It’s all about the money. I’m a member of our local Community Council, so I’m up to speed on what our local council are doing and what they would like to do. Councils in general want to do their very best, but just don’t have the money. Below is a video reviewing recent and not so recent cycling infrastructure along the A91, a road that I cycle every day to get to work. Clackmannanshire Council have done a magnificent job with the path between Alva and Tillicoultry, but they need to get the back road behind Alva and Menstrie tidied up quite drastically.

Stirling council have done a fairly half-baked job of widening the path between Logie Kirk and Blairlogie. They would have done a better job, but a local councillor has told me that they have done the best they can within their budget.

If we want people to consider walking or cycling for short journeys rather than jumping into the car all the time and adding to the pollution, congestion, and ill-health of our nation then paths like the Alva-Tilli one should be built all over Scotland, and that will take a proper commitment from the Scottish Government. 5% of the transport budget will take hardly anything away from the motorised roads they want to build, but would go a long way to making Scotland a cycle friendly country. I’ll be at Pedal on Parliament on April 26th to add my voice to the demand that our government tries harder.

It’s the time of year again to announce the date and time of the next Pedal On Parliament. We’re meeting at The Meadows in Edinburgh to process to Holyrood and hand over our manifesto for a cycle friendly Scotland. One of the many reasons we do this is to highlight that many more people would use bicycles as a mode of transport if they felt safer on the roads. In 2013 there were 13 fatal collisions involving cyclists on Scotland’s roads. Most, if not all, of these incidents could have been avoided if cyclists had space to travel without the danger posed by motor vehicles. Plus more people using bike means fewer people causing the traffic jams that motorists all hate being in.

Each year I have recorded a song for Pedal on Parliament. In the past the songs have been a celebration of cycling, or a protest at the tiny proportion of the transport budget that is allocated to active travel (cycling and walking). This year I have taken a more sombre tone in a lament for the 13 people that lost their lives in 2013. I hope that this will help remind us of why we’re doing this, and also demonstrate to our politicians that not enough is being done to keep the people of Scotland safe.

 

Last year I reported on the state of Glen Road, a walking, cycling, horse riding track between Bridge of Allan and Dunblane. My original report can be seen here.

Recently I was engaged in an online conversation with the folks from Stirling Cycle Hub. They had been up Glen Road and reported that they had had a lovely ride, so I figured it was time to head up there again and see if conditions had improved since I was last there.

To summarise, conditions have improved to the point that you can cycle the whole way (unless you’re on a thin wheeled road bike), but I still think there is work to do.

This video shows the entire ride there and back starting from Stirling University. A lot of it is sped up so as not to bore you on the long uneventful sections.

There are a few things to note. Firstly, the Bridge of Allan end of Glen Road and Upper Glen Road, which is where you have to go for a through route these days, are disgraceful. There are a lot of affluent households in this area, plus the golf club. A lot of Council Tax pennies come from this area so to have a road surface like this beggars belief.

glenroadbofa-48

Once you get beyond the sections of road that are regularly beaten by the local Chelsea Tractors it becomes a much more pleasant affair. As you pass the point where motor vehicles are no longer allowed a sign warns “Danger, Holes in the Road”. It’s true, the road is a little bumpy here, but no where near as bumpy as it was a few months ago.

Water damage

Flood damage as seen in September 2012.

Filled in using a skip full of gravel, as seen in June 2013.

Filled in using a skip full of gravel, as seen in June 2013.

It’s good that the work has been done, and the road can now be cycled (although I wouldn’t attempt it on my road bike). It’s still incredibly bumpy, especially on that section at the top of the picture that looks a lot smoother than it is. See the video above at 3:22 and 10:35 for a better idea of how bumpy it is.

After this it’s a rather pleasant ride. There are a couple of gravelly bits, but they are short and not particularly taxing on my hybrid’s wheels. Just before the bridge over the Wharry Burn a massive cleanup job has been done.

Mudslide

Mudslide blocking the road – September 2012.

The mudslide has been cleared - Seen June 2013.

The mudslide has been cleared – Seen June 2013.

I am seriously impressed with this clearing. I originally feared that the makeshift path on the left was the best we were going to get, but the work done here cheered me up.

One last thing to note. On the way back I noticed the reason why Glen Road is closed at the Bridge of Allan end and why we need to use Upper Glen Road instead.

That's not a shadow on the road, it's a huge hole.

That’s not a shadow on the road, it’s a huge hole.

Apparently Stirling Council  intend to fix it. Good luck folks.

So, Glen road (with a diversion over Upper Glen Road) is now passable on a bike and is an enjoyable ride, as long as you take it easy over the bumpy bits that I think need a little more work done to them.

This year I have signed up to undertake two sponsored cycle rides.

