Tools for the job…

Bicycles are versatile machines, capable of being used for everything from shopping, to touring, to professional racing. However, whilst a bicycle may unite the different disciplines, the needs of riders are usually very, very different. The right tool… To the untrained eye a bicycle is just a bicycle, but look deeper and there may well be differences between bicycles built for different disciplines. However, there’s nothing to say you can’t commute on a high-end road or mountain bike. It isn’t always the right tool for the job, but there’s flexibility built in. However, it’s the needs of the rider where … Continue reading Tools for the job…

Cardiff's Transport and Clean Air Green Paper

The council has just published its transport and clean air green paper and is seeking comments from all of us on some of the ideas it is putting forward. A far cry from the frankly dismal Economic green paper we’ve … Continue reading Cardiff's Transport and Clean Air Green Paper

Spending wisely – season tickets or bicycles?

The new year started out the way it so often does these days, with news that public transport costs are rising once again.

In January 2018 ticket prices increased by 3.6% –roughly 1% above inflation. These days even a short commute on the train across Cardiff is going to take a considerable bite out of your annual salary.

Season ticket prices only seem to be trending upward, rising 3.2% in 2019 and 2.7% in 2020, but what if there was another way?

Choices, choices…

As transport choices go, taking public transport instead of a car into town is better for everyone. It is better for you, particularly if you walk or cycle to the station. It is also better for the environment because it is one less car sitting in a queue.

The train should be coming down in price and we hope that it will someday, but instead it only seems to be the cost of motoring that is falling.

We’ve been looking at season ticket costs, mostly in horror. Knowing how little time these journeys take by bike it is mystifying to see how little you get for £500 on a train these days. It got us thinking…

Instead of buying a season ticket, how “much” bike can you get for your money? We’re going to focus on the Valley Lines service running through Cathays, Llandaff, Radyr, Taffs Well and stations to Pontypridd, mostly because it is shadowed by the Taff Trail. When the East-West route is built it’ll largely cover the city line and the North-South route will cover the Caerphilly line. However, these routes are still a couple of years away.

To make life easier we are going to compare road bikes, if only because they are ideal for commuting and it narrows the field a little. We’re also going to compare prices on some of our partner’s websites to narrow the field further. If you shop around you will no doubt find better deals and bikes that may suit you better.

However, the prices quoted assume you are paying cash. If your employer participates in the cycle to work scheme, you could get even more for your money.

Llandaff

The nearest out-of-town station appears immediately after Cathays on the line.

A 12-month season ticket will set you back £532 which puts you in range of the Pinnacle Laterite 2 in Mens or Women’s varieties for around £400. These are aluminium-framed road bikes with the Shimano Sora groupset. They’ll take mudguards and a rack, making for an ideal commuter.

At £400, you’ll have enough left over for clothing and a slap-up meal.

Radyr


One stop up from Llandaff is Radyr. It’s a short ride up the trail from Llandaff and a short train journey too. Mercifully it is also the same price.

The selection of bikes would be the same here. However, if you were to get the train, given the legendary overcrowding on this service, it may be worth riding north from Llandaf to Radyr to increase your chances of being able to actually get on the train. Perhaps this explains the premium levied against stations further up.

This brings us neatly onto…

Taffs Well

Another relatively short ride up the trail is Taffs Well. Heading through Tongwynlais, Radyr is a mere 10-15 minute ride at the very most, yet oddly the distance adds £200 onto the annual cost of a season ticket. £200!

This broadens your options substantially, but it also complicates things a little. There are more expensive bikes with inferior group sets hiding in amongst the same bikes as before but with Tiagra or 105 group sets. Knowing how great 105 is, our pick here would be the Pinnacle Laterite 3 in Mens or Women’s varieties.

It would be tempting to go for the name-brand models that appear in the list, including the Trek Domane and the Specialised Alez, but they both come with Claris (shudder!) at this price point. The Laterite 3 is is £560, giving you plenty of change left over for clothing and supplies.

Treforest

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Head six miles up the trail and your season ticket will set you back another £244 per year. This brings us perilously close to that magic £1000 price bracket.

Once again, taking price and specification into account, the Pinnacle comes out top with the Dolomite Ltd Edition (mens) (women’s) at £975 gives you a 105 groupset and hydraulic disc brakes.

If you don’t fancy either of those, Tredz has a selection of road bikes below £980 with a Tiagra or 105 drivetrain. However, what Tredz offer in variety, they lack in bargain-price own-brand models (Pinnacle is an Evans brand).

Oh, but the train is quicker…

Is it?

The nearest station to us is Taffs Well. My average riding time is 30 minutes from here to the centre of Cardiff. Radyr Station is reached 10-15 minutes after setting off; Hailey Park 5 minutes after that and the top of the North Road car park is another 10 minutes away.

