Views

A ride from Market to Market (3)

BicycleDutch - 16 May, 2016 - 23:01
A high-speed cycle route from ʼs-Hertogenbosch to Zaltbommel had been considered feasible for a very long time, but it was never built. Two of the three municipalities the route runs … Continue reading →
Categories: Views

Is Transport for London changing to a road danger reduction approach to safety on the roads?

Road Danger Reduction Forum - 12 May, 2016 - 19:53

I’m aware that there is something of a London-centred bias in our posts. Nevertheless, what Transport for London does is of special interest to transport professionals and campaigners throughout the UK: while it is the Highway Authority for only a small minority of London’s roads, it has massive influence through its funding of Boroughs throughout London. With a dire record of (in)action on sustainable transport in the UK’s central Government, London is often where we have to look for potential progress.

So when TfL has peppered its current strategySafe London streets: Our approach  with references to danger reduction, and called its 2016 annual conference on March 4th  “Tackling the Sources of Road Danger”, it’s time to take notice. Is TfL really moving from “road safety” towards reducing danger at source?

Defining road danger

For those of us in the road danger reduction (RDR) movement, danger on the road comes from the (ab)use of motor vehicles. While there may well be obligations on pedestrians and cyclists, the source of road danger is the breaking of official rules and laws by the motorised. As well as rule/law-breaking, danger from motor traffic can also come from rule-obeying drivers: in case that seems unfair, remember that the official “road safety” industry has accommodated rule/law breaking by drivers through highway engineering (felling roadside trees, installing crash barriers; anti-skid and other highway treatments etc.) and vehicle engineering(crumple zones, roll bars, seat belts, air bags etc.).

In summary: creating “Safer Roads for All” means focusing on what drivers and motorcyclists get up to. The primary focus is protecting their potential victims from rule/law breaking, although there should be allowance for pedestrians and cyclists being able to make mistakes without being punished by injury or death. Necessary measures may involve highway or vehicle engineering, or law enforcement (backed up by education and publicity if necessary). Essentially we require a culture where safety on the road is discussed in terms of intolerance of endangering others, as part of a sustainable transport policy.

 

TfL’s definition of road danger.

TfL refer to “the five main sources of road danger”.

It is difficult to deny that these are driver behaviours which should be tackled. They are indeed examples of road danger, and tackling them would indeed be tackling danger at source. But, at the risk of appearing nit-picking, it is worth examining these as the specific priorities TfL has set itself. So:

  1. Travelling too fast. While the effects of speed cameras in London have sparked debate which we have contributed to  this is a key area for reducing danger for all road users, with pedestrians key beneficiaries. It’s also good that this is not just restricted to obeying speed limits.

 

  1. Becoming distracted. This has become a major topic of discussion amongst practitioners – although exactly how it is to be tackled with new cars being replete with ever-increasing amounts of electronic distractions is dubious. Just think how often you see drivers using phones…

 

  1. Undertaking risky manoeuvres. This is where “Safe London streets: Our approach” is puzzling. All “manoeuvres have an element of risk involved – the key is to identify which ones. The whole of this section is taken up with HGVs “manoeuvring” left across cyclists. This is welcome, as half the deaths of cyclists in London involve HGVs, and is an area which the RDRF has spent a lot of time addressing over the years. (For our most recent posts, see here  and here) However, collisions with HGVs cause only about 10% of cyclist serious injuries, and even with a similar number of pedestrian deaths to cyclist deaths, the left turning manoeuvre by lorry drivers is low down the list of priorities if we are talking about danger overall. It still needs to be addressed in the ways we have suggested – but “risky manoeuvres” by ordinary drivers are far more important in terms of the overall danger presented to other road users.

 

  1. Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. An old standard – necessary to stigmatise and tackle. However, in the overall context of danger to others, it is a minor area with little on the horizon in terms of radically reducing this particular form of road danger.

 

  1. Failure to comply with the laws of the roads. In principle, this could cover many of the behaviours we might be concerned with. There is the crucial issue of whether behaviours defined as rule-breaking in the Highway Code – opening car doors without looking for cyclists, overtaking cyclists too close, turning into side roads without deferring to pedestrians, driving too close to the vehicle in front – can be defined as “careless driving/driving without due care and attention”. If they can, a lot more of real significance to reducing danger at source could be listed. But generally they are not, and no doubt the Police would be unable to countenance dealing with problems that are so widespread that most drivers don’t see anything wrong with the behaviour involved.

Instead, “failure to comply with the laws of the roads” is restricted to cameras for red light offences, unsafe HGVs, and continuation of Operation Safeway – about which we have voiced our concerns here and in other posts.

 

Some problems What’s the problem? Measuring danger.

So what stops TfL from going for a full-blown RDR approach? How we actually measure danger  is a key difference between Road Danger Reduction and traditional “Road Safety”. So far TfL is still basically restricting itself to working back from collisions. The question of how pedestrians and cyclists may avoid places precisely because of the levels of danger presented there is therefore missed out. We have discussed the need to measure danger differently, and would expect TfL to do more than just monitor KSIs or prosecutions.

To be fair, some TfL officers at the 2016 conference did mention the issue of perception of danger. But while TfL still highlights overall cyclist (and pedestrian) casualties rather than using exposure-based (“rate-based”) measures and targets their approach is fundamentally flawed, as explained here.

 

Why do casualty numbers change?

At the 2016 annual conference, Ben Plowden of TfL claimed that “we are making huge strides…in reducing casualties”. But we believe that casualty reduction occurs for reasons which are often nothing to do with official “road safety” interventions, a point made by John Adams  among others.

For example, in 2014 there were 463 cyclist KSIs in London, and in 2015 385 – a decline by no less than 17%. This could be a temporary glitch with KSIs going up again in 2016, and in terms of a long-term decline this one year comparison may not seem so noteworthy. Nevertheless, there are grounds for speculation on the reasons for this decline – what happened in 2015? It is difficult to see any official intervention as responsible – none of the Cycle Superhighways had been completed, and it is difficult to identify any other change. Again, we have to consider spontaneous behavioural change by road users, not official “road safety” interventions.

 

Traffic Reduction

A key element of the RDR approach is motor traffic reduction. There are some TfL publications that refer to a forecast (slightly) lower modal share for cars in London, but on the whole we would suggest that TfL is not embarked on such a path. Indeed at the March4th conference there was reference to “not waging war on the motorist”, which is normally code for tolerating or increasing the use of motor vehicles (along with “reconciling different demands” etc.).

 

Who endangers, hurts or kills whom?

A central element of the RDR project is highlighting the difference between danger to others and being endangered. The traditional “road safety” approach blurs the distinction, whereas we emphasise the point on moral and scientific grounds. As it happens, “Safe London Streets: Our approach does focus on behaviours endangering others, which we welcome. Nevertheless, this issue could be highlighted more. In particular, more priority should be given to the biggest source of danger – careless driving (“driving without due care and attention”), with raised levels of traffic law enforcement.

 

Conclusion

Safe London Streets: Our approach is a step forward for Transport for London, putting it ahead of previous documents on safety on the road, and certainly ahead of other Highway Authorities. Hopefully this can be progressed into a full-blown Road Danger Reduction approach.

 

 

 


Categories: Views

Hooligans

As Easy As Riding A Bike - 12 May, 2016 - 11:44

There’s a very good piece by David Aaronovitch in the Times (£) on how the Hillsborough disaster shouldn’t be seen purely as a result of police incompetence and negligence, but instead as the product of wider institutional failure and prejudice.

Aaronovitch identifies three contributory factors and one aggravating one’ – the three contributory factors being crumbing infrastructure and the absence of what is now called ‘health and safety’ culture; the violent sub-culture that had emerged amongst British football fans; and, finally, prejudice against football fans in general. Here’s Aaronovitch on that prejudice –

By 1989 the English football fan was pronounced, as a breed, to be scum. A presumption of guilt was made by politicians, authorities, press and by many ordinary people. So fans — all fans — became, by default, a disliked and even pathologised group. Consequently their comfort, their conditions, their civil liberties even, were regarded as moot. They could be herded, coerced, smacked about a bit sometimes, and anything could be believed about them. And then, when the bodies came to be identified, it was discovered that they were just people after all. Dads, daughters, lovers, sons.

Perhaps I’m too prone to reading a particular kind of parallel into everything I read, but this is, of course, highly reminiscent of the way ‘cyclists’ are presented in everyday British discourse – a ‘disliked and even pathologised group’ (check); subject to presumptions of guilt (check); their comfort and conditions regarded as moot (check); anything could be believed about them (check); and of course the appalling realisation that the victims weren’t ‘cyclists’ after all, but ordinary human beings.

Department for Transport research has captured these attitudes amongst the general public –

… a stereotype of cyclists in general does appear to exist among [other road users]. This stereotype is characterised by:

serious failures of attitude, including a generalised disregard for the law and a more specific lack of concern for the needs of other drivers; and

serious failures of competence and knowledge of the rules of the road.

This stereotype of cyclists is also linked to the fact that cyclists do not need to undertake training, are unlicensed and uninsured, and do not pay road taxes (at least not by virtue of the fact that they cycle).

Lawbreaking; scrounging; ‘they’ all dress the same and act the same; ‘they’ are self-righteous, and look down at you; and so on. I’m sure don’t need to run through all the clichés and stereotypes, the ones that are so prevalent cycle campaigners have wisely chosen to avoid even using the word ‘cyclist’ because of the negative connotations it carries. These attitudes and opinions are then used to legitimise claims that ‘cyclists’ don’t deserve any kind of ‘special treatment’ – i.e. cycling infrastructure – that would reduce risk of serious injury or death. The comfort and conditions of ‘cyclists’ regarded as moot.

The most recent (and typically appalling) example of this kind of stigmatisation appeared this week on the BBC, when Janet Street Porter was given a free rein to spew a stream of stereotypes. We are told that

cyclists breeze through the city with little regard for anyone else

and asked

why should cyclists get preferential treatment? What about the very young, the elderly, and the disabled?

