Don’t forget folks, it’s only just over a week ’till our nice relaxing bicycle ride to the beaches of Weymouth and Portland. On the morning of Saturday 18th we’ll gather in Dorchester ready to follow the 12km (7.5 mile) Olympic cycleway to the seaside, and then perhaps have a look at some of the other infrastructure in the town.
The original plan was to meet at Dorchester South station for the 11:52 arrival from Waterloo, but due to requests from those with connections, we’ll hang around just long enough (and not a second longer — we’ve a lunch at the seafront to get to!) for those on the 12:04 arrival to join the back of the pack as we set off. That’ll also give loads of time for those travelling from Bristol/Bath to make the short journey over from Dorchester West station.
If anyone arrives significantly earlier than the meeting time, they’ll probably find me just around the corner checking what’s on offer in the newly redeveloped brewery… perhaps not the new flats, though: even with the excellent advertising line they’ve taken, I’m not sure who’s going to be paying £1.25 million for a flat in Dorchester… I mean… Dorchester…
Historian Niall Ferguson has been reported as apologising for “remarks in which he implied that John Maynard Keynes did not care about future generations – because he was childless and gay” – leaving open the cause of Keynes’ indifference to the long run. This provoked a letter from me to today’s Guardian. For non-Guardian readers here it is.
Niall Ferguson apologises
How embarrassing. Forget the homophobia. The renowned historian appears to be unaware of Keynes’s famous grandchildren (Report, 4 May). In an essay written in 1930, entitled Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren, Keynes marvels at the power of compound interest, and invites the reader to join him in pondering the impossibility of it compounding forever. He imagines the advent of “an age of leisure and abundance” in which his (hypothetical) grandchildren – now well into retirement – will be set free “to return to some of the most sure and certain principles of religion and traditional virtue, that avarice is a vice, that the exaction of usury is a misdemeanour, and the love of money is detestable”. But, writing at the beginning of the Great Depression, Keynes warns: “Beware! The time for this is not yet.”
What unites today’s economists, Keynesian or not, is the conviction that we are still a long way from “yet”. The central challenge being addressed by governments everywhere is how to get economic growth restarted, and then growing faster – without apparent end. If not yet, when?
The sun’s out, the temperature’s rising. Spring seemed to take forever to arrive but suddenly now it’s here; everything’s going green, and yellow, and blue – there’s colour everywhere! At this time of year riding should really take precedence. But – even if I sometimes forget precisely why – it continues to be important to encourage others to cycle.
And hey … there’s a petition to sign!
Should we have to petition Government to take cycling seriously?
It’s easy to be cynical. We’re petitioning for a Parliamentary debate on cycling – for politicians to discuss the just-published Get Britain Cycling report. We’re asking British politicians to start talking seriously about cycling.
We could laugh, scorn or mock, but this is the situation in which we in Britain find ourselves, and pushing for a Parliamentary debate on cycling is currently our best hope of building top-down support for cycling.
In order for the report and recommendations from the Get Britain Cycling Inquiry to have a chance of being debated in Parliament, the petition needs 100,000 signatures. 54,084 people have signed so far; with I think the petition in danger of demonstrating what we already know – cycling, particularly belief in cycling as a major means of urban transport, is marginal (which is of course precisely why we need enlightened governance and political leadership).
So please, sign the petition, and ask others to do so too.
But realise that cycling is not in the news because of Government action; it’s in the news because of Government inaction. So more important than signing this petition is maintaining the broader, grassroots agitation for change which has led to it, and which is also applying political pressure in other ways.
Even if we do get the Parliamentary debate, I’m afraid we must expect it – and any Governmental response – to be inadequate. It’d be naïve to expect a Parliamentary debate on cycling to make serious cracks in the dominant car system, though it’s cracks we need; much more likely is continuing tokenistic support for cycling of the kind which keeps car use-as-ordinary undisturbed. Cycling politics is resurgent partly because it was repressed during a period of grossly ineffective cycling policy. (We might date this from the 1996 launch of the National Cycling Strategy (which aimed to increase cycling 400% by 2012) until the demise of Cycling England fifteen years later, in 2011.) During that period it felt like ‘things were being done for cycling’, though we know now they weren’t, really. Cycling levels did not quadruple; they stayed much the same, whilst car use for even the shortest journeys became more widespread, habitual and acceptable.
Freed from the constraints imposed by the hegemony of ‘realistic cycling policy’, in the last couple of years many of us have felt liberated to think cycling differently; we’ve stepped up our ambitions for cycling, and have started to talk about cycling as capable of challenging the car’s obese sense of entitlement to especially urban space.
We don’t necessarily know anything new. It’s more that we’ve found our voice, one repressed whilst dominant players within the cycling promotion industry enjoyed a cosy if ineffective relationship to Power. We’re learning to contest established cycling promotion orthodoxies, to be bold and audacious. About time really! After all, we’re only saying what everybody else – ‘ordinary people’ who’d quite like to cycle – already knows! But until now it’s been remarkably difficult to say these simple, obvious things.
We must be sure to hold tightly onto our new, bigger, bolder, better ambitions for cycling when responding to emerging Government rhetoric, policy and action. Because we don’t want a bit more cycling, we want mass cycling; and because some established players – cycling’s traditional representatives – will likely be far too easily satisfied.
In the meantime we must keep pushing from the bottom-up. Of course we must seek greater representation of cycling within ‘anti-cycling’ systems; but if we also cycle more, encourage others to cycle more, and support small, local projects aimed at getting still others to cycle more, then we simultaneously build the grassroots base which cycling needs to be politically more powerful and resilient.
Irrespective of whether or not it triggers a Parliamentary debate on the Get Britain Cycling Inquiry’s report, this petition will indicate to politicians how much support there is for cycling. Less than 100,000 signatures will demonstrate we’re still small – still a movement pushing at the outside rather than a voice to incorporate on the inside; still marginal, not mainstream.
Part of me tires of trying to get other people to take cycling seriously. Part of me thinks ‘sod it! Just enjoy your own cycling’. But then I remember the reasons cycling matters – its important contributions to local and global social and environmental dignity. Still, it’s hard to keep pushing cycling when people don’t want to listen, and when even those who do so often respond inadequately.
But then, things do change; and we need to create opportunities to help make them change.
So we must be sceptical optimists. We must keep hope that things can change dramatically in cycling’s favour. The ambitions of government towards cycling must surely rise sometime; just maybe, this could be the time!
