Monday, 23 May 2016

Bikes on Trains (2)

Following on from our last article on the cycle policies of the Great Western and London Midland railways here’s a couple of suggestions for using their trains to explore quiet country lanes further away from Worcester.

Worcester to Oxford

The Cotswold Line Cycle Route (NCN 442) is the latest local addition to the 15,000 mile long National Cycle Network being developed by the national cycle charity Sustrans .

It’s a 75 mile route between Worcester and Oxford that roughly follows the main Worcester to London Paddington line operated by Great Western Railway.

Apart from a 6 mile stretch between Evesham and Honeybourne the route is already fully signed. It passes close to every railway station between Worcester and Oxford. The latter makes it an ideal route for combining a bike and train journey to cover the whole route over a couple of days or for completing sections over a few months.

Full details and downloadable maps are available from the Cotswold Cycling website

Worcester to Droitwich

Sustrans also have two signed routes between Worcester and Droitwich. NCN 45 heads north along the Worcester & Birmingham Canal and then uses quiet lanes into Droitwich. NCN 46 takes a more westerly route through the racecourse and Claines.

You may want to join the two to form a 16 mile round trip, but if that’s too far you can use London Midland trains from (or back to) Foregate or Shrub Hill stations to create two great one way cycle routes, both about 8 miles long.

Worcestershire County Council has produced excellent maps of the first 20 miles of the Cotswold Line Route between Worcester and Evesham and the two routes between Worcester and Droitwich. Free printed copies are available at County Hall and may be available in local Tourist Information Centres and some of the independent cycle shops.

Along with the County’s increasing range of cycle maps they’re also available to download from the cycling section of their website  

Before travelling its important to check out the rail operators cycling policy. Either pick up a leaflet or ask at your local station or check out online at or

Monday, 18 April 2016

Bikes on Trains

Using a bicycle and train combination can offer a healthier, more pleasant and often cheaper and quicker way of getting to work or for leisure and holiday purposes.

Unfortunately each rail operator has different policies. To avoid potential problems pick up a copy of the latest ‘National Rail Cycling by Train’ leaflet from the station. Its also available to read and download at 

What prompted this article is the announcement that Great Western Railway is about to change its cycle policy.

Great Western Railway

From 16 May it will be mandatory to make a reservation on all their High Speed trains. Locally this means their faster trains operating on the London Paddington to Hereford route. You’ll need to make your reservation at least 2 hours before either by phoning 0345 7000 125 between 7am and 10pm or at a station ticket office.

Storage for six bikes will be in Carriage A where you’ll need to secure your bike with the strap provided, but not lock it. You’re also advised to tell the train manager your destination.

On their local trains there’s only space for 2 bikes and reservations can’t be made.  No bikes will be allowed on trains arriving at London Paddington Monday to Friday between 07.45 and 09.45 and departing 16.30 and 19.00.

London Midland

London Midland is the other main operator of trains through Worcester with services from Hereford to Birmingham and onward to Liverpool and London Euston.

Their policy is less complicated, but you can’t book a space in advance.  They accept two bikes on each train and if the train is quiet the Conductor may allow more.  The exception is services arriving in London Euston between 07.00 and 09.59 and departing from London Euston between 16.00 and 18.59 when no bikes are allowed.

The good news is that its free to take a bike on any train on the national network. There’s also no need to book and no restrictions on taking a fully folding bike such as a Bromptom.

Thursday, 31 March 2016

The Big Pedal

By the time children leave Worcestershire’s Primary Schools the latest statistics show that 30.5% are overweight (with 17.9% being obese). A healthy diet is obviously important, but a more active lifestyle is also critical if the health of the next generation isn’t going to worse than the last.

Experts say, to stay fit, children need at least an hour of moderately physical exercise a day. Cycling to school is a great way to help ensure this happens. In surveys a third of children say they’d like to, yet only 2% do.

The Big Pedal is a UK-wide inter-school cycling and scooting challenge that inspires pupils, staff and parents to choose two wheels for their journey to school.

Powered by Sustrans and funded by the Bike Hub, the 2016 challenge will run from 18 to 29 April and is open to individual classes as well as whole schools.

