, it exacerbates asthma and other chronic lung disease, increasing morbidity and mortality in vulnerable people.

O3 is produced as described above. Once again, it triggers and exacerbates all lung and cardiovascular diseases via inflammation of the airways.

This is the status quo and it affects all of us who live in towns and cities. Unlike the visible soot and smogs of yesteryear, these pollutants are invisible and largely odourless, yet are all around us in our daily lives. In contrast to industrial pollution in developing countries, urban vehicular pollution affects affluent societies, yet ironically, disproportionately damages the poorest and most vulnerable within that society. With vehicle engines and fuels already subject to stringent controls, it seems that there is no easy technological answer; the only solution is to reduce the use of the internal combustion engine.

Dr. Gillian Corble


The Rise of the Bicycle

Recently whilst reading the BBC News website an article caught my eye. Italian bicycle sales ‘surpass those of cars’ stood out and I thought wait a minute! This is the home of some of the giants in the car world like Ferrari, Fiat and Alfa Romeo and for the first time more people were opting for two wheels as opposed to four. Now first I thought the world had turned topsy turvy but apparently in 2011 for the first time in decades more bicycles where bought in Italy than cars; 2000 more in fact according to La Repubblica newspaper who attributed this to rising petrol costs and bikes becoming more fashionable. Of course any discerning Spokes member or cyclist generally including myself will say bikes were never out of fashion. President Giorgio Napolitano has also appealed to Italians to make their roads more cycle friendly like other European countries. Now I have never been to Italy but friends of mine who have assure me that you put your life in your hands crossing the streets which are full of cars and scooters so if Italians plan on altering this to promote two human powered wheels over the two and four motor powered sort well I can only say BRAVO! This will undoubtedly also help pedestrians and tourists who get around on two feet but there are numerous other benefits as well.

If we take the UK for example. In 2011 3.7 million bicycles were sold in the UK generating £1.62 billion. Add to this £853 million bicycle accessories sold per annum. There were also 23,000 people employed in the cycling economy being paid £500 million in wages and paying £100 million in taxes. If we add all this up (£1.62 billion + £853 million + £500 million + £100 million) that’s £3.073 billion for a population of 62,262,000 people. Italy’s population is marginally smaller at 60,849,247 but with a large budget deficit simply promoting cycling could make a big difference economically. There are also the obvious health benefits to cycling such as improved health and fitness. In the UK regular cyclists take one less sick day a year compared to non-cyclists (statistics show that the average UK person took 4.5 sick days in 2011) which saves the country £128 million in reduced absenteeism. The UK also spends £4.2 billion a year treating obesity which would reduce with more people cycling and therefore being fitter. So apart from having a healthier nation Italy could save money on its health system as well and redirect the savings to clearing the budget deficit.

In the UK, I often hear people moan about the lack of cycling infrastructure compared to other European nations but compared to some places I don’t think we do too bad. Of course there’s always room for improvement but if you visit Amsterdam, the cycling mecca of Europe, I think even the Dutch would say there’s room for improvement in their system. What we need to do as Italy’s president is realising is keep going with local authorities suggesting changes, improvements as we go and then hopefully as time will go by more people, just like the Italians did last year, will realise that two wheels can be better than four and maybe as a result we’ll be healthier and maybe the country’s economy will be too.

Heather Williams


Dutch Cyclists may soon be “HOT HOT HOT” on their winter commutes

A recent article on BBC News has said that various towns in the Netherlands are considering installing heated cycle lines to ease commuting by cyclists during the winter months. The scheme is proposing the use of geo-thermal energy to heat the lanes and with a provisional price tag of €20-40,0000 per kilometre (£25-50,000) it doesn’t come cheap. However Marcel Boerefijn who has proposed the scheme said the cost would be recouped from fewer accidents, less salt/straw/grit on paths and more people opting to use their bicycle over their car during the winter months. The Dutch Cyclist Union has estimated that the scheme could reduce accidents involving cyclists by 7000 and are “very excited” about the proposals. The town of Zutphen is putting together a feasibility study and the province of Utrecht has shown an interest, and in a country with a population of 17 million people but 18 million bicycles I’m sure a few more areas will start considering the scheme.