On June 16th I will be riding the Trossachs Ton, a 100 mile ride, including the famous Duke’s Pass and Crow Road hills, in aid of Action Medical Research.

This charity specialises in researching diseases that affect children, as well as providing support for sick children across the UK.

Sponsorship will be gladly received by visiting http://www.action.org.uk/sponsor/philipward

 

On August 4th I will be riding the 2013 Graeme Obree Ayrshire Sportive, a 68 mile ride round Ayrshire with over 5000 feet of climbing including the Nick O’ The Balloch, in aid of Youth With A Mission, Stirling.

This is a Christian charity that work in the Stirling area involved in community development, including financial education, art clubs, youth work and partnering with other community based organisations.

Please sponsor me for this ride at https://mydonate.bt.com/fundraisers/philipward1

At my place of employment the majority of doors between and along the corridors can now be opened with the push of a button. This is a boon for those who are wheelchair bound, pushing a pushchair or catering trolley, or simply have their arms full.

However they are also a source of frustration, especially when encountering someone who hasn’t a clue. Just because a door can be opened with the button, does not mean that it must be opened with the button, or that this is the most efficient and sensible way of operating the door in all cases.

Many of these have only been installed this year. Previously there were a few push button doors along the more busy corridors. As you walk along some of the wider sections of corridor you will approach a set of three doors adjacent to each other. Two of the doors can only be opened manually and one has a push button. It amazes me the number of people who will be walking on one side of the corridor and will veer right over to the other side in order to push the button rather than simply pulling open the door that is in front of them. Sometimes they will even wait for several people to stream through the electrically opened door rather than using one of the manual ones.

Now many more doors are push button. It did not require replacing any doors, simply fitting the existing ones with a robot arm and screwing a couple of touch sensors to the wall that communicate wirelessly with the robot.

 

One of the touch sensitive door opening buttons.

One of the touch sensitive door opening buttons.

Notice the images on the button. A wheel chair and a pushchair. It should be obvious for whom the button is intended, but not to most people. Most physically fit and unencumbered people think that the button is for them. I have seen people approach the door, veer over to touch the button, then stand waiting as the door slowly opens in front of them. JUST PUSH THE STUPID DOOR!!!! The one nearest to my office opens really slowly. You can open it manually, but once the button is pushed and the motor engages it becomes too heavy to push. So to the helpful person who saw me approach the door and hit the button for me as he went past I say “No thank you”.

Apart from a couple of older doors that have “Please don’t open manually” signs on them (but have manual doors next to  them) all these doors can be opened manually, and it is usually far quicker to do so than to wait for the motor to do it for you.

So if you’re walking on two legs and have at least one hand free please don’t push the button. It wastes our electricity, your time, and your muscles which would benefit from the exercise of opening the door themselves rather than expecting a robot to do it for you. Have we got so used to machines doing our bidding that we can’t even open a door by ourselves?

It’s new, it’s shiny, it’s Stirling Cycle Hub.

Opened today at the front of Stirling Railway Station is a new facility that hopes to help get people cycling in the Stirling area. I popped in during lunch break and was greeted with a very warm welcome and an offer of cake. The staff there seemed to be passionate about cycling and we had good banter, including them mentioning that they’d seen a video of some guy singing down at Powis junction and then asking for an autograph when they realised it was me.

The place appears to be an information centre. There is a large leaflet rack containing information about local cycling routes, shops and even some Pedal on Parliament leaflets that they were given at the Scottish Bike Show. There is also a massive map of the area on the back wall in order to help you work out how to get to all the wonderful cycle routes in the area. They were very pleased to receive a Pedal on Parliament poster from me, especially as it was the first poster on their nice new cork board.

How popular it is and how much use it will be remains to be seen. If you want to keep up with them then you can follow @StirlCycleHub on twitter or stirlingcyclehub on facebook.

For those who are really keen, here’s the conversation I shared with them.

The Scottish Government want 10 percent of journeys to be by bicycle by 2020. However they are undecided as to whether this is a target, goal, vision, wish or pipe-dream. To me it’s simple. 10% of journeys requires 10% of the transport budget, not the tiny drop currently allocated to active travel infrastructure. To help us campaign for better provision please join us at the Meadows in Edinburgh, 19th May 2013 at 3pm to travel en masse to Holyrood. Visit http://pedalonparliament.org for more details.

My new POP song calls for a better allocation of transport funds.

Grab an mp3 version here if you wish.

Song lyrics are below, after the credits or you can switch on subtitles.

