I mentioned in a recent post that John Franklin – the author of Cyclecraft, and prominent U.K. advisor on cycling policy and design – appears to have one governing principle, which is that cyclists should be on the roads, and cycling with traffic. What seems to lie behind this principle is his belief that designing off-road facilities for cyclists, of whatever standard, would erode cyclists’ right to use the vehicular road network. This ‘right’ is Franklin’s shibboleth. In his words
Maintaining our right to cycle on any road (other than motorways) must always be a top priority, for if we lose that right we can have no expectation of being treated any better elsewhere.
I’m not sure the conclusion necessarily follows – but the message is clear, and the outcome obvious. Franklin is more concerned with keeping cyclists’ right to use the road network, than with constructing good off-road facilities that might encourage novice cyclists, or those who do not like mixing it with traffic. It means telling these novices, or nervous cyclists, to ‘train themselves’ to use the more hostile parts of the road network, rather than advocating the adaptation of that road network to allow them to get from A to B without negotiating with fast, heavy traffic.
There are a great many roads that are not suitable for Level I [nervous] cyclists but it would be impractical to correct this in most instances and some of the changes could be detrimental to Level II and Level III riders. The most practical way forward to improve conditions for Level I cyclists is through cycle training, to give these people the skills to cycle more confidently and thus more widely.
Franklin is arguing that adapting the road network to make it more friendly for nervous cyclists will quite often be to the detriment of Level II and III cyclists (this need not be the case, of course – but Franklin has a track record of ignoring how the Dutch consistently build high-quality infrastructure that is fast and convenient for all cyclists). So his somewhat selfish solution is to tell the grannies and the kids to ‘man up’ and cycle like him, presumably by increasing their ‘sprint speed’ to 20 mph.
Here’s an example of how Franklin’s principles translate into the real world. Last year, Stroud District Council commissioned him to produce a report, assessing the options for encouraging cycling in the District. The above quote from Franklin is from p.16 of the report, and it gives a rather obvious clue as to the type of solutions that will be proposed within it.
Pages 99-100 deal with a short stretch of the A38 road, between Eastington and Whitminster. The section of this road, just south of Whitminster, looks like this -
A cycling campaigner’s wet dream. It’s perfect - an existing dual carriageway, that has been restricted to one lane in both directions. The road space is already there. All we need to do is shuffle it around slightly. Move the traffic lane across to the right lane, and paint in a good dollop of separation. Easy. If we were feeling more ambitious, we could provide some physical separation, some kerbing, along the length of this road. The motorists wouldn’t even be affected.
This is an open goal, in other words. We just need to stub the ball across the line.
What does Franklin think?
A bit unambitious, to put it mildly.
Of the two options he suggests, the first simply involves increasing the width of the motor vehicle lane by 1.5m, which is frankly a little pointless. The second, presented in brackets, is slightly better, removing more of the hatching, to give a 2.0m cycle lane, with a 0.5m divider.
Curiously, the option of removing the hatching entirely and allocating the whole of the left-hand lane to a cycle lane, and a divider, is not even presented. Given that this would be just as easy to implement as the two options in Franklin’s report, its absence is odd, to say the least.
Just as interesting is that of the two options Franklin does give, the latter – superior, to my mind, given that it moves the vehicle lane further over to the right, and provides a wide-ish cycle lane with some separation – is included almost as an afterthought (in brackets!) behind his apparently chosen option of no cycle lane at all.
I find it almost perverse that Franklin presents, preferentially, the option that barely amelioriates a deeply hostile environment for cycling, while simultaneously ignoring an obvious option that would give, at no extra cost or difficulty, the greatest possible space, and separation, for a cycle lane.
Franklin thinks ‘training’ is the best way of getting nervous cyclists to use roads like this. I don’t know whether that belief lies behind his choice of ‘improvement’ to this stretch of the A38, but I think he’s wrong. No amount of training is ever going to make cycling here, with or without slightly less hatching, feel safe or pleasant.