The concept of the fall guy is a familiar one in television, film and literature, and indeed in real life. A person, entirely innocent or partially complicit, who is blamed in order to deflect blame or responsibility from another party, or to obscure wider failings.
In many respects your average person cycling around in Britain falls into this category. They are blamed for being in the way; blamed for being on the pavement; blamed for cycling through parks; blamed for not using cycle lanes; blamed for coming into conflict with other modes of transport. Yet these kinds of incidents – often when the person cycling isn’t breaking any rules at all – will result from a basic failure to design properly.
The person cycling, attracting the anger, is the fall guy. It is straightforward and easy to blame them for their behaviour, without examining how and why they are coming into conflict with other people in the first place. All too often they will simply be attempting to get from A to B as best as they can. Yet because their mode of transport has not been considered, or because they are forced to compromise, even adopting the path of least resistance will still bring them into conflict.
It’s highly unlikely that the person cycling in ‘the middle of the road’ in front of you actually wants to be in your way. I certainly don’t want drivers to be stuck behind me when I’m cycling around; I’d much rather have my own space that allowed me to go at my own pace, and removed these kinds of unpleasant interactions altogether. Or, alternatively, I’d like to see these busy roads ‘converted’ into low motor traffic environments where it is easy for drivers to overtake, even when there are many people cycling.
Equally, when I am driving, I don’t particularly want people cycling in front me either. The failure to provide separate space, or to structurally separate walking and driving, is what is causing this conflict.
Likewise, if a person cycling isn’t using a ‘cycle lane’, there’s almost certainly a very good reason. It’s not because they want to be in your way – it’s because that ‘cycle lane’ is inadequate, one that imposes a large amount of inconvenience, or even danger, in exchange for very little benefit. Avoiding it – and attracting the ire of angry motorists – isn’t something someone cycling is actually seeking to do. I’d much rather have cycling infrastructure that worked, and made sense. I certainly don’t want to be in your way, but avoiding that lane, or painted stripe on a footway, is my least worst option.
Likewise I don’t want to ‘share’ footways with pedestrians. It’s slow and inconvenient. People walking on footways don’t want the uncertainty of people cycling past them, and those people cycling don’t want the uncertainty of interactions with pedestrians.
Yet these kinds of arrangements are frequently legal; a compromise arrangement imposed by local authorities.
The conflict being created by shared use footways is, in effect, the outcome of their policies, and their responsibility; yet it is the people cycling who get the blame, just as they get blamed for impeding drivers on the road. They are either in the way of faster drivers, or they are negotiating their way around slower pedestrians, yet neither of these situations is in any way desirable for the person cycling.
It’s also important to look at places where people are cycling on the footway illegally. In most cases these will be footways that are indistinguishable from footways in the same area where cycling has been legalised, but even so we continue to recognise that cycling on the footway – legally or illegally – is not attractive. It’s an option of last resort, the least worst alternative. Blaming the people doing it – especially when, as in my area, the vast majority doing so are children, families, and teenagers – really isn’t going to get us anywhere.
It’s so, so easy to blame these people, because most of us can’t identify with them. The great majority of Britons do not cycle in urban areas, and certainly not with any regularity.
But blaming these kinds of conflicts on our alleged personal failings – our alleged lack of courtesy, our alleged irresponsibility, our alleged aggression – gets us nowhere. We are all just people getting around as best we can, and lumping the blame onto ‘cyclists’ will not solve any of these problems. Tomorrow, the roads will be just as hostile, the pavements will be just as unsuitable, and exactly the same conflict-generating environments will still be there. It might be satisfying to moan and whinge about ‘cyclists’ but it certainly isn’t constructive. And this is especially true for many journalists and broadcasters, who seem to take particular delight in antagonistic phone-ins about ‘them’. Today being no exception.
If there genuinely is widespread conflict between walking and cycling, or indeed between motorists and people cycling, that’s not a personal failing on the part of ‘them’ (whoever ‘they’ actually are) but instead a failure to design environments that prevent that kind of conflict from occurring in the first place. Cycling on the footway is not attractive; nor is cycling on motor-traffic dominated roads. These problems are a symptom. The person on the bike is just the fall guy.
In the summer of last year, Professor Robert Winston made this claim –
Despite repeated requests, Professor Winston has consistently failed to provide any evidence that new cycling infrastructure in London – which amounts to only a small reallocation of road space on some 12 miles of roads in the entirety of London – has been been responsible for such a pollution increase, or to provide any kind of causal connection whatsoever. His comment has been retweeted 424 times, and doubtless has been linked to many more, including this endorsement from the Street Policy Officer of London Travelwatch.
If we look at streets where cycling infrastructure has been built, there is no distinguishable pattern of increase in pollutants following completion in May 2016.
There are fluctuations, but nothing out of the ordinary – the spike in January 2017 corresponds approximately to a spike in January 2015, long before construction had even started, and matches a period of London-wide air pollution that (oddly enough) affected London boroughs where there is no cycling infrastructure at all, including Kensington and Chelsea.
I’m sure ‘the eminent professor’ wasn’t the first person to make these kinds of outlandish claims, but as the Professor of Science and Society at Imperial College, he may well have been the first one to give them some serious credibility. Claiming that ‘cycling infrastructure causes pollution’ – something that had once been met with derision – has now passed into mainstream debate, coinciding (entirely unsurprisingly) with the first genuinely significant reallocation of road space for cycling, anywhere in the UK.
On 14th December 2015, the Conservative peer Lord Higgins (in the same debate in which Lord Lawson described cycling infrastructure as doing more damage to London than ‘almost anything since the Blitz’) made this contribution –
My Lords, in view of the success of the conference on climate change over the weekend, will my noble friend have urgent discussions with Transport for London about the appalling increases in congestion and pollution caused by the introduction of bicycle lanes, which are in use in large numbers only in the peak period? Will he at least ensure that other traffic can use those lanes during the course of the day? In the present situation on Lower Thames Street, for example, they are likely to die from carbon monoxide or other poisoning from pollution any moment now.
On the 21st February, Lord Tebbit – a man who had already claimed that the Parliamentary Bike Ride ‘increases pollution’ – argued that
a principal cause of the excess nitrogen dioxide in the air of Westminster and along the Embankment is those wretched barricades that were put up by the former mayor.
