Active travel

We all know that we have a growing obesity crisis in this country.  We all know that traffic congestion is getting worse, and that the fumes (and invisible particulates) are poisoning our air and ourselves.  We all know that the more traffic there is, the less safe we feel walking  or cycling around and even more so letting our children walk or cycle around.  So what are we doing to break into this vicious cycle?

My recent encounter with the M4 and other busy roads as I walked along the Kennet and Avon canal left me thinking a lot about alternatives to motorised transport, and the daily choices we make.

I’ve pretty much given up hope of our government (at either a national or especially my local level) doing anything about it.

Which leaves me.  Myself.  I.  To take action to try to make things different.

One thing most of us can do is to use our bodies for our transport whenever possible by walking, cycling, scooting, skateboarding, roller skating….   You get my drift.

Active transport.

I’m lucky enough to live in a city with pleasant off road places to walk and to cycle, and in a part of the city where there are back-road routes to most of the places I want to go, and to be healthy enough to walk and cycle wherever I want to go.

I’m unlucky to live in a city with a council (Bath and NE Somerset – or BANES) that says it believes that people should walk, or cycle, or use public transport, and only then use cars; but does (designs and spends) in ways that always prioritise car use, ensures that public transport (where it exists) is prohibitively expensive, and considers all cyclists as lycra-clad fit men speeding everywhere reckless of anyone else’s safety or well-being.

As for wheelchair users or others with limited mobility (people pushing prams for example), well, forget it.  Because provision that will be good for you might also be good for cyclists.  And the council seems to want to deter them (lycra-clad whizzy speeders, dangerous to one and all...), despite what their policies and strategies might say.

Um, actually not all of us (cyclists) are like that.  In fact, not many of us (cyclists) are like that.  Most of us just want to go to the shops, or to school and back, or to work and back, or visit friends, or just go for a ride – safely, actively, and without adding to the (motorised) traffic.

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Quick cycle trip down to local shops

I’m nearly 60, I’m reasonably fit, and I want to travel actively.  Therefore whenever I can, I choose to walk or cycle.  I have visited many many other European towns and cities where this is regarded as a Good Thing, to be encouraged and is designed into the environment.

Not here in Bath though.  For more years than I care to remember CycleBath and others have had polite and lengthy conversations and meetings with Council officers and members urging them to design in cycling (and walking) at early stages of planning.  They’ve provided them with examples, research, facts, figures, benefits, you name it they’ve done it.

There have been small, teeny tiny gains and improvements.  A few of the council members and officers actually believe that cycling and walking are indeed part of the solution not the problem.  But most apparently don’t, and oh my goodness, so so so many missed opportunities, mistakes, and downright crass designs that have made traffic congestion in the centre of Bath worse not better, and continue to make cycling on pretty much any of the main (road) routes into Bath desperately dangerous.

Which is a shame, because Bath is a beautiful city in a beautiful area, with some fabulous off-road routes in and out of it.  The assumption that it has hills and is therefore un-cyclable ignores the facts that the city centre is in a flat river valley, and that people all over the place cycle up hills by taking routes carefully chosen to avoid the steepest routes (e.g. using contours).

BANES  could choose to do what Freiburg did all those decades ago and transform itself into a Green City.  They are involved in agreeing planning conditions for new housing provision on former MOD sites around the city, as well as other housing developments.  Prioritising and improving provision for cycling would be a good starting  point.  They could extend our thriving tourist trade into Green Tourism.  Sadly, at every point they choose instead to ignore and pass up these opportunities.

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Vauban, Freiburg. Active travel, family style

Still, despite our local council, I propose for you a wonderful few days cycling visit to Bath, travelling here by train (we’re well connected), and spending a day on the Bristol to Bath Railway path (a great day out to another great city, getting better every day for cycling – Bristol that is, not Bath!); another day on the Kennet and Avon Canal towpath to Bradford-on-Avon; and then a third day (and even a fourth if you have the time) going out using the Two Tunnels Greenway and the Colliers Way – to Mells, or to Frome.  Or at this time of year, a gorgeous visit to the nearby Somerset Lavender Farm (in Faulkland, just 1.5 miles from the Colliers Way).  Each of these rides comes complete with several tempting refreshment stops along the way.

