Thursday, 28 June 2007

Social change

The changing pattern of shopping habits is evident here on Whalley New Road as anywhere. There are probably in the region of some sixty small shops along my route. Somewhere in the region of twenty of those outlets are either vacant, closed or up for sale as seen in the shops at Roe Lee.

This is clear evidence we’re not buying enough locally to sustain these businesses. Out-of-town retail parks, shopping on the Internet and the fact that we’ve become a throw-away society are all contributing to this change. Of the retail outlets remaining, the majority are, cooked food take-aways, hairdressers, nail bars or tanning salons. Chuck in a couple of newspaper shops and some second-hand shops and that’s your lot. Gone are the little hardware shops, motor factors, shoe shops, insurance brokers, cobblers, stationers etc. Even the off-licenses seem to be struggling.

The story isn't much better in Blackburn town centre. Retailers there complain about falling trade. The abolition of free parking is certainly a bone of contention with consumers and shopkeepers alike. Protest web sites have sprung up to campaign against the parking charges in Blackburn. It was reported in March that a website was running a protest this May. The council have now announced the re-introduction of limited free parking as reported in the Lancashire Telegraph a couple of weeks ago.

Even the Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council recommendations for a cycling strategy published in conjunction with Cycling England in November 2006 recognised a weakness in the parking facilities for cyclists: ‘Despite plans to remedy the situation, the current lack of secure long-term cycle parking facilities at many public and private destinations within the Borough prevails. This undoubtedly discourages people from cycling for utility trips which would involve leaving their bike for any length of time at a destination, e.g. for work, education, or shopping trips.’

None of this is news – the trend probably started back in the 1970’s. Recently though, it seems change is happening faster than at any time before. These pictures reaffirm it’s not happening for the better of local retailing. Time will tell if the well-intentioned changes help reverse these trends for the town centre but for these shops, there doesn’t appear to be much hope.

Friday, 22 June 2007

Wednesday, 20 June 2007

Fill that hole

If like me, you find your journey consists of concentrating on traffic and avoiding holes in the road, you might like to know about a free service from the Cycle Touring Club (CTC) called 'Fill That Hole' ( It takes care of notifying a local authority of any holey problem you come across. You just need to report the problem via their web site and they do the rest.

Of the 5964 holes on their hazard list, there are 4 in Blackburn. I had been cycling past this one for some time now and wondering what qualified this hole to be marked with white paint when the rest of the journey has many similar hazards and bumps to avoid. It is probably whether the hazard has been notified to the local authority so they have knowledge of the hole and it can go on a repairs list.

Blackburn with Darwen council website states:
"Safety inspections will be carried out in accordance with the relevant section of the Council’s network management policy and the Council's highway safety inspection procedure. "

"Our primary concern is the safety of those using the road network. For that reason, the findings of the safety inspections will be the principal driver for undertaking the appropriate methods of maintenance. More information about this is in the highway safety inspection procedure".

This hole was obviously in this phase. I took the picture on Monday and today it has been patched up. I also took this picture of what looked like a worse hazard at the bottom of Philips Road. That was alsoMonday. By Tuesday it had white paint round it. The inspector is more active than I anticipated. Hats off to Blackburn with Darwen there.

I look forward to seeing less white paint and smoother roads to cycle on. I'll keep you posted. In the meantime lets see if Blackburn with Darwen can keep the list of hazards on 'FillThatHole' below 0.135% of the total.

Tuesday, 19 June 2007

Bike Week 16th-24th June

Of course, you all new that, didn't you?
Blackburn with Darwen are have a few events, the last one being tomorrow morning.

High drama en-route

Cue the sound of spurs chinking and the western music. Luckily no one was hurt in this incident but I was quite surprised when I discovered what had happened.
I saw a police car yesterday morning. I half thought it might be on the lookout for moving traffic violations or perhaps investigating the illegal felling of protected trees. The car was parked a couple of doors up from the house shown in this post. I thought no more of it. On the way home either it, or another one, was there. Obviously something happened, but what was not obvious, was what?
It turns out there was a shooting on Whalley New Road near Bastwell earlier on Monday morning. The BBC have details of the incident, which happened about four hours before I passed by.
Apparently six men have now been detained and it is thought the incident may have been gang related. The Lancashire Telegraph also covers the incident. I hope this is an isolated occurrence. I also hope the private ambulance and police car I saw nearby tonight were unconnected.

Wednesday, 13 June 2007


Where I used to work, there was a farm nearby and we saw plenty of animals. Some of them were from the farm and some were wild such as rabbits. Once, we even saw a pair of breeding bipedal primates!
Now, we're located on an urban business park we don't expect to observe as much wildlife. How wrong could we be?

Last year there were plenty of lapwings nesting on the gravel land around the NTL building. This year we've got oystercatchers. Here's a couple spotted by Glenfield Park on the way home.
The absence of a long lens, it raining, and me not being a birder are my excuses for any lack of quality, but the pics were taken today and are not library images.
This is the Eurasian Oystercatcher or common pied oystercatcher. See wikipedia for more details. Oystercatchers in the Greenbank area of Blackburn are obviously not feeding on molluscs and presumably are enjoying a rich diet of worms and other insects. They make a lot more noise than the lapwings. To hear them, click here.

Tuesday, 12 June 2007

Streets of gold

The route to work suddenly got brighter the other day. It looked like it was paved with gold. Well it was, only a kind of fool's gold. Then, I discovered where all the yellow came from. It was from this tree.
Looking like it had done 10 rounds with a Russian boxer I didn't rate its chances for survival. After all, you're not supposed to prune plants when flowering, are you?
Mr Titchmarch advises:
'Laburnums are best pruned any time from the end of the summer, up until Christmas. Pruning earlier in the year should be avoided because they are prone to bleeding'
And there it was lying all over the street, like a bloodbath.
I can confirm it won't be surviving since it was chopped down today. I wonder if it had a tree preservation order on it?

Hopefully, the owners won't wait until National Tree Week to plant a replacement.

Monday, 11 June 2007

Beware the buggy

As every commuting cyclist will tell you, mixing it with motorised traffic can be quite hair-raising at times. Avoiding large buses and heavy vehicles in restricted road width often means getting squashed in the kerbside or against parked cars, all the time with the danger of someone opening a door or pulling out of a side road.

These thoughts are in one's mind travelling down the A666 towards Blackburn but it is comforting that I have more options than this poor chap on his motorised transport. It probably has a top speed of 8mph and can’t be very manoeuvrable. I passed him this morning going a good 10mph faster. Further back under Skew Bridge he’d have been barely noticable. Luckily most motorists were quite considerate this morning but it would only take one fool doing 50 down this 30mph road (not uncommon along here) and it could be a different story.

Saturday, 9 June 2007

Drivers 'need psychometric tests'

It is with some irony that the BBC reported today that driver's need psychometric tests since the current system doesn't root out those drivers prone to breaking the rules. It was only a couple of days ago, I decided the name for this blog - a play on words for my reflections on a short bike commute.

One of the things I see on a daily basis is a number of moving traffic violations where road users blatantly flaunt the rules of the road. Yesterday I was out with my camera and witnessed this common occurrence:

Here at this junction on my route you will notice the two no right turn signs.

In the space of time it took to stop and take the second picture three vehicles made a right turn.
The other day I saw a police patrol car do it. Makes you wonder what tests they take!