On each day of the challenge schools compete to see who can record the greatest number of pupils, staff and parents cycling or scooting to school. A school’s best five days will determine their final position, but they can log journeys on all ten days if they wish.

For schools unable to take part in the main challenge there’s also a one-day version, which can include cycling and scooting activities in the school day as well as on the journey to school.

To celebrate the finale of the challenge there is also the option to join a superhero fundraising day.
All schools will be entered into daily prize draws for rewards including bike and scooter stunt shows, equipment and storage if over 15% of your school cycle or scoot on each day of the challenge.

If you’re a pupil, parent teacher or governor and keen to encourage your school to take part, full information and resources for promoting the Big Pedal are available at

Thursday, 24 March 2016

Cycling's dangerous. Isn't it?

Cycling is perceived to be exceptionally dangerous. It's the single biggest factor stopping people from getting on their bikes. The reality? The risks are a lot less than you think. Here’s a few facts.
  • On average, one cyclist is killed per 27.7 million miles cycled (more than 1,000 times around the world).
  • Per mile travelled on our roads, you’re as likely to be killed walking.
  • The general risk of injury is 0.05 injuries per 1,000 hours of cycling.
  • Per hour of activity, you’re more likely to be injured playing tennis or gardening.

There’s also lots of ways to further reduce your personal risk.  A lot of injuries can be avoided altogether by having a decent, well-maintained bike that stops effectively. Choosing safer routes, adopting a better road position, regulating your speed to road conditions and generally improving your cycle skills can significantly reduce your chances of injury.

Just by starting to cycle you’ll be helping reducing average risks. There’s a ‘safety in numbers’ effect. As cycling increases, motorists get more used to sharing the road safely. They’re also more likely to cycle themselves and understand the needs of cyclists.

Importantly, cycling helps keep you fit. Its one of the least time-consuming, most cost-effective and pleasurable ways of ensuring you get the recommended minimum of 30 minutes of exercise five times a week to stay healthy.

  • Adults who cycle regularly have a fitness level equivalent to someone 10 years younger.
  • Their average life expectancy is two years longer.
  • Together with a healthy diet, its a great way to help control your weight.
  • Cycling helps reduce stress and improve mental health.
  • It reduces the risk of developing coronary heart disease, strokes, type II diabetes and cancer.
One research study suggested the health benefits of cycling outweigh the risks by around 20 to 1. Another reckoned the health benefits are 9 times greater than the risks associated with driving a car.

So there you have it. Not cycling is more dangerous to your health than cycling.

Tuesday, 15 March 2016

Push Bike! - 10-Point Cycle Plan

Push Bike!’s last column commented on the City Council’s recent congestion report.  Encouraging more to cycle instead of always using the car has a role to play in helping reduce traffic levels. It has wider health, social, economic and environmental benefits too!

Encouragingly 42.5% of those surveyed by the Council said they would consider cycling more if there were ‘Improved cycle paths and storage provision’.

Recognising current budget constraints, Push Bike! offers the following 10 low-cost and no-cost measures the City Council could use to further improve Worcester’s Cycle Network and encourage an increase in cycling levels.

1. Audit the existing network to identify where maintenance is needed, metal barriers can be removed and better signage will increase usage and reduce potential conflicts with other users.

2. Work with the County to identify cycle-only contraflows and at least one continually open N-S and W-E route through the pedestrianised City Centre.

3. Identify locations and provide funding and/or seek sponsorship for more safe cycle storage.

4. Make better use of the City’s Planning powers to ensure new developments are cycle-friendly, better connected to the wider network and Travel Plans are more robust and fully implemented.

5. Engage with the LEP, Chamber, BID and ‘Working Well in Worcestershire’ to increase business awareness of the economic benefits and savings of encouraging more of their employees and customers to travel by bike.

6. Work with local communities, the County and Police to introduce more cycle and pedestrian friendly ‘sign only’ 20mph limits in residential areas.

7. Engage with the County to review the City’s Cycle Strategy and establish priorities for future investment.

8. Encourage Highways to ensure new infrastructure is fully cycle-proofed and opportunities are taken with maintenance and resurfacing works to make routes safer for cyclists.

