Cycling – What’s legal, what’s not/What’s advisable, whats not

With so many people cycling during our present health lockdown even I as a regular/daily cyclist for a few years now have been checking what cyclists legally can and can’t do on our roads. Whilst Googling around on the subject I came across this very recent Chronicle newspaper article which I thought was both well written and informative:-

www.chroniclelive.co.uk/news/north-east-news/cyclists-rules-roads-helmet-pavement-12815392

One thing some cyclists can easily forget or even deliberately disregard is that pedestrians are the most import thing on our roads, not cyclists or indeed vehicles. The other thing about some cyclists is that they don’t have bells on their bikes. How on earth are they to warn pedestrians, whom they are coming up on from behind, that they are there without a bell? I know some cyclists will think they are not cool with a bell on their bike but I can’t get my head around that rather daft excuse.

Also, because I’m a cyclist I find that non-cyclists seem to think I should be able to explain the deficiencies of other cyclists as if we are some kind of Borg Collective! (Star Trek fans will get this). Questions I’ve been asked:-

* Why don’t you cyclists use cycle lanes/tracks and keep off the road? (I do when they are available)
* Why don’t you cyclists have a bell on your bikes (I do)?
* Why don’t you cyclists carry insurance (I do), we vehicle drivers have to so you should too.
* Why don’t you stick to cycling outside of rush hours, you get in the way. (Do I really have to answer this?)

I could go on but you get my drift. Firstly, I am no more responsible for the behaviour of other cyclists than one vehicle driver is for another. Why on earth do some non-cyclists think cyclists are?

Cycle paths often end in the wrong/dangerous places as this one does.

And another thing, bad cyclists will invariably be bad drivers too. Most cyclists are also drivers of vehicles you know.

But what has really struck me in recent times is that cycling, outside of those who do it, seems to be quite unpopular. It’s as though some folks think it should be banned. In a bizarre and dangerous incident a while back a van driver overtook me just before a junction which I had signalled to turn left at. He then cut straight in front of me and turned left into the same road and slammed his brakes on. A more deliberate act of intimidation aimed at me I have never seen whilst cycling. Not only that he jumped out and told me to get off the road! I assume he wanted me to cycle illegally on the pavement (see the newspaper article linked above)? *

Yes I too get upset when I see adults riding bikes on pavements which have not been designated for cycling; it’s wrong and in my locality Merseyside or Lancashire Police should be challenging cyclists who do it. And yes I also deplore cyclists jumping red lights; they need catching a fining just like vehicle drivers who do it.**

I find cycling fun and it keeps me fit. What’s more it’s an environmentally friendly way of getting from A to B over short to medium distances. I try not to be a pain in the a**e to other road users and I hope the recent uptake in cycling will make bike riding a normal everyday thing which no longer requires explanation, apology or accusations.

* By the way does anyone have any stats from Merseyside and Lancashire for fines handed out for cycling on pavements? If you’ve read the linked article above you’ll have noted that between 2012/13 and 2017/18 only two people paid fines for cycling on pavements in the Northumbria Police area.

** Although in defence of the odd bit of pavement riding I can think of two places in my locality were cycle tracks start/end in daft/unsafe places all but forcing cyclists to use a short section of pavement.

Encouraging more walking & cycling – well I never

Walking and cycling destinations from Rimrose Valley County Park Country Park.

The BBC has the story on its website – see link below:-

www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-52592421

Quote from BBC article – ‘We need to protect the public transport network as lockdown is lifted, the UK Transport Secretary is expected to say at a press conference on Saturday.

The BBC understands Grant Shapps will encourage the public to continue to work from home if they can.

Those people who need to travel into a workplace will be urged to consider choosing more active ways to travel like walking and cycling.

The intention is to take pressure off roads and public transport networks.

It is believed that Mr Shapps will talk about using the unique “opportunity” of the lockdown restrictions to change the way we get to work.’

That folks are walking and cycling more during our present health crisis is a given and it’s clearly a big positive, along with less pollution producing traffic of course, in these difficult times. Interestingly though governments have shown little enthusiasm for promoting healthier pollution-free ways to travel over many generations other than via sound-bite token nods towards walking and cycling to try to make themselves look green.

Now, however, government is in a fix when it comes to unlocking lockdown due to buses and trains not being able to move large groups of people because of social distancing requirements. The consequence could and probably will be grid-lock on our roads as more folks turn to their polluting cars. All of a sudden Government needs a way to stop traffic jams so ‘get on your bike’ as the rather unpleasant Norman Tebbit once said although in a totally different context.