The clear assumption here being that ‘cyclists’ aren’t like ordinary people; rather, a subset of society who stand in opposition to the most vulnerable.

Riding a bike is subject to few rules, and many London cyclists can’t even stick to those.

‘A pathologised group’. (Of course, this is in the same week that the CEO of Ryanair has said that people cycling should be taken out and shot.)

This kind of rhetoric poisons the well of public discourse to such an extent that it is contributing to lethal outcomes, just in the way the demonising of football fans as ‘hooligans’ partially contributed to disasters like Hillsborough. Just as ‘hooligans’ don’t deserve to be treated properly, with due concern for the safety, so ‘cyclists’ don’t deserve to be insulated from danger. To take only one example, witness a charming commenter who has ‘no sympathy’ for a 70 year old man left for dead, apparently because ‘they’ (and it’s always ‘they’) ‘get a kick’ riding far out from the edge. Of course.

Comment below story here.

Naturally, the sources of danger presented to ‘cyclists’  and ‘hooligans’  are very different, but the logic is identical. Just as ‘hooligans’ could be pushed around, squeezed through narrow gates, crammed onto the terraces, so ‘cyclists’ should get on the pavement, get on the road, get out of ‘our’ way, and frankly just disappear. Why on earth should ‘they’ get their own space?

And when the bodies appear, it turns out the people who are killed aren’t ‘hooligans’, or ‘cyclists’, but fathers, sons, mothers, daughters.

Still from the Guardian’s Hillsborough film – Anatomy of a Tragedy

Just people. Not ‘hooligans’.

Stephanie Turner. Just one of the people killed while cycling in 2015.

Someone cycling. Not a ‘cyclist’.

But attempts to stop ‘cyclists’ from being injured or killed collide, time and again, with the pervasive stereotype that ‘they’ are lawbreakers, that ‘they’ are dangerous, that designs to keep ‘them’ safe will be at the expense of ‘us’. Take the absurdity of an NHS trust – an NHS trust – launching a petition against cycling infrastructure on Westminster Bridge, apparently on the basis of a belief that ‘cyclists’ will pose a risk to the safety ‘vulnerable road users’.

The safety of ‘cyclists’ themselves plainly isn’t a consideration here; as far as Guy’s and St Thomas’ Hospital Trust is concerned, anyone cycling, young or old, disabled or able-bodied, will just have to lump it on the road, because a failure to provide bus stop bypasses on Westminster bridge means people cycling mixing with heavy motor traffic. People cycling like this gentleman –

Or this lady –

Or this couple.

Concern for the safety and comfort of ordinary people is jettisoned as soon as they start cycling, because they’ve become ‘cyclists’, a pathologised group, pathologised in precisely the same way ordinary football fans became ‘hooligans’.

It’s deeply, deeply damaging, and it needs to stop.

 


Categories: Views

Risk and Culture

John Adams - 11 May, 2016 - 16:38

Risk, most dictionaries agree, involves exposure to the possibility of loss or injury. Perceptions of this possibility are embedded in culture and vary enormously over space and time. One frequently encounters the contention that it is important to distinguish between “real”, “actual”, “objective” risks and those that are merely “perceived”. But all risk is perceived. Risk is a word that refers to the future, and the future exists only in the imagination. And the imagination is a product of culture.

Opening paragraph of Chapter 7 of  Routledge Handbook of Risk Studies – click here for the complete chapter

 

Categories: Views

REVIEW: “Are Trams Socialist? : Why Britain has no transport policy” by Christian Wolmar

Road Danger Reduction Forum - 10 May, 2016 - 22:30

If you’re a regular reader of this site and well versed in the need for a sustainable transport policy based on reducing the car-centred status quo, you won’t necessarily gain much from reading this book. But for most people – and particularly the politicians supposedly representing them – who are not, this book is a timely and concise reminder of the main problems, and what is needed as an alternative.Where John Whitelegg’s “Mobility”  is more of an in depth and  general critique of the cult of going further and faster for the sake of it, Wolmar’s book  focuses on the UK.

Wolmar concisely critiques the road-building dogma of decades of UK transport policy – although, as he puts it, this is more a default position than an actual thought-through policy. He refers to the famous quote by Nicholas Ridley as encapsulating the road building philosophy:

The private motorist…wants the chance to live a life that gives him (sic) a new dimension of freedom – freedom to go where he wants, when he wants, and for as long as he wants.”

To which one might add “and how he wants”, but otherwise how much has changed since the 1970s? Wolmar traces problems back to Buchanan in an uncompromising analysis of Traffic in Towns and the doctrine of “predict and provide”.

There is a neat review of technological fixes as supposed solutions to transport problems: Wolmar makes the basic point against technological determinism that :

The starting point…must be to ask: if technology is the answer, what is the question? What are we trying to achieve? What, therefore, are the major transport problems that technology could and should be addressing?”

Indeed. Information technology can reduce the perceived need to travel to meetings, but encourage it by increasing connectivity.

I have a few differences of opinion with Wolmar. I think cost-benefit analysis is more problematic in the assessment of disbenefits than he suggests, and I think he lets John Prescott off too lightly. And on a minor point, the 1930s cycle tracks on the A4 were not “excellent”. But his main thrust is spot-on: placing the onus on politicians to get it right and concentrate on access rather than mobility:

Any attempt at transformation needs to start with a recognition of our failings and a willingness to address them, as well as a key cultural change. That is probably the hardest bit.”

Again, indeed. Wolmar urges three principles to take us forward: firstly, we have to state what we think transport policy should be about. Secondly, we require demand management – for him this is essentially road user (motorist) charging and “soft measures. Finally he urges governmental change linking devolution with local governmental financial independence.

Getting across to the general public the idea that transport policy has to be re-framed with a full awareness of the negative effects of mobility for its own sake – and the need to control it – is vital. Wolmar’s book is an excellent start for the general reader – and for politicians who have so far been too scared to face up to their responsibilities in this area.


Categories: Views

Chasing tulips in South-Holland

BicycleDutch - 9 May, 2016 - 23:01
Green pastures, windmills and cows, that’s what the countryside of the Netherlands is like, especially in the two provinces called Holland. For a couple of weeks in the spring things … Continue reading →
Categories: Views

A crossroads

Vole O'Speed - 4 May, 2016 - 19:41
As we approach the Mayoral election tomorrow in London, and the end of Boris Johnson's eight years in office, so the builders race to finish his principal legacy to London before he finally vacates the chair. Not the bus that gets too hot, not the cable car that only has one regular passenger, not the quite pointless two-way conversion of a few streets around Piccadilly that were one-way, not, for God's sake, the preposterous, as yet unbuilt, Garden Bridge. No, his principal legacy is the four segregated cycle superhighways, and principally the East West Superhighway (which it would appear now will be eventually designated CS3, continuous with the existing CS3 to Beckton), and the North-South superhighway, which has been designated CS6. These meet at the crossroads of Blackfriars Bridge north side. The system is not yet fully open, but it seems likely to be so within weeks or days.

Cyclists waiting at the signals at the interchange between the two Superhighways at Blackfriars (Via @London_Cycling)This blog started with articles covering the cycle protests at Blackfriars towards the end of Johnson's first term in office, at which stage he has done little for cycling except paint meaningless and dangerous blue 'Superhighway' markings on some roads. The protests were against this lack of progress, the danger at major London junctions controlled by the mayor for cyclists and pedestrians), the cycle deaths that had occurred at Blackfriars and elsewhere on account of poor or non-existent cycle infrastructure and terrible, antiquated motor-centric road designs, and a scheduled rebuild of the Blackfriars junction that made it no better for cyclists and pedestrians. Blackfriars was where all this started.

I reported on the cycle hustings, organised by The Times, in 2012, where Boris appeared to lose his temper with the cycle activists and insulted us with silly remarks about 'morally superior' cyclists and 'brown skinny legs'. I reported:
It appeared to me that Boris made no concessions to the campaigns of the last year at all. He did not admit that his Cycle Superhighways have been very poor and have not lived up to the initial promises he made for them. He did not agree that cycling casualties per mile are increasing. He several times referred to people who want a cycling infrastructure "ideal world" which is unachievable, implying that talk of giving cyclists proper, protected space on London's main roads, in other words, Going Dutch, is not really possible. Towards the end of the meeting he seemed to be implying that the cyclists in the room were all greeny unrealistic lefties, wanting to see the back of all motor traffic in London, saying, in a bizarre improvisation on words, that it was not possible to "Pasturise [or should that be Pasteurise] London".Well, what we didn't know at that moment was that Boris had already agreed, by the time the meeting started,  to sign the LCC's Love, London, Go Dutch pledge to build proper cycle infrastructure in London. The die was cast. Cycle lobbying had become a significant political force in London, which he had to realistically acknowledge. This may have been a cynical move at that moment, as I believed in 2012, it is hard to tell, but the evidence now is that he came to believe late, but sincerely, that Go Dutch was a good policy.

Fast forward to last Friday, and we had the second Times cycle hustings, this time badged as The future of London transport: a recognition (perhaps) of the way cycling has been moved, by campaigners and enlightened politicians, from a niche subject associated with sport and fitness to one that is regarded as having major economic and social significance in the likely future development of the city.
Ashok Sinha, CEO of London Cycling Campaign, introducing The Times cycle hustings last FridayAt this hustings, we had none of the Boris-style rancour. In fact it was almost bland, with all the mayoral candidates (with the exception of the UKIP one) having signed-up to the LCC's demands this time round (due to another fantastic effort by campaigners, not just in LCC, but in Londoners on Bikes and  Stop Killing Cyclists) and a general agreement that cycling was mainstream transport policy, future growth is anticipated and to be catered for, and the infrastructure developers started under Johnson must be continued. This, at least, was thew general rhetoric of thew meeting.

