REVIEW: “BIKE NATION: How Cycling Can Save the World” by Peter Walker

Road Danger Reduction Forum - 6 April, 2017 - 00:49

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.



Categories: Views

Australia Trip (2)

BicycleDutch - 3 April, 2017 - 23:01
A week ago I returned from Australia and I’d like to update you on the events in Canberra and Perth, which I visited after Brisbane. The departments of Transport in … Continue reading →
Categories: Views

User experience

As Easy As Riding A Bike - 31 March, 2017 - 11:53

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.

Hyde Park Corner – an unpredictable mix of people walking and cycling

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!


Categories: Views

Berlin - A New Hope

Copenhagenize - 28 March, 2017 - 11:10

This article is written by Copenhagenize Design Company's former urban planner, Leon Legeland. Originally from the least bicycle friendly city in Germany, Wiesbaden, he has lived, studied and worked in Vienna, Malmö, Copenhagen and currently Berlin. He has a master in Sustainable Urban Management and is recently finished his second masters in Sustainable Cities here in Copenhagen. He now works in Berlin.

Last year we covered the state of cycling in Berlin. It's time for an update. Berlin has a quite ambitious bicycle strategy and the city administration, on some level, understands that urban cycling improves the quality of life and that it needs to be promoted and supported. However, the construction of adequate cycling infrastructure and the redesign of intersections has failed to follow the tremendous increase in cycling rates over the past couple of years. Progress is painfully slow and there is little Best Practice design.

The people of Berlin seem to understand the benefits of cycling, rates are sky rising and people demand more action from the political power through a referendum.

Our blog post from April landed right in the middle of the heated debate around cycling in the German capital. We flattered the group behind the cycling referendum and we annoyed the senate with provocations about their lack of action in making Berlin a more bicycle friendly city. So let us revisit the situation in Berlin.

Thanks to the political pressure and activism of the cycling referendum group Volksentscheid Fahrrad, cycling became a key issue during the election campaigns in past elections in September 2016. Consequently, the political powers had to incorporate the goals of the cycling referendum in their political agendas, due to the unique nature of the Berlin laws. We have to praise the cycling referendum group once again for their activism and dedication to the topic. Their way of communication and organisation can be an example for bicycle activism all over the world. Just remember who to thank when you're riding your bike safely and smoothly in a couple of years. It's this group of ordinary people who fought for their right to space in their city.

But one step at a time, we're not there yet. There is, however, hope! Berlin is moving. The newly-elected coalition of Social Democrats (SPD), Green Party (Bündnis 90/Die Grünen) and the Socialists (Die Linke) agreed in their coalition treaty on the implementation of a mobility law by Spring 2017. This mobility law is expected to be the most progressive mobility concept in all of Germany and it certainly has some promising goals and objectives. Even some of the most pessimistic cycling activists are rubbing their eyes in disbelief that this is actually happening. So what does it say?

First, the cycling law, which was developed by the activists around the cycling referendum Volksentscheid Fahrrad, forms the fundamental basis for the future of mobility planning in Berlin. Meaning a redistribution of road space in favour of cycling and provision of bicycle infrastructure are key issues of the new coalition plan. The following examples are all taken from the new coalition treaty and will be implemented in a mobility law. Take a deep breath and dream of a bright and shiny future.

  • The city will invest in bicycle infrastructure along all main roads with a cycle lane width of two metres. 
  • Additionally, a network of cycling streets where drivers have to yield and cyclists enjoy priority, will be developed on side-streets.
  • Dangerous intersections will be redesigned with improved safety for pedestrians and bicycle users. Bicycle highways with a total length of 100km will be constructed. 
  • The city is already testing green waves for cyclists and is willing to expand the system on more arterial roads. 
  • Bicycle parking will be improved with more bike racks throughout the city and large bicycle parking garages close to all main train stations. 
  • Berlin will test and implement green arrows on intersections allowing bicycle riders to turn right on a red light. Something being tested in Copenhagen and already in place in Belgium and France.
As if that weren't enough, the city agreed on another prestige project to show their change in traffic planning paradigm. From 2019 cars will be banned from Berlin's 60 metre wide boulevard Unter den Linden and it'll be transformed into a large space for flaneurs and cyclists. The only vehicles that will be allowed are buses, taxis and diplomatic cars. It is open for discussion whether this boulevard is the right one for a pedestrian friendly transformation and it remains to be seen how the space will be designed and used or what effects it'll have on the surrounding streets, but the symbolic significance is undeniable. Further, the extension of the Autobahn 100 will be stopped at Treptower Park and won't continue under the river Spree. The insanity of a ring road Autobahn is, for now, on ice.

This German cycling utopia will be financed with an annual investment of 51 million Euro, starting in 2018. Just remember the current annual budget per person on bicycle infrastructure is 3,5€. This will increase to approximately 15€ per year per person. Five times more. Thus, Berlin is finally getting to the same level as other European cities and their investments in bicycle infrastructure. The difference is that Berlin already has a mainstream bicycle culture and high modal share of 18% compared to cities like Paris, London or the black hole of urban cycling in Europe, Madrid. So if the infrastructure follows up to the rising cycling shares, even more people will start moving around by bike.

All this sounds fantastic and we're wondering if it's just a lot of hot air to please the voters in the beginning of the electoral period. Can the city realise all their proposed plans and actions? If you look at the bicycle strategy from 2012 it is full of ambitious plans and states similar goals as the new mobility law. However, the difference that the goals are implemented in a mobility law increase the likelihood of realisation since it is a binding law for the municipal administration.

Nevertheless, the bicycle activists from the cycling referendum are a little reserved with their enthusiasm about the new mobility law. They see it as a huge step forward, but they will continue fighting for even tighter commitment to cycling. We were lucky to meet the two activists Peter Feldkamp and Tim Birkholz for a brief interview. They explained that the group around the cycling referendum is missing a measurable quantification of the new mobility law. In contrast to their developed Cycling Law, the mobility law does not have a clear time plan and assigned obligations. Further the quality and design of the infrastructure is not defined, which is for us at Copenhagenize Design Co. the key to get people on bikes.

Berlin, and Germany in general, suffers from a strong lobby for vehicular cycling, meaning these people think that cyclist belong on the road in the flow of cars and in accordance with the principles of riding a car. The dominance of painted lanes in Berlin and all over Germany shows this. A clear separation with a curb, parked cars or some sort of other physical protection still faces criticisms and is rarely built. The cycling referendum group claims a design standard for the construction of bicycle infrastructure and they look, no surprise, to Denmark and the Netherlands. In comparison to their developed Cycling law, the mobility law by the senate does not have a design standard for the quality of the bicycle infrastructure.

From the leader of traffic department of Berlin, Burhard Horn, who we met for a brief interview, we heard that painted lanes are considered as bicycle infrastructure, also in the new mobility law. So, they will be implemented, even on main roads with heavy traffic. However, the city is currently planning a pilot project to test physically protected bicycle lanes on one of Berlin's main roads. Thanks to the political pressure of the group Fahrradfreundliches Neukölln it could be Karl-Marx-Straße which is currently a terrible and dangerous ride

In our last blog post we stated that most of the painted bike lanes in Berlin are 80cm wide. We have to correct this, they are wider, 1.5m to 2m. We're sorry for the mistake! But cycling in the dooring zone of parked cars to your right makes them feel like 80cm. You're always a little scared a door might open and the 1.5m width does not help you if a car uses the lane to park in a second row.

The city painted a lot of them over the past decade to give cyclists their much-needed space, but now it's time to move to the next level. Yes... best practice. We're happy that even the vehicular cycling driven ADFC now changed their mind-set and finally get it that protected bike lanes are a crucial and needed infrastructure. Let's hope Berlin is not doing more baby steps in making the city more bicycle friendly.

Another remaining issues is the lack of qualified personnel that can take over the task of transforming Berlin into a bicycle friendly city. The current institutions seem completely overstrained with missing and qualified planners that mediated between all relevant actors. An example for the catastrophic situation in the Berlin administration came up this fall. For 13 years a bicycle lane along Skalitzer Straße has beens planned, approved and more than needed, but the involved actors, the senate, the district, the public transit operator, construction companies and the crucial player who is supposed to steer the traffic planning can't get their shit together and start constructing. In this case it is even only a painted lane.

