‘Do not base policies about cycling on the views of existing committed cyclists’

Some of you will no doubt remember the advice – quoted in the headline of this post – of the 2011 Understanding Walking and Cycling Report [pdf].

do not base policies about cycling on the views and experiences of existing committed cyclists. These are a minority who have, against all the odds, successfully negotiated a hostile urban environment to incorporate cycling into their everyday routines. It is necessary to talk – as we have done – to non-cyclists, potential cyclists, former cyclists, and recreational cyclists  to determine what would encourage them to make more use of this transport mode.

The Report investigated the barriers to cycling (and also to walking) in Great Britain. It did so, quite reasonably, by asking people who didn’t cycle why they didn’t, and what would need to change for them to consider a bicycle as an everyday mode of transport. One of their major conclusions – alongside the problems of the perceived abnormality of cycling, and of inconvenience – was that cycling in and amongst motor traffic was a deeply unappealing prospect to most people.

To summarise, from our analysis of the influence of the physical environment on cycling it is clear that traffic is a major deterrent for all but the most committed cyclists. Potential cyclists, recreational (off-road) cyclists and occasional cyclists are discouraged from using their bicycles for everyday urban journeys because of their fear of cars and heavy goods vehicles.

Also

 it is essential that the urban environment is made safe for cyclists. This requires the provision of fully segregated cycle routes on all arterial and other busy roads in urban areas. It is clear from the research that most non-cyclists and recreational cyclists will only consider cycling regularly if they are segregated from traffic.

The word ‘segregated’ is, I think, slightly unhelpful, with its negative connotations. A better word to use might be ‘separated’; separated by tracks on those roads with heavier traffic flows, and the use of filtered permeability and one-way systems to create a ‘separated’ cycling experience on other streets (see David Hembrow’s excellent explanation of how the Dutch employ these principles to create ‘100% separation’).

This is a point the Understanding Walking & Cycling Report makes, in a slightly less direct fashion –

there need to be effective restrictions on traffic speeds, parking and access on all residential roads and other routes without segregated cycle paths so that cyclists  feel that they have a safe and convenient environment in which to travel. This could include 20mph speed limits and resident-only access by car in some areas.

The emphasis, throughout the Report, is on creating a subjectively safe environment for cycling, one in which people on bikes rarely have to mix with motor traffic. This is because, as the Report established, the people we need to get cycling do not want to mix with motor traffic. And it’s not just the Understanding Walking and Cycling Report that has found this; survey after survey [pdf] repeatedly demonstrates the basic unwillingness of the vast majority of the British population to cycle amongst motor vehicles.

I hope that the current All Party Parliamentary Cycling Group inquiry, Get Britain Cycling, will pay heed to this lesson, and engage seriously with the opinions of those who cycle occasionally (for instance, while on holiday, or on trails away from roads), or those who do not cycle, but would like to do so (my partner, and several other of my acquaintances), or those who do not cycle, and have not even considered doing so. These are the very people we need to be listening to.

Unfortunately, a serious historical problem in this country has been the formulation of cycling policy around the opinions of existing cyclists. This is not to say that their opinions are worthless, far from it; people who currently cycle have invaluable first-hand experience of the problems and difficulties that face those who choose to use a bicycle as a basic mode of transport.

However – and at the risk of stating the obvious – existing cyclists are far more likely to be satisfied with conditions for cycling than those that currently do not cycle. Most of the people who cycle for transport in Britain are reasonably happy cycling on roads that are in reality extraordinarily unappealing as a cycling environment for the vast majority of the population.


DSCN8458To take just one example, existing cyclists in Horsham will probably use the road pictured above quite often; it connects the town centre to the train station, and to much of the north of the town. However, I can vividly remember avoiding it like the plague when, as a teenager, I was forced to use a bicycle (my parents were away) to cycle to the Post Office to pick up a parcel. I meandered all over town using back streets, hugging kerbs, because the prospect of cycling on a road with heavy traffic, and buses and lorries, was deeply unnerving.

Through a series of happy coincidences, I kept cycling into adulthood, but I am a statistical outlier. Most people wouldn’t even bother getting on a bike in the first place, or they would have given up once they gained the ability to drive (perversely, driving in British towns and cities is a much easier and more pleasant experience than cycling in them).

It is surely the opinions of the people who are put off by the notion of cycling on this kind of road that we should be seeking out as a first priority, if we are to establish why cycling levels in Britain remain so pitifully low, and what needs to change. This is because seeking out the opinions of existing cyclists will most probably get you very different answers; answers that do not correspond to the opinions of those deterred from ever cycling on these roads in the first place.

Existing cyclists will (understandably) tend to come up with policies that will focus on improving their own subjective experience of cycling, rather than addressing the specific reasons non-cyclists give for their reluctance to cycle. Indeed, the attitudes and opinions of non-cyclists will often be completely overlooked. This is not a criticism; it would unreasonable to expect otherwise. But it is a problem.

