The Sustrans / University of Northampton ride

The event took place last Wednesday and was a great opportunity to meet people.  I met George Pollard, the new Sustrans officer at the University.  And then he equipped half-a-dozen students with bikes from his Sustrans “fleet”.  Two more helpers turned up: John from the CTC and Bill, George’s brother, of Bomberdrome and Ministry of Bicycles fame.

We made a little alternative to the planned route down to the Brampton Valley Way – going through Obelisk Spinney into Boughton rather than down Lynton Avenue to the A508.

 

The students were keen on the fast descent of Brampton Lane and enjoyed the flat BVW going further than they thought.  With of course the result that there was further to pedal back!

The limit of our adventure: the BVW at the Brixworth-to-Spratton road

The limit of our adventure: the BVW at the Brixworth-to-Spratton road

A non-alcoholic break was taken at The Windhover, hosted by George (Sustrans’ expenses exclude the taking of alcoholic beverages.

Refreshments at The Windhover

Refreshments at The Windhover

Then we were off along the BVW towards Kingsthorpe, leaving at Kentstone Avenue before a slightly gentler climb up to the University.  And one little alternative again: straight along Reynard Way to use the toucan crossing of Holly Lodge Drive.

The students all enjoyed it.  The prize for those who had come the furthest went to the three Greek students on Erasmus exchanges!

Route here: http://ridewithgps.com/trips/2183486 and the Greek girls were very pleased to have cycled 20 kilometres!

Recce’ing a ride for Sustrans / University of Northampton

Thursday morning was bright and mild – almost spring-like – and so I decided it would be an ideal time for recce’ing a short ride being organised next week for students at my local university by Sustrans.  I think it’s part of the university’s Environment Week.

The fun part of the ride is to be along the traffic-free Brampton Valley Way (BVW).  The problem is to find a safe route from the university to the BVW – and another safe route back again – for cyclists who may well be inexperienced or nervous in motor traffic.

With friends John and Phil, I’d helped on a smiler ride last year but couldn’t remember the safe route back.  And I have to admit that that part of Kingsthorpe (between the BVW and the Welford Road) is a bit of a mystery triangle for me.

So, I started at the University and got quickly down to The Windhover where the A5199 crosses the BVW and I remembered two pieces I’d read by fellow Kingsthorpe Blogger “baptissimo”.  In his blog “Searching for Lucia” he’d written about a tile mosaic erected beside the path.  And then he’d found another one!

So, instead of just recce’ing a safe way back, I pedalled along the BVW (We’ll be going along there with the university group on Wednesday anyway).  Met three ladies; asked them; no, they hadn’t seen any mosaics.  And then I did – just where the restored railway begins.

A ghostly figure enjoys a cup of coffee

A ghostly figure enjoys a cup of coffee

A quick pedal back; chat with the three women (their dogs must have been slow); onto the BVW going south from The Windhover.  What a lovely surface for that part of the Way!  And then nipping through a jitty into Kentstone Close, it was a safe journey back to the University.

Now the upside to all this is that Carole Miles commented on “Searching for Lucia” and identified herself as the artist.  The mosaics project is called “Marking a Fine Lane” and there are some excellent photos by the splendidly named MacCanonymous here on Flickr.

Here’s the route I’ll suggest to Sustrans: http://ridewithgps.com/routes/3924804

A cycle route saved! But an opportunity lost!

I attended a meeting of Northamptonshire County Council’s Cabinet for their discussion of the re-opening of Abington Street in Northampton town centre to traffic.