100,000 signatures would give hope that Government might hear our audacious ambitions for cycling, ambitions which would genuinely start to crack the grossly dominant current car system. So please, if you think that’s important, sign the petition here. But know too that whatever Government does, it won’t be enough – we must become used to advocating cycling for a long time yet.
In the meantime, every body matters, so cycling and encouraging others to cycle remains the really important political work. Get out there and enjoy riding through Spring! It’s brilliant!
On behalf of ConBici and all Spanish cyclists I would like to thank the Road Danger Reduction Forum for their support in opposing plans by the Spanish government to ban cycling without helmets. With your help we are winning the argument in the media, but government has not yet shown any indication that it will change its plans.
Some 20 city councils (including Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia, Zaragoza, and Bilbao) have publicly called for the proposals to be scrapped, so even if the government does ban cycling without helmets, it will probably be unable to enforce the law as the local councils control the city police forces. However, even this very pragmatic consideration leaves the government unmoved. If you wish to follow events, the CTC and the European Cycling Federation are covering the story as it unfolds on their websites.
Just over two years ago, around 40 people gathered in a cafe in central London. The meeting, which had arisen organically and informally out of discussion on a number of blogs, involved the founding the Cycling Embassy of Great Britain.
Picture by Mark Ames
In attendance were founder/chairman Jim Davis, secretary Sally Hinchcliffe, Joe Dunckley of War on the Motorist, Danny of Cyclists in the City, Paul of Pedestrianise London, Mark Ames of I Bike London, Karl McCracken, and many others who plainly felt that things needed to change.
My own particular motivation for attending arose out of a sense of frustration; frustration that the strategies so obviously necessary to increase cycling levels in this country were seemingly being deliberately ignored, disparaged or marginalised, not just by those hostile to cycling as a mode of transport, but by those who represented cyclists.
A bit of background. Since my teenage days I had always been a stereotypical ‘keen cyclist’; short trips were almost always undertaken by bike, on top of leisure riding (including a trip from John O’Groats to Lands End in the late 90s). The bicycle always struck me as such an obvious way to get about, and my spare time was spent trying to persuade friends and colleagues to come around to my point of view; that although it seemed ‘dangerous’ it really wasn’t that bad once you got used to it, and the funny kit I wore (helmet, ‘special shoes’, hi-viz flashes, lycra for longer trips) was necessary, and ’odd’ only because a tiny minority of people wore it. If everyone started cycling, then everyone would look like a cyclist, and it wouldn’t be so odd. Although slightly laughable with hindsight, I suppose I was trying to normalise cycling by trying to get everyone else to be like me, even if the feeling, lurking at the back of my mind, that what I did wasn’t actually going to have mass appeal never really disappeared. But I didn’t know any different.
From about 2005-8, one of my best friends lived in Amsterdam, and I frequently went out to visit him, crashing on his floor after nights out drinking in the Jordaan. I was dimly aware that there were lots of people cycling around us as we walked the streets, but I had no real awareness of why, beyond a vague assumption that the Dutch just ‘loved’ bicycles, and that the narrow, dense street patterns in the city centre made it difficult to get around by car. I had no understanding, at all, of the overall Dutch strategy of mode separation; that is, keeping motor vehicles and bicycles apart from one another.
So when I chanced upon David Hembrow’s blog (it’s hard to pin down exactly when, but probably in 2009) it was completely revelatory. I couldn’t quite understand why someone like me, who (as my friends will attest) was basically obsessed with cycling as a mode of transport, and who had frequently visited Amsterdam, could be so in the dark about Dutch practice, and the quality of their cycling environment.
It wasn’t quite as strong a feeling as the sense of having been lied to, but it certainly felt as if something had been kept from me. I had a vague idea of how a ‘cycle path’ might work, but it always seemed to me to be something that was for slow trundling at little more than walking speed, with inconvenient and dangerous passages across junctions. Part of my attitude was undoubtedly coloured by the fact that most off-carriageway infrastructure in the UK is actually like this, but by the same token I had no real knowledge of how things could be different.
Why hadn’t Dutch infrastructure appeared on my radar before I found David Hembrow’s blog? The simplest answer is that nobody was talking about it. While plenty of effort was (rightly) being put in to disparage UK attempts at ‘infrastructure’, there was seemingly no effort being made, at all, to communicate best Dutch practice, and how it made cycling a comfortable and traffic-free experience. It didn’t appear in cycling magazines, nobody was taking pictures, or presenting it to a UK audience, and showing how it worked. The only exception, I think, was a small group of activists in Camden, but the internet was not as pervasive as it is now, and their ideas foundered on local political opposition and hostility from the wider cycling community.
Cycling campaigns showed no apparent interest in Dutch and Danish infrastructure, and this continued in the period after I discovered David Hembrow’s blog. Even as late as 2010, just a few months before the Embassy was founded, the Dutch and Danish approach was still being disparaged.
There is a long running debate among cycling protagonists about the pros and cons of segregated cycle facilities. They are often hailed as the solution for getting more people cycling. CTC and most local cycle campaign groups are sceptical.
… would [the Danish] approach work in Britain? Are there differences in UK driving culture or law which would need to be addressed before we could embrace continental-style segregation? Or is segregation – leaving most of the roadspace available for motor traffic – quite simply the wrong answer in principle, at a time of growing awareness of the need for drastic cuts in CO2 emissions?
(a passage that is, incidentally, indicative of the problematic attitude of a great deal of UK cycle campaigning; preoccupied with fighting motor traffic even at the expense of the quality of the cycling experience). And – remarkably, given subsequent events – Mark Ames was having to ask whether the London Cycling Campaign was actually in favour of segregation, or not.
It was precisely this sniffiness and wariness about the Dutch approach – a reluctance to come straight out and saying that mass cycling requires the separation of cycling from motor traffic – that meant that the Embassy needed to be founded. ‘Going Dutch’ – an approach that has now risen to prominence in Britain – was not even on the radar.
Of course the cycling landscape has started to change dramatically since early 2011, in a way that I suspect many of us at the first meeting would not have imagined. The London Cycling Campaign chose ‘Go Dutch’ as their campaigning strategy for the 2012 mayoral elections, and their excellent work appears to have led Boris Johnson (and Transport for London) to have a damascene conversion with regard to the way cycling is catered for as a mode of transport.
