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Councils accused of wasting money to try and get people out of cars and improve cycling safety

Are unconventional local government measures to encourage active travel, including cycling, and improve cycle safety a waste of money in these straitened times? That’s the question being asked in Bournemouth and Norwich after their councils launched unusual projects to encourage cycling and safety.

Bournemouth council has been hanging bright yellow tags with safety advice for drivers and cyclists on car wing mirrors. Norwich City Council has announced it will fit electronic detectors to lampposts so people can see how far they are riding or walking as part of a project to get people out of their cars.

The Bournemouth signs offer some simple advice for cyclists and drivers for cyclists, the triangular flier suggests:

  • Be visible
  • Follow the Highway Code
  • Always indicate your intentions
  • Respect the needs of pedestrians

And for drivers:

  • Always look twice for cyclists
  • Give cyclists space
  • Always indicate your intentions
  • Respect the needs of cyclists

According to the Bournemouth Daily Echo some cyclists and drivers have praised the initiative.

Jason Falconer, Sustrans schools ‘Bike It’ officer in the Bournemouth and Poole area, who suffered serious head injuries when he was hit by a car in 2012, said: “They are reasonable and simplistic and I’m fully in support.”

But the notices have been left as litter in car parks, and local taxi drivers are unimpressed.

Ashley Miller, chairman of the Bournemouth Station Taxi Association, said some of his fellow drivers believe they are ineffective.

“They said: ‘What a total waste of money’,” he said.

Bournemouth council has distributed 2,210 leaflets on cars in council car parks since November. The council plans to give out a further 2,281.

Ian Kalra, head of transportation services, said the leaflets are part of the Getting About project aimed at encouraging more people to cycle.

“These information leaflets are just one element of the Look Out campaign aimed at reminding motorists and cyclists of their responsibility as a road user,” he said.

“It is important that we create a mutual respect between different road users.”

Mr Kalra added: “We hope people will take notice of the message and act on it, making our roads safer for everyone.”

High-tech Norwich active travel scheme

Meanwhile in Norwich, a poll by the Eastern Daily Press has given a resounding thumbs-down to a plan to install electronic detectors on lampposts so people can log their walking or cycling distance.

Norwich City Council will spend £60,000 from a Department of Health grant to set up the system, which it expects 15,000 people to use. Participants are likely to compete for prizes for those who walk or cycle the most, though the details are yet to be worked out.

Cards that work with the system, to be run by health IT company Intelligent Health, will be available from doctors’ surgeries and libraries.

City council leaders hope schools and businesses will check online to see who can walk the furthest and most regularly.

In a similar scheme in Caversham in Berkshire, a primary school won £6,000 in library books for its pupils topping the table.

But a poll in the Eastern Daily Press has come out over 80 percent against the scheme. Asking the question “Do you think that this idea is money well spent?” the paper found 84 percent of readers responding in the negative.

Norwich City Council sees the project as an investment in the health and wellbeing of Norwich citizens, according to council leader Brenda Arthur.

Our official grumpy Northerner, John has been riding bikes for over 30 years since discovering as an uncoordinated teen that a sport could be fun if it didn't require you to catch a ball or get in the way of a hulking prop forward.

Road touring was followed by mountain biking and a career racing in the mud that was as brief as it was unsuccessful.

Somewhere along the line came the discovery that he could string a few words together, followed by the even more remarkable discovery that people were mug enough to pay for this rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work. He's pretty certain he's worked for even more bike publications than Mat Brett.

The inevitable 30-something MAMIL transition saw him shift to skinny tyres and these days he lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.