On the other hand, none of the candidates were themselves regular cyclists, with the exception of the Green candidate Sian Berry. Boris always had that going for him. He definitely knew what it was really like on the streets. There was a lack of real passion from the Labour and Conservative candidates, Sadiq Khan and Zac Goldsmith on the subject that may ring warning-bells. Formally they all seemed to be saying the right things: Khan talked about making London a by-word for cycling, 'On a par with Amsterdam, Copenhagen and Berlin'. (The inclusion of that last city will raise eyebrows for anyone who has a first-hand knowledge. Goldsmith promised to spend £100 million per year on cycling if elected. This would potentially keep the infrastructure building programme going at its current rate, though might not be enough to achieve LCC's demand of a tripling of the length of segregated Superhighways, plus a mini-Holland scheme in every borough that wanted it. Khan refused to be pinned down on money, while Berry promised 15% of the TfL budget, which would be almost four times as much as Goldsmith's commitment.

Johnson's margin of victory in 2012 was only 62,000 votes. With the polls close again, and with certainly at least 100,000 regular cyclists in the capital, and enough others interested enough in the subject to be willing to vote primarily on the basis of this issue, or be strongly swayed by it, and the level of organisation of the cycle lobby, it is clear that candidates now have to court it, as has been noted even on BBC news.

Goldsmith should have been the easy winner of the cycle vote. He came with a track-record of supporting 'green' causes, unusually for a Conservative MP, and he was a one-time editor of The Ecologist magazine. But from the beginning of this campaign he has blundered and fumbled about this issue. At every opportunity he has seemed to want to talk up electric cars as being the future of personal transport in the city, even suggesting in an early interview that they might be allowed to use bus lanes, which would of course be disastrous for the many cyclists who still depend on bus lanes for some small measure of protection and priority where cycle lanes do not exist, should electric cars actually become popular. Later he became known for a quote in an LBC interview where he commented that if cycle highways did not work and were shown to increase pollution he would 'rip them up'.

He tried to clarify and distance himself from these earlier comments in the hustings, claiming he had been misrepresented, and that he was only stating a common sense position that if any piece of transport infrastructure were shown not to be working, one should consider removing it. But I think that emotive, unforgettable phrase, 'rip them up' is going to be inscribed on the tombstone of his campaign to become Mayor of London. Of course I'd agree that if a cycle facility isn't working, and isn't attracting cyclists, and isn't facilitating their progress in a safe manner, it should be removed. But, heres the point: it should then be replaced with a better facility. Goldsmith doesn't say this second part. He has never said that. He also seems to not understand that a piece of cycle infrastructure cannot 'cause pollution'. It is the motorists who are doing that. Goldsmith has repeatedly adopted the rhetoric of the 'bikelash' anti-cycle lane campaigners: the bizarre idea that cycling schemes force motorists to pollute.

He may promise to spend money on cycling, but when it comes to all specific cycling issues, Goldsmith has been found wanting. He repeatedly criticises the consultation process of the superhighways and mini-Holland schemes, and repeated this criticism at the hustings. This criticism mirrors that of the 'bikelash' campaigners who want consultations re-run indefinitely to try to achieve a different result: consultations that typically have seen about two-thirds backing for the cycle schemes, after a huge response and a hugely expensive public engagement exercise. Goldsmith always comments that the Walthamstow and Enfield mini-Holland schemes have had poor consultation and been unpopular (not true), while the scheme in his constituency, the Kingston mini-Holland, has been well-consultaed, has been popular, and he 'hasn't received a single letter of protest about it'. But he doesn't seem to have noticed that the other schemes are far more ambitious, particularly the Walthamstow one, which has achieved a far greater change in a short time.

There is always going to be more resistance to more ambitious and more effective cycling and walking schemes. Goldsmith has shown he lacks the backbone to stand up to the short-term, short-sighted reactions of those who initially feel threatened. He has stated that he would waste TfL money and waste time by re-running the consultation on CS11, decisively supported by a two-thirds majority. He has clearly allied himself with the opponents of effective cycling schemes. We've all noticed that. He was the last to sign up to Sign for Cycling of the major candidates. He waited for Khan to sign first. His attempt to re-establish his cycling credentials in an interview with the estimable Chris Boardman (that Boardman has to pretty much hound him to obtain) came too late. And still he comes out sounding wrong. In an interview for the Evening Standard today, Wednesday 4 May, headlined 'I'd be the greenest Mayor: pledege to clean up air with tax penalty on gas guzzlers', there's no mention of cycling in 25 paragraphs. With the East-West Superhighway likely to open tomorrow, election day, and under a headline on air pollution, he doesn't feel the need to mention cycling. He's not going to get many cyclist's votes.

His Labour rival, Sadiq Khan, has wisely avoided commenting on specific current cycle schemes, by and large, apart from one odd interview in which the expressed an idea that some of cycle tracks were too wide: a comment greeted with incredulity in a city famous the world over for having ridiculously narrow cycle lanes and tracks. But he has repeatedly emphasised, and did so again in the hustings, the need for more segregated  cycle tracks. Goldsmith has not done this, preferring to talk about Quietways (which have failed) and min-Hollands. Khan's manifesto commitments to cycling are more complete and convincing than Goldsmith's, despite his refusal to be specific on the money he would spend. Khan's comment that he would not yet be happy with his close family members cycling in London doesn't say to me he is talking down the potential of cycling, it says to me he understands the real safety issues still prevent most who would benefit from cycling using it as a daily means of transport. As the son of a bus driver associated with the bus lobby he doesn't seem the best politician to continue Boris's cycling legacy. Nevertheless, he seems a far better bet than Goldsmith.

Anyone who takes up the mayor's chair and tries to promote cycling will experience a backlash from shome of the od guard at Transport for London: we know that. There are people rthere who think they have now 'dobne' cycling, and with the opening of Boris's cycle tracks, they can get back to more seriousa business. The new mayor has to face them down and tell them, 'Sorry son, you've only just started on this'. We have to judge who of the main candidates is most likely to do this. Cycling commentator Bill Chidley attended the meeting on CS11 that Goldsmith organised, and commented
My own impression... was that Zac is nice but dim, but entirely lacking in stomach. At one point, he said that he didn't believe in "imposing grandiose schemes on local communities" - which is exactly what the Mayor is mandated and obliged to do.And an observer from Camden Cyclists commented on the meeting on how  
He visibly shifted in response to sentiment in the room. [Most of the attendees were from the noisy minority of car-centric NW8 residents opposed to the Superhighway]At least Boris wasn't afraid to appear unpopular in a meeting. He wasn't afraid of that at the 2012 cycle hustings, but we've also seen in a video of a TfL board meeting how he personally pushed the E-W Superhighway along against prevarication from other Board members. Would Goldsmith do this? It looks very unlikely. London is at a crossroads, and it looks like a Mayor Goldsmith would turn in a different direction. The London 'cycling revolution' would be in severe danger with Goldsmith in charge.

The London Green Party has consistently been the most in touch with cycling issues over the past four years, Assembly Members Jenny Jones and Darren Johnson consistently asking pertinent questions of the Mayor, compiling relevant papers and reports, and actually getting out on the ground in all parts of London to finds out what cycling conditions were actually like: not just in Westminster and the City, but remote car-dominated suburbs too. I showed Jenny Jones round the appalling Neasden gyratory system on one occasion (which she said was the most depressing experience she had had in her cycling survey of London), and very recently I showed Green Assembly candidate Caroline Russell around the Brent Cross area and the A41 Hendon Way where TfL seem to have abandoned plans for an outer section to CS11, but where safe space for cycling is desperately need. The Greens have been engaged in the issue beyond other parties, pushing Boris every step of the way, though there has also been sterling work by Caroline Pigeon, Liberal Democrat AM and mayoral candidate. I'm therefore going to be voting for Sian Berry for Mayor as my first preference. I'd like to vote for Pigeon as well, but the system means that the second preference vote must go to the candidate who can stop the worst candidate: Goldsmith. So my second preference vote will be for Sadiq Khan. I recommend all those who give their first preference to Berry or Pigeon to give second preference to Khan.

In the vote for London-wide assembly members, I recommend a vote for 'Green' for the reasons given above. The two Green Assembly members (who are both retiring) have been critical to ensuring London has progressed this far with creating a cycleable and walkable city, and their successors will carry on that work. The more of them that there are, the better.

The vote for Constituency Assembly members is a 'first past the post system'. For those in my constituency, Brent and Harrow, I recommend a vote for the sitting Labour Assembly Member, Navin Shah. He has also worked hard on behalf of walking and cycling, persistently asking the mayor awkward questions, particularly about Barnet's proposed ugly, car-centric Brent Cross Cricklewood development. At a recent meeting in which I personally questioned him, he affirmed his support for more segregated Superhighways and a mini-Holland in every borough, and said he believed CS11 should go ahead as planned.

London is at a crossroads on its journey to become a people-friendly city. The opening of the Superhighway on election day will be apt and rather symbolic. If you have a votes in this election, please use them carefully to ensure the journey continues.


Categories: Views

Antisemitism in Labour

Vole O'Speed - 3 May, 2016 - 20:18
Disclaimer: I'm not a member of the Labour Party, or a registered supporter. I'm not Jewish, but I have a Jewish background and live with a Jew.

The business of 'antisemitism within the Labour Party' is basically nonsense. The affair is clearly constructed to undermine Jeremy Corbyn by his opponents both inside and outside the party and fed off by an uncritical press. There's just no evidence for the accusation of real antisemitism being a significant trend in the Labour Party (unlike various types of racism being significant trends in several other major parties).

The worrying thing to me is that the very terrm is losing its meaning. People are forgetting what real antisemitism is. There appears to be an attempt by some to define critical comment on Israel as 'antisemitic'. This is an affront to freedom of speech and is illiberal.

Indeed, it should be possible to argue even against the existence of the state of Israel in its current form – that is, in favour of a completely different political settlement for all the peoples in that region of the Middle East – and not be accused of antisemitism. (I am not going to do that here, but it should be possible, according to the supposed maxim of Voltaire I disagree with what you say but will defend to the death your right to say it.) The states of the world are artificial creations and we must be able, in free and liberal debate to question, not merely the actions and policies, but the existence of any of them, or to argue that the world would be better not organised into independent states at all, but in some other way. After all, the way states cut across ethnic and religious divides is a problem all over the world, not just in the Middle East. It's wrong to try to shut down such debate with accusations of various kinds of racism. Racism, hatred and prejudice based on race, of which antisemitism is a special case, is nothing to do with this, indeed it lies at an opposite, irrational, pole of discourse.