A tragic event in London brought a national newspaper into the cycle campaigning fold, fuelled by incomprehension that one of their own could be so seriously and arbitrarily injured, right on their own doorstep. Driven by the Times’ editor, the Cities Fit for Cycling campaign evolved brilliantly from an angry plea to keep people riding bikes safe from harm into a much broader strategy of making our towns and cities humane and attractive places, both for cycling and for people in general. Indeed, the recent Get Britain Cycling Inquiry has emerged out of the Times’ campaign, with News International providing funding for the evidence sessions and the report. On top of all that our own Sally has become involved in another excellent campaign, in Scotland - Pedal On Parliament, which goes from strength to strength.
What role should the Embassy play in this new cycle campaigning landscape? Our AGM in Newcastle on the weekend of June 1st-2nd is the perfect opportunity to discuss these issues. It won’t be all talk – there will be plenty of time out on the bike, as we get shown around the city by our hosts, Newcastle Cycling Campaign, and there will, of course, be an inevitable night out on the town. Anyone is welcome to attend and to help shape our future. Do come if you can.
There was a flutter of excitement at the Cycle City Expo in Birmingham last Friday when Andrew Gilligan mentioned that the important (in many senses) London borough of Westminster would shortly publish a very ambitious cycling strategy, and not just any kind of ’ambitious’ -
Gilligan said the soon-to-launch Westminster cycle strategy was *more* ambitious than the Boris one.
A draft of that Westminster cycling strategy was duly released this week [pdf], and, frankly, it simply can’t have been the same strategy that Andrew Gilligan was looking at, unless he was being exceptionally charitable. Because it’s miserable. It bears no comparison at all with the Mayor’s Vision.
It should be conceded that this is, of course, a draft of the strategy, and not a final version, but what is presented in the document as it currently stands is deeply uninspiring and half-hearted. In fact it’s not even half-hearted, it’s barely ‘hearted’ at all. I started reviewing it in a generous and open-minded way, but it’s so bleakly awful that I couldn’t help but end up trashing it. In places, it made me genuinely angry.
The introduction starts out promisingly enough, noting that
cycling is something that should be encouraged due to the returns that it delivers to the wider community through reduced congestion on the roads and public transport system, better local air quality [note - Westminster has some of the worst air quality in the country, with limits set by European legislation regularly exceeded] and improved health for residents and visitors.
and admitting that while, some measures have been taken in Westminster to make cycling more viable,
there is still far more that can be done to make cycling safer and more attractive, particularly with the enthusiasm generated through Britain’s recent Olympic and Tour de France successes. This means further investment and improvements are needed to overcome barriers to cycling and to encourage more people to take it up safely.
Here are the first worrying signs – why on earth should the Tour de France have anything to do with making cycling as a mode of transport safer and more attractive in Westminster? And instead of referring to making the act of cycling safer, it is ‘people’ that are being encouraged to ‘take it up safely’ – the burden of responsibility being shifted to the individual. Indeed, this actually forms the main basis of the ‘safety’ strategy outlined later in the Draft; cyclists being encouraged to look out for themselves (and, worse, the way individual cyclists are treated being framed as a consequence of the behaviour of ‘cyclists’ in general).
76% of Westminster residents never cycle. Beyond that statistic, there is huge potential for shifting hundreds of thousands of trips in the borough made by ‘mechanised modes’ (car/motorcycle/bus) onto the bicycle, particularly those up to 5 km. Even using Transport for London’s highly conservative estimate of Cycling Potential [pdf], 230,000 daily trips into the borough could be made by bike instead (around a quarter of all trips in, on a given workday). This would obviously reduce congestion on the road network considerably, as well reducing demand on public transport.
As always, the main barriers to cycling uptake are perceptions of safety, concern over motor traffic, and a lack of confidence. This is acknowledged by the Draft, albeit in a slightly mealy-mouthed way –
… there is a school of thought that suggests that safety fears in particular are sometimes over exaggerated as they are perceived as more of a valid reason to give for not cycling, particularly if the real reason is more to do with lethargy. Nonetheless, this tells us that for new cyclists, we must place greater emphasis on making cyclists feel safer on London’s roads, and reducing accident casualties. There is also much to be done to build confidence amongst a broader cross section of society that almost anyone can become a competent and regular cyclist, through training, education and regular engagement activities.
A not-so-subtle hint that those who don’t cycle for reasons of safety in Westminster might be lazy slobs rather than people who are genuinely scared of venturing anywhere near the roads, coupled with an emphasis on ‘building confidence’ as a substitute for actually making the roads subjectively safer. Hardly inspiring.
The Draft Strategy then moves on to ‘challenges’. Having already acknowledged that more cycling would reduce congestion and ‘pressure on the street’, paradoxically the Strategy then suggests it is ‘pressure on the street’ that will make it difficult to encourage more cycling.
[There is] significant pressure on our streets from people arriving and leaving by different modes, all competing with one another and with other modes for limited space on the footways, at the kerbside and in the carriageway – more so than any other borough.
This is ducking the issue, because high demand for limited space suggests an even greater need to shift trips in the borough of Westminster to efficient modes like walking and cycling than would be the case in ‘any other borough’. However Westminster are apparently too short-sighted to realise this, or to even acknowledge what their own Strategy has just stated. Later we have the sentence
Westminster’s roads serve a vital function and it is imperative that congestion is minimised
Again, deliciously oblivious to how more cycling in the borough would actually serve to reduce congestion, not cause it. To repeat, the Draft has already stated this in the introduction.
There follow more unserious attempts to suggest that cycling cannot be provided for -
The narrow, historic nature of many of Westminster’s streets means that providing separate space for each road user on every street is simply not feasible and a balance needs to be struck.
The word ‘historic’ is redundant, because the age of the streets in the borough is obviously irrelevant; nobody is going to be knocking down buildings of any age to build cycle routes. But ‘narrow’? Really?
Joking aside, the main streets in Westminster – the places where cycling infrastructure is most needed – are plainly enormously wide. There is no shortage of space, and to talk of ‘balance’ while the width of these streets is used almost entirely for the purpose of funneling motor traffic around the borough is preposterous.
Later in the document we have the priceless
limited road space and competing demands… mean that the ability to physically segregate cyclists on the majority of Westminster’s roads is likely to be limited.
Amsterdammers would wet themselves laughing at ‘limited road space’, but in any case this is disingenuous, as there is no need to segregate cyclists on the majority of Westminster’s streets; they can be separated from motor traffic by means of its reduction and/or removal from side streets, using measures that reduce these streets to access only for motor traffic.