This means that your £532 season ticket could be replaced by a 10-minute ride on a bike, or from Radyr just 15 minutes.

However, time is crude way to look at the way we spend our lives. Yes, ready meals are quicker to cook than real food; instant coffee is quicker to make than good coffee, but if the choices you make are actually detrimental to your health and only serve to shorten your life, how much time are you really saving?

Riding a bike could take longer to begin with, but how many good weeks, or even years are you adding onto your life? How much later into your old age will you retain your independence?

It won’t be long before you are fitter and stronger than you used to be and knocking minutes off every trip, whilst adding many good years to your life.

Continue reading “Spending wisely – season tickets or bicycles?”

Guest Post: Active Travel Conference 2017 –by @beicwrtaff

Last Thursday I found myself at the Active Travel Conference held here in Cardiff. According to the blurb the conference would “equip practitioners who are involved in the implementation of the Active Travel Act with best practice tools and knowledge. It will also connect professionals in other sectors who have shared aims or where there are co-benefits, by offering a mix of practical and strong evidence focus.” Sounds good – and as bonus there was lunch and top quality Welshcakes on offer too – so it was too good an opportunity to pass by.

If you’ve been to conferences before – in whatever sector you’re involved in you’ll probably be familiar with the drill – a series of presentations at the beginning and then everyone splits up into smaller groups for workshops to look in a bit more detail at some of the main issues. The conference was organised by Wales Government although proceedings on the day were chaired by Anne Adams-King from Welsh Cycling. I thought this was an excellent thing to see. Welsh Cycling are principally associated with sports cycling in many Welsh cyclists minds, yet here was their CEO at the forefront of the Wales Active Travel conference.

Rebecca Evans AM gave a keynote address. Rebecca is the Deputy Minister for Social Services and Public Health and has “Promotion of walking and cycling, including the Active Travel (Wales) Act” is within her ministerial portfolio. Her address was general, positive and said nice things. She mentioned the importance of infrastructure and active travel’s ability to improve the environment and people’s health. At the end she took some questions from the floor, with one question along the lines of “Is the Government serious enough about this stuff to reallocate road space from cars to walking/cycling?” For me that one question gets right to the heart of this topic, and is crucial to how we want our communities to function. Unfortunately I thought her answer revolving around “local consultations” was somewhat wooly and unconvincing.

The Presentations

The 1st presentation was Prof Paul Kelly who spoke about making an economic case for walking & cycling. Paul is an engaging speaker and he covered a lot of ground – looking at Edinburgh’s 20mph Zone and the World Health Organisation’s HEAT tool (Health Economic Assessment Tool) to look at benefits to populations of increased levels of physical activity, as part of a strategy for building an economic case to increase activity levels. The thing that stood out for me from Prof Kelly’s piece though was the way he contrasted the pleasing, positive way that advertising delivers messages compared with the dry, often negative language of academia – oh and one other thing too….the £650m a year cost that physical inactivity imposes on the economy of Wales.

Next up was a Public Health Wales double act – Huw Brunt and Dr Sarah Jones. Huw is a self-confessed air quality geek with a hint of Justin Trudeau about him; and he expertly took the audience through a chunk of stats relating to atmospheric pollution in Wales. With most of that pollution coming from vehicle exhaust pipes he checked off the consequences of that pollution on the Welsh population. Whilst the earlier presentation from Prof Kelly had focused on the financial side of things, Huw zeroed in on the estimated 300-500 deaths in Wales every year that could attributed to air pollution. Rather soberingly he highlighted that the most deprived parts of Wales were the ones that saw the worst effects of poor air quality. Dr Sarah Jones then spoke about road traffic injuries. Dr Jones was unequivocal about reduction of speed limits being a key part of any strategy to reduce traffic injuries and deaths. She highlighted the absurdity of short sections of 20mph limits in parts of communities and the forest of signs and the difficulty for drivers in trying to work out the limits. Taken as a whole she suggested strongly that Wales should be looking as a whole to shift to a default 20mph within communities, ultimately resulting in significant reductions in traumatic deaths and injuries, as well as cost savings.

Next speaker was Adrian Lord from Phil Jones Associates (the company responsible for much of the stuff in the Active Travel Guidance). Adrian’s piece was for the infrastructure geeks in the audience (always a few) and he looked at how infrastructure best practice had evolved since the original Wales AT guidance had been written, highlighting new practices with some case studies.

Lunch allowed some time for networking. Present at the conference, as you would expect, were many organisations from around Wales that represented people who walk and cycle (with a couple from over the bridges too), as well as from many of the Welsh local authorities; a smattering of engineering companies (eg Capita, Arup) who will have to design and build stuff; NRW and Wales Government. I think it was Kevin from Pedal Power though who pointed out that these people were all “experts”, there was a lack of representation from the people who don’t yet cycle (or walk).

