I’m currently in the middle of writing a piece about how attitudes to residential streets being access-only for motor traffic are essentially conditioned by history. That is to say, whether people are in favour of a particular residential street being ‘access-only’ largely depends on the current nature of that street. If it’s currently a through-route, attempts to convert it into an access road will probably be controversial. But, conversely, if it’s already an access road, that status will be deeply uncontroversial.
We can take this further, and point out that attempts to reintroduce through traffic onto access roads that are currently peaceful, safe and quiet would be just as unpopular as ‘filtering’, if not more so. It’s most likely that, in the cold light of day, people are not really ‘for’ or ‘against’ filtering – they are just against change.
We’ll come to this subject in more detail next week, but in the meantime, and as a teaser to that blogpost, I thought I’d look at a specific example of ‘historical’ filtering, one that happened some time ago, and that would be controversial if it were reversed – just as controversial as if attempts were made to implement it today.
Cull Lane is a small lane in southern Hampshire, on the outskirts of New Milton. I’m familiar with it because I use it to cycle to and from my grandmother’s house, from New Milton station.
Back in the 1950s, it was just a straightforward road, running across fields.
Over time, New Milton has expanded, filling out to the orange road running east-west near the top of the map, with housing development built on other side of Cull Lane. But the way this housing has been built – and the changes that have been made to Cull Lane – are very interesting.
Cull Lane has essentially been converted into two separate sections of cul-de-sac, through a series of three closures. The first, and most obvious one, is in the middle. The other two are at the (former) junctions with the boundary roads.
The only ‘through route’ across this area is now a very twisty road, looping up and and down as it runs east-west – Holland’s Wood Drive. While it is technically possible to drive along the length of this road, its twisty nature doesn’t make that an obvious thing to do, and indeed Google Streetview tells us that is much quicker (and shorter) to use the pre-existing boundary roads.
What has happened to Cull Lane itself? Well, it is, still, a rather lovely quiet country lane, even though it is now technically part of the town of New Milton. It is rare to encounter drivers on it, and those that I do are simply going to and from their properties.
At the northern end, there is a turning area for residents. The previous connection to the main road running east-west has been ‘lost’, although pedestrian access has been retained (in the foreground).
Below, some of the new housing that was built along Cull Lane at the same time as these changes to the road network were made (note the ‘dead end’ sign on what was formerly a through route) –
The ‘severed’ middle section, where what was once Cull Lane has become a pedestrian path, with bollards to stop drivers –
The crossing of the new, bendy road in the middle of the development (again, note that the southern section of Cull Lane, visible across the road, has a ‘Dead End’ sign) –
… And the southern end of Cull Lane. This would at one time have been a straightforward junction, but now it is a turning area, with only cycling and walking access to the main road where the silver car is being driven.
These pictures were actually taken at rush hour, around 5:30pm, yet I was able to stand in the middle of the road and take them, quite happily. But without the filtering that took place here, this small little lane would actually be a busy road. It would form an obvious route from the main road to the north of New Milton (connecting with the trunk road A35) into the east of the town.
As it is, that route is not available, and this residential area is something of an oasis of calm, ‘converted’ into two cul-de-sacs.
Because all this happened at the time the development was taking place, I suspect the changes to the road were a minor detail. New residents moving into the housing would not have concerned themselves with it, because it was already like that when they arrived. But had these changes been proposed after all the development took place, it is a reasonable guess those changes would have been opposed by locals who had got used to the existing driving routes. ‘Keep Cull Lane open’! ‘No to increasing pollution and congestion on surrounding roads! And so on, with the kinds of arguments that are undoubtedly familiar to present-day campaigners.
As it is, Cull Lane is an attractive place to live, with properties for sale making a virtue of the fact that it is ‘a quiet no through road’, which may have not been the case had enlightened planners not severed it at the time of the development. The slightly longer distance locals might have to travel to exit onto main roads by car is a very small price to pay for living in a desirable, quiet and attractive area.
The only small complaint I have with these changes is that they seem to have happened at a time in British planning history when cycling was invisible. The connection in the middle, and the two cut throughs at either end, are quite explicitly signed as pedestrian routes, and I suspect I may be breaking the law by cycling along a footpath every time I visit my grandmother, travelling along the length of Cull Lane.