The main roads in Westminster, however, are a completely different story. Included in the Draft Strategy is a map that marks out these roads –
A map that could, theoretically, form the basis for a cycling strategy in a borough that had any serious intent. The red, green and blue roads are almost without exception of ample width, carrying high volumes of motor traffic on multiple lanes (sometimes as many as five or six lanes, as can be seen in the photographs above). Naturally the ‘local access roads’ (in white) should be precisely that – local access only, not shortcuts to somewhere else, and without any need for segregation as a consequence. You wouldn’t even need to tackle parking on these streets.
Segregation from motor traffic on the coloured roads is eminently achieveable (again, just look at the pictures above!) were it not for those ‘competing demands’, which in Westminster language should be read as nothing more than a desire to maintain the current flows of motor traffic, at all costs.
Indeed, the overwhelming impression from this Draft is that nothing will be done that might inconvenience the act of motoring – any act of motoring – in the borough. The cycling ‘objectives’ are vague and guarded, and hedged with exceptions and conditions. For instance -
The Council will… aim to deliver a range of improved routes for cyclists of different abilities, whilst recognising the needs of other road users and avoiding changes that place unacceptable additional pressure on the road network and kerbside.
That is – not interfering with motoring. Westminster therefore seem keen to ignore completely the main intervention that will enable the uptake of cycling in the borough – separation from motor traffic – and instead employ the spurious, unproven strategy of ‘integration’ with that motor traffic -
There is a need to encourage all road users to show greater consideration for one another and share space in a safe and responsible manner, enabling safer integration and shared routes rather than a presumption for segregation
How will this ‘consideration’ be achieved?
through training programmes, enforcement, education and campaigns targeted at both cyclists and non-cyclists, whilst recognising that many people are now becoming more ‘multi modal’ in their travel characteristics and should [my emphasis] therefore start to demonstrate a greater appreciation of one another’s needs.
Wow. A truly inviting vision of cycling for all – a hopeful reliance on the consideration of drivers as they whizz around you in all directions (and ‘whizz’ they will, because 20mph limits are out of the question, as we will see below).
This reluctance to consider the separation of cyclists from motor traffic on main roads appears to threaten the proposed central London ‘Bike Grid’ outlined in the Mayor’s Vision for Cycling.
Given that Westminster will be at the heart of the proposed Bike Grid, the Council’s participation will be key to the success of the Mayor’s Vision. For Westminster, an important element of this vision is the recognition that physical segregation or the provision of cycle lanes will not always be feasible or expected, particularly where there is significant pressure on footway, carriageway and kerbside space from competing demand.
In other words, Westminster think the flow of motor traffic should trump the comfort and convenience of cycling, even when this directly interferes with proposals contained within the Mayor’s Vision. Westminster can’t even bring themselves to fully endorse pitiful interventions, like feeder lanes and ASLs, that have relatively little or no effect on motor traffic flow -
The needs of cyclists continue to be taken into account in the design of all transport and public realm schemes. Features that benefit cyclists, such as Advanced Stop Lines and feeder lanes, will be integrated where feasible.
And even cheap, easy and painless interventions like a 20mph limit in the borough are rejected by this Draft, on utterly ludicrous grounds -
Whilst the implementation of 20 mph zones falls within the remit of the City Council, this is not something the Council is currently seeking to implement. In terms of cycle safety it is considered that a 20 mph limit could have minimal benefit as traffic speeds in the City of Westminster are often below 20 mph already, with the average speed being just 10mph.
‘We don’t think a 20 mph limit is a good idea, because the motor traffic speeding around our borough occasionally travels at below that speed.’ Hopeless.
With regards to safety, the strategy seems to be ‘encouragement’, training, and expecting road users to ‘look out for each other’ in a way that suggests different mode users bear equal responsibility for danger. The document even suggests ‘cyclists’, as an undifferentiated, monolithic bloc, need to start behaving in order to encourage ‘mutual respect’.
Whilst some accidents may be prevented through improved junction and road design, it must be recognised that accidents are primarily caused by the way that cyclists and other road users interact, and many could be avoided by improved road user conduct and caution…
If cyclists are encouraged to adhere to the rules of the road, hopefully [again, my emphasis] this will also help them to be perceived more positively by other road users and to encourage mutual respect and courtesy.
As someone who is considerate and abides by the rules while cycling on the roads of Westminster, I find it quite offensive that the borough could even imagine that ‘courtesy’ and ‘respect’ towards me is in any way conditional on the behaviour of other people who might be using the same mode of transport. My safety while cycling should be a given, not attenuated because of moronic prejudice. Shame on you Westminster.
Cyclists also need to be aware that pedestrians and motorists will not always be aware of or anticipating their presence, and that they need to play their part in ensuring that they are well seen and heard (for instance through maintaining a prominent position in the road and using a bell to warn pedestrians of their presence.
Miserable, miserable stuff, and needless to say there are no strategies outlined in the document aimed at improving the attitudes and behaviour of private motorists around cyclists, only a ‘hope’ that as more people might cycle, so outright, naked hostility will diminish each group will ’have a greater appreciation of each other’s behaviour and frustrations’. Bless.
A big long list of piecemeal measures follows (including a passage that makes an erroneous connection between red light jumping and deaths as a result of poor visibility from HGV cabs), concluding with
The Council will also run a campaign called ‘Westminster chimes’ giving out free bells to cyclists, encouraging them to make use of their bell to warn pedestrians of their presence. The Council will also consider a campaign highlighting the dangers of the use of headphones whilst cycling.
Free bells! Such ambition!
It’s a stone-age document. What’s amazing is that some attempts have clearly been made to update it in the light of the publication of the Mayor’s Vision, which suggests it must have been even worse at some point before. There is absolutely no conception of what is required to make cycling an inviting and civilised mode of transport in the borough, even for those who currently cycle through it like me (albeit with some trepidation), let alone the vast majority of people who would not even dare to place their foot on a pedal on Westminster’s roads.
A re-write, please.
A strong westerly blew me out through Wray, Low Bentham and Ingleton, and up the Hawes road past Ribblehead viaduct to Newby Head Pass. 420 metres up, surrounded by windswept moor, this is the ride’s highest point. In bad weather it’s a slightly bleak and discomforting place.
The moors seem to stretch forever in all directions but actually I’m about to drop steeply down. It’s another world below, and amazing the speed at which on a bicycle you move between here and there; when the weather is wild, and it often is, to descend is to move from vulnerability to safety, but in any weather it’s to move from the remote and inhospitable to the cosy and familiar. The presence of even the smallest village is reassuring when cycling through less peopled places.
These aren’t thoughts so much as moods, so fleeting I could almost miss them. They emerge then evaporate as I make my temporary place by pedalling through space. Neither thoughts nor moods settle; cycling bypasses psychology. A long ride especially squashes mulling and mithering, helping me dwell in a calmer place, to become a simpler being. It’s good for my mental health.
