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Posts Tagged ‘Taunton’

Jim ‘Django’ Gritt fellow Night Owl and Tweed Cyclist (Raleigh Superbe) has just posted his latest film creation. I appear in the film on my Pashley and of course Jim demonstrates his ukulele skills.  Hope you enjoy it!

 

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Nipper

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Today on my way home from school I met Nyomi, who is cycling from John O’Groats to Lands End on a bamboo bicycle.  We talked a little about bicycles and then of course I mentioned ukuleles and there tucked into the top of her trailer was a soprano uke!ImageGood luck to Nyomi and her ukuklele on the rest of their adventure…

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Nipper

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One thing that really upsets me about cycling in the UK is how difficult it is to cycle with young children.  The ideal situation would be for children to cycle to school and the shops alongside their parents, however unlike in Holland where this is common place, in this country the roads are far too dangerous for the very young cyclist. The cycle paths are  not properly separated and don’t join up with each other making them useless for everyday transport.  The only family cycling we see in the UK is leisure cycling and here is the rub, to do it,  you need a car to get to the safe cycle paths!  To get to safe infrastructure  a family will usually have to negotiate  main roads and this is not safe when cycling with small children.

Yesterday we decided to attempt a family cycle ride at the local park and ride.  The large car park is closed on a Sunday so makes an ideal spot for a little cycle practice.  It also has some dirt tracks behind it which are just about passable in good weather.  The tricky bit was how to get there with no car.  Fortunately the road that leads to the Park and Ride has pavement or separated cycle path so my boy can ride there, however the road is too fast and the pavement too narrow for my little girl, who is only just learning to cycle.  So to make the journey the little nipper sat on a cushion on the back of my bicycle and her bicycle was pulled along behind in a trailer.

Once at the park and ride we had a great time riding around, imagining we were in a world without cars.

It was wonderful to cycle as a family again, something we haven’t done since our holiday last year in Assen.  We only had to ride a couple of pavements to get to the park and ride and will be making this a regular trip.  The really annoying thing is we still can’t cycle together on our everyday trips to the shops. Until the children are older or we get proper Dutch style infrastructure our family cycling will have to be occasional and not everyday.

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Nipper

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It has been a long time since my last post, so I decided it was about time I caught up a little. I have continued to bicycle everyday despite some pretty awful weather over the winter and I have continued to play my ukuleles at every opportunity.

The weather has really picked up in the last few weeks so Jim and I finally got together on our Raleigh Superbes for a quick ride in the park and some photos for the band.

And so dear readers I leave you with Duke Ellington and his 1933 recording of ‘Bundle Of Blues’.  This was transferred electrically using a Lenco Turntable and Quad preamp.

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Nipper

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Last Sunday saw yet another Taunton Tweed Cycle Chic ride.  This time we ventured from Vivary Park to North Curry, and numbered 19 riders.  The weather was positively continental and a marvellous time was had by all.  After meeting up we made our way through town, with Neil causing quite a stir on his 1882 Ordinary Bicycle (Penny Farthing).  The route took us along the canal and then down the beautiful back roads to North Curry.  We had a fine lunch and a few pints at The Bird In Hand and entertained ourselves with a selection of songs from the Saddlebag Songbook.  Thanks to all who came and made it such a great day.

I made a little film of the ride…

The soundtrack is ‘The Continental’ performed by the Lew Stone Band featuring Nat Gonella on vocals.  It was transferred from 78rpm record via my HMV163 Gramophone and a studio condenser mic.

Here are a few more photos of the day…

 

Thanks to Tom for some of the photos

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Nipper

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I haven’t blogged for some time but it’s time to get things moving again.  So before I launch into rants about crap cycling in Taunton… a little fun. Last week the members of Taunton Tweed Cycle Chic took to the cycle paths and rode from Vivary Park to Maunsell Lock.  The weather was hot, hot, hot so we only managed Tweed through town, but with bells ringing and loud ‘Good Mornings’ we certainly got noticed. Thanks go to Brian from Bicycle Chain for leading us off. We stopped for lunch at the canal side cafe and strummed ukuleles using the new ‘Bicycle and Ukulele Saddlebag Song Book’ (Post a comment for a free copy!).  So here for you delectation are a few photographs of the day set to a toe tapping soundtrack from Django Reinhardt.

The ride was great fun, because of the superb weather and the great company but also because the majority of the ride was car free and on separate infrastucture.

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Nipper

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I have always been car free, never even driven one, I don’t actually know what the pedals do.  It was never a really big lifestyle choice, I cycled to school and to friends houses and just never felt the need to travel any other way.  When I was 17 I began touring and 100 miles a day was a breeze, I could go anywhere by bike.

My first cycle rides were on the narrow lanes around the village where I grew up.  I remember many wonderful family rides, zooming around the Somerset levels and stopping for picnic lunches.  We almost never saw a car and the sun always shone…happy days.

In 1990 a  most significant cycling moment came with my first ‘Young Bell Ringers Cycling Tour‘, a week long adventure ringing in churches around Oxfordshire.  We stayed in youth hostels and cycled to around six towers a day.  The 30 strong group of cyclists made quite an impression on me and I knew then that I would always want to make the bicycle my primary mode of transport.  I went on two further tours and remember them with great affection.  Geoff the organiser has continued to run the tours and I am sure has inspired many more young people to become serious cyclists.

