Cycle facilities and other measures to boost cycling are being introduced in Britain as never before. Government has confirmed its commitment to triple cycle use by 2010 and most local authorities across the country have some sort of pro-cycling policy with schemes on an order paper with increasing regularity.
But whilst the quantity of cycling infrastructure is ever increasing, the average quality of what is provided remains abysmally low. Many highway authorities still put most of their cycling budget into moving cyclists onto footways and other shared-use paths, which are problematic enough for people on foot, let alone for someone moving five times faster.
As the limitations of this approach become apparent, so narrow cycle lanes are becoming la mode, giving cyclists less space than ever before, as traffic rushes by on its new bike-free allocation of tarmac, passing faster and closer because its way ahead is now clear.
Minimum standards have become the norm and the DETR/IHT guidelines – the closest there is to decent objective standards for cycling – are too often dismissed as ‘pie in the sky’ in a congested urban environment.
Feedback suggests that an increasing number of cyclists are becoming disgruntled about the deterioration in the cycling environment. Roads that were tolerable, if not exactly pleasant, before cycle schemes were introduced have become much less acceptable with narrow cycle lanes added.
There is also evidence of increased aggression from those drivers who expect cyclists to keep out of their way if any separate facility is provided. Compromises in quality are not going to attract people out of their cars onto bikes.
Some local authorities acknowledge that cycle schemes are often criticised, even when they have been ‘approved’ by the local cycling group. Many campaign groups don’t like much of what they get, but feel reluctant to complain too loudly lest they get nothing at all. Alas, not rocking the boat has a poor track record of gaining meaningful improvements.
CCN News is launching a Campaign for High Standards, believing that cyclists deserve decent places to ride, quality facilities where these are to be provided, and, above all, treatment with dignity and respect. We’re taking a leaf out of the road lobby’s book: compromises in standards are unacceptable.
Groups and individual campaigners are encouraged to take a firmer line against low standards, and to recognise the justification – often in safety as well as attractiveness – for demanding that high standards are commonplace and not the exception.
Over the next few issues, CCN News will be highlighting various options for cycling, setting out the standards that exist, explaining the basis on which they have been derived, and what the likely effects of not meeting them might be. We start with the focus on cycle lanes.