Former Mayor of London Ken Livingstone is not a racist in any way and I don't believe he is an antisemite. He does very make ill-judged comments. As has been pointed out in a perceptive piece by Adam Ramsay, though it is true that Hitler did at some stages of his career propose transporting Jews to Israel, to mention this is the flippant way he did, just before mentioning 'Zionism', risks, without much more detailed clarification, recalling a truly antisemitic conspiracy narrative of 'Zionists being being in league with Hitler'. I doubt Livingstone was aware of this, but he should have been aware of the fact that,  as Ramsay writes,
The speed with which conversations about anything relating to Jewishness in politics return to something relating to the man who murdered the parents or grandparents of many of the Jewish people around today must be deeply hurtful for huge numbers. It's generally not appropriate to turn such conversations to Hitler and Nazis without a very compelling reason.Saying in his next sentence Hitler had 'gone mad' in order to kill six million Jews (and many others) compounded the problem because 'madness', or insanity, is an argument used to try to reduce culpability for those accuse of murder and other heinous crimes: it is a legal defence that barristers try to use to diminish punishment for those accused. Nobody argues that Hitler was 'mad' in that sense, and I don't think Livingstone meant that, he was talking casually. But his words could be misinterpreted as an attempt to 'clean up' Hitler, which is actually the last thing I believe he was trying to do.

Livingstone's later attempted clarification of his remarks tended to make matters worse. Speaking on BBC Two he said:
A real antisemite doesn’t just hate the Jews in Israel, they hate their Jewish neighbours in Golders Green or Stoke Newington, it’s a physical loathing.Clearly if you 'hate the Jews in Israel' you are an anti-semite, full stop. And racism may not be a 'physical loathing'. It may be just a vague background framework of attitudes. But to build a case on the basis of these remarks for Livingstone himself being 'antisemitic' is loading far too much meaning on to flip comments and slips like the preposition in that sentence 'just'. I predict that Labour's investigation into him will end up exonerating him of the charge of antisemitism,  cautioning him to speak more carefully in future, and re-instating him to party membership.

There are bad eggs in every basket, but the Labour Party has actuially been fantastically hot at investigating all claimed cases of racism, including antisemitism, in its ranks, unlike other parties. This is in its tradition and nature. But we see, simultaneously, Conservative candidate for London mayor Zac Goldsmith running a thinly-veiled anti-Islamic campaign against the Labour candidate Sadiq Khan (A campaign which, I predict also, will do him very little good in this cosmopolitan city.)

Livingstone has often made silly and insensitive comments on various topics. They should be ignored and people should move on. This is not antisemitism. It's a storm in an anti-Corben and Conservative teacup.

I hope to return to London cycling matters shortly. In the meantime, I agree wholeheartedly with the voting recommendations (and rationale) of Londoners on Bikes.
Categories: Views

A ride from Market to Market (2)

BicycleDutch - 2 May, 2016 - 23:01
The almost 16 kilometre ride from the fortified town of Heusden to ʼs-Hertogenbosch takes you through a typical Dutch river landscape. You can cycle mostly away from traffic on endless … Continue reading →
Categories: Views

Goodbye ibikelondon blog, hello Strategic Cities

ibikelondon - 2 May, 2016 - 13:02


After six years of incredible cycling experiences, ibikelondon blog is coming to a close. I want to highlight where I have been, where I am going, and to say thank you for coming along for the ride.
I began writing about riding in London in 2009. I hardly expected then ibikelondon would become such a big part of my life.  My first post had just ten readers, and included a photo of me participating in a Skyride on a very rusty, very purple second-hand bike. Over 500 blog posts later and thankfully my wheels have improved - and so has London.
If you know me via Twitter you’ll have seen clues that change is coming.  Starting any new venture is daunting, but I’ve been preparing to make this move for a while.  I worked hard on building this, I’m excited to share it with you, and I hope you’ll be as excited using it as I have been creating it.  @markbikeslondonwill shortly become @StrategicCities, and you’ll be able to find me at my new website; strategic-cities.com 
 With some of you on Blackfriars Bridge in 2011.
I’ll still be looking at how people travel, and how cities can become increasingly efficient and liveable, but my focus will be wider than just the bike.  I’ve come to realise bikes are the “canary in the coal mine” of liveable cities, and there are many issues – childhood freedom, planning, obesity, transport – which are all part of the same urban matrix we call home, and which deserve further scrutiny.
StrategicCities will also see me start a new career.  I’ll soon be delivering training for urban professionals and communications analysis for city leaders.  Why?  I’ve been fortunate enough to work in the media from the inside - as well as influence it from the out - and my experience has shown me that the way we convey messages is more and more important in delivering difficult projects. You only need to look at the vociferous – and frequently hysterical – anti-bike lane sentiment we’ve experienced in London.  Communicating well in a difficult environment is not a skill which comes naturally to most, but preparation goes a long way in helping to navigate that minefield.  My first web-based training seminar; “Achieving Change In A Hostile Media Environment” takes place in May and registration is open.  If you want to keep up to date about further events and training then you can sign up to the Strategic Citiesmailing list, or connect with me on LinkedIn.
ibikelondon has given me incredible opportunities. I’ve given evidence at Parliament, lectured at the National Conference for Urban Design at Oxford University and written for national newspapers about cycling and cities. I even appeared on Newsnight and Russian state radio.  Blogging takes (a lot of) time, effort and patience, but I’ve had fantastic experiences by bicycle along the way as well; from riding through backstreets in Shanghai, to chasing the Tour de France through Belgium in a helicopter.  More amazing things than I could ever have imagined when I wrote that first post back in 2009.
There have been tough times, too.  I’ve stood beside dangerous junctions as grieving relatives mark the site of a loved one’s death too many times.  Too often I’ve written about poorly designed, poorly driven lorries in London, and the fatal problems they present.  And too often I’ve written how someone has died on an appallingly designed stretch of road which authorities had been warned in advance would lead to fatalities.
Two terrible weeks in 2013 saw six London cyclists lose their lives in rapid succession on our roads.  Those missing riders marked a shadow for a long time afterwards, when the bus seemed more appealing than the bike, and more likely to deliver me to work alive.
The "Tour du Danger" around London's 10 most dangerous junctions for cyclists.  Here the ride is seen outside TfL HQ on Blackfriars Rd - now the site of the north / south cycle superhighway.
London’s anger at those deaths, and others, helped to spur our cycling community on.  This helped to achieve genuine political commitment and action from Mayor Boris Johnson.  Protests on Blackfriars Bridge and around dangerous junctions lead to really meaningful change.  Hours of meetings with politicians and their advisors helped to guide policy and new street designs.  But it should never have taken so many deaths for this process to start.
Now we’re seeing the result of that commitment with hard-won bike tracks and re-designed junctions appearing across London, most contentiously along the Embankment.  Credit where credit is due; the North / South and East / West Cycle Superhighways is going to change the way we cycle in the city, and for good.
But resistance was ferocious, well-organised and – in the case of the taxi lobby and CanaryWharf Group – incredibly well-funded.  Those same opposing forces are still out there, making their backwards-thinking grievances an issue for the next Mayor of London. 
People who want a liveable London must remain focused (and angry), and Mayors must not be afraid to be bold.  Do not underestimate the change that committed citizens together with committed leaders can bring about.
I recommend you to the London Cycling Campaign and their Sign4Cycling Mayoral target, and to my fellow bike blogger Danny, at Cyclists In The City, who so often has been “a partner in crime” in campaigning escapades.
So it’s goodbye ibikelondon blog, and hello to exciting, new Strategic Cities.  Through the years what has often kept me going have been the wonderful interactions – both online and off – with people like you who have read my words here.  Thank you.  I hope you’ll come with me on my new adventure, and that there are many safe and wonderful bike rides ahead for us both.
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Categories: Views

Lazy, antagonistic rubbish – the BBC’s flagship news programme tackles cycling safety

As Easy As Riding A Bike - 29 April, 2016 - 13:05

There was an extraordinary report on cycling safety on Radio 4’s Today programme this morning (2:49:00 onwards). I say ‘extraordinary’, because it failed to focus on any sensible solutions to the problem, and instead devoted the bulk of the report to the rantings of an HGV driver – therefore, ‘extraordinary’, from an objective perspective. But sadly not that extraordinary at all in the context of the British media’s engagement with this serious issue, which all too often plumps for a wholly inappropriate adversarial take on it, pitting user groups against one another in a transparent attempt to identify blame on side or the other.

From the outset, it was clear the focus was on antagonism, rather than on solutions that are mutually beneficial. Highlighting the proportion of HGVs involved in cycling fatalities in his introduction, Humphrys said

‘Is it time to clamp down on trucks using the capital? Or, do the drivers get a raw deal?’

Or, could it be that we have a crappy road system that pushes HGVs and people cycling into the same space, which, when combined with the poor visibility that many of these vehicles have, is a recipe for collisions which will inevitably be very serious indeed? Is this not a terrible state of affairs for both the drivers of HGVs, and for people cycling? And one best addressed not by attempting to blame individuals, but by attempting to fix the system?

That’s the sort of reporting and investigation you should expect from the BBC’s flagship news programme. That is to say, looking at the problem in a serious way, and examining how to fix it – and talking to the people who are actually coming up with solutions right now.

Separated by 5 years. #cyclesuperhighway pic.twitter.com/vctKALEkoY

— Joe Dunckley (@steinsky) April 20, 2016

This is the kind of thing that Transport for London are doing, on the streets of central London, where the BBC is actually located. They are re-building roads and junctions to eliminate conflict between HGVs and people cycling altogether. There’s simply no excuse for not engaging with this – not in 2016.

