A random act of abuse on a beautiful day

Cycling along Acres Lane in Great Altcar yesterday was glorious; the countryside and weather were just right for peddling. However, someone had to spoil it and they achieved that by abusing a fellow cyclist all because they had been slowed down by a bike. Indeed, instead of simply safely passing the cyclist, they had to draw up alongside wind down the passenger window and take a bit more of their day to ensure they were fully understood by the cyclist, if you get my drift!

So what was it all about? Testosterone, selfishness, petrol-headedness, intimidation of a more vulnerable road user – your guess is as good as mine but one thing I have yet to see as a daily cyclist around Sefton and West Lancashire Boroughs is for such behavior to be exhibited by a female driver. Yes, abusing/intimidating cyclists is very much a male-dominated hobby in my experience.

And what you might ask was my fellow cyclist doing other than peddling along a country lane to get this chap so upset? Nothing at all, he was simply going about his lawful business, following the Highway Code and enjoying his day.

When I’m cycling pedestrians are the most vulnerable things on the road. When I’m driving pedestrians, horse riders and cyclists are the most vulnerable things on the road. It’s the mindset of drivers who think they are the most important thing on the road that’s dangerous. Powered vehicles are never the most important, except on a Motorway.

Yes, I’m fully aware that some (usually male) drivers very much disapprove of cyclists and that they think we should not be allowed on our roads. I’ve even had one barmy driver tell me to get onto the pavement, which of course is telling me to do something which is illegal (although rarely enforced)!

Photo from Cycling UK showing the likely chage to the Highway Code for passing a cyclist.

Cycling UK, of which I’m a member, recently told me that many UK police forces had taken part in a campaign (#OperationClosePass Day) to tackle close-passing of cyclists. This practice is sadly a regular thing you get used to but it’s dangerous and often caused by poor driving or even done deliberately to intimidate cyclists. The Highway Code presently says a driver should leave as much room as possible when passing a cyclist but that is soon to be changed to a more specific distance to leave beween a cyclist and a passing/overtaking vehicle. I raise this aspect now of course because close-passing of cyclists is very much related to the kind of driver behaviour which I observed yesterday.

I’ve asked both Lanashire Police & Merseyside Police to publish information about how they participated in the safety campaign but have yet to hear back from either Force. The idea, as I understand it, was to send out coppers on cycles, dressed in plain clothes/cycling gear, so that they could identify bad/dangerous drivers who were not observing a safe passing distance when overtaking. I’ll let you know what I get back from Lancs & Merseyside Police.

Virually all cyclists are drivers too but many drivers are not cyclists. Cycling is getting more and more popular for fitness and environmental reasons so the conflict bewtteen cyclists going about their lawful riding with drivers who want them off our roads is only going to become a bigger issue. The police really need to tackle dangerous and intimidatory driving that’s why initiatives like #OperationClosePass Day are so important.

Cycling and crossing Maghull’s ‘Berlin Wall’

The new (ish) cyclist unfriendly Alt Junction in Maghull

Maghull is very flat so you’d expect it to be perfect to cycle around and yet the busy A59/Northway cuts Maghull in half. I’ve always said it’s akin to the Town’s own Berlin Wall when it comes to cycling and even to some extent walking. I have of course blogged about this matter many times before and called upon Sefton Council to improve the lot of cyclists wanting to cross and cycle safely along Maghull’s great divide. Here’s a link to a previous posting of mine on this matter:-

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2020/09/03/maghull-lydiates-berlin-wall-the-bible-of-cycling-infrastructure/

I was and for that matter still am unimpressed with the new(ish) Alt junction as, in my opinion, it’s not cyclist-friendly. Expecting cyclists to dismount and then follow the same circuitous route that pedestrians have been landed with at this junction is not encouraging folks to leave their cars behind, in fact, it probably has just the opposite effect!

So, why do I return to this subject now? Well, improvements are afoot as shared-space cycle/pedestrian routes are being constructed on either side of the A59 between the Town Hall/Hall Lane and Damfield Lane junctions. The Damfield Lane/A59 junction, which has a poor accident record, is also being turned into a traffic-lighted one.