Extra special thanks to:
Andy Arthur (http://www.flickr.com/photos/kaputniq/) for allowing me to raid his flickr account, and for producing the poster shown at the end (and all the POP art work).
David Brennan (http://www.magnatom.net) for the Milngavie Road video and for starting this wonderful movement.
BikingJaz (https://www.youtube.com/user/BikingJaz) who went out especially to get the Paisley footage.
Mark Wagenbuur for the Amsterdam images and the article that inspired verse 3. (http://bicycledutch.wordpress.com/201…)

Thanks to the following people for letting me use their images and footage:
Chris Hill – http://www.flickr.com/photos/chdot/53…
Mavisness – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bYY25U…
Andy Preece – http://www.cyclestreets.net/location/…
rightee – http://www.cyclestreets.net/location/…

Thanks to Sara Rich Dorman and Sally Hinchcliffe for putting me in touch with some of the folks listed above.

Lyrics:

It’s been over a year since I sang “Get On Your Bike”,
In that time we’ve not seen much change, there’s nothing here to like.
When we came here in 2012 you said we’re pushing at an open door,
But the door was jammed only 2 inches wide, for us to fit we’re gonna need some
more.

10 percent needs 10 percent, And that makes so much sense.
If you want to see us walk, run and bike
You’ve gotta build an infrastructure we’d like
10 percent needs 10 percent, So you’ve gotta do a whole lot more
10 percent is what we’re pedaling for.

6 million is not enough to build the system that we need,
It comes to less than 1 percent of the transport budget you agreed.
To build a system worthy of calling Scotland a bike friendly place
You need to put our money where your mouth is, and build the active travel
space.

Amsterdam in the 60s looked like Edinburgh does today.
Cars and buses clogged the roads and cyclists couldn’t see the way.
But when we see what they’ve achieved we gotta ask “Why can’t we?”
With enough commitment, will and gumption the solution is easy to see.

In April 2012 3000 cyclists met at The Meadows in Edinburgh and pedalled to Holyrood to deliver our cycling manifesto. We believe that adoption of the manifesto by the Scottish Parliament will help make Scotland a cycle friendly nation, and help them to deliver their goal of 10 percent of journeys by bike, by 2020.

To see the manifesto you can visit http://pedalonparliament.org/the-manifesto/ or see the highlights on one of the videos I made for the event.

Since then very little has happened. In the following budget a mere £6 million was allocated to cycle infrastructure. This is less than 1 percent of the total transport budget, and just goes to show that motorised traffic has the priority in the minds of our politicians.

So I hope I can count on you to join us at the Meadows again, 19th May 3pm. We’ll be going at a slow pace so even those without bikes can come and walk with us. If you would like to see Scotland become a cycle friendly nation and help tackle some of our social ills such as pollution, unsafe roads, obesity and unhealthiness then please support Pedal on Parliament.

Dunblane on 16th September 2012. Pedal on Postbox was organised for 2:30pm and the place was rather busy.

Crowds in Dunblane

Crowds in Dunblane

Was all that for Pedal on Postbox?

Actually, no. It turns out that some bloke who is a bit handy with a bat and ball used to live here, and he was visiting.

Anyone recognise him?

Anyone recognise him?

So, after a chat with the local Superintendent on Saturday morning Pedal On Boxbox – Dunblane was rescheduled for 4pm. By then the crowds had dispersed and all that was left was a small queue for photos by the postbox.

Those of us who had turned up had our photo taken by one of the other groups, with our letters to the four councillors for Clackmannanshire North, and the four councillors for Bridge of Allan and Dunblane.

Posting letters to the council

Posting letters to the council

Then a couple of guys turned up a bit later. One of them was Green councillor Mark Ruskell who wanted to show his support and have a chat about cycling in the area. He encouraged us to badger Active Stirling about cycle training in the local schools. I gave them postcards and we had another photo taken.

The full turn out

The full turn out

We then went our seperate ways. A turn out of seven including my family. From small acorns…

Now to work on my cycling version of “500 miles” for the next Pedal on Parliament.

Those lovely people at Pedal On Parliament are organising Pedal On Postbox. The idea is to get together a like minded group of people to descend on a local postbox (ideally a golden postbox so as to hook into the Olympic legacy vibe) for a photo opportunity of us all posting letters and postcards to our local councillors highlighting areas in need of change where cycling infrastructure is concerned, and encouraging them to become agents of these changes.

I saw this as an opportunity to organise my own local event. Other events are happening in Edinburgh, Glasgow and Dumfries. There is a golden postbox in the city of Dunblane, in honour of Andy Murray’s Men’s Singles Olympic gold, which is not far from where I live, so I decided to organise an event there at 2:30 pm, Sunday September 16th, 2012.

I live in Alva, which is in the same constituency as Dunblane (our MSP is Keith Brown), but is not in the same local council area. Stirling council are responsible for Dunblane, while Clackmannanshire council look after Alva.

Since I work in the Stirling area, and travel there most weekends I believe I am justified in writing to Stirling council, despite not living within their borders.

