Does Ambridge need a Cycling Champions Officer?

I had a lazy Sunday morning, sitting in bed with a big mug of coffee and yesterday’s Guardian (By the way – check out the Guardian’s Two Wheels column on a Thursday – now written by CTC’s Richard George).

As I read the paper, Radio 4 was playing the Archers omnibus in the background. I’m no big Archers fan – but if it happens to be on, I’ll listen to the latest goings-on in Ambridge. I half-listened as a couple of characters were speaking about the idea of ‘Transition Towns‘ and about the possibility of getting more villagers to cycle. My ears pricked up.

The full transcript of the conversation is on the Transition Culture blog:

CATHY You can see why if you’re trying to get people out of their cars, better public transport.

PAT Yes but..

CATHY That’s the trouble though… if you give up your car, there’s no other option

PAT Well you can cycle…

CATHY Like Nigel?

PAT I think in Stroud they are setting up a shared bike scheme… bike shelters and community bikes all painted yellow or something, you just grab one to get where you’re going.

CATHY …and then if you can cadge a lift back…

PAT Definitely. You’re not committed to the bike… And they do bike maintenance classes for people who’ve got their own.

CATHY Well, it sounds amazing!

PAT Tony thinks it’s a good idea.

CATHY I think you might have a job selling it to the whole village…

PAT Well, I’m going to carry on with it anyway, see how far I can get.

I wonder how far they will get? Maybe they’ll go further if they get a Cycling Champions Development Officer. There are 13 of us dotted around the country. Some are in cities, but some, like me, and like Martin in Yorkshire, are focussed on rural areas. Countryside locations face very different issues when it comes to the challenge of encouraging cycling.

Maybe Ambridge needs the help of CTC and the Big Lottery Fund to get more of the villagers onto bikes…

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4 Responses to Does Ambridge need a Cycling Champions Officer?

  1. Dave Holladay says:

    I too noticed this and have posted to the Archers message board. Problem is of course as Richard points out, when the planners allow development which is designed primarily for car access, then cars are the only sensible option, especially when (Nigel tak tent) various attractions are solely promoted with directions from the nearest motorway.

    A naieve basic free bikes scheme won’t work, and the population density and journey diversity (all the bikes will either be at the Bull or scattered to places at the other end of the village when you want one) for a sysztem like the Paris or Copenhagen one to work, and hardly likely to hit the 5 hires per bike per day needed to ake a scheme viable.

    The real thing to push is for local buses to carry bikes – those in rural areas are suitably empty (like Hampshire’s Cango with Optare Aleros) and to get on to express coach services – Martin is already on the case in Yorkshire, with officers in N Yorks CC also interested and aware that this already happens informally and needs to be properly recognised and promoted. There is a hire bike scheme on your patch anyway at Farnborough RAE Business Park, currently frustrated by the lack of co-operation from SW Trains in permitting the installation of hire points at Farnborough Main Station. In Southampton this was solved by using the Sports Centre across the road and in Reading First GW agreed to providing wall space at a nominal rent.

    What might work for this situation is a version of OV Fiets as also set up in Inverness for registed commuter users to have a bike when they arrive at the station, collected from the staff in the adjacent car park, who are there already and paid for, and using a cycle recyling /artisan skills/ employment training scheme to maintain the fleet – paid for and proivideing useful work experience. We used to have a tenant who commuted regularly to Hook (for NtL offices?) from Glasgow and eventually bought a Brompton to make the journey substantially faster and more reliable.

    See you sometie when I’m next in Guildford

  2. Donald Gilchrist says:

    living in the countryside has difrent cycling problems to the city ,mostly a lack of cycle lains and speed of trafic.We are prity good for cycle lanes hear in south east derbyshire but have noticed a lot of good ,hardly used pavements crying out for some cheep white paint. Why is the only cyclest in Ambridge that t**t , who also had to be band from driving to discover cycling. I must point out that i never lisen to this countryside properganda and never look at the Archers anercest website.

  3. Mary Hodges says:

    Not only Nigel on the Archers, Linda Snell also cycles, commuting to work at Grey Gables. A pity thought that the only proponents of cycling are dotty characters with extreme ideas laughed at by most of the other Ambridge residents. Now if we could have Pip cycling to school or to visit her friend Izzie the idea of utility cycling might get across.

  4. Thanks for the comments, Dave, Donald, Mary.

    Dave – Thanks for an expert view of the various options out there

    Mary – I couldn’t agree more. Part of what we’re working towards at CTC is a society where cycling is no longer the preserve of the terminally eccentric, but a sensible transport option for many of the population.

    I’m not a regular Archers listener, but I may have to become one, so I can see how this develops…

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