On the 6th March, MP Sir Greg Knight chimed in, suggesting that pollution in London is going up because ‘road space is being turned over to cycle lanes’ –
Is there not a case—I say this with respect—for making local authorities take into account the congestion effects of their crusade to remove road space in favour of wider pavements and more cycle lanes? Someone said to me the other day that there are fewer cars entering central London but that pollution is going up. Well, obviously it is going up because pavements have got wider and road space is being turned over to cycle lanes. The Mayor of London cannot have it both ways. If he wishes to reduce air pollution, he and others need to take care when they are seeking to remove highway lanes.
On the 15th March, Michael Gove suggested that air quality targets could be met more easily if the provision of cycling infrastructure on main roads was ‘revisited’ –
I just wanted to ask briefly about air quality as well. Over the last few years there has been more than a 200% increase in the number of roadworks on London’s roads. At the same time, we have bike lanes on our principal highways, which are administered by TfL, rather than the subsidiary roads, which are the province of the individual boroughs. Looking at these issues overall, do you think that we might more easily be able to meet the very welcome rules on air quality if we were to revisit exactly how the provision of bike lanes had been implemented and revisit the regime that allows so many roadworks to operate in London at the moment?
Disappointingly Sadiq Khan did not challenge this connection, and indeed reinforced it, emphasising that he is indeed looking into how cycling infrastructure is implemented, and how it operates.
And one of the foremost proponents of the ‘cycling infrastructure causes pollution’ theory is Labour MP Rob Flello, who sits on the House of Commons Transport Committee.
In the first session of that committee’s Urban Congestion inquiry on the 9th January, he argued that removing cycling infrastructure in London would ‘speed up the traffic’ and therefore reduce pollution.
surely one of the answers is to reinstate some of the tarmac that has been removed. It speeds up the traffic and perhaps does more for air pollution in places such as London than getting people on to pushbikes.
In the second session on the 30th January, his argument became less nuanced –
Anything that slows traffic creates more pollution
When an argument is that reductive, it wasn’t surprising that, by the fourth session, it wasn’t just cycle lanes that were ‘causing’ pollution – it was bus lanes too.
Robert Flello: On the point about bus lanes—I nearly said cycle lanes for some reason—and other forms of restricted lane use, it always makes me smile that a lot of these were introduced, and indeed continue to be introduced, seemingly without any evidence. It just seems that they are a great idea and therefore we must do them. It was reassuring to hear from a couple of people on the panel that evidence is now being gained as to whether they are a good idea or not. It does not seem necessarily to have stopped the flow of restricted use lanes across the country or in central London. Is that correct?
Val Shawcross: I cannot answer for every decision that the previous Mayor took, except that we are totally in agreement that, as the population of London intensifies in the future, we need to transform the city. The most efficient way of moving people around, as well as the healthiest and lowest emission way, is walking, and then cycling and then public transport. We need to be pushing this.
Robert Flello: I hear what you say, but the reality is that if traffic is now moving more slowly as a result, that is surely creating more pollution and is therefore unhealthier.
And this argument was repeated in the fifth session, where the same points were made to the Under Secretary of State for Transport, Andrew Jones.
Robert Flello: We have also had evidence that, even though, for example, bus and cycle lanes create congestion, Val Shawcross is still keen to go ahead and put more of those types of schemes in London under TfL. Do you not think there is a contradiction between gathering evidence that shows that something does or does not work and then perhaps funding schemes to just do more of the same that does not work, in terms of tackling congestion?
Andrew Jones: I am not sure that is right. I do not really agree with that, to be honest. We should be gathering information and sharing good practice. I see that as a developing role for the Department in lots of different ways, but that does not mean to say that we should cut across local decision making.
I am aware that the cycle lanes in London have caused a degree of controversy. TfL can come and speak for themselves, but I would suggest that they are thinking a long way ahead in relation to how they can encourage modal shift. They are trying to provide the infrastructure, looking way into the future.
Robert Flello: But if that is creating congestion, which it is seen to be doing, that is not controversial; it is evidence based. Traffic levels have fallen, yet congestion and pollution have got worse.
To these claims of bus and cycle lanes (what Flello calls ‘restricted access lanes’) ‘causing’ pollution it is straightforward to add the argument that pedestrian infrastructure also ’causes’ pollution. The aforementioned Greg Knight claimed that
pollution is going up. Well, obviously it is going up because pavements have got wider.
To this can be added statements by the Environment Minister Therese Coffey to the effect that crossings prioritising the movement of pedestrians are ‘causing’ pollution –
Yeah, it's definitely the zebra crossings that are the problem causing all that air pollution… 🤔
(From latest Local Transport Today) pic.twitter.com/1BQBlwgPk4
— Alex Ingram (@nuttyxander) January 9, 2017
And of course we also have the claim – apparently being taken seriously by government – that speed humps should be removed to improve air quality.
What all these contributions have in common is an extraordinary belief that making walking, cycling and public transport less convenient, more dangerous and more unpleasant will reduce pollution. It is a belief that the only way to reduce pollution is to prioritise the flow of the vehicles that are actually causing the pollution, at the expense of those modes of transport that aren’t polluting at all.
Put like this, it is utterly absurd, yet it is now repeated constantly. Its logical conclusion is that if we massively expanded the amount of road space available to private motor traffic in UK towns and cities – removing bus lanes, reducing the width of pavements, ‘re-motorising’ pedestrianised streets and squares, even building roads across parks and demolishing buildings, or constructing gigantic flyovers right into the heart of our cities – air pollution would fall dramatically. But some of the most polluted cities on earth are the ones that have employed precisely this strategy. Building seven ring roads has not solved Beijing’s air pollution problems – it has caused them.
Increasing the amount of space for motor traffic – attempting to ease the flow of congested motor traffic – simply draws in more and more of that motor traffic, and more and more pollution. Expanding space for polluting private motor traffic, or attempting to smooth the flow of it, is the exact opposite of sensible policy. If we’re serious about tackling pollution (and congestion), we have to prioritise the modes of transport that solve the problem, not prioritise the ones that are responsible for it in the first place.
I think it’s worth jotting down some thoughts on ‘temporary’ cycling infrastructure interventions, given that the new (or not so new) Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has expressed an interest in them.
In response to questioning from Michael Gove during an evidence session of the Committee on Exiting the European Union, Khan had this to say –
When these lanes [the new protected Superhighways] were constructed, they were constructed in a way that caused huge upheaval and chaos in some of our streets in London. When you look at successful segregated cycle superhighways around the world, they are not permanent structures. They start off as temporary structures which cause less chaos during the “construction phase”, but the beautiful thing is that if they are temporary then you can suck it and see. You can move them with minimal disruption if they are causing, what experts call pinch points.
