Sustrans gripe

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Sares
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Re: Sustrans gripe

Postby Sares » 9 Jun 2009, 6:40pm

I think Sustrans off-routes are useful, on the whole. They give people who are not comfortable on-road (these days, that's a lot of people) the chance to cycle, legally. Most people on this forum have gotten beyond that point, and so naturally, we mostly do stick to the roads. But, I believe this is mostly because on the roads you have a fair share of priority. You get there faster on roads, most of the time. Off-road, you have to give priority to cars at all crossings. But, you can also wait if you're not confident to be out in front of the cars.

The roundabout treatment is an attempt to solve a pretty difficult problem. They haven't succeeded, obviously, but roundabouts actually are one of the more hazardous places to cycle. I'm sure we've all had drivers not give way to us on roundabouts where they should because they didn't see or didn't care. If you stay off it, it takes 10 times as long, but you have full control over when you cross (and cross, and cross et cetera). Roundabouts are good for cars, they are not good for cyclists. Wherever the system has been designed, it has been done for motor vehicles, for the last 50 years! How can we expect one charity to come along and get it perfect?

The off-road routes aren't safer than being on the road, overall, but if they are safe enough, and encourage people to get out on bikes, then they are a good thing in my eyes. New users will graduate to the roads eventually.

thirdcrank
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Re: Sustrans gripe

Postby thirdcrank » 9 Jun 2009, 7:24pm

Sares wrote: ... New users will graduate to the roads eventually.


I hope you are right, but I fear it is no more than wishful thinking. I cannot see any reason at all to suppose that children brought up to think that cycling means travelling in a car to the Marmoset Trail and riding a couple of miles will miraculously graduate to the general road network.

Riding on leisure trails is perfectly OK if that's what people want, in just the same way that riding exercise bikes in the gym is OK. Good exercise, minimum danger from traffic. But if the aim is to get a change of transport mode from car to bike then they are both quite irrelevant IMO. The point I have tried to make is that the presence of this scattered hotch-potch of provision has allowed the authorities to avoid any thought of making the general road network less hostile for vulnerable road users. This isn't just cyclists - it has just begun to dawn on the dolts at the Ministry of Transport that 'the safest roads in Europe' are actually the roads where careful parents do not let their children out unsupervised.

(It seems to me that a lot of the comments people make on the lines that Sustrans cannot be expected to do this that or the other prove the point I am trying to make. Motorways, trunk roads and all the rest of it are not run as charities with volunteer rangers keeping an eye out for problems. Ditto the provision for cyclists in countries which take cycling seriously. Of course Sustrans cannot be expected to make adequate national provision for cyclists - and I was not one of the arrogant bunch who claimed they could.)

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Edited to add. Bearing in mind that Sustrans has now been going some time, and the Millennium - when the NCN was launched is almost a decade gone, quite a lot of children have grown up during that time, can anybody point to evidence of a switch of travel mode from car to bike as a result? It's been suggested on here before (SimonL6 I think) that any change of that type has been concentrated in cities, particularly London, and has been a result of things like congestion charging, congestion itself, i.e. the growing impracticabilty of getting about in cities by car. (I'm not asking if there has been an increase in cycling on the Platypus Trail, or even if there has been an increase in the use of exercise bikes in gyms.)

Sares
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Re: Sustrans gripe

Postby Sares » 9 Jun 2009, 9:21pm

Sustrans collects a lot of data on their routes, and although I can't remember what the figures are as I saw them a few months ago, use has increased (IIRC) every year since 2000, and the proportion of trips that replace trips that would otherwise be made by car is substantial. So they are attracting users who are going somewhere.

Like you say, thirdcrank, joined up thinking from the DfT would be better. But they haven't managed that on any mode at all, so it's not solely Sustrans giving them an excuse.

I do think new users will graduate to roads if they are trying to go places, because roads are quicker. But everyone has to start somewhere, and people won't even have the idea they could get somewhere until they can ride a bike comfortably. It seems unreasonable to throw people in at the deep end on some of the roads we have round here.

thirdcrank
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Re: Sustrans gripe

Postby thirdcrank » 9 Jun 2009, 9:36pm

We could go on like this forever. Do Sustrans collate any info on the amount of increased driving which occurs directly as a result of people taking their bikes to Sustrans routes in or on cars? Judging by the parking in the vicinity of some of the access points it could be considerable. Presumably if all the users are cycling there, they feel OK on the roads anyway.

