If there is one place in the whole of the UK that is virtually designed for Electric Bikes (eBikes) it’s got to be Milton Keynes!
Do you live in Milton Keynes? I do and I have a bit of a bee in my bonnet about it.
There are loads of things I like about MK (as it’s virtually always referred to by the locals) – the facilities; the quality of the public buildings; the football (MK Dons if you didn’t know); the millions of trees; the shopping; the fact that you can drive through the centre of ‘The City’ without realising it because of the brilliant landscaping; the Grid Roads; the people (virtually all imported); the lakes; the pubs!
One of the best things about Milton Keynes though, is the Redway Network.
In the 60’s, when ‘the white heat of technology’ was being applied to all aspects of life, the planners of Milton Keynes decided that it would be based on personal transport – well ok, the car. So they designed the place around a network of grid roads which run horizontally and vertically throughout the city. At each intersection they placed a roundabout, and they made most of the roads dual carriageways. What this meant was that most people who visited the city got hopelessly lost (all the roundabouts looked the same – english people aren’t used to such organisation and can’t cope with it), and the locals could get about incredibly easily because there was always an alternative way of getting from A to B if there was some sort of hold-up (at, say, C).
At the same time they realised that some people might not have cars and they really ought to do something to stop them getting run-over so often. The answer was The Redway Network – a complete and separate set of footpaths which joined all parts of the city together just for pedestrians and cyclists.
Redways kept people away from the roads by having their own roundabouts underneath the road network and had shortcuts through to housing and work areas that cars couldn’t use. The Redways were also landscaped and planted by the (Award Winning – well they should be award winning – if not I award them the Concrete Cow Award for Horticulture) council horticulturists to give an ever changing series of colours, views, and scents during the seasons – Brilliant!
Brilliant, but flawed.
The first flaw was that the network wasn’t initially complete – the redways at first didn’t connect all the parts of MK, and many of them just petered out in the middle of nowhere. The second was that the planners had made a fundamental mistake in their thinking!
MK is full of beautifully built, smooth, flat roads. The Redways go under and over these roads to separate cyclists and pedestrians from the traffic. This means that they have lots of artificial hills (up to bridges) and dales (down to underpasses and roundabouts). They made the flat bits for things with engines and the hilly bits for things without! If they’d been thinking straight they should have made the redways flat and the roads hilly!
This is where ebikes come in though.
eBikes smooth out the hills and dales of the redway system and take the effort out of the whole trip. eBikes make the redway system work!
eBikes have actually been around for quite a few years but, although they’re commonplace on the continent, they haven’t really taken-off yet in the UK. I bought one five or six years ago and it was pretty good.
The problem was it was quite heavy to use as a normal cycle if the battery went flat; it didn’t really look very good; and the battery life was limited.
I looked around again this year and guess what’s happened. The bikes look brilliant, go for miles, and weigh virtually nothing.
Perfect for Milton Keynes!