Exhibition Road -
The top picture is taken from this flyer, advertising a talk given by Ben Hamilton-Baillie, entitled New Directions in Street Design, Safety and Movement. It was taken in early August last year, when the street was closed to motor vehicles for the Exhibition Road Show (more pictures here).
The bottom picture was taken by me at the same location, just over a month later, in September 2012, when the road was open to motor traffic, as it usually is.
It nearly always looks like this, particularly during the day.
I don’t know who was responsible for choosing that picture on the flyer. Nevertheless it is surely more than a little misleading to select an image taken when there were no motor vehicles present at all to illustrate how shared space street design can ‘reconcile traffic movement with the quality of public space’ – because, quite obviously, there was no motor ‘traffic movement’ on the days in question.
From the description of the talk -
Ben Hamilton-Baillie, one of the UK’s leading practitioners in street design and placemaking is coming to Leeds Met to deliver a lecture on current thinking, practice and issues surrounding traffic movement and the concept of shared space.
The need to reconcile traffic movement with the quality of public space in cities, towns and villages is widely recognised. We all use public or pivate transport to move around and we all want beautiful and safe places to live and work in. Shared space is one approach to resolving this issue, with a number of high profile schemes (eg Exhibition Road, Kensington and Ashford Ring Road in Kent) being delivered over the past decade where principles have been put into practice and from which experience has been gained.
What Exhibition Road actually demonstrates is that ‘traffic movement’ cannot genuinely be reconciled with ‘quality of public space’ without a considerable reduction in the amount of that traffic composed of motor vehicles.
The use of that picture on the flyer amounts to an implicit admission of the very same thing.
Lengthier analysis of Exhibition Road from me here
Below I outline three possible scenarios for cycling’s global role in 2050. I then extrapolate current major trends to conclude with what I personally consider to be cycling’s most likely role in the world of 2050.
1. Mass velomobility
Widespread concerns about health, climate change and livability have translated into advocacy for and implementation of a radical set of policies, re-shaping the transport environment, and especially cities, away from motorised modes and towards cycling. Massively increased fuel prices combined with high levels of tax on both ownership and use of motorised vehicles have accelerated social and cultural change towards sustainable modes of mobility. These processes started first in the world’s most prestigious cities – such as London, New York, Berlin and Paris; but caught on quickly and spread across the globe, including to cities which in 2013 had been leaving cycling behind.
Little motorised traffic penetrates urban space, which is characterised instead by parks, trees, and people meeting, walking or cycling. The benefits of these changes have ensured they are embraced, encouraging still further change. The private car is extinct and has disappeared as a status symbol. Short journeys are walked, but cycling is the normal mode of transport for almost everyone for journeys beyond two kilometres but less than ten kilometres: some people use e-bikes to help with lack of fitness, steep hills or longer distance; some people (particularly young children) and freight are transported locally by load-carrying (often electrically-assisted) velomobiles. High quality public transport systems exist, but within cities their use is considered inferior to the making of journeys by bike.
Urban space is pervaded by a spirit of community, neighbourliness and conviviality. The release of space from parked and moving cars has ensured plenty of room for walking and cycling to mix without conflict. A new understanding of cycling has developed – as a practice which has helped safe-guard human well-being on the planet; cycling is therefore considered fundamental to ‘the good life’ and is rarely seen as difficult. History books and children’s stories tell of ‘the time of the car’, but the youngest generation scarcely believes it; imbued with an ethic of living sustainably on a finite planet, it takes for granted the localised, resource-lite, energy-efficient lives which are now normal.
2. Going Dutch
Increasing concerns about health, fitness, pollution and climate change have led to re-shaping of urban space away from the car and towards the bicycle following the lead shown by (and the best practice pioneered in) the Netherlands, Denmark and Germany. Growing public demand and government support for cycling form part of a broader desire for less car-centric cities in which people choose between different modes, with cycling favoured for shorter journeys beyond walking distance.
Cycling is generally regarded as ‘a good thing’, but partial resistance to it remains across areas of the world which had previously embedded car use as normal (north America, Australasia, much of Europe) or which adopted a culture of car ownership and use more recently (Latin America, Africa, Asia). Levels of cycling vary greatly: continuation of pro-cycling policies in many northern European countries means cycling usually accounts for over half of urban journeys; elsewhere cycling (including assisted cycling) typically accounts for between 10 and 30% of all urban journeys.
Cycling is still being actively promoted by government and other institutions, and remains in competition with other modes (trams, buses, trains and cars – whether privately or collectively owned). It is designed into the urban fabric in various ways: in central urban areas, which are now generally car-free, it tends to share space with (and give way to) pedestrians; further out it tends to be separated from other modes along bigger, busier roads but to mix with them on quieter residential streets, where speeds are below 30 km/hr. Cycling is typically afforded priority over motorised modes within urban space, but this priority is challenged across suburban space, and reversed across rural space (where cycling remains predominantly a leisure practice).
As urban cycling levels have increased, people have gradually re-organised their values, attitudes and lifestyles around it, so that whilst some groups remain resistant to actually doing it, hostility to the idea of cycling has declined, and it is widely accepted as a normal means of moving around. However, the bicycle’s status is highest and cycling as a mode of transport most popular amongst affluent, educated urban groups (and very popular amongst retired people as an active, healthy mode of (mainly rural) leisure). Attempts to sell ‘the Dutch model’ of cycling have expanded to all parts of the world, including India and China.
