Monday, 8 December 2014

Dulwich rat runs

Several residents are concerned about the speed and numbers of cars on the streets, but fear that measures which are designed as improvements for walking and cycling in one area could cause unintended unwanted knock-on effects. Southwark's current consultation about the Greendale/ Townley/ East Dulwich Grove junction is generating local debate about the best way to make this junction safer for pedestrians and cyclists without creating unintended rat runs elsewhere.

Even if we all recognise there's a problem with traffic congestion, road danger and air pollution, and understand the pressures of increasing populations and changing journey habits, we might have different ideas as to the best 'solution'. Unfortunately this can result in inertia to ask for and reluctance to support any positive change - or worse, set neighbours and the council against each other in binary entrenched positions rather than directing energy at finding a joint solution.

We'd welcome a collaborative approach which considers the area as a whole - with the sorts of ideas which began to be explored with the Dulwich Society and Sustrans in the summer to try to think collectively about how to tackle some of the traffic problems. Where possible and when there are good reasons to do so, we also support temporary measures to 'try it and see', particularly where there can be ongoing monitoring of impact across neighbouring streets, as well as flexibility to amend light phases, alter hours of operation of traffic restrictions, or tweak physical barriers.

Can we stop our streets being used as rat runs?

Thousands of people who don't live, work or shop here drive through the area every day on their way to another destination, and use easy 'rat running' short cuts wherever they or their sat-navs can find them. As a result, residential streets are not the safe havens they should be for walking, cycling, playing or chatting with neighbours, even outside the manic school run.

These challenges are not unique to Dulwich. Examples from elsewhere of area-wide attempts to address these sorts of issues include:
  • in parts of Hackney 'filtered permeability' is used in a strategic way to protect residential areas from non-local motor traffic: a series of carefully positioned bollards or planters make a whole network of streets less useful as a rat-running short cut. Residents and their visitors/ deliveries etc can still drive to the door if/when they need to, but can also enjoy greater freedom to walk or cycle peacefully and safely away from fast or busy motor traffic. This method of geographically cocooning the character and residents of an area, while removing barriers for walking and cycling, is common in some parts of Europe, and increasingly being considered in traffic-choked parts of London.
  • In response to problems caused by the school run in Scotland (and too many parents believing they must drive their children right to the school gate), there have been trial 'car exclusion zones' with a parking curfew within 300 metres of primary schools at drop off and pick up times. This started in East Lothian, and eleven Edinburgh primary schools will follow next year.
  • A new 'traffic choices' website gives information about traffic issues and illustrates options and potential solutions for people in Bristol and elsewhere. This is worth a look to understand the sorts of choices made by council traffic engineers, and the reasons and cost implications. 
  • The Mayor of Paris has tried limiting private car traffic by restricting travel to alternate days depending on number plate, and has just announced further plans to restrict private motor travel across France's capital.
Many of the current generation of residents have fond memories of walking and cycling to school and recognise the need for something to change to make these the easy, obvious, safe ways of getting around again. There is an opportunity to use this growing awareness as a catalyst to start thinking about how we can improve our neighbourhoods.

Southwark Council has launched an interactive map where residents can highlight concerns and suggestions about roads to inform their draft cycling strategy. If we all share ideas via this tool, as well as positive debate and discussion, can we begin to reclaim more of our streets as safe havens for residents as well as children walking or cycling to school?

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

East Dulwich Grove/Townley Rd/Green Dale Junction

We are delighted that Southwark Council wants to improve the junction of East Dulwich Grove/Townley Rd/Green Dale. The plans and consultation are on the Southwark website and the consultation is open until 12th December. Please let Southwark know your ideas and comments:

Update: We understand that responses will be accepted until 19th December (as reported by Cllr James Barber to the East Dulwich Forum). We hope Southwark will consider carefully and share publicly the comments, research, ideas and suggestions which have been put forward as part of the consultation, in order to ensure the best possible scheme for children walking and cycling to the many schools in the area. 

The new design is a step forward for safe, active, independent journeys to school, making the roads more friendly and giving space and time to cross without feeling threatened. The thinking behind this sort of redesign is described in Southwark's draft Cycling Strategy"We have a vision that cycling will be for the many in Southwark, not just the few – the natural choice for getting from A to B - with attractive routes away from large vehicles or fast moving traffic. We want to prioritise cycling, and reallocate road space to cyclists and pedestrians."

This junction is particularly busy during the school run as it is immediately in between two large schools. Despite supervision from two lollipop people at school run times, getting between the two schools at opposite corners of the crossing is perilous and uninviting, with pedestrians having to wait several times including on the caged 'refuge' in the middle of the road. The situation for people on bikes is no better, with several lanes to clear while holding your nerve against cars trying to turn across your path. This junction is used by thousands of children and their families on their way to and from local schools, and has been under scrutiny for years.