So the lot of cyclists is being improved although clearly, an A59 safe cycle route needs to pass through all of Maghull and indeed Lydiate to reach the cycle tracks along the A59 to the north of Robins Island in West Lancs. But don’t be churlish Robertson progress is being made which should be welcomed, and I do indeed welcome the progress.

Here are some shots of the work presently being undertaken at Damfield Lane and along the A59 to the Hall Lane junction:-

Looking towards the Town Hall/Hall Lane junction with the new and widened shared space path.

Elevated view of new Damfield Lane junction layout.

Damfield Lane junction looking north

It will be interesting to see how cyclist-friendly the Damfield Lane junction is when works are completed because from my perspective cyclists should not have to dismount to travel through a junction as seems to be the highway engineer’s want at the Alt junction. Junctions should be designed so that cyclists can go through them safely whilst pedalling not via having to walk.

I’m sure there’ll be much more to comment on as our presently very limited local cycling network is painfully slowly expanded.

Lydiate – Tyson’s Triangle to be built on

Tyson’s Triangle – March 2021

It must have been back in the 1980s that the triangle of farmland bounded by Liverpool Road, Kenyons Lane and the A59 (Northway) in Lydiate became known as Tyson’s* Triangle, indeed I seem to recall there was an advertising hoarding up for a while in that company’s name which led directly to it being dubbed Tyson’s Triangle.

And now to bring this all up to date. Not so long ago Sefton Borough Council published its Local Plan which defined land use across Sefton for around the next 15 years or so. This plan replaced what was previously know as a Unitary Development Plan. The major changes with regard to the new plan were that various sites across the Borough were taken out of Green Belt and in effect opened up to development/building. Tyson’s Triangle is one such site.

Readers of this blog site will know that I worked to oppose the emerging Sefton Local Plan during my latter years as a Sefton Councillor (I ceased to be a Sefton Borough councillor back in 2015) for Lydiate but that in the end I and the other environmental campaigners whom I worked with lost that fight.

And I mention this all now why? Well, moves are clearly afoot to press on with the building of 300+ dwellings on the land with a draft site plan of the proposals being made available to Lydiate Parish Councillors this week.

I’ve got past the raw anger I once felt at high-grade agricultural land (which much of the former Green Belt to be built on has been) being sacrificed for building but still feel that both government and council have failed to value some of the best food-growing land in England.

So built upon this site will be no matter what I or anyone else thinks; the die has sadly been cast. The only arguments now are about the site layout, the access roads to it, flooding mitigation etc. etc.

OK, I’m still angry really it’s just not as raw!

* I’m guessing that Tysons were possibly the first developers to have an option on this site should Sefton Council take the land out of Green Belt but if I’m wrong please shout out.

‘Melling through the Ages’ book review

I was delighted to see that Melling resident Carol Fitzgerald has written a comprehensive book on the history of Melling so purchased a copy direct from her. I was not to be disappointed, this book is an excellent read.

My connections with Melling are that I have lived in neighbouring Maghull and now Lydiate for 52 years, I represented Melling Civil Parish as a Sefton Borough Councillor from 1999 to 2011, my Dad was once given a cabbage (I kid you not) for playing the organ at the church of St. Thomas’ on Melling Rock by local farmer Mrs Roby and I regularly cycle the country lanes through the rural parts of it.

My first thoughts on starting to read the book were – it does not have an ISBN number or a date of publication. I’d not seen that before with such a significant publication but then it dawned on me that it’s a self-publication*. I think it was published in 2020 but stand to be corrected.

What I like about reading through a local history book is that you get to know the meaning of words you know well but have never actually known the meaning of. A case in point is ‘Cunscough’ as in Cunscough Lane, Melling. I now know it comes from Old Norse and means ‘Kings Wood’. And what about the ‘Woodend’ area of Maghull? Well it seems that it was quite literally the end of a forest that stretched from Waddicar to Wood End Maghull as detailed in the Doomsday Book.