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hubgearfreak
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Re: Sustrans gripe

Postby hubgearfreak » 9 Jun 2009, 9:36pm

Sares wrote: It seems unreasonable to throw people in at the deep end on some of the roads we have round here.


i'd agree, with the current attitude of 10% of motorists.

but it's not unreasonable to expect the law to catch and punish these motorists, and then for us all to be able to get about safely on the clean and direct roads that we all pay for and not to be stuck on the NCN.
The C of which means un-panniered 2 wheeled 28+mm tyred solo cycles. you can forget it altogether if you've got a trike, a recumbent, a tandem, big panniers, a trailerbike, a bike trailer, pedal-sofa, ice cream vending unit & etc..

nigel_s
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Re: Sustrans gripe

Postby nigel_s » 9 Jun 2009, 9:56pm

Sares wrote: New users will graduate to the roads eventually.

Correct!

I'm one of them. But that was over ten years ago.

I currently help out on a local cycling scheme (Somer Valley Wheels) which is primarily aimed to get older people back cycling. We have a pretty fair local ex-railway cyclepath network (The Colliers Way) and we start people off by using the cycle route. It doesn't take long for them to get their confidence back and even though virtually all of the new starters are vehemently opposed to going on the road to begin with they soon get bored with the path. It's then that we introduce them to the local country lanes. After that they are away...

We're talking here about mainly the 55-75 age group who haven't ridden a bike since their teen years, if at all.

Sares' statement is essentially correct. I and the Somer Valley Wheels clients can't be unique, can we?

So, in certain circumstances, off highway cycle routes do have their uses.

Having said that, I agree that most of what Sustrans and highway authorities call cycling facilities are indeed, by and large, pretty low standard, and largely unmaintained low standard, too.

High quality Copenhagen style cycle facilities in UK are a very long way off and in my view unlikely ever to happen here within our lifetimes.

thirdcrank
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Re: Sustrans gripe

Postby thirdcrank » 9 Jun 2009, 10:53pm

nigel_s

Another post essentially saying it's better than nothing.

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Swizz69
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Re: Sustrans gripe

Postby Swizz69 » 9 Jun 2009, 11:20pm

High quality Copenhagen style cycle facilities in UK are a very long way off and in my view unlikely ever to happen here within our lifetimes.


Without having a dig at what Sustrans are aiming for - are there enough cyclists demanding it? With the advanced state of development over here of cities/suburbs/towns/villages since the age of the private car, is it not more realistic to aim for more equality on the roads rather than expect something that is pretty unachievable in the main.

Not knocking a lot of sustrans does. I like the converted railway lines up to a point. The common thread on here though is of many NCN routes adding miles to a journey unnecessarily. These routes don't seem to be of much value to most cyclists day to day in the real world - even to tourists if being sent on a pointless detour. I can see the value to tourist routes, like the Trans Pennine Trail for example, but if Sustrans concentrated on fulfilling that role solely then maybe a better job would be made - rather than trying to tick every box and being criticised from all angles as they are now.

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Si
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Re: Sustrans gripe

Postby Si » 10 Jun 2009, 10:15am

My 2p worth....Seems to me that sustrans get a lot of flack for two reasons:

1/ the comments that the tracks don't go anywhere useful/track run through unscenic areas. This normally boils down to commuters who want a direct route between areas of housing and areas of work, and tourists/leisure riders who want somewhere nice to ride. So, maybe if sustrans were to designate their tracks as commuter/utility tracks or leisure/scenic tracks then the complaints would be reduced. It would stop the idea that they are trying to sell the tracks as all things to all people.

2/ the state of the tracks: Some are great - you can happily ride a narrow tyred road bike down them, whilst others, well an MTB would be more apt. Perhaps sustrans could grade the tracks accordingly so that everyone knows what they are likely to meet before setting out, and again, it would reduce the claims that the tracks are unfit for purpose if the purpose was made more specific to start with.

nigel_s
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Re: Sustrans gripe

Postby nigel_s » 10 Jun 2009, 12:20pm

thirdcrank wrote:nigel_s

Another post essentially saying it's better than nothing.


Yes.

Sares
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Re: Sustrans gripe

Postby Sares » 10 Jun 2009, 12:25pm

hubgearfreak wrote:
Sares wrote: It seems unreasonable to throw people in at the deep end on some of the roads we have round here.


i'd agree, with the current attitude of 10% of motorists.

but it's not unreasonable to expect the law to catch and punish these motorists, and then for us all to be able to get about safely on the clean and direct roads that we all pay for and not to be stuck on the NCN.
The C of which means un-panniered 2 wheeled 28+mm tyred solo cycles. you can forget it altogether if you've got a trike, a recumbent, a tandem, big panniers, a trailerbike, a bike trailer, pedal-sofa, ice cream vending unit & etc..