We support junction improvements for the following reasons:
  • The simultaneous straight-across and diagonal "green man" crossings will be shorter, quicker, safer and much more inviting for people on foot - particularly important for children walking to school.
  • The advanced traffic lights for cyclists are an improvement, allowing bikes to have a head start to clear the junction without having to compete with motor vehicles (and could allow for a completely separate ‘bike only’ light phase). 
  • Segregated feeder lanes offer a less intimidating experience for people on bikes filtering past queuing traffic. 
  • Banning the right turn for vehicles would allow bikes to get across safely from Green Dale to Townley Rd without cars turning across their path. Near misses are common here, as many drivers coming from Townley Road think they have priority, or do not notice cyclists coming from Green Dale (which is a no through road for motor traffic, but leads to a popular quiet walking/cycling route up to Denmark Hill/ Camberwell and beyond). 
With more people friendly designs, the choice to walk, cycle and scoot should become more attractive. We hope that more people will choose to leave the car at home, especially at school run times.

It is clear that the detail of implementation will affect the scheme's success - for instance the method of segregation and the timing of the light phasing are key to making this work well for everyone. We hope that Southwark will consider carefully all responses to the consultation and work with local stakeholders on the details to ensure that the scheme really does provide an attractive choice of active travel even for those who do not let their children walk or cycle to school at the moment. For instance we would want to ensure that the width and capacity of any cycle tracks are maximised for family-friendly inclusive cycling for all types of people on all types of bike, and that the design avoids the problem of 'left hooks' where a bike going straight on is overtaken by a car turning left.

Please support improvements for active travel at this junction by emailing, or responding to the consultation online.

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

See and be seen!

Lights are on now for the school run and we all need to allow extra time to look out for everyone else on our journey to school. Unfortunately SMIDSY collisions ("sorry mate I didn't see you") happen at any time of year, but in the dark and wet it's worth making an extra effort to see and be seen.

How to learn good road positioning - to see and be seen

Good road positioning for our children crossing the roads or cycling to school becomes even more important when drivers' visibility is worse due to the weather, low sun, mist, fog, rain, darkness. Some drivers set off before completely clearing a frosty windscreen so have a very narrow field of vision. Others are distracted by mobile phones or toddlers. And all brakes are less efficient in the wet.
  • If you haven't taken advantage of the free cycle training from Cycle Confident we strongly recommend that the whole family signs up. The course includes where to position yourself on the road and at junctions as well as making eye contact and clearly signalling intent so that you can best see and be seen. This teaches valuable traffic skills and awareness whether or not you ride a bike regularly, and can help us all become better and more considerate drivers too.

Light up your bike

Make sure you and your children have bike lights and use them. It's illegal to cycle on a public road after dark without white front and red rear lights, a red rear reflector, and amber pedal reflectors. Any local bike shop will be able to help and can also check your brakes and tyres at the same time.

Once you've got the essentials covered you can have lots of fun blinging your bike with any other sparkly stuff including extra lights, and material which reflects light from car headlamps in the dark.
  • Try reflective tape on jackets, gloves, bags, frames and more, or buy reflective panniers or rucksack covers.
  • You can fix extra lights on your spokes, hats, shoes, gloves...
  • Reflective ankle bands are useful as their up and down movement gives a good clue to others that you're riding a bike (performing the same function as pedal reflectors). 
  • You can buy ready-made reflective gear, or add reflective stickers or tape yourself.

Be visible during the day too

In daylight, colours that give contrast to your surroundings can help you stand out. In a grey urban environment this usually means a mixture of bright / light colours.

Make sure you can see - shield your eyes

A peaked cap can help keep rain, sleet or snow out of your eyes, so that you can see what's going on  in plenty of time to make manoeuvres safely. This is especially useful if you wear glasses which can get steamed up and don't have windscreen wipers! If you like to wear a helmet, you can get a helmet with a peak, or wear a cap underneath it.

On foot

  • We all know it makes sense to 'stop, look, listen'. Taking care crossing the road ideally also means finding a well-lit space to cross away from parked cars. 
  • Be patient - remember that cars take longer to stop in the wet, and the bigger and heavier the vehicle the longer it takes to brake. 
  • Depending on the age and road sense of your child, you might want to encourage them to wear a reflective jacket or bag that makes it easier to be seen in the dark. 
  • Some Dulwich roads and paths are not well lit; it can make a walk home in the dark more fun if you carry a torch too.

Behind the Wheel

  • When you're driving in winter, give plenty of space to people on bikes or on foot who might be difficult to see and slower than usual, and might make unpredictable movements if they slip or swerve.
  • Take extra care at junctions, and give way to pedestrians who have started to cross. 
  • Please don't park on double yellows or zig zag lines during their operating hours. It's illegal and makes it much harder for children to find a safe place to cross the road or a safe place to cycle. 

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Walking buses and other local efforts

Yuck. The roads are slippery, visibility is poor as it gets darker earlier, numbers of pupils at Dulwich schools are growing and congestion is as bad as ever. Those who sensibly take the 'quiet' back streets were shaken by the recent news that a child was knocked off his bike by a speeding van driver on Eastlands Crescent; another child crossing between queuing traffic was hit by an adult on a bike who didn't see him. Luckily no-one has been seriously hurt so far, but we hear about lots of 'near misses' as a result of thousands of children struggling to school on horribly busy roads.

Despite the conditions, some schools report a dramatic increase in bikes while they've been working with Tim Warin over the last year.  Dulwich Hamlet leads the way with 10% cycling to school "pretty much every day", and many more on scooters and on foot. Brilliant!