The best part of this ride starts at Newby Head Pass, with the turn onto the minor road into Dentdale. This is a ride within a ride really, pedalling Dentdale’s length. Although it’s a Yorkshire Dale, you actually enter Cumbria here.
The lane undulates over the moor at first, then turns north-west and starts to drop. The viaducts of the Settle-Carlisle railway appear below, and then a short stretch of steep descent later their mighty arches are rising dramatically above. Of course you need to pay attention to the road – this is an elemental place and rock, stone and wood mark water’s path across its surface, and like many roads round here it’s been gouged away by the long, hard winter; but especially when riding alone I crane my neck to witness the convoluted topography as it swiftly shifts in passing from moor to dale.
There’s no static point. Occasionally I create one by stopping for a photo but this feels like an injury to the ideal cycling experience; a big part of what makes this ride special is the elimination of a fixed viewpoint, replaced instead by the fluid, continuous unfolding of the tight relationship between bike, body, road, land and air. Any ride can produce this experience but the stretch of road from Newby Head to Dent village six miles later is the best I know, and makes it amongst my favourite rides.
The railway pushes through the Dale’s head at about the height at which the many becks flowing from the surrounding fells form the River Dee. You’re properly in the Dale now, right next to the River.
The road falls over the next few miles, as it skirts Whernside’s northern flank. You accelerate with the downward gradient into the ride’s most thrilling stretch. Your speed together with the need to focus on the road ahead means that awareness of this magical place isn’t really cognitively or even aesthetically felt. You become blurred with trees, water, rock and road. You lose, escape, who you are. This surely is cycling’s greatest pleasure – your own displacement.
The River’s always different; it often disappears beneath its limestone bed. In water’s absence it feels like you become the downward constant.
You can ride this stretch more slowly but I think you lose something by doing so.
From Cowgill lanes run either side of the Dee. I cross a narrow, hump-backed stone bridge to ride the northern bank. At the junction here, the Coal Road north climbs out the valley past Dent Station, England’s highest, and over to Garsdale Head.
The lane and river stay tight together for another mile before separating slightly just short of Dent village. In the six miles since the Dale’s head the road has dropped three hundred metres.
I enjoy riding over the cobbles through Dent village; they form a stretch long enough to transport me temporarily to Paris-Roubaix, yet short enough to produce no pain.
Rather than ride the Dale’s length I sometimes climb my way out just beyond Dent, from Gawthrop over to Barbondale. But this time I want to cross the last bridge over the River Dee, just before it flows into first the Rawthey and then the Lune.
The lower Dale changes dramatically. It opens out and becomes more gentle. This change is geologically underpinned, the Yorkshire limestone of upper Dentdale giving way to Cumbrian rock. My riding style shifts according to these deep structures; I come off my drops and onto my hoods, my shoulder’s open, my gaze lifts; the intense riding of the upper Dale gives way to a broader, more relaxed outlook.
The lane gets bigger. The Dee no longer sticks so rigidly to its side but moves away to become a more ordinary river. The road starts to rise as well as fall and for the first time since the Dale’s head I feel the miles accumulating in my legs.
Just before the Dale’s end I drop to the Dee a final time, to cross to its south side via the slender bridge at Catholes. After twelve incredible miles I’m leaving Dentdale behind. I climb round Holme Fell and drop into the Lune Valley. From here it’s twenty-five fairly flat miles along the Lune back home to Lancaster.
We saw yesterday what Transport for London have been asking the Transport Research Laboratory to test for them.
It is an almost exact copy of a conventional Dutch roundabout with perimeter cycle tracks. They have even copied across the Dutch road markings, which I suspect may have created some uncertainty amongst the test drivers, as the ‘sharks teeth’ give way markings are quite different to the British version. The roundabout, we are told, will subsequently be tested with standard UK road markings. The only addition appears to be a forest of Belisha beacons marking out the zebra crossings (and some luminous jackets and helmets).
Andrew Gilligan made a publicity visit to the site, testing it out for himself, before giving interviews with both BBC and ITV News. I think he did an excellent job in presenting the case for this design, pointing out that (most importantly) it will make what are currently big, scary roundabouts places that anyone on a bike will feel happy negotiating. He also argued, persuasively, that this design will yield instant safety benefits, even taking into account the immediate unfamiliarity of users. It forces drivers to take the roundabout slowly, and cyclists crossing exits and entry points are always directly in a driver’s eye-line, and will cross paths at right angles. If you compare this design with the current nightmare roundabout at the northern end of Lambeth Bridge (covered here and here, the video amply demonstrating what Gilligan calls a ‘Darwinian’ approach to road interaction), there is no contest in terms of safety and amenity.
It’s very pleasing to see Transport for London engaging with designs that have been proven to work, and the City Cyclists blog is correct to say that this is a huge step forward. The Netherlands has history and expertise in making the street and road environment safe and pleasant for cycling. They’ve made mistakes that we don’t have to, because we can simply copy their superior end product. So we don’t need ‘innovative’ solutions, when there are proven and established solutions already available.
That brings me to a flyer that was distributed on every seat at the recent Cycle City Expo in Birmingham, which suggested it was time to ‘put cyclists in the middle of the road’. The link on the flyer takes you here, to TTC transport planning. The website states
As a profession we are getting better at providing safe and well designed cycle provision, however cars are still viewed as ruling the road and current design guides and standards for on-road cycle facilities more often than not place cyclists on the nearside lane where they are required to deal with surface hazards and drainage services. In order to ensure that people have priority and feel comfortable when they are cycling we need to be more innovative and adventurous in our approach to providing for cyclists.
Just what kind of ‘adventurous’ provision for cycling is being proposed quickly becomes clear -
One particular exciting, innovative and possibly controversial way of putting cyclists first is by designating a central lane for bicycle traffic, which involves:
A ‘central lane for bicycle traffic’.
The reason these kind of designs are ‘adventurous’ and ‘innovative’ is because they are bad. They are ‘adventurous’ only because countries with proven experience of designing for cycling would not even contemplate employing them.
Further detail on this scheme is provided by a set of presentation slides, available here. The idea seems to be based around the assumption that putting cyclists at the side of the road is bad, because it means that ‘cars rule the road’.
Well, those are all plainly awful solutions (the last isn’t even a solution at all). But that doesn’t mean that ‘putting cyclists in the middle of the road’ is automatically better; for a start, we can put cyclists at the side in well-designed ways. Pointless, or intermittent, paint, that puts cyclists in dangerous positions, is not the only way of doing things.