Nevertheless, I think this is a very interesting example of how ‘closures’ of roads can be invisible and uncontroversial if they happen under particular circumstances, and if they have been in place long enough for anyone to even remember the road being configured in any other way.
The problem of cyclist warning stickers started in London (for the last account of what this issue is all about, with reference to the time line see this post ). While there are more important issues to be dealt with in the area of lorry safety as described here , sometimes relatively minor issues may well still need to be addressed.
This photograph of a vehicle on Salisbury Plain (HT Martin Baldwin) got me thinking: what exactly is a “blind spot”? The Shorter Oxford English Dictionary says:“an area where vision or understanding is lacking”
As followers of this saga will know, for the vehicle above, there is no lacking of “vision” if the driver is using their near side wing mirror as instructed by the Highway Code. What is lacking is the “understanding” that they have this obligation.
Our objective, along with other road danger reduction and cyclist stakeholders is that Transport for London, other highway authorities, bodies like CLOCS and operators , the Fleet Operators Recognition Scheme (FORS), drivers and police understand what needs to be done in order to reduce lorry danger. Achieving this objective may well involve chasing up bodies like FORS (that have clear criteria of which vehicles can have stickers on them) even if it is low on the list of priorities.
Perhaps it is the case that addressing the relatively minor issues can lead to more commitment towards resolving the main ones.
A tweet from @aseasyasriding reminded me about the problem of those stickers which seem to have proliferated on the back of HGVs (and now other commercial vehicles in the past few years) which are all some variation of a warning to cyclists not to pass the vehicle on the inside. Obviously I hate these things, but I will admit to having something of a dark admiration for the idea behind them. These stickers likely originate from discussions inside the road haulage industry and I suspect that the decision to issue them as taken as follows:
And so the now-ubiquitous warning stickers were created for HGVs (which have since spread to other commercial vehicles such as buses, vans and even taxis). These stickers ingeniously and insidiously turn a road haulage industry problem into a problem of cyclist behaviour in the minds of many of those who see them. Slowly but surely in the public imagination, the problem of a HGV driver overtaking a cyclist to turn left becomes the problem of cyclists passing HGVs on the inside. The problem of the immense blind spots of HGVs becomes the problem of cyclists passing HGVs on the inside. The problem of HGV drivers not signalling their intention to turn becomes the problem of cyclists passing HGVs on the inside. The problem of risk-taking by drivers who are paid by the load becomes a problem of cyclist behaviour.
In response to the (admittedly highly-sucessful) attempt at reality distortion represented by the original stickers, I thought I would present some alternatives which are perhaps a bit more honest:
One for skip lorries and others who are paid by the load:
And a few more ready for when these things inevitably start making the jump from commercial vehicles to private cars:
And finally, the subtext of the original signs:
The death of a woman in Reading earlier this year – and the inquest into her death – has prompted me to write something about Puffin crossings, which to me at least seem to have been a factor in that collision.
Lauren Heath was killed on a Puffin crossing as an HGV driver advanced through the crossing. It still isn’t clear whether he moved while the signals were still red, or whether the green signal had appeared while Lauren Heath was still on the crossing. She was in the driver’s ‘blind spot’ – allegedly, because the driver had failed to properly adjust his mirror.
But one of the factors in her death appears to have been the lack of far side signal at the Puffin crossing. As she walked up the road to cross, she saw motor traffic waiting at a red signal, and started to cross in front of it, without the far side indication of whether or not it is safe to do so, as is the case with more traditional, and familiar, Pelican crossings.
Here is a similar example of a Puffin crossing in Horsham. Walking in this direction, towards the lights, as Lauren Heath would have done, I can see that they are red. But there is no far side signal – the only indication of whether or not it is safe to cross is the small yellow box on the signal post itself.
To look at this box involves rotating through 180°, looking back the way I’ve come. The signal for whether or not it is safe to cross is not in line with my direction of travel.
This is what Lauren Heath would have had to have done, but failed to do – she just assumed that the lights would stay red, and without the far side signal, she had no indication that motor traffic might be about to set off as she walked across the crossing.
We know that humans will make mistakes like this, and I don’t think Puffin crossings are designed to mitigate human fallibility. The lack of the far side signal is a big problem; it means people have to look at a small box in an unnatural position, rather than relying on line of sight in the direction they are travelling.
