It’s been a month or two since our last visit to Boscombe – you know, the Bournemouth suburb the Daily Mail anguished about last year, the one with “no room left for cars”, yep, that one – and, you’ll be surprised to learn, dear reader, that the issue of illegal parking on the infamous Christchurch Road cycle lane has not relented in the slightest.
In case you haven’t been keeping up to speed with the latest parking developments on the south coast, here’s a brief recap…
Bournemouth, Christchurch, and Poole (BCP) Council’s fairly innocuous decision last year to paint bicycle symbols on the area’s roads – to encourage cyclists to take a “prominent” position – caused something of a meltdown in the national press, prompting the Mail and Daily Telegraph to claim that cyclists in Boscombe were being encouraged to “ignore” the town’s dedicated bike lane and “act like they own the road”.
In a shocking turn of events, that “dedicated cycle lane” eulogised by those papers, it turned out, is almost constantly inundated with parked cars.
Over the last few months, cyclists have regularly posted images of the blocked bike lane on social media, while councillors have called for “zero tolerance” towards the illegal parkers, noting that the “ongoing abuse” of the infrastructure has been the subject of “consistent complaints” from residents.
road.cc reader Guy got in touch this week to confirm that the calls for a clampdown have yet to take hold.
“I cycled the short stretch through Boscombe and counted 20 vehicles illegally parked on a single journey, which has to be a record,” Guy, who sent us a series of photos of the bike lane blockers, told us. “Some of these vehicles are repeat offenders.”
Ah, there’s a nice stretch of clear cycle lane… Oh, wait
But while the problem shows no signs of abating, there is a glimmer of hope for Boscombe’s cyclists – coming in the form of a council review.
The Daily Echo reports that a review on the viability of installing wands on the cycle lane is expected to be completed in the new few weeks.
Earlier this month, councillors Andy Jones and George Farquhar met with the authority’s transport portfolio holder Mike Greene in Boscombe so he could witness the problem “first hand”.
But after a few weeks of silence, Independent councillor Jones gave Greene a slight nudge at a council meeting last week, asking him whether the wands would be installed and, if so, when, given the “ongoing frustration with the volume of illegal parking in this area”.
Greene replied: “Following the site meeting, which only took place a couple of weeks ago, I asked officers to investigate the practicalities and costs of segregating the mandatory part of the Christchurch Road cycle lane with wands.
“That review is currently taking place and the results, which I expect will come over the next few weeks, will be shared with ward members so they can feed into what action might be taken.”
So, maybe, maybe, Boscombe’s cyclists will get some lightly segregated infra, soon… or not so soon. I don’t know…
A few readers in the Facebook comments reckon their local car park/cycle lane could give Boscombe a run for its money…
“Hulme High Street in Manchester would like a word,” Karl says. “Council doesn't know what they're doing here with a hybrid parking/cycle lane. Pretending it's for cycles just makes it more dangerous.
“There is a council run 'free’(!) multistorey carpark at the end of the street, but you know, that would involve walking.”
Down in the comments, Patrick9-32 offered a simple, elegant solution to the Christchurch Road bike lane blockers:
£70 fine multiplied by 20 cars. That's £1,400 of revenue the council could make instantly while also making the road safer for both cyclists and drivers. There is no downside for the council other than people who do crimes being annoyed that there are consequences for their crimes.
Though cyclisto came up with a rather more forceful alternative – “a brave man and a red study bicycle”:
In yet another damning indictment of Northern Ireland’s approach to cycling and active travel, the Department for Infrastructure has axed its funding for cycling proficiency lessons in schools, telling the BBC that “budget constraints” mean it can no longer afford to pay teachers and instructors to deliver the scheme.
While the DfI says it will continue to provide training for teachers (who have to register with the department to deliver the scheme), schools will have to pay those teachers during the 12 weeks of lessons, which usually come at the end of the pupils’ final year of primary school.
The cycling proficiency scheme – known as Bikeability in the rest of the UK – has taught more than half a million children how to ride and look after their bike, as well as the rules of the road, for over 50 years.
In 2021/22, more than 300 primary schools took part in the scheme, with the department providing £32,000 in payments to teachers. So far, around £42,000 has been spent during the 2022/23 school year.
However, schools who were planning on holding the classes after Easter have now been told by the DfI that “there will be no budget available for the payment of instructors for delivering the cycling proficiency scheme”.
A spokesperson for the department told the BBC: “The cycling proficiency scheme is delivered by teaching staff in schools, who receive payment from the department for doing so.
“Due to budget constraints, we are not currently in a position to fund this payment to teachers. We will still provide training for teachers, should that be needed, and any practical resources needed to deliver the scheme, should schools want to continue to provide the scheme.”
