Day 4 of #30DaysOfBiking

Catching up with my blogging!

Some days a man’s got to wash the car, mow the grass, etc. Today was one of those days! So, with a cleaner car and a neater garden, just time for a ride around the block!

Route here on RideWithGPS.

Summary Day 4 – Bike: Brompton, Distance: 1 miles, Cumulative total: 9 miles.

Day 3 of #30DaysOfBiking

Much easier today in that I was going to cycle to a meeting anyway!

So the ride on Day 3 was to a committee meeting of CTC Northampton, the local member group of the UK’s Cyclists’ Touring Club.  And via a little bit of shopping at my local supermarket, Waitrose in Kingsthorpe.

I’m having a little bit of an argument / complaint / polite discussion with the supermarket.  They have reduced the number of cycle-racks and moved them away from a window where they could be seen from the café inside the store.  I’ve now had a couple of conversations with the customer service people and their manager.

I took a photo and posted it on social media.

The bike-racks in their new position

The bike-racks in their new position

Here are some of the comments that followed:

1 That’s a bit disappointing. I would have thought that Waitrose had a sustainability officer who should be encouraging and incorporating green efforts from their customers. Better signage might help and also better bike racks. CCTV, space for cargo bikes,panniers etc (I saw better examples of units at The London Bike show so will go check my blog for a reminder) Also removing the trolleys rather than the allocated space would be my expected approach, not the other way round. Waitrose do listen to their customers so perhaps if enough peeps requested cycle storage they might consider it? Here’s hoping…!

2 My local branch knew all about the free bike-trailer scheme operated by their Chichester branch!

3 Our local Waitrose removed the bike racks from a covered area to put trolleys there that were previously in the store foyer. I complained but they said tough, there was bike parking elsewhere (in a narrow section unprotected from the rain). I always leave Alfie where the old bike racks were, freestanding of course! (A reference to a recumbent trike.)

4 No bike racks. No trolley scheme. Not up round ours, Nothing on the plans for the new store either, and it will be ‘wrong’ side of town centre race track DC too. grrr.

5 Bike parking at my local Waitrose is ropey as well. I don’t give a damn because I park my bike IN the trolley. Actually, if they were really serious about the sustainability thing, they should launch guarded bike parking.

The assistant brought the manager to me and said to him, “This gentlemen always cycles here. Sometimes he brings his foldy bike in. Sometimes he parks a proper bike. He’s a regular customer.” To be honest, I hadn’t noticed the lady before! Loved the foldy/proper distinction she made!

Today, I was on the foldy bke.  Spoke to the manager (he was excited by the bike; I don’t think he’d seen a Brompton before; he was really interested!).  The store was empty.

Plenty of room

Plenty of room

And then it was on to my meeting where another member is taking a different approach.  Instead of complaining to Waitrose, he’s been complaining to the County Council as the planning authority.  When the shopping centre was built, he wondered, did planning permission include the provision of a certain number of bike racks?  Can they be reduced by the supermarket without consultation?  Have they broken the planning agreement?  I hadn’t thought of that line of reasoning!

Really the meeting is about planning weekend rides and social events – and seeking opportunities to promote cycling.  But, once in a while, our campaigning side comes out!

Summary Day 3 – Bike: Brompton, Distance: 4 miles, Total: 8 miles. Weather: cloudy evening with hint of rain after the meeting. Route here on RideWithGPS.  I did ride home afterwards!

Day 2 of #30DaysOfBiking

In London for the day and so … lateral thinking

We went up to London today to see Borodin’s “Prince Igor” (Novaya Opera Moscow at the ENO) and so, to get some pedalling in, why not hire Boris bikes?

My wife Sue wouldn’t care for cycling on London streets but traffic-free would entice her and what could be a bigger traffic-free area in the centre of the city than Hyde Park.  Studied Transport for London’s web-pages about Boris bikes in advance and arrived at our chosen docking station prepared.

Sue at the Park Lane docking station

Sue at the Park Lane docking station

One credit card will pay for two bikes and, on this first occasion, we opted for the full paper receipts.

Two printed key codes and the receipt

Two printed release codes and the receipt

The little key-pads on the cycle docks are well hammered!  That was why the two bikes nearest the pay-station couldn’t be used.  We had a little hunt until we found two others whose key-pads responded.

Then we were off – a little way north on Park Lane (where the cycle path is well away from the dual carriageway) and then into Hyde Park by Speakers’ Corner.  South to Hyde Park Corner and then west (parallel to the carriage drive) close to the Guards’ Chapel.  We paused there and my iPhone app thought this was the end of our ride but we carried on to  turn north and across the bridge over the Serpentine, putting our bikes into the docking station near to the Serpentine Gallery.IMG_0373

 

Good practice for when Northampton CoNNect, our local bike hire scheme, starts on 1st May.