As a reaction to the chaotic planning status the city wants to start a city owned planning institution that has the overview about current bicycle planning and construction activities. Further, a cycling alliance between the ADFC, the cycling referendum group, the districts and the public transit organisation is formed. However, they still need planners, engineers and designing taking over the task and actually redesign the roads in Berlin and then finally build the infrastructure.

Finally, the newly approved budget for cycling infrastructure will be in place from 2018 and the newly formed administrations and municipal planning departments are reforming after the elections. It'll take some time that things happen but Berlin is moving towards the right direction! For now we look really optimistic in the future.

We'll keep you updated…Copenhagenize the planet. And have a lovely day.
Categories: Views

Cycling through a building in Amsterdam

BicycleDutch - 27 March, 2017 - 23:01
Road works are often a problem for people cycling. Luckily road managers in the Netherlands dislike the “Cyclists Dismount” signs almost as much as people on bicycles do. So, they … Continue reading →
Categories: Views

Attempting to stop rural lane ‘rat running’

As Easy As Riding A Bike - 24 March, 2017 - 13:19

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.

The village of Warnham, top centre

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.

The junction in question, with the movements that need to be prevented

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.

Apologies for the poor quality phone photo!

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!

Categories: Views

Australia and a bicycle parking facility

BicycleDutch - 20 March, 2017 - 23:01
I am currently in Australia where I am meeting a lot of interesting people, my family, some good friends and last but not least the Queensland Minister for Main Roads, … Continue reading →
Categories: Views

A visit to a Highways England cycling and walking scheme – the A21 dualling

As Easy As Riding A Bike - 17 March, 2017 - 10:06

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.

Part of the parallel walking and cycling route, constructed next to the widened A23

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.

Definitely not a place for the fainthearted cycle user. Or anyone at all, really.

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.

The section of road being dualled, from a two-lane single carriageway, to four lanes

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.

The same location (with matching telegraph pole) in 2014, courtesy of Streetview.

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.

Looking back southwards, as a construction vehicle follows us

Walking towards Tonbridge on what will be the walking and cycling route, fenced away 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.

Categories: Views

Making London’s lorries safer

Road Danger Reduction Forum - 16 March, 2017 - 19:41

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:

Click on:gerresponsewithlogosDirectVisionStandard15March2017Final


Categories: Views


As Easy As Riding A Bike - 14 March, 2017 - 10:48

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.

Cycling diverted onto a narrow, busy footway. What could possibly go wrong?

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 crossing by the Serpentine Gallery on West Carriage Drive, helpfully labelled as a ‘Pedestrian Crossing Point’

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? 🤔

— 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.

A sadly all-too-typical junction in Westminster. Once you have walked through the puddle in the dropped kerb you have to traverse, unaided, some 70 feet of tarmac, with motor traffic bearing down on you in this one-way system.

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)

— 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?

Categories: Views

A Rotterdam Ride

BicycleDutch - 13 March, 2017 - 23:01
An 8-kilometre-long ride through Rotterdam, from the edge of the city in the South, all the way to Central Station. The ride was filmed in one take, to show you … Continue reading →
Categories: Views

What kind of policing do we need?

Road Danger Reduction Forum - 9 March, 2017 - 23:48

We think road traffic law enforcement is a key element in potentially reducing danger on the roads. Whatever changes in highway and vehicle engineering occur, the safety of all road users will depend at least partly on how the law is enforced. Of course, what happens with sentencing is also key, but here we address the way the police operate. Most importantly, how the police behave should be seen as a central element of how society accepts or stigmatises behaviours.

Our view is that the attitudes of the police will at least partly reflect the prejudices of ordinary members of the public in what is a motor-centred society. We have criticised elements of policing in the past  and suggested ways in which it can be improved. In the worst cases we have argued that the response (or lack of it) to rule- or law-breaking driving makes this society “nothing less than fundamentally uncivilised”.   

But we have recently seen what appears to be a fundamental change in some police forces with the adoption of policing of close passing of cyclists .We will be monitoring and reporting on developments in this area. Most importantly, along with what happens with other elements of the legal system, we note that the way policing is done is a reflection of whether road danger is seen – as it would be in a civilised society – as the problem it is.

Below we comment on the good and the bad in police services at the beginning of 2017.

The good…

The key development is the close passing of cyclists operation devised by West Midlands Police. For us it has key ramifications for policing to protect all road users in that it:

(a)  Addresses danger at source. There is a clear statement that while errant behaviour is a feature of people using all modes of transport, the potential to harm others is central to specifying what problem behaviour should be targeted – and that means prioritising misbehaviour by drivers.

(b)  Goes beyond KSIs. While contributory factors in manoeuvres leading to cyclist Killed and Seriously Injured casualties are considered in identifying close passing as a key problem, the simple fact of intimidation is seen as a problem requiring the attention of the police.

(c)  Considers the transport policy implications. Law enforcement policy, as with all interventions affecting safety on the road, has transport policy implications. The West Midlands Police (WMP) initiative was clearly and correctly based on supporting not only people who cycle now, but also those who may wish to do so and are deterred by behaviours like close passing. The views of at least some WMP officers expressed here show that traffic police officers may be willing to give a high level of commitment towards a road danger reduction agenda.

I was privileged to address a training day on close passing policing by West Midlands Police, along with the Police and Crime Commissioner (former Road Safety Minister David Jamieson):

As a consequence of the WMP initiative, we have seen a similar initiative from Camden Metropolitan Police Service , and the following forces are near or in the process of developing their own programmes:

  • West Yorkshire Police (in partnership with Leeds City Council) – confirmed.
  • Devon & Cornwall Police – “looking to develop”.
  • Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire & Hertfordshire Road Policing Unit – “interested”.
  • Dorset Police – “considering”.
  • Hants and Thames Valley Police – joint operations unit (roads policing unit) due.
  • Police Scotland – up and running: pilot in Edinburgh in partnership with Cycling Scotland’s: “Give everyone cycle space” campaign.
  • Kent Police – to implement as part of “Think Cycling” campaign
  • Sussex Police and Northumbria Police – 3rd party reporting being organised
  • Greater Manchester Police
  • The Metropolitan Police Service’s Cycle Safety Team– the UK’s only permanent cycle-borne roads policing team – are working on a new tactic to be introduced in early summer, which incorporates elements of close passing policing.

In addition, WMP are actively taking 3rd party video reports (2 mins before and after a close pass) on a private link. (WMP also place their close passing policing alongside the introduction of 20 mph areas and cycle-friendly infrastructure in Birmingham).

Camden MPS have also been shown explaining to drivers the road positions that cyclists may need to take here: ITV London News, Evening News: 24/01/2017 and have publicised the Met’s online road traffic incident reporting site

All of this should be backed up by the substantial coverage  in the transport media (e.g. ) , cycling media (e.g. ) and local press:

(On a minor point, I note the somewhat loaded connotations of descriptions including “undercover” and “sting” – these operations should not be seen as in any way underhand simply because an officer is in plain clothes).

All this indicates a substantial move towards road danger reduction policing.  And more police services are asking WMP for information: apologies to those developing close passing policing that I haven’t included, as more are coming on stream.

Against this, we have to consider the negative elements of policing, present in all too many police services – even some of those carrying out close passing and other road danger reduction types of policing

…and the bad

First of all, let’s be clear about traffic police officers. They have one of the toughest policing jobs, frequently criticised by sections of the media. More importantly, there is the risk they face from errant drivers on the roads, leading to injury and death: it is a good reminder to use a search engine to see how often this happens. (Interestingly, the Wikipedia entry on “British police officers killed in the line of duty” excludes “those who die in more regular circumstances such as traffic collisions”!). Most of the traffic police officers I have met are appalled at, and passionately committed against, rule- and law-breaking driving. Our basic position is therefore one of respect and support.

However, there are two issues. Firstly, their views may not be shared by senior officers managing them.

More importantly, we have a general problem of how their views will inevitably be formed by the society they are a part of.


The question of “institutionalised discrimination”

Throughout the eighties and onwards, staff in public services – the NHS, local government and also the police and armed services – have been told to be aware of the prejudices they may hold. These are primarily prejudices against people on the basis of their sexuality, gender, ethnic group or disability, the central point being that people will tend to reflect the beliefs of the society they are brought up in. If these beliefs are discriminatory, people will hold prejudices, often quite unwittingly, which will result in disadvantageous treatment of some people, and resultant failure in the effectiveness of the services they are required to provide.

