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 www.bigpedal.org.uk

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.
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