In Kent we can only dream of such schemes even reaching the feasibility study phase. Kent County Council boast of the fact they have 60 winter service vehicles with more on standby and in an emergency they can be on the road within the hour. Yet the key word here is ROAD. Many cyclists given the choice much prefer to cycle on traffic free paths yet in the winter are often forced onto the roads to avoid the treacherous conditions of shared use paths and cycle lanes. KCC’s own Winter Service Policy states “It would be impractical and financially draining to carry out precautionary salting of footways, pedestrian precincts or cycleways and therefore no provision has been made. However, there will be a certain amount of salt overspill onto footways and cycleways when precautionary salting is being carried out on adjacent carriageways. (2.1.3)”. In other words unless the path you want to use is next to a road that gets salted or after “prolonged ice and snow” when the council will clear footways and cycleways “on a priority basis (2.2.4)” cyclists and pedestrians are left to fend for themselves. Unfortunately I doubt KCC would look at the initial investment in heating cycleways in terms of money saved on salt and grit, attending accidents, treating injuries from falling on the ice as well as more people opting to walk or cycle rather than use the car therefore helping their air quality figures in Kent. So while we applaud the Dutch for their forward thinking when it comes to solving a common problem of ice and snow on cycle paths in Kent we can only dream of such forward thinking amongst our councillors.

Heather Williams


New cycle parking at Aldi in Canterbury

Canterbury Aldi cycle parking

Steve Fawke


Letters to the Editor

Having read the editorial in the September edition which says that cycles should be allowed on trains at all times, and the Spokes response to the rail franchise consultation that suggests that the status quo is maintained – ie not on peak flows in the London area (but to improve facilities at stations), I thought I’d put forward my view on this. Until recently I worked for the Department for Transport dealing with capacity matters on the railways, and so I got to understand the railways perspective, as well as my own as a cyclist and frequent passenger.

The railways are now carrying twice as many passengers as 20 years ago, and a lot of the railway is at capacity during the peaks. So having a non-folding bike on a train instead of two fare paying passengers is simply not viable, especially if you consider that a single carriage costs about £1.5m. Despite this, British practice is in fact generally less severe than that on the Continent; for example in the Netherlands there is a blanket ban on bikes on all trains during the peaks (not just near cities) and at other times there’s a charge to carry bikes. At the DfT I received several letters from cyclists saying that we should follow Dutch practice; I presume that they weren’t aware of what they were asking for.

Of course, that is not to say that the blanket ban imposed during the Olympics wasn’t an over-reaction, and I’m glad to see that SouthEastern did relax this once they realised that crowding wasn’t a huge problem.

Where the rail industry can improve, and where organisations such as ourselves need to push them to improve, is by ensuring that outside of the peaks there are suitable bike spaces on trains, and that there are improved facilities at stations. One big advantage of encouraging cycling to stations is that in many places station car-parks are full, and once a train operator realises there’s a choice of either 8 passengers who can cycle to the station or one who can drive, they suddenly become a bit keener on promoting cycling!

As you’ve probably gathered, I could go on about this at some length, but that will do for now!

Joe Grey

Spokes and Cycle Shepway member

Dear Joe

Thank you for your views. It is indeed good news that the railways are carrying twice as many passengers as they did 20 years ago.

Be that as it may, to ban the carriage of any cycles at peak times is in my view unreasonable. It discriminates against those who travel only by train and bike (do not use or own a car). Why should a large bag full of golf clubs that takes up the space of a bike be able to go on at any time? Do not the same capacity issues apply here?

