Riding my folding bike into work on Thursday I was thrilled to see a council stand on the High Street promoting cycling. A lovely young lady stood behind a table containing a couple of leaflets and three maps. To her side was a bike and behind her the poster you see at the top of this post. It turned out she didn’t really know much about cycling (this was not her department) and apart from entering people who cycle for 10 minutes during the next two weeks into a prize draw, Somerset is not actually doing much else to promote cycling.
So I complemented her on the fact that the people in the poster were dressed normally, but lamented that they and indeed everyone else on every leaflet was wearing a helmet. Well this is where it got interesting, apparently in the original poster they had no helmets, but the council bosses (car drivers?) had insisted the helmets were added. In case you are new to the helmet debate here is a website with all the scientific evidence for and against there use,
Well I went on to talk about how actually putting in new cycle paths and JOINING UP EXISTING PATHS might be a good way to promote cycling in Taunton. It has worked in Copenhagen. I also noted that the bicycle which was to be the prize in the draw was a men’s bike with narrow tyres, no mudguards and a ‘sports’ riding position, all of which are not good for cycle commuting or attracting women to ride more.
When I got home I checked the Moving Somerset Forward website to see if there was anything else going on I might have missed. The website is… well… rubbish! It has no real information of any consequence and it really doesn’t get down to any detail and help people to become everyday cyclists. It would not be difficult to do a better job and get it right, they have managed to do a pretty good job in London.
So is there any good news? I managed to get three free cycle route maps. It is just a shame that there are no new paths actually being built and there are no plans to join up the existing ones to make them usable… or remove the dangerous ones… or resurface the potholed ones. Somerset is standing still not moving forward.
Postscript: While cycling to work on Friday I was greeted by a large group (six or seven) of ‘never been seen before’ commuters puffing away on racing and mountain bikes. They were wearing those little laminated neck tags that showed them to be council workers on their way to County Hall. They were riding illegally across the pedestrian crossing and then proceeding along the pavements towards their offices. I assume they were breaking the law to avoid the dangerous and copious amount of motor cars on the road. They were like me probably thinking that there should be a cycle path, unfortunately they will probably have forgotten about it in a couple of weeks when they will once again be in their cars. They may even be wondering why the bloke on his little folding bike is riding down the High Street again; there is after all a by-law against that!
After a little bit of discussion (read the comments) about being positive with the nice chap over at Ecovelo, I should perhaps say that there is a website where we can monitor ‘live’ the cycling progress of the Workplace Challange. I do hope it is a success and the sheer weight of numbers of commutors will shame the council into improving the cycle paths in Taunton and elsewhere across Somerset.