That is a very brief definition of the equal opportunities policies that public service professionals are required to adopt. The emphasis is on getting public servants to question basic ideas that they may not even be aware they hold. It is not about blaming people for holding these views – rather, it is about assisting them in their work by showing how they may quite unwittingly be mistaken. It is critically important to remember this point: far from being “political correctness”, this is about remembering that people reflect the belief systems of the society they are brought up in.

And in this area, we are talking about the various ways in which most people have accepted the dominance of the car and motorised transport, specifically in tolerating everyday rule and law breaking by motorists.

There is of course, the “choice” question. It is often argued that an equal opportunities model doesn’t apply as the issue of, for example, riding a bicycle, is essentially a question of choice. It is self-selected. One does not have to ride a bicycle. While this is correct, it is also true that one does not have to drive a car – or at least not in a rule- or law-breaking manner.

Anyway, there is also the model of Health and Safety regimes in areas such as Health and Safety at work. Under these regimes, workers – or people who have chosen to work as, for example, construction workers – are protected by regimes where it is ensured that the environment they work in is as safe as possible. If that idea were to be dominant on the public highway – with the danger from motor vehicles to other road users treated in the same way as danger to workers on a construction site – we would have a completely different attitude prevailing. On that basis it seems that we are entitled to expect that police officers should question the dominant car-centric views that hold sway in British society, in the sort of way that they are in West Midlands Police.

Against this, it might be felt that traffic police officers – who, it must be repeated, are often putting themselves at a high level of risk in their work – have good intentions. But good intentions are not only not enough, but frequently “pave the road to hell”. Traffic police officers are the first to know that most road crashes are caused by otherwise good people doing bad things. Being a good person is simply not good enough when it comes to the causes of road danger.

Let’s see how prejudice against cyclists and in favour of rule/law-breaking drivers exists with the examples of just one county police service and the Metropolitan Police Service.

Hampshire Police:

I asked the author of an analysis of one police service over six months, comparing them to West Midlands Police,  what the problems might be:

Fining cyclist for riding through amber, urging cyclists to wear hi-viz and be considerate to other road users after a cyclist wearing hi-viz is left for dead after a hit and run ,  criticising cyclist killed in broad daylight for not using lights  , spending winter evenings pulling over entirely law-abiding cyclists, presiding over one of the highest rates of increase of cyclist serious injuries in the country, refusing to look at video evidence of bad driving, unilaterally failing to include close passing of cyclists in their definition of dangerous driving, never engaging in related discussions on social media—shall I go on?”

This is a selection of cases in one police service. It is not too cynical to suggest that similar problems may exist in other police services in the UK. Also – noting that Hants Police have made a commitment towards close passing policing – it is quite possible that some good work can be done at the same time as questionable attitudes prevail elsewhere in the same force.


The Metropolitan Police Service:

As the largest police force in the UK by far, it’s worth having a look at some current issues with the MPS. This is not any kind of systematic analysis, rather a selection of some views expressed at the highest level which give cause for concern.

The strange case of cyclists not using cycle facilities

Detective Chief Superintendent Paul Rickett is OCU Commander of the Roads and Transport Policing Command (RTPC). Jointly funded by Transport for London (TfL), the RTPC is the largest operational command in the MPS, comprising 2,350 officers and staff, whose role is to provide safety and security across London’s road and surface transport infrastructure.

On 24th January 2017, at the centenary conference of the London Road Safety Council, he highlighted and denounced: “A symptom of post-modern libertarian democracy” which troubled him. His concern? “I can’t believe that cyclists are not required to use the Cycle Superhighways”. I think it’s worth spending some time on this issue and DCS Rickett’s vexation with what may be happening on some 0.145% of the roads he oversees.

There are of course numerous laws which require behaviours of all road users. The 30 mph speed limit in most of the Metropolitan Police area was set in (the modern) 1935, and has been broken by either a substantial minority or majority of motorists whenever they can, ever since. Behaviours which can be prosecuted as careless or dangerous driving are visible to anyone observing London motorised traffic. Indeed, law breaking (and certainly rule breaking threatening other road users as specified in the Highway Code) is so commonplace as not to excite much public attention. One would have thought DCS Rickett was concerned enough with the amount of persistent breaking of existing rules and laws by the motorised not to feel the need for additional laws. Take the following two incidents reported in the four days either side of his comments, in just one of London’s 33 Boroughs:

The first is described by the Fire Service, which as an emergency service frequently partners the MPS, as “Elderly man helped out of his car by firefighters after the vehicle reverses into a priest’s home in Hounslow”. (Note the lack of human agency.)

In the secondstaff at a luxury hotel in Hounslow were left shocked when a car ploughed through its glass entrance, coming to a halt inches from the reception desk

In neither case were arrests made. So why the need for new laws, when existing ones are routinely flouted with a minuscule chance of arrest?

DCS Rickett at the APPCG hearing

In his evidence to the All-Party Parliamentary Cycling Group on 22nd February 2017 (you can hear it here ), DCS Rickett was asked if the current suite of offences was adequate. His only suggested addition was, yes, the problem he has that he cannot enforce the non-use of Cycle Superhighways, and that the CSH outside his office is often “empty and the road filled with cyclists”. You can hear his evident vexation and the amount of time expressing it from 30 – 36 minutes. I think this tells us something about the attitude towards cyclists and cycling of the officer overseeing policing of London’s roads, and it’s worth looking at in detail.

It troubles him that the CSHs are there “at huge expense”. But the expense, certainly nationally, is trivial compared to the spending on other road infrastructure. Even in London, there is plenty of new road building, and the usual spending on “safety engineering” to accommodate rule- and law-breaking driving. One can furthermore argue that motorists impose massive external costs with regard to their danger, pollution, space consumption etc., which they don’t pay for, and are therefore subsidised “at huge expense”  .This is not an abstract academic issue: in a culture where drivers see themselves as paying tax (“I pay road tax”) and cyclists not, emphasising the spending on CSHs feeds into a commonly held prejudice.

There’s an echo of the Secretary of State’s infamous remarks about cyclists “not being road users”  . All transport professionals know that the CSHs are part of the public highway or “road” – yet DCS Rickett persistently describes them as being distinguished from “the road”.

Now the likes of DCS Rickett should be answered using rational argument. For example, the building of segregated cycle lanes on CSHs seems to have generated more cycling – which rather contradicts the idea that cyclists are using “the road” instead. Or it can be mentioned that there are often obvious reasons for not using a CSH lane: most are bi-directional, requiring additional movements across traffic to enter and leave if going from or to the other side of the road. These additional movements increase delay and also possibly danger.

But while rational argument is necessary, as with so much else, it won’t win the day because what is at issue is essentially ideological. The matter in hand is essentially about something unspoken: who the roads are for and how, when and why they may be used. My suggestion is that for DSC Rickett and much of mainstream culture, the roads are for motorised traffic, with almost all driving (including rule and law breaking driving) being acceptable. On the other hand, cycling is seen as suspect and problematic, with cyclists as a problem.


“Getting them out of the way”

There is a long history of cyclists being concerned about segregated cycle lanes/tracks on the basis that they would marginalise and “ghettoise” them. Part of this is based on the fact that much supposed “provision for cyclists” has been inadequate by today’s standards: inconvenient and potentially more hazardous for cyclists. Part of it is that, even with a network of high quality protected cycle lanes, most cycling will still be on the public highway in the immediate vicinity of motor vehicles: so drivers still have to be aware that they cannot expect cyclists to be somewhere else on most of the roads they use.

This worry is that provision for cycling based on the principle of segregation on main roads holds a fundamental danger for cyclists. It will allow drivers to think that cyclists are a problem to be got “out of the way” (e.g. where drivers feel they have a right to proceed at whatever speed they feel is right for them). The RDRF view is that we should proceed with the current nominal official commitment, most notably in London but also elsewhere, towards networks of segregated cycle lanes as a means of encouraging people scared of the hazards of cycling to cycle. That doesn’t stop us from being wary and watchful of attitudes based on seeing cycling as a problem to be got “out of the way” of drivers.