Schools have until 21 April to inform the department if they intend to run the cycling proficiency classes before the end of the current school year.
In a year which has seen the Department for Infrastructure blasted for showing “zero ambition” when it comes to active travel, the news has, unsurprisingly, been met with disappointment and anger amongst teachers, politicians, and cyclists.
Kevin Donaghy, principal of St Ronan's Primary School in Newry (and, incidentally, this writer’s vice-principal when he was taking his own cycling proficiency lessons. Northern Ireland is a small place), told the BBC that uptake for the scheme had always been high.
“The kids loved it, they actually got a qualification at the end of it to say they were safe to ride on the road,” he said. “It’s a huge thing in the summer term for Primary Seven and at the minute we don’t know whether or not it’s actually going to go ahead.
“We can’t keep asking teachers to do more and more and more and get paid less and less and less.”
The Department for Cars strikes again. I've worked incredibly hard to push DfI in the right direction on active travel and space for people, but with every success we secure, we see two or three examples like this that set us all back. Time to break it up and start again. https://t.co/6gUmEFqKb2
— Cllr. Séamas de Faoite (@SeamasBelfast) March 28, 2023
Meanwhile, SDLP councillor Séamas de Faoite pulled no punches in his appraisal of what he calls “the Department for Cars”.
“The Department for Cars strikes again,” he tweeted. “I’ve worked incredibly hard to push DfI in the right direction on active travel and space for people, but with every success we secure, we see two or three examples like this that set us all back. Time to break it up and start again.”
“This is very disturbing news,” added Alliance Party rep Luke Patterson. “Stats released last week show only one percent of primary school children, and zero percent of post-primary pupils cycle to school.
“With climate and cost of living crises, cycling is a sustainable, healthy, and more affordable form of transport.”
Someone just needs to tell the Department for Infrastructure, eh?
Here’s one for the anti-cycling bingoists…
Leeds City Council has announced plans to install 25 ‘smart signal controls’ – which use artificial intelligence for detecting traffic – across the city in a bid to tackle congestion and improve active travel and public transport journeys.
The ‘AI for Detection’ controls (now that’s a name that’ll surely set some conspiracy theorists off on one) are made by transport technology scaleup VivaCity, and enable junctions to operate more efficiently by responding to real-time demand, Leeds Live reports.
In a similar manner to the “intelligent” traffic lights installed in Copenhagen in 2016, which aimed to ensure that cyclist need never hit a red, the sensors can be optimised for active travel by detecting people on bikes approaching from up to 70 metres away and providing a green light as they arrive at the junction.
This kind of technology will also be applied in Leeds to buses, while the sensors will collect data on the different transport types used on the city’s roads, anonymous journey time data, and speed insights (which should enable distinct green phasing waves for different transport types).
This data, Leeds City Council hopes, will also provide the local authority with a deeper understanding of road user behaviour in the city, which should help direct future infrastructure and sustainable transport investment.
“Our work with VivaCity is making Leeds a safer and more efficient place to travel sustainably. As a city, we’ve experienced increasing problems with congestion and pollution,” says Joel Dodsworth, Urban Traffic Management & Control Manager at Leeds City Council.
“We’re seeing real potential for this technology to improve our bus network because it will enable us to prioritise buses at junctions more effectively at crucial times of the day, while also balancing the needs of pedestrians and cyclists. Overall, Smart Signal Control is making travelling around Leeds more efficient and pleasant for our community, and the city less polluted.”
So everyone’s happy… apart from the ‘cyclists jumping red lights’ brigade, of course.
Strade Bianche winner Tom Pidcock will make his return to racing tomorrow at Dwars door Vlaanderen, the final tune-up race on the Flemish bergs before this Sunday’s hotly-anticipated Tour of Flanders.
The 23-year-old has been in sparkling form this spring, winning a stage of the Volta ao Algarve and placing fifth at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, before soloing to a sensational win over the Tuscan gravel at Strade Bianche earlier this month.
However, a crash on the final day of Tirreno-Adriatico left the former cyclocross world champion with mild concussion, ruling him out of Milan-Sanremo and the opening races of Flanders’ ‘Holy Week’, E3 and Gent-Wevelgem.
#DDV23: The place to be! 🇧🇪👊
Here's how the boys will line up tomorrow in Waregem. pic.twitter.com/sMaVLWnRHQ
— INEOS Grenadiers (@INEOSGrenadiers) March 28, 2023
But the Ineos Grenadiers have this afternoon confirmed that Pidcock will make his return tomorrow at Dwars door Vlaanderen, where he finished third last year behind Mathieu van der Poel and Tiesj Benoot.