It's also very refreshing to see schools with larger catchment areas (and the greatest proportion of children coming to school by car) coming up with their own solutions which work for their families, with small but important actions to try to help reduce congestion and parking problems. Here are some new ways that schools are helping keep the school gates clear and safe for all children, particularly those arriving on their own:
  • Dulwich Prep London has set up a 'walking bus' where parents can drop their children at the nearby pub carpark, to walk the last few steps to school with trusted members of staff. This is a simple but inspiring way of understanding and overcoming existing barriers, and it suits parents who are driving a number of children to different schools. The scheme should help ease congestion on Alleyn Park and Gallery Road, and gradually wean parents off the habit of trying to drive children as close to the school gate as possible. 
  • Dulwich College Junior School, which also has a high proportion of parent-taxis, is keen to establish a similar scheme to try avoid the school gate scrum and its knock-on effects on traffic on Hunts Slip Road and College Road. 
  • Bessemer Grange has gone a step further and is working towards making the part of the street immediately outside the school gates a car-free zone (like a play street) for after-school hours. 
  • Dulwich Wood Primary's Brompton-riding Head is ensuring new separate bike access for the growing numbers of children cycling to school - so they don't get in the way of others walking in, and can go straight to the school's new bike sheds. 
All good stuff! But we are all too aware that many parents and children still feel they have no option but to go to school by car. Without meaningful protected space allocated for bikes on our roads, most families who currently drive will continue to do so.

We know that teams at TfL are busy working up exciting plans for cycling routes across London; unfortunately they have been disappointingly slow in making a decision about Southwark's Cycle to School Partnership bid. We hear that this delay is all tied up with deciding on the routes for Quietways. But for streets around our schools to be most friendly for children and families walking and cycling from all directions we need to think about solutions for the whole area, not just isolated routes. 

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

How clean is the air around our schools?

When we met with the Dulwich Society and local residents in the summer, several people raised concerns about air quality. Unhealthy levels of pollution exacerbated by the school run is recognised as a London-wide issue, and the Southwark School Travel Plan Team reports that parental car usage in Dulwich is the highest in the borough: "up to 40% of school journeys being made by private car". 

There are several factors leading to high car use for the Dulwich school run including patchy public transport and higher than average journey distances. But it's in all of our interests to reduce car use for the school run: according to the Environmental team, children suffer the highest exposure to harmful traffic emissions when in the car in the flow of traffic.

What can schools, children and parents do to help improve air quality in their immediate area?

Last year six primary schools across Southwark (including Bessemer Grange) took part in the Southwark Cleaner Air for schools programme. This programme included:
  • Using an Educational Toolkit to raise air quality awareness and teach science and other curriculum subjects. 
  • Engaging the whole school community (eg pupils helping raise parents' awareness of the increased pollution they cause near schools by parking too close and leaving engines idling). 
  • Supporting schools to improve and update their Travel Plans, encouraging active transport (walking and cycling), and if driving is unavoidable, encouraging parents to park well away from school gates ('park and stride') to prevent pollution hot-spots that affect their children.
  • Offering grants to reduce energy use, save money and reduce the school's carbon footprint.
Southwark Council recommends all primary schools incorporate the Cleaner Air for Schools educational programme into the curriculum. A Cleaner Air programme for secondary schools is being developed and should be available later this year. Any school interested in taking part or finding out more can email Sarah Newman, Environmental Protection Officer at Southwark Council. 

We are also exploring the possibility of schools and residents groups taking part in a new air monitoring project to gather data to record air quality in particular streets. This could provide useful evidence when planning new routes and considering the effects of motor traffic emissions. Please get in touch if you'd like to be involved.

Sunday, 28 September 2014

Turney Road roadworks

We are informed that Turney Road will be blocked at the Croxted Road end near the bridge from Monday 29th September. This is related to flood alleviation works that have been underway in other parts of Dulwich.
The road is scheduled to be blocked to motor traffic until Wednesday 19th November but you can still get through on foot or by bike.
If you usually drive, perhaps try walking or cycling part of your journey instead. 

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Back to school

"So as another school year begins with this amazing sunshine, my 13 (nearly 14 but looks 16) year old daughter is cycling off to school desperate to cycle on the roads - but yet again as she reaches Dulwich Village - it seems to be impossible with the amount of traffic and no cycle lanes - and I definitely do not want her overtaking into oncoming buses - so yes she still seems to be on the pavement in certain places."

My own children value the independence and freedom of biking to school and enjoy the fact that it's three times quicker than taking the bus (precious extra time in the mornings). But it can feel a bit lonely. Few of their friends are allowed to cycle, so having a bike and socialising after school don't always go together - on Fridays the bikes tend to stay at home.  

We are thrilled that Tim Warin continues to work his Bike-It magic in local schools, adding four additional East Dulwich primaries to his portfolio this term: Heber, Goodrich, St Anthony's and Dog Kennel Hill. He gently introduces children and their families to the fun and practicality of bikes, and starts to build positive lifetime habits for independent active travel. Gradually this helps a few more families to realise it really is ok - and can be a joy - to leave the car at home a bit more often for local journeys. 

