An Electric Bicycle Experience

Here’s a short description of using an electric bike for commuting to work from Charles of Transition Ipswich.

I cycled to work today, or should I say I went on my electric bike. I have a secondhand Ezee Quando that I bought in February 2006. I live on Tuddenham Road near the Woolpack and work on Ransomes Euro Park, near the Thresher pub.

The direct route through the town is about three miles, or I could stay on the level and go round the by-pass, which is about six miles. For people who do not know Ipswich, it is like a bowl and cyclists have to decide if it is better to down one side and up another, or cycle round the rim. I found going up the side by push-bike made me hot and sweaty, so I considered the alternative ways to get to work.

I could walk into town and take a bus out to work. (This costs £1.80 each way – 2010 prices)

I wondered how best to get up Bishops Hill and took out a subscription to the magazine A to B. At that time A to B magazine said that the Ezee Quandro was the best hill climber. Even to day, the magazine A to B says of it on their website:

“…The Ezee Quando is a single-speed folder. Usually we’d say ‘urrgh!’, but this one has astonishing hill-climbing abilities…..”

In addition, it was a folding bicycle, so it would fit into the back seat of our Toyota Prius car.

I bought one on e-bay secondhand for £399 + £25 p & p.

Being an expensive bike I wanted more that the standard bike lock to secure it and so I bought a motorcycle standard padlock and chain from Aldi. This was heavy, so I needed something like a saddle bag. I bought a lockable box in Felixstowe to go over the back wheel and filled with this with all the stuff needed for travelling by bike, such as lights, wet weather outfits, pump, etc. I also bought from Aldi a removable insulatated bag to hang off my handle bars for my packed lunch and also a speedometer.

So what is it like to cycle to work on an e-bike?

It takes a minute to unlock, check the bike, put on a reflective tabard and cycle helmet. Then I am off down Christchurch Street, freewheeling down the hill at 30 miles per hour to the cycle lanes. This means I do not have to queue at junctions on the gyratory system. Some of the road surfaces are good – such as Woodbridge Road – and within a couple of minutes I am through the gyratory and onto Bishops Hill. Here I pedal a bit in order to maintain a minimum speed of 10 miles per hour, as I understand the electric motor falls in efficiency below 10 miles per hour. Soon I am on the level and the speed limiter keeps me at 15 miles per hour. Door-to-door the journey time is 20 minutes, whereas by car it is about 30 minutes.

On the way home I often vary my route by travelling along part of Cycle Route 51, keeping to 10 miles an hour in the parks. However, be warned of a large pothole in Myrtle road. I recently went over this and broke my insulatated bag. I suppose I was lucky not to have suffered more damage, which would have been more of a problem as my non-electric bike has a rear wheel damaged by a pothole and it is still awaiting replacement.

Apart from going to work, I have used the electric bike to go on local journeys and have been as far as Shotley, and on one occasion I took it on holiday to Holland.

In terms of repairs since I have owned it, some broken spokes have been replaced, the saddle post broke and was re-welded and I broke the twist throttle by mistake and had to replace it. I have also replaced the nickel hydride battery with lithium ion as the nickle hydride one wore out.

Apart from being quicker, greener and cheaper than other forms of transport I find it far more pleasant – unless it is raining. One can easily stop and do a little shopping, or stop to chat to people.

If anyone wants to have a go on an electric bike do please contact me through Transition Ipswich.

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Ride and Recce – first attempts at mapping the findings

I’ve just started to edit the Open Street map of Ipswich cycle routes with the findings from the cycle ride on 10/10/10. I’m just finding my way with the software – so please be patient if my efforts are a bit rudimentary!

I’ve loaded up the route that I did with all the observations we made but I’ll need to go back and fine tune some of them as I’ve relied on memory more than I should!

These are only preliminary suggestions for improvements. I hope that this will become a document that can be added to by lots of people so that it has some weight. Not everyone will feel the same about the various junctions and cycle routes, of course. I tend to be easily intimidated by heavy traffic for example, so may see problems where others see none.

Here it is so far:
Ride and Recce – first draft I’ve not given permissions yet for it to be added to – I want to finish my first draft first to try to get some consistency in the labelling. The yellow balloons are concerns or convenience points and the amber ones are safety concerns.

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Ride and Recce – a modest success!

small but powerful!