Levels of cycling remain relatively high across parts of northern Europe, reaching 50% of all journeys in a select few Dutch, Danish and German cities. Elsewhere there are some ‘cycling beacons’ (often hyped by short-lived institutional efforts to boost cycling in particular places), but levels of cycling remain generally negligible, at a few per cent of total urban trips. Countries where cycling was once common, such as India and China, have become more organised around the car; problems associated with transport congestion and pollution have grown dramatically.
Cycling continues to be seen in some places as a potential solution to assorted problems but it remains a struggle to convert positive rhetoric into more utility cycling; in other places cycling has become a discredited ‘solution’ – past efforts to promote cycling have failed, so the search for solutions has moved on to other ‘eco-friendly’ transport projects which fit better the interests of neo-liberal capitalism, such as new generations of ‘smart cars’, car-sharing schemes, and high-profile public transport projects.
Outside the few places where utility cycling is ‘normal’ it continues to be seen as a fringe activity of small, inconsequential sub-cultures; many people from these sub-cultures still advocate cycling as the most efficient, healthy and sustainable means of urban transport but their advocacy fails to make much impact, either on public opinion or governmental and other institutional agendas and policies. However, cycling does attract small, isolated pockets of funding for little local projects aimed mainly at children or ‘hard-to-reach’ groups.
Conclusion: cycling futures
The least likely of these scenarios is surely the last, ‘business-as-usual’. Culture and society change continuously; nothing stays the same; so the idea that things 37 years from now might remain much as they are today seems unrealistic.
Three major trends likely to have an impact on people’s willingness to cycle are obviously underway:
This suggests two potential futures for cycling:
1) Based on cycling remaining an elective practice
The urban rich embrace cycling as a genuine response to anxieties around climate change as well as a marker of a new, middle-class lifestyle which prioritizes livability. Urban governments will increasingly respond to and seek to capitalise on cycling’s rising status, both with public bike schemes and more cycle-friendly spaces. But poor people will be pushed out from cities and, together with rural populations, will be less inclined as well as less able (because of longer distances and less hospitable conditions) to cycle.
2) Based on cycling being increasingly structured into the urban environment
Here an urban elite institutionalise their increasingly favoured practice of cycling, and – if they are able to do so across urban space generally – there is a chance they might also democratise it. This ‘democratisation’ will occur both because improved infrastructure for cycling will enable people from beyond the urban elites (temporarily) to gain its (diminishing) status effects, and because the ‘colonisation’ of urban space by this ‘elite infrastructure’ will coerce people into using it. (I am not shying away from the difficult language of coercion and colonisation here, but would note that it can just as easily and equally be applied to on-going processes which result in car-centric cities and lifestyles.)
Of these futures, I think the first is more likely and the second is more desirable, especially if it can be facilitated and made more palatable by informed, critical and progressive cycling advocacy. It is the second which would best ensure 2050 is characterised by mass velomobility.
Last year I wrote about the mysterious case of a bollard in Wimbledon that had the temerity to make drivers crash into it.
Almost unbelievably, the council had placed a bollard in a position where drivers cutting the corner, driving on the wrong side of the road, and not looking where they are going, would inevitably strike it. Inattentive, unobservant and hasty drivers are being unfairly punished – and put at great danger – by these menacing stationary objects.
It seems the menace is not limited to south London. A bollard in north London, on Camden Road, also has a fearsome reputation for making drivers crash into it.
A WOMAN was airlifted to hospital after her car flipped over at one of Camden’s most dangerous junctions on Tuesday. The driver, in her 20s, had to be cut out of her car and was treated for minor injuries after the crash at the Camden Road junction with Brecknock Road in Camden Town.
The dramatic scene was a repeat of an accident this time last year when a car overturned at the same spot, leading to calls for safety measures to be put in place. Witnesses said it was the 10th crash at the junction this year and that accidents happened on a “weekly basis”.
Patrick O’Kane, 52, who was watching from the Unicorn Pub opposite, said: “The car went straight into the concrete island in the middle of the road. She didn’t see it, because only a few weeks ago another car crashed into it and knocked the yellow boulder off the top.”
Yes, the driver didn’t see a hulking lump of concrete in the road, because the enormous garish yellow beacon that normally prevents drivers from crashing into garish yellow beacons had been crashed into by a previous driver.
Here’s the offending object -
Just as in Wimbledon, it seems the island has been put in place to protect pedestrians waiting to cross the road. But honestly, who cares about them, when inattentive drivers – ordinary, hard-working drivers – are at such great risk of flipping their cars over when they don’t look where they’re going?
Quite what the ‘safety measures’ that are being demanded would constitute is difficult to grasp. I can only imagine it would involve the removal of anything a driver might ever crash into, or the coating of every single object in gaudy reflective paint.
The driver speaks out -
A BARRISTER who had a lucky escape after her car flipped over a traffic island on a road with a history of traffic accidents has warned that cutting basic costs could have left her paralysed.
Carolyn Blore Mitchell, 51, who had to be cut out of her overturned car and airlifted to hospital, did not see a concrete island in the middle of Camden Road, Camden Town, because, it is claimed, the bollard there had not been replaced after the last accident.
She said: “It’s lucky I wasn’t driving my old car, which was 11 years old. Who knows if the airbags in that would have cushioned me from the windscreen. If my face had been mashed up then TfL really would have had something to answer to and they wouldn’t have scrimped on simple jobs like this again.”
Quite right. Illuminated keep left bollards should be replaced the very second someone crashes into them, not just to stop people crashing into them, but to stop people crashing into the kerbs underneath the bollards, which the bollards are designed to stop people crashing into.