Clackmannanshire

Clackmannanshire council have done a fairly good job of late. They have completed the path between Menstrie and Tullibody, and laid smooth tarmac on a stretch of the Menstrie-Alva back road that just a year ago was a gravelly lump.

Menstrie - Tullibody Path

The lovely new path between Menstrie and Tullibody

Alva Back Road

Some new tarmac on the back road, plus gates to stop it becoming a rat run.


View Larger MapGoogle Street View shows how it used to look.
There is a good network of paths in Clackmannanshire, but there are still a couple of journeys that are tricky.

The back road to Menstrie is the only way out of Alva that does not involve a busy main road. If you want to head to Tillicoultry then your choices are either the A91 which is busy, fast and a favourite speedway for some of the local idiots, or up into the hills via the Woodland park, which is tarmac up to the park, but soon becomes bumpy gravel that only the sturdiest mountain bikes can traverse.

If you want to get to Alloa or Sauchie then you can either take the long way via Menstrie, or get your heart in your mouth heading up Brook Street and over the Collyland Roundabout (with its wide lanes, fast approaches and mad drivers).

So, I would like to see Clackmannanshire Council improve cycle access from Alva to other parts of the county, not just Menstrie.

Dunblane

I don’t live in Dunblane, nor do I visit often, but since we’re meeting here I feel I should mention cycle access to the city. There are numerous quiet roads heading north, but Dunblane is a popular residence for people working in Stirling. To get to Stirling on a bike you have three choices.

The first is up the main road towards the Keir roundabout. This roundabout is where the M9 motorway meets the A9 dual carriageway. The traffic here is crazy. I cycle it myself but I would never consider taking anyone but the most confident road cyclists that way.

Dunblane Cycle Path

Cycle path in Dunblane. It’s really just a bit of extra road that was left over when the inside lane was turned into parking spaces. It goes into the door zone in parts.

End of CycleLane

The cycle lane is short-lived. What should I do here? Buckle my wheel on the kerb? Swerve into traffic? This is really poor.

Footpath out of Dunblane

The footpath alongside the road out of Dunblane. It’s not well maintained and not, legally speaking, suitable for cycling.

This video shows how busy the Keir Roundabout gets. This was taken around lunch time on a Friday.

Another choice is via Sherrifmuir. Well, only if you’re a serious climber who likes taking the long way round. It’s a serious climb.

Finally there is Glen Road. Ah, Glen road. It used to be a tarmac road between Dunblane and Bridge of Allan, and was used by motorised traffic. However, subsidence into the Allan water meant that the road was closed to motors and given over to walkers and cyclists. Glen road would be the ideal way between Dunblane and Bridge of Allan and beyond if it were not for one problem. The road is a mess. I rode it late last year and managed it on my road bike, even though it was a little slushy. Today I went up there to discover great chunks gouged out of the road. There is also a bit where there has been a mud slide onto the road. The solution has been to use a few logs to make steps up to a narrow muddy path.

Glen Road, Bridge of Allan

Glen Road at the Bridge of Allan end. Shake dem bones on this surface.

Glen Road Sign

According to the sign, Glen Road is a shared use path, with cycling as one of the available uses.

Mud Pile on the road

But a big pile of mud on the road makes access difficult for everyone.

Water damage

What on earth happened here? Flood damage?

Mud Slide

Wow! That’s an impressive mud slide.

Mud Slide Solution

I really hope this makeshift path around the mudslide is not the final solution. It’s not suitable for cyclists or horses.

Dirty Bike

My filthy bike after traversing Glen Road.

Stirling Council need to consider the solutions. Either we need a decent cycleway between Dunblane and Bridge of Allan via the Keir roundabout, fully protected from motorised traffic around the roundabout, or we need a decent surface on Glen Road.

A91 and A907

Travelling from Clackmannanshire to Stirling has been made easier since the new Stirling to Alloa road was opened. The original road is now a joy to cycle, and is easy to access via the paths from Alloa and Menstrie. However, on crossing into Stirling District you then encounter the roundabout where the A907 crosses the A91. This is another crazy roundabout. The only provision here for cyclists are a few dropped kerbs and signs telling us to get off and walk. But where to? Beyond this roundabout there is no cycle provision in any other direction. All you can do is join a busy main road, and believe me the roads are busy enough that I would not like to take my family on them. Would it be possible to build a path from the end of the old Alloa road towards the railway, and cross the A91 under the bridge alongside the railway? I don’t know, but something needs to be done at this roundabout because the status quo is not acceptable. This video shows the roundabout at 5pm on a Friday from the point at which the old Alloa road ends.

These are the three areas that I will be mentioning to our councillors in my letter to them that will be posted in the golden postbox on Sunday.