There are other reasons for cyclists not using existing cycle “facilities”. They may be blocked by parked cars or debris. As such, Cycling UK has successfully defended the right not to use them  . Many will not be fit for purpose under the current best practice design standards. Many cyclists have had the experience of being hooted at by irate drivers for not using a supposed “facility” which it was not appropriate for them to use. Indeed, DSC Rickett notes in his APPCG evidence that any legislation requiring cyclists to use segregated cycle lanes would have to be very specific.

I think that even with carefully drafted legislation, it is likely that plenty of drivers would still feel that a cyclist would be required to be “out of their way” even with a cycle lane /track which didn’t get covered by such legislation. Again, we are dealing with prejudice rather than rational argument.

Indeed, even just restricting campaigning to achieving the objective of a network of high quality segregated cycle lanes, such negative attitudes pose a threat to the well-being of actual and potential cyclists. And it seems that they exist at the top of the MPS with the officer (who reports to the Deputy Mayor for Transport, Val Shawcross, who plays a key part in overseeing provision for cycling).


A special present?

I think there are other things to be said here. I get the impression that the installation of protected cycle lanes on some 0.154% of the capital’s roads, with the (now questionable)  hope of this rising to some 0.45% during the current Mayoralty, is seen as some sort of special present to cyclists. But it is not. It is there to attract potential cyclists rather than those who are proficient and willing to cycle on London’s roads. One could argue that it is there for motorists, so that they don’t have to worry about the presence of cyclists (as explained above). Above all, allocation of dedicated space to cycling is supposed to be there to provide part of the solution to London’s problems generated by excessive dependence on motor vehicles, particularly private cars. It might be worthwhile seeing any favours as being done by, not for, cycling and cyclists.


Some other issues

I’ll spend less time on some of the other views expressed by DCS Rickett. Suffice it to say that they betray inadequate or negative views of cycling.

There is lots of evidence out there that lots of lives could be saved if helmets were made mandatory” (1 hour 7 minutes). It is clear that there is no evidence to justify a mandatory helmet law, and little if any of beneficial effects in reducing serious injury rates. As Bez  has concisely argued:

It’s also worth looking at some comments in a recent tweet by Jamie Juggins on the mandatory helmet law in Australia:

As with helmets, so too hi-viz (1 hour 6 minutes), although no evidence is claimed and this is “just my opinion”.

DCS Rickett seems cool on policing 20 mph areas (37 mins), seems to be more concerned with policing cyclist behaviour – as with “cyclist rideouts”, whatever they are –  (59 minutes), and unaware of the discussion raised about use of Section 59 of the Police Reform Act (discussed among officers at our award event  last year).

Finally, we have the case of Barry Mason, killed while cycling in London in February 2014,  which we have discussed here   and here . The case is notorious because of the decision of the MPS to not pass the papers on to the Crown Prosecution Service. The family raised funds for a private prosecution. DCS Rickett defends this decision (49 minutes 30 seconds); our view is different. We’ll see what happens in the private prosecution, which is due next month.


A(nother) case of non-prosecution

Before we leave the Met, let’s have a look at a case reported last month where a woman cyclist knocked down by a van driver suffered “bleeding, bruising and a black eye and said that it was only because a black cab had been following at a distance that it was able to avoid running her over as she lay sprawled in the road.” And once again there was a failure to prosecute for even the charge of careless driving. It is worthwhile reading the account of this case in detail – including the comments below – here  .

Suffice it to say that we agree with Cycling UK’s view:

If this represents Met Police policy they might as well say that they are just not bothered about careless driving, as long as nobody suffers a life-changing injury. This driver’s lack of attention and bad driving was no less careless just because Ms Singh was lucky, and was merely bloodied and bruised rather than paralysed.

Careless driving is driving below the standard of a careful and competent driver. This was way below that standard. The Met however have applied their own “nobody died” interpretation of the law, and offered a re-training course. Somebody should be asking themselves what message they are sending regarding road safety and the standard of driving they expect on London’s roads

Of course, this is just one case – albeit reported recently and following persistence from the victim. It’s unlikely that we even hear about most such cases. We need to repeat the point: what kind of messages are the MPS sending out about the standard of driving that should be – and legally is – required on London’s roads?


Conclusion: The good and the bad

In the past we have criticised the Met about its traffic policing  Sometimes this has been a little unfair – for example, some of the prejudice against cyclists may have come from officers drafted in to Operation Safeway who don’t have the expertise of traffic officers. We repeat our support for traffic officers throughout the UK, and feel they deserve recognition for the necessary – and often hazardous – work they carry out. In particular, we look forward to the close passing of cyclists policing that is developing throughout the UK following the West Midlands initiative.

Nevertheless, this will be only part of the work that the police can – and more importantly in our opinion should – be doing to reduce danger from careless, dangerous, criminally negligent, rule and/or law breaking driving that increases danger to other road users. Some good features of policing do not remove the failures in attitude and practice that we refer to above.

Obviously this review is not a systematic study of the MPS and all other UK police forces. It also does not address the fundamental issue of what happens after policing, with courts giving lenient and non-deterrent sentences to offenders. That is a matter deserving of separate attention – although we feel that a senior police officer giving evidence to the APPCG could at least suggest the need for deterrent sentencing.

But we believe that we have highlighted areas of concern that need change if we are to have the civilised approach to road danger of which policing is an integral part. The close passing policing initiatives show that there is a desire for road danger reduction measures among traffic police officers of all ranks. That will require eliminating old prejudices, and we are here to assist with this.


I will be speaking on this subject at the Public Policy Exchange conference 16th March and the Hackney Cycling Conference


Categories: Views

The Golden Hour in Amsterdam

BicycleDutch - 6 March, 2017 - 23:01
Last Tuesday night I went to Amsterdam for another edition of “Bike & City” about the role and place for cyclists in European urban space. The theme was: “What can … Continue reading →
Categories: Views

On his Quietways, the boroughs are taking Sadiq Khan for a ride

At War With The Motorist - 5 March, 2017 - 19:00

The Mayor is giving boroughs money to build Quietways for cycling and the boroughs are misappropriating it. Exactly as history told us they would.

My commute these days takes in a section of the Mayor’s new “Quietway 3” as I go an extra mile trying to avoid as much as possible riding on the roads of the City of Westminster, one of London’s 33 local government boroughs.

Although TfL has been advertising Quietway 3 as “complete” for some time, it’s only in the past few weeks that barriers have come down to reveal the first physical hints of its existence.

Filter bubble

At Boundary Road, on the Westminster/Camden border, the Quietway crosses the busy Finchley Road, the main arterial road to the M1. The Quietway here benefits from a mode filter which prevents through motor traffic on Boundary Road from crossing the Finchley Road.

A filter has existed here for many years already, built as part of a route in the failed London Cycle Network. But for the Quietway, it has been expensively rebuilt with a very slightly different alignment, and with a replacement set of traffic signals that include low-level cycle signals.* The only thing that is really new here, and which is highlighted as one of the big boons for cycling, is an additional banned turn to further filter motor traffic from Boundary Road.

They've taken the fencing down to reveal Westminster's brand new freshly installed Quietway….

— Joe Dunckley (@steinsky) February 9, 2017

Less prominently highlighted is the other big benefit of this banned turn, which reveals the real reason for the existence of this mode filter. The new banned left turn means that traffic on Finchley Road doesn’t need to be stopped for pedestrians to get a green man signal across Boundary Road. Like the LCN-era mode filter before it, this scheme has been designed to smooth and expedite traffic flow on a major arterial road by removing potential junction conflicts and minimising its red signal time. It is a motoring scheme dressed up as a cycling scheme in order to use up a cycling budget.

Signal failure

Elsewhere the evidence of Quietway 3 is even less forthcoming, but we can see from the consultations what is planned.


— Joe Dunckley (@steinsky) June 28, 2016

After Boundary Road, the Quietway heads into Westminster borough on Ordnance Hill. At times when the parallel Finchley and Avenue Roads are busy and congested, Ordnance Hill becomes the motorist’s ratrun of choice for racing to Swiss Cottage, and it’s crossed by a series of other popular ratruns. So what are Westminster proposing to do to transform this busy motoring racetrack into a Quietway that can deliver on the mayor’s vision for cycling?