First things first, it is simply not true to say that ‘successful’ cycleways around the world ‘are not permanent structures’. High quality cycling infrastructure is permanent, be that in the Netherlands, or Denmark, or the United States, or right here in the UK. They are designed properly, built to accommodate existing and potential demand, and are an integral element of the streetscape.
Khan’s statement is also perplexing in that he seems to believe building temporary structures, and then converting them into permanent ones, ’causes less chaos’ than simply building permanent infrastructure. Of course, it’s quicker to put in ‘temporary’ infrastructure than building permanent infrastructure, but you can’t simply bypass the process of building permanent structures altogether by doing so. It still has to happen. So if anything, building something temporary and subsequently converting that temporary structure to a permanent one actually increases disruption, rather than reducing it.
That said, I do think ‘temporary’ interventions do have an important role to play. They can be used to build pretty effective infrastructure fairly quickly. A case in point is the ‘temporary’ arrangement at the Blackfriars slip road, where the junction of CS3 and CS6 has been moved while the Thames Tideway Tunnel is being constructed.
This will actually be in place for several years, but I think it does (and will do) a pretty good job, despite being composed almost entirely of rubber kerbs that are simply bolted to the road, combined with wands. It only took a few weeks to implement (although it has clearly been planned just as much as the permanent cycle infrastructure that surrounds it). I’m certainly a fan of this kind of quick and cheap intervention, which closely resembles the amount of protection offered by permanent kerbs, and definitely not a fan of the ‘light segregation’ interventions that can simply be driven over, like ‘armadillos’.
In addition, temporary infrastructure can – as Khan implies – be used to test how things work, and to prove to sceptics that chaos won’t ensue once changes take place. Or to show, quickly and easily, how our streets and roads can be made safe, and more attractive, at minimal cost. This is an approach emphasised by Janette Sadik-Khan, the former transportation commissioner of New York, in this recent interview with London’s own (new) walking and cycling commissioner –
Her thoughts on how to overcome London’s challenges are straightforward: set a vision, and move quickly; trial street closures so people can see that change is possible, and know it can be reversed if they don’t like it. In New York, the administration faced legal action and claims from some residents and businesses that the city would grind to a halt if you took space away from motor traffic. As she discovered, the opposite happened. People just needed to see it to believe it, she argues.
And this approach has been employed – to a limited extent – in London, with notable examples being the fairly rapid conversion of Tavistock Place to a one-way road with two wider cycleways on each side of the road –
… and the Walthamstow Village scheme, a three week trial that closed Orford Road to motor traffic.
However, in both these cases, the respective councils – Camden, and Waltham Forest – clearly saw these ‘temporary’ approaches as a mere stepping stone towards the permanent implementation of interventions they had already thoroughly planned. In Waltham Forest, that permanent intervention is now already in place, and in Camden, the permanent changes to Tavistock Place have only been delayed as a result of some legal wrangling.
In other words, the ‘temporary’ wasn’t an end in itself, or a way of implementing changes quickly to minimise disruption. It was just a small part of a planned process of moving towards permanent change, implemented by councils who have confidence in what they are doing, and the backbone to stand up to criticism.
It’s also hard to see what advantages would accrue from building large schemes like CS3 or CS6 – in combination, several miles long – in ‘temporary’ form, given that despite all the (often justified hype) they are really the bare minimum of cycle provision we should be expecting. We certainly should not be providing anything less than 3-4m wide bi-directional cycleways on main arterial roads in cities, so what is gained by temporary implementation? They might be quicker to build, but if they are going to be turned into permanent structures at some later date, disruption is only being deferred, not avoided (and indeed being duplicated). Joe Dunckley has also explained why ‘temporary’ interventions aren’t ever really going to be appropriate for major schemes. The job has to be done properly, or not at all.
And this is what is slightly concerning about Khan’s comments (and this is not the only time he has made reference to the downsides of ‘permanent’ cycling infrastructure, versus temporary infrastructure). They don’t strike me as being made out of enthusiasm for getting cycling infrastructure in place quickly and cheaply, as part of a clear strategy to make the intervention permanent at a later date – the approach employed in New York, and in Camden and Waltham Forest. Instead they appear to reflect a nervousness – dare I say it, a cowardice – about implementation. When Khan says that ‘the beautiful thing is that if they are temporary… You can move them with minimal disruption if they are causing, what experts call pinch points’ – that appears to be an open door for watering down, or even removal altogether, if cycling infrastructure is ‘causing congestion’.
It’s entirely understandable that organisations with a vested interest in ‘maintaining motor traffic flow’ are very keen on cycling infrastructure that can quickly be done away with. So a Mayor who seems keen on ‘temporary interventions’ for much the same reasons isn’t particularly reassuring.
This book is “…above all, a story of hope”. Those of us with a cynical mindset might be put off by such optimism and the extravagant claim of the title. But don’t be: Peter Walker is more or less spot on in each chapter of a book which clearly argues for cycling as a key solution to urban transport, health, social and environmental problems. Indeed, it should be read by all professionals – as well as campaigners and the general public – with an interest in transport policy, not just those who find themselves in a “cycling” niche.
So let’s see how Walker, who has been writing on cycling matters for the Guardian over the last decade, sets out his stall. First and foremost, cycling has to break out of its niche: there may well be sports and leisure enthusiasts, but if it is to fulfil its true potential it has to be done by ordinary people, wearing ordinary clothes, making ordinary everyday journeys.
He kicks off with the latest research on the health benefits of cycling. This should be persuasive – why hasn’t the “miracle pill” been adopted here? The answer is “political inertia, powerful vested interests, a lack of real ambition and leadership, and a set of curious but persistent and damaging myths about cycling and cyclists” (p.35). Indeed, and it is so good to see a willingness to tackle everyday prejudice – of which more later.
Next up is a review of danger: the problem is simply one of “normalisation”. We have “ …a complacent, entitled, careless driving culture, where millions of people who would describe themselves as moral, kind and careful people nonetheless get into a motor vehicle and routinely, unthinkingly, put others’ lives in peril.” (p.43)
Then we have a couple of chapters on the social justice/equity argument and the economic case for cycling. We get a brief reference to a review of what economists call the “external costs” of motoring, which I think could have done with some more exposition – after all, a key prejudice against cyclists is that they do not “pay their way”, when in fact that argument would be more appropriately directed against motorists. It’s a tricky one – should we embrace cost-benefit analysis, with a clear indictment of the unpaid costs of motoring, if it implies that paying more should entitle drivers to endanger, pollute, congest etc.? (Incidentally, the one detailed reference to calculation of costs – using the USA as its basis – has a typographical error in including “not” before showing that “car owners pay only 35% of the total costs incurred”(p.95).)