And, I didn't even mean the drivers with an attitude problem. I just meant the stress of being passed ever few seconds by someone driving at 60-70 mph, no matter how responsibly. To get to work for me, it's impossible to avoid roads like these unless I take a 6 mile route when it is only 3 miles to work. How's that for a detour?

Unfortunately many routes do exclude ice-cream vending units (alas), but it's not Sustrans who want that. Their policy is to get rid of barriers wherever possible, but landowners and councils insist.

It's reasonable that the police should catch and prosecute these motorists (for the safety of everyone!) but they don't, on the whole. At least Sustrans are making an effort now. If we wait for what we really want we may never get anything.

thirdcrank wrote:... Do Sustrans collate any info on the amount of increased driving which occurs directly as a result of people taking their bikes to Sustrans routes in or on cars? ...
I don't know, but a lot of their off-road routes (bearing in mind that 2/3 of their routes are on road) are through places no one would drive to see, for example, canal towpath through centre of Nuneaton, route from outskirts to centre of Birmingham. Most trips on these routes will be people who live nearby.

nigel_s
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Re: Sustrans gripe

Postby nigel_s » 10 Jun 2009, 1:00pm

Swizz69 wrote:
High quality Copenhagen style cycle facilities in UK are a very long way off and in my view unlikely ever to happen here within our lifetimes.


.. are there enough cyclists demanding it? ...


I don't think that Danish or Dutch cyclists demanded their cycling facilities. They had the same urban traffic issues as us back in the 1970s. As I understand it it's simply that their local authorities recognised cycling as a solution and implemented it. Whereas in UK most cyclists seem to be enthusiasts, over there people ride bikes because they can. Bikes seem to be no more important to them than a decent pair of shoes. In my view, that's the way it should be.

I don't know why they had to foresight and vision to do what they did and we didn't. Maybe it's because they didn't have much of a car manufacturing industry then and we did; therefore we had a more active and aggressive road lobby. Who knows.

fatboy
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Re: Sustrans gripe

Postby fatboy » 10 Jun 2009, 1:07pm

nigel_s wrote:I don't think that Danish or Dutch cyclists demanded their cycling facilities. They had the same urban traffic issues as us back in the 1970s. As I understand it it's simply that their local authorities recognised cycling as a solution and implemented it. Whereas in UK most cyclists seem to be enthusiasts, over there people ride bikes because they can. Bikes seem to be no more important to them than a decent pair of shoes. In my view, that's the way it should be.

I don't know why they had to foresight and vision to do what they did and we didn't. Maybe it's because they didn't have much of a car manufacturing industry then and we did; therefore we had a more active and aggressive road lobby. Who knows.


I remember going on a school choir trip to Holland in the 70s/80s and the pastor of the local church arrived and left by bike. We all pretty much thought this ludicrous/quaint/excentric/unfortunate etc. Not one thought it good. We, in the UK, have an attitude that the car is king and "progress", whatever that means, and it's going to take decades before that view changes, if ever.

Si wrote:My 2p worth....Seems to me that sustrans get a lot of flack for two reasons:

1/ the comments that the tracks don't go anywhere useful/track run through unscenic areas. This normally boils down to commuters who want a direct route between areas of housing and areas of work, and tourists/leisure riders who want somewhere nice to ride. So, maybe if sustrans were to designate their tracks as commuter/utility tracks or leisure/scenic tracks then the complaints would be reduced. It would stop the idea that they are trying to sell the tracks as all things to all people.

2/ the state of the tracks: Some are great - you can happily ride a narrow tyred road bike down them, whilst others, well an MTB would be more apt. Perhaps sustrans could grade the tracks accordingly so that everyone knows what they are likely to meet before setting out, and again, it would reduce the claims that the tracks are unfit for purpose if the purpose was made more specific to start with.


I think that your suggestion has a lot of merit. Their maps may tell you this but you want to know without having to buy lots of maps.
"Marriage is a wonderful invention; but then again so is the bicycle puncture repair kit." - Billy Connolly

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Si
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Re: Sustrans gripe

Postby Si » 10 Jun 2009, 1:55pm

Their maps may tell you this but you want to know without having to buy lots of maps


I think the maps only say if it is main road, quiet road or traffic free, I've not noticed any reference to the surface quality of the trafic free bits.

rapidfire72
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Re: Sustrans gripe

Postby rapidfire72 » 10 Jun 2009, 1:55pm

I work for a well known company and the attitude towards the cyclist is improving more and more over the past 10 years, better facilties for the colleague, secure bike shed. Moreso, more and more colleagues are now cycling to work, if only in fair weather. There is a good cycle scheme going on, infact the company is raising money for bike awareness week . This would of never happens 10 years ago, so it's a good sign of the times, though we have a long way to go.