Ms Blore Mitchell said: “If this many people have had accidents there then it’s not just me, it really is Camden’s collision corner. The last person who crashed before me was a cab driver, someone who was a very experienced driver.”
It’s not just you – it was also a taxi driver, who, as we all know, are never in a hurry to get anywhere, and are always patient and attentive.
She added: “There were no signs warning anyone of this island slap bang in the middle of the road. At the very least it should have been painted a different colour so it didn’t just blur into the road.
Perhaps, as well as warning signs, there should be bollards – pre-bollards? – alerting drivers to the presence of a bollard further down the road? Good idea.
“If they had just replaced the bollard as they should have, then we could have saved all the time and money for an air ambulance, an ambulance, two fire engines, police time and the whole road closed off all afternoon, which must have cost the public thousands of pounds in total.”
Yes. Replace bollards when they get crashed into by drivers, so drivers don’t crash into them.
Or – this might sound radical – drivers could not turn across junctions on the wrong side of the road, and look out for objects that might be in their way?
No, that would never work.
In the previous post, Transport Security, the link between energy security and transport was discussed along with the implications for the future here in the UK. One of the issues touched upon in that post was the importance of a diverse mixture of transport modes.
In transport as in nature, diversity is important. In agriculture, monoculture is the practice of growing a single, large and genetically (almost) uniform crop. This practice might be expected to provide certain benefits due to economies of scale, but it is not without its problems. A uniform crop has uniform susceptibility to disease, pests, weather conditions. This makes the whole crop vulnerable to resilience problems when the crop is subjected to unforeseen external stresses. It is uniformly welcoming or unwelcoming to specific animal species, which can have numerous and varied unintended consequences. There are obvious parallels between the practice of agricultural monoculture and the transport monoculture we have allowed to develop in the UK.
In the UK, transport is currently dominated by the private car. It could even be said that this dominance has reached the point that the UK is a transport monoculture. This is compounded further by The Department for Transport’s own predictions that the next two decades’ growth in transport will further increase the total proportion of trips made by car. Cycle use is predicted to stagnate.
As in agriculture, a transport monoculture is vulnerable because of its uniformity; in the case of our car monoculture significant vulnerabilities include uniform reliance on inefficient use of fuel and uniform reliance on inefficient use of space. A good example of when these vulnerabilities have been exposed include the refinery blockades for the former and the few weeks of snowfall the UK has seen in each of the past few years for the latter. Both of these types of events are examples of stresses on the UK transport system.
As in nature, a more diverse mixture of transport modes is more able to cope with stresses such as those discussed above. During a fuel shortage, modes which rely less on inefficient use of fuel such as bicycles, walking and public transport are in a good position to relieve some of the strain. During heavy snow, modes which use space more efficiently such as bicycles, walking and trains can more easily and quickly have sufficient space cleared to allow their safe passage. The same is true of freight. Diversity allows the weaknesses of a particular mode to be complemented by the strengths of another, and builds an element of much needed redundancy into the system.
These other modes are not without their own disadvantages and a transport mix which relies too much on trains or bicycles would be similarly (although perhaps less overall) vulnerable to unforeseen stresses. Whilst it can be tempting, when faced with ridiculous straw-man arguments, to suggest that the UK could manage perfectly well without cars, their continued availability compliments the vulnerability of bicycles to high winds or of trains to staff disputes.
Cars are only a problem at the moment because their near-total dominance of transport in the UK. Our road infrastructure is designed around them at the direct expense of the viability of walking and cycling. The public subsidy of car use leads to perverse economics which make local bus services ‘economically inviable‘ and allow road haulage to uncut rail freight in a manner which simply should not be possible. Increasing the diversity of the UK’s transport mix means directly addressing these problems. Road infrastructure should be designed around cycling, walking and motorised vehicles, not just motorised vehicles. Transport investment should include significant investment in rail rather than just motorised road transport and the external costs arising from motor vehicles should be shouldered directly by their users rather than shared by everyone.
By removing the perverse incentives strongly favouring motorised road transport in the forms of private car and road freight above all other modes we can more evenly spread the UK’s transport needs over a more diverse range of transport modes. This shift will increase the overall energy and space efficiency of transport in this country, currently dominated as it is by the most inefficient modes, as well as strengthening transport as a whole against the predicted and unpredicted stresses encountered the future.
There was some excellent news over the weekend, with the opening of the Two Tunnels route in Bath. The huge turnout, with people bikes and on foot eager to use this excellent new route into the centre of Bath, demonstrates that safe, pleasant and useful infrastructure is in great demand; demand that is being suppressed by current conditions for cycling.
The money for this project came largely from Sustrans; they put aside £1m they had received from lottery funding. £400,000 came from the local council, and the rest from local fundraising. Sustrans do great work. I cycled from Bath to Bristol last year with the Cycling Embassy on portions of the Two Tunnels route, and on the railway path, a wonderful facility that was full with ordinary people, enjoying the experience of cycling away from motor traffic; there are a huge number of similar routes across the country that almost certainly would not exist if it had not been for the efforts of Sustrans.
But I think it speaks volumes that a charity should be doing this kind of work; we don’t expect roads or railways to be built by charities, so why on earth should essential transport infrastructure for cycling and walking be left to groups like Sustrans? As good as their work is, they have to get a lot done with (relatively) little cash. That’s fine for out of town routes, or routes linking towns and cities, but I think Sustrans run into problems when their routes hit town and city centres.
To be direct and useful, routes in these places require substantial investment, and this is something Sustrans are not able to provide. As a consequence, their routes will inevitably be rather circuitous, because they will have to compromise on their directness to get around obstacles like large junctions where there they don’t have the funding or ability to adapt them.