For me the best parts of this book are Walker’s willingness to tackle – indeed to make a forensically detailed analysis of – two key areas where polite society fears to tread: anti-cyclist prejudice and cycle helmets. My view is this: don’t think these areas are unimportant or will just fade away with changes in transport policy. They are central to the way cycling and cyclists are conceptualised in this society, and are related to and affect the way cyclists are treated on the roads. And even if changes in provision of highway infrastructure are all you’re interested in, the opposition to this will be linked in with the kind of prejudices study of these areas reveals.Anti-Cyclist Bigotry
What makes cyclists such an easy target, not just for pub bores and the usual hate-mongers in the tabloid press, but for supposedly enlightened journalists in the “quality” media? The first point for me is that it isn’t cyclists. Walker gives an historical portrait of prejudice going back over a century. I have found it in the media for as long as I can remember. I remember personally confronting it in the 1980s, well before one might see an adult pavement cyclist or someone riding through a red light.
In a splendid chapter, Walker discusses social psychology’s theory of “the out-group”, and where anti-cycling bigotry might be picking up its tropes, such as the notion that anybody who rides a bicycle is somehow responsible for the actual or alleged behaviour of other cyclists. In just one chapter on anti-cycling ideas he manages to link in the ludicrous notion held by a minister responsible for cycling that the Dutch have a worse record on cyclist casualties than the UK with the disproportionate attention to incidents where pedestrians are hurt by cyclists as opposed to motorists. This anti-cycling bigotry – and we don’t even have a word for it to use in discussion – is also implicated in the refusal of politicians to support cycling: “For them it is an add-on, a sop to enthusiasts, something to be squeezed onto a road if there’s a bit of spare space and spare cash left over from the main task of motor traffic” (p.139).
But where anti-cyclist bigotry – and I call it bigotry because that’s what it is – is really important is in how drivers behave to people on bicycles in everyday situations. Walker gives evidence to detail precisely how anti-cyclist attitudes can exacerbate bad driving. The bottom line is, as he concludes this chapter, referring to pieces of anti-cycling prejudice articulated in the media, ”Every one of these, I am convinced, places me, my loved ones and anyone else on a bike, marginally yet incrementally in more danger every time we get onto a saddle. And that can’t be right”. (p.150)
I think that the general prejudice against cycling and cyclists is important for that reason. Even driving instructors claim that driving is a task which can’t be put on automatic pilot, and requires constant care and attention and a positive commitment towards a driver’s obligations. Any negative attitude towards other road users – including simply because they are using a particular form of transport – exacerbates an already unsatisfactory potential to hurt or kill. At the very least, prejudice which I claim is present even in the police forces, impedes the kind of law enforcement we need .The “H” word
In his chapter “If Bike Helmets are the Answer, you’re Asking the Wrong Question”, Walker correctly identifies helmet advocacy along with hi-viz clothing advocacy as a victim-blaming red herring without a firm evidence base. Or to be more precise, he wears a helmet and doesn’t object to them or hi-viz: “But when it comes to genuine efforts to make cycling safer, they’re a red herring, an irrelevance, a peripheral issue that has somehow come to dominate the argument”.
He gives a good discussion about risk compensation (adaptive behaviour) by both helmeted riders and other road users, referencing myself (thanks) and Ian Walker respectively. The latter’s work on how drivers decide how much space to give when passing is salutary in bringing us back to what Walker – and all of us – should actually be looking at. So too is his consideration of the politics of hi-viz in a section aptly titled “Seeing, but choosing not to see”.
He quotes Goldacre and Spiegelhalter at length: “…current uncertainty about any benefit from helmet wearing…is unlikely to be substantially reduced by further research”. Popularity of bike helmets as a road safety measure was based less on any direct benefits, but more on people’s often very skewed personal perceptions of risk (p.186).
But if anything, he seems to give (although this may just be my reading) the benefit of the doubt – albeit slightly – to helmets, with repeated reference to not objecting to helmets, despite:
“…whatever the benefits in each individual case, a population-wide increase in helmet use, for example after legislation, is not generally matched by similar reductions in overall head injury rates” (p.176)
The problem with his discussion is precisely that he attempts to derail ideological pre-judgement simply by rational discussion. His persistent – and correct – claim that helmets mustn’t be seen as a panacea and that the danger from motor vehicles needs to be tackled won’t, in my view, cut it as long as helmets are seen as basically a good thing. Yes, I too think that people should be allowed to wear helmets irrespective of the lack of evidence of benefits. Insofar as risk compensation/adaptive behaviour is central to why the lack of evidence of head injury rates declining persists, at least other road users – unlike those adversely affected by car and highway safety engineering – are not going to suffer significantly as a result.
But I have seen apparent acceptance of Walker’s incontrovertible argument that motor danger needs to be tackled by government and “road safety” professionals for the last 30 years. And what have we had? Precious little in the way of helpful infrastructure, a recent glimmer of light with regard to close passing policing – and that’s about it. Perhaps some of the cycle training programmes have been genuinely empowering – but that’s dubious. The benefits of safety in numbers – such as they exist – have happened largely without any officially inspired increase in cycling.
And during this time we have moved from total absence of helmets to widespread wearing (although substantial pockets of lidlessness exist in, for example, outer London suburbs outside commuting hours) with its attendant message of cycling as inherently hazardous. While motorisation and car dependence have massively increased, and motor danger has not been properly addressed, “road safety”, medical and other professionals have continually acknowledged that something must be done, and that helmets are not a panacea. Yet their efforts to reduce motor danger have been minimal or negative, and their advocacy of helmets substantial and absolute.
Walker is excellent in this chapter – but in the current context I would consider the benefits of a slightly more circumspect approach to helmets than his.The hope question
No doubt reservations I have are formed by a longer period of seeing official support for cycling bear little fruit. One of the first cycling-related conferences I attended was “Ways to Safer Cycling”, where the then Minister, Lynda Chalker, claimed she was there to “encourage cycling”. That was in 1984 – if you have some moments to spare you may wish to look at the change in cycling’s modal share since then, along with the figures for the growth in motor transport. That experience makes me more worried about the effects of prejudice and wary of red herrings.