The Yorkshireman, who will add some extra firepower to an already strong team which includes the in-form Filippo Ganna and Ben Turner, will be hoping the prescribed period of rest over the last two weeks hasn’t dulled his race-winning legs, as he aims to hit top form once again in time for the Ronde and the rest of the spring classics.
If I were trying to convince my fellow residents that a piece of newly-installed cycling infra was a bad idea, I maybe wouldn’t compare it to the ‘happiest place on earth’, for a start…
The 2023 edition of Gent-Wevelgem is already a few days old, but the discursive aftershocks have continued to linger well into Flemish Holy Week.
While it was all a bit too easy for Jumbo-Visma on a grisly days in Flanders’ Fields on Sunday, Wout van Aert’s decision to gift the win to loyal teammate Christophe Laporte has prompted a much stronger level of opposition than the dynamic duo faced on the Kemmelberg.
On the one hand, former cobbled classics titan Fabian Cancellara praised Van Aert’s generosity, which the retired Swiss rider claimed “elevated” his standing as a true champion. And, as others online pointed out, one victory at Gent-Wevelgem will mean a lot more to Christophe Laporte – who will, we presume, be even more driven to sacrifice himself for his team leader at this week’s Ronde – than a second win in the race would mean to Van Aert’s career.
— Mihai Simion (@faustocoppi60) March 26, 2023
“With that gesture he showed humility, generosity, chivalry... he showed humanity,” Cancellara said in his column for Cyclingnews. “For me, a champion is not only defined by races they win; it’s also the way they win, their personality, the human touches. All these things together add up to make a champion, and if you are willing to raise someone else up, then you are extra special.
“Of course, this was not an entirely selfless deed. I'm not sure winning Gent-Wevelgem changes Wout van Aert’s life. He has won it before, and he won another major Classic just two days ago. What matters most is the Tour of Flanders. That’s the one he wants to win above all else. It’s his one big goal for the entire season – everything else comes afterwards.
“He can afford to give Gent-Wevelgem away as it serves a higher purpose. This was a team victory and it makes the team stronger. He now gets more respect from Christophe Laporte and from his teammates – not to mention the fans.”
wout gift to laporte = people buttmad
wout wins it = people would also be buttmad
amazing how champions like wout always get put into this position (he can't do right, always wrong) by people shouting at a screen, eating their 7th donut of the day
— Kjell 🇧🇪 (@FerrexCS) March 26, 2023
Some onlookers, however, such as Belgian cycling luminaries Eddy Merckx and Tom Boonen, were more critical of Van Aert, and argued that a major one-day classic should never be decided on a whim.
“It’s his choice to let a teammate win, but I wouldn’t have done it,” the famously relentless Merckx – who was criticised for not letting a teammate win in a similar manner at the 1969 Liège–Bastogne–Liège – told Sporza after the race.
“Of course I don’t know what’s going on within the team. Wout van Aert was by far the best, you saw that on the Kemmelberg. He could write history by winning [E3] Harelbeke, Wevelgem, and the Tour of Flanders.”
Cheers, Wout (Zac Williams/SWpix.com)
Meanwhile, Boonen dismissed the gesture as a nice PR move by Jumbo-Visma, and expressed his concerns that Van Aert could “regret it” by Sunday afternoon.
“I have also helped teammates to the win, but never in such a situation,” the three-time Tour of Flanders winner said.
“You help teammates to let them fight for the win. This again looked good for the team’s marketing, but I don’t know if I would have done it.
“Jumbo scores, but Gent-Wevelgem is Gent-Wevelgem. That race is a nice addition to your list of honors. It is more than a ride in Paris-Nice. Do you want to win like this? I would have sprinted for it. Such a sprint would have looked strange, but it was the fairest.
“Wout is going to regret it. Riders come and go. Christophe Laporte will probably become the key figure for Wout in Flanders and Roubaix, but that is not a guarantee.
“Suppose you have a hard fall after 5km on Sunday [at Flanders], then you will regret it very much.”
Cycling writer Herbie Sykes, meanwhile, offered an interesting, and nuanced, take on the subject on Twitter this morning.
Sykes argued that Merckx’s opinion on the matter stems from his own experience as a pro, when – through his ruthless desire to win and prove himself as the strongest rider in the bunch – he single-handedly dragged the sport out of its former corrupt shell, where riders like his former domineering teammate Rik Van Looy could gift, buy, and sell races at their leisure, such was their dictatorial grip on their teammates and the peloton.
