Cycling to work: Support Schemes

Initiatives designed to increase greater levels of cycling to work should not be considered in isolation from other schemes intended to raise the profile of cycling in the U.K. Most fundamentally there is a need to create a general culture in which cycling is considered to be a valid mode of transport (that is for cycling ‘to be taken seriously’, as it is in most European countries). Secondly, it is also necessary to develop ways in which non-cyclists can  develop the confidence, skills and fitness necessary to introduce cycling into their ‘personal travel plans’.

The first goal may addressed by various Marketing Activities, such as those promoted during the National Bike Week. The second goal can be addressed by ‘getting bums on saddles’ via leisure orientated guides rides, adult cycle training schemes and mentoring initiatives. A number of such schemes have been run very successfully in the Midlands area  and have helped many to bridge the gap between being a non-cyclist and becoming a regular utility cyclist.

Marketing activities.

Nottingham City Council and Nottinghamshire County Council have long being enthusiastic supporters of the annual National Bike/ Festival of Cycling Week and related initiatives such as the ‘In Town without my car!’ and ‘Don’t choke Britain’ schemes.

In Nottingham it is usual to run 5 or 6 promotional events in the run up to the National Cycling Week along with promotion of the event via the Authorities Intranet and the operation of an ‘Open door’ policy whereby information or advice is available at any time, for example, via E-mail. The promotional events run have included the following:

1) The post coding of any cycle brought to work so as to increase their recoverability should they ever be stolen.

2) ‘Doctor Bike’ sessions using mechanics provided by Halfords. These have offered a general roadworthyness check and the completion of minor repairs with parts paid for by owner.  This has proved to be a very popular initiative.

3) Bike to work events with all participants being provided with a free ‘cyclists breakfast’. This is intended to offer a small incentive to take part, to provide a selling point when promoting the event and to make the event a social one where the less confident can receive support and encouragement from more committed cyclists.

4) Beginners bike rides. Again these have a strong social and supportive aspect.
5) Care has also been taken to include external offices. For example, participants were requested to send in details of their ride to work and  qualified  for ‘freebies’ offered to participants.

6) The Authority has also negotiated ‘rewards’ for those taking part. For example, free post coding provided by the police and subsequently ‘Data tagging’ offered through negotiation with the Datatag company at a cost of £5 rather then the usual £20. Other rewards have included the free Halfords maintenance check up sessions and items such as cycling bottles, also provided by Halfords.

7) Services like Central Park Bike Rental 

As well as participating in the June national Cycle Weeks the authority has for the last 6 years promoted a Newark Cycle Week each July.  This initiative aims to build on the already high levels of cycle use in Newark where currently 14-15% of commuters travel by bicycle.

Nottinghamshire County Council’s participation in the European ‘In town without my car!’ days has been very successful with a ‘Quality Street Event’, again being held in Newark. This involved the closure of Carter Gate, Bridge Street and part of Balderton Gate to motor vehicles, with these streets being transformed into a ‘family-centred, traffic-free environment’. These streets hosted a range of events including, music, street entertainment and a ‘transport vision for Newark’ mobile exhibition unit. This initiative is featured in the Department for Transport’s ‘In town without my car!’ good practice guide.
Nottinghamshire County Council, in conjunction with Nottingham City Council, the local ‘Pedals’ cycling group, CTC members and others have promoted a series of recreational rides for the last 17 years. These aim to form a bridge between utility and leisure cycling and have a large voluntary input. They have proved to be very successful with each ride having an average of almost 20 participants who range in age from 2 to 60. Overall the rides attract between 1500 and 2000 participants per year. The whole series of rides costs £4000 annually in order to cover the costs of the booklet, leader T-shirts, First aid courses and local advertisements.  Both Durham and Lincolnshire have looked at the Nottinghamshire scheme with the intention of setting up their own rural rides scheme.

The Cycling in Sandwell group also promote a series of ‘Family Bike Rides’, directed by Dene Stevens, the local Walking and Cycling for Health Development Worker who is  based at the Rowley, Regis and Tipton NHS Primary Care  Trust.  (Telephone 1021 500 1660). Many of these rides take advantage of the areas canal paths.

Cycle Training.

