Status Quo

the space taken by the 14 people in cars here makes the city appear at a standstill. It makes it an uncomfortable place to walk, to shop, to be. Why does this make economic or social sense? Norwich, UK mid-1990s

How easily the new becomes the status quo, yet how hard it is to break the status quo. It is much harder to imagine change than to live it.

We’ve ruined our cities as places for people in order to accomodate the failings of the private motor vehicle. Ever bigger, wider roads, communities torn in half, people scared to allow their children to walk, the air quality plummeting.

So many public resources, in terms of space (as well as money) offered up to this cumbersome beast: yet still it fails dismally.

Congestion still chokes our cities; danger still hurtles through the streets daily, hourly. People in fear of the irresponsible, undertrained, faceless “motorist” decide to protect their loved ones; by driving them, “forced” into their cars therefore multiplying and embedding the problem.

Yet it wasn’t always so.

As far-sighted people look backwards to streets riven with people as they see the number of absurd short journeys undertaken by car, as they attempt to reverse the failing, as they fight to “free” people from their cars they are met with bewildered contempt.

Traffic is seen as inevitable, as a naturally occurring event.

The agency of individuals is denied them as language speaks of “accidents”, as driving is the assumed mode of transport.

The past is forgotten. Cities have been rebuilt, bulldozed and tarmacked to ensure that private motorised transport is the obvious, often the only, “choice”.

And when the ideas are voiced about recreating cities on a human scale allowing walking and cycling, the majority (encouraged by the wealthy car lobby) cannot envisage anything outside of this status quo. All solutions must still put the car at the centre – because that’s how it is now and therefore how it’s always been and how it must always be.

Never mind the sense, the desire, the necessity of change. Never mind the benefits to all (always excepting the multinationals involved in the auto and petroleum industries) of this change. We fear the change. We fear it always, until it has occurred.

Then it is embraced and defended as the new status quo.

 

 

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JFK Cycle Path: 2017 – present

JFK Cycle Path

Back in December a brand new dedicated bi-directional bicycle lane was opened running the length of Kirchberg. As so often in the case of infrastructure for non-motorised transport here; I have to be grateful but I also have to be a bit depressed.

Width/Comfort *****

Segregation ****

Integration **

Prioritisation (no stars)

Protection ***

Possibly the finest piece of bicycle infrastructure in the City opened under a carpet of snow alongside the opening of the tram, funicular and two new railway stops. What a day for soft mobility in Luxembourg. Symbolically and practically that day really felt like something was happening up on the plateau.

The first impressions for the path are good. It is wide; really wide. It is fully 3 metres for the vast majority of the route. It is also long, a total of 3.2km from one end to the other. And it’s (almost) fully segregated, and mostly there is no cause at all for people on foot and people on bikes to end up in each other’s area.

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Segregated, wide and kerbs

We have had a large network of cycle paths in Kirchberg, but they are fairly unsatisfactory for a number of reasons; mostly because of their shared status. Putting people travelling without private motorised vehicles in conflict with each other, battling over limited space, whilst cars are protected and encouraged is a feature typical of car-centric backward-looking societies. The far side of JFK is a prime example of this. Cyclists must (see Article 107) use a narrowish pavement which is also where buses unloaded, and regularly caused chaos particularly at peak times. It is planned for the bus lane on the other side of JFK to be converted to another bi-directional cycle path. This would be excellent, let’s hope the slightly hysterical voices calling for a return of the 18 (a bus that suddenly appears to have been the most loved object in Luxembourg: I would remind people, however, there is no way there was an 18 coming up JFK every six minutes) do not get heeded and halt this path.

A major issue with the new path is how it integrates with the existing paths. Not very well, is my view. Getting across JFK remains a nuisance on foot or bike, and slipping across the roads and tram tracks to join up with the existing shared paths is awkward, and an area of potential conflict with those on foot. In addition we have the two ends of the path. Up by the Utopolis cinema we are guided onto the pavement, and separated from people by surface colour, not kerbs. As the pedestrian area is dotted with trees, and both sides are narrow (cycle path = 2m) then it is inevitable that there are people frequently walking here. In addition there is no link with the PC2. The easiest way to do this is to turn left before the tram stop and (possibly illegally?) ride across the pavement, passed the (definitely illegally) parked cars and onto the road by the “Hugo Gernsback” bus stop. The problem with this is that the traffic lights at the top are never triggered by bikes, and so you have to re-join the pavement, hit the beg button then ride across a road which is flowing (although with very few cars) to join it. This is not a comfortable link at all. I really hope that when the tram is extended to reach the airport that the cycle path is also extended to run the full length alongside it.