Not so very many people showed up to support the Ipswich Cycle Routes Ride and Recce on 10/10/10. Nevertheless, we managed to get around a good number of the Ipswich cycle routes and get an impression of the work to be done.

The information gathered will be uploaded to an online map over the next week or two and this will form the basis of a document which can be added to over the coming year. I’m hoping that this will become one of the objectives of the Transition Ipswich transport group. The point is that it is a practical way to home in on simple (and hopefully cheap) ways in which the Ipswich cycling network can be improved.

One thing already noted by one or two participants was that the through routes (N1 and N51) are clearly signposted in the main but other routes are less easy to follow. There were also a number of roads where the road surface made cycling potentially hazardous and there was a lack of help for cyclists (cycle lanes, priority boxes, etc) in busy traffic in a good number of places.

I was fairly well impressed by the courtesy of drivers, in the main but one of our party experienced a driver reversing into her as she cycled down the road!

This is just the beginning – I hope we will hold a few more of these events during the year. Thanks to for the inspiration to kick this off! I’ll be uploading the pics to their website asap.

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Ipswich Cycle Routes – Ride and Recce, 10/10/10

We’ve now registered this cycle event as a event.

The idea is simply to gather in Ipswich on 10/10/10 at 2pm (Please note the new time – not 10am as previously suggested).

The meeting point is Giles’ Grandma statue at the top of Princes Street. We will then go off in small groups to ride selected parts of the Ipswich cycle routes as shown on the Ipswich Cycle Route Map. We’ll supply some suggested questions for feedback on the routes.We’ll also bring copies of the map for anyone who has not got one. Please bring a clipboard and pen and paper if you can.

Riders can choose exactly where they ride – how long and how far. We will follow the pink, green, blue and yellow routes on the Ipswich Cycle Map. Please note that some of the routes, e.g. the “advisory” yellow routes may not be so suitable for inexperienced riders. Please be careful to get off the road if you are stopping to take notes.

We’ll meet in P.J. McGinty’s pub afterwards to rest and gather responses to the routes – and enjoy a little liquid refreshment, of course! Responses can also be emailed or phoned in and the information will be uploaded to a file (probably using uMapper) which can be viewed here. It will be sent to Ipswich Borough Council and Suffolk County Council to help inform future cycle route improvements.

We hope that this will be a fun event which may have a small part to play in making Ipswich a more eco-friendly and sustainable town. Better cycling provision should eventually lead to more people choosing cycling as a healthy and quick alternative to car travel around town. By now we all realise the importance of cutting our carbon footprints. Road transport now accounts for nearly a quarter of greenhouse gas emissions in the UK.

Here is one small step to help change that.

Please note that the safety of people riding cycles on the road as part of this event can not be in any way the responsibility of the organisers. Please observe the Highway Code at all times and wear appropriate safety gear such as high visibility vests.

If you need more information, please phone 01473 328910 between 6pm and 7pm. Thanks

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20’s Plenty For Us campaigns for a 20mph default speed limit in residential streets

20mph limits have been recommended by the Parliamentary Advisory Council for
Transport Safety (PACTS).

The PACTS Perceptions and Realities report (Sept 2010) takes a closer look at the risks which children and young people in Britain today are exposed to – and what can be done to reduce them.

Perceptions about risks to children have led to policies focused on preventing violent assaults. But children are far more likely to come to harm on our roads. The shocking fact is 28 children and young people are killed or seriously injured on our roads every day. This is the single biggest non-natural killer of children and young people. And these accidents also have a huge economic cost – estimated to be over £3 billion in 2008.

PACTS now recommend 20mph limits on residential roads citing Portsmouth data where limits were put in without any physical calming. The 20mph speed limit, which is designed to protect pedestrians and cyclists, became citywide by the end of March 2008.

The first year analysis of figures estimates the following reductions in children killed or seriously injured:-

Pedestrians 40% lower
Passengers 100% lower
Driver/Riders 100% lower
Overall 63% lower

20mph residential limits in Portsmouth were extremely cost-effective and as much as 50 times cheaper per mile than conventional physical traffic calming.

20’s Plenty For Us campaigns for a 20mph default speed limit in residential streets without physical calming. Perhaps we need more 20mph speed limits in parts of Ipswich. Together with other ways to reduce accidents, this could be a cheap and effective way to improve things. 20mph is also effective from the point of view of adult cyclists and pedestrians. Anyone who cycles knows that cars and other vehicles passing too quickly can be frightening and sometimes dangerous.