A good recent example is Sustrans’ Connect London project. This predates the Mayor’s Vision for Cycling, as Sustrans themselves argue -
The Mayor has proposed a ‘Quietways’ network which will deliver direct routes for cyclists on pleasant, low-traffic side streets. Sound familiar? That’s because it is. You heard it here first… Elements of the Mayor’s announcement echo the Connect London plan which aims to see London become home to the world’s biggest cycle network by 2020.
Simple, yes? The Mayor is proposing a ‘Quietways’ Network, and that’s exactly what Sustrans is doing! So the two elements overlap – Sustrans and the Mayor are demanding the same thing.
Well, it’s not quite that simple. The problem is that the Mayor’s Vision is quite explicit, proposing
A cross-London network of high-quality guided Quietways will be created on low-traffic back streets and other routes so different kinds of cyclists can choose the routes which suit them. Unlike the old London Cycle Network, Quietways will be direct.
I’ve put that last sentence in bold, because I think it is very important. The Mayor and TfL have grasped that the old LCN was a failure, because it was hopelessly indirect. As David Arditti has written -
[LCN+] made very little progress, having little political backing, and being mainly on borough roads where the Mayor had no direct control. It embodied a confused strategy, with some of the routes being convoluted, up-and-down backstreet affairs inherited from the original LCN (such as the slalom-like route just east of Finchley Road in Hampstead) that no commuter would use… Since the LCN+ strategy was basically not about segregation, or even road-space reallocation, there was no coherent picture to put to councils, be they pro or anti-cycling, of what was supposed to be put in place on proposed main road routes like LCN+5 on the A5, and in the end it became a strategy just to spend the money somehow.
The ‘Vision’ document is, pleasingly, very clear that this old strategy of putting ‘nervous’ cyclists on wiggling back routes, where you can easily get lost, is out. The Mayor’s Quietways will be direct and straightforward, and, as the document states,
they will not give up at the difficult places… Where directness demands the Quietway briefly join a main road, full segregation and direct crossing points will be provided, wherever possible, on that stretch.
In other words, quality and usefulness are the governing principles, and money will then be spent to ensure that these Quietways match up. Whether this will happen in practice, of course, is another matter; but the document’s strategy is exactly right.
There are plenty of ‘quiet’ routes in Dutch cities and towns, away from the main roads, but importantly they are just as direct as the main roads themselves. They don’t wiggle around major junctions or roads, they go straight across them.
This is what the ‘Quietways’ in London should look like; routes that are safe and pleasant to use, but do not lose any of the advantages of directness that you would have cycling on the main roads.
Unfortunately the early signs are that Sustrans’ ‘Connect London’ project will not look like this; they will not have the directness or convenience suggested by the words in the Mayor’s Vision document.
As Christopher Waller commented on Twitter, the Connect London proposals
look more like a set of postcode boundaries than a network map.
Exactly right. But why does it look like this? At a guess, because usefulness and directness appear to have been sacrificed in order to create, in Sustrans’ words, ‘the world’s biggest cycle network.’
Sustrans want £80 million spent, over the course of 8 years, to construct this network of ‘over 1000 kilometres’. But the amount of money they are asking for to construct this amount of network does not fill me with confidence. Quantity of network is no substitute for quality – 1000 kilometres of meaningless network is 1000 kilometres of meaningless network, regardless of how much of it there is. We already have hundreds of kilometres of ‘quiet network’ in London, which amounts to very little because it is inconvenient, indirect and not very useful to anyone actually wanting to get somewhere. David Arditti again (writing about a ‘Greenway’ scheme in Brent) -
Apart from the fact that it has made practically no progress, in my view, this entire concept is wrong, of attempting to push cyclists onto obscure, un-useful byways. Large-scale popular cycling will only ever be achieved by giving people on bikes direct, convenient, safely segregated routes on main roads, as they have done in the Netherlands, Denmark and Germany.
Now of course we need ‘Quiet Routes’ alongside those safe and pleasant segregated routes on the main roads; Sustrans are quite correct to argue that their project should be seen alongside what might be called ‘Superhighways Plus’, or the new approach to cycling in main roads in London – the segregated tracks which will be appearing on new parts of the Superhighway network from later this year.
But my concern is that Sustrans’ proposals could lead to a worrying watering down of the whole Quietways project, which at least in intent gets things right. I don’t want to see money wasted on fiddly routes that are not useful to anyone. We’ve done that already, and it’s a proven failure. Money needs to spent doing things properly, or not at all.
We shouldn’t be trying to build “the world’s biggest cycle network” if that network is composed of wiggly circular loops around parks and meandering the long way around junctions. Quietways should not be going down the wrong track.
Sustainability is not simply a concept; it’s more importantly a practice, or rather, a set of practices, one of which is cycling. And sustainability won’t just happen; it must be taught.
If we don’t teach children to cycle many simply won’t learn. Raised by car-dependent people in a car-based society, they’ll be more likely to perpetuate than to challenge and change that society.
Cycling is a practice of sustainability. Teach a child to ride a bicycle and we teach her how to make an effective contribution to a different future, a sustainable planet.
A society serious about making cycling the normal mode of short-distance travel must teach cycling. The best place to teach cycling is in schools. That way every child learns how to ride; just as important, it sends a clear signal that cycling is serious – taken seriously by government and to be taken seriously by citizens.
The Department for Education is currently consulting on reform of the school curriculum. With cycling’s profile riding high, this provides an excellent opportunity to push cycling onto the curriculum, so every child learns how to cycle.