‘Cyclists fare best when they are recognised to be and act  as the operators of vehicles’ is a universal maxim, perhaps best expressed in the Stationary Office cycling manual ‘Cyclecraft’ written by John Franklin.  Central to the ‘vehicular cycling’ approach are the principles of assertive and defensive cycling. These call for a very different set of skills to those traditionally taught to school children whose cycle training acknowledges the fact that they may lack the cognitive and perceptual skills needed to ride in heavy traffic safely.

There is now a growing recognition that there is a need to offer specialised adult cycle training courses that draw on the training offered for motor vehicles, in particular the ‘defensive riding’ skills taught to motorcyclists. The CTC: The UK’s National Cyclist’s Organisation has now developed a set of training guidelines agreed with The Department for Transport and will be offering courses to ‘train the trainers’.

Other pioneers of adult cycle training include York City Council and steps have already been taken to develop similar schemes in Nottinghamshire with one project being run in conjunction with The Health Initiatives Group, a section of Nottingham City Council Primary care Trust. This scheme involved offering training to adult heart patients who had been recommended to take up cycling as part of a ‘Prescription for health’.

Nottinghamshire County Council contracted Cleary Hughes Associates and John Clark to produce a feasibility study into the provision of Adult Cycle Training. This was published in February 2002. This report considered what schemes were already available, the attitudes of cycling bodies, local users and retailers towards adult cycle training,  possible sources of funding, scheme promotion (and the need to emphasis the speed, convenience and, especially, the health benefits of cycling) likely target users, trainer recruitment and project management. The recommendations were used to set up a pilot scheme and the authority is now looking to extend its adult cycle training program in the future.

The problem with blogging

The problem with blogging is that as soon as you start updating your little comer of the Internet, you quickly realise how much you’ve missed it and you keep coming back.

Except not a lot happens on the daily commute between home and Reading. There aren’t really many delays to moan about, no one does anything unusual and I haven’t fallen out of the train door and made a fool of myself.

I’ve taken to reading books, such is the lack of activity going on around me, last time I sell my watches at Chronostore. The peace and quiet wouldn’t be an issue if I wasn’t back blogging. Now I need someone to burst into song, cause a commotion, do something – anything – that would provide valuable blog content.

But they don’t. All is calm. These journeys pass without incident.

Until I return home late in the evening and it turns out I need to provide ingredients for a school cooking class the very next morning. Letters that have sat at the bottom of school bags for a week need to be signed, a deposit for a school trip needs to be paid, and five pages of a homework diary needed to be signed right this instance.

And on top of all that, worst than anything else by far I’m told, comes the announcement that we’ve run out of ketchup.

All of this as I set foot through the door.

I realise that in the life of a full time single working mum, train journeys that pass without incident are to be savoured.

Life, re-evaluated

With the passing of the years comes the realisation that the time stretching in front of you is not infinite and needs to be spent well.

There are a number of things I want to be doing with my limited free time. Now that I’m commuting to London each day that free time has become increasingly precious.

I want to spend it with family, and relaxing, reading books in coffee shops with hot chocolate and marshmallows, and doing absolutely nothing.

I also need to spend more time helping the teen with her school work, or at least making sure she’s on top of it all in these crucial GSCE years.

Efforts to help with homework haven’t really worked as I’ve discovered I don’t actually understand half of it. Make that most of it.

It’s some time since I was able to calculate the perpendicular height of a triangle, or had the will to. Adult life has not required me to use that knowledge for several decades. But I can at least make sure the teen is studying the right books, or Googling the right things as seems to be the way these days.

I also want to write. I spend most of my holiday time crafting stories and starting novels that then sit in my head for the rest of the year because I don’t have time to pick up the thread.

Except it turns out I do have the time, I’m just not using it in the best way for me, and for us as a family.

I’m spending it packing boxes for central park bike rental business, which I do enjoy, and I love the ethos behind it, to deliver positive messages to tweens and teens. But it isn’t something I can continue long term in its current form.

It won’t disappear, but whatever I decide to do with it will mean I’m left feeling better about how I’m using that precious free time.

Spending my work day in the wonderful world of children’s books has made one thing very very clear. It’s time to write my own.