Considering the modern-day flooding issues which the East Parishes area of Sefton Borough suffers from the historic references to the draining of the waters of Hengarther Lake and the ditches dug to drain the area into what was then the tidal River Alt (at the direction of the monks of Cockersands) some 800 years ago are interesting. Clearly, the rich arable farmland for which our parts of both Sefton and West Lancashire are famous hark back to such works but it also shows how such interventions (and the more modern works) have not really solved the flooding which was once a natural occurrence.

Melling Rock is the highest natural point in Sefton Borough and that fits uncomfortably well with the previous references to flooding.

There’s an interesting reference to the Tatlock Charity dating back many years to a John Tatlock born in 1653 and which still pays out today. Then there’s the Formby charitable work associated with the Industrial Revolution and the destitution it caused in Melling leading to Poor Relief administered by the Church. The Rev. Miles Formby being the Vicar 1829-1849.

Melling Tithebarn known these days for being a social, artistic and meeting venue was originally built to house the ‘tithe’ which was due to the Rector of Halsall who also collected such tithes from Lydiate, Halsall, Downholland etc.

There’s quite a bit about the development of farming across Melling and a connected modern day project to find evidence for occupation of a possible medieval moated site on the land around Wood Hall Farm which dates from around 1642. I recall having the opportunity to visit that farm, run by Christine and Henry Glover, during my time as a Sefton Cllr for Melling. Great buildings and lovely folk I might add.

I could go on but I hope you get my drift; this is a very significant piece of historical work which covers all aspects of Melling over hundreds of years. I thoroughly recommend it to anyone interested in this historic community.

If you want to obtain a copy (£10) you can e-mail Carol Fitxgerald – cf83230@gmail.com

*Note: This is a self-published book which is printed in batches of 20’s or more, so Carol asks people to pre pay.

Fly-Tipping!

The BBC has the article on its website, see link below:-

www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-56128314

A subject I’ve blogged about many times before and one that completely exasperates me as the country lanes which I cycle are always having rubbish dumped alongside them. Only last week I found Spurriers Lane/Outlet Lane (Melling/Simonswoood- Merseyside/West lancs) in its depressingly usual state, a state it seems to have been in for more years than I care to recall. And yet the regular fly-tippers don’t ever seem to be brought to book for their acts of environmental ruination, or so it seems to me anyway.

I recall trying to get covert surveillance done of notorious fly-tipping locations back when I was a Sefton Borough councillor but there was always a reason why it could not/would not be done, yet the councils spend huge amounts of money clearing dumped rubbish up. Surely some of that money spent actively trying to catch the fly-tippers and following that through to the publicity that could flow from court cases would help to deter others?

A local authority in Norfolk seems to have taken up covert surveillance successfully (see link below), how about Sefton and Lancashire having a go?:-

www.north-norfolk.gov.uk/news/covert-surveillance-helps-secure-fly-tipping-prosecution/

Port of Liverpool access road goes on back burner?

Rimrose Valley Country Park.

Place North West has the article on its website – see link below:-

www.placenorthwest.co.uk/news/delays-in-store-for-port-of-liverpool-link-road/

But of course there’s the paralel issue of government under pressure over its climate change busting £27b road building programme which is being seriously challenged in the courts by the likes of Transport Action Network:-

tan.creationtest.co.uk/campaign/legal-action/

So there’s a possibility here that the time being lost to delays could be used to further the environmental campaigns to save Rimrose Valley from having a road bulldozed through it. Having said that Highways England*, which is in my view not sufficiently regulated by a powerful independent regulator, could simply be told to keep the new road project going by the Secretary of State for Transport, its ultimate boss.

My thanks to Bob Robinson for the lead to this posting

* Highways England is a private company limited by shares, wholly owned by the Secretary of State for Transport. The Highways England Board is the primary governance arm of the company and is accountable to the Secretary of State for Transport.

Rimrose Valley Country Park in the foreground and the Port cranes in the background.