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Sharing, then stopped; The Eastern End

Similarly at the western end the path abruptly stops. You turn left and wait for lights to gain access to the Red Bridge, or right over the tram tracks then wait for lights to cross Konrad Adenauer, before joining an unsegregated shared path down to the funicular. This is hugely disappointing. At busy times there is a mass of people here who naturally do not want to have to fight with bikes. Originally the impression was given that a dedicated cycle path would carry on here, and then across the bridge. We know, of course, it will not carry on to the bridge (making Kirchberg to Limpertsberg criminally absurd by bike), and for this terrible cop-out to be right at the hub of the new transit connections is appalling. There is an M-Box (as there is at the other end), but no Vel’oh station here.

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Abrupt ending; The Western End

 

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From here to the funicular / tram stop is shared

It is mostly completely segregated, with kerbs and islands. I would always prefer deeper kerbs, these ones are still easy to drive over, if not quite “inviting”. However, as there are wide ‘islands’ with trees on either side it actually doesn’t run directly by the car lane, and so is unlikely to be infiltrated from there. This is, without a doubt, fantastic. A very good, essential, plus point. This is not true at the myriad entrances to the lane from the junctions. None have bollards and I have seen vehicles (mostly vans) parked somewhere on the lane every single time I am up there. A bollard in the middle at each end, and a little education, would solve this problem.

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All too frequent

Unfortunately there is a long section all the way along d’Coque which is open for “delivery” vehicles. Of course I’ve already seen private motor cars use it, and although it’s bi-directional, the delivery lorries fill it completely. There is no reason at all that this access couldn’t have been maintained with a normal junction, rather than sharing the path for so far. This is hugely problematic, both in practical terms, and also symbolically. There are actually traffic lights there to stop bikes and allow lorries onto a the cycle path! In addition the integration with the cycle paths on the other (northern) side of d’Coque is problematic.

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Please note: these vehicles are acting LEGALLY
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This is where lorries can join the cycle path. (N.B. not a joke)

In terms of “giving cycling priority” this path plainly doesn’t. There are a total of 15 crossings with lights, about one every 0.2 km. The vast majority have beg-buttons (several automated by approach). One entry has a flashing orange light to warn drivers that bikes have right of way. My flesh and bone is a little too fragile, however, to rely on motorists here in Luxembourg. It makes the whole thing very stop-start which can be frustrating, especially when you are waiting on red for a road which is also on red for whilst the tram passes. Could be linked?

I also wonder what the plan is around the Alphonse Wecker stop, in front of Auchan. This is a busy crossing, and there are no markings or signs at all to suggest how to continue along the bike path, across this ‘gap’. It gives a big, wide and peculiar shared space.

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Shared space in a ‘continuous’ bike path

I must state here that clearly this path makes cycling the length of Kirchberg better, and I’m slowly beginning to see more people use it as winter fades. But compromise is the killer of cycling infrastructure, and it’s all too easy for people in cars to look at a mostly empty lane such as this and complain that it should be for cars. No matter that the ‘huge’ tailback of cars at the lights holds maybe 20 people; a group you’d barely notice if walking and / or cycling at a fraction of the public space commitment.. I’m not sure how that very obvious point about the inefficiency of the private motor vehicle can be brought home. JFK lends itself to a beautiful photo of 100 people walking, alongside 100 people on bikes, alongside 100 people on the tram, alongside 100 people in cars. I need to find someone who could organise such a stunt.

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Space for Cars – credit @urbanthoughts11

A New Face In Hell

Once again into the past. Forty years of unsurpassed genius passed on during Wednesday afternoon. Sharing the news with some old school friends took me right back to when I first had my tiny mind blown (my head expanded) and everything changed for me. There was a kid in our class who introduced me to The Fall (and John Peel, and therefore is responsible for opening the door to actual music. Not the limp chart shit I’d been exposed to before). He was not, by any means, a Cool Kid; but he was the coolest of them all. He was considerably more mature than us and he was cool simply because he was himself and nothing that anyone thought anyone should be. We all thought of him as a great friend, and he was. Yet he lost touch with us all (purposefully) within months of school finishing. In retrospect I guess I admired him more than anything. I guess too that he found something, at least, in us lot to hang about with until he could go where he had to go. And I’m grateful for that.

So of course when these things happen nostalgia comes. I remember the anticipation of Bend Sinister being released; I remember how much I loved it when it did come out. I remember feeling they had been around forever before I heard of them, and eagerly devouring their remarkable back catalogue. They had been around for 8 years at the time, only about 20% of the productive life of the irascible, cantankerous, inventive and unique imagination-magician and creative force in charge of the band. He was the only constant in the band; the band the only constant in a changing world. No longer.