To be clear, Puffin crossings do have some advantages over Pelicans. For one thing, I like the way that, thanks to detectors, the signals will stay red for motor traffic while people are still on the crossing – it means people who are slower do not have to hurry, warned by a flashing red man. Puffins, again thanks to detectors, also ‘reset’ if people push the button, and then cross before they get a green man – it means motor traffic isn’t held unnecessarily at a crossing when nobody is waiting to cross.
But there are other problems with them, not just the lack of far side signal. They can be deeply ambiguous. Walking up to this crossing, it is easy to assume that the green man applies to the crossing ahead, in the background. Right?
Well, no. That would be wrong. This green man applies to the crossing 90° to the left of my field of view. This crossing, with the same box in the foreground –
Walking across the crossing in the first photo on the assumption you have a green man would actually bring you into conflict with motor traffic.
Here’s a similar (and much worse) example from Sheffield.
— The Ranty Highwayman (@RantyHighwayman) March 15, 2015
The counter argument is, of course, that far side signals can themselves be ambiguous if there are multiple crossings in the line of sight, signalled differently. For instance, people might interpret a green for the section of carriageway on the far side of the road as an indication that it is safe cross the near side section of carriageway, which may have a red. I nearly got caught out in precisely the same way at this dreadful crossing outside the Gare du Lyon in Paris, which had a green on the station side, but a red to prevent people crossing the other half of the carriageway.
But the answer to this is really don’t build ambiguous, staggered crossings! Mitigating them with Puffins – which might still be open to ambiguous interpretation – isn’t really the long-term answer. Pedestrian and cycle crossings should be straightforward, without stopping and starting halfway – design them so people can cross the road, in one go. Puffins are really just polishing a turd.
Another problem with Puffins is that the signal box is easily obscured, because (with good reason) people stand right next to it.
This is often mitigated by adding another signal box on to the same pole – but again this problem wouldn’t arise at all with high, far side signals.
And one final annoyance with Puffins is that if you are approaching them on a bike (at a Toucan crossing with Puffin signalling) the lack of far side signal means you have to stop, and look at the box, in a way you wouldn’t have to with conventional signals. They interrupt progress.
So I’m really not a fan of Puffins, at all. One silver lining is that Transport for London don’t like them either, because they prevent the use of pedestrian countdown. While Puffins do have some good features, I would really like to see them integrated into the more traditional, conventional and intuitive far-side signal design.
Upon returning to the UK after spending three weeks in the densely populated Chinese city of Kunming, I felt a yearning to get out into the countryside. For me, the easiest way to get out into the countryside to take to the stretch which exists between home and work. However, since moving house to the other side of Chester in early February 2016, I had not tried cycling between work and the new house, or really done any cycling which wasn’t strictly functional. Because of this, when I reviewed my Klean Kanteen Insulated bottle, I never really considered that the Kilner/Grolsch style swing-lock lid on it would be quite difficult to drink from whilst actually on the bike (When carrying it on the bike, I had usually not bothered drinking any of the contents until I got to the train). Because of this, on my ride through the country lanes I had to stop every time I wanted to take a sip.
The swing-lock cap can be removed fairly easily (although I am not sure how well it would hold up to being removed/replaced frequently) and replaced with either the standard loop carabiner top or the sport cap, so I decided to replace the swing-lock cap with the sport cap for drinking iced water whilst riding. I tend to get quite hot when cycling and the physiological and psychological benefits of having a really cold drink available when doing some fairly physical riding was something of a revelation for me. I haven’t really seen any of the other people on bikes, particularly the sport cyclists, using insulated bottles and this seems very odd to me now. I hope this is due to simple lack of awareness rather than misguided concerns over weight. There is no escaping the fact that water is heavy, so in the face of such a significant benefit why would you worry about a few extra grams from the bottle itself?
This left me with a bit of a problem. Before work I usually fill my insulated Klean Kanteen with Pepsi Max and drink it on the train or bus (I have recently been experimenting with travelling to and from work via bike-bus-bike rather than bike-train-bike due to the piss-poor punctuality, reliability and frequency of the Arriva Trains Wales service). In addition to requiring the the use of the swing-lock lid (which would have to be swapped for the sport cap each day) there is no way for me to refill my bottle with properly cold water after I leave the house. The solution was to buy another bottle so I could also take some iced water to work with me for later in the day (or if I choose to cycle home) so I purchased a 709 ml (24 US fl. oz.) Hydro Flask.
