Helping county council staff make Travel Choices

We have to admit it – some cycling promotion events are not as well attended as, say, President Trump’s inauguration. And certainly not President Obama’s. Whether for reasons of organisaton, weather or advertising, some events just don’t draw the crowds.

Well, this week CTC Northampton, part of Cycling UK, took part in an event that was a bit different: it was well attended, lively and positive. This was the county council’s Travel Choices day for its own staff.

The event drew in over 350 people keen to research their options for when the council moves to its new HQ building in the town centre. With limited, potentially expensive car parking and growing congestion problems in the town, the council wants to encourage staff to consider other travel solutions, including car sharing, pool bikes, pool cars, buses and park and ride (combined with bus or bike).

The event was held at County Hall and buses were laid on for staff to attend from other sites included in the move to the new HQ. It showcased many of the tools the council has included in its travel plan for the new building, such as the car sharing app Faxi, Enterprise pool cars, and good old bus timetables.

One of the big hits was the opportunity for people to try out pool e-bikes from Halfords, and cycle scheme e-bikes from GTech. Everyone who did so seemed to return with a smile on their face.

Brian and Phil staffed the CTC Northampton stall, and soon found themselves busy talking to people who were mostly not current cycle commuters, but were prepared to consider it. The most frequent question was about routes, but safety, insurance, cycle training and cycle buddies all came up too, as did the local group’s rides programme. Several people coming from other towns also asked about where to “park and cycle”.

Philip, a council property environmental manager (and CTC Northampton publicity officer), was on hand to outline the cycle facilities in the new building. These include 100 secure cycle spaces and dedicated changing, shower and locker areas.

The stall featured our new Cycling UK banner, calling cards and postcards, and freebies such as spoke reflectors and frame protection. By far the most popular item was the Northampton Cycling Map.

This county council map, now in its 4th edition, was originally developed by John Cutler and other CTC Northampton members for the council and is based on the Cheltenham model, which uses colours to indicate the traffic hazard on every road. It was invaluable for discussing route options with buddng cycle commuters.

A few themes became clear. First, most newcomers to commuting want traffic-free or low traffic routes. Second, while a few fairly good routes exist in Northampton (e.g. along the river), these still don’t connect well with key destinations. So there is work for the planners to do. Third, training and support for new cyclists are essential in the meantime. Specific cycle training for staff, cycle buddies, and a bicycle user group for the new building were widely supported ideas, which hopefully the council will take forward.

This event’s success was partly due to the coordinated travel plan backed by the council’s leadership, as well as financial incentives for staff to consider new options. But it also worked for cycling precisely because it brought together a wide range of options and expertise in the same room. Yes, we can be better together…

Many thanks to Brian and Phil for giving up their time, and to the council for inviting us along to this event.

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Ride report – Saturday 21st January

Milton went on this ride organised by Tim and writes:

A chilly morning, and a late start for fear of a frost that didn’t in fact linger, found five ready for Tim’s big adventure to the Old Dairy Farm Craft Centre at Upper Stowe.  We split into a quick riding group of three who were to take a longer route to coffee and a sensible, (do I give myself away here?) group of two.  The two sensibles soon became three as one of the other lot found that Christmas excess had not yet cleared the system and he hadn’t a hope of staying the course for the next 27 miles.  Next month Giles,next month!.

The sun came out as we trundled through Pattishall, Adstone, Preston Capes and Farthingstone.  The roads were dry, the fields were full of fat sheep, the lambs not far away now, and a kestrel sat confident on a hedge only feet from us as we sped past, and it was bliss to be on a bike.
The three sensible ones arrived at the cafe only a few moments ahead of the other two who regaled us with tales of derring-do, monster hills and terrifying descents which we chose not to believe.
Much colder after a 40-minute stop (how does the weather manage to change so radically during every coffee break?) we all dashed back together through Upper Heyford, Bugbrooke, and Kislingbury until, at just after 2pm, we were back in East Hunsbury.
Lovely, well devised route,(thank you Tim) which meant we had space to really enjoy the trip – which we did!

Rides to Preston Capes – Saturday 21st January – 10.00 a.m. start!

Tim, our Webmaster, has planned these rides and writes:

Start: 10.00 a.m. – changed to allow for possibility of frosty roads and lanes!
Meeting point: East Hunsbury Library, Overslade Close, NN4 0RZ
Distance: Brisk 37 miles; moderate 30 miles
Anticipated Speed: Brisk 14-16 m.p.h.; moderate 10–12 m.p.h.
Refreshments: Old Dairy Farm Cafe, Upper Stowe

There are two rides this Saturday, one will be at a brisk pace (led by Tim) and the other at a moderate pace (led by Milton).  The moderate ride will be a shorter distance so that we should all arrive at the Upper Stowe tea stop at about the same time.

Both rides head out south westwards from East Hunsbury along Banbury Lane before splitting just north of Blakesley to take alternative routes to Preston Capes.  After a short shared section they again divide before rejoining just before the stop for tea and cakes at Upper Stowe.  Both rides then follow the same route back (via Nether Heyford, Bugbrooke & Kislingbury) to the start point at East Hunsbury Library.

Current weather forecast is frost free.  Both routes are tarmac throughout, but some sections may be muddy at this time of year.

Lights would be a good idea for added day-time visibility, but we should be back at East Hunsbury sometime around 1.30 p.m.

The proposed routes can be viewed (and downloaded as gpx files) from the CTC Northampton pages on RideWithGPS:

Brisk: https://ridewithgps.com/routes/18083634
Moderate: https://ridewithgps.com/routes/18083630

Any questions, please contact Tim – 07749 477231.

Ride to Weston-by-Welland, Sunday 15th January

Brian, our Secretary, will be leading this ride and writes:

Start: 9.30 a.m.
Meeting point: Moulton Co-op, Moulton, NN3 7TB
Distance: 44 miles
Pace: Steady at around 13 m.p.h.
Refreshments: West Lodge Rural Centre (24 miles)
Finish: Return to Moulton by 2.00 p.m.

The ride is out through Mawsley, Harrington and Dingley to Weston-by-Welland; then on to Stoke Albany and the café at West Lodge Rural Centre.  Return through Rushton, Rothwell, Broughton,  the A43 cycle path and on to Walgrave, Holcot and Moulton.  All on road, mostly quiet.  There is a short section on the A427 at Dingley.

Route here on RideWithGPS.

It is worth having lights to be seen by just in case the light is poor.

More details from Brian on 01604 622073 (07843 505213 on the day).

Saturday morning ride – 7th January

Philip G is leading us on Saturday morning and writes:

Start time: 9.30 a.m.
Meeting point: Brampton Valley Way / Welford Road crossing. (This is on the A5199 near The Windhover; there is a BVW car park up Brampton Lane.)
Distance: 37 miles (brisk) or 31 miles (moderate)
Refreshments: The same stop on both ride: either at Mini-Meadows, Welford, at 18 miles or Café Monde, Church Brampton, just before the finish.  We’ll agree which one at the start.

These two rides towards Naseby and Welford include varied terrain and some hills.

The brisk ride goes via Naseby, Sibbertoft, Welford, Cold Ashby, Watford and Long Buckby and is here on RideWithGPS.

The moderate ride follows the same route to Cold Ashby and then returns via Guilsborough.  It’s here on RideWithGPS.

We hope to see you!

Please let Philip know if you have any questions.  Phone 07557 670831 or e-mail philip.g@ctc-northampton.org.uk.

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The last time we were at Mini-Meadows Farm Café