Every little helps?

I’ve talked before about cycling infrastructure and wanted to do a piece on this specific stretch of cycle path between Lichield and Fradley for a while, by the Tesco depot on Gorse Lane. The volunteers of the Cycle Rides For All are due to meet this week to discuss a possible programme for 2014 and I just wanted to offer up something to debate. We often take this road when coming back from Fradley Junction and I wanted to make a suggestion about a different way we could tackle it, in the context of taking a group of 30 to 50 riders of mixed ability who are out on a family friendly ride. This road is part of NCN 54 and at some point, I assume when the Tesco depot was built, this short cycle path was installed.

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Gorse Lane from Hay End Lane at the top to Wood End Lane at the roundabout.

Gorse Lane is approximately 0.8 miles long, the first half mile or so from Hay End Lane end has no cycle path. The last third of a mile adjacent to the Tesco warehouse above, has an off road cycle path running parallel that takes you to the roundabout and offers crossing points to continue your journey along NCN 54 into Lichfield or left towards Fradley South.

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View from the bridge over the canal, towards Tesco.

This is the direction we often approach this route, over the little hump back bridge and then a good stretch of straight road, slightly up hill. You can see this road is well used by cyclists, these photos were taken in mid December.

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Where the path begins.

As with any cycling infrastructure the choice to use it is yours. If you do you need to slow to take the first of several potentially sharp turns.

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The first turn onto the path.

When we approach this with a large group the first turn is generally OK as the group has strung out over the last half mile. When the group is up on the path, volunteer marshals go along the road to be in position to block traffic up at the island to allow the group to cross the road further on.

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Turn to cross over Gorse Lane.

Each of these turns are roughly 90 degrees and by this point the group is back together. Care needs to be taken with speed and enough room allowed to get everybody round without bumping into someone else.

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Final crossing to Wood End Lane.

Another turn then back onto the cycle path. Here I would say the correct decision is to take the cycle path with our group. The traffic on Wood End Lane is much faster with more lorries.

As the marshals are blocking the entrances to the roundabout and the lane on Gorse Lane to allow the crossing, my point is why not take the same positions and keep the riders on the road, not taking the cycle path, and allow the group to maintain speed and make the turn at the roundabout? The final manoeuvre onto the cycle path on Wood End Lane could then be taken single file at an angle more like 45 degrees. If infrastructure is there we should always ask the question is it in our best interests to use it? The choice is yours.

Lichfield Re:Cycle – more than just maintenance

Following a conversation over on the Twitter channel I offered to help someone who was interested in getting back into cycling since a break stretching back to his childhood. For sake of anonymity, lets call him ‘Stevie’. The main reason he wants to cycle is that his two kids both do it and Stevie can see that unless he can accompany them they perhaps aren’t going experience the sense of freedom that he was afforded as a child on his bike. I popped by Stevies house and took one of the bikes i’ve picked up from the kerb just before the scrap man gets to it, that has now been serviced and given a another chance in life. After a quick spin round the block it was clear that Stevie needed no further arm twisting and that he will hopefully be looking to buy a new bike for himself. With some good advice and a bit of research Stevie is savvy enough to pick up the right bike in a price band he can afford. Job done then?

Just the start I think. Before that first family ride out Stevie would benefit from a bit of practice, some guidance, even training. So what i’ve agreed to do is accompany Stevie on his first couple of runs out and once he has got to grips with the new machine we can look at how to safely ride and give our kids confidence on the road. No pavement cycling, not gutter crawlers, but part of traffic, confident and assertive where required. These are the skills that kids (and adults) need to be equipped with to get the experience of freedom that their parents enjoyed on the quieter roads of decades before.

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I think of projects like Bike North Birmingham and INTO (Inspiring New Travel Options) in Stafford that have been granted large chunks of funding to spend over a short space of time and compare them to what I hope Re:Cycle could achieve. In Erdington and Sutton Coldfield, Birmingham City Council have got £4 million pounds (over 4 years) from the lottery for supporting cycling activities. The scheme is Stafford has the same amount, a relatively enormous amount of money for each area. It is interesting to see how they are trying to burn their way through the cash before the projects end. My favourite was the adverts on buses (above) detailing a competition to win ten sets of lights. A great exercise in harvesting Facebook likes. It makes me wonder if it would have been better to fund more projects more modestly across the whole county with this amount of money, instead of just targeting specific areas.

This project in Lichfield doesn’t require or seek any funding. With a few volunteers and by putting people in touch with each other we can achieve many of the results of the grandiose schemes. Bike loans, cheap bikes, bike maintenance, cycle training, confidence building, skill sharing can all be done without waiting for the councils to win big bids for funding. These activities and the many free cycling events I mentioned yesterday, along with plenty of goodwill can help create a sustainable cycling culture in Lichfield or anywhere else.