Sykes wrote: “You might argue that it was fine for WVA to ‘gift’ the race to Laporte, and that’s fine. Laporte is great, he alone was able to stay on, and he was good enough to do a turn. In isolation it’s cuddly and heart-warming and nice, and of course he’ll work for WVA at the business end.
“However we shouldn’t delude ourselves that he was the deserving rider on Sunday because he wasn’t… The point is that it doesn’t happen in a vacuum, and a cycling paradigm in which races are ‘gifted’, bought, and sold risks becoming institutionally corrupt.”
Worse still, ultimately it leads you right back to 1964, and the original Emperor of Herentals.
Van Looy was a great bike rider, but nobody in their right mind would want that.
— Herbie Sykes (@herbiesykes) March 28, 2023
What do you think? Was Van Aert right to ‘gift’ his teammate the win on Sunday? Or should the strongest, fastest, and smartest rider always triumph at the biggest races?
Or, and I assume this is what you’re thinking, should we just stop talking about this and look forward to Sunday’s Tour of Flanders – where, I’m sure, there won’t be any gifts.
‘Hello, is that Mr Musk? I have an idea you might be interested in…’
While the rest of us are slowly building up our mileage as the tantalising prospect of better weather draws ever nearer, for those rare specimens who like to partake in some ultra-distance bike riding, it’s been a busy winter.
Back in November, you may recall, round-the-world cyclist Leigh Timmis broke the world record for the greatest distance cycled unpaced in one week, covering a whopping 2,230 miles in just seven days (a lot more than most of us managed all winter) – with three of those record-breaking days in Florida hit by the small matter of a hurricane.
Well, unfortunately for Timmis, his record – which has previously been held by British cyclist Josh Quigley and Latvian rider Arvis Sprude – has already been broken, this time by Belgian Matthieu Bonne.
The 29-year-old, who took part in Belgium’s version of SAS: Who Dares Wins (I wonder if that’s where Ant Middleton ended up?), travelled to the flat lands of Arizona to take on the record, where he was faced with his own weather dilemma – a stiff breeze.
Nevertheless, Bonne put in 20-hour shifts, averaging around 26 and 27km/h every day, to notch up a staggering 3,619.72km (2,249 miles) during his week in Phoenix, beating Timmis’ record by 19 miles.
And there was me thinking I had a good week…
It seems that a very logical, rational reaction to a Low Traffic Neighbourhood in Oxford has been doing the rounds on social media this morning:
This 👇👇👇👇👇Oxford? pic.twitter.com/8FGPxuHXsr
— Mark (@markmaycot) March 27, 2023
And you know it’s a big deal when the nation’s beloved custodians of common sense and car-brained patriotism, Darren Grimes and Right Said Fred, weigh in…
Our politicians are enabling these cultists with every damaging policy twist and turn like this. https://t.co/aVZ2NkuOCr
— Darren Grimes (@darrengrimes_) March 28, 2023
@OxfordshireCC stopping people from getting to work. Council representatives get paid to stop other people from getting paid. This is where compliance leads. This bs should be ignored at all costs. https://t.co/begssF86Ol
— Right Said Fred (@TheFreds) March 28, 2023
However, you’ll be pleased to hear that not everyone has reacted to the clip with a ‘country’s gone mad’ style ramble:
Tell me you don't understand the highway code or have any respect for road traffic law without saying it.
Signage is clear.
Personally I would let them drive through and then report each driver to police for the offence. https://t.co/dFRyqRAJHm
— Real Gaz on a proper bike: gazza_d [at] toot.bike (@gazza_d) March 28, 2023
Let’s do away with zebra crossings while we’re at it. Why should we stop at the command of those stripy bastards? https://t.co/lbIzwO5f9J
— Rob Burley (@RobBurl) March 28, 2023
You don't see many zebras around these days, anyway. Seems a bit profligate giving them their own bloody crossings. And don't get me started on those entitled pelicans.
— Daniel Olley (@dolleyolley) March 28, 2023
And traffic lights, surely? How do we know who is controlling them. It could be an international socialist conspiracy of ... Conservative County Councils ...
— LDH Marketing (@LDHMarketing) March 28, 2023
Those pesky right lights, zebra crossings, pavements, gates, fields… Why can’t I drive where and how I want? I have to work! And I’ve got kids!
Ryan joined road.cc as a news writer in December 2021. He has written about cycling and some ball-centric sports for various websites, newspapers, magazines and radio. Before returning to writing about cycling full-time, he completed a PhD in History and published a book and numerous academic articles on religion and politics in Victorian Britain and Ireland (though he remained committed to boring his university colleagues and students with endless cycling trivia). He can be found riding his bike very slowly through the Dromara Hills of Co. Down.