But instead of that engagement, we got a lazy, simplistic, one-sided and antagonistic report, from Sima Kotecha, about ‘them’ and ‘us’, one that blamed victims, that failed to recognise that even if people make mistakes (and that includes HGV drivers) the outcome shouldn’t be death or serious injury, and that failed to critically examine any kind of solution whatsoever. Here we go.

Kotecha: In London, Mayoral candidates are fighting it out for City Hall. But on the roads, there’s another daily battle. Between lorry drivers, and cyclists.

Oh dear lord, in the second sentence, we’ve already descended to ‘battle’ and ‘war’ language. This isn’t a conflict, certainly not one that anyone wants to engage in.

Driver: He’s being a complete idiot though, isn’t he. Look. He’s just sitting here. It’s just ridiculous. What am I supposed to do mate? I can’t move this 36 foot truck around. It’s a lot easier for you to move that, isn’t it.

Kotecha: Chris Parsonage has been driving lorries and buses around the capital for more than twenty years. Today he’s delivering malt to a brewery in south London, in a truck 8 feet wide, and 11 feet tall. A couple of cyclists whizz past.

Driver: The worst ones are like this guy here, the professional cyclists. They’re the ones that have got to go as fast as they can. A tiny little vehicle like that, and they’re doing 30 mile an hour. They’ve only got to hit one little pothole, and then they’re gone. You can see here in the mirror, he could easily just go, but he’s just being a complete idiot.

Kotecha: Nine cyclists died on London’s roads last year, seven of which involved lorries. All trucks in the capital now have to be fitted with sideguards to protect cyclists from being dragged under their wheels.

Yay, sideguards. How many of the HGVs involved in those fatal collisions already had sideguards? None? All of them? Hooray for investigative reporting!

The HGV that killed Ying Tao at Bank junction last year – sideguards (and mirrors – see below) in action.

Kotecha: Several large mirrors must also be installed to give the driver a better view of cyclists and pedestrians.

Are these mirrors stopping fatalities and serious injuries from occurring? How many trucks are entering London without them? Again, no answers. Just a factoid, thrown out there, stripped of any context.

Kotecha: The Road Haulage Association argues there must be penalties for cyclists who ride irresponsibly, and don’t use cycle lanes. Chris Parsonage says, for that to happen, every bike needs to have a registration plate.

Strangely no calls for registration plates for the people on foot who are also being killed and seriously injured in large numbers in HGV collisions in the capital. But at least we get a mention of cycle lanes, albeit from the antagonistic perspective of the haulage lobby.

Driver: Yes, I think they should all have some form of visible identification on them, so when they do jump these lights, and when they do cause accidents, then they can be called in to, err, answer their own questions, rather than just ride off, and never seen again.

Kotecha: Speaking to cyclists, they say that lorry drivers are getting worse.

That’s it! Go on, poke the lorry driver. Stir the pot of antagonism.

Driver: No, I think that’s ridiculous, like, the emphasis is always put on the lorry driver all the time, and, no, you’ve been with me now for a couple of hours, and you’ll see some absolutely ridiculous things that cyclists do. But they’re never held responsible for it, because they just cycle off to wherever they’re going, and nothing can ever be done about it.

Result! ‘I heard cyclists say that you smell’. ‘No way! They smell much worse!’. Public service broadcasting, at its best.

Kotecha: The main mayoral candidates say if they’re elected, they’ll ban lorries from driving in London during rush hour. London Cycling Campaign, which is calling for better conditions for cyclists, says all lorries should have panoramic visibility, so they have no blind spots. It says installing special cameras and kit in all HGVs would be a significant step forward.

Do we get to speak to these campaigners? No, instead we’re going to talk to ‘a cyclist’ who is apparently more than happy to continue engaging in the ‘war’ and antagonism narrative of the report.

Cyclist: It feels as if it’s like a battle for a lot of cyclists.

… Oh good grief…

Cyclist: I understand it in one sense, but I don’t understand the response by battling back, with traffic.

What? How does this work? How does someone on a bike ‘battle back’ against an HGV?

Kotecha: Derren is cycling to work. Helmet, and hi-viz jacket on.

Evidently it’s important to establish to the radio audience that Derren is ‘a good cyclist’ and that therefore his opinions are worth listening to.

Cyclist: I’ve been knocked off a couple of times. But that’s in twenty years of cycling.

Kotecha: What would you say to those lorry drivers who say that you manoeuvre in and out, that you cut across them when they’re turning, so they can’t see you in their blindspot?

I’d say that sounds like a structural problem that can only be resolved by designing the roads in a better way to separate HGVs and people cycling. But I don’t think that’s the kind of response Kotecha is angling for.

Cyclist: It’s really unfortunate we all get painted with the same brush. A lot of us are responsible cyclists. You know, I’m a driver as well, so I know how difficult it is to see cyclists.

By implication, the way to stop deaths and serious injuries is more ‘personal responsibility’ from scofflaw cyclists.

Kotecha: The blame game between the two sides goes on.

Ah, my favourite! Blame game! Which side are you on? Trucks or cyclists? Who will win? Boo! Cheer!

Kotecha: But as lives continue to be lost, and more cyclists hit the roads, attracted by green issues and fitness…

‘Green issues and fitness’. A great insight into the level of engagement there.

Kotecha: … pressure mounts on the Mayoral candidates to make a difference in one of the world’s busiest cities. Here’s Chris Parsonage again.

Driver: If every cyclist was an angel and stuck to the Highway Code, and stuck to their cycle lanes, everything would be perfect, wouldn’t it. But we don’t live in a perfect world.

REPORT ENDS.

A charming note to finish on – if only cyclists behaved, everything would be fine, but ‘they’ don’t, so the carnage will continue.

Guess what. It’s entirely unrealistic to expect everyone to be ‘angels’. We’re humans, and we’re fallible – we’ll all make mistakes, and a sizeable minority of us will be dicks, serial lawbreakers, whether we’re on a bike, or behind the wheel of a car or an HGV.

It really isn’t very difficult to spot HGV drivers on the phone in London. I snapped this chap as I was cycling on CS6 on St George’s Road.

That’s why it’s frankly pointless (as well as utterly tedious) to attempt to apportion blame on one user group or another, because we’re all people. The solution to danger on the streets isn’t some stupid ‘blame game’, trying to find out who is most responsible for the problem, but structural, a top-down approach to the way roads and streets are designed and used, that separates people from danger as much as is possible, and ensures danger is minimised where encounters do have to occur.

A structural approach to reducing the danger posed by HGVs to people cycling. Built this year. In London.

That’s the kind of reporting that a public service broadcaster should be engaging in, not the kind of inane drivel the Today programme audience was subjected to this morning. It can and it must do better.


Categories: Views

Selling cycling

As Easy As Riding A Bike - 26 April, 2016 - 21:38

The biggest barrier to cycling uptake is the physical environment. Survey after survey, study after study, shows that it is road danger – and in particular, the unwillingness to share roads with motor traffic – that prevents people from cycling. When that barrier is addressed – even on a temporary basis in the form of events like Skyrides – cycling suddenly materialises, thrives and flourishes, quite naturally.

Southampton Skyide

London Skyride

By contrast, we should be deeply sceptical of claims that the way individuals behave or dress while cycling has any bearing on cycling uptake. That behaviour, the way people dress, and the way the current cycling demographic is skewed towards men and away from the young and the elderly, isn’t the problem, merely a symptom of the actual problem. Or as Beztweets puts it, ‘a product of the true barriers to participation, not a barrier itself‘. Sure, opponents might like to score what they think are easy points about lycra, about middle class men on bikes, about bad behaviour, and so on, but these aren’t barriers to cycling for ordinary people. The demographic we are after won’t even identify as ‘cyclists’ when they happen to use a bike for sort trips.

In any case, it’s futile to attempt to address these alleged barriers while road conditions essentially guarantee this kind of skewing, both demographic, and in clothing and behaviour. And you can’t win. Forgo ‘safety equipment’ to appear normal, and you are branded as irresponsible. Wear ‘safety equipment’ like hi-viz and helmets, and you are branded as a weirdo. The kind of cycling behaviour that’s normal in countries with high-quality cycling environments – the kind that’s alleged to change hearts and minds here – is just as easy fodder for haters as things that are conventionally moaned about, like lycra. Wearing dark clothes (also known as ‘ordinary clothes’), no helmets, no hi viz, cycling with young children, wearing headphones – just mark them on on your bingo card, alongside ‘Spandex Taliban’.

Normalising cycling? Or, reckless maniacs cycling dangerously, not wearing helmets or hi-viz? Take your pick.

Even if – by some miracle – we could get everyone who rides a bike to behave perfectly, at all times (and that would be a genuine miracle, because people who ride bikes are human beings, and human beings are idiots) that’s still not going to make a difference, because the haters will just move on to something else. Flagging up ‘behaviour’ is simply the easiest deflection tactic to hand.

All that said, however, I do think there is a genuine marketing problem with cycling in Britain. The way cycling is represented in visualisations of road and street changes; the kinds of bikes that are sold in shops; the way it is associated with sport and exercise; the way it is presented as a hobby; the emphasis on personal responsibility as a response to hostile roads and streets; the way ‘safety equipment’ is pushed onto people – all things that are relatively easy to change, and that could make a big difference to public perception.

One of the biggest indicators that this is a serious problem is the prevalence of what I would call the ‘not everyone can cycle, cycling isn’t practical’ canard. This is the argument that cycling won’t work for ‘ordinary’ people – people who don’t want to get sweaty or wear special equipment, or ‘rubber knickers’; people who have to cycle with children; people with disabilities; people who are elderly; people who have to carry shopping, or a briefcase, or any kind of load; and so on, ad infinitum.

Nobody would make any of these kinds of arguments about walking.

  • ‘Not everyone can run around in lycra shorts and running spikes’.
  • ‘Elderly people can’t walk’.
  • ‘Why should we build pavements? People with disabilities aren’t going to use them.’
  • ‘You can’t walk from the shops with your shopping’.
  • ‘You can’t walk into town with your children’.