Summary Day 2 – Bike: Boris Bike, Distance: 2 miles, Total: 4 miles. Weather: spring warmth. Route here on RideWithGPS.

 

Day 1 of #30DaysOfBiking

30 Days of Biking – a simple sounding challenge: just to ride a bike once a day every day in April.

Main 30DOB site here.  Blog here and on Tumblr here.

Day 1 – Bike: Peugeot Princeton, Distance: 2 miles, Weather: spring warmth.  Daffodils very noticeable.

I tried this challenge last year and didn’t succeed. Managed to ride a bike in France, Belgium, Germany and The Netherlands but not every day in April 2013.

I’ve got an added impetus this year.  I put my name forward to the good people of 30 Days of Biking in Minneapolis and I’ve been asked to write the 30DOB blog for 20th April and so I’ve got to keep going.

Today was a very simple ride, very like the ride I made on 2nd April last year – a visit to my nearest sub-post-office.  And today’s photo is very similar with my everyday bike leaning against the post box.IMG_0369It was a parcel today.  I turned 65 last birthday and I’ve decided to de-clutter, starting with the loft and, where it looks practical, putting unwanted items on eBay.  And so I was off to post a Kenwood Chef Coffee Grinder attachment to someone in Putney.

Here’s my route on Endomondo.  I’m going to try to start most days at The Obelisk.IMG_0001

and here’s the detail of the information plaqueIMG_0002

I pedalled through the pocket park and then down to the post office.  I returned through Kingsthorpe Cemetery which, as well as having my Dad’s grave, has those of Lucia Joyce (James Joyce’s daughter) and Violet Gibson (“The Woman Who Shot Mussolini“).  Do see the inspired blog by a dog-walker who observes the cemetery closely!

A reading at Lucia's grave - Bloomsday 2007

A reading at Lucia’s grave – Bloomsday 2007

And then I was home!

 

Happy 1st Birthday, Critical Mass Northampton!

On Friday evening, in common with most Critical Mass meetings throughout the world, Critical Mass Northampton met for a ride – and with a difference because this celebrated a year of rides. It was CM Northampton’s 1st Birthday!

We shared this 1st Birthday with Critical Mass Tetovo in Macedonia and exchanged birthday greetings!

We met at The Racecourse, slightly later at 6.30 p.m. (Usually the rides start at 6.00 p.m.) and many participants joined the “pirate” theme by dressing themselves and their bikes. Sorry! Never thought to take pictures of the best ones. On rider had a trailer with what looked like a cannon from a pirate ship together with a skull-and-crossbones flag!

Riders gather at The Racecourse

Riders gather at The Racecourse

Enjoyed chatting with friends old and new. Good to see David out for probably the first time since his “off” in Walgrave a month ago. Then we set off, about ninety of us at a conservative estimate – plenty of left turns – and the Mass continued through junctions and traffic lights to a pause in the town centre, the square at the front of All Saints Church.

Gathering in All Saints Church piazza

Gathering in All Saints Church piazza

Alex S came up and said hello; I hadn’t spotted him before this and, like my previous CM, we chatted so much that I couldn’t have told you the route we took to our final destination if I hadn’t switched my iPhone app on!

The route is here on Endomondo.

The final destination was The Pomfret Arms on Southbridge. Beer, music, barbecue and cheese plates. Beer from Hart Family Brewery – I sampled the No 9 from the cask.

The bar at The Pomfret Arms

The bar at The Pomfret Arms

You won’t believe I eschewed the barbecue in favour of the cheese plate from St Giles Cheese – Keens unpasteurised vintage farmhouse cheddar, Fourme d’Ambert and Delice de Bourgogne with sourdough bread and quince membrillo. OK, I had to ask about the last item. Turns out it’s a quince jelly made in Spain.

Then home. Four miles on CM, eleven miles door-to-door. Oh, and there were birthday stickers too for the Brompton! Excellent!

Happy Birthday!

Happy Birthday!

My first Critical Mass ride

I finally got round to joining my local Critical Mass ride this month.  Critical Mass in Northampton has been running on the last Friday of the month since last summer and sets off from the Racecourse at 6.00 p.m.  Despite the wind and rain, I was there!

I saw three people I already knew and everyone else was very welcoming.  A great atmosphere!

We set off on what turned out to be a figure-of-eight route through the town.  I don’t think I would have remembered the route without a tracker app as I was pretty much in conversation with other cyclists most of the time.Windy and, at times, a little wet!

Windy and at times a little wet!

In just under an hour we were back at the Racecourse and many of us adjourned to The Olde England.At the end of the ride!

At the end of the ride!

More about the origins of Critical Mass here.  Link to CM Northampton’s Facebook page here.  Photos taken from Ministry of Bicycles‘ Instagram feed.

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.