It may also make me more circumspect about prescriptions for success. Peter Walker is a firm advocate of the new orthodoxy: success will come from networks of segregated cycle lanes. That strategy is not only central, but it apparently claims to be more or less sufficient for victory.
The RDRF position is to support this strategy and to push with Cycling UK and others for proper funding for such infrastructure. It also, regrettably, looks as though it will be necessary to make a stand against backsliding by politicians in London and elsewhere who have nominally committed to this approach. Existing cyclists should realise that new infrastructure isn’t necessarily for us, but for a new generation of cyclists inhibited by a hostile environment.
Nevertheless, a number of issues should be raised, and not just because of a pessimistic frame of mind.
Firstly, it needs to be made absolutely clear to motorists that cyclists are not going to disappear from their vicinity on most roads. Separated cycle lanes may be on main roads, but not the rest, and drivers need to be aware of that – logic should make that obvious, but in a world of the kind of prejudice that Walker outlines, separation may back up the ideology that sees cyclists as not belonging on the road.
That also means that we have to think of how danger will be addressed on such roads: will 20 mph limits, even if complied with, be enough? What of rural roads where, even with sophisticated traffic management, mixing will occur? Arguably reducing car dependency is more necessary in suburban and rural areas than the urban ones Walker focuses on. The kind of societal shift where close passing policing comes to be seen as necessary and commonplace will have to happen. Luckily – and here I can be allowed some optimism, there are cases where increased cycling modal share can lead to reduced cyclist casualty rates, due to a form of risk compensation known as Safety in Numbers.
Secondly, will the design features of separated lanes be adequate? Will give ways at junctions happen properly? Will less direct bi-directional lanes predominate over better mono-directional ones? Will bus stop bypasses and all the other features of segregated lanes fit in to a society not used to them and/or mass cycling?
Thirdly, what about all the other features of a society where cycling is commonplace? Simple but necessary things like secure and convenient home parking. Or accessibility of basic equipment: the lack of accessibility of sufficiently cheap bicycles and accessories for those on low incomes could be part of the reason why they don’t cycle much. Perhaps, if we have the necessary feature of normal clothing use as a key signifier of mass cycling, in the UK we need to make breathable waterproof and winter garments available to counter the drop in cycling that happens every autumn.
My suggestion is that in a society where cycling as a basic form of transport has been largely forgotten, direct one-to-one support may be necessary for people who have never cycled. Infrastructure can only be part of the solution.
And even if it is that important, it isn’t going to happen without the kind of struggles and cultural shift that Walker alludes to. He rightly talks about how dissuasion of car use (pace Stevenage) is going to be necessary, and refers to some of the problems of car-centred thinking. My view is that if cycling is to progress, there is a whole host of problems emanating from car culture which will need to be grappled with.
Conclusion: Hope revisited
At the start of my career, congestion and energy use were the key problems with car-centredness and the motorisation agenda. Then we got worried about noxious emissions, and then in the late 1990s climate change and transport-generated greenhouse gases. There were some concerns about the loss of local community and children’s independent mobility, and the founding of the modern road danger reduction movement. This century we have elaborated the health (active travel) agenda, and re-discovered noxious emissions.
In short, there have always been reasons to support cycling as a solution to car and motor traffic generated problems. My (cynical and pessimistic) suggestion is that we will need more than the fine optimism of this book. But with its concern to expose prejudice and red herrings, its exhaustive work on health and the other benefits of simply making cycling a normal way to get about, it’s an excellent – and necessary – start.
And even if it is that important, it isn’t going to happen without the kind of struggles and cultural shift that Walker alludes to. He rightly talks about how dissuasion of car use (pace Stevenage) is going to be necessary, and refers to some of the problems of car-centred thinking. My view is that if cycling is to progress, there is a whole host of problems emanating from car culture which will need to be grappled with.
When designing road and street space, it should be quite obvious that the safety and comfort of the people using that space should be a prime concern. Indeed, the design itself should be informed by the preferences of the users. Yet far too often those wishes and preferences are simply ignored or discounted, because they conflict with some other design goal.
Perhaps the classic example of this is ‘shared space’, or at least specific elements of it. (I use the term in inverted commas because the use of it is now so widespread it has essentially lost meaning). In a number of high profile schemes, the comfort and convenience of users – particularly people walking and cycling – ranks second behind an apparently more important design aesthetic that involves reducing conventional highway engineering to the absolute minimum.
Frideswide Square in Oxford is one such ‘shared space’ scheme where user preferences have been ignored. Campaigners argued – long before the scheme was built – that providing no cycle-specific space would be a recipe for conflict. Double conflict, in fact. Conflict on the road, where people cycling have to mix on a narrow carriageway with heavy traffic –
… And conflict on the footway, where people walking and cycling will also have to share space, rather than each mode having its own clearly distinct provision.
In addition, pedestrians have to make do with ‘informal’ crossings, rather than crossings which would give them certainty, or priority. Bizarrely Oxfordshire County Council seem to think this would be ‘unbalanced’.
In both cases – the lack of cycling infrastructure, and the lack of pedestrian crossings – what people using the road would actually prefer has been completely ignored. People walking don’t want uncertainty; they want safe crossings. They don’t want to share footways with people cycling either. Likewise people cycling don’t want to mix with pedestrians on footways, and they don’t want to mix with heavy traffic. They want their own dedicated space. But as John Dales astutely put it – in this case, the ‘sharing’ language of the scheme has become a dogma that overrides basic consideration for users.
There’s a similar (although less serious) problem with the Tavistock Place scheme in London. At Byng Place, the ‘shared space’ paving provides some degree of clarity between the footway and the carriageway – a kerb line, and a small height difference. However, it provides absolutely no distinction between cycling and walking. This means that people walking on the natural desire line – as shown below – will often be completely unaware they are walking on one of the busiest cycling corridors in London.
Just as this gentleman was doing earlier this week.
So while this might look pretty – a nice sleek surface – it’s not very good for the people who are actually using the street. People walking have no idea they might be coming into conflict with people cycling – it just looks like an expanse of pavement – and people cycling have to slow, and negotiate their way around pedestrians. It would be far better to have some visual clarity about what kinds of modes are expected where – a space where pedestrians know they won’t encounter people cycling, clearly distinct from an area where cycling will be expected, and relatively unimpeded.