They’re putting pedestrian crossing lights on signalised crossroads and replacing some footway paving with fancy stone. That will be the junction between Ordnance Hill and Acacia Road, two unclassified residential streets, both paralleled on each side by major through roads, but which have somehow become so busy with motorists cutting through that they need signals to manage the traffic and help people cross.

But it’s definitely a cycling scheme Westminster are spending the cycling money on, because alongside the expensive traffic signals and fancy stone paving, they’re going to paint advanced stop lines for cyclists.

Needless to say from schemes like these, Quietway 3 is going to be crap. Quietway 3 is not going to do the slightest to transform these streets into somewhere that, to quote the objectives of the scheme, people who are less confident in traffic will want to cycle. That these streets need signals and advanced stop lines to manage the traffic is shouting that they are a failure even before the letter ‘Q’ has been painted all over them. They are not, and will not be, the “quiet roads” that the mayor claims.

But that’s not what’s infuriating. Westminster misappropriating cycling funds is what Westminster does. It’s barely worth a sigh of resignation. What’s infuriating is that their behaviour could be seen a mile off, but the mayor has chosen to ignore every warning.

Reinventing the wheel

The rhetoric behind the Quietways is that this is some kind of innovation the likes of which we’ve never seen before, a radical programme that will deliver the transformation needed to make the mayor’s vision for cycling a reality. We’re told to wait and see how well it works rather than make premature judgements on twitter.

But we can see from Quietway 3 that there isn’t the slightest innovation between this and the the early 2000s London Cycling Network that failed before it — and which it largely follows. We know how well it will work because we have tried this countless times before. We know it doesn’t work, we know exactly why it doesn’t work, and we know what needs to be done differently to make it work.

The Quietways are failing for the same reason the London Cycling Network failed, and why the National Cycling Strategy before that failed, and why most of the Local Sustainable Transport Fund failed, and almost every one of the dozens of cycling policies since the 1970s that have proclaimed the same vision as this one have failed. They are being delivered piecemeal by nearly 3 dozen different local authorities and agencies few of which have the resources, expertise or adequate guidance to deliver it, few of which entirely share the mayor’s stated vision for them, and several of which are actively hostile to the objectives of the schemes they’ve been asked to deliver.

Boroughs and local authorities are well practised in redirecting ringfenced funds to their own priorities, as Paul M says of the LCN:

When we analysed how the City of London had spent its LCN grant money from TfL over the last few years, we found that typically the budget disappears down three roughly equal sized holes. One is the physical, tangible (for what it is worth) expenditure on paint and asphalt and — very occasionally –kerbstones. The second is spent on feasibility studies, impact assessments, traffic counts, yada yada yada, maybe even the occasional engineering design, carried out by consultants. The third, startlingly, is in effect a subsidy of the City’s own planing and highways departments’ salary bills.

This is the lesson that was learned from the 1996 National Cycling Strategy in an extensive report in 2005. It’s what led to the short-lived Cycling England, set up because the DfT discovered once again that trying to implement the National Cycling Strategy through grants to local authorities, who had their own agendas, didn’t work:

Weaknesses of the existing arrangements: Local authorities as delivery bodies
The first is how to work with local authorities, at present the main delivery agents, to deliver. Our main performance management system for local transport – the Local Transport Plan (LTP) system – identifies cycling as one of a large number of “products” that central government is purchasing from local government in return for the capital investment. But, in practice, our work with local authorities reveals that cycling, in most cases, is a significantly lower priority for transport investment than other outcomes, such as better public transport or small-scale highway improvements. Despite the transformation in the availability of local transport capital since 1997 and the increased investment in cycling under the LTP regime, levels of expenditure on cycling still lag well below those in successful cycling cities outside the UK. Central government cannot insist that local authorities adopt a particular cycling programme, nor would it want to, given that the direction of local government policy is to increase the autonomy of local government; however it can influence authorities through the LTP process.

This suggests that, if cycling is genuinely a national priority, more diverse delivery mechanisms need to be introduced, to complement and increase the impact of what local authorities are doing.

Cycling England was created to stop our wasting money on an inefficient and ineffective way of delivering cycling projects through grants to local authorities. (It was abolished to save money, by, er, going back to that inefficient and ineffective system.)

None of this is news. We know very well what doesn’t work in delivering mass cycling, and the mayor has been warned again and again. But Sadiq Khan seems thoroughly determined to learn this lesson the hard way.

The 'Quietway’ on Exhibition Road is a total, total joke.

— Mark Treasure (@AsEasyAsRiding) January 23, 2017

*This section has actually been a TfL scheme, so one department of TfL is happy to rip another just as much as the boroughs are.

Categories: Views

Will making driving routes longer persuade anyone to cycle?

As Easy As Riding A Bike - 2 March, 2017 - 13:37

There is a form of discussion in cycling campaigning circles on the types of policy required to enable cycling in Britain. This discussion ranges along a continuum from (at one end) a belief in what I would call ‘motoring-hostile’ measures, and at the other end, ‘cycling-focused’ measures.

Motoring-hostile measures include things like congestion charging, increasing parking charges, removing parking spaces, and so on; policies that, in and of themselves, don’t do anything to make cycling more attractive, but (it is argued) may force people to consider other modes of transport, including cycling. Meanwhile cycling-focused measures involve ensuring that cycling is a safe and attractive mode of transport, from door-to-door.

I don’t think it’s any great secret that I tend to lie towards the ‘cycling-focused measures’ end of the continuum. I don’t think making driving more difficult will increase cycling to any great extent, principally because –

  • it doesn’t do anything to address the main barrier to cycling; unpleasant, unsafe and subjectively hostile cycling environments.
  • driving is already a difficult, frustrating and unattractive mode of transport in Britain, particularly in urban areas.

In this post I’m going to look at just one aspect of this debate; namely, whether making journeys for drivers more inconvenient (allegedly, like those journeys might be in the Netherlands) would have any effect on cycling levels.

Back in January I plotted a Dutch network onto a British town (and wrote a blog post about it!). To my slight surprise, it turned out that a very large proportion of the road network of Horsham is composed of access-only roads – roads that are cul-de-sacs for motor traffic, or that make no sense to drive on unless you are a resident, or visiting a property on that street.

All the roads in light or dark green are cul-de-sacs, or genuine access roads

Why is this important? Well, it means that the town of Horsham already has what I would describe as a Dutch-style motoring network.

The way drivers will move about the town is very similar to the way they would move about an equivalent Dutch town. They will not be using residential or access roads to make journeys, because it is impossible to use them (they are dead ends!) or because it makes no sense to use them (there is a ‘main road’ route that is quicker, or less circuitous). Their journeys will not be direct. Here’s just one example – driving from a residential street, to join a main road to the north.

A substantial part of the town has this kind of road network. Like many other towns across Britain, it has expanded rapidly since the mid-twentieth century, and is consequently largely composed of a dendritic highway pattern, designed to create safe, quiet streets in the age of the motor car.

Exactly the same kind of road network for drivers that you will find in the Netherlands.

Residential street pattern in Horsham (left) versus residential street pattern in Assen, NL (right)

Driving in Horsham will involve the similar kinds of journey patterns (and journey lengths) to equivalent trips in Assen.

Now, the cycling mode share in Horsham is, at best, something like 2% of all trips (cycle to work share in the 2011 census was 1.6%), while in Assen it is around 40%. So, given this intrinsic similarity in driving patterns, how do we account for the large difference in cycling mode share between the two settlements?

There are no stunning geographical differences between Horsham and an equivalent Dutch town; it is flat and reasonably compact – no barriers to cycling in this regard. So if driving in Horsham is just as circuitous, arduous and difficult as it is in Assen (if not more so), then what is the principle reason for the difference?

My view is that it has to be that cycling is too difficult and unpleasant, rather than driving being too easy.

  • Principally, we have a hostile (main) road network that the vast majority of the people in the town will not dare to go anywhere near on a bike.
  • Secondarily, we have a ‘permeability’ problem. In many places, what could be short trips by bike are converted into very long ones (just as long as the circuitous driving trip) because of an absence of short connections between roads and streets.

A typical main road in Horsham – a substantial barrier to cycling

Neither of these barriers will be tackled by making driving more circuitous; indeed, it is hard to see how driving could be made substantially more difficult in this regard, given that the town is already largely composed of a dendritic highway pattern for drivers.