Tim is a fantastic addition to schools he works with. We look forward to more children being encouraged to discover how quick and easy it can be to get around by themselves. And more parents (and schools!) being encouraged to let them. 

But to achieve a dramatic reduction in the congestion, pollution, stress and danger caused by our school run, riding a bike needs to look like a normal, comfortable and attractive alternative for everyone, not just the pioneering few. There are some streets where current road layouts and traffic volumes mean this is not a realistic option. Most parents do not want their children cycling along the South Circular while a lorry hurtles past, or trying to weave through traffic jams in Dulwich Village. And it's not always possible to find an alternative route through mellow backstreets or parks.  

Elsewhere in London, TfL has bold proposals to create real space for cycling, for instance by reallocating a whole lane of general traffic to bikes, or removing coach parking spaces to create a bike lane. We welcome the principle of reallocation of space and encourage positive responses to consultations on London's North-South and East-West Cycle Superhighways. You can show your support by signing the LCC petition. We will continue to push for meaningful changes in our patch too. 

Thursday, 10 July 2014

Summer fun

Now's the time of year when Dulwich and Herne Hill start to breathe a sigh of relief. Some of the schools have broken up already, others have sent intrepid classes off to the seaside or to go camping, and traffic through the area is a bit less hectic at school run times.

So it is a good time to practise or research a cycling or walking route to school, or to encourage your children to go exploring on their bikes or on foot.

In other news....

It's the Herne Hill Forum meeting tonight Thursday 10th July where you can meet councillors from Herne Hill, Thurlow Park and Village wards. If you'd welcome a better environment for walking and cycling, or less congestion and less air pollution, please let them know. 7pm at St Paul's Church Hall.

All Dulwich Hamlet Junior School pupils who bike to school tomorrow will be rewarded with a smoothie made by Tim's pedal-powered blender. Tempting!

Well done to JAGS Y10s who won a prize for 'most professional team' in TfL's Youth Travel Ambassadors scheme. They've been busy promoting cycling and hoping for the "destruction of inactive travel". Will this mean fewer cars outside the JAGS school gates next term?

Bessemer Grange Primary had a sponsored bike ride to Dulwich Park last month, to raise funds for new bike shelters. It's also their summer fair this Saturday 12th July 11-2; Dr Bike will be there in case you haven't yet checked your bike is fit for the summer.

We're delighted that we've been shortlisted for the London Cycling Campaign Awards, thank you!

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Walk to school week record!

Well done to the five infants schools and three junior schools in our partnership who took part in Walk to School week, recording an impressive 3310 miles - up from 2500 last year. That's the equivalent of walking from London to Ottawa apparently! 
We know that a little help and encouragement is sometimes needed to enable everyone to leave the car at home more often and keep the area around schools clear of excessive motor traffic. We appreciate the friendly lollipop people based at busy junctions in our area, and we welcome Walk to School week as an annual push from local schools and families to build good habits for the rest of the year.  

Saturday, 14 June 2014

A breath of fresh air

Thanks very much to all who came to the meeting on Wednesday; it was good to see familiar as well as new faces, and a range of people interested in working together to address local concerns. 

Ian McInnes, Chair of the Dulwich Society, introduced Ben Addy who spoke about some of  Sustrans' successes elsewhere in transforming streets, encouraging walking and cycling, and 'putting people first'. 

Sustrans is already working in Dulwich via Tim Warin, delivering an inspiring range of events and activities to encourage families to leave the car at home for the school run including fun in the street this week.  The 'Bike-it' post is only funded until November, but if you agree with us that Tim Warin is doing a valuable job, please let Southwark Council know; we hope that Southwark will see the benefit of continuing to fund this important role.

In addition, we want to reconsider how we use our road space in some areas. We briefly discussed what makes a good place to live - Herne Hill and Dulwich tick most boxes! But there was shared anxiety about the exceptional traffic due to the unique density of popular schools (some of which have large catchment areas), patchy public transport in some parts of Dulwich, and many feeling dependent on the car. Concerns raised by people at the meeting included:
  • the challenge of thousands of children on the move at peak times of day, and the growing number of new schools and bulge classes,
  • dangers, disruption and pollution caused by large vehicles (including nearly 30 school coaches carrying more than 1,000 children), 
  • crowded pavements with not enough dropped kerbs and too many people in a rush on bikes or scooters, 
  • congestion and poor parking during school rush hours, and rat running and frightening traffic speed at other times.
Parking was raised as an issue. Some felt that it is essential to restrict parking in some way to ensure residents a car space when they need it, another thought that controlled parking was not a good idea, others pointed out the 'commuter cars' left all day in unrestricted parking zones near Dulwich stations. 

Several people were concerned about air quality and we discussed whether monitoring pollution levels on particular streets might give useful evidence to inform measures to restrict or reduce some types of traffic. Pollution is a particular concern because of the very large numbers of children travelling to and through the area. 

Ben spoke about the DIY Streets method which involves short term temporary interventions which can be trialled for a few weeks or months and adapted, adopted, or rejected - as a way of tackling problems while reassuring residents about the potential effect of any changes on their streets. College Ward Councillors Helen Hayes and Andy Simmons explained how the Dulwich Community Council might be able to support small pilot projects.

