Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Roll on September

I just found out some of the roughest patches of road on my daily commute are going to be resurfaced. Whoopee! Everyday I bounce around over these worn out bits of carriageway. Over the last year, my bike has gradually been falling to bits and I sure the these roads are a large factor in its demise. After numerous spokes failed, my handlebars sagged with fatigue and today my rear mudguard split away from its mountings.

The road bulletin from BwD informs that: "A666 Whalley New Road from Cemetery Entrance to Pearl St and from No. 574 to No. 700 - Resurfacing of carriageway - Off peak restriction". These two sections contain some very rough road or uneven surface, though not obvious from the general pictures here.

The first section is from the Cemetery for 500 metres towards Brownhill.

The second is 200 metres from the beginning of the bend (between Amethyst Street and Topaz Street) towards the traffic lights at Brownhill (Opal Street).

The bumps aren't that noticeable in a car, but on a bike they are terrible, so this is good news indeed. Work starts 1st September for eight weeks. Hopefully the other poor sections particularly the mess at Skew Bridge can be put on the list next. (That problem was notified to the council by someone using FillThatHole.)

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Cycling infrastructure

I may be a bit premature calling this one, but a development on the route I commute through Blackburn is looking potentially disadvantageous for cyclists. St. Steven's primary school on Robinson Street has a new building in the final stages of being built and to address traffic problems there, some remodelling of the road layout is happening. The need for something has been obvious, as the rat-run that is Robinson Street, has become mayhem at peak school drop-off and pick-up times. I come along that road on the way from the confectioners and every time I do, I'm concerned for the children's' safety or my own as there is so much going on, with cars pulling out and stopping and people crossing the road. Recently it's been compounded by the building work with all the contractors' cars, vans and delivery vehicles.

To address the problem Blackburn with Darwen Council have commissioned remodelling of the junction at Robinson Street and Phillips Road, moving the kerb line, just visible in the photo above, and installing a mini-roundabout.

When not coming from the butty shop, my route is direct up Phillips Road. Whilst I don't have an issue with mini roundabouts, I do object to kerbs that force cyclists into the narrowest part of the road. Why, in this age of supposed eco-friendly traffic policy, has investment been approved to change the road layout without inclusion of proper cycling infrastructure but promoting on-street parking? These extended kerbs in effect narrow Phillips Road, allowing parking up to the junction, reducing the view and, as a consequence, safety. Is it because local building policy restricts the number of parking spaces for employees provided at new buildings so staff will now have to park on the street?

Provision of cycling infrastructure, if there ever is any on this road, will probably involve white road paint in the form of a bike symbol with the words 'Ends' just before this newly created hazard. With the space available there is so much more that could have been done to promote cycling. This appears to be an opportunity lost. From the bottom of the road, nearly the whole distance has been 'remodelled' in the last year or so and could have had proper cycle lanes integrated. My bet is that there won't be any.

Please tell me I'm wrong.

Sunday, 26 July 2009

Another great day for British Cycling

I've been absorbed by the Tour de France for the last three weeks watching as the story unfolded with each day's drama. Today in Paris, Cav finished off an incredible tour with his 6th stage victory that also saw Wiggo roll in a very impressive 4th in the GC. That's not to belittle the achievements of the other riders in any way, just that it made it all the more enjoyable to watch from the Brits' standpoint with what is the best result since the 80's. I started out with the intention of seeing how Lance's comeback would fare and ended up enthralled by the strategies, breakaways and politics each day. Now I'm looking forward to next year's when there will be completely new British and Livestrong/Nike teams.

Local Bike Store Quality - Do it yourself?

My daughter went into a well known Lake District cycle store with her rather dilapidated old bike that had two perished tyres, one of which was flat. It had been stored for a long time and she was needing it now for regular short commutes. She wanted to be sure the bike would be reliable and wanted to practice riding before needing to go to work on it.

She organised with the staff at the counter to have two new tyres and tubes fitted. After a coffee she returned to see her steed looking much better with its new rubber installed and went for a short ride.

The next day I offered to go on a ride with her only to find when we got the bike out, the same wheel was flat again. Before we could go on our ride, I had to repair it. The tube was the original tube with the original hole in it. I know because it also had another patch on. This particular store gets a lot of passing trade from the many day trippers to the Lake District, which is what my daughter had done. Consequently, it was not easy to just pop back to the shop and get the mistake rectified.

She checked the receipt and hadn't been charged for tubes, so somewhere between the counter and the service guy, there must have been a communication breakdown. I still find it strange that a large bike shop, like the one she used, would not have staff experienced enough to ensure all cycles leaving their store are roadworthy and reliable. My daughter paid top price for the tyres and £10 for the labour. It's unfortunate that large stores such as this force the smaller shops offering better service out of business. Net result: my 'avoid' list of cycle shops is growing faster than my 'support' list. It also means those prepared to 'do-it-yourself' rely on Internet resellers, which would have been around £14 cheaper. In this instance, it was not about the cost but about the inconvenience.

This is another example I've encountered of inadequate service from a 'reputable' cycle shop. I don't want to dis' the shop in question but this experience does beg the question how a growing bike industry with a supposed bright future is going to gain mass acceptance by the general public when it seems odds-on that they'll be let down by their suppliers? The solution is to build a relationship with a local supplier you can trust, if you can find one, and hope when you're out of town, you find one that's equally as good.

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Blackburn GP Cycle Race

Cycle racing tomorrow (Wednesday) in Blackburn town centre with juniors from 6pm, National Category B race at 7pm featuring many local and club riders and the main British Cycling Elite Men's Circuit Race Series race at 8:15pm. This last race features well known criterium racers from the recently televised Tour Series.

More information from Blackburn with Darwen Council.