Would this be putting the cart before the horse, encouraging all children to cycle before conditions are made more conducive to cycling?
Everyday cycling needs to become systematically embedded in society. That includes giving everyone the capacity to cycle through teaching everyone how to do it: how should a bike be set up? Why and how do you change gear? What’s the best position to take at junctions? How can you interpret what other people around you are likely to do? How do you decide which route is best for cycling?
Of course cycle training must occur alongside infrastructural changes which make cycling easier. We know the current cycling environment is badly deficient and we know many ways it could and should be made better. Such improvements in actual cycling conditions are necessary but they don’t preclude (and quite possibly in some respects depend upon) improvements in cycling skills and confidence.
Wherever they cycle, under whatever kinds of conditions, people need to know how to ride safely, sensibly and confidently. And as with most things in life, it’s better to learn at an early age and from experienced and thoughtful teachers than it is to muddle through (picking up bad habits) by yourself.
Teaching people how to ride makes them more likely to ride; and more cyclists are a civilising force on the urban environment and could pave the way for less experienced cyclists who might currently be too timid to give cycling a go. More cyclists will also give cycling a stronger voice for further changes.
So teaching cycling is an essential part, if not the only part, of making cycling genuinely ‘for all’.
Motoring organisations such as The Automobile Association (AA) and IAM (Institute of Advanced Motorists) – as well of course as the various cycling organisations – support the push for cycle training’s inclusion on the National Curriculum, a push being led by the Association of Bikeability Schemes (TABS). If you want to see and/or use TABS’ submission to the Department for Education’s consultation, which closes on 16th April, go here.
You can email your response to: NationalCurriculum.CONSULTATION@education.gsi.gov.uk
Shifting away from short-distance travel by car and towards sustainability assumes that today’s children will incorporate cycling into their lives and across their lives, instigating a long-term trend towards urban space governed less by cars and more by bikes.
But with cycling literacy still so low and so few cycling parents around to help, this new orientation to cycling won’t just happen. It must be manufactured; children must be given the resources to ride from someplace outside the home. This is surely what education’s all about – to change the world for the better, not merely reproduce it as it inadequately is?
I love it that my kids cycle; but they’ll be much more likely to keep cycling if other kids cycle too. And if all kids cycle they’ll keep one another cycling, and together they’ll build cycling as a mainstream activity, create a society organised more around cycling, and contribute to a sustainable future.
I know this, you know this, but does the Department for Education know this? Possibly not, unless we tell them.
Before it was consumed in the ‘bonfire of the quangos’, Cycling England produced some pretty good guidance. One of their design principles was that cyclists should be exempt from Traffic Regulation Orders (or Traffic Management Orders, in London).
Cyclists should be exempt from restrictions within Traffic Regulation Orders (TROs), including banned turns and road closures, unless there are proven safety reasons for not doing so.
There were, and are, sound reasons for this principle. The restrictions imposed by these orders aim at controlling the flow of motor vehicles. There is – for instance – no logical reason why any street should need to be made one-way, save for easing the passage of motor vehicles, or for stopping motor vehicles from using a particular route. Bicycles and people on foot can flow quite happily in both directions on any given street; it was only the advent of mass motoring that gave rise to the restrictions we see on the roads today. Streets with two-way traffic became utterly clogged; others became congested with motor vehicles waiting to make certain turns.
So the bans on particular movements arose out of an attempt to deal with the problems created by excess motor vehicle use. But given that bicycles were never the source of the problem, it seems perverse that they should subject to the same blanket vehicular restrictions that control motor vehicles.
Junction movements have had to be simplified to accommodate vast flows of motor traffic, which cannot interact smoothly in the ways that pedestrians and cyclists can. Cyclists were swept up in these regulations, without apparently even being considered. It is deeply unfair that they have been forced into the same ‘vehicular’ box, penalised for problems they did not create.
Westminster in particular is awash with one-way streets from which cyclists are not exempt; a vast impenetrable maze of restrictions, designed to allow motor vehicles to continue to travel around the borough in tremendous numbers, while at the same time suppressing the use of bicycles.
Even new schemes continue to make these same mistakes. If you are travelling along Cromwell Road on a bicycle, you are not allowed to make what should be extraordinarily simple left turns off the road onto Exhibition Road, in either direction.
There is no good reason for these restrictions. The junctions have been designed to make crossings easier for pedestrians, but in order to maintain ‘traffic’ flow around the network, turning restrictions, without any exemptions, have been put in place.
Indeed, the movement of bicycles doesn’t really seem to have been considered, at all, on Exhibition Road – it’s even illegal to cycle northbound on the southern section.
Apparently nobody saw fit to provide an entirely reasonable exemption for cyclists on this street.
We have similar (older) absurdities in Horsham, particularly this street.
It’s part of a one-way system in the town that had the reasonable intention of cutting out through traffic. Very few motor vehicles used this street, because the one-way system was not a useful route to anywhere, except for access.
What is most strange is that it is only this particular stretch that does not have an exemption for cycling; barely 50 yards distant, as it turns to the left where the white frontage stops, this one-way road suddenly becomes two-way for cycling; both before, and after, it was turned into ‘shared space’.
Making the whole of this area two-way for cycling – while maintaining the one-way restrictions for motor vehicles – is now an absolute no-brainer, because this street is now completely closed to motor vehicles during the day, as I wrote about here. Despite no motor vehicles being on the street at all, cyclists still cannot legally enter it.
All that is really needed in this instance is the simple attachment of an ‘except cycles’ sign below the no-entry signs. A few hundred pounds for the signs, and for the labour.