I chose Hydro Flask for the additional bottle because the insulating properties are generally regarded as pretty much identical to the Klean Kanteen but they differ in the available sizes and a few design details. The standard mouth Hydro Flasks are available in 18, 21 and 24 US fl. oz. sizes (532, 621 and 710 ml to the rest of the world) whereas the standard mouth insulated Klean Kanteens are available in 12, 20, 32 and 64 US fl. oz (355, 591, 946 and 1900 ml). Both manufacturers have some additional sizes only available with the wide mouth.
The designs of the bottles and caps also differ in a few ways. The thread on the loop carabiner and sport caps offered by both Klean Kanteen and Hydro Flask are compatible with standard mouth bottles from either company. The loop caps are similar, but the Hydro Flask one is solid and insulated, wheras the Klean kanteen one is hollow.
Solid, insulated HF on the left. Hollow KK on the right.
The loop caps differ in their sealing gaskets too; the Klean Kanteen lid uses a silicone O-ring with a circular cross section whereas the Hydro Flask uses a silicone gasket which appears to have a rectangular cross section and which is more recessed into the lid.
Artist’s impression of lid sealing. KK on the left, HF on the right. Both lids will seal on either bottle.
I have discovered that the gasket of the Hydro Flask loop cap, in addition the the vents cut in the threads seem to make this lid work better with carbonated beverages than the Klean Kanteen loop cap. This is true whether the cap is fitted to a Hydro Flask bottle or a Klean Kanteen bottle.
HF cap with thread cut-outs on left. KK cap without cut-out on right.
The sport caps are both similar, with both having a silicone spout which can be pulled open using fingers or teeth and both using a little silicone vent valve to let air into the bottle to replace the volume of liquid sucked out. A lot of users have reported that the vent valve on the Hydro Flask sport lid is prone to falling out with use, leading to leaks, which does not seem to a problem with the Klean Kanteen sport lid. Like the loop lid, the Hydro Flask sport lid is insulated, but is sealed with an O-ring similar to the Klean Kanteen rather than the gasket in the loop cap. I am not sure how much benefit the insulaton in the lids really provides, but the extra volume of the insulated lids should prevent the liquid inside from being able to slosh around as much.
I find that the green Klean Kanteen sport lids produce a mild plastic taste in water when it is not very cold which the black version does not seem to suffer from. However, YMMV.
The necks of the bottles also differ, with the Hydro Flast has a plain top instead of the folded-over lip which forms the top on the Klean Kanteen. The plain top of the Hydro Flask is easier to keep clean, but means that the threadless swing-lock type lids available for the Klean Kanteens, which in my experience are the best option for carbonated beverages, are not an option on the Hydro Flask.
591 ml KK on the left. 709 ml HF on the right.
As I had a spare Klean Kanteen sport cap, my solution has been to use the Hydro Flask loop cap when I put the bottle in my bag and then switching to the Klean Kanteen sport cap when I want to drink my water. This arrangement lets me drink iced water whilst riding and since overheating is usually the main limiting factor I encounter when cycling, having an insulated bottle filled with ice and water means I enjoy riding a whole lot more and can cover longer distances faster than I could before.
September 14th is Cycle to Work Day, an event which reminds me that a large proportion of the focus on cycling in Britain – and of the attempts to persuade or enable people to cycle – is on travelling to work.
This focus is, perhaps, unsurprising. For transport planners and engineers, ‘the commute’ presents the most difficult problems, given that is when peak demand for use of transport networks occurs. Fixation on commuting is understandable given that pressure on networks is much lower at other times of day, when other kinds of trips tend to be made.
Although cycling obviously doesn’t place as much pressure on the road network as motoring at peak times, it forms such a small proportion of trips in this country it only really becomes ‘visible’ at peak times, even in places like central London. Again, this makes it more likely that we will fixate on commuting – flows of cycling are concentrated at the periods when people are travelling to and from work, and that therefore seems to be the only kind of cycling that is occurring, or could occur. During the middle of the day, away from places where infrastructure has started to be built, cycling is essentially non-existent. That absence of ‘everyday’ cycling makes a focus on commuting more likely.