This expectation that lumping cycling and walking together is actually better than separating the two modes modes is particularly prevalent in parks. The underlying logic often seems to be that providing a defined cycling space will result in speeding (or ‘speeding’, given that what actually amounts to speeding is never clearly defined), or ‘territorial behaviour’ on the part of cycle users. People cycling are then expected to somehow behave like pedestrians.
But again, is this actually what people want? Do people walking in parks really want to have lots of unexpected encounters with faster-moving cycles, wherever they are walking? Or would they have the certainty of clearly-defined space where they know they will be free from these interactions?
A prime example of this is the route across Hyde Park Corner for both people walking and cycling. There is essentially only one way across this very large traffic island, given there are only two crossings, at opposite corners.
That means that everyone walking and cycling is following the same line, indicated by the blue arrow. As everyone is heading in the same direction, it would surely make sense to separate the two modes, to reduce (or even remove entirely) conflict between them, with a clearly distinct cycle path on the north side. There is plenty of space here so neither mode would have to be forced into a cramped area as a result of this design separation.
But instead we have a situation that isn’t good for either mode. Every time I cycle through here, I notice how people walking have to deal with cycles taking unexpected routes around them – either through the centre of the arch, or to either side of it. In turn people cycling have to negotiate the unexpected movements of people walking.
All of this conflict could be removed by placing cycling in a clearly defined space, leaving the rest of this large area free for pedestrians to walk and wander in peace.
As with the ‘shared space’ examples, we have a design approach that doesn’t actually work for the people walking and cycling through the space in question. If you stopped and asked people at Hyde Park Corner whether they like the existing unpredictable melee of walking and cycling – with people whizzing past them unexpectedly – or whether they would prefer cycling to be placed somewhere they wouldn’t have to encounter it, I am 100% certain everyone would opt for the second option. Likewise I am 100% certain people cycling would like to be able to traverse this space without having to deal with pedestrians.
Yet in response to the recent ‘Superhighway’ consultation on this area, a combination of Transport for London and the Royal parks rejected such an approach, plumping instead for a widening of the existing shared area – which in my view simply increases the amount of space in which uncertain interactions can take place.
All these examples illustrate a reluctance to design for how people actually behave, and for what they actually want – these (allegedly) simpler designs actually create more conflict and uncertainty, and are poor for both walking and cycling. We aren’t asking people what they want – instead we are building schemes that look pretty but don’t reflect user preferences. The question is why we keep doing it!
The village of Warnham in West Sussex has long been plagued by ‘rat running’ – drivers taking inappropriate routes through the village as a shortcut, to avoid a lengthier (but probably, in reality, quicker) journey on more appropriate A-roads.
I’m not actually a fan of denigrating drivers in this way, as ‘rat runners’ – they are making rational decisions about the best routes for them. And even if we are willing to label them, it doesn’t do anything to solve the problem. In reality ‘rat running’ is a strategic problem that can only be solved by planning and engineering decisions, ones that simply remove the ‘rat runs’ as potential routes, or that make the appropriate roads much more attractive, and the inappropriate roads much less attractive, in combination.
The village of Warnham is an interesting case study in this regard. Looking at a map of the area, we can see why there is a problem.
We can immediately see that the village (at the top centre of the map) lies in the middle of a path running east-west across the map – a path formed on the left by the A281, heading towards Guildford, and to the east, the A264, heading towards Crawley and Gatwick Airport.
Zooming in closer, I’ve drawn on the route that drivers are expected to take, following the main roads, if they were heading from Crawley towards Guildford.
I suspect the majority of drivers do follow this route – and in the opposite direction too. But it’s clearly a long way round, and there are a couple of tempting ‘direct’ routes, which cut off the long southward diversion, both of which run through or near Warnham, marked in red, below.
This problem has got, or will get, even worse, with the expansion of the village of Broadbridge Heath (now essentially a connected suburb of Horsham), to the south.
The old bypass of Broadbridge Heath is the yellow road; the new bypass has been built even further south, making the east-west route even longer.
That means fairly urgent action is required to alleviate, or remove entirely, the problem of drivers using some fairly narrow rural lanes as a shortcut alternative to main roads.
One of these interventions has taken place at the junction to the west, where Strood Lane (a narrow rural lane to Warnham) meets the A281. At this junction, people taking a short cut will want to turn right if they are heading west; conversely, they will want to turn left into this side road, if they are trying to drive east.
These movements have now in fact been banned, in conjunction with some minor engineering works that should support them. I went over to take a look at them a few days ago. I’m not entirely sure they will be effective.
Here we are looking west – the A281 is the main road running across the picture, while I am standing on the minor lane, Strood Lane. As you can see right turns have been banned, but there isn’t an awful lot to stop people from ignoring the sign and just turning right, as this driver is doing, literally within 30 seconds of me arriving. The following two drivers did turn left, but I suspect people habituated to using this ‘rural lane’ route as their best option will not be deterred.
To the right of the photo, we can see an encouraging bit of engineering. The island simply wasn’t there before – it’s a big build out which I think will (almost) completely stop people turning left of the major road – the corner is far too tight to be taken at speed, and it will involve coming to a complete stop, and swinging out into the opposing lane on a fast, busy road. The best feature from my perspective is the cycle bypass – a good touch. There’s no need to ban cycle turns, and we have a nice bit of engineering to support that movement. Here’s the view of the junction looking south, from the A281 main road.
The minor oversight here is some ‘except cycles’ need to be added to both the banned turn signs.
The real question is how to properly discourage those right turns out of the side road. I suspect the engineering could have been far more severe, to truly force people into turning left out of Strood Lane.
In any case, if the turning ban is wholly effective, the ‘desired route’ will involve adding about 600m to people’s journeys, as they turn left onto the A281, circle around a roundabout, then resume their journey in their intended direction (and vice versa in the opposite direction).
Will that be enough to make this route unattractive? Again, I suspect not.
Another intervention appears to be taking place at the same time, on Byfleets Lane, one of the ‘red’ routes through this area (and in my view the more tempting of the two). On the section highlighted with a black border, this already narrow lane is being deliberately narrowed, and having a ‘hard’ margin added.
It’s not particularly clear from my poor photo, but this is about a four-inch high continuous metal ‘basket’, full of gravel, which will be difficult or impossible to drive over, hence restricting this lane to basically one vehicle’s width. Passing places are being installed at intervals. This will be quite effective, I think – it will reduce the temptation to charge through here, knowing that you will be forced to confront oncoming traffic, and may have to reverse to a passing place.