There was general agreement that there are many residents' groups and others across Dulwich and Herne Hill who are concerned about congestion, pollution, parking and safety and are looking at related issues in their street. Some of the challenges are related to complex movements and junctions, and it would be sensible to work together to look at the area as a whole. Please join the Dulwich Society, come along to meetings of Dulwich and Herne Hill Safe Routes to School, talk to us on the street or connect with us via Twitter, Facebook or email - so we can work together to coordinate and prioritise.

Thursday, 12 June 2014

Fun with a serious message

Greendale is buzzing this week with singing and dancing, a bike-powered sound system, new chalk markings on the road and delicious fruity smoothies (blended with bike power, of course). The children agree that singing along to "Dancing Queen" is much more fun than the usual chaotic drop-off battlefield outside school. Tim ran a similar disco at Bessemer Grange last week and believes in using friendly pester power to rid parents of dangerous parking habits:

"We wanted to show how many people use the space on a daily basis, and how a small number of cars dominate an area that should be clear of motor traffic to allow all pupils to arrive to school safely. It was a rare chance to have the space in front of school given back to people to be carefree and have fun. Children love the freedom of walking, cycling and scooting to school and if it takes some pestering from them to get parents to change, they may have a thing or two to say!"

So don't be surprised if you hear children reminding their parents not to park on the yellow zig zags outside school, or on double yellow lines near junctions or across cycle paths. The markings are there because parking near schools and junctions during the school run is dangerous.

Please respect the road markings and keep the area clear: children crossing the road or cycling home need plenty of space to see and be seen.

Some drivers are confused by different signs, or think it's ok because someone else parked there, or because they will only stay a few minutes, or they have a vague memory that some parking restrictions sometimes have an exemption for loading. But it's very simple. Don't stop on these markings at school drop off and pick up times. 
  • never stop where your vehicle will cause an obstruction to traffic or pedestrians
  • never stop on white zig-zags at pedestrian crossings
  • never stop on restricted areas outside schools when prohibited
"School Keep Clear" yellow zig zags really do mean "Keep Clear." No waiting, parking, stopping, not even for a moment on the school run.  Not even to drop off or pick up your child. This isn't to inconvenience anyone, it's to keep children safe.

Double yellow lines mean no waiting or parking at any time.
All double yellow line restrictions in Southwark and Lambeth operate 24 hours a day, all year round.

Please keep these areas clear. It is particularly important during our ridiculously busy school run in Dulwich and Herne Hill, when drivers should expect to see thousands of children walking and cycling.  Or maybe even dancing in the streets.

PS Most people live close enough to school to be able to walk or cycle and are surprised to find it can be much quicker and nicer than sitting in traffic jams and then spending ages finding somewhere legal to park. Try it!

Thursday, 22 May 2014

From Crystal Palace to cricket bags

Has Walk to School Week inspired your family to try a new route or to leave the car at home more often?

Phoebe (age 6) and Olly (12) have been cycling or walking to school from their home near Crystal Palace this week.  Their mum told us: 

"Phoebe has the longest journey as she cycles all the way to Herne Hill School. We mapped the route. It's 3.37 miles. She's loved every minute of it." 

We're impressed! 

To add to the challenge, Olly has needed his cricket kit in school a few times this week. That can take some determination to carry on a bike.

So how do some children manage to carry a large cricket bag independently? 

  • For smaller sports bags (SB and XSB in cricket sizes) it's usually no problem to stuff the whole lot into a bicycle pannier.
  • For youth-sized or full-sized kit our favourite solution is the rucksack-style cricket bag - much more practical than trundling an enormous and unwieldy wheelie bag. As well as making it possible to cycle with your kit, it's also much easier to carry onto the bus or train, to walk with friends between home and school or sports club, or just to stroll to the pavilion.

Monday, 19 May 2014

On the road to independence

Our guest blog this week is from 13 year old Kika Hendry. If you'd like to try free individual cycle lessons like Kika, please contact Cycle Confident. We'd also love to hear from others who might like to share the story of their journey to school.

"Do you love riding your bike like I do? There are many reasons why cycling is good for everyone: less pollution, less congestion, more exercise, better health, perhaps even saving some money. But I like cycling to school and to my extra-curricular activities because I like the feeling of independence. It’s fun being in charge of my own transport, timings and schedules. It gives my mum a break from being my chauffeur and puts her in a good mood too. 
I started cycling regularly fairly recently, I had just outgrown my bike again (the ones that only saw Dulwich park once in a blue moon) and my mum persuaded me to get a good bike. So I did! I then got some free individual cycle lessons too with Jawad, a cycling instructor who works for Southwark council. Together we explored my way to school from my house, finding the safest route, working out how to approach tricky junctions and where to position myself on the road and at crossings. Equipped with some lessons, a helmet and other essential bike equipment I now take to the Herne Hill and Dulwich roads all on my own. 
Cycling is not only great fun, it's an excellent form of exercise.  Cycling strengthens the leg muscles and increases cardiovascular endurance … I can tell I’m getting fitter when riding up that Holmdene Road. At first, I thought I’ll never make it to the top in one go… now it’s just part of my everyday cycling routine … no sweat. 
I’m aware that my mum and other people in her cycle group are campaigning for safer cycle roads and yes, it would be nice to have dedicated cycle lanes like they have in Germany or Denmark. It would make it safer for everyone. Still, I can’t hang around for this to happen … God knows how long that will take to sort out. 
In the meantime, I love riding my bike, it means I can stay longer with friends at school if I want to, not having to fear that my mum and sister are waiting for me somewhere. I also got to know my neighbourhood tons better and feel much more part of it now. My bike rides let me really enjoy these spring mornings. I hear the birds chirp and soak up the colours of the sky, and watch the trees and flowers come out in bloom all around me. Had I driven, I would have missed all of that, too absorbed in the radio and sectioned off from the outside. I feel the morning breeze, cool on my cheeks. Had I walked, I would have moved too slowly to experience the crisp wind whipping against my face. Only cycling can I reach that perfect tempo, that perfect balance between motion and stillness, where I am actively going somewhere and can take the time to appreciate the scenery around me. 
Riding my bike, I feel free and fast … I don’t even mind cycling in the rain. So in conclusion, bike riding is very important: it helps your health and your mind. Oh, and also the planet we live on. " 