The obvious conclusion – if we are interested in increasing cycling levels – is that sensible policy should focus on creating safe and attractive conditions for cycling, and on opening up (or improving) connections for cycling between currently different parts of the town, rather than expecting drivers to be prised out of their cars by making their routes longer – we’ve already done this in Horsham (albeit through historical accident) and we have negligible cycling levels.

Categories: Views

From semi-protected to a fully protected intersection

BicycleDutch - 27 February, 2017 - 23:01
The city of ’s-Hertogenbosch upgraded a protected intersection. It used to be partly protected, with long diagonal cycle crossings on the carriage way, but it now became a fully protected … Continue reading →
Categories: Views

A meeting with Will Norman and Val Shawcross

Vole O'Speed - 25 February, 2017 - 19:40
It is nearly ten months since Sadiq Khan won the London mayoral election for Labour, defeating the Conservative candidate Zac Goldsmith. As readers are likely to know, he promised to meet the demands of the London Cycling Campaign, most importantly including building more cycle Superhighways to triple the provision of segregated space on London's roads in four years, and extending the mini-Holland programme to every borough. Since then, it's all been very quiet. There was no immediate replacement for the last Cycling Commissioner, Andrew Gilligan, and, other than an announcement that the (largely back-steet and non-segregated) extension of Superhighway 6 towards St Pancras planned under Gilligan would go ahead, there have been no announcements of any definite new plans for cycling. A new bridge across the Thames from Wapping to Rotherhithe, promised by Khan during the campaign, has been mentioned by him often (along with pedestrianisation of Oxford Street, the effects of which on cycling cannot yet be predicted), but other than that, cycling affairs seem to have been in deep-freeze. Of the other two Superhighway schemes consulted on just before the election, there have been non-commital statements on CS11 to Swiss Cottage, which received public approval in the consultation and so is a scheme that was 'ready to go', while the plans for CS 10, the extension to the East-West Superhighway from Lancaster Gate to West London have vanished without trace, with not even any report on the consultation ever published.
I've refrained from commenting on this hiatus, as the new Mayor needed time to get his feet under the desk, select his team and come up with his own strategy after assessing the results of  what the last mayor had done. However, it has been deeply frustrating seeing such a successful programme apparently grind to a halt. Even the work that needed to be completed on CS3, the East-West Superhighway from Parliament Square to Westbourne Grove that was already programmed, seemed to be taking for ever, with nothing new definitely in the pipeline. The Mayor announced a £770m budget for cycling for the next five years, but how could this possibly be spent?

So we had finally a development last week, when the new Walking and Cycling Commissioner, Will Norman, took up his post, having been appointed in November, and started making public pronouncements. When Andrew Gilligan became the first Cycling Commissioner in 2013, his views  were already quite well known to cycling campaigners due to his press articles, and he had also met many of us and asked our opinions before taking up the job. Not so with Will Norman, who came on this scene as a totally unknown quantity. No-one I have met had ever heard of him before he was given the job. We were told by the Mayor that:
Will specialises in increasing levels of physical activity and participation in sports around the world, working with a range of international organisations... [including the] UN, European Parliament, G8, World Health Organisation and International Olympic Committee... Will, who cycles every day in London, has a strong background of working with private and public partnerships, and a wealth of experience in getting people from a wide range of backgrounds active. Before joining Nike in 2013, Will set up a successful social research consultancy and was also Director of Research at The Young Foundation, where he was responsible for delivering multi-million pound European programmes and established a youth leadership organisation... At Nike, Will has spearheaded a programme to make physical activity a global policy priority... Among his work has been a partnership with UNESCO and the German Development Agency GIZ to successfully reform physical education in South Africa, bringing activity and sports to thousands of primary school children for the first time since the 1990s.Others who had applied for the job had been leaders in local government, campaigners, journalists, architects, planners and engineers. The choice of Will Norman was a surprising one, given a slight nebulosity of his connection to the subject in hand, that is, as I would characterise it, physically planning better walking and cycling conditions in London, and working politically to put such plans though the labyrinth of relevant controlling bodies. Still, Andrew Gilligan was perhaps no more obviously fitted to the role when he started, and yet he did achieve quite a lot.

So we were all very exited to hear that, soon after being appointed, Will would speak to a meeting at which we could attend and ask questions. Even better, he would do so with Val Shawcross, the Deputy Mayor for Transport. The meeting was part of the Street Talks programme, started by Bruce McVean and colleagues in a Holborn pub, and later taken over by Sustrans London. It took place last Wednesday at Look Mum, No Hands café. It was completely booked out, and I am sure a much larger venus could have been filled, such was the level of interest. Virtually everyone known for their interest in cycling in London was there, including Andrew Gilligan, the last commissioner, and another transport expert who many thought might get the Commissioner job, Christian Wolmar.

Such was the high level of interest in this meeting people were queueing in the street.In a packed Look Mum, No HandsIt was apparent really from the start of this meeting there was something of a mismatch between what Shawcross and Norman had come prepared to tell their audience, and the sort of information the audience wanted. The audience was a group of campaigners for walking and cycling. There was no need to explain to them the myriad social, economic and health benefits of getting more walking and cycling in cities. They had also mostly heard the vague talk of 'Healthy Streets' emanating recently from Transport for London spokespeople, and probably seen the cheerful-looking slides before. They wanted details. They wanted to know what this administration would actually do on the ground. They wanted to know why key projects the last Mayor had proposed, CS 10 and CS 11, were stalled, and what would come next. They wanted to know how the new mini-Holland programme (re-christened 'Heathy Town Centres') would look, and be rolled out, and what would happen to the largely failed Quietways programme. They did not get this information, and there was an increasing level of frustration palpable at being given 'motherhood and apple pie' recipes for the healthy city of the future. As Mark Treasure tweeted about 30 minutes into the meeting:
So far I've learned that cycling and walking is healthy and it would be good if more people walked and cycled #streettalksThe Healthy Streets slide you've probably seen beforeThe chair seemed to believe there would be some sort of debate in the room about the basic desirability of changing the city to enable higher levels of cycling and walking, which showed how out-of-place he was. (Apparently he was an employee of 'The Prince's Trust, whatever that is). It may be worth recalling that the first time Andrew Gilligan had addressed the public after his appointment, he already had a quite specific 'Vision' document he had written with the Mayor to show campaigners, and he was announcing brand-new and highly-ambitious schemes, such as 'Crossrail for the Bike' (which became CS3, and got built), a 'Bike Grid for Central London' (which did not really happen), better Superhighways (which happened at CS3, CS5 and CS6, but not CS1), a 'Jubilee Line Route' from the West End to Wembley (which did not happen), and 'Mini-Hollands in the suburbs" – three of which happened, though only one of which, the Waltham Forest one, is yet really impressive. So compared to all this promise in 2013, the Shawcross-Norman act at Look Mum, No Hands in 2017 was insubstantial indeed.

I asked Will Norman for some details. What schemes would he be bringing forward first? He said he wouldn't make announcements on the programme, as the was going to be a process of analysing where the most demand was in order to prioritise the next phase of cycle network development. He was prepared to say that CS 4 and CS 9 would be consulted on this year. This means that construction on those could begin in 2018. (It is widely believed that CS 9, an East-West Superhighway running through Houslow and Ealing, and Hammersmith & Fulham, will just have to stop at the boundary of Kensington & Chelsea, as the Royal Borough won't allow Cycle Superhighways on its streets.)
The sharpest interest from the audience was on the future of CS 11 and its proposed associated part-time gate closures at Regent's Park. A question on this received the reply from Val Shawcross that Regent's Park was a dangerous place for pedestrians, and so the solution for the Superhighway needed to take this into account. So, you would have thought, she would be jumping at the opportunity to remove rush-hour through-traffic from the park by selectively closing gates. But, no, bafflingly, she uttered these words:Gate closures will happen if that's what we need to do, but we are looking at alternatives for a safer park.What could that possibly mean? It seemed that she was considering a segregated track for cyclists. Now, I am one of the world's leading supporters of segregated cycle tracks, as the whole of this blog testifies, but I can't really see how one on the Outer Circle of Regent's Park would solve the problems there. It might reduce traffic speeds slightly, by restricting space for motor traffic, but it would not reduce traffic volume in the park as closing gates selectively would. Of itself it would not facilitate pedestrians crossing the roads. It would not provide the space that the sports cyclists need for their circuits; it would be a disaster for them, as they would be squeezed on to the narrowed road space. The only way to make a track wide enough to cater for utility, commuting and sports cyclists of all types would be to make it the width of the whole road (minus the car parking) – in other words, to go back to the idea of having an unsegregated road, with no through motor traffic on it.