But things aren’t that simple. Even to attach a simple square sign requires a new Traffic Regulation Order, as I was informed by West Sussex County Council.
….although there have been relaxations in the Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions to allow such schemes to be more easily signed, a contraflow cycle lane regardless of how it is signed or marked on the ground MUST have a Traffic Regulation Order to support it. Simply erecting “except for cycles signs” is not enough and without a TRO they would be unlawful, as would cycling the wrong way.
Therefore, in order to progress this request it would be necessary to make a new Traffic Regulation Order which will have to be considered as part of the North Horsham CLC’s “top 3″ at next year’s assessment. Should you wish to pursue this it will require the usual documents to be prepared including the Local Member’s written approval that they would support such a TRO being put on the list.
All very clear, and correct. The use of “Top 3″ here refers to the fact that ‘North Horsham’ county local committee (CLC) – which actually covers a population of around 50,000 people – can only put forward THREE Traffic Regulation Orders per year. Just three.
Given the extraordinary amount of work that needs to be done across Sussex to make it more cycling-friendly, this represents a glacial rate of progress, even if we ignore the fact the Traffic Regulation Orders are frequently used for other purposes, particularly the addition or amendment of double yellow lines, and new speed limits. A quick glance at the North Horsham TRO priority list shows the pressure that exists just to get on this shortlist of three; in particular, there are plenty of rural roads in the district with 60 mph limits that plainly need to be lowered, as well as countless excessively high limits that residents want lowered.
To be fair to West Sussex County Council, they are fully aware that ‘TRO backlog’ is a significant problem, and are looking at ways to speed up the process – in particular, they are ‘considering’ raising the number of TROs each CLC can submit each year from three to five. Even if this does happen, however, it is still nowhere near good enough.
Cycling exemptions to one-way restrictions on multiple streets can be bundled up into just one TRO – this happened recently in the North Laine area of Brighton. Indeed, the process of ‘bundling’ (and indeed the entire TRO process) was described very well in a recent Cycling Embassy blog post. But the bigger the area covered, the greater the likelihood objections.
Beyond that, I simply don’t think it should be this difficult to make easy and coherent changes to our streets, to improve them for cycling. Even if – by some miracle – every CLC in West Sussex decided to bundle up a coherent set of exemptions and improvements for cycling in their area (a big ‘if’), it would still take a decade to get anywhere, at the very best.
Central government is happy to pass the buck down to local and county councils, and to point out that it is ‘up to them’ to implement these exemptions to TROs. But I don’t think that’s entirely fair on councils, who have a vast amount to do, in particular controlling parking, and responding to concerns about speed limits. Cycling is very often not on the radar at all, with more pressing problems of congestion and speed control.
If central government is serious about promoting cycling, we need new legislation that makes these kinds of changes much simpler; perhaps even that exemptions on one-way streets should be the default situation, and that they can be signed as such, unless there are serious grounds for objection. That would speed up the process considerably.
David Arditti has written recently about precisely this same problem – his piece is worth reading, as always
I recently visited an exhibition at the Barbican Centre in London entitled “The Bride and the Bachelors: Duchamp with Cage, Cunningham, Rauschenberg and Johns”
More recently I was invited to speak to a conference entitled “Risk culture for charities” organised by the Institute for Risk Management.
I began my conference presentation with an overview of disparate risk-management cultures, offering examples of excessive risk aversion in the form of fatuous warnings of manifestly obvious directly perceptible risk. And I concluded with a cartoon that I felt made the point rather well.
Guindon, Detroit Free Press, 25 September 1994
As the profusion of signs warning of obvious and/or trivial risks grows, I suggested, the likelihood increases that warnings of serious/non-obvious risks will be ignored.
After my presentation, and after tea, one of the conference participants returned to report that every urinal in the men’s toilets displayed the injunction “Now wash your hands”.
The centrepiece of the Barbican’s Duchamp exhibition was his famous urinal – signed “R. Mutt 1917”. I have long had trouble with Duchamp’s success in transforming it into “a work of art”. But work of art, or no, it clearly needs updating to keep up with modern risk management practice.
Some recent news stories -
A man is seriously ill in hospital after a car crashed and ended up embedded in a house in Suffolk. The red Audi TT left the road and crashed into the home in Long Meadow Walk, Lowestoft, at about 01:45 GMT.
Note that in this case it was ‘the car’ that crashed, ‘leaving the road’ all by itself. The driver was a mere passenger.
Sgt Bob Patterson, of Suffolk Police, said investigators had been at the scene to assess how the accident happened. ”At this early stage we could not speculate as to what has caused the crash,” he said. A police spokesman said it was “far too early to say if the crash is weather related or not. This will all make up part of the investigation.”
Audis seem to make a habit of driving themselves; in another recent case, an Audi chose to drive through a red light, killing two passengers (but not the driver, who, curiously, was already disqualified from driving).
Two men have died following a police chase in north London.
The pair were killed when their Audi jumped a red light, clipped a van and hit a bridge in South Tottenham in the early hours of Friday, police said.
To be fair, sometimes it isn’t the car that’s responsible. Sometimes, like in this case from Ireland, the driver makes ‘a simple error’.
A BEAUTY therapist who “catapulted” a cyclist into the air leaving him with catastrophic injuries has avoided a jail sentence. Sinead King (29), a mother of two, pleaded guilty to dangerous driving causing serious harm on Monastery Road, Clondalkin, Dublin, on October 16, 2010.
She was given a 12-month suspended sentence at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court.