But not just nostalgia, for he never stopped. Last year the latest album (can it be – The Last Fall L.P? – typing that brings it home; there’s always more Fall L.P.s. This wasn’t meant to happen), with the fabulously Fallesque title New Facts Emerge, was superb. The sadness is very much also for what more was to have come.

I can’t really explain how important he was to me personally in my musical tastes. Always there, always brilliant, always challenging and, in John Peel’s memorable words, “Always different; always the same”. I have many groups and musicians I admire and love, but he stood over them all; still stands gloriously alone and above, he is forever the Hip Priest looking down. He leaves a body of work consisting of hundreds and hundreds of songs. Stick them on random and you realise every single one is wonderful, makes you listen, makes you think.

I saw them more than any other band, although not for a while. Once after a gig at the UEA we knocked on the door of the tour bus and he came to chat; we shook his hand and wished him happy birthday and thanked him for the gig (which was excellent). My right hand.

I remember once taping their entire catalogue (at the time) off vinyl on to cassette in alphabetical order by song title. By the time I finished that job, they’d released another L.P.

Am I living too late? A (nearly) 50 year old man hankering for his youth, or a music lover hankering for the next Fall record? No, in fact I am Damo Suzuki.

I have so many highlights of albums and songs and sessions that there is no point in trying to choose a selection for here, so instead I’ll take one from the first album, and one from the last. Enjoy, and if you are not familiar you really have missed out, but what a time you have ahead of you catching up…

Winter Commute

The worst of the winter commute is behind me, I’m sure of it. Not only do I leave home a little later than most, meaning it’s already light on my way in now, we also seem to be luxuriating in a mild spell at the moment. The cold snap of a couple of weeks ago has gone, and it really is astonishing the enormous difference between zero and 5 degrees.

An online conversation led me to try a new route. Experience tells me my 7.9km route is the best quick, albeit not especially pleasant, route but the promise of dawn beauty beckoned me to a mostly traffic-free route.

Thus it was that I was tempted to set out a full half hour earlier than normal, for this is doubling my distance. Ironically there is a horrible junction to negotiate before I leave the motorised traffic; but in the morning ‘rush’ hour the vehicles are stationary and generally you find yourself waved across, and gingerly edging out as cars jostle from all directions.

Downhill, SUV’s wooshing past, under the railway and then – HERE WE GO. I am unable to restrain a slight sense of smugness as I dive off the tarmacked misery and plunge into the glorious silence of the forest. Wow. This is it. Not entirely sure of the way, but following a muddy track with a small river gushing below I know I must keep heading down. The early morning winter sun infiltrates gently; the conditions below the tyres worsen. But no matter, the rubber skims and slides through the puddles, I put my foot down, a bird flashes passed, still the stream tumbles its urgent way. There are choices of paths, options I refuse to consider, down down; they all come together again and suddenly I pass far far below the motorway. I think of all those individuals suspended in the air, individually trapped in metal boxes, hardly moving whilst I’m down here, breathing! Smelling, hearing, moving and I’m afraid to say I succumbed once more to a degree of smugness. How could I not? Yes I’ll arrive in work with trousers boasting splashes of mud, and they will be pristine; unfresh from their cars. But my heart is pumping, I’m awake, I’m part of this world and I’m vital.

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Finally my friendly little brook breaks forth and leaps in to a full – fledged river, where I turn right to head downstream. The water is high, the banks looking shallow; I glide alongside the river as it flows swiftly, serenely, inexorably. This is a favourite old path along the river; wide, genuinely traffic-free and beautiful. Twice I need to cross roads, and I can sense the coming ‘civilisation’. Forced onto a busy road (our cycle paths here spend more time closed than open), I can’t avoid them from here on in. But they are, at least, in the old city and picturesque in their own way. Now I need to head high to the plateau and finally I embrace the modern scar of mankind. I ascend in our brand-new funicular railway before finishing off this absurdly long, yet wonderful calming, commute along an almost-lovely very-new cycle path.

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Commuting is about routine. My mornings are settled; I leave on autopilot, I know to the second when to leave and when I arrive. Every inch of the cycle is embedded. It was refreshing and unusual to vary this, needing to think again, or at least, think in a different way. Normally the processes are running constantly and at full pelt, observing, anticipating, avoiding; riding in traffic you cannot let go of concentration for a second. This morning, however, in the forest and along the river I could.

