There are not enough cyclists to justify spending money on them

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Summary of the claim

With a mode share at the low end of single figures, there are too few people cycling to justify investing in infrastructure for cycling. Campaigners asking for cycling infrastructure will not have any political influence until there are more cyclists to join cycling campaigns.

Example sources

This claim is made by both friends and foes of cycling. Foes paint cycling as an irrelevance to the transport system, while cycling campaigners themselves fight over whether, with a small base of cyclists, individual campaigning and policy points are realistic. Coalition government ministers in the Department for Transport have themselves made this claim.

Summary of responses

  1. The claim misses the point of what and who cycling infrastructure is for. Cycling infrastructure is not for “cyclists”. It is for the much larger group of people who have been deterred from using bicycles for transport by the road environment currently on offer.
  2. Similar claims could be made against most infrastructure investment:
    1. “Currently mode share for true high-speed rail between London and Manchester is zero, therefore we should not invest in the High Speed 2 rail line until the mode share for true high-speed rail between those cities is higher.” It is obvious that the mode share is impossible without the infrastructure in the case of rail; it must be recognised that the same is true for cycling. We evaluate all other transport infrastructure investment by the numbers of people anticipated to use the infrastructure after investment, not the numbers using it before investment, and cycling infrastructure should be no different.
    2. Taken to its absurd extreme, this _Catch 22_-style logic would suggest that low literacy rates should be interpreted as a lack of demand for investment in schools, and ill-health as a vote against spending on hospitals. Of course, in those cases we have no difficulty recognising that the reverse is true.
  3. Dozens of surveys and in-depth studies have shown that there is significant latent demand for cycling that is being held back by the lack of attractive infrastructure. Those people who would like to benefit from cycling but find the barriers insurmountable have traditionally been ignored by both the politicians and the cycling campaigners, and the Cycling Embassy is trying to redress that by bringing those who are currently excluded from cycling into the equation.

In more detail

The full prose essay, meticulously argued and backed up with the facts. This can be as long as it needs to be: the summaries above are for quick access to the main points, while this section is to ensure that they are thoroughly supported.

Further reading

Footnotes and references

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Related claims

Other claims from the same category in the Common claims and canards section of the Wiki.