These are absurd claims, and yet they are routinely made about cycling, and measures to enable cycling. Why is this? Because walking is an easy, everyday mode of transport (at least, relatively easy) that people don’t think twice about engaging in. Cycling, by contrast, appears to be complicated, strange, difficult, sporty. People who make these claims about the impracticality of cycling simply aren’t aware that cycling could work them, and that’s a failure of explanation, a failure of message, and a failure of marketing.

Of course, as I stated at the start of this piece, the main reason for this problem of perception is a road environment that limits cycling to a subset of the population, and limits people to buying faster bikes, and wearing athletic clothing, in an attempt to adapt to the conditions. Cycling very often is complicated, difficult and unpleasant, thanks to the way roads and streets are designed. But at the same time we are getting straightforward, easy things wrong, and actually reinforcing those image problems.

We need to reframe cycling as enhanced walking, or (to use a phrase others have coined already) Wheeled Pedestrianism. In other words, it’s pretty much the same as walking, but just an extension of it, a version of walking that allows you to go further, to go faster, to overcome disabilities, to carry loads, and frankly, to have more fun.

It’s straightforward and easy – you can do exactly the same things you would do if you were walking, just with the advantage of wheels.

Wheeled pedestrians, doing exactly the same things that pedestrians do. Shopping, travelling about with children, chatting, wearing ordinary clothes. Straightforward.

I suspect the general public has no idea that cycling could actually be this easy; that it involves nothing more complicated than walking, once you have the right cycle.  If roads and streets are designed well, as they are starting to be in London, it’s a tremendously easy, enjoyable and painless way to cover relatively large distances, distances that would be a chore (or even unthinkable) to cover on foot. It’s just about making life easier, not about virtue, or healthiness, or exercise.

Just rode from Parliament Sq to Broadway Market in 35 mins on a very very heavy old post bike. New CSH helped. No delays. Stunning evening.

— James Holloway (@JamesNonchalant) April 19, 2016

Just cycled with a work colleague to a meeting in Berkeley Sq from City. In 11 minutes. Also dodging a goose. pic.twitter.com/SBbaXHJg6x

— cyclistsinthecity (@citycyclists) March 29, 2016

This message about the essential straightforwardness and utility of cycling is not getting through to the general public. As this blog observes, perhaps the best cycling advert in recent years still manages to make cycling look niche, and a bit odd, a specialist activity that looks like hard work, requiring equipment, exertion and effort.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, it’s the car industry that manage to make bicycle adverts with the same kind of selling power as, well, car adverts.

Cycling shown as a fun, easy and painless way to get around. What’s not to like? The United States is managing to do a good job too, selling bicycles with quite overt nods to the weird image of cycling that most ordinary people are subject to.

Or take a look at this (slightly wacky) Japanese video marketing a bicycle specifically for use while wearing a kimono –

It captures the essence of transport cycling; travelling around as if you were walking, but at a faster speed. No hassle, no equipment, just the enjoyment of travelling around.

We also don’t sell bicycles that enable this kind of cycling, the kind that looks like walking – robust, everyday, upright bicycles, maintenance-free ones with mudguards and chain guards that keep your clothes neat and tidy, with built-in carrying capacity, and practical features like integrated dynamo lighting and wheel locks that make it incredibly easy to transition from walking to cycling, and back again. I regularly see this kind of thing –

And it’s so needless. The bicycle actually becomes a hindrance because it’s not practical, and yet bike shops are still full of bicycles that – like this one – simply aren’t suitable for everyday transport cycling. I appreciate that the market for practical bicycles might be tougher – they will of necessity be more expensive than your bog-standard mountain bike or hybrid – but markets can be created (that’s what advertising is for) and for these bikes to even be sold in the first place they have to be visible to the public, and that so often isn’t the case.

The way roads and streets are designed remains the primary barrier to cycling. No matter how well cycling is marketed, no matter how convincing a case we make for its essential usefulness and practicality, and how it’s just a different form of walking, people simply won’t do it if it involves struggling with a hostile environment that looks and feels (and almost certainly is) dangerous. But there are simple things we can get right, particularly the way cycling is presented and framed as a mode of transport. This certainly isn’t about asking individuals to dress differently, or to cycle differently – I think that’s fundamentally illiberal, as well as pointless. Instead it’s about the message sent out by people with power and responsibility, and by people with an audience. It’s starting to change – to take just one example, I think councils are doing a better job when int comes to visualisations, including ordinary people cycling, rather than ‘cyclists’ – but there’s an awful lot more that can be done.

 


Categories: Views

International Cargo Bike Festival 2016

BicycleDutch - 25 April, 2016 - 23:01
A weekend chock-full of cargo bike themed activities in Nijmegen, where the annual International Cargo Bike Festival was held on 16 and 17 April last. The 3rd international Cargo Bike … Continue reading →
Categories: Views

A trip along Quietway 1

As Easy As Riding A Bike - 22 April, 2016 - 11:16

Last month I was kindly escorted along Quietway 1 by Sustrans, to take a look at the route – which was still under construction in a number of places at the time.

The route runs from Waterloo to Greenwich, and is reasonably direct – although not as direct as the main roads in this area, particularly the Old Kent Road.

Quietway 1 is talked about as being one of the better examples of the Quietway programme, which has come in for a fair bit of stick, even from TfL’s Cycling Commissioner, Andrew Gilligan

Quietways should have been quicker and easier than Superhighways and junctions to build. They are on much lower-traffic roads and involve far fewer significant physical interventions. But they have been slower and more difficult.

By next month, we will have delivered four segregated Superhighways on some of the busiest roads in London. But on the Quietways, despite more than three years’ work, no route will be complete by the time the Mayor leaves office. This is partly due to flaws in the way the programme is run and partly to differences between some boroughs and TfL/City Hall over quality.

Quietways are supposed to be direct routes running on low-traffic back streets. They are meant to include filtering (bollards or other blockages) to reduce motor vehicle rat-running where necessary; full segregation wherever a route has to use a busy main road; and safe, direct crossings where the route has to cross a busy junction, road or gyratory. This is not always happening.

Some Quietway routes (in build and proposed) represent a step-change in quality from the old London Cycle Network. But most, so far, do not.

It was an interesting experience. I’d say in terms of length, the route is about 80-90% there in terms of quality, and is one of those Quietways that Gilligan might be identifying as a ‘step change’ from the old London Cycle Network (although, notably, Quietway 1 seems to make use of some existing LCN routing).  The connections are mostly good, and cycling from Waterloo to Greenwich was a placid and enjoyable experience for the most part. But it’s the remaining 10-20% that presents the problem – particularly, a handful of streets that haven’t been ‘filtered’, and where motor traffic levels are just too high for comfortable sharing of the carriageway, and also a number of junctions where careful thought is needed about how to improve the cycling experience.

Most of those streets with the high traffic levels appeared to me to be at the Waterloo end of the route. Great Suffolk Street – below – had some traffic calming that obviously wasn’t doing anything to discourage people driving through, in numbers.

It was either on this street, or a similarly busy one nearby, that we were honked at by a driver for having the temerity to cycle side by side, preventing him from overtaking. That’s not the sort of thing that should be happening on a genuine cycle route. Traffic levels just shouldn’t be this high; if they’re nice and low, side-by-side cycling is easy because drivers will be able to overtake easily too. These streets just didn’t feel like somewhere I’d be happy cycling with my partner; too much traffic, too many drivers hurrying somewhere else.

Crossing the A3 (Borough High Street), you find yourself on a street that has been filtered, and that made an immediate difference to the quality of the cycling environment. Unfortunately, while the filtering is good, the filter itself definitely isn’t, an absurd double zig-zag that was easier to bypass on the footway.

This really isn’t good enough for a quality cycling route. I have no idea why it’s still here, but evidently residents’ opinions have won out over the might of Transport for London and Southwark.

From this barrier the route jinks left onto Globe Street, which was also already filtered, but has been ‘prettified’ as part of the Quietway scheme with some paving and a central median.

It seems churlish to complain, but the new design has narrowed the usable cycling space on what was already a street that was a dead-end to motor traffic – and you could also argue that there are better uses for hard-won cycling money than paving.

The crossing of the A2 (again, already a filter in place) has been tidied up, with some angled islands that make it easier to cycle into the side roads from the main road.

You’re then onto Tabard Street, which has a curious treatment – a (contraflow) cycleway southbound (which we used) but nothing northbound, with some humps in the road.

This really was a very quiet street, at least at the time we were cycling here, so perhaps a better treatment would have been some filtering, without any need for the cycleway. Tabard Street runs directly parallel to the A2, and seems to be very quiet already, so restrictions on through traffic, while allowing two-way cycling, would have been more appropriate. There wouldn’t be any need for humps, either.

The next part of the Quietway was the best part – a series of quiet residential streets, all filtered, and all connected up with good paths.

A new path connecting Law Street with Rothsay Street. That pre-existing metal barrier needs to go though

Another improved connection

And another

This was an area with large amount of car parking, both on- and off-street (and presumably relatively high car use) but the streets felt safe and comfortable to cycle on.

It was a good illustration for me of how car parking doesn’t need to impact on cycle provision if the streets are filtered properly, and vice versa – car parking and car use can go hand in hand with these kinds of measures that make residential streets pleasant to cycle on.

From here we joined a new path that runs around the Millwall football ground, which was really good – well built, smooth and wide. Unfortunately, however, this will be closed on home match days (basically, to separate home and away football fans from each other) and the ‘diversion’ route seemed pretty sketchy.

This is an area with what seemed like a high percentage of HGV movements on the main roads – there are industrial units, recycling centres, and a large incinerator. Plenty of tipper trucks thundering around, and dustcarts from several London boroughs. Along one of these roads – Surrey Canal Road – we were well-separated from the carriageway on a shared path (absolutely fine, not many pedestrians here), but the junction and minor side road treatments really aren’t good enough. They’re dangerously ambiguous, especially given the type of vehicles using them (and the way they’re being driven).

Who should give way here?

There’s a crossing of a busy roundabout where it is explicit you have to give way (I think that’s correct, again, given the volume and nature of the motor traffic here), but it would really help if there was an island in the middle to simplify the crossing.