The slight irony is that these works are taking… three months, during which the lane is completely closed to motor traffic (see the orange barriers in the photo above). This suggests to me that a permanent closure halfway along – one which would still permit resident access – might be an option worth exploring.
Any thoughts welcome in the comments below!
Last year I wrote about a section of the A23 – a Highways England-administered road – that had been widened (or ‘upgraded’) from a four lane to a six lane road, matching the motorway-like nature of the rest of this road as it runs south from Crawley (an extension of the M23 motorway) to the south coast at Brighton.
The subject of that post was principally the cycling and walking facilities that had been built as part of those construction works.
Prior to construction (between 2011 and 2014) this road was essentially a complete no-go area for walking and cycling, with no alternative but to cycle on a carriageway with a 70mph speed limit, carrying nearly 70,000 vehicles a day. There is now an alternative that is – for the most part – very good.
As I write this, a similar construction project is underway on another Highways England road, a section of the A21 between Tunbridge and Pembury, on the outskirts of Tunbridge Wells. This road is not as busy as the A23, carrying nearly 40,000 vehicles per day, it involves converting a single carriageway road into a dualled four lane road, rather than a six lane road.
But it is very reminiscent, in that it involves adding a lane in each direction, and in the fact that parallel walking and cycling provision is being provided alongside this new ‘upgraded’ section of road. Again, like the A23, there was no cycling (or walking!) provision along the (single carriageway) pre-construction A21.
Last week Tunbridge Wells Bicycle User Group were invited to take a look at how construction of this parallel provision was coming along, with completion of the whole project due in September, and I was kindly invited along too.
As you will see from the photographs that follow, the whole scheme is very much a work in progress. But the cycling and walking provision looks like it will be of a high standard.
Starting at the southern (Tunbridge Wells) end, the path runs northwards parallel to what will be a motor traffic slip road, joining the main A21.
The path here is something like 2.5-3m wide, which I think will be wide enough, especially given that, along this southern stretch, there will be parallel provision on the other side of the dual carriageway (but we didn’t get to see that, because of the nature of the construction work).
I suspect, going by what we saw, this will actually be the worst part of this path alongside the A21. The biggest issue here will be the proximity of the path to the carriageway; it certainly felt quite exposed walking along here, even with the lower traffic speeds on the A21 through the roadworks. There is definitely a need for some kind of barrier and (ideally) one that has some noise abatement function.
Further north, the path will be further way from the road.
Here we can see the new northbound carriageway, serving as a two-way A21 while construction takes places on the southbound carriageway, at the extreme right. We are walking on what is left of the old A21, which will form the foundations for the new path. The separation is much better here, although again it would be good to have something between the path and the road for more comfort.
Approximately one quarter of the way along the upgraded section of road, there is a an underbridge junction (helpfully marked as ‘underbridge’ on the map, above!), connecting up some rural lanes on the eastern side of the road. This bit of road also serves as the access point, off the A21, for the existing houses along the former road.
The road is (deliberately) bendy, to slow drivers down as they enter this new environment. The path will continue northwards alongside it, without interruption, although we were told it will be slightly narrower here, and closer to the road. The photograph above shows approximately where it will go, to the left of the road. There will (theoretically) be very little motor traffic here, and a lower speed too, so this proximity is not too much of a problem.
If you continue cycling north, you will then be using the former A21 road, which we walked along.
This will now serve as the access road for the handful of houses (four or so) along this old section of the A21 – you can see one of them to the left, in the photograph above. Although people who live here will now have slightly longer car journeys (this ‘service road’ will be a dead end to motor traffic, meaning they will have to drive back to the previous junction to join the A21) these residents will have a much better environment, living next to a very quiet lane instead of next to a fast, busy trunk road carrying 37,000 vehicles a day.
I shot a short video at this spot to give some idea of the change in nature of this road. You can still hear the A21, behind the bank, but it’s possible to talk quietly, and hear birdsong.
This service road continues northwards, running in parallel to the new road. For me the most impressive part of the new route is this cutting.
Again, we see motor traffic running in two directions on what will be the northbound carriageway. Meanwhile we are walking on what will become the dead-end service road, or cycle path (it will be gated at approximately this location, to stop drivers using it to continue northbound). Clearly, an enormous amount of ‘extra’ earth has been removed here to create a wide path, with good separation from the new A21.
The path will also be fenced off from the A21; we could see the fence under construction as we walked northwards.
In the distance here is the extent of the route we were able to walk; construction is still taking place. But even so we were able to get within a few hundred metres of the junction to the south of Tonbridge; this will form a very useful link between the two towns, which are only about four miles apart.
The real problem is going to be ensuring that Kent County Council (and the local borough councils) manage to build routes of this quality right into their town centres. This route will only connect up the outskirts of both towns; for people to cycle between them, they need the same high standard of facility along the length of their journey. If they have to battle along motor-traffic dominated roads just to reach this new path, then its potential will not even be remotely fulfilled.
Of course, in one sense it is relatively easy to build cycling infrastructure alongside this kind of road scheme. For a start it is something of a blank slate; the cycling infrastructure can simply be delivered with the project. And in addition there aren’t the kinds of issues that make building cycle routes in urban areas more problematic. To take just one example, there aren’t many junctions to deal with – the cycleway simply runs alongside the road. These are problems that will have to be overcome at a local level.
That said, it is very encouraging that a scheme that was developed many years ago is coming to fruition with what looks like a very useful piece of cycle provision embedded within it. Even within the last few years, Highways England have been moving forwards on the design of cycling infrastructure, so it is good to see something of this quality that dates from before those improvements. Highways England standards like IAN 195/16 – Cycle Traffic and the Strategic Road Network – represent one of the best avenues for ensuring that cycling is properly designed into our road network, at every level.
The challenge is going to be ensuring that provision of this quality is built into the existing Highways England (and regional equivalent) road network, not just into new schemes like this one, and even more importantly, ensuring it happens outside of the Highways England road network – where these new routes bump against the remit of local authorities who may have little or no experience, enthusiasm, or funding. If that doesn’t happen, then routes like this one will be isolated and underused – a waste of their potential, which would be a great pity.
My thanks to TWBUG, and to Alison from Balfour Beatty and Tom from Highways England for showing us around.