Of course for health/fitness, reducing pollution and traffic congestion reasons government is right but, and it’s a big BUT, our cycling infrastructure is poor, inadequate, crap etc. compared with many other European countries. You see more enlightened European governments have been investing in it over all those generations that UK politicians have been making but token noises and throwing the odd crumb off the table. How the chickens have come home to roost…….

A map produced to show Merseyside/Liverpool City Region cycling route aims of recent times. Many are still that aims….

My previous blog posting of January 2019, regarding quite limited plans to improve walking and cycling infrastructure on Merseyside seems to be relevant too, so here it is:-

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2019/01/11/walking-and-cycling-in-the-liverpool-city-region-lcr/

Click on the photos to enlarge them…….

‘And he drove the fastest milkcart in the west’ – and serious speeding matters too

Edie Pope’s scarecrow traffic cop on Southport Road Lydiate, which is meant to make drivers think about their speed.

Yes a line from that well known Benny Hill song. But the other day whilst on one of my solo fitness cycle rides I came across a rival to Ernie (for that was the name of the fastest milkman in the west) on Northway/A59 in Aughton.

I was just about to exit Winifred Lane when down the hill from the Ormskirk direction came a milk float doing a fair old lick. I don’t think I’ve ever seen one doing more than 15 mph and that with a following wind too. But the ‘souped up’ one I saw made me smile and that daft old song came back to mind.

Then a few days later another surprising experience with another vehicle we usually see going very slowly – a bin wagon. But this one was out at 8.30pm (never seen one out that late before) and it hurtled along Southport Road, Lydiate in a northerly direction at what must have been well above the 30mph speed limit. Indeed, it went so fast I could not read the signs upon it!

But it was not your usual Sefton Council bin wagon; much smaller and probably with a ‘Jaguar engine’ added to give Police cars a run for their money:-) Again the experience made me smile but this time grimace as well.

These two somewhat bizarre events happened with our roads being generally very quiet as a consequence of our health crisis. But sadly there is a real issue underneath as speeding in this crisis is happening everywhere and most of the time. Clear roads have given petrol heads or at least the most irresponsible of them what they think is a green light to drive at whatever speed suits them and beggar the consequences/speed limits.

Being a cyclist I notice speeding and frankly the antics are off the scale during this crisis whether it be in a ‘bin lorry’ or a car. It’s ironic that at the request of a fellow Lydiate Parish Councillor, Neil Spencer, Merseyside Police had a speed trap on Southport Road in Lydiate just before our health crisis hit. Now we have far less vehicles on this busy road but many of them have drivers with their clog firmly down to the boards. If this continues there’s bound to be a terrible accident……..

Stop Press – An as if to emphasise the point I’ve been trying to make about speeding a lady driver nearly did for me on the Ashworth Motorway junction this morning. Due to the road works around the junction the contractors temporarily sealed off the access to the cycle track around it about a week ago. This in turn forces cyclists onto the island itself and what I’ve always got my eye out for happened this morning i.e. a car from the Melling direction came hurtling around the island and found me crossing the entrance to the eastbound carriageway of the M58. But not content with having to slow down to avoid me she then blew her horn as if I had no right to be there! I was cycling around a roundabout for goodness sake, that meant I had right of way. OL she was just a bad tempered driver but if she had not been driving so fast……. Oh and by the way where are the signs warning drivers that cyclists will be in the road? If there are any I didn’t see them.

A cycle ride of contrasts – Spurriers Lane – Outlet Lane – Melling & Simonswood

I’m still cycling during our health crisis although always on my own and not stopping at cafes etc. anymore….

A lane I cycle now and again is Spurriers Lane/Outlet Lane which joins Prescot Road at the Animal Sanctuary in Melling (Merseyside) and then goes through to Simonswood Civil Parish (Lancashire) to join Simonswood Lane. It’s single track lane for its whole length but traffic is light to non-existent virtually all the time.

Sadly, and probably because of the remote nature of the lane it is often a site for fly-tipping. Sights such as this are far from unusual sadly:-

What is it about fly-tippers using their junk to block steams at the side of such lanes? They love tipping in water for some bizarre reason! As you can see this is basically domestic rubbish that simply needed taking to the nearby Sefton Meadows Recycling Centre. I despair I really do.

The lane also has what is turning out to be a near permanent flood (close to Hesketh Farm) which I have nick-named ‘Simonswood Swimming Pool’:-

I’ll give Lancashire County Council a nudge as it’s been like this for quite some time now and is clearly an obstacle for pedestrians and cyclists.

Only yards away from this flooded part of Outlet Lane there’s a sharp left turn and in the distance there are quite a few old brick built buildings which are well spaced out. I’ve often wondered what purpose they serve or used to serve:-

They clearly have flat roofs and a gander at an Ordnance Survey map shows them to geometrically spaced with connecting tracks – around 8 of them and the nearest noted building to them is Basford Farm. Just out of curiosity does anyone know what the buildings were erected for?