The ‘visibility’ of cycle commuting also derives from the fact that its levels are generally substantially higher than overall cycling mode share. The London Borough of Hackney’s much-quoted census figure of 15.4% of trips to work being cycled stands alongside an overall cycling mode share of just 6-7% for all trips in the borough.
So it is likely that cycling to work figures will be around 2-3 times higher than the general cycling mode share across Britain.
As Rachel Aldred argues, this disparity is mostly likely due to ‘route sensitivity’ –
It seems like people are fussier about cycling environments when they’re not commuting. This makes intuitive sense if you think about it. When I’m riding to work, I know my route extremely well as I ride it most working days. I’m travelling on my own, so I only have to worry about my own safety, not that of any companions. I know where the dodgy bits are, where I need to concentrate super hard. I know the timing of the traffic lights – whether I have lots of time to get through or not. I know the hidden cut-throughs I can take to make the journey nicer. As I’m travelling with the peak commuting flows there’s often plenty of other cyclists around, creating a greater sense of subjective safety.
But it’s also down to the fact that groups of people who don’t work – children and the elderly – are themselves much less likely to tolerate more hostile cycling environments than people of working age. This also applies to the fact that women – who we know are, similarly, less traffic-tolerant than men – are less represented in the working population. That working population is preferentially composed of people who are more willing to cycle.
For all these reasons, commuting is the lowest-hanging fruit of cycling trips – the easiest of all the kinds of trips to enable. But focusing on commuting is really not good enough for a variety of reasons. Perhaps the biggest one is that commuting – while high profile – only forms a very small proportion of all the trips we make. In London, it’s just the bits in blue in the chart below.
The chart clearly demonstrate that commuting or work-related trips (in dark and light blue) are a small proportion of all the trips Londoners make. For under-16s and over-65s, commuting is essentially negligible, and even for 25-44 year olds, work-related trips are only around 30% of all trips made.
The picture is much the same at a national level – I’m grateful to Katja Leyendecker for crunching the numbers in the National Travel Survey and producing the results –
Just 16% of all trips are commuting, with a further 3% ‘business trips’. So again over 80% of all trips we make are not travelling to work – they are trips to school, or for shopping, or to visit friends, or for entertainment. The kinds of trips that make up daily life. Focusing on commuting – the routes commuters take – will necessarily miss out all these other kinds of trips.
I have heard it said that designing cycleways in London will only see them becoming increasingly clogged with lycra commuters. But I don’t think that is what will happen at all. A dense, high-quality network of cycle routes will see cycling increasingly dominated by those 80% of trips that aren’t commuting.
The kind of trips that are not being cycled at the moment. Children going to school. Parents going shopping. Teenagers going to visit friends. Cycling to the pub. And so on.
Building cycling infrastructure will not mean more of the same kinds of trips by the same people we see now. It will broaden out cycling beyond the narrow commuter-centric demographic that currently exists.
I strongly suspect it will also change the way cycling looks. To take just one example, people taking their children to school, then going off to meet friends, or to go shopping, are much less likely to faff around with cycle-specific clothing and equipment than your typical commuter. While it might make sense for a commuter making a specific trip with somewhere to change and to store cycle-specific equipment, that choice of cycle equipment, and changing in and out of it, is just too much effort for a linked series of short trips interspersed with other activities.
It also means that commuting periods themselves will be more diverse – composed not just of people going to and from work, but also people going to and from school and college, going to after-school activities, going out for an evening, and so on.
Building cycleways along, say, Euston Road in London will not lead to more of the same types of cycling we see now. It will lead to these kinds of cycling demographic shifts – trips by the children who live in the area, by parents, by elderly people, by people cycling to visit friends, and so on. Genuine mass cycling.
Only a small proportion of trips are commutes. We need to examine why all the other trips aren’t appearing, and plan and design to enable them.
In the transport practitioner’s fortnightly journal Local Transport Today (Viewpoint, LTT 704), Professor Richard Allsopp – a key figure in Britain’s “road safety” establishment – made a critique of the “Vision Zero” movement. While we have some issues with the Vision Zero approach, we find it necessary to criticise Professor Allsopp’s article, featuring as it does some key features of “road safety” ideology. Here is our response as printed in Local Transport Today 705:-
“Richard Allsop is of course correct to state that: “people accept risk in return for what they see themselves as gaining from the activity” (ibid). The point – which is entirely absent from his article – is that some road users take risks at the expense of others. Broadly speaking, motorised road users impose danger on all other road users, whereas walkers and cyclists impose far less. Moreover, the non-motorised users suffer disproportionately from the risk imposed by the motorised.