But the presentation suggests that ‘putting cyclists in the middle of the road’ already exists in Europe as a strategy, even in the Netherlands.
The picture on the left looks to be from France; the picture on the right is of a fietsstraat in the Netherlands.
It appears, however, that the concept of the fietsstraat has been fatally misunderstood. The fietsstraat does not place cyclists ‘in the middle of the road’, ahead of motor traffic. A fietsstraat is, conceptually, a bicycle track on which motor vehicles are permitted to drive. Crucially, the only motor vehicles doing so will be those gaining access to properties along the fietsstraat; a fietsstraat is never a through route (the concept is illustrated well in this Bicycle Dutch post).
So the reason cyclists are in the middle of the road in that slide is principally because they know they will not have any motor traffic behind them, beyond the occasional resident. Being in the middle of the road flows naturally from the relaxed environment. How relaxed will the TTC scheme be?
‘Street open to all modes of transport’.
That is, the complete opposite of the fietsstraat, which makes sure the street is not open to all modes of transport.
The scheme smacks of ‘assertive cycling’ being forced upon cyclists who don’t want to be assertive in the first place; it puts markings on the road to position cyclists slap bang in the middle of the road, while motor traffic is tempted to undertake in lanes that are just wide enough for doing so (why would you even need signs telling motorists not to do this?)
Using cyclists as mobile traffic calming is a bad idea; it’s not good for motorists, and it’s not good for cyclists. To expect cyclists – even those who currently cycle, let alone those who are too nervous to ride at present – to hold a position in the centre of the road with a queue of traffic behind them is deeply unrealistic, as well as a suboptimal solution for making cycling attractive. You make cycling a mode of transport that people might want to use by increasing its comfort, not by forcing those on bikes into ‘dominating’ the road when they almost certainly don’t want to.
The ‘scheme’ even seems to accommodate on-street parking -
Which may, paradoxically, make it slightly safer by discouraging dangerous undertaking. The end result, however, is something rather similar, if not identical, to existing residential streets with parking on both sides, something the final slide (unintentionally?) acknowledges -
A central area to cycle, by default. Not exactly a great leap forward.
Employing a central cycle lane on streets without any car parking is not a ‘continental’ solution. The Dutch fietsstraat, so badly misinterpreted here, relies upon the removal of motor traffic, not the positioning of cyclists in front of motor traffic still free to use the street as a through route.
We don’t need ‘adventurous’ new designs, we need ones that work already, and that make cycling a pleasant experience. If you are deliberately choosing to force cyclists to cycle in front of motor traffic, you’ve already failed before you’ve even started.
A series of recent posts on the Dutch blog Magic Bullet argues that the high levels of cycling in the Netherlands are predominantly explained by geography, both physical, and social. [An earlier post, suggesting that an explanation lies with power in the Netherlands being held by 'wealthy, white, highly-educated middle class, working as decision makers', who cycle a lot themselves, alongside a concentration of cycling students, is probably not worth bothering with here, largely because it is question-begging - why are these groups cycling far more than their equivalents in for instance, the UK, in the first place?].
The posts are more general than a specific UK-NL comparison, arguing about the transferability of the Dutch cycling experience worldwide. Nevertheless, a comparison between these two countries is instructive, because it can serve to isolate reasons for high Dutch cycling levels.
As regards physical geography, he suggests that the Netherlands demonstrates that both flatness and mildness of climate are required. He writes
Physical geography is one of the most decisive factors determining the success of cycling as day-to-day transportation… The breeding ground has to be flat [and] the climate should be acceptable to get outside 7/7 days of the week, 12/12 months of the year.
Of course if the climate of a particular country is excessively hot or cold, that will have a discouraging effect on ‘ordinary’ cycling; it just becomes too unpleasant. But most of Western Europe does not generally fall into this category, except for small periods of the year. And, specifically, while the Dutch climate is conducive to cycling – it is mild – the author himself describes how the UK climate is ‘even milder’. Climate cannot be a reason why cycling levels are so low in Britain, if a country with a less conducive climate – the Netherlands – has considerably more cycling.
Flatness is, again, initially convincing as an ‘essential’ condition for high cycling levels; hills are a deterrent, and should be acknowledged as such. Research does suggest that cycling levels do decline with increasing hilliness. But the author takes this argument too far, and writes that
Dutch-type cycling infrastructure in [hilly] areas would be a complete waste of money
People will certainly be less inclined to cycle in hilly areas than they may be in flat areas, but this is not an argument for simply failing to make conditions for cycling better in these hilly areas. Quite the opposite, in fact; the harder cycling becomes, the more effort should be made to make it as comfortable and as pleasant as possible. Hilly towns and cities are places where good cycling infrastructure is just as important as it would be anywhere else (Dave Horton has written convincingly on this subject). Flatness is not ‘essential’ for mass cycling (by which I mean cycling being available as a transport option for a significant majority of the population); we can and should enable cycling in hilly towns and cities, and not give up. More cycling is worth it, even if the levels of cycling achieved are not as high as in flat areas.
So, I don’t think that flatness and a good climate are ‘decisive factors determining the success of cycling as day-to-day transportation’. My own town of Horsham is virtually flat, and has a very pleasant climate. There is not a hill to speak of within it, beyond an incline here or there, and it rarely gets exceptionally hot or cold. Yet cycling levels here are miserable, as they are in countless similar market towns in Britain. The same is true for major cities like London, Manchester and Birmingham; the ‘decisive factors’ of flatness and reasonable climate have only succeeded in making cycling an attractive prospect for a tiny percentage of all trips.
Plainly there is a much more ’decisive factor’ at play here in these UK towns and cities, although I should make clear that the author of Magic Bullet is more concerned with identifying the conditions that are required for high levels of cycling; he is not specifically arguing that these conditions, once identified, will automatically result in high cycling levels.His more recent post then turns to ‘social geography’ as an explanation for high Dutch cycling levels, or, specifically, as an ‘essential condition’ for the high cycling rate.
after you’ve climatized your country and moved all mountains, one has to put the country into a shrinking machine to make it truly ideal for cycling. As a result of the shrinking, all distances become within lilliput range of a lilliput vehicle: the bicycle. Upon shrinking, absolute speed is less important, because everything is nearby anyway.
That is, high cycling levels in the Netherlands are dependent not just on a good climate and flatness, but also on the country being ‘shrunk’; it has a high population density, and (separately) its towns and cities are small and compact.