Monday, 5 May 2014

National Walking Month

May is National Walking Month, so look out for inspiration from Living Streets, the British Heart Foundation  and Walk England to help us enjoy more of our everyday journeys on foot.

During Walk to School week 19th-23rd May, many of our local schools, teachers and parents will make a special effort to encourage all children to walk at least some of the journey to school.

As well as enjoying the mental and physical benefits of an active journey, leaving the car at home means everyone can benefit from better air quality, less congestion and calmer streets.

If you have lots to carry, are travelling a longer distance, or find walking difficult, why not ride a bike sometimes too?

Dates for your diary

Saturday 17 May - The Big Ride - leaving Dulwich Village at 10.30am

The 'Space for Cycling' Big Ride is a fun mass bike ride with a serious message, asking for streets that are safe and inviting for Londoners on bikes of all ages and abilities. The Big Ride starts in Park Lane at 12 (meet from 11am) and follows a motor-traffic free route ending at 2pm at Temple. There is a feeder ride leaving from Dulwich Village roundabout at 10.30 for anyone who wants to cycle to the start point with an easy-paced family friendly group, thanks to amazing volunteers from Croydon Cyclists and others.

Wednesday 11 June - Sustrans, Dulwich Society and Safe Routes - 8pm at the Methodist Church Hall, 155 Half Moon Lane (near Beckwith Road)

Sustrans is coming to Dulwich to help give ideas and discuss how we can share our roads in ways which make our streets safer and more pleasant for all. Hosted by The Dulwich Society and Safe Routes to School, the meeting will take place on Wednesday, 11 June at 8pm at the Methodist Church Hall, 155 Half Moon Lane. Come and have your say on how you’d like Dulwich and Herne Hill to respond to the challenges of increasing demands on our roads.

Thursday, 13 March 2014

Marylene's story

"You don’t have to hang around for long on some of the quieter roads around Dulwich in the morning or afternoon to see bike riders of all ages pedalling their way to school, often with a parent trying to keep up! There seem to be an increasing number of families in Dulwich using bikes to get around and I wanted to learn more from someone who regularly rides to school with children in tow. 

I spoke to Marylène, a parent of two who started cycling with her family last year when her children were 8 and 10.  After swapping stories about family bike rides in France and the joys of being a big family unit pedalling through the countryside, this was obviously a family who knew a thing or two about being out on their bikes. When their children got to Years 3 & 5 it was time to start using pedal power to get to school. 

I normally hear about parents being pestered into riding to school with children, so it was interesting to hear that it was Marylène who instigated the change, partly because as she has to do the journey twice it reduces the time it takes her to get to and from school by a third. 

Jumping on bikes to get to school wasn’t something the family did without thinking about it and it was very useful to hear about what steps they had taken to make the journey scenic and safe. 

Marylene’s family live a bit less than the UK average of 1.5miles from school. When they walk it takes 15 minutes along the busy Half Moon Lane.  After a bit of investigation and scoping out the local area, they have found a much quieter route and although it adds around a third of a mile to their journey, it has the benefit of taking in a quiet cul-de-sac and an off road cycle path. 

When they first started cycling a year ago they took to the pavement whilst building up confidence. Both children have been riding bikes at the Herne Hill Velodrome as well as on holiday for several years, but the school run was their first real taste of cycling on UK roads. They have left the pavement behind and progressed on to the road now, with mum leading the way and the two children following, getting invaluable experience and learning how to be safe on the roads under the watchful eye of someone who has been cycling for longer. They aren’t overly dogmatic about using their bikes – why bother when it’s pouring down with rain?" 

This is the second in a series of guest blogs by Tim Warin, the Sustrans Bike It Plus Officer who is keen to help more parents and children cycle to school. If you would like more information, please feel free to contact him:

Saturday, 8 March 2014

Step into Spring

 Enabling safe independent travel.
We are grateful that local Councillors continue to encourage safe, active journeys to school by funding three school crossing patrols (via the 'Cleaner, Greener, Safer' fund). Thank you to Village Ward Councillors Robin Crookshank Hilton, Toby Eckersley and Michael Mitchell, and College Ward Councillors Helen Hayes, Lewis Robinson and Andy Simmons. 