Plenty to see, plenty to do

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Over the past few months I have found out plenty going on in and around Lichfield cycle wise and I thought it would be a good idea to try and put together a calendar or diary of events for 2014. To my knowledge there are several rides planned, of course on top of this there is Lichfield City Cycling Club activities, but I wanted to focus on those that were open to members of the public and hoped that it would help put the right people on the right rides and increase participation wherever possible. Some of the regular rides in the pipeline:

Cycle Rides For All (monthly family friendly rides of 5 to 20 miles from April TBC), Social Cycle Rides (monthly social rides 20 to 30 miles from April) Freedom Cycles Tuesday rides (quick road bike rides starting from the shop), Freedom Riders Sunday afternoon rides (social rides), Lichfield Dérive (last Friday of the month social city centre ride).

There are also a number of one off rides planned as well:

Lichfield Tweed Run (date TBC), Captain Smith Alleycat (Beacon Park 29th July), The Alternative Sheriff’s ride (September), Meriden ride to cyclist war memorial (May?), Gary from Freedom Barmouth night ride (August?), St Giles Hospice charity ride (September).

We’ve already had the cycle jumble this year and the volunteer Lichfield Rangers are out on their bikes each month trying to keep the NCN 54 well maintained, plus the Lichfield Re:Cycle project. There was even talk earlier in the week of a regular evening bike social along the lines of the Bike Lounge in Birmingham. To help pull this together it would be great to hear from anybody organising such things with as many details as possible. It will be easy to have a version online that can be edited and updated throughout the year and possibly a printed version to distribute probably around March/April time.

Contact email details above.

Respect your Elders

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Finally had a camera when I bumped into a couple of cycling subjects I have been looking for around town. Locking up outside Tydemans on Bore Street were Elder Von Scheel from Denmark and Elder Ross from Canada, a familiar sight riding around. They are from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints on Purcell Avenue near where I live. You may have seen them or other elders before. I first chatted to one a few years ago. They are replaced every few months by another young man on a two year mission away from their family, doing the work of their church in Britain. Over the years I have met people from South Africa, Europe and North America doing this. I always pass the time of day, never talk religion, but try to be friendly and find out why they do what they do. Next on my cycling list is to get a snap of a PCSO. I spoke to one the other day who told me they were getting new bikes soon. Keep an eye out.

Mustn’t grumble at cycle jumble biker mumbles

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Cycle culture landed in Lichfield big style today with Martin Cartwright’s cycle jumble at Martin Heath Hall. A lot of people have said some very nice things about the event. When the numbers are crunched I hope it was a successful day for the stall holders and perhaps we will see it back again later this year or next.

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Nice to bump into a few familiar faces. Donna Norford said hello though I missed Brownhills’The Last Word’Bob even though he managed to take a photo of both me and my bike for his blog. Ian Covey of the Vickers Biycle Company was a good sport for bringing along his beautiful roadster (assembled in Lichfield) for the masses to gawp at.

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We managed to thrash out an agreement for Vickers to be principal sponsors of the Lichfield Tweed Run and Picnic coming later in the year. More details as they are made up. Tally ho.

Lichfield Cycle Jumble > this Saturday < 35+ stalls

Rollup, roll up, for the biggest, best and possibly only Lichfield bike event of the year. Just one small gold coin gains entry to an array of delights from the sublime (Vickers Bicycles elegant and suave Roadster will be on display) to the ridiculous (Lichfield Re:Cycle will be sitting next to the tea hatch with a clutch of flyers).

Come along one and all, bring the kids to the see the new stuff, the second hand stuff and all points in between. Businesses in attendance will include Pinkerton Cycle Restorations, Midland Bike Fit, Curbside Cycle Servicing and Karbona among the 35 stalls. Refreshments available in the café area. Doors open 2pm til 4:30. May your jumble be a fruitful one.

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With that many stalls there will be next to no parking for buyers at the hall and Christchurch Lane is quite narrow, so parking on there won’t be easy. If you are not arriving by foot or bike or coming from out of town I would suggest trying to park at the new Friary Outer Car park and walking a few minutes up to Christchurch Lane. There is a car park at Bunkers Hill in Beacon Park (off Lower Sandford Street) that is also less than five minutes walk away and that one is just 20p for two hours but likely to be busy with park users.