David Hembrow has, of course, pointed out that England has a very similar population density to the Netherlands, yet very different cycling levels. This is critiqued by Magic Bullet as a sleight of hand, because England (unlike the Netherlands) is not a sovereign state, only a ‘constituting country’, part of the United Kingdom.
My response to this is essentially ‘so what?’
I see no reason to believe that cycling levels in England would be significantly different if it were to become a sovereign state, independent of the other members of the United Kingdom. It would have the same population density it has now, the same climate, the same geography, and the same low cycling levels. It’s perfectly acceptable to compare England with the Netherlands, even if they are not the same constitutional entities; the objection is as silly as saying a large town can’t be compared with a city of the same population because one is a city, and one is a town. If the population density of an area is important for cycling, it is surely important irrespective of whether the area under consideration is a constituting country or a sovereign country.
The argument then switches from apparent low density in the UK explaining low cycling rates, to high density explaining low cycling rates; specifically
Typical population densities of Metropoles e.g., London (5206/km2), Paris (21423/km2), New York (10.606/km2) are much higher than anywhere in The Netherlands (e.g., Amsterdam 3645/km2, Rotterdam 2850/km2).
How can this be? High densities should surely result in high cycling rates; yet the rate of cycling in London, as a whole, is barely better than the rest of the UK, and much lower than anywhere in the Netherlands. The explanation -
In true metropoles, subways, trams, buses and walking are completely taking over the role of the bicycle. Distances between one side of the metropole and the other are much too long to cover with a bicycle: London has a surface of 1577km2, Amsterdam is only 219km2(=11x20km). Amsterdam can be cycled through from one end to the other in an hour or so. London would take you half a day or more.
So it’s the size of London that is responsible; the assumption being that in bigger cities, trip lengths get longer. That’s why London has an extensive public transport system; because trips within it are long and consequently not attractive by bike.
I don’t have any information on typical trip lengths in Dutch cities (perhaps someone can supply them) but it is certainly not true that trips in London are mostly so long they are not cycleable. Joe Dunckley has helpfully put this information in graphical form (taken from the National Travel Survey), so I can borrow it shamelessly -
The relevant column for London shows us that 42% of all journeys in London are under 2 miles; 70% are under 5 miles; and 86% are under 10 miles. A large majority of trips in London, therefore, are of an eminently cycleable distance; they are under 5 miles long. We can also see that around 50% of all London trips are between 1 and 5 miles long; the ‘sweet spot’ for cycling distance.
The size of London has not resulted in a large proportion of trips being made all the way across the city; the majority of trips are composed of short distances within it. It’s entirely reasonable to expect the relative proportion of trip lengths made in Dutch cities – despite them being smaller – to be broadly similar.
The argument then finally moves to a discussion of the geography of the Netherlands as a whole; it is claimed that the Netherlands’ arrangement of small towns and cities, at close relative proximity to each other, is a critical factor in explaining why cycling levels are so high. Commenting on this pattern of small cities, positioned closed to one another, he writes
What a difference with the UK, where [the] entire top 20 [by city size] is larger than Eindhoven. Or Germany, where the entire top 30 is larger than Eindhoven. But the overall population density of these countries is still lower… that’s due to the horrific emptiness and long distances in between those big cities. These distances will kill all attempts to promote relaxed cycling from one city to the other.
Well, a sound basis for high cycling levels in a country is not the amount of cycling from one city to another, or even from one town to another; it’s cycling within towns and cities, so I have to say distance between large towns and cities is rather irrelevant. These longer trips, upwards of 10 miles, will not be as attractive for cycling, and will always remain a small minority of the total number of trips made by bike. Bicycle trips between towns and cities in the Netherlands will pale into insignificance compared to the number of trips made within them; so the proximity of their towns and cities to each other doesn’t strike me as a particularly determining factor. (You could even argue that large cities like London, Birmingham and Manchester represent an amalgamation of outlying towns and villages within the urban area, and in that sense are not all that different from the Dutch arrangement, albeit with the rural bits in between having disappeared).
And despite the apparent ‘horrific emptiness’ of Britain, we can borrow one of Joe’s graphs again to demonstrate that trip lengths in Great Britain are, for the most part, rather short -
These distances correspond closely with the distances cycled by bicycle in the Netherlands. 58% of all bike trips here are between 1 and 5 km long (a further 18% of all trips made by bike are between 5 and 10km long), and only 19% of all bike trips made are shorter than 1km. So there is huge potential for converting a significant proportion of those 66% of all British trips to being cycled.
And here we come to what I consider to be the most pressing ‘essential condition’ for high cycling levels. It isn’t flatness, or climate, or social geography (although these things can be important), because a high proportion of trips in Britain (and in London specifically) are short, the climate is mild, and large parts of the country are generally flat.
The reason why these conditions have not resulted in high cycling levels is due to the environment for cycling itself; how pleasant and attractive cycling trips actually are. This isn’t mentioned at all by Magic Bullet, and yet the evidence would suggest it is the most pressing ‘essential condition’. ‘Main roads’ in Britain typically look like this -
It is the environment for cycling that explains why short trips in Britain, despite a mild climate and general flatness, are cycled in only a tiny minority of cases. Dutch cyclists are insulated from road danger, while British cyclists are continually exposed to it. I suspect this is why Dutch people fail to identify – or downplay – subjective safety as a significant reason why people don’t cycle. They don’t know any different.
“Cameron climbs aboard cycle revolution” announced The Times (April 25th 2013) to describe the statement of the Prime Minister in response to the “Get Britain Cycling” (GBC) report. But describing his response we see that while he “endorsed the report”, he “stopped short of committing himself to forcing through change”. Chris Boardman, the former Olympic and World champion with years of experience in supporting cycling as a form of everyday transport, criticised the Prime Minister’s lack of ambition: “It is the kind of statement that is incredibly frustrating and even makes me angry”. Is Boardman right to feel this way?
Let’s look at the PM’s response:
In Prime Minister’s Questions on April 24th , Julian Huppert MP the co-chair of the AAPCG asked the Prime Minister, David Cameron MP, whether he will “look at the report, will he make sure he produces a cross-departmental action plan, [and] will [he] give his personal commitment to leadership to get Britain cycling?”
The Prime Minister replied,
“I don’t always agree with what the honorable gentleman says, but on this occasion he is absolutely right and the House should heed what he says, we should be doing much more in our country to encourage cycling, I think the report has many good points in it, I would commend what the Mayor of London has done in London to promote cycling and I hope local authorities can follow his lead in making sure we do more.”