The consulted plan for CS 11 with the proposed part-time gate-closuresNo-one campaigning for the implementation of CS 11 wants a cycle track solution in the park. The suggestion of it by Shawcross now might even be seen as a cynical attempt to split the pro-CS 11 lobby by driving a wedge between the utility cyclists, who would benefit from the track, and the sports cyclists, who would disbenefit. A track would do nothing for the pollution levels in the park, which would continue to be a taxi rat-run. Without the closure of Macclesfield Gate, there will still be too much traffic on Avenue Road between Swiss Cottage and the park for it to act as a safe or inclusive Cycle Superhighway. The whole scheme will be ruined. A cycle track on the Outer Circle is a non-starter. Why is Shawcross raising this possibility at all? Why not just get on with the already consulted plan? It makes no sense to say that the safety of park users is a top priority, and then keep the Outer Circle open as a rush-hour rat-run.

Other questions came on development issues such as the Olympic Park, where the cycle infrastructure built on this blank slate site has been highly disappointing, and Old Oak Common, which is another stalled mayoral development project. Again there were no details forthcoming. I don't suppose Norman has had time to look at any of this yet, so it is not surprising. But what I might have expected, reasonably, I think, from him and Shawcross was some more strategic indication of where they would be going in relationship to how cycling had been left by the last administration. What did they think of the facilities that have been built? What did they think had worked, what had failed, and why? What should be improved, what, specifically, are the next steps in making 'London a by-word for cycling', as Sadiq Khan has promised? We really didn't get this. We did get a statement from Shawcross that the Santander hire scheme (AKA Boris Bikes) would not be expanded, as it is too expensive to do so. We didn't get any commitment to review the rather modest target of achieving 1.5 million cycle journeys a day by 2021.

There were some stranger thing in the meeting. One questioner referred to the high-pollution days we have been experiencing in London, and asked, 'Rather than tell people not to go out and take exercise, why can't you tell people not to drive instead?' All the audience understood what this was about, having seen tweets along these lines from TfL, and applauded the question. But Shawcross bizarrely misunderstood, despite lots of people trying to should out to explain it to her. This was a question about messaging, but she interpreted as a question about closing roads locally, or more widely, for 'car free days'. She seemed to be quite against these, cv claiming that 'the science is not behind' trying to reduce pollution by closing roads. There was a ruckus. There was more disbelief in the audience when it transpired that the Chair didn't know what mini-hollands were. It was like being at a debate on medical ethics where the chair had never heard of stem cell research, or something like that.

Shawcross and Norman merely putting to the meeting a broad view on making streets better for cycling and walking, without any firm proposals for particular locations, might have been seen as fair enough, except that the problem was (and I have Shawcross more in my sights here than Norman, as she has been in post for much longer, and is an experienced politician) that they were talking as if they were starting from nothing, as if the last administration had not also had strategy on these things, and had not done quite a bit of good. They were not acknowledging this. They were talking as if an active travel agenda had to be created for the first time ever, and not as if the main issues had been gone into already, and many problems found, particularly with realising such a vision with the fragmentation of authority between the Mayor, the boroughs, the Corporation, the Royal Parks, the Canal and River Trust, other bodies, and opposition from powerful versed groups. They were not telling us how they hoped the new administration might overcome issues that the old one could not, such as the blockages caused by the critically-placed anti-cycling councils in Westminster and Kensington & Chelsea.

I had already asked Val Shawcross about CS10, the extension west of the E-W Superhighway, at a meeting last year. She had said then that TfL were 'looking at different options to decide a way forward'. We all know however there are no options other than the plan which was consulted on, to create a cycle track on the elevated Westway, as all the other roads west out of central London are, at least in part, controlled by the Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea. We got no more information on this, leading one to suspect she  and TfL have no more clue about it. The Superhighway has now been built as far as Westbourne Terrace. This is where it was meant to join the Westway. It is now just going to end at the huge, awful junction of the A40 and Harrow Road, where cyclists will have n-where further to go. I am genuinely fearful about this. The Superhighway from the parks will attract many hire-bikes and tourists, who will end up at this point and be abandoned. I really fear bad things will happen at the end of the Superhighway at Westbourne Terrace. Coming up with no solution here is a dereliction of duty on the part of Sadiq Khan and Val Shawcross.
The existing plan for CS3 and CS10, the E-W Superhighway. It now ends in Westbourne TerraceNice new cycle tracks in Hyde Park will now deliver cyclists like here, Westbourne Bridge, where the Superhighway should have gone on to the flyover, but now will just run out.Will Norman, from my first brief engagement with him, came across as personable and able to talk to a crowd. He seemed like a nice guy, but I am worried he could become a fall-guy, the person angry meetings, of similar composition to the meeting at Look Mum, No Hands, shout at over the next three years at as the Mayor fails to deliver on his cycling promises, but who lacks the influence or political heft to do anything about it. The huge advantage that Andrew Gilligan had was that Boris Johnson did back him, and never undermined him, never put him out front to take the flack for decisions he wan't responsible for.

The Heathy Streets agenda that Shawcross and Norman were promoting sounds good in theory, but how will it collide with the political reality of the opposition they will get to any attempts at reallocating space on the roads or changing the functions of roads, demonstrated so clearly by the totally unreasonable opposition to CS 11 and the Regent's Park gate closures, and the numerous failed Quietway schemes around London, where councils didn't believe their residents would support the closing of streets to through motor traffic? It sounds as if the Healthy Streets initiative could easily descend into a programme of uncontroversial prettification. We could easily get the benches, more trees, nice paving, a few extra crossings, and no reduction in motor traffic, and no more high-quality space for cycling. Sadiq Khan has made a much bigger 'thing' than his predecessor of tacking the life-threatening air pollution we suffer from in London, in his speeches, at least. But what has he actually announced after 10 months in the job? He has announced a higher rate of congestion charge on a rather small number of the most polluting cars entering the very small area of the central charging zone. The response so far has not been in proportion to the problem, or the rhetoric, and Shawcross's comments on the undesirability of closing roads as 'Not supported by science' indicates such 'big talking' coupled with political timidity is likely to be the pattern for this administration.
The Quietway routes promised three years ago: only Waterloo to Greenwich has happened in any meaningful sense.A change from the previous Mayor's policies would be, Shawcross told us at the Look Mum, No Hands meeting, that there would henceforth be a 'hierarchy' of consideration for the streets. Pedestrians would be at the top of this, followed by people on bikes, followed by bus users, followed by taxi users, with private motorists last. I'm afraid I'm not impressed with this talk. I've been listening for a quarter of a century to statements along the line of 'It is the policy of the London borough of Brokenham to priorities the need to pedestrians and cyclists above those of motor traffic'. These empty 'hierarchy' promises are easy to make to rooms full of active travel experts and enthusiasts, and always have been, they but don't often translate into reality in terms of space and junction time allocated on the streets for pedestrians and cyclists. They don't prevent you having to press a button and then wait two minutes before you can cross the road, and they don't prevent cycle lanes being ruled impossible due to a 'need' for parking. In practice, for nearly every real decision about priorities on the streets taken in authorities which have these stated hierarchies, the hierarchy, when it meets other, sharper political realities, suddenly gives way to a need to 'take into account and balance the needs of all road-users'.
I am told, and someone can correct me if it is not true, that there is a room in Transport for London's headquarters (or maybe in City Hall), somewhere at the top of the building, were there are lots of screens and lots of controls. This is the traffic control neve-centre for London. For TfL controlled roads, operators are monitoring traffic and queues, and they are trying to optimise traffic flow. This means the flow of motor traffic, not the flow or pedestrians or cyclists. They are making adjustments to signal timing all the time to try to keep the motor traffic flowing. They are reducing timings for pedestrian crossings where they feel it is necessary to reduce queues of motor traffic. They are explicitly prioritising cars over people. If all this is true, then I expect Shawcross and Norman to go to these people, and tell them, in future, they are going to have to do something different. If they don't, or can't, I am afraid I think we are being told fairy stories about this Mayor's approach to transport.