Will I ride this way again? I suspect the clock will determine this, as it is a lot longer. Altering any habit is difficult in any case. Those built specifically to ensure ease of thought in the morning are doubly so. I don’t even know yet if I will come this way tomorrow.

I hope I do.

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pictures are not from today, nor of the exact route described

 

Cycling Events in Luxembourg 2018

This is a non-comprehensive list of organised cycling events in the Grand Duchy throughout 2018

February 2018

04.02 Muselbikes goes to the CX WM Navette Valkenburg (N)

18.02 Randonnée Mountain Bike Randonnée Mountain Bike Ell

March 2018

02.03 AG Muselbikes AG Grevenmacher

04.03 Festival du Mountain Bike Randonnée Mountain Bike Kayl

18.03 GP Ost Manufaktur Road Berbourg

24.03 Randonnée Mountain Bike “op de Groufen” Randonnée Mountain Bike Differdange

25.03 Ecoride Randonnée Mountain Bike Lintgen

April 2018

01.04 Randonnée am Minett Randonnée Mountain Bike Esch

01.04 UC Dippach Road Dippach

08.04 Randonnée Mountain Bike Randonnée Mountain Bike Stegen

08.04 VS Dommeldange Road Dommeldange

14.04 Nordstad Randonnée Mountain Bike Randonnée Mountain Bike Diekirch

22.04 Fréijoersrandonnée vun der Poste Cyclotourism – your own pace on the road Lux-Gasperich

22.04 VC Schengen Road + Time Trial Remerschen

22.04 Randonnée Mountain Bike Randonnée Mountain Bike Esch

29.04 LC Tétange Road Tétange

29.04 Mill-Man-Trail Randonnée Mountain Bike Echternach

May 2018

01.05 Randonnée Elsy Jacobs Cyclotrouriste Garnich

05.05 Andy Schleck Challenge Mountain Bike Special Event Itzig

05.05 BIKE 4 LIFE 2018 Special Event Diekirch

06.05 Festival de la Petite Reine Course Kayl

06.05 Randonnée Aischdall Randonnée Mountain Bike Habscht

10.05 Bididu Trail Randonnée Mountain Bike Brouch

13.05 GP majerus-parmentier Road Hosingen

26.05 Schleck Gran Fondo Cyclosportive Mondorf

27.05 6 Stonnen Terre Rouge Special Event Esch

June 2018

03.06 La Nicolas Morn Cyclotourism – your own pace on the road Kayl

03.06 Uphill Challenge Special Event Rameldange

05.06 Critérium de la Ville de Kayl Road Kayl

09.06 Randonnée Jang Ferrari Cycloutouriste Ettelbruck

09.06 2. Zaitfueren op der Musel Time Trial Ehnen

10.06 2. Vélo Gourmand Cyclotourism – your own pace on the road Ehnen

10.06 Festival de Bertrange Road Bertrange

16.06 Randonnée Cycling for Health Cyclotourism – your own pace on the road Schengen

17.06 GP Kropemann Road Atertdaul

24.06 Souvenir Marcel Gilles Road Contern

28.06 Championnats Nationaux Time Trial Time Trial Atertdaul

July 2018

01.07 Championnats Nationaux Road Road Atertdaul

01.07 – 07.07 6 Days Lull Gillen – Cyclotourism – your own pace on the road Randonnées Bertrange

07.07 Master Tour Cycling for Health Special Event

07.-10.07 L’Etape du Tour Cyclosportive Annecy (F)