The reassuring presence of friendly lollipops at some of our trickiest junctions helps hundreds of families feel safe on their way to school.

As well as lots of happy walkers, we've seen a growing interest  in cycling this week thanks to the sunshine; enthusiastic children, parents and staff; our unstoppable Sustrans officer Tim Warin; and the Big Pedal.

There was a great turn out for the Big Pedal at Dulwich Wood Primary.
Sustrans Dr Bike aka Tim fixed 60 bikes at Dulwich Hamlet on Friday. The school tweeted "Non stop work and we have many safer bikes thanks to you."
Bikers Breakfast
DUCKS children, staff and parents enjoyed a Bikers' Breakfast. 
Year 10 Travel Ambassadors at JAGs want to persuade more people to cycle.
Bike to school
Key Stage 1 pupils at DUCKS took part in games to improve balancing and steering. 
In case anyone feels that they're missing out, look out for future events to encourage more people to cycle:

  • Southwark's Park2Park Bike Ride Wednesday 21st May. A mass bike ride for pupils from Y5 upwards cycling via the Herne Hill Velodrome, Dulwich Park, Peckham Rye and finishing with a BMX show in Burgess Park. Ask your school if it is taking part. 
  • Bike to School week 9-13 June. Maybe staff and parents will be persuaded to leave the car at home too.

Friday, 7 March 2014

"Now I don't have a limit"

We love the reminder from Isabelle Clement that mobility is fun and useful and there are lots of ways of getting around under your own steam.
Isabelle Clement, Director of Wheels for Wellbeing
A local mum who first took up cycling to keep up with her child, Isabelle is also the inspirational director of Wheels for Wellbeing. This charity runs sessions based at the Herne Hill Velodrome on Monday mornings, helping all sorts of people discover and enjoy cycling whatever their disability.

Our Cycle to School Partnership could deliver a network of segregated paths with the potential to transform everyday life for anyone who has gained confidence cycling around a track with Wheels for Wellbeing but does not feel comfortable on fast or busy roads. Better 'space for cycling' and more safe routes to school will open up opportunities for everyone to enjoy and benefit from active everyday journeys. 
The following interview is reblogged with thanks to Anthony Organ.

Isabelle Clement - Director of Wheels for Wellbeing

by Anthony Organ

A spinal tumour at the age of ten months left Isabelle Clement with severe mobility impairments for life.
Now 48, Isabelle is the director of Wheels for Wellbeing, a charity offering disabled people the chance to experience cycling through specialist equipment.
Here she recalls how discovering handcycling in her mid-30s got her to where she is today.
I had my son when I was 32. He doesn’t have any disabilities. My wheelchair was fine until we got him a bike when he was four. I thought ‘I’m going to be stymied here’. I couldn’t keep up in the chair on the same terrains. I was really worried and didn’t want to be left behind.
Then I came across an ad for an attachment to your wheelchair, which turns it into a handbike. You’ve got a wheelchair at the back and a hand-crank at the front.
Before this discovery, all I could think of was to get an electric scooter, because they’re what I’d seen. I didn’t really fancy it because that’s definitely a granny look, and I was only 36. But I’d thought I might just have to bite the bullet.
In a wheelchair, though you’ve got large wheels at the back, with any uneven ground your casters, the small wheels, slow you down. With the handbike attachment, you’ve got a much bigger wheel at the front. It’s a smoother ride, and unbelievably easy.
At the time, and it’s the same for most people who come to our charity, I thought ‘it probably won’t work for me’. You’re so used to coming across barriers and coping with the fact that there are things you can’t do. I was sceptical.
For my tenth birthday my parents got me a bike. I can still visualise it – bright, white and shiny. We gave it a go, but my feet wouldn’t stay on the pedals and I couldn’t balance. So we put it down as ‘no’ and got on with other things. That was my only experience of cycling as a child. As far as I knew I couldn’t cycle, so I didn’t try again.
Isabelle Clement, director of Wheels for Wellbeing
Isabelle using her hand-cycle
The first time I used a wheelchair was in my mid-20s. Until then I saw wheelchairs as something you don’t aspire to. I was going to meetings across a university campus and probably could have walked, but I would have arrived in a complete state. Somebody suggested a wheelchair and I thought, ‘I’m not sure about that’. Then a rep came with a bright pink, lightweight wheelchair. I could put it in my car, get to meetings and cross the campus quickly. That was my first experience of thinking mobility is fun.
The first time I used the hand-bike, I went to see friends near Banbury. These were friends from university so they’ve known me a long time. It wasn’t a long ride, but I put this thing on and off I went.
I’d left them behind. Kids go off and leave their parents behind, but I’d never experienced that. I just thought ‘oh my god this is great, this is such fun’.
For the first time ever I felt the breeze in my hair and my heart was really pumping under effort. I felt the whoosh of energy and endorphins that you get from exercise, which I’d never experienced. It was just really pleasurable. Now that I knew it, I wanted more of it.
That first cycle was like crashing through like a glass door. The distance in front of me was always very limited in terms of how far I could go, but suddenly I went right through that. It was fantastic and it’s really changed my perspective on what’s possible. Now I don’t have a limit. I’m not going to cycle to the other side of London, but I could.
But even then, and for quite a few years, I didn’t think of it as cycling. I just thought of it as a better mobility aid.
Wheels for Wellbeing was set up in 2006, about five years after I bought my handcycle. I knew the woman setting it up and she knew I had my bike, which I still didn’t call a bike. She asked if I’d mind being on the board. I helped the governance side of things, but didn’t think I knew anything about cycling.
As we grew the organisation, I started going to the sessions we ran. You know how you sort of re-look at yourself and your identity sometimes in life? I suddenly realised ‘I’m a cyclist, of course I’m a cyclist’. I’d never put that word to it.
I’d been taking on other people’s point of view – that unless you’re on two feet you’re not mobile, and unless you’re on two wheels you’re not a cyclist. I call it my bike now. It’s not a bicycle in the purest sense but I call it my bike because that’s what it is, and I want people to see it as that.