Lichfield & Hatherton Discovered

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There aint no canals where I come from and since moving to the Midlands twenty years ago I’ve had a fascination and fondness for them. When we lived in the Black Country I observed the many things it is possible for a drunk or sober human being to roll, chuck or push into the cut. Moving to leafy Lichfield the canal around here is a bit more refined and genteel. Looking back through the posts I have done from the last few months, the towpath and canal crops up regularly, especially on my trips to Rugeley, Wolverhampton, Birmingham and even to the Lichfield canal itself.

Last nights presentation was by the Lichfield and Hatherton Canals Restoration Trust, another organisation wanting to make a contribution to the preservation of history in the area. We heard of the ambititous dreams of bringing both the Hatherton and Lichfield canals back into use after decades of neglect and infilling. The Lichfield stretch runs from Ogley Hay junction through the city to Huddlesford and thirty locks would be required to manage the downhill stretch from Brownhills to here. In places it will not be possible to use the original route of the canal due to modern development. Sounds familiar to some of the rides I have done recently looking at finding an alternative route between A and B.

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There were plenty of examples of money raised for infrastructure for the canal in the hope that one day they will be used. Most of us will already be aware of the bridge built over the toll road at a fraction of the cost of placing it there when the road was in full use. We also learned of half a million pounds of culvert buried under the roundabout on the Birmingham Road hibernating until the day the canal comes along. Another of their plans is to create a heritage towpath trail to link in two thousand years of local history, with the aim of drawing in people to use the canal and towpath for walking, cycling and leisure trips. The trust have a display in one of the empty shops in the City Arcade with volunteers there on Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays between 10 and 4 for more information about their work and to answer questions.

Lichfield Discovered have a programme of events planned for 2014 from walks to talks and even a picnic. Anybody with an interest in local history and recovering our local heritage should give them a look up on their blog, Facebook and Twitter. After seeing the canal peoples natty line in branded sweaters I thought maybe there was a niche for the history bods, but better still I think is to continue to take their endeavours out into the community, engaging people with the history that surrounds them and making it relevant to their everyday life. Kate finished the meeting by asking people to take part in the consultation over the closing of the Lichfield record office and centralising the service in Stafford. History is not just about the records and the microfiche but about the people who are able to make those records come to life and enable people to make their way through a seemingly endless amount of information. It seems the loss of access to the experienced staff and records locally would be a real blow to both those keeping the history alive and relevant, and to all residents in Lichfield.

Dee-Licious – from our fried egg correspondent

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Had a lunchtime meeting in Hednesford and was pointed towards one of the cafes in town. Not the Tea Pot or even the Coffee Pot anymore but Dee-Licious. We were greeted at the front door and told we could lock up round the back and they would keep an eye on our bikes from the kitchen. This week I met a friend in the newest Lichfield café and for just a smidge more than the cost of the fancy coffee there, I got two orange yoked fried eggs and chips and a mug of tea here. I was asked if I minded waiting a little longer for the chips as they don’t do frozen ones. My pleasure.

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Coming back we crossed the Chase, a cycling first for me, through to Upper Longdon. There we skipped over the A51 and took a lovely wet and muddy slide down Bardy Lane to Armitage and then back into the expensive little city. I look forward to going back that way again soon, though I’m not tempted to take the fixie on those hills. Freewheeling is the way.

Re:Cycle all the way to Brownhills

Has been a busy couple of day since I posted the first flyer for the Lichfield Re:Cycle proposal, due mainly to the power of the old social media. Within hours I had an email from David and Louise offering the project it’s first donated bikes and yesterday I got a lift over to Brownhills to pick them up. Just the sort of things I was looking for: two sturdy urban MTB’s (ladies) and a pair of well used 14 inch wheels kids bmx’s. The generous donors had recently upgraded the kids to bigger bikes and were looking for somewhere they could go for another use and not be left out for the scrap man. They even gave us a pair of unused helmets and a bag of bits and bobs. They contacted after seeing a retweet from the WS8 polymath BrownhillsBob. Many thanks to him and all the other tweeters and sharers helping to spread the word.

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The person who gave me a lift over is the same person who has generously offered some garage space to store a few bikes until we get going in the spring time. He’s also a dab hand with the oily rag and is going to give the bikes a clean and a service. Thanks also to the people who have shown an interest in helping out. I’ve been around looking for suitable pop up venues and have my eye on a couple of spots. Any suggestions or offers appreciated. Over the last year I’ve picked up a few bikes on my travels around Lichfield, mainly ones that I have intercepted from the scrappy but they were generally in such poor condition, due to being left outside, that they are only worth stripping for usable parts. This way we are being offered bikes that have been looked after but just haven’t been used for a while and won’t take too much effort to turn around and make them ready for a new home. I’m not sure how it will work at the moment. I’ve just checked my emails and found a very generous offer of four more bikes. Better check if we can squeeze them in as well. Fingers crossed.