It’s too much to look in several directions at once trying to gauge when you can cross both lanes on an arm of a busy roundabout – doing one lane at a time would make things a lot easier.

The same roundabout (and crossing) from the opposite direction

At the time we cycled the route, nothing had been done at the fairly horrible junction of Surrey Canal Road and Trundleys Road. The cycle route has to get across these roads with motor traffic coming from multiple directions, to enter a park. It will be interesting to see how this problematic junction is resolved.

From this park (Folkestone Gardens), there’s another attractive cut through under the railway line to Childers Street.

But Childers Street itself – a residential street – felt like another of those roads near the Waterloo end of Quietway 1 that seemed to have people driving through, and too many of them for a comfortable cycling experience.

The other part of Quietway 1 that deserves comment is the strange crossing of Tower Bridge Road.

This is, frankly, a bit of a bodge, involving shared use footway, and people cycling being forbidden from turning right (or left, depending on which direction they are coming from) onto Tower Bridge Road from the Quietway route.

Approaching from Rothsay Street. No right turn

The reason for this bodging is, essentially, that the cycle crossing and the pedestrian crossing right next to it run at the same time, but are ‘separate’. You’re not allowed to cycle across a pedestrian crossing when pedestrians have a green, so that’s why the turns are banned. Meanwhile, the shared use is to get people onto the cycle crossing, which has to run ‘separate’ from Webb Street, which still has motor vehicle entry permitted.

It got me thinking about how the Dutch might resolve this kind of problem. I thought about it for a while, and  realised that basically the Dutch wouldn’t get themselves into this kind of problem in the first place. They wouldn’t be trying to join up a ‘cycle route’ across a main road where the side streets don’t line up. The side streets would just be ordinary, residential side streets, and there wouldn’t be a need for a dedicated cycle crossing, because this wouldn’t be ‘a route’. People would be cycling along the parallel and much more direct main roads just to the south and the north, the A2, and the A2206, if they want to go anywhere.

So this fudge on Tower Bridge Street is actually a useful illustration of some of the fundamental problems with routing cycling along back streets in an attempt to avoid main roads. Back streets will encounter major roads, and it will often be very difficult to square the circle when a major cycle route on a minor road meets major road. The problems with implementation of Quietways might actually point to a bigger problem with the concept as a whole. A better role for this kind of programme might be to focus on addressing individual problems, or missing connections, that have been executed well on Quietway 1 – small paths between estates, tunnels under railway lines, paths around football stadiums, and so on – rather than on trying to join these connections up into a ‘route’. It might be called ‘Missing Connections’, instead of ‘Quietways’, for instance. (Or something more catchy).

The overall structure of a cycle network would then be a separate programme, consisting of developing cycling infrastructure on main roads, alongside a strategy of reducing motor traffic to acceptable levels on residential streets. Some of these streets will then organically form parts of sensible (but not ‘official’) routes that develop spontaneously. It’s something to reflect on, certainly, when we look at the differing levels of success (and ease of implementation) of the ‘Superhighways’ and ‘Quietways’ programme to date.

 

 


Categories: Views

Environmental groups’ failure over HS2

John Adams - 19 April, 2016 - 15:18

Letter in Telegraph, 17 April2016

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/opinion/2016/04/17/letters-for-all-its-faults-the-eu-is-a-bold-project-that-still-d/

Environmental groups’ failure over HS2

SIR – It is now very clear indeed that the hugely expensive HS2 project is fundamentally flawed; yet it continues to make progress towards delivery in spite of compelling evidence justifying its cancellation.

Its passage has been assisted by two important factors that are as problematic as the project itself. The first is the failure of both governmental and non-governmental supporters to change direction on the basis of evidence. The second is the dramatic transformation of so-called environmental groups.

The Campaign for Better Transport, Friends of the Earth, the Campaign to Protect Rural England and Greenpeace have assisted this extremely environmentally damaging project at every stage.

These groups have betrayed their members as the project will, without question, add to greenhouse gas emissions, seriously damage the countryside, destroy woodland and generate levels of noise greater than those set in World Health Organisation community noise standards.

This marks a serious decline in the legitimacy of these environmental groups. It can be seen as a huge loss in a democracy constantly struggling with the excesses of government policies that emphasise the importance of the environment but in practice contribute to its degradation.

The environmental movement has embraced the old maxim, “if you can’t beat them, join them” – and we are all the losers.

John Whitelegg

[former Board member of Transport 2000 – now the Campaign for Better Transport

John Adams

Emeritus Professor, University College London [and member of the original board of directors of FoE]

Mayer Hillman

Senior Fellow Emeritus, Policy Studies Institute

Stephen Plowden

[independent transport planner]

Categories: Views

Utrecht; Cycling City of the Netherlands?

BicycleDutch - 18 April, 2016 - 23:01
Utrecht is a rapidly growing city that is convinced the bicycle can and should play a major role in keeping the city liveable, accessible and economically strong. Reason to give … Continue reading →
Categories: Views

Do speed cameras work?

Road Danger Reduction Forum - 18 April, 2016 - 16:08

The letters pages of the transport professionals’ fortnightly, Local Transport Today, have recently  carried an unprecedentedly long correspondence about the statistical analysis of the effects of speed cameras. We welcome in-depth statistical analysis of “road safety” interventions such as cameras. However, our take on how results should be interpreted – and indeed, what “works” actually means in the overall context of reducing road danger over time – is different from most of the participants. Here is our contribution to – and comments on – the debate: LTT 695


Categories: Views

The RNIB, and why it’s irrelevant where a ‘Superhighway’ actually goes

As Easy As Riding A Bike - 17 April, 2016 - 23:36

A couple of months ago I wrote about the difficulties that have been created for cycling in London by the unhelpful use of ‘Superhighway’ and ‘Quietway’ terminology. That post looked at how the Mayor’s Vision for Cycling gave the impression that ‘Superhighways’ were places for fast cycling – confident, lycra-clad men speeding along main roads – while ‘Quietways’ were places for people who wanted a slower and calmer cycling experience. This passage, in particular, was especially unhelpful –

There will be greatly-improved fast routes on busy roads for cyclists in a hurry. And there will be direct, continuous, quieter routes on side streets for new cyclists, cautious cyclists and all sorts of other people who would rather take it more slowly.

The language of ‘Superhighways’ and ‘Quietways’, I wrote,

is actually leading to worrying problems of understanding (or, more cynically, wilful misinterpretation for political expediency), particularly by prominent members of the Conservative party in London, all describing Superhighways as some kind of Mad Max-style environment where testosterone-fuelled men in lycra go to lock handlebars with one another.

And it seems problems with ‘Superhighway’ language have surfaced again, this time with the RNIB (the Royal National Institute of Blind People), who staged a protest on Friday calling for the north-south ‘Superhighway’ to be routed away from their headquarters on Judd Street in Camden.

Fazilet Hadi, director of engagement at RNIB, said: “Hundreds of people with sight loss come to RNIB each week as staff, volunteers and visitors.

“We are extremely concerned that the dramatic increase in the number of cyclists, combined with the removal of the pelican crossing, will put many blind and partially sighted people at risk of injury.”

The problem here is that, even if the ‘Superhighway’ gets routed somewhere else, Judd Street will still remain a desirable road to cycle on, even more so if the changes that Camden are proposing – independently of TfL – go ahead, both to the northern end of Judd Street, and to Midland Road, which lies directly across Euston Road from Judd Street. Let’s briefly look at those changes.

The desired proposal is to completely close the junction of Judd Street with Euston Road to motor traffic, leaving a small cycle-only access road in and out of the junction.

This will be a huge change, given that this junction (looking north from Judd Street) currently looks like this.

Judd Street itself will be converted into a much more pleasant environment, with substantially lower levels of motor traffic. That’s better for all the users of the street, whether they have visual impairment or not. So this change should happen, independently of where a ‘Superhighway’ ends up going.

And across the junction, Midland Road, which is currently a fast one-way road that broadens out to four lanes at the junction with Euston Road, will be narrowed, with cycling infrastructure added in the form of stepped tracks on either side of the road.

Again, this is something that should happen, regardless of where a ‘Superhighway’ ends up going. It would represent a substantial improvement for pedestrians and people cycling on this road, as well as simplifying the junction for people driving.

The current state of Midland Road – a fairly horrible motor-centric race track

If these changes go ahead – and they should, regardless of how you feel about cycling – then plenty of people will still want to cycle on Judd Street, even if it isn’t a ‘Superhighway’. Judd Street itself will be a much more pleasant cycling environment, and it will connect up Bloomsbury with the roads north of Euston Road, thanks to the improvements to Midland Road that will allow cycling northbound.

In short, the RNIB’s protest about ‘routing’ is a bit of a pointless one, because it doesn’t matter where the ‘Superhighway’ goes. It could be sent down streets 500m to the east, or 500m to the west, but whatever route is chosen for it, that won’t have any effect on the numbers of people cycling using Judd Street, because what matters are the changes Camden are proposing to make their streets and roads more attractive, not an arbitrary ‘Superhighway’ designation. The RNIB seem to think that shifting the ‘Superhighway’ onto a different street will stop people cycling on Judd Street, but that simply isn’t going to happen when Camden are proposing changes that will make a huge difference to the quality of Judd Street and Midland Road, a much bigger difference than where Transport for London draw a squiggly blue line on a map.

What I am driving at here (in case it isn’t obvious) is that the ‘Superhighway’ label is pretty irrelevant. What should be happening to roads and streets in London are the kinds of changes that Camden are proposing, and they should be happening to every single road and street, not just to a handful of routes drawn on a map. The future for London – and towns and cities across the country – has to be a dense network for cycling, composed of protected cycleways on main roads, and access roads without any visible cycling infrastructure, but with low levels of motor traffic, kept low through the use of interventions like bollards, one-way flow, and so on. The entire city should be a cycling network, a network that will inevitably include the headquarters of organisations like the RNIB.