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Somerset Lavender Farm, July 2014

We cycled out to Mells on Sunday to celebrate Malcolm’s birthday.  A family ride with youngest son and wife, along the Two Tunnels path to the end (at Midford), then on to the Colliers Way through Shoscombe and Radstock, turning off to Mells.  We ate pizza from a wood-fired oven in the delightful Walled Garden, then suitably refuelled we cycled back, stopping only for a drink at the Hope and Anchor at Midford.

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Garden sculpture in the Walled Garden, Mells

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A view of the garden, Walled Garden, Mells

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Pizza, Walled Garden, Mells – well worth the cycle ride!

Despite my despair about BANES’ lack of commitment to cycling, Bath has some great places for leisure cycling (which are also used a lot for commuting).  It is also absolutely possible to  cycle in the city centre – you just have to have your wits about you and take care.  And honestly, it really is worth it.  Especially when each one of us on our bike means one less car on the road, even if just for today.

It could all be so different.  And I believe that each and every one of us can help make it so, with the choices we make each day.

2015-07-03 09.30.16

Walking and cycle path Devon – more about this shortly!


About deborah @ the magic jug

Now I've passed 60 I'm still doing all sorts of things I haven't done before, as well as carrying on with the things I already love. I live a happy life with my long term love Malcolm. In my blog I explore local and low tech ideas, food, growing, making, reading, thinking, walking, and lots of other words ending in 'ing'.
This entry was posted in Bath, Community, Reflections on life (and death), Travels, Walking and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Active travel

  1. Marian says:

    I love the term “active travel” 🙂 . We try, as much as possible, to walk or bike within our small community (so I walk our youngest son to school whenever possible, we walk or bike to the library, we walk or bike to the small grocery store if we have only a few things to pick up), but unfortunately, the bulk of our errands cannot be done by active travel, both because the roads into the city centre are not conducive (no shoulders/no bike lanes/too much traffic) and the distances too far. My husband (who, incidentally, IS one of those spandex clad cyclists, and is very careful about always obeying the rules of the road!) would love to be able to cycle to work, but when we considered the route and traffic, we both agreed it was unwise. Ah, for a forward-thinking city council…

    (That lavender farm is gorgeous! And the pizza … ! )


    • Yes, it’s frustrating when our wish to do something that would be better for us and the world is frustrated by sensible safety and reality checks. Many years ago (before cycling in London became ‘a thing’) I used to cycle commute – until I was squeezed off the road by a massive lorry. I lost a tooth as a result but it could have been much worse. A friend (in another but similar incident) lost a leg. Each year lots of people die in similar accidents in London. You do have to put safety first.
      BTW, I have nothing at all against anyone wearing lycra (or anything else) to cycle in! I just hate the stereotypes that go with it from non-cyclists, and try to confuse and confound them by always wearing ‘normal’ clothes myself.
      It sounds like you’re doing loads within your own family to change and challenge the status quo, and I bet that others notice it even if they don’t (yet) feel able to follow suit.


  2. Allotmental says:

    Thanks for the post. I must check some of those places out!


  3. awjreynolds says:

    Reblogged this on CycleBath and commented:
    Really really nicely written and worth reading!


  4. Robert says:

    Got to your brilliant blog from CycleBath. Share your frustrations with B&NES. The tree planting etc works on the London Road seem to have made things much worse for cyclists. Why no cycle lane going East? Anyway, thanks for tip about Mells and Lavender farm. Have you seen this: iPad version is fabulous…


    • HI Robert, thanks for your kind comment, also for the tip about the website – hadn’t come across it before but it looks interesting.
      I’ve got another couple of posts I’ve agreed to reblog on the CycleBath blog, and then I hope to double-post on something to do with cycling relevant to Bath about once a month. Glad you found it interesting.


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