According to the same Times report, he said: “We should be doing much more in this country to encourage cycling”, although actually – so far – when it comes down to it, he won’t be.
As usual, the responsibility is shoved down to local authorities under the “localism” excuse. What this means is that the buck is passed to bodies with no significant extra funding and practitioners either untrained in supporting cycling and/or unsympathetic to it.
Worse still, modeling and appraisal guidelines – set by the government – based on maintaining or expanding highway capacity for motor vehicular traffic will tend to work against any moves to reallocate road space from motor vehicles to cycling. Properly measuring danger to cyclists – a key point we have drawn attention to and raised in Professor Phil Goodwin’s full GBC report by, for example, John Dales– won’t have happened. There will be no financial incentive for highway authorities to properly provide for cycling, nor disincentive for not doing so.
As one of the few progressive highway engineers puts it : “So, there we have it, Cameron is not bothered about leading on what is a national issue which touches far more than just transport. He essentially thinks it is down to local authorities to deal with this issue, using the Mayor of London as the example of best practice; and they have all done so well up until now!”
What about Boardman’s frustration? Now, I have a history of scepticism concerning Government activity with regard to cycling. Over the last twenty eight years I have seen successive Ministers announce how there is going to be far more cycling and that this will happen because of their various initiatives. With possibly some limited local exceptions, these somehow fail to materialise into much in the way of significant efforts delivering widespread and permanent change in travel behaviour. We have had the National Cycling Strategy, Cycling England, the London Cycle Network, the London Cycle Network Plus – and cycling’s modal share is more or less where it was.
One learns to avoid frustration by not expecting a link between fine words and meaningful action. After all, as I said in analysinging the GBC report “At some stage progressing the pro-cycling agenda means coming up against the institutions and ideology of car culture and a car-centred society. We will see what happens to the recommendations of the GBC report when government responds. And of course, that is the big question: how will government actually respond? Watch this space.”
So much for frustration – what about anger?
Don’t forget that this Government (with the full support of the opposition) in its last budget, refused to implement a paltry 3p per litre increase in the price of petrol. Delaying this planned increase means continuing a policy of cheap motoring , in this case giving motorists (in an age of supposed austerity) approximately £500 million per annum. All to cut a cost that could be recouped by driving some 40 fewer miles a year or simply driving more fuel efficiently for a few journeys. That £500 million for cycling could be a move towards the annual spend recommended by the GCB report.
There is, however, a glimpse of hope. According to BikeBiz “The Government’s response to the Get Britain Cycling report has been less than effusive so far but perhaps ministers are keeping their powder dry for the expected launch of a new cross-departmental body that could be announced in June? BikeBiz has learned that the new organisation may be called OAT, the Office for Active Travel. It will have an initial budget of £1bn”.
So the next date to watch out for is in June, and we may all be happily surprised. Otherwise it will be time, yet again, for justifiable anger from Chris Boardman and also all those of us committed not just to cycling and a healthy and sustainable transport system, but to a decent and civilised society.
After writing recently about gryatories and one-way systems – and how they can actually be beneficial for cycling, if applied judiciously – I thought I’d turn my attention to another piece of much-maligned urban infrastructure, the humble bollard.
Frequently impugned as an ugly feature of the urban environment – ‘bollardism’ – bollards, applied properly, are a cheap and easy way of civilising streets; indeed a simple way to turn a ‘road’ in to a ‘street’.
There are several new examples in London. Stonecutter Street has recently been closed off to motor vehicles (but remains permeable to bicycles and pedestrians) at the junction with Blackfriars Road.
Likewise Earlham Street has been closed off at the junction with Shaftesbury Avenue, turning a nasty rat-run into a civilised street with people happy to mingle in the road (no particular need for any re-paving here).
In all of these cases, the intention is to force motor vehicles to use the appropriate adjacent road, instead of cutting through. Motor traffic should be using Euston Road, instead of Warren Street, for instance.
Likewise, Stonecutter Street is designated as a ‘Local Access Road’ in City of London documents, and it is now being treated appropriately by being closed off; it is now genuinely only an ‘access road’, rather than a shortcut to somewhere else.
Of course, a legitimate concern that is expressed is that these kind of arrangements simply displace motor traffic onto other roads and streets; that a problem is simply pushed elsewhere.
There are two ways of responding to this; the first is to point out that some roads are much more suitable for carrying motor traffic than others. Euston Road is the right place for motor traffic, and it doesn’t make any sense to dilute the amount of motor traffic on it by allowing some of it to progress down Warren Street.
Secondly, in closing out motor traffic from these ‘side’ streets, we shouldn’t abandon the main roads, and simply allow them to become dominated by motor traffic. Main roads should also be civilised places. Applying filtered permeability to side streets should only be a part of a comprehensive network strategy, one that sees main roads with appropriate treatments for walking, cycling and public transport. If main roads are comfortable and attractive places to cycle, for instance – with the addition of cycle tracks – then that ‘displaced’ motor traffic can and should evaporate entirely.
By way of example, it’s worth pointing out that ‘main roads’ in Dutch towns carry considerably less motor traffic than the equivalent urban roads in Britain, despite a policy of making side streets virtually impossible to use by motor traffic attempting to pass through. There is no ‘displacement’, because the entire urban environment is conducive to cycling, and so any excess motor traffic that might have been forced onto main roads simply doesn’t exist. That ‘traffic’ is on bicycles instead.
Indeed, when I present pictures of ‘main roads’ in Dutch towns and cities with cycle tracks, I am often met with comments that suggest the road is ‘quiet enough’ not to justify cycle tracks at all. There are many examples in the city of Assen, where ‘main roads’, with cycle tracks, appeared (to me at least) to carry far less motor traffic than an equivalent UK road, despite the side roads being closed off. And this is because people are travelling on bikes instead, to a large degree. This picture of a main road was taken at about 5pm -
Here are some more ‘main roads’, this time in Amsterdam. These are the only available routes to motor traffic, but are nowhere near as congested or dangerous as urban main roads in Britain, despite the smaller network available to that motor traffic.
The point is that motor traffic won’t be pushed onto these roads if you have a coherent policy of making cycling an attractive alternative to driving in urban areas; much of the motor traffic will cease to exist.
In Utrecht ‘main roads’ are even being removed completely, despite limited permeability elsewhere on the network for motor vehicles, because they’re not needed anymore.
A policy of ‘bollarding’ won’t necessarily result in displacement of motor traffic if a sensible strategy of enabling that traffic to shift to other modes is in place.
More bollards please!