So the RNIB have a fairly stark choice. They can either argue for maintaining the motor-centric status quo, keeping roads like Judd Street and Midland Road places where only a small number of people will be willing to cycle, in dense, fast flows of motor traffic. To be clear, this would involve actually opposing the proposals to close Judd Street to motor traffic at the northern end, and to improve Midland Road, regardless of where a ‘Superhighway’ eventually goes. It’s regressive, but it would at least keep cycling levels on Judd Street relatively low. (I note, in passing, that it hasn’t actually been specified by the RNIB exactly what amount of cycling on Judd Street, in terms of numbers per day, they might be happy with).

Or, alternatively, they can support the changes that Camden are proposing, and wider proposals to improve conditions for walking and cycling, on all streets, everywhere. Forget about the ‘Superhighway’ term, because it is misleading, one that I suspect will start to disappear completely as the density of routes in central London increases. (Hopefully). Cycling isn’t going to go away, and the best policy has to be one of constructive engagement, rather than a vain hope that it can somehow be routed away or even prevented on roads and streets that people want to use, whether they are on foot, a mobility scooter, wheelchair or cycle.


Categories: Views

Berlin Decides its Future

Copenhagenize - 14 April, 2016 - 08:42

This article is written by Copenhagenize Design Company's urban planner, Leon Legeland. Originally from the least- bicycle friendly city in Germany, Wiesbaden, he has lived, studied and worked in Vienna, Malmö and currently Copenhagen. He has a master in Sustainable Urban Management and is currently finishing his second master in Sustainable Cities here in Copenhagen. He has been working with us for eight months and is motivated to support and plan the needed paradigm shift in mobility in Germany and particularly in Berlin.

Mikael will be speaking at this year's VivaVelo congress next week in Berlin, on April 18, 2016, so we thought we’d take a closer look at the status quo and current buzz about urban cycling in the German capital.

In the 2015 Copenhagenize Index, we saw the city slip from 5th in 2011 to 12th in 2015. Still, Berlin is in the Top 20, but where is the city headed in the next few years? Things are happening in the city. Both things that make us optimistic and excited and things that make us want to throw up a little bit in our mouth.

If we look at the baseline, progress is slow and soooo last century.

There appears to be a total disconnect between the declared municipal strategy and what is actual happening (or not happening). The Senate in Berlin, on some level, understands that urban cycling improves the quality of life and that it has to be promoted and supported. The official bicycle strategy is full of promising initiatives and visions - more than many cities.

The city has a goal of hitting 20% modal share by 2025 and wants to invest in bicycle infrastructure and parking and to improve the overall bikeability of the city. The Senate initiated a collaborative online platform that identified and discussed fifty dangerous intersections that get will be prioritised for a bicycle friendly redesign. It was a clever move to get local insights about needs and problems with added subjective expertise. This all sounds fine and good, but the reality is far-removed.


Out of fifty intersections, only three intersections have been redesigned in the past three years. Safety in intersections is key. Since 2000, almost 200 people have been killed on their bicycles in Berlin. Tragic. No doubt about that. Instead, however, of accelerating the redesign of dangerous intersections and building Best Practice infrastructure along roads, the city decided instead to merely advertise their own lack of desire for change with large digital signs aimed at motorists (above - spotted on this Facebook group).

Texts included:

“In 2015, 15 cyclists were killed by passing cars. Minimum 1.5m distance”
“Every two hours a bicycle accident happens, keep 1.5m distance”.

We suppose the idea - however primitive - is good. Creating awareness among motorists that cyclists are present in the city. It is also a bold advertisment branding cycling as dangerous. There is little messaging that would encourage motorists - who cause many of the ills that cities suffer - to consider a shift in transport mode. Finally, it shows in no uncertain terms how outdated, flawed and incompetent the current traffic planning and road design is.

The solution is simple: build adequate, protected bicycle lanes and redesign your intersections. You won’t need warnings, you’ll avoid branding cycling as dangerous and you will save vast amounts of money on public health.

Since the city has already invested in the digital signs, why not use them for positive messaging? Off the top of our heads:

“Berliners spend 100 hours per year in traffic jams, take your bike!”
“Berlin is one of the most polluted cities in Germany, stop driving!”
“500,000 apartments in Berlin suffer from noise pollution from cars, take the train and bike!”

It’s one thing wasting money on digital signs, but what’s worse is that Berlin is not even spending its annual budget for bike infrastructure. The Senate failed to use €4.6 million that was available to it. The City spends €3.80 per person on bicycle infrastructure. Embarrassing considering that in Copenhagen, that number is €25. In Oslo, it’s as high as €35. But even cities like Paris, London and Madrid spend more than €12 per person.

Berlin is not even spending what they have, let alone finding more money to modernise their transport and keep up to speed with global trends. A recent investigation by Berliner Morgenpost newspaper mapped all the roads in Berlin in regards to their bicycle infrastructure. They found that 55% of all main roads in Berlin have bicycle “infrastructure”. That sounds nice, but it includes narrow painted lanes and bus lanes that can be used by bikes. The painted lanes are generally only 80 cm wide - far from the 2.5 meters dicated by Best Practice - and are often clogged with parked cars.


The study found that 338 of Berlin’s main roads do not have any bicycle infrastructure at all. Cycling in Berlin is not at all intuitive. It’s confusing and irritating. There is no uniform design or cohesive, comprehensive network.

In a nutshell, the municipality talks the talk, but doesn’t walk the walk. Progress is painfully slow and there is little Best Practice design. Politicians blame the tricky administrative division between the Senate and the districts, as well as the lack of professional staff to get projects pushed through to completion. Basically, the money is there but there are no planners to use it.


Don’t think stuff doesn’t get done in Berlin. The largest infrastructure project in the city - currently under construction - is the extension of the Autobahn 100 from Neukölln to Treptow. Yep. A highway! In 2016. Bizarre.

Do you know what the city will get for the €480,000,000 price tag? A whopping (not) 3.2 km long, six-lane highway labelled “Piece of Berlin”. They say the same thing as people have been saying for 60 years - that this highway will magically improve the city’s traffic environment, increase quality of life, economic growth and reduce automobilie traffic and congestion. Seriously. Despite the fact that no highway has done this anywhere in the past 100 years.

The only thing we’ve learned over the past century is this: If you make more space for cars, more cars will come. Traffic in Berlin will stay the same - and probably become worse. A six-lane highway cannot improve quality of life. Other cities are tearing out their last-century monuments to failure, not building new ones.

The extension of the A100 requires the demolition of a couple of apartment buildings, the felling of hundreds of trees, the relocation of an old landfill and is a extremely complicated construction due to high groundwater level, noise protection, and so on. This is a madman’s playground for German Autobahn engineering, not a “Piece of Berlin”.

Even more sad is the fact that a further extension of the A100 - adding on another 4.1 km - is currently being discussed and is expected to be approved in the next two years. According to some preliminary calculations, the cost may hit €1 billion, due to a tunnel under the Spree River. There will be the usual demolishing of buildings, the eviction of clubs and cultural institutions and more chopped trees. Let’s hope the people of Berlin can mobilise and stop this madness.

Wild, isn’t it? The municipal departments are able to plan, approve, finance and construct a complicated, monster highway for a total of €1.4 billion but they can’t seem to find money to move far more people through the streets of Berlin with a network of uniform, Best Practice bicycle infrastructure based on designs and experience over 100 years old.

Berlin - more than many cities in the world - is all about the citizens. They seem to get it. In the inner city, the modal share is 18% for bicycles. Car traffic is at 17%. Urban cycling is mainstream and is ready for massive growth. Cycling is growing by 5% every year - even though only 3% of all traffic space is dedicated to bikes. All Berliners need is a group of politicians currently residing in this century.


Citizens are also doing it for themselves. There is an ambitious group of activists, planners and regular citizens who happen to use bikes to get around and they are fed up with the inactivity of the Senate. The Berlin chapter of the national cycling NGO - called ADFC - were notorious for their displeasure with infrastructure. A hangover from this school of thought. Luckily, they are now supporting the referendum.

The Volksentscheid - Fahrrad is behind a cycling referendum that is currently shaking the Senate out of its drowsiness and insisting that more has to be done to make Berlin a bicycle friendly city. The group have established ten goals that are incorporated in the first German bicycle law. The goals include the transformation of 325 km of roads into bicycle streets, safe bicycle infrastructure on every main road, a safer redesign of 75 intersections per year, quick maintenance and fixes along bike lanes, 200,000 bike parking spots, fifty stretches with a green wave for bikes, 100 km of bicycle highways, police on bikes that ensure the bikeability, more bicycle planning staff in council positions and communications campaign that prepare Berlin to become a bicycle friendly city.

All goals are bound to a timeplan. There are great activists out there in the world, but this group has taken it to the next level.

This might seem a bit optimistic. But consider this. The ambitious goals of the Cycling Referendum will cost about the same as just one kilometre of the A100 extension. That’s it. Add to that the fact that one kilometer of cycle track is paid off in under five years and the referendum plans will be making money for the city in no time. The A100 never will.

Car traffic is the minority group in the transport paradigm and yet the City is spending obscene amounts of money to increase car traffic in Berlin.

The Cycling Referendum has jumpstarted a modern and much-needed discussion and put political pressure on the municipal officials. Instead of the usual, ineffective critical mass events, the group around the Cycling Referendum use a clever way to show their dissatisfaction - by offering best practice alternatives. This year, Berlin is electing a new Senate, and cycling is becoming a hot issue on the political agenda. The Cycling Referendum and its objectives get a lot of media coverage, which further fuels the political debate.


We at Copenhagenize Design Co. fully support the goals and plans of the Cycling Referendum (Volksentscheid Fahrrad). Berlin can do so much more and it is time to stop the backward-directed traffic politics. It is time for a paradigm shift away from a last-century, car-centric planning approach and towards a modern and inclusive one.Copenhagenize the planet. And have a lovely day.
Categories: Views

A ride from market to market

BicycleDutch - 11 April, 2016 - 23:01
A fast cycle route from ʼs-Hertogenbosch to Veghel was opened in November 2015. The route runs parallel to the canal between the two cities on what was a private maintenance … Continue reading →
Categories: Views

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