9. Engage with Public Health and other local organisations on a social media campaign to promote the benefits of and encourage ‘active travel’.

10. As it’s in everyone’s interest to reduce Worcester’s congestion, all political parties to agree and support one councilor and an officer as cycle or ‘active travel’ champions.

Monday, 14 March 2016

Cycling Can We Help Reduce Worcester's Congestion?

The City Council has recently completed its six-month long investigation into Worcester’s congestion problems. The results point to the potential for encouraging more to cycle (and walk) as a way of helping reduce traffic volumes.

The report included Department for Transport (DfT) statistics on traffic volumes in the City. This data suggest just over 1% of journeys were by bike and this hasn’t increased since 2000. Traffic volumes have also decreased by 27%.  I’m sure most readers will find both statistics surprising.

So are we all imagining congestion and cycling in Worcester has increased, or is the data wrong?

Probing deeper it’s clear where the problem lies. The automatic traffic counters used by the DfT are at a limited number of points and only on the A–Roads into the City.

As someone pointed out at the Committee meeting it may well be that more drivers are avoiding the main roads and using residential streets as ‘rat runs’.

The main roads are also not where any increase in cycling would happen.  Although less than ideal, there are lots of quieter and safer routes around the City for cyclists. Certainly the cycle counts for the new Diglis Bridge and associated riverside cycle routes show a significant increase in cycle usage.

Q5 in the Council’s survey asked “What would encourage you to walk or cycle more? ” The responses were:

Improved cycle paths and storage provision       42.5%
Improved walkways and routes                           34.4%
Other (please specify)                                         33.6%
Improved public transport facilities                      29.4%
Nothing                                                                 25.5%
Increased awareness of alternative options          9.9%
Increased awareness of health benefits                5.3%

Hopefully the City and County Councils will use these results to help prioritise their actions and investment if they are to encourage more people to leave their cars at home and cycle or walk for more of their shorter journeys.

In Push Bike!‘s next column we’ll be suggesting a few low cost ways in which we feel more can be done to encourage cycling in the City.

Thursday, 18 February 2016

Keep Cyclists' Safe - AA Advice to Drivers

Despite what you might expect the AA see positive benefits in encouraging more people to cycle. They are therefore keen to ensure motorists are considerate to cyclists Here’s a summary of their advice.

  • ·        Expect cyclists in unexpected places – always check your mirrors for cyclists before turning.
  • ·        If you're uncertain as to the intention of a cyclist – hold back rather than risk a wrong assumption.
  • ·        Watch out for cyclists coming up on your near side when turning or moving left – check mirrors and blind spots carefully.
  • ·        Give as much room as practically possible when over-taking a cycle – Highway Code Rule 163 illustrates one car's width – they may have to move out to avoid drains, potholes or debris on the road that you may not be able to see.
  • ·        When parking check the door mirror and look behind you before you open the door to make sure you don't hit a cyclist.
  • ·        When turning left allow any cyclist ahead of you to pass the junction rather than overtake them and turn sharply across their front wheel.
  • ·        Don't overtake a cyclist if you can see that the road narrows ahead.
  • ·        Don't drive aggressively around cyclists or sound your horn.
  • ·        Cyclists may be travelling faster than you think - judge their approaching speed with care before pulling out at a junction.
  • ·        Take special care on roundabouts – you must give way to any vehicle approaching from the right and that includes cyclists.
  • ·        Be prepared to wait behind a cyclist turning right in the same way you would for a car – rather than squeezing past or getting impatient.
  • ·        Don't park in cycle lanes – you could be forcing a cyclist into a dangerous situation and will be committing a road traffic offence.
  • ·        Don't drive into the 'advanced stop area' for cyclists at lights.
  • ·        Match your speed to the conditions and make sure you can stop well within the distance that you can see to be clear – on country roads there could be a group of cyclists around the next bend.
  • ·        At night, use dipped headlights when approaching cyclists
  • ·        Allow cyclists extra room in wet weather.
  • Consider riding a bicycle for some of your own journeys to get a better understanding of the risks cyclists face.
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