Cycling Graffiti

You’ve probably seen these stencils on Chilwell High Road. They mark places where it is particularly dangerous for cyclists. Indeed they mark where accidents have occurred; accidents that could have been avoided if those creating the tramlines and cycling lanes around them had just thought properly.

The cycle lane goes onto the tram tracks. It doesn’t take much sense to see that there is hardly enough room for a tram and bicycle to run alongside each other, hence the recent accidents that have happened. What’s more, the lane then veers onto the pavement right into pedestrians. In the words of one cyclist I talked to “it doesn’t make any sense, it’s unsafe and erratic.”

It isn’t only Beeston. These stencils have begun appearing all over Nottingham. A group of cycling activists have taken it upon themselves to right what they think are serious wrongs in the way cycle tracks have been laid out (or not as the case may be).

And I can certainly understand. Cyclists have been unnecessarily injured by the tramlines, by lorries and HGVs, and normal drivers, and it seems at least part of the blame must be taken by the council’s ineptly installed cycle lanes.

Particularly dangerous are so-called “pinch points”. These are where lanes suddenly narrow; where bollards jut out, areas for parking, or those triangle patches that feed in and out of roundabouts. These naturally cause vehicles to edge left, but what that means for the cyclist is suddenly they have much less space, and they didn’t have much to begin with. The graffitists have created stencils saying “cycling priority lane” to remind drivers to pay special attention to cyclists. Remember that it is actually recommended that cyclists position themselves in the centre of the lane, not to the side; that is the safest place for them.

I spoke to a local cycling activist who told me he had been involved in the Beeston stencilling. Understandably he wished to remain anonymous. He spoke emphatically of known friends of his who had been killed cycling simply because drivers just don’t understand where cyclists are supposed to be.

“Cyclists follow all the same rules as other vehicles on the road, they should be in the middle of the lane. It’s called the primary position. A lot of motorists don’t realise this. They try to edge cyclists to the side.” This is particularly when reaching so-called pinch points as previously mentioned, particularly roundabouts.

“The city as a whole is supposed to be pledging to get more cyclists on the road*1, ordinary people, not your lycra-clad stereotypes. But to do that you need to have infrastructure to make cycling safe. That’s one of the reasons that ordinary people, children and such, don’t cycle to work and school; it has the image of being unsafe.”

Part of that is of course the attitude of some drivers. I myself have seen some really appalling things done to cyclists, which is truly ironic, as the activist explained:

“More people cycling would be better for motorists as well; there would be less traffic.”

In fact the benefits of cycling are pretty wide reaching. Let’s look at pollution. For example the area around the ringroad (the QMC) is in the top ten of polluted areas in Europe. The activist said, “When you cycle through there at rush hour you can literally taste the pollution.” Nottingham is one of the worst cities in the UK for pollution.*2

More locally rush hour is always a big issue in Beeston; parents taking their kids to and from school, people on their way to and from work. If more people cycled, it is undeniable there would be a big impact on levels of pollution. But first of all there would need to be safe and thorough cycle routes so that parents would feel their children were safe cycling, and that individuals themselves felt safe. Currently this is not always the case.

And this is why the activist has decided it is time to take to the night and do this.

“Nottingham really doesn’t have very good cycling infrastructure. I’ve cycled around London and felt it was much safer, the attitudes of drivers were better.”

“Because of these problems, particularly the attitudes of drivers, I don’t feel safe letting my kids cycle around this city, which is a great tragedy. Cycling is good for the mind, body and soul. Not to mention the environment, both local and wider.”

Their message?

“Nottingham City Council has pledged to erase all of our stencils. The’ve gotten rid of a few already. We’d prefer it if they didn’t waste tax payers’ money, as we’re not going to stop until safe cycling infrastructure is implemented.”

The city, he feels, just isn’t doing enough to make cycling safe and accessible to all.

“We feel they’re just doing the bare minimum. It’s obvious these people don’t cycle much themselves as much of what they’ve put in place is actually more dangerous than it would be to have no cycle paths at all. They need to listen to the right people.”

Here are some positive sites that I found myself where you can go for more information about cycling safety, cycling law or to get legally involved in cycling activism:

http://smartertravelnottingham.wordpress.com

http://bikeability.org.uk

  1. http://transport2.nottinghamcity.gov.uk/cycle/
  2. bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-27323198

Christian Fox

Letters to the Mind Project

A Beeston project aiming to raise mental heath awareness

PMeJ3uWn

In November I began a project that was inspired by a poem I had written which addressed my mental health directly. I wrote to my anxiety: this helped me to view it differently and I realised that writing poetry is my main technique and coping method when it comes to dealing with my anxiety.

I wanted to share this with others and give people the chance to use writing as a coping technique. As soon as I voiced my idea I received positive feedback. I set up a blog and since its inception the project has received 19 contributions which range from poems to bipolar and eating disorders, to letters to anxiety, a drawing, and more personal accounts of experiences with mental health issues.

Jenny Marie, who contributed her letter Dear Anxiety said: “When I began, I didn’t quite know what to say. But the words kept coming, and it felt like I was pounding them out on the keyboard. It was therapeutic for me to write this. It’s healing for those with mental illness and helpful for their loved ones to read.”

