Cycling and the Countryside

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Cycling in the countryside can be an unparalleled joy. But too often fast, hostile roads and make it worse than cycling in Britain’s urban streets. What’s gone wrong? And more importantly, what can be done about it? Ralph Smyth, transport campaigner at the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England, explains what the problems are and what his organisation is doing to improve conditions for cycling in the countryside.

School level data on cycling to school

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A recent flurry of twitter discussion on the very low level of cycling to school in Britain, and how poorly this country compares to more cycling-friendly places, prompted me to look for school level data on how children travel to school.

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In the map below is every school in England, with data on mode of travel to school from the School Census 2011. The red dots denote schools where less than 2 per cent of children cycle, the purple dots where 2-5% cycle, the blue dots where 5-10% cycle and the green dots where more than 10% cycle.

Why 2011? It’s the most recent data there is since the government stopped collecting this data. It defies belief that with a growing epidemic of childhood obesity, and evidence that fewer kids are walking or cycling to school, the government should respond by pushing its head further into the sand.

Here’s a map of just the schools where more than 10% of children cycle to school:

The top schools in terms of cycling to school? Step forward the Parkside Federation Academies in Cambridge, who reported more than 60% cycling to school.

The schools with least car-dependent pupils were Sarah Bonnell School in Newham and Capital City Academy in Brent, both reporting less than 0.3% of children travelling to school by car. The most car-bound schools are Adlington Primary School in Cheshire, Windlestone School in County Durham and Pannal Primary School in North Yorkshire, which reported a full 99% of children travel to school by car.

Finally, here’s a map showing all schools reporting more than 80% of children get to school by car:

The raw data is available on a Google Fusion Table. I merged the census data with a different dataset containing school addresses, and geocoded that using Google’s geocode service. A few caveats:

1. The School Census on travel to school mode is conducted by a show of hands in assembly. So must be taken with some caution.

2. Some schools did not report cycling figures, all that appears in the data is an ‘x’.

3. Some schools on the map didn’t report any data at all. I think these are mostly independent schools, perhaps they are exempt from the reporting requirements.

4. It’s possible that Google’s geocode process has not processed all the schools, this may take a few more hours/days.

While the low levels of cycling to school is depressing, most primary school children and a large minority of secondary school children still walk to school, a healthy and sociable option, though it does seem walking to school rates are gradually declining in favour of the motorised ‘school run’.

The same data (and more) is presented in a less rough-and-ready way by the School Travel Health Check website.

Thanks to Richard Evans for pointing out that this data exists. And Tejvan Pettinger for the photo.

Campaigning for Cycling

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In the middle of possibly the worst week for cycling fatalities in London Mike Cavenett of the London Cycling Campaign talks about what his organisation is doing to change things in the city and how an effective cycling campaign requires a single, simple message clearly and imaginatively presented, mass mobilisation and relentless pressure on political decision-makers.

Image credit: zefrog

High on a Mountain Top

Since the very earliest years of the bicycle, adventurous cyclists have been unable to resist the allure of the mountains – the challenge of riding up and the thrill of freewheeling down the other side. Mountains are also the crucible of many of the most dramatic moments in professional bike racing. Daniel Friebe and Pete Goding, the authors of Mountain Higher: Europe’s Extreme, Undiscovered and Unforgettable Cycle Climbs join host Jack Thurston to talk about the quest for ever more exhilarating climbs and breathtakingly beautiful places. I

In a podcast-only extra, Bill Chidley reports back from the Annual General Meeting of the London Cycling Campaign, where important details of the Space For Cycling campaign were agreed.

Photo credit: Pete Goding

What It Really Means to Go Dutch

To many UK cycling campaigners, David Hembrow is a Moses-type figure, handing down tablets of smooth, car-free red asphalt from the streets of Assen in the Netherlands where he lives and writes the blog A View from the Cycle Path. He’s also a controversial figure, arguing that separation of cars and bikes is essential for mass cycling and that many UK campaigners are either on the wrong track or suffering from hopelessly low expectations. In an extended interview David explains why he moved from England to the Netherlands in search of cycling nirvana and what the Dutch have got to teach the rest of the world when it comes to making cycling friendly towns and cities.

Image credit: David Hembrow

A Bright New Dawn for Cycling in London?

London Mayor Boris Johnson’s new Vision for Cycling has won widespread praise for its ambition of making London streets more inviting for people on bikes, following the successes of cities like Amsterdam and Copenhagen. Jack Thurston is joined by three cycling activists for a look at the details and to share their views on what really needs to be done to make London a safer and more pleasant place to ride a bike. Featuring Trevor Parsons, coordinator of Hackney Cyclists, blogger Mark Treasure and bike poloist, blogger and former bike messenger Buffalo Bill Chidley

When Will We Stop Lorries Killing Cyclists?

As another cyclist is killed by a lorry in central London, Jack Thurston asks whether it’s time to take a harder line to make the city’s streets safer. Featuring Cynthia Barlow of RoadPeace, former bike messenger Bill Chidley and Mike Cavenett of the London Cycling Campaign, which has recently proposed a new design for lorries working in London.

Find out what – if anything – your borough is doing to make roads safer for cyclists.

Plus news of Jack’s new book, Lost Lanes: 36 Glorious Bike Rides in Southern England.