Club 50-80

May 19, 2019

Anyone following along on Twitter will know that I managed to crack the code and get my £17 ticket to Inverness – meaning my £15 Club 50 membership has already paid for itself about 4 times over. I even managed to navigate the various hazards of late-running trains, tight connections and the late train home from Glasgow which can be lively* on a Saturday night.

Inverness itself was eye-opening. One of our latest projects for We Walk, We Cycle, We Vote is to try and understand how our streets can be redesigned to accommodate not just cycling but visually impaired and disabled people as well. We felt that the best way to do that was to go on an exploration together with a motley crew of blind people with guide dogs and white sticks, a young man in a wheelchair, and a handful of campaigners.

Inverness street sculpture

Public art or confusing obstacle? If all you have to go on is your white cane, this appears to be a flight of steps

At one point, with a pair of specs on that effectively rendered me completely blind, I had to put my own safety in the hands of one of our blind companions. I know that these sorts of simulations aren’t always considered all that illuminating (all I really learned was that I was completely incapable of moving anywhere without my vision, which I could probably have guessed) but it is a humbling experience to allow yourself to be led through the streets by someone who can’t see either but can navigate confidently and calmly and transmit that confidence to you. And, in a way I can’t quite put into words, it changed the whole dynamic of the discussion afterwards into something much more open and mutually illuminating. Maybe there’s something in those annoying trust exercises after all.

Looking at a dropped kerb

Kerb nerdery with a purpose

This is a work in progress, and we’ll be repeating the exercise in Glasgow and Edinburgh in a few weeks with different participant. Excitingly, this means that not only will I get a chance to deepen my understanding of what ‘streets for all’ really means in practice, but I’ll get to use my Club 50 card again. I knew my 50s were going to be fun. Just don’t expect to find me in the party carriage any time soon.

* Fortunately this time the party was going on in the other carriage; I was facing the other way so couldn’t see what was going on but, from the running commentary provided by a group of teenage boys who could see – indeed were craning their necks to make sure they didn’t miss any of it (‘she’s got her top off and she’s wearing a black bra’) – the group of women making most of the noise had lunched very well indeed.


June 28, 2015

I am back from the Cycling Embassy AGM in Leicester, a weekend of deep cycling deliberations and, of course, the traditional infrastructure safari of the good, the bad and the ugly bits of our host city’s cycling facilities.

Unusually for a UK city, Leicester has a fair few places where the cycling provision is, if not entirely Dutch in its execution, is at least something we could show our cousins across the North Sea without them laughing openly at it. The city centre, for instance, is almost entirely car free, they’ve taken a whole lane out of the inner ring road to create a cycle track instead, they’ve taken out a whole flyover and replaced it with a walking and cycling path instead, and there’s a nice greenway that ties up the city centre with the suburbs to the north and south, meaning that (if you pick your host carefully – staying with cycle campaigners helps) you can cycle from your accommodation to your meeting place and barely have to tangle with any traffic at all. The details are pretty nice too – like road crossings that allow you to cross the road all in one go, rather than spend what feels like the rest of your life penned up on a traffic island, and forgiving kerbs on the edge of the cycle paths which slope gently upwards so that you aren’t likely to catch your pedal on them as you ride along side by side earnestly discussing the finer points of cycling policy. It is attention to such details as kerb angles that gets us dubbed “kerb nerds” by the rougher elements of the cycle campaigning world, a label we wear with pride, for we are largely at peace with our inner infrastructure geekery

That said, my favourite bit of the trip wasn’t really intended to be cycling infrastructure at all, dated from a few decades back, and was definitely not good practice in many ways.

Yes, the bollards here are too close together, and not reflective (they may need some colourful knitwear), and later on we came across some kerbs which were sadly vertical, but how wonderful to see such mature trees taking up space where cars had once roamed free. An entire neighbourhood had been turned into a series of cul de sacs and we saw plenty of kids playing out on scooters, which is in many ways even better (and rarer) than loads of cycling.

It wasn’t until I’d tweeted it that I heard the story behind why such a scheme had been put in in the first place – nothing to do with cycling at all, but to stop kerb crawling.

At least until we came along …