I went to County Hall yesterday afternoon silently supporting the Cycle Touring Club (CTC) Right-to-Ride Officer who was going to exercise his right, as a member of the public, to address the Cabinet.  (An individual is entitled to up to three minutes to make his or her points.  This happens at the start of an agenda item before the Cabinet Member with responsibility for the item speaks.)
John and I met in Reception and parked our bikes in the 18th-century Courthouse Room before being invited into the Blue Room to attend the meeting.  Seven members of the Cabinet were meeting and the room was packed with other councillors.  I was a little surprised at this but a journalist from the Chronicle & Echo to whom I got chatting said that our item was the one which had attracted them.  I’d wrongly assumed it would be the item after ours – about HS2!
In the absence of Cllr Jim Harker, the Council Leader, the meeting was chaired by Cllr Heather Smith, the Deputy Leader.  She took the meeting briskly through the first five items, all procedural ones.  Item 6 was a review of Special Educational Needs Units (which I sort of found interesting as a retired teacher).  And then it was Item 7 and John’s turn to speak.
John was very good.  He opened with CTC’s objection to the making of St Giles Terrace one-way for all vehicles (severing the west-east cycle route from the Railway Station to Billing Road), following up with observations on the opportunity to make the town centre more cycle-friendly (this time by allowing two-way cycling in Abington Street) in preparation for the re-location of the university to the town centre.
He reminded Cabinet that they had adopted a Cycling Strategy in 2013 to encourage cycling in all schemes – and yet here was the Highways Department entirely forgetting this.
Very soon John’s three minutes were up and, from the floor, he received a loud round of applause!  We were both surprised and delighted at this.  Later, however, it became clearer that the applause – from opposition party Councillors – was politically motivated and may not have helped our case with the ruling party on Cabinet.
Another member of the public – an Abington Street trader – used his three minutes to suggest reducing the use of disabled parking bays in the proposed scheme.
Cllr Michael Clarke then introduced his report.  He made one concession: St Giles Terrace will remain two-way south of The Ridings (hence preserving the current cycle route).  But he then spoke against two-way cycling in Abington Street (missing, in our opinion, an opportunity to enhance provision).  Nevertheless, a concession gained – and gained, I feel, thanks to the number of my fellow CTC members who had e-mailed the consultation process with our objections!  (Cllr Clarke: “This is a listening Council …”)
The floor was then opened to other county councillors.  Liberal Democrat and Labour councillors spoke against the TRO.  Their objections, however, were not against the details of the arrangements but against the scheme in principle.  In fairness, this had already been decided by the Borough Council and was in the Conservative manifesto for the Borough Council elections.  Cllr Smith, in the chair, reminded them of this but they were having none of it!  You can read the Chronicle and Echo’s report here.  (“Further criticism for plan to reopen part of Abington Street to traffic”)  This is when I realised that the applause for John’s comments were not in support for cycling but a bit of party knockabout.
Last speaker from the floor was the leader of the Borough Council, David Macintosh.  He was heckled by opposition County Councillors.  And Cllr Smith was, in my opinion, a little easier on him when he strayed away from the TRO onto the scheme in principle!  (The relevant gist: a marvellous TRO and Highways Department had been wonderful …)
Then something happened that reminded me of rowdy teenage boys in a classroom!  The councillors on the floor began to argue amongst themselves, swearing loudly!  I think the chair was a little non-plussed at this.  She asked for an end to swearing.  ”You tell him off for swearing then!  He swore at me first!” said one – clearly finding his inner thirteen-year-old.  Amazing!
None of the other Cabinet members contributed and the discussion concluded with Cllr Smith declaring that the report on the TRO was passed.

A local Sustrans ride

This afternoon I went along to my local university (the main campus of the University of Northampton is less than five minutes away) at the invitation of Dan Romberg who is Sustrans’ university officer there.  With a colleague who works in local schools, he has a project to reduce congestion in the “Kingsthorpe corridor”.  With two other CTC friends – John and Phil L – I was to help him lead a group ride out to, and then along, the Brampton Valley Way.  The individuals who made up the group were staff members from the university, most of whom lived locally and might be helped to make a decision to cycle to work rather than always travelling by car.

It was a great afternoon! Sustrans has found the money for half-a-dozen new hybrid bikes.  (By coincidence from Pitsford Cycles where my touring bike is presently being serviced.)  We collected them from a secure bike park and this was to be their first outing.  Dan had checked them in advance and my job was to adjust the saddle height for the riders who chose them.  When the ride started, I was Tail-End Charlie.

We went out through the quiet roads of two or three housing estates (including the one where I live) with just a short stretch of 300 metres along the A508 before turning onto a great downhill down Brampton Lane.  Hats went flying!

We re-grouped at the start of the Brampton Valley Way.

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and then there was no stopping anyone!  One or two stretches of the path, where it was exposed, were bitterly cold but in the sheltered parts (which form the majority) it was lovely and … sunny!

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Our leader, Dan!

We passed the restored Pitsford railway and the Merry Tom crossing and almost reached the Brixworth-to-Spratton road – before someone remembered that a pub stop had been promised!  We turned about and pedalled to an old favourite, “The Windhover”.  The first puncture (someone had been flailing hedges and there were thorns aplenty) happened just before the pub.  The rider manfully carried on until it could be repaired indoors!

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Well-earned refreshment

Dan was a whizz at repairing the puncture inside the pub.  I don’t think I’ve seen that before.

And then, finding a quiet way back to the university, our second puncture happened just having left the pub.  Dan was even faster at getting that one repaired.  John had chosen a route that didn’t take in too much hill climbing although, because we’d all enjoyed the chatter in the pub, dusk was upon us.  The Sustrans bikes had lights and so all was well.

Everyone had enjoyed themselves, agreed that the exercise had been good fun, and some were enquiring about other organised rides – and indeed the possibility of cycling to work once or twice a week!

Part of the route – from the University to The Windhover is here.

A great afternoon!