Here is our response to Transport for London’s consultation on making lorries in London safer, made with our fellow organisations on the Action on Lorry danger working group:
Why is it that cycling is regarding as a serious potential risk in ways that motor traffic travelling at greater speeds (and with much greater momentum) is not?
Part of the explanation must lie in the fact that we have lived with motor traffic travelling at great speed around our urban areas for so long that is simply seen as ‘normal’. We don’t even notice it – it’s simply background wallpaper, a fact of life. Cars, lorries, vans and buses travel at 30mph along our roads and streets, and that’s just the way it is.
Meanwhile cycling – a mode of transport for which users rarely attain more than 20mph, and which weighs little more than the human being cycling – is something that has to be controlled; slowed down; enforced.
This isn’t helped by lazy urban design that all too often lumps cycling in with walking, placing it on pedestrian-specific infrastructure that is a recipe for conflict.
But I suspect there’s a little more going on behind the scenes here than simple bad design. As we shall see later in this post, even on high-quality cycling infrastructure that clearly separates cycling from walking, there is an expectation that cycling should be slowed down and controlled in ways that are simply absent on the adjacent road network, where motor traffic continues to thunder past at 30mph (or more).
Of course, the ‘controlling’ mentality has been most powerfully exhibited by the Royal Parks in the last week, who, having already installed a series of cobbled ridges in the western half of Hyde Park, are now proceeding to add another series to the (long-established) cycle path along the Broad Walk, which indirectly connects Hyde Park Corner with Marble Arch on the eastern side of the park. There will be 28 humps on this 1 km section of path.
The justification for doing this is (as always) people apparently cycling too fast. A speed of 32mph has been cited, but notably this is just one person, on one occasion. By contrast 93% of people surveyed by the Royal Parks are cycling below 20mph. A comment from a Royal Parks spokesman provides a little insight into the mentality of the organisation –
“If we have cyclists racing up and down a pathway at speed with pedestrians trying to cross that really doesn’t make for a pleasant visit, especially when we also have cases of pedestrians being shouted at for walking on pathways in the way of cyclists.”
What is deeply inconsistent about this attitude is that the roads running through Hyde Park continue to have 30mph limits, with very little to stop drivers from (entirely legally) travelling at this speed, and with little or no assistance to help pedestrians cross the road at key locations.
The speed limit for drivers in the park is exactly the same as the single cycling outlier that has justified the installation of these cobbles, and the evidence from other Royal Parks suggest that speeding is rife, with 54% of all drivers exceeding 30mph in the Outer Circle in Regents Park. (The Royal Parks interest in tackling ‘speeding’ in this particular park only seems to have materialised with the prospect of it being closed as a through route to motor traffic, with new cobbled ramps to slow cycling).
Equally there is absolutely no priority for pedestrians attempting to cross these roads, nor any apparent concern in the face of motorists ‘racing’ (not that this word would be used by the Royal Parks) at 30mph or above. Naturally, these are ‘roads’ where that kind of speed is completely fine, while cycling on the Broad Walk is a mere ‘path’ where 10mph is the desired speed.
The inconsistency is even more obvious when we consider that the Broad Walk itself isn’t a particularly direct or convenient route for anyone cycling along the eastern edge of the park – it involves a series of convoluted crossings at both ends to leave and rejoin the road network. The most direct route is of course Park Lane itself, a fast and unpleasant road that (incredibly enough) was built on the park in the early 1960s. So Park Lane is effectively a route through the park, a route where motor traffic travels at great speed and in large quantities, a route where people are killed and seriously injured in numbers, and where pedestrians have to wait minutes to cross the road.
When I cycle on the Broad Walk (for instance, to go to Westminster University) it is not out of choice, but because I have been pushed off Park Lane by the dangerous and inhospitable character of the road.
Five lanes of traffic to choose from on Park Lane and yet people still cycle through Hyde Park. I wonder why? 🤔 pic.twitter.com/AKpoTBIt9S
— Alex Ingram (@nuttyxander) March 14, 2017
To punish me (and everyone else cycling on this route) is perverse, given it is a route of last resort. The best way to tackle this issue is not to make all our lives worse, but to provide clear, consistent space for cycling, be it in the park itself, or reclaimed from Park Lane – space that sensibly separates people cycling from people walking. (It’s notable that these latest proposals for the Broad Walk actually create new environments where walking and cycling are pushed into the same space, with no clarity for either type of user). The humps will not solve the ‘speeding’ problem (if it did, people on racing bikes would not cycle through the Arenberg Forest at close to 30mph), and they will create new problems.
The underlying issue here seems to be that pedestrian comfort and convenience only seems to be a matter of concern when cycling is involved.
A textbook example of this is the installation of zebra crossings on new cycling infrastructure in London, giving people on foot priority when they need to cross to bus stops. Now I think these are a good idea. They can now be installed without zig-zag markings and ‘Belisha Beacons’, making them a low-cost and low-hassle intervention that makes walking a bit easier and will barely inconvenience cycling at all, given the dynamics of these two modes.
But where is this degree of concern for ease of crossing on the rest of the road network? Central London boroughs are chock-full of junctions where people are sent on circuitous routes to safely cross the road, or where there are signals for motor traffic, but no separate green signal for pedestrians. Even bog-standard unsignalised junctions can be totally inhospitable for all but the most able-bodied pedestrians.
There doesn’t appear to be any particular concern about this neglect of pedestrian safety and comfort, widespread across the capital, yet crossing four metres of tarmac which only carries people cycling necessitates a zebra crossing. That’s fine, of course, and worthy, but it seems a curiously backward approach to leap into action when pedestrians have to deal with cycling, but to leave them totally helpless when they have to cross rivers of motor traffic travelling at 30mph.
London puts simple zebra crossings on cycle highways (a good thing). But not on roads, by schools, or bus stops (which is rubbish) pic.twitter.com/j44eBYuuZi
— cyclistsinthecity (@citycyclists) December 21, 2016
I walk a lot in London, and I would love to see a great deal more care and attention paid to pedestrian comfort and convenience. I am not encouraged, however, by a reluctance to install things like zebra crossings anywhere on the road network, except when it involves crossing cycleways. Nor am I encouraged by an enthusiasm to tackle ‘speeding’ by one particular mode, largely travelling at under 20mph, while roads administered by the same authority continue to have 30mph limits, with the majority of drivers exceeding that speed. Is it too much to ask for a rational and consistent approach on these kinds of issues?