King (29), of Riverside, Clondalkin, didn’t de-mist her car windows that morning before setting out on her drive to work. She accepted she couldn’t see out properly and later told gardai she had no idea she had knocked someone over.
She said she noticed four children playing on one side of the road and then heard a loud bang. She noticed her windscreen was broken and assumed her former partner, who she had difficulties with in the past, had attacked her car.
So she saw some children playing, heard a loud bang as she crashed into something, and just assumed it was her partner attacking the car, rather than her driving over a human being. Fair enough.
King drove on, leaving Peter Vaughan, a retired English man visiting his son in Clondalkin, on the side of the road with his leg broken in three places, a broken eye socket and mild brain damage.
Mr Vaughan told gardai he had taken his son’s bicycle to the local shops and “was catapulted” into the air. He had seen no cars around and thought at first it was a gas explosion.
King had one previous conviction for failing to give a breath sample and was banned from driving for four years in December 2010.
Paul Comiskey O’Keefe, defending, said his client had “made a simple error” but one with serious consequences.
Judge Patrick McCartan told King she had made a dreadful mistake because she didn’t have the patience to properly defog her car windows.
“She did a very foolish thing to get up and drive to work in an urban area when she could not see out,” before he added that she compounded her wrongdoing by driving away.
He accepted her remorse was genuine and said he didn’t believe anything would be achieved by sending her to prison. The judge then handed down an 12-month suspended sentence and banned King from driving for 10 years.
Even when you don’t de-mist your windows, people on bicycles can be awfully hard to see, especially if they have the temerity to wear dark clothing in the middle of the day. It can take as much as 30 seconds to spot them, and even then that’s not enough. Apparently.
A WOMAN accused of causing death by dangerous driving after killing a cyclist will stand trial on July 22.
Victoria McClure, 37, of Chiltern Drive, Charvil, pleaded guilty to killing Anthony Hilson on the A4 near Twyford on September 16 when she appeared at Reading Crown Court on Wednesday.
She claims Mr Hilson’s death was caused by careless rather than dangerous driving as she was not distracted at the wheel. Richard Clews, defending, told the court the cyclist may have been stationary at the time of the collision and that he was wearing dark clothing, making him less visible.
He said: “The evidence has to meet the high threshold for the dangerous driving conviction. I suggest that the evidence is not sufficient under the circumstances.”
Thankfully Mr Clews’ absurd notion of where the threshold for ‘dangerous’ should lie was not accepted by the Judge.
Charles Ward-Jackson, prosecuting, called on evidence from an expert who estimated that when driving at 40mph to 50mph, which is what McClure claims she was doing, it would take 22 to 27 seconds to travel 500m. He said: “In this case we have an empty, open road with exceptional visibility where you can see 500m, which is about as far as you can possibly see on an open road.
“A jury is entitled to ask themselves what on earth caused this defendant to collide with the bike?”
Judge Zoe Smith said: “Although the defendant has accepted her driving falls below the test for a competent and careful driver, the facts are that at around 10.40am on a Sunday morning a collision occurred on the A4.
“Mr Hilson was on a bike and, even accepting that he was stationary on his bike, it would appear that there should have been some 500m in which the defendant would have been able to see him.
“It is said that he was wearing dark cloth but the fact is that the defendant did not see the cyclist until the point of collision itself. She was unable to take any diverting action.
“You could consider that she was driving along that stretch far below the standard of a competent and careful driver. I conclude that a jury could convict for dangerous driving on the facts of this case.”
Finally, it seems that even Health and Safety consultants with exemplary driving records find it hard to avoid crashing.
At his second appearance at Bournemouth magistrates court, the 58-year-old entered a not guilty plea to causing the 16-year-old’s death by careless driving.
He did not enter a plea to the other eight charges – three charges of driving while disqualified, three charges of driving without insurance, one of failing to stop at an accident and one of failing to report an accident.
We normally restrict ourselves to what happens in the UK, but the Spanish government’s proposed anti-cycling law is significant for Europeans, and many of our readers are potential cycling visitors to Spain. So check up on what is proposed here and if you want to support the excellent Spanish cyclists of Conbici do write in as suggested to the Tourism Ministry. You can do this in English, but below we present you with our letter to the Traffic Directorate in Madrid with a Spanish version provided by the RDRF translation service.
Ms María Seguí Gómez, Director, Traffic Directorate, Madrid
Email: email@example.com 1 April 2013
Dear Ms Seguí Gómez
The Road Danger Reduction Forum would like to express concern regarding the proposed new traffic regulations and their impact on cyclists.
Cycling initiatives adopted in cities such as Bilbao, Seville and Barcelona provide sound examples of urban planning for cycling which deserve the attention of other European cities. However, the new traffic proposals appear to be influenced by prejudice against cycling, despite its status as non-polluting and good for health.
We are particularly concerned about the introduction of obligatory helmet use, the intention to ban children from riding unaccompanied by an adult, and the instruction to ride as closely as possible to the pavement, as if the bike were an unwanted obstacle on the road.
Measures should be introduced to protect cyclists and reduce speed, rather than banning children from cycling. This would improve safety for all road users, improve public health, and help to address the dominance of motor traffic in many of Spain’s cities.
There is clear evidence from Australia, New Zealand and the United States that forcing people to wear helmets by law reduces the numbers of people choosing to cycle.
Countries with high cycle use, such as the Netherlands, Germany and those in Scandinavia have addressed road danger issues not through anti-cycling legislation, but by facilitating it, protecting cyclists and reducing road speeds, eg 30kmph default in urban areas.
