Understanding Walking and Cycling - Final Conference and report

Lancaster’s Understanding Walking and Cycling project has completed its work and, along with a final report (available from the website here) held two conferences in London and at Lancaster to discuss the findings. Representatives from the Cycling Embassy attended both and as the project has combined both academic research and policy recommendations, we feel it provides a good basis for our work promoting the importance of really first class cycling infrastructure in bringing about mass cycling in the UK. The lively and constructive discussion at the Lancaster conference centered particularly around the practical implications of the research, which was refreshing for us non-academics in the audience!

The report speaks for itself, and is definitely worth a read for anyone interested in the real state of walking and cycling in this country beyond the Capital. The policy recommendations have been widely discussed and top of the list comes creating a safe physical environment for walking and cycling – whether that be through segregated cycle paths, speed restrictions or better maintenance of pavements and crossings.

In the discussions afterwards, what stood out to me was the gulf between what the British public want – which, for the most part, does include being able to walk and cycle more – and the fear of politicians at being seen to be anti-car. In Vienna there is an explicit policy to reduce car use by 25%, and all decisions about the city are examined in that light to ensure they work towards that goal. That’s the sort of joining up that will need to be done here, and yet politicians are reluctant to rock the boat. The question now is how to tap the quiet desire of the British public to get about under their own steam, and turn it into something the politicians can’t ignore.