When I reach Simonswood Lane I usually turn left and head towards Royal Oak where there’s a crossroads with Cunscough Lane. Royal Oak is part of Bickerstaffe Civil Parish. To reach Royal Oak you have to cycle over the M58 Motorway:-

From single track road to motorway within a few yards. In fact Spurriers Lane/Outlet lane effectively parallels the Motorway. the photo is looking towards Skelmersdale.

This was just a part of my circular route from my Lydiate home through Maghull, Melling, Simonswood, Bickerstaffe & Aughton Civil Parishes – around 10+ miles to keep the old legs turning and to get a bit of fresh air in these troubled times.

Click on the photos to enlarge them although the first one is probably frightening enough without enlargement!

Liverpool’s famous cycle makers – Liverpool on Wheels exhibition

Regular readers of this blog site will know that I’m a keen cyclist, so it’s probably no surprise that I found the cycling part of the new Liverpool on Wheels exhibition in the Museum of Liverpool very interesting. Here’s my photos of cycling items on display

The comment above could easily have been written today, particularly about Lancashire and Liverpool roads!

I recall when I was a teenager I bought a Harry Quinn racing cycle second hand but whilst it was a lovely bike (and incredibly light) I went off cycling for some reason and sold it on…..

This has been my 4th posting about the excellent Liverpool on Wheels exhibition curated by NML’s Land Transport Curator Sharon Brown.

The case for free public transport and getting on with (rather than talking about) bus re-regulation

Vintage Ribble bus photoed at the West Lancs Light Railway in 2018

Very soon after I got involved in politics I attended a Liberal Party conference in Blackpool, I think it was in 1980. On the agenda was a motion for debate that was all about making public transport free to use in and around towns and cities. If memory serves David Alton, MP for Liverpool Edge Hill, was backing the motion and he must have made a powerful case because ever since I’ve held the view that free public transport (or with a nominal fare) would one day become a reality.

David Alton MP

That conference motion of 40 years ago was clearly well before its time so to speak but the reasons for it were sound then and look even more sound now as we have arrived at a Climate Emergency and are suffering air pollution problems that are quite literally killing us!

Of course the underlying reason for that 1980 debate was to try to start a process of reducing reliance on cars by making high quality public transport a viable attractive alternative particularly in urban areas. That only 2 years later the Conservatives passed the Bus Deregulation Act pushing things in totally the opposite direction is at best ironic! What’s more urban areas like Manchester and Liverpool are presently trying to find ways to re-regulate bus services because they are in crisis, but more on that later.

In rural areas, sadly, bus services are all but extinct in parts of Lancashire although that’s as much about the lack of public money to subsidise vital routes as it is a cause of the Bus Deregulation Act. Add into all this the chaos created via the privatisation of our railways, which are now widely seen as dysfunctional, and it should make politicians who created this mess (and those who have failed to get us out of it) feel very much ashamed – but of course it doesn’t.

So whilst we should have been developing high quality subsidised public transport to tackle road congestion, air pollution and accessibility to all kinds of services for those without access to cars our governments have been pushing public policy further towards reliance on cars!

Merseyrail train at Maghull North Station

But across Europe’s cities and regions there’s been experimenting with and policy changes in favour of free public transport, whilst they’ve rarely gone down the road & rail to ruin routes that the UK has chosen for itself. I think Luxembourg is the latest convert. The downside to public transport being free (other than paying for it of course) is the potential for it to have the unintended consequence of encouraging folk to do the exact opposite of what they need to do. I’m talking here of walking and cycling because if we create a system where say short walkable journeys reduce because folk get on the free public transport we’ve solved one problem but inadvertently created another with negative health consequences.

But to go back to that re-regulation issue, which I’ve heard talked about for more years than I care to mention particularly on Merseyside, is it going to be action or more taking? I ask as the Liverpool City Region Mayor has popped up recently to rehash all the old arguments in favour of re-regulation. Now don’t get me wrong I with him but I just wish he’d get on with it! No more talking Steve!!!!

310 Ribble bus in Maghull – Photo credit Arnold Richardson/Photobus

We know the bus companies and their shareholders won’t like it, that’s a given, but we need as a matter of some urgency an integrated public transport system of high quality buses and trains. What’s more we need it to deliver far less CO2 emissions (thinking of diesel powered buses in particular here)and be good enough (punctual, fast, reliable and running 7 days per week) to make us want to ditch our cars for many local journeys.

So yes re-regulate the buses, integrate them properly with the trains and start to look seriously at either free public transport or nominal ticket prices.