Categories: Views

Malmö's Bicycle House is Open - Cykelhuset OhBoy

Copenhagenize - 21 February, 2017 - 14:24

Jennie Fasth is a cyclist, bicycle advocate and freelance writer based in Malmö, Sweden. She is currently a student at the University of Lund, studying geographic information systems. She is working towards her Masters degree in urban planning. This article of hers was first published on the Swedish website and is republished here on with permission.

OhBoy - The Swedish Bicycle House is Open
by Jennie Fasth

On 23 October 2015, the first sod was turned for what would become the first "cykelhus" - or "bicycle house" in Sweden. The development is named OhBoy and is located in the Western Harbour (Västerhamn)  of the City of Malmö. Tenants have now gradually started moving in. What does the Bicycle House look like? Who are the residents and what do they think about their new and unique building? I decided to find out.

All 55 apartments are rented out and there is no doubt that bike-minded people were among the first to move in. Not all moving vans have arrived just yet, but there is no shortage of bikes. Along the access walkways, there are many regular bikes and cargo bikes. The bicycle garage is a beehive of activity, as well.

There are bicycles on every floor and, unlike traditional apartment buildings, bikes are more than welcome on the access coridors. The railings are reinforced and extra space has been designed in, allowing for wider bikes to fit - without conflicting with fire regulations.

Bicycle Pool and Cargo Bikes

Although tenants start to arrive there remains a lot to do on the house. Three places to tinker with bikes, will be available shortly, two outdoor and one in the basement. These will be provided with tools for residents to borrow. Tenants will also have access to a bicycle pool and three of the custom-made bikes arrived just the other day - from Danish DIY cargo bikemakers XYZ Cargo.

The architecture bureau Hauschild + Siegel has designed, built and will manage the Bicycle House. They spent a great deal of time finding solutions to make the building as bicycle-friendly as possible. The bicycle pool is no exception. In order to maximize the comfort for residents living car-free, they have ordered bikes from XYZ Cargo in Copenhagen. In addition to the traditional three-wheeler cargo bike, residents can borrow both a kindergarten cargo bike with room for six children and a bicycle taxi with room for two passengers. Even some folding bikes have been ordered.

These cargo bikes will have a separate parking area under a roof and next to the car park and the bike washing facility. After consulting with a landscape architect, an environmentally-friendly system has been developed. The traditional oil separator will be replaced with plants that will act as a filter in the cleaning process. Environmental considerations are consistent in the vegetation, the environmentally-friendly building materials and solar panels.

Bikes - Access All Areas

The kindergarten bike and the bike taxi are extra wide, but the building is designed for them. All doors are 10 cm wider than normal, which makes it possible for the residents to take their bike anywhere in the building. Even right up to their apartment door if necessary. In addition, every door is equipped with a door opener for easier access.

The architects have also thought about that all important turning radius in stairwells. Wider than in traditional apartment buildings. The bikes also fit easily into the elevators, which are wider and deeper than normal.

It is easy to understand why the access walkways are teeming with cargo bikes. It is so easy to take them with you up to your apartment. The residents don't have to unload the bike and then carry everything up to the apartment. This ease-of-use could not be easier.

You don't need to stop at the front door. The apartments are designed so that bikes can be wheeled right to your fridge, if you so desire. The apartment doors are also 10 cm wider than the norm. The kitchens are designed by Finnish company Puustelli and consist of cabinet doors in glazed birch (gray and white in most apartments) and the countertops are Finnish granite. All units are fitted with induction stoves, convection ovens, dishwashers and a washing machine.

The open floor plan provides plenty of opportunities to decide for yourself how you want to design the accessibility in your apartment. Interestingly, the walls and ceilings are concrete and it is not allowed to paint them. Picture frams and curtain solutions are provided by the building administrators. You'll need permission to drill in the concrete walls.

Regardless of which door the residents use to enter the building, bikes are thought into the design. All doors are wider and the elevator opens at front and back so you never need to turn your bike around.

Post boxes are available at the entrance and accommodate both large and small post. The idea is that the residents can shop from home - as so many people do - but also to make it easy to recieve packages. In addition to the cargo bikes, there is also a car share program included in the apartment.

A Car-Free Life

It is totally possible to just wander around the entire building all day and study all the cycling options and details. There are small touches everywhere that are part of the big picture in a building designed for people who have chosen a car-free life. We were able to meet some of the residents to hear why they moved into Bicycle House.

Ola Fagerstrom is an avid cyclist with many bike kilometres behind him. He has a cargo bike, a cyclecross and a mountain bike in his collection. He worked for a year at Danish cargo bike brand Larry vs Harry in Copenhagen, so it's no surprise that a Bullitt cargo bike was the one he chose. You'll see Ola whizzing around on it in Malmö. He sold his car two years ago and hasn't any reason to buy a new one.

Moving to the Bicycle House has only been a positive experience. Ola's son, Malte, used to have t ride 10 km a day to get to school in Western Harbour, and now has a much shorter journey.  Ola enjoys the area's industrial feel and calm streets. He likes not having a building across the street and the view of Stapelbädds Park is harmonic, he says. Although there is still construction noise in the building, it is still very quiet. It is impossible to hear the local skate park or the traffic nearby.

Ola's bike expertise has been harnessed by the building's community and he has had the opportunity to take part in both the purchase of tools for the workshops and the bikes for the bicycle pool. Even though it has only been a few weeks since he moved in, Ola is thriving. He thinks it is fantastic to smoothly roll his fully-loaded Bullitt cargo bike into the elevator and park outside his front door.

The next resident we meet is Johanna Ekne. She lives and works in the building and will be responsible for the coming Bicycle Hotel and while the decision to move here was work-related, it was the design of the place that sold it to Johanna. Her family innovative thinking and a building dedicated to cycling felt right.

Moving boxes are not yet emptied and there is much to be done but Johanna loves it. The apartment is very different that the old house in Möllevången where she moved from, which had four flights of stairs and no lift. The family also had problems finding space for their bikes. Today, the bikes are parked outside their flat, which Johanna thinks is brilliant.

The family kept their car during the move but now have plans of selling it. Something Johanna looks forward to. "It will be great. Everything is easier by bike".

The family lives at the top of the building and the apartment has two levels. Each apartment on the 6th and 7th floor has a spacious terrace that will  eventually be fitted with green barriers and flower boxes to provide some privacy.

For the residents who don't have a large terrace, the view can be enjoyed from the roof terrace. An orangery is being built and all vegetation will be in place by April 2017.

The Bicycle Hotel

Moving boxes are still arriving in a steady flow and most residents are expected to move in by the time the Bicycle Hotel opens. March 1. 2017 is the date that the 32 apartments on the ground floor will be ready for guests.

Bedrooms and bathrooms are on the ground floor and a kitchen and living room with work area are located upstairs. Guests have their own entrance with a little garden outside and, during the stay, will have free access to bikes. The reception will be on the ground floor of the building but the idea is that hotel guests will check in on their own. A communal laundry will also be included at the reception.

The hotel apartments are aimed both at those who want to stay longer and those who are just looking for a short term accommodation for the purpose of, for example, looking for work. All apartments are equipped with a desk and chair and free internet access.

Many amazing things are happening in Malmö's Western Harbour related to urban cycling. Several property owners are trying to reduce the number of cars and promote cycling, as well as generally making life easier in the area without a car.

None of them, however, have gone to the lengths as Hauschild + Siegel and the Bicycle House Ohboy. This will hopefully be the start of an urban trend where expensive (to build) car parking can be replaced with investment in sustainable living and environmentally-friendly mobility.Copenhagenize the planet. And have a lovely day.
Categories: Views

Utrecht’s traffic lights hotline

BicycleDutch - 20 February, 2017 - 23:01
A proud tweet from the “Utrecht, we all cycle” department a little over a week ago. The city had become runner up in the Green Digital Charter Award in the … Continue reading →
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Bikes for refugees

A View from the Cycle Path - 16 February, 2017 - 22:58
I've not written much on this blog recently. This is a cycling blog and it's rare that I've strayed far from cycling subjects, but at this point in history there are other big issues which simply can't be ignored and I've not wanted to distract from them. Many of my readers are from the UK and USA and both countries have far greater problems at the moment than their lack of decent cycling David Hembrow
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