To give an example, people who go mountain biking accept a degree of risk, because it is an enjoyable activity. However, the difference between mountain biking and on-road cycling really matters. The risks one accepts when mountain biking are entirely voluntary, whereas the risks one faces when cycling on the roads are largely imposed by others. In addition, the cyclist does not reciprocate by imposing an equivalent level of risk on the motorised.
This question – the Who Kills (or injures or endangers) Whom question – is ignored not just in Richard’s article but throughout official “road safety” ideology and practice. This leads to incorrect and misleading measures of safety (see my Viewpoint in LTT 635 15 Nov 2013), which hide the difference between harming oneself and harming others. It is both immoral and – because it compares unlike categories as if they were equal – unscientific.
Unlike this traditional “road safety” approach, Road Danger Reduction (RDR) addresses the issue of reducing danger at source , that is to say the (ab)use of motor vehicles, as the civilised way of making roads safer for all. Vision Zero has been promoted in the UK (unlike in Sweden) on a RDR basis, and as such we will support the measures it advocates.
And it is the measures taken that count. The Safe System approach Richard refers to includes “recognising the fallibility and frailty of road users and that collisions will continue to happen” – but how has that been put into practice? I argue that accommodating rule- and law-breaking behaviour by the motorised through highway engineering (felling roadside trees, laying anti-skid, erecting crash barriers etc.) and vehicle engineering (seat belts, crumple zones, side impact protection systems etc.) has exacerbated it.
Idiot-proofing the environment for the motorised has become part of the problem. Measures of this kind have shifted risk from those creating it onto those outside motor vehicles. When, as Richard notes, the Safe System approach “make(s) designers and users responsible jointly for the safety in the road system and its use” is that supposed to include “designers” making “users” less responsible?
Furthermore, the measures that “we” have taken include spontaneous adaptation by parents, who deny their children independent mobility, and by those willing but scared to take up cycling. In our view that should not be seen as progress, but the opposite.
Finally, I am intrigued by the chart comparing risk of death per hour spent using the roads versus “corresponding risk in the rest of everyday life”. Do these latter risks include those from: physical inactivity from using motorised transport instead of walking or cycling; noxious emissions; greenhouse gas emissions; allocation of funding to road building which could be diverted to health care? Again, we are discussing risks generated by motorised vehicle users that society in general suffers from. It may be the case that the Safe System approach aims to “align road safety management with wider economic, human and environmental goals” but in the RDR movement we would argue that “road safety” is aligned with a car-dependent outlook, and against the right kind of goals for transport policy.”
Dr Robert Davis, Chair, Road Danger Reduction Forum
I started snapping these photographs about a year ago, mainly inspired by hostility from councillors to the notion of cycling in the town centre. Department for Transport funds, won by West Sussex – which could have made a small difference to the quality of the cycling environment in Horsham – were not put to any good use, and indeed were actually used in a futile attempt to keep cycling out of the town centre.
So the idea of the photo blog is to show that people getting around by bike are, essentially, just ordinary people – citizens of the town like everyone else.http://horshampeoplecycling.tumblr.com/post/149174641772
While there are what I hesitate to call ‘hardened’ cyclists in the town – the people who (somewhat understandably) dress up in protective equipment, and cycle on main roads without thinking too much about it – I have, for the moment, focused on a broader range of users, essentially to counteract the stereotype that ‘cyclists’ are an odd outgroup, whizzing around, and putting people at risk.
Cycling levels are very low here – cycling to work in the 2011 census was below 3%, and at a guess the overall cycling share will be a fair bit lower than that. But what I see is, essentially, suppressed demand. There is no group of people who are not cycling in Horsham; all groups are represented, particularly the old and the young.http://horshampeoplecycling.tumblr.com/post/149218118162
‘Cyclists’ here clearly don’t fit any neat stereotype – they are just ‘us’.