08.07 MTB Randonnée Widdebierg Randonnée Mountain Bike Flaxweiler

27.-28.07 24 Stonnen Vëlo Wentger Special Event Wincrange

August 2018

05.08 La 24e Edy Schütz Cyclotourism – your own pace on the road Woolz

12.08 La 26e Jempy Schmitz Cyclotourism – your own pace on the road Diekirch

19.08 La 7e Randonnée Jeng Majerus Cyclotourism – your own pace on the road Schuttrange

26.08 Festival Cessange Road Cessange

September 2018

02.09 La 29e Charly Gaul Cyclosportive Echternach

08.09 Mam Vëlo de Buurschter erop Special Event Bourscheid

09.09 68. Drauwen a Wäifest     Grevenmacher

16.09 Festival Cycliste Road Reckange

16.09 Randonée Roger Wirtz Randonnée Mountain Bike Larochette

23.09 Randonnee Lull Gillen – Bertrange

30.09 Hemoride Randonnée Mountain Bike Strassen

October 2018

13.10 10. MTB Tour op der Musel Randonnée Mountain Bike Grevenmacher

14.10 Randonnée Mullerthal Randonnée Mountain Bike Beaufort

21.10 Randonnée Tanja Wintersdorf Randonnée Mountain Bike Sanem

27.10 Randonnée Mountain Bike Titelberg Randonnée Mountain Bike Rod

October/November – Coffeenuering

Holiday 1982 Day 13 – Risivoirs

… my unaltered thoughts on “resivoirs” … to see how we got here, read this post

Resivoirs – 14th August 1982

This morning, Mum, Dad, sister and I waked walked to Castleton. I bought some ‘Fools’s Gold’ and some Rock and some ‘Local History Cards’ then we went to the ‘Ramblers Rest’ tea shop and then to the caravan. Then we went to some rsvisors resivoirs in Derwent Vally they are Howden, Derwent and The Ladybower. The hamlet of hopton and the village of Derwent was flooded and given new homes. We saw a tree planted by King Gorge VI on September 10th 1945. Then we went to Castelton again and bought some sweets. Afterwards we went to Windy Knoll and this time we found the rubbery substance on the rock, wich which u is black that the ma Brain Woodall told us about on Thursday. he Mum, Dad, Catherine and I walked to Hope along and a footpath and saw Ashton’s mine. We walked back along the road. Earlier this day mum bought and great big piece of Blue John on a neclace.

Historical note – The Upper Derwent Valley has three reservoirs: Howden Reservoir, Derwent Reservoir and Ladybower Reservoir, all of which were created during the early part of the 20th Century.

Day 12 – Bakwell        Introduction          Day 14 – Journey Home

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Holiday 1982 Day 12 – Bakwell

… the continuing adventures in the Peak District as told in the authentic 1982 diary of a boy … 

Bakwell – 13th August 1982

This morning we went to the Derbyshire Craft Center in Calver and it is very nice and I whic wish I had £ 50.00 to spend there but instead I spent 24p. I bought two very nice bookmarks with Antique toys on them and on the back it as got some writing about it. Afterwards we went to Bakewell in the rain and walked about there. Afterwards we went to the caravan and had lunch. Then Dad, Mum, sister and I walked to Odin Mine and back. After we walked to Castleton and then we went to Windy Knoll.

Linguistic note – interesting to see US spelling of ‘center’. And ‘Bakwell’ is, of course, “Bakewell”, famous for it’s tarts; oddly unmentioned here.

Day 11 – Long Walk          Introduction          Day 13 – Resivoirs

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Holiday 1982 Day 11 – Long Walk

This is a verbatim reproduction of a diary I wrote in my youth and have recently discovered. All original errors are retained.

Long Walk – 12th August 1982

In the morning we went to Buxton for food and found out that ‘Postman Pat’ is number 62 but the records shops were sold out. Then Mum, Dad, sister and I bougig went on a long walk starting throught Cavedale and we went hight up and has and had wonderfull views. After us four went to a slide show by Brain Woodall it was very intresting. I understood the Castelton Doddler (I bought it early this week) a lot more. Afterwards mum bought me this book and Brain Woodall signed it.

Historical note. No records remain regarding as to what a ‘Castleton Doddler’ might be. Mr Woodall appears to have signed his name ‘Brian’.

Day 10 – Peak Cavern          Introduction          Day 12 – Bakwell

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Holiday 1982 Day 10 – Peak Cavern

… the continuing publication of my old holiday diary

Peak Cavern – 11th August 1982

In the morning Mum, Dad, sister and I walked to Castleton and the Peak Cavern. Dad and I went in while sister and mum looked around Castleton. it was very nice in the cave and in one point it was four feet high in the Great Cave you are in the Castle deongon which the guards threw the prisons down and if the servied the fall the darkness would send them mad the guide turned the light off and you couldn’t see a thing not even your hand in front of your face. When he turned them on again he shone his tourch on the roof there was little lights shineing, no one knew that they were the cats eyes off the Mam Tor Road after it has been destroyed! It took fourty minutes and was very enjoyable. After we all went to Hathersage and saw Little John’s grave and last year we did some brass rubbing there. Charlotte Bronte visted the vicarage Just before writing ‘Jane Eyre’ she choose the ‘Eyre’ because it was on the tombs. then we went to ‘Mill Stone edge’ and climbed up thought through the heather and bracken there was lots of mill stones and boulders which we climbed and pretened they were animals. In the evening we walked to Castleton and had chips in a cone and scollops.

Linguistic note – dungeon, survived, torch, shining, forty, chose, pretended, scallops.

Day 9 – Mam Tor         Introduction          Day 11 – Long Walk

 

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