The Workshops

There were a series of workshops after lunch – two involved conducting walking and cycling audits of the nearby Cardiff streets, whilst other workshops looked at the role of Public Services Boards (FGEW), refreshing the AT Design Guidance; and Active Travel in rural communities. I settled for the Design Guidance workshop and the Rural communities workshops. Adrian from PJA led the workshop and we looked at ideas for future updates to the AT Guidance. Standout points for me were comments about highways engineers on being challenged about their designs conflicting with the guidance responding with the line “but its only guidance – and not mandatory”. The workshop wandered off a bit talking about consultations and the difficulty in getting people to engage in the topic. There was some further discussion on a couple of examples, and then time to move on. I threw in a few comments about putting a glossary near the beginning as some of the terms/acronyms are a bit baffling to the general user, and maybe even a “lite” version which could be used by interested lay public (rather than planning/engineering pros) when looking at public consultation planning documents.

The Rural Communities workshop was led by Ryland and Elena from Sustrans. The main part of it was looking at a couple of prospective routes between 2 towns and deciding which was best. Choices were a less direct but more scenic route through a nature reserve, or a more direct route through built up area/main roads. Both groups went for direct route approach (with a little bit of variation as to the exact course). I think this was supposed to highlight a dilemma in route planning as to whether or not to create routes which may appeal to tourists, or to people trying to get about making everyday trips. We also covered a bit on eBikes (the only real mention of eBikes throughout the whole day) and perceived barriers to cycling in rural areas.

Thoughts…

As for my impressions of the day as a whole – for a first timer at this sorts of thing it was an interesting event. It was nice to see the great and the good in the same room, and the presentations during the morning, especially from Public Health Wales were excellent. However it was a bit of an echo chamber – when Dr Jones mentioned default 20mph a murmur of unanimous approval went around the room, I would be surprised if there were many other events in Wales where a similar reaction would be encountered, indeed Dr Jones made the same point. A few things stood out for me as being very important, but largely unaddressed –although there were a few hints from time to time. Money – there was plenty of talk about the money saved, but almost no discussion of where the money comes to invest in Active Travel…and that’s in a nation which at the moment can find £1 Billion for a motorway extension. Yet despite high quality cycling schemes delivering a far greater Return on Investment we are scrabbling for crumbs from the table.

Public Health Wales gave massive amounts of evidence as to why a switch to more Active Travel needs to happen, and Prof Kelly showed the significant financial benefits to Wales that would result. Active Travel means more people walking and cycling, but that also means fewer people driving, or driving less often. Now providing better infrastructure that enables people to do the former in a quick, convenient and safe fashion is a big part of delivering this, but as the Dutch have demonstrated it needs to go hand in hand with making travel by private car for short trips in towns and cities less quick and less convenient too. That does mean road space reallocation to more efficient travel methods; modal filtering that means no through roads for cars yet allows people walking and cycling to flow through them unhindered; and ultimately signalling that towns and cities are places for people rather than high volumes of cars. There is mention in the guidance of some schemes, but throughout the day there wasn’t much attention paid to restricting car use.

Ultimately if we are to become an Active Travel nation in Wales we need a bit of stick as well as bit of carrot, and both of those need money and strong political leadership at national and local levels. At the next Active Travel conference it perhaps be an idea to see these topics addressed more.

Did any other Cardiff By Bike readers attend this? If so what were your impressions?

Continue reading “Guest Post: Active Travel Conference 2017 –by @beicwrtaff”

Traffic jams, congestion, cognitive dissonance…

Traffic agency Inrix analysed traffic and congestion in 1,064 cities across 38 countries worldwide, including Cardiff. It worked out that the average cost to Cardiff’s drivers of being sat in their own congestion was £939 per year. You can read Cardiff’s … Continue reading Traffic jams, congestion, cognitive dissonance…

Cardiff Bike Life 2015

If you ever wanted to know anything about the state of cycling in Cardiff, today is a good day for you. Sustrans has published the data from its Bike Life survey for 2015. Taken across seven cities in the UK including Cardiff, the survey aims to shed light on attitudes towards cycling in the UK and, as it turns out, attitudes are better than many of us would have expected. Bike Life will help us really understand the state of cycling in Cardiff. It will help us learn what matters to existing cyclists and also to non-cyclists. It will show … Continue reading Cardiff Bike Life 2015

Cycling and the Wellbeing of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015

The Wellbeing of Future Generations Act is the Welsh Government’s latest piece of pioneering legislation that puts you and I front and centre. To help us understand what it is all about, we need to talk about what is known as the Social Determinants of Health. The Social Determinants In order to live a healthy life, there are a few factors that we need to consider: Economic Stability Education Access to health and health care —including health literacy Neighbourhood and built environment Social and Community Context The Act recognises that in order to keep people healthy, happy and productive different … Continue reading Cycling and the Wellbeing of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015