But the problem is that they are only present in very small numbers. And the reasons for this are also clear from the photographs. A large proportion of the people on the blog are breaking the law in some form. They are cycling on pavements, or in pedestrianised areas, or the wrong way down one way streets.http://horshampeoplecycling.tumblr.com/post/149694713292
These are people who are cycling despite the conditions. They aren’t criminals – they’re just people trying to get from A to B in the safest way possible. Their lawbreaking would disappear if the environment was designed to reward their choice of mode of transport, rather than ignoring it altogether.http://horshampeoplecycling.tumblr.com/post/149672037732
These are also people who aren’t really ‘cyclists’. They are wearing ordinary clothes; they are just using their bike as a tool; they are cycling for transport. Their cycling is just an extension of walking.http://horshampeoplecycling.tumblr.com/post/149669982702
In that sense, they are remarkably similar to the kinds of people you see cycling in Dutch towns and cities. They just look like pedestrians. The major difference from Dutch cities is instead the types of bike being used. Mountain bikes – really ill-adapted to urban utility cycling – dominate in Horsham, and that means people are carrying their items on handlebars, or in bulky rucksacks.http://horshampeoplecycling.tumblr.com/post/149125347422
Helmet-wearing – and hi-visibility clothing – is also notably low amongst this form of utility cycling. It’s clearly just too much of a faff for people who are meeting up with friends, or going shopping, or cycling in to town. This is a difference from commuters, who have a fixed routine and are more likely to add clothing and equipment to it.
Unaccompanied teenagers don’t wear helmets, nor do most adults.http://horshampeoplecycling.tumblr.com/post/148876089907
The exceptions are young children, especially when accompanied by adults (young children have to do what they are told), and adults when cycling with their children, presumably because they feel they have to set a good example.http://horshampeoplecycling.tumblr.com/post/149671902222
But in general cycling looks remarkably normal. There are even small clues that the people cycling around town aren’t just cycling around for the fun of it. Cycling is a helpful tool for them, one that makes their daily life a little bit easier.http://horshampeoplecycling.tumblr.com/post/149125271872
Horsham is a relatively compact town, with around 60,000 people within two to three miles of the town centre. It’s flat and temperate, and has a high proportion of children (who of course can’t drive). My personal view is that cycling levels could, and should, be enormously high in the town. The photographs here demonstrate that potential. I see young children, teenagers, women and men of all ages using cycles to get about, despite the obstacles in their way. The environment should be designed to support them, and to reward their behaviour. Doing so would open up cycling to everyone, not confine it to the current minority willing to put up with inconvenience and hostile conditions.
The photograph below is one of a number I took on my last visit to the city of Utrecht. It’s a fairly ordinary Dutch scene – just some everyday cycling in an urban area. But in the foreground we can see quite a telling detail – two children, cycling side by side, chatting to one another. They look utterly relaxed; not worried about anything, talking without a care in the world, despite cycling on one of the busiest streets in Utrecht city centre. They don’t have to worry about motor traffic here; the only concern is really allowing other people to pass them, which is easy on a cycleway of this width.
Side-by-side cycling is, of course, a completely normal activity across the Netherlands.
It happens everywhere – not just on cycleways and cyclepaths, but also on roads.
Every time I have cycled with someone else in the Netherlands, I have been able to spend the entirety of the journey beside them, talking to them.
Side-by-side cycling isn’t a specifically Dutch trait – it’s a natural human instinct to want to be beside someone, looking at them, rather than stuck behind or in front of them, only able to talk by yelling, craning your head around. We don’t walk along, line astern – we walk side-by-side, and of course cycling should be no different. We want to be sociable, and to engage with the people we are travelling with.
The reason side-by-side cycling is so common in the Netherlands, therefore, isn’t the people. It’s that the environment allows it. Either cycleways that are separated from motor traffic, and that allow other people cycling to pass easily, or genuinely low motor traffic streets that are shared, but easily allow drivers to pass people cycling side-by-side, without inconvenience. It’s not hard to understand why people will cycle socially on a street here –
… But not on these streets.
Of course, on genuinely quiet streets, British people will cycle side by side, and we will also start to see side by side cycling on busy streets where good quality cycling infrastructure has been built. All the examples below are on the new Superhighways in London – CS6, CS3, and CS5.
Again, all these people just look relaxed, and happy. The environment allows this kind of cycling.
So perhaps the most important thing about side-by-side cycling, from a campaigning perspective, is that it is a good indicator of a quality cycling environment, be it a cycleway, or a street. If it isn’t happening, on either a main road, or on an allegedly ‘quiet’ street, then there’s almost certainly something wrong with the cycling environment.