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Proposal for a bike ride – with a purpose

Clear bike lane in a Paris suburb near Robinson

A clearly marked bike lane

I’ve proposed a bike ride/ work party to study the Ipswich cycle routes on 10/10/10 as part of the and 10:10 campaign events.

Please see Cycle Ipswich for the full text of what I propose. I hope people will support it. The idea is to feedback some of the deficiencies -and maybe the good bits, too – of the Ipswich cycling experience. That way we can move towards better facilities for cyclists.

At the moment I believe that the experience of cycling in and around Ipswich is variable, to say the least. There are some good parts of routes but far too often cycle ways disappear at critical junctions – or where roads narrow. Just where most help is needed, in fact.

I support good, clear cycle lanes for most through routes which do not have a bus lane. I notice that Paris is improving its provision for cyclists and that the number of cyclists is far greater than it was. I remember trying to cycle there years ago and finding it pretty scary. Now there are clearly marked lanes on many routes. I did one brief foray by Velibe (the almost free bikes provided by Descaux) and it wasn’t too scary for the most part.

Hopefully, Ipswich can copy some of these schemes and at least provide decent, clear and unambiguous cycle lanes on some roads.

A bit of paint can’t be that expensive, can it? (Judging by the way some of the existing white lines are disappearing – perhaps it is!)

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It’s Green Up North

Carr Street, Hull in the middle of the day

Just been up to Northumbria, via Hull and Scarborough, among other places.

I may be seeing through green tinted lenses – and I didn’t actually cycle – but I kind of got the impression that the cycle lanes were generally bigger and more common up north! We were touring by car and we crossed the cycle route N1 several times. We also walked about in Hull city centre and a few other places. Several times I noted cycle lanes which were as much as a meter wide – in places! Some even appeared not to disappear at every road obstacle such as bollards and junctions! Can’t say that I saw vast numbers of cyclists using these cycle ways; but at least they were there. And Hull city centre was surprisingly lacking in traffic. We visited on a Friday afternoon and the area around Queen Victoria Square (Carr Lane) was surprisingly free of traffic of all kinds. Some of the cycle lanes were done in a contrasting colour – probably green (but I’ll have to post some photographs to be sure.)

There were also a few goodish looking cycle lanes further north. I’ll have to go back with a bicycle to check how good they are. Some Germans we spoke to were finding the undulating terrain rather hard going in Northumbria but they had no real complaints about the traffic beyond the usual observation that trucks were not too keen on losing speed to help cyclists – or anybody. On the whole they found car drivers quite helpful in that they gave them a wide berth.

I was interested to learn from some Germans I met recently that their equivalent of the Highway Code demands that they leave at least 1.5 meters space between car and bicycle.

After my 5 day foray into the north, I was left wondering if it is more green up north – at least from a cycling perspective!

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Cycling in Holland

I’ve just returned from a couple of weeks cycling in Holland and Germany.
What a different world! Sometimes in Holland, bikes outnumber cars and everywhere there are cycle routes. Not just skinny, gutter-hugging cycle routes, either. Proper roadways for bicycles, with traffic lights and signage, integrated with the rest of the traffic system.

You can feel safe and secure for about 99 percent of your journeys. You still get the odd hairy moment – perhaps caused mainly by the profusion of options for cyclists. Almost every junction seems to offer a number of possibilities and when trying to decide, travelling slowly, with loaded (wobbly) panniers, it is easy to get confused and make errors.

Fleeing Germans

The very first people we met when we exited the boat at Hook of Holland were two tall and strong-looking Germans. They told us that they were going back to Holland as cycling in England was just too scary for them! They had come over to the UK via Dover and by the time they had reached Essex they wanted nothing more than to head back over the water. Naturally, we sympathised and agreed that cycling in the UK was a rotten experience compared to elsewhere on the continent. I wonder how many others leave our shores early because of our sub-standard roads?

The bike routes in Germany were almost as good as Dutch ones – but far less used. Many of them are made from small paving stones, which makes the surface a bit bone-shaking and there are more tree roots, causing further bumps. The small towns and villages were full of cars and occasionally there was no cycleway – thought I’d landed up in Capel St Mary at times! The terrain was rather similar to Holland – lots of big dairy farms on a flat landscape with outcrops of trees. We ran out of time to get to the Hanseatic coast or even Hamburg, so we headed back to the Netherlands by train.