A huge part of this project is not only to help people but also to try and combat the stigma surrounding mental health. Writing to the illness immediately distances it from us, and allows us to look at it in a way that can help people realise that they are not their illness.

We have to stop hiding and bring the taboo into light and teach the people around us that within our hearts we are all the same.

Mental health problems can drive people apart, whether they are family or friends. This can make the illness worse as the one suffering believes they are at fault, when really there just needs to be a bit more understanding. I hope that this project can reach people who need that understanding, and want a fresh way of trying to come to terms with their mental health. This is why the project encourages friends and family members who are impacted by mental health to participate too.

My editor on the blog, B. L. Memee, said: “It is my belief that every person’s story and experience matters and that in sharing our stories at Letters to the Mind we will educate the uninformed and with education comes understanding and with understanding stigma begins to fall ill and eventually dies. I want to see that happen in my lifetime, but to do that we have to stop hiding and bring the taboo into light and teach the people around us that within our hearts we are all the same. With Jade seeking out contributors and media in the UK and I doing the same in the US we are making a fine start of it. But we cannot do it alone. We need those diagnosed with a mental illness to be courageous and join us in our efforts. We need family members to share their stories as well because as a support person, the impact on you can be just as intense and people need to understand about your struggles and hardships as well. As human beings we are meant to accept, support and care for one another. So please take the first step and share this story with your friends and families that you think might be interested.”

Issue 41 of The Beestonian contained an article about Steve Plowright and his poetry writing. I attended a Time to Change event at Middle Street Day Centre and told Steve about the project. He kindly agreed to be a part of it, and shared his poem Cruel Jailers with me, which he is happy to submit to the project, as the poem is written directly to his depression and anxiety.

In celebration of National Time to Talk Day on Feb 4, Time to Change hosted a free event called ‘Time to Change Village 2016’, which ran during the day at Trinity Square, Nottingham. It gave the public the opportunity to speak to volunteers and organisations about mental health. There was live music, children’s entertainment and a health and beauty pampering zone.

If you or someone you know suffers from a mental health problem then spread the word to them about the Letters to the Mind project. Contributions can take various forms: a letter, a poem, a short essay/blog post, or artwork. You can visit the blog at: letterstothemindblog.wordpress.com where you will find more information about the project, and details about how to contribute. Or you can send a submission straight to: letterstothemind@outlook.com

An Open Letter

To Anxiety,
Shall we begin with where you began?
No, first I’d like to ask you about
your master plan:

Did you hope that I would fall?
before I opened my eyes to it all?

Did you want to make me scream?
enough to make me miss out on my dream?

Did you intend for me to cry?
long into the night while
life passed me by?

Or did you in fact, want me to react
so that I might find hope
along with ways to cope?

You helped me to climb
and make the most of my time.

You helped me to realise
the importance of advice.

You taught me that tears are fine,
although born of sadness, they are mine.

You allowed me to think with a clearer mind
and discover the happiness you never
thought I’d find.

In the beginning all I felt for you was hate,
but gradually I became patient and able to wait
for that moment when the bad becomes good…

…the moment at which hate becomes love.

Jade Moore

Feel Good Shopping

Jade Moore tells us why our abundance of charity shops is a good thing

It is a truth universally acknowledged that Christmas is a time for giving, and it is a truth locally acknowledged that Beeston has an abundance of charity shops. So, why not make the most of them? They are treasure troves when it comes to looking for gifts and you never know, you might find exactly what you set out to buy, and you’ll be helping a charity, too. It’s a fool proof Christmas plan (especially if you’re on a budget, as I always seem to be!) Whether they know it or not, my friends and family have received charity shop bought items and loved them. I take pleasure from finding a pristine copy of a book in a charity shop, removing the 99p sticker and having my friend believe that they are worth the £8.99 they think I paid.

There are plenty of chances to do your bit and I think here in Beeston we are lucky to have a wide range of charity shops along the High Road.

Saving money, helping a good cause, pleasing a friend – I can’t think of a better solution, and this is something we can implement in our lives at any point during the year. If, like me, you don’t give to a charity on a monthly basis, there are plenty of chances to do your bit and I think here in Beeston we are lucky to have a wide range of charity shops along the High Road. We can dip in and out of them as we please, pick up a bargain and help charities that range from Scouts, to The British Heart Foundation, to Cancer Research, to helping fight poverty with Oxfam.

If you happen to be perusing the shops of a Saturday afternoon, pop into Oxfam Books and Music and you’ll find me there filling the shelves with more books, or standing behind the counter mentally urging you to find and buy a book. I’ve volunteered for Oxfam for just over four years and I can’t emphasise enough how much I enjoy it and appreciate the work that Oxfam does for poverty.

This time of year, you can buy extra Christmassy things. We have traditionally festive cards as well as funny ones. Our Unwrapped Gifts are more popular at Christmas too: if you don’t know what to buy someone, why not buy them a goat (or two)?

If you give to charity regularly already, then keep up the good work! If not, then now is the time to start. Treat yourself, treat others, and take comfort from being able to help many brilliant causes.

Jade Moore

Jade Moore

 

 

The quiet, bookish one in the corner. Writes poems and occasionally reads them in front of people. Can write the beginning of The Black Parade in shorthand. Hobbies include collecting postcards and interviewing authors.

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