As well as making life difficult for Spanish cyclists, the DGT’s proposals risk negative impacts on cycling tourism from Germany, the UK, Holland and Scandinavia. Many cycling organisations are already warning their members of these damaging proposals.
We urge you to reconsider these anti-cycling proposals, which are unparalleled in the European Union.
Dr Robert Davis
Chair, Road Danger Reduction Forum
Sra María Seguí Gómez, Directora General, Dirección General de Tráfico, Madrid
Estimada Sra María Seguí Gómez
En nombre del Road Danger Reduction Forum (Inglaterra) debemos expresar nuestra preocupación por las nuevas medidas propuestas para la reforma del reglamento de circulación, que prepara la Dirección General de Tráfico, en lo que se refiere a los ciclistas.
Las iniciativas bici de ciudades como Bilbao, Sevilla y Barcelona son ejemplos de planificación urbana para otras ciudades europeas. Pero las prepuestas nuevas de la Dirección General de Trafico parecen estar influenciadas por prejuicios contra el ciclismo un medio de transporte que no contamina y es recomendable para la salud.
Particularmente nos preocupa la introducción del uso obligatorio del casco, la penalización del uso de la bicicleta por parte de niños y las medidas relativas a circular lo más cerca posible de la acera, como si la bicicleta fuera un obstaculo.
En vez de ilegalizar el uso de la bici por parte de los menores de edad, deberían de introducirse medidas para incrementar la seguridad de este medio, que tendría como resultado una mejora en la salud de los ciudadanos y una reducción a los problemas de tráfico urbano que registran muchas ciudades españolas.
Existe evidencia clara de países como Australia, Nueva Zelanda u Estados Unidos, que las medidas para hacer el uso del casco obligatorio tienen como resultado un descenso en el uso de la bicicleta.
Países con un uso elevado de la bicicleta como Holanda, Alemania y Dinamarca no introducen este tipo de medidas, sino otras para facilitar y proteger el ciclismo, como por ejemplo el descenso de la velocidad para reducir el peligro de colisiones.
Además de actuar de obstáculo en el uso de la bici para los españoles, estas medidas tendrán un efecto negativo sobre el turismo procedente de Alemania, Inglaterra, Holanda y países escandinavos. Muchas organizaciones de ciclistas se están haciendo eco de las propuestas y empiezan a advertir de estas medidas.
Por todo ello le urgimos a reconsiderar estas medidas, que no encuentran paralelo en legislacion reciente de ningun país de la Union Europea.
Dr Robert Davis
Presidente, Road Danger Reduction Forum
Energy Security, according to Wikipedia, is ”a term for an association between national security and the availability of natural resources for energy consumption. Access to cheap energy has become essential to the functioning of modern economies. However, the uneven distribution of energy supplies among countries has led to significant vulnerabilities.” Therefore, Transport Security can be thought of as a subset of energy security; the relationship between the essential role transport plays in the functioning of modern economies and the availability of the resources required by said transport. In 2005, transport accounted for approximately 35% of UK energy consumption.
The transport security of a country is dependent on several factors, including:
The UK’s transport is currently dominated by one mode; the private car. This domination is a result of several decades of car-favouring infrastructure design, preferential state investment in car infrastructure, state subsidy of the external costs arising from driving and low energy prices. These factors have enabled the private car to become the dominant mode of passenger transport in the UK, despite the significant inefficiency of the private car compared to other transport modes. These factors have had a significant effect the density and nature of both new residential and commercial developments and wreaked havoc on those which were constructed prior to the dominance of the private car. Building preferentially for the private car has also led to road freight becoming the dominant means of moving goods around in the UK (85% in 1998)
The continued decline in the UK’s North Sea oil production has led to it becoming a net importer of crude oil, and the price of fossil fuel-derived energy is set to continue rising. Changing the energy source of cars from burning fossil fuels to battery-electric is often mooted as a solution by both the motor lobby and the government, which has given generous subsidies to the manufacturers and buyers of electric cars. Whilst frequently mooted as a solution to the UK’s transport woes, electric cars have a number of the same problems as conventionally fuelled cars; inefficient use of space (especially in urban areas) detrimental effect on other transport modes, negative health effects to their operators and passengers arising from the sedentary lifestyle facilitated by car dependence and the death or injury of operators, passengers and third parties through improper use.
At present in the UK, electric cars also have a number of problems distinct from conventionally-fuelled cars; much of the UK’s electricity-generation infrastructure is fossil fuel-based and vulnerable to much the same pressures on price as conventionally-fuelled cars and at the time of writing, much of the UK’s electricity generating capacity is due to be retired in the next few years. Whilst there are advantages to burning fossil fuels in facilities away from large population centres rather than within them, the issue of the need to replace much of the UK’s electricity generating infrastructure in the near future (referred to as the ‘energy gap‘) is a major hurdle to shifting cars from their reliance on the inefficient use of fossil fuel-derived energy to the inefficient use of electrical energy. Put simply, a large scale renewal of existing electricity generating capacity taking place at the same time building the expansion in generating capacity required to shift much of the 35% of energy expenditure arising from transport to electricity would represent a significant challenge, especially considering the UK’s emissions targets.
This puts the UK at a cross-roads with regards to its future transport security. There are several realistic possibilities:
In the past, the UK’s North Sea oil reserves and established electricity generating capacity had given the UK the luxury of choosing whether to address the issue of its future transport security or do nothing. Naturally when given this choice, doing nothing is the easiest choice, even if it has significant drawbacks. In the next few years, the UK will be at the point where something has to be done as a matter of urgency. I just hope that we put the work in now to diversify both our transport and electricity generation mixes to ensure transport security in the long-term.