Back in Holland again, we went to Groeningen, which has a reputation for being perhaps the most bicycle-friendly town in Europe. On Sunday morning the streets were deserted except for a growing number of bicycles of all descriptions, including recliners and tag-alongs, trailers and bicycle-handcarts. The only motorised transport in town – apart from the odd bus – appeared to be the motor-trike taxi – which proclaimed itself to be the first of its kind in the world. For 7 1/2 euros you can roar around the town at break-neck speed.

I have never see so large a town so devoid of cars. The previous day a huge market dominated the two squares and bikes and pedestrians were everywhere. Groeningen is a town of about about 180,000 strong and the place was packed with day visitors. And yet, the streets were relatively quiet away from the central throng.

Later on Sunday we witnessed an outfit called StreetMachine provide parcourt and BMX ramps for the local youth. There were also people demonstrating martial arts and bike tricks. It reminded me of the kind of thing laid on in the centre of Bogota in the summer months.

We took the train down to Rotterdam. The bike ramps at the stations are pretty hard work with full panniers (some stations have lifts) so next day we decided to cycle to the ferry – a mere 30 kilometers or so. This was where the Dutch idyll came unstuck a bit. We did not have a cycle map for this part – but we had seen signs.

The reality was that as soon as we left Rotterdam, the signs for the Hook disappeared – so we ended up in a circuitous dash across the rose farms of south Holland. We made the ferry with about 20 minutes to spare – and a knowledge that even brilliant cycle routes sometimes have their limitations. As usual the Dutch cyclists we asked were helpful and knowledgeable – and incredibly friendly.

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Cycle Routes Around Ipswich

I recently heard that the Tourist Info place in town is often asked by (bemused?) Dutch and other tourists for good cycle routes around Ipswich. It also strikes me that we need something similar – so that more people can take advantage of safe routes in and out of town and enjoy quiet , trouble-free cycling once out of town.

To that end, I’ve had a go at making a bike route on uMapper. It was quite easy to do but I’m not sure I’ve got the best out of the software as yet! This is the link:

If anyone else would like to contribute a cycle route please add a link in the comments section. (I haven’t yet tried this – so I don’t know for sure that it’s possible!)

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Shotley Peninsula Cycling Campaign

Shotley Peninsula Cycling Campaign.

Nearly 50 people attended the inaugural meeting of this campaign at the end of last month. The campaign aims to promote the development of safe cycling network, suitable also for wheelchair and pushchair use, across the Shotley Peninsula, linking schools and villages as well the provision of a safe route into Ipswich.

The meeting showed a real need and desire for safer cycle routes on the peninsula. Many ideas came forward about possible routes and funding. The immediate priority is to raise money for a feasibility study for which we are hoping to use the expertise of the Suffolk County Council, if we can find money elsewhere to fund it. We are now locating a number of grant sources with this in mind.

We are planning to have a ‘family fun cycle ride’ during the Summer holidays to raise money for our campaign and to advertise the lack of good safe cycle routes.

If anyone would like to join the campaign, membership is £5 per household or organisation. Please contact Jane on for a membership form. The bigger our voice the better.

Blog entry received from Shotley Peninsular Cycling Campaign

(I attended the meeting and it was very well organised and quite inspiring. Sadly, most people came by car as the road to Chelmo is so atrocious for cyclists! Hopefully, this is the start of big changes.)

Update July 6th 2010

Here is a brief bit about where they are now (taken from their newsletter – slightly abridged)

The SPCC has spoken to, and received guidance, from Anthony Wright of Sustrans, who has advised that the proposed cycle route be kept as close to the B1456, and as direct, as possible. It also needs to be classified as a Community Path, available for use by cyclists, walkers, and wheelchair users, but not by motor- cycles or horses.

a possible route has been identified, though there are still some gaps, which need to be resolved. The group has already had discussions with all the landowners on one section of the route, and have received a very encouraging response from all of them. What we need to do next is to have a proper feasibility study carried out.

We have also spoken to Suffolk County Council, who have no money to offer, but who are happy to offer their expertise if we can raise the money for a feasibility study.

We have also made contact with Cycle Suffolk
Fund raising for the feasibility study is our first objective, and we are investigating all possible sources of funding.

Hopefully, Cycle Ipswich and Transition Ipswich will be able to support this initiative and get some cyclists to swell the numbers on the August cycle ride. We can also bring some leaflets to help promote what transition Ipswich is doing – and hoping to do.

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