In Montreal, in the 80's, bicycles were wrapped up as pink elephants and other silly objects to raise awareness to this point during peak times on the metro. The ban was duly lifted.

The Editor

Your newsletter No 69 was passed to me.

Your front page comment was interesting, re many cycles remain unused in the shed. The main reason for this is that the general public will, when thinking of purchasing a cycle, trundle along to one of the sheds or discount stores where untrained staff, if staff can be found, will happily sell them a cheap under £200 cycle.

The first couple of rides will completely put the average person off cycling for life. The problem with purchasing the first cycle is that they all look very much the same - nice colours, suspension, gears etc. A chain can cost as little as £2 on a Chinese manufactured cycle along with inferior hubs, bearings, the lowest quality Shimano gears, and always the wrong tread of tyre.

Visit an independent cycle shop, one with “Cytech” trained mechanics and staff. “Cytech” is the Industry accredited standard for staff and mechanics. You will be shown suitable cycles for your needs - pleasure riding, sport, or cycling to work. It will cost you maybe £100 more than your original budget, but the components will be quality. The cycle will roll along smoothly with positive gear changing, sensible tyres not Land Rover treads, plus a saddle to suit your posture. It will not be a cycle to be left in the garage or shed.

Shiny cycles from that multiple or a supermarket where the company buyers who only look at price points, will always end up never ridden and in the back of the shed, only to come out when the Tour De France is on the telly.

A cycle that sells for £199, is a £199 cycle, rubbish. Made in China where a 30% import duty has to be paid plus the 20%vat so probably imported for £60.

David Wilsher

(A Director within the Cycle Industry)

Have you thought about writing a letter lately? I believe everyone, has a story to tell, or a letter to write, and most times it is tucked away inside only waiting to be released. My motive in writing a letter see below is to ';stir the pot' and keep alive and encourage debate, so that complacency does not rule OK. However, I seem to have failed so far, and I often hope that someone will reply saying ..."What's all this rubbish etc.,..." That would show that at least one person had read it and just maybe stirred a little. SPOKES mission statement about "better cycling facilities " gives so much scope and the campaign will be served by letters. The talk is often about how much does it costs to build one unit of cycle route, but the real question is how many letters does it take to build a cycle route?

So please pick up the pen, even if only to say...’What's all this rubbish etc,...’, because it's the debate that counts and NOT the complacency!

Here is a recent letter I sent recently:

“Traffic congestion makes us all losers” (Editor's contribution)

It was good to see Jo Kidd, (Towers Trial A Step In Right Direction”, Kentish Gazette, Oct. 4) bringing some balance to the Westgate trial debate.

So far I feel this has been conducted rather like a football match with winners and losers. The reality is; unbridled congestion and pollution makes us all losers.

I’m not sure that those who protest realise what an important part they play. Traffic congestion and pollution has been gradually increasing and sadly it often seems to be the ‘norm’, BUT when it suddenly appears on the doorstep it is of course horrendous”! The fact that the traffic has been imported from someone else’s doorstep is of no consolation. Equally if this problem (traffic) was to be returned to sender, or exported back to the original doorsteps the problem would remain.

It can be seen as a form of public service by those people who are shouting and saying “Look at this problem, what on earth is going on!” etc This sudden impact of traffic invites sympathy, and this should be shared across the City.

The Westgate trial as a very worthy project, and if the protests are properly interpreted this could lead to changes to benefit the whole city. This really is a case of ‘we are all in this together’”

Robin Townsend


Leaflets from Kent Police

Kent Police logo

Kent Police have just released new instalments in the ‘Your Guide To….’ series on Cycling Safety and Bicycle Security. The guides offer practical advice on staying safe when out and about on your bike as well as how to keep it safe and secure. The guides can be downloaded for free from the Kent Police website: www.kent.police.uk/advice/personal/your_guide/your_guide.html

Heather Williams


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Any views or information expressed herein do not necessarily concur with the views of the Committee