Fast forward 20 years…I am married with two young children and a demanding full time job.  I no longer have time for endless days of touring but I still ride my bike every day.  I have a trailer for shopping and to take the children around and ride to work every day. I  love the feeling of whizzing along and day dreaming about the long summer days of my youth.

OK, so I know I have rather rose tinted spectacles on when it comes to my memories of childhood cycling, but the point is I have positive memories of cycling from a very early age.  In my teenage years I flew around everywhere by bicycle and just remember the pure freedom it gave me. Are today’s children having the same positive experiences? Some maybe, but with the roads increasingly clogged by maniacal car, van and lorry drivers the experience of those lucky enough to be allowed out on a bike is likely to be much less satisfying.  The 21st century teenager is probably far more likely to be a car driver or passenger than to be using a bicycle for daily transport.

If we are to see more young people cycling we have to make it feel safe and fast.  The only way I can see this being achieved is if we adopt the Dutch model of segregated infrastructure.  When parents feel cycling is safe they will begin to use the bicycle for everyday transport and children will be able to cycle to safely school.  Cycling children will become cycling adults.

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Nipper

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I have recently been commenting on blogs and forums about the need for better separated cycle paths.  I am totally committed to the cycling strategies that have actually worked in Holland and Denmark.  I want to live in a quiet, clean and safe town and removing a large proportion of cars is the only way to achieve this.  Blogs from Copenhaganize and David Hembrow show how high quality separated cycle paths and other traffic calming measures can increase cycle use by massive amounts and so actually make the difference.  Most people I talk to including cyclists think this is a crazy idea and “Can’t see it working over here”.

So here goes, let’s see if it might be possible to change Taunton from a car nightmare to a cycling heaven.

  • Taunton is flat. There are a few bumps but nothing to worry about. So we can get people on their bikes a for around town journeys without any worry about hills.
  • Taunton is compact. Half all journeys by car are less than 5 miles and a quarter less than 2 miles.  Anyone who lives in Taunton will travel less than 5 miles  to shop or work within the town.  This means they could easily replace the car with the bike.
  • Taunton has good weather. As Taunton is located in the south west of the UK the weather here is good.  It is certainly milder than in Denmark!
  • Taunton nearly has a good network of cycle paths. The town is compact and so a few paths can make a huge difference.  There are some good paths, that, with some resurfacing and a little care to join them up would provide the basis for a great network.  There are some dangerous paths, but these could be removed and some of the worst offenders would go if  the whole town centre was made car free.  This could easily be done and would allow the safe linking of all the major separated paths currently in use.   There is much to be done but the problems are not insurmountable and the network could be transformed in a very short time if only the will was there to do it.
  • Changing priorities is simple. It would not be difficult to give bikes on bike paths the right of way at all junctions.  Adopting the Dutch system for paths would require some redesign but the roads are big enough and we could lay the curbs and paint the lines IF WE WANTED TOO.
  • 20 MPH works. Some parts of Taunton already have 20mph limits and a town wide scheme would calm traffic down, saving life and limb, and making walking and cycling more attractive.  It would not change journey times much as the town is compact and journeys are short.
  • Much less on street parking is possible. Many streets could be improved if on street parking was totally banned.  There needs to be a commitment to reducing on street parking and if we make a start, even small reductions, could make a huge difference.

Taunton could with relatively little cost become the best cycling town in the UK.  If spending was moved from car infrastructure to bicycle we could make many of the changes in a very short time, maybe just a year or two.  Will this happen?  Probably not, because the council lacks vision, and most people are selfish when it comes to their car use. The main thing is it would not be impossible or a far distant dream, all we need is the will from people to stop driving the short, flat journeys they make around town and to get on two wheels.

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Nipper

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A couple of weeks ago friends Steve and Alison invited Jim and I for a little tweed run down at Vivary Park.  They have recently acquired vintage bikes and have began developing a website for Taunton Tweed Cycle Chic.  Here are a few quick snaps of a lovely afternoon.

The Bikes

Bikes

The Bicycles in the bandstand  Raleigh, Triumph and Pashley.

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Steve taking photos

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Alison with cup of Tea

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Nipper and Jim playing some ukuleles!

More about TTCC to follow…

BSY

Nipper

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IMG_1168Most of  ‘The Night Owls’ gigs are too far from home to cycle to and/or require the carrying of large amounts of kit.  So it is a rare occasion when I am able to cycle to a gig.  A few weeks back we played the Wilton House Summer Garden party.  The gig was within easy cycling distance so after packing the double bass, PA and several ukuleles into Pat’s car, I bid him farewell and rode my Pashley to Wilton house.  We played this event last year and were glad to be asked back.  The audience appreciate our music and the Pimms flows like water!

Pashley Roadster

Pashley Roadster and Ukuleles

The Pashley Roadster perfectly suited the venue and the style of The Night Owls. I simply parked it behind the band.

The Night Owls

Here is a little film of ‘The Night Owls’ live at Wilton House, you may even spot the Pashley.

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Nipper

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