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Doing the Triple

Since January Sustrans officer Tim Warin has been talking to children, parents and teachers about their experiences of walking and cycling around Dulwich. He's found lots of different approaches; one local dad used a 'Triple' to get his children riding on the roads. 

"As the new Sustrans Bike It Plus Officer working in schools in Dulwich, I’m increasingly interested in how people get to school and why. When we ask, around 50% of young people would like to be able to ride to school but only 2% do. As is often the case when you’re young, life is unfair and there’s normally a pesky parent standing in the way of all things fun.
So I was pleased when I got to meet someone who has been doing the school run by bike since the day his youngest started primary school. His son needed wooden blocks to reach the pedals, and not just any pedals, because Angus Robertson and his family ride to school on what he calls a ‘Triple’, a three person bike with a grownup at the front, very closely followed by two small companions.
Angus is no stranger to unusual bikes as he runs London Recumbents, an organisation that hires and sell a plethora of the most amazing bikes I have ever come across. Whilst I was sent off to enjoy riding a ‘banana bike’ that uses your legs to steer and places you millimetres from the ground, Angus set to work wheeling more unusual bikes out the shipping containers that house their collection. 
When I got back I was confronted by a small army of mad contraptions that not only allow people with disabilities to enjoy riding bikes, but also allow a very different view of cycling to the MAMILS (middle age men in lycra) on road bikes that are often the face of riding. 
It’s no surprise then that Angus has found a bike that makes riding by road to school accessible and fun, even for a three year old and for local drivers – Angus often raises a smile. One of the problems with wrapping kids up in cotton wool is that when they do get to an independent age, they don’t have the skills they need to ride on the road. Riding on the triple has given Angus’s children plenty of experience of being around traffic and understanding cycling on the road and his eldest son has now detached and is riding his bike in Dulwich independently." 

Friday, 31 January 2014

New crossing on Gallery Road

Lovers' Walk
The Dulwich Community Council agreed at its meeting of 29 January to award £55,000 to fund a new crossing on Gallery Road between Belair Park and Lovers' Walk. This will help join up a car-free link from Dulwich Park and College Road through to Gallery Road/ Belair Park/ West Dulwich Station and beyond.
The bid for funds was submitted by The Dulwich Society, with the support of Dulwich and Herne Hill Safe Routes to School.

Friday, 24 January 2014

Partnership in action

It was the termly meeting of the Dulwich and Herne Hill Safe Routes to School group this week. It's very satisfying to engage with such a committed group of schools, parents, councillors, residents' groups and local authority officers all coming together to share ideas, information and resources.

Some of the highlights we heard about and discussed:
  • Juniors at Dulwich Hamlet have been having fun with speed guns and the police, monitoring traffic speeds around the Village.  The little ones at DUCKS have been busy with bikes and appointing Junior Road Safety officers. Teenagers at Charter have had some hard-hitting citizenship assemblies about responsibilities as a driver or a passenger, and some of their Year 10 engineers are learning useful skills as bike mechanics.  
  • We discussed progress towards improving crossings on Lordship Lane, Gallery Road and Burbage Road. 
  • Matthew Hill, Public Realm Programme Manager, gave a brief overview of Southwark's most recent bid for cycling to school funds from TfL. We look forward to working with Southwark on the detailed feasibility and priorities as this work moves forward.
  • Matt also told us that improvement works are about to begin at Paxton Green roundabout, East Dulwich Grove, and Denmark Hill (the link between Greendale and Ruskin Park). Expect traffic disruption if you are out and about by car. As always it might be quicker and easier to walk or cycle.
  • Southwark officers are pulling together their final ideas for improvements to the junction of Greendale/East Dulwich Grove/Townley Road. The plan is to go out to final consultation next month, and for works to be undertaken during the school summer holidays.
  • 20mph speed limits are being introduced across all roads Southwark controls. Southwark will run a campaign to raise awareness that lower speeds reduce road casualties and create a healthier, more pleasant environment, and will monitor speeds before deciding whether and where any additional traffic-calming infrastructure might be needed. If you do need to drive, please look out for children on foot or on their bikes, and give them plenty of space. 

Partly as a result of feedback at that meeting, we're combining the websites of Safe Routes to School and Dulwich Young Cyclists. This should help avoid confusion and duplication of effort. Please let us know if you notice any glitches.