For one thing, existing cyclists tend to be fixated on ameliorating the behaviour of the vehicles around them. They will often argue that it is cheaper and more sensible to focus on ‘changing attitudes’, and to force drivers to behave better. To impose stiffer penalties for dangerous driving; to make the driving test harder, or to incorporate cycling knowledge into it; or a system of presumed liability; and so on.

These attitudes are entirely understandable, of course; badly driven vehicles are the most pressing concern of day-to-day cyclists. If all vehicles were driven perfectly, then the cycling experience of existing cyclists would be something approaching a pleasure.

Unfortunately this approach – while reasonable and a worthy goal to aim at – ignores the overwhelming evidence that the vast majority of the population does not want to cycle in motor traffic, full stop. It is the experience of cycling in motor traffic itself that is intimidating and unpleasant; not the fact that some of those motor vehicles may be badly driven (although it is worth emphasizing that a bad experience with one of those substandard drivers can discourage people from cycling for a considerable period).

Calls for presumed liability also fall into this category. As someone who rides a bike on Britain’s roads on a daily basis, I am, as it happens, very keen to see drivers held more accountable. Presumed liability would have saved me the cost of repairing my bike after I was driven into by a motorist in 2011, for instance. However, the idea that people who currently don’t cycle are holding out for subtle changes to the insurance claim system is completely fanciful. Presumed liability will not ‘Get Britain Cycling.’

Likewise, existing cyclists are keen on 20 mph limits as a ‘solution’ on busier roads to get more people cycling. Reducing the speed differential between themselves and motor vehicles makes cycling easier, and less hazardous. But again, just as with attempting to get drivers to behave better, it fails to engage with the reasons why people don’t cycle; that they simply find the idea of using a bicycle amongst motor vehicles unpleasant. When I cycle in London, I doubt motor traffic around me will often exceed 20 mph by a great deal; however, that low speed does little to lessen the impression of a deeply hostile cycling environment.

Likewise, there are 20 mph limits in Horsham (indeed, one of the first 20 mph limits in the country). One of these roads with a 20 mph limit, however, is not a pleasant place to cycle at all, even for me, because it is regularly choked with motor vehicles, and you have to ‘share’ and ‘negotiate’ with lorries and buses; (usually) well-driven lorries and buses.

IMG_0904 IMG_0906 IMG_0910Many existing cyclists also state a preference for bus lanes over cycle tracks. Indeed, this has even been formalised into Department for Transport guidance, LTN 2/08 -

Bus lanes are generally popular with cyclists… They are often preferred over off­road facilities as a result of the advantage of remaining in the carriageway and therefore having priority at side roads

Unlike substandard off-carriageway British cycling ‘provision’, bus lanes are continuous, smooth and coherent – everything cycle tracks should be, and indeed are in certain European countries. (The idea that cycle tracks could be as good as bus lanes is something that does not appear to have occurred to the writers of LTN 2/08.)

However, you also have to share bus lanes with buses; buses have to come past you between stops, and you have to cycle out and around them when buses are stopped. Bus lanes also don’t really help you to make right turns at busy junctions. This is to say nothing of taxis, motorcycles, and other vehicles you may have to share bus lanes with outside of peak hours.

For all these reasons, bus lanes are quite scary places to be for those who don’t currently cycle; they are certainly not an appealing prospect. Dutch and Danish cycling advocates would regard it as ‘inhumane’ to put cyclists into the same space as buses, for instance. Bus lanes will not ‘Get Britain Cycling’. But unfortunately some existing cyclists cannot understand the reluctance of the general public to cycle in bus lanes, and fail to see the rationale behind cycle tracks that bypass bus stops, arguing that wider bus lanes will be sufficient. These cyclists insist that ‘they are traffic’ when the idea of being forced to become ‘traffic’ is precisely what discourages most ordinary people from cycling.

Another favourite of some existing cyclists is the employment of training as a means of bringing about cycling in the general population. Now I think training is important; it should almost certainly form a part of the school curriculum, as it does in the Netherlands. If children are going to end up cycling in large numbers, we should provide them with some instruction on how to do so.

However, some existing cyclists – some influential ones – seem to view training (or ‘confidence’) as a substitute for the infrastructure that provides a subjective impression of safety. These are people who view cycle tracks as a place for the less able, or for those who wish to build up their confidence before progressing to their natural home on the road itself. These cyclists argue that, rather than providing cycle tracks – which they see as places for the less confident, places where they can ‘spend months practising’ – the same ‘results’ can be achieved in just a few hours of training. Astoundingly, these arguments may even be presented to the All Party Parliamentary Cycling Group inquiry this week.

I’m not quite sure why these individuals hold this opinion. Perhaps it is because they themselves cycle confidently, and get into less difficulty than those who are unable or unwilling to cycle confidently. So, in their minds, they have made a connection between confidence and the smoothness of the cycling experience. More confidence = less problematic cycling.

Unfortunately, such an attitude fails to appreciate that cycling amongst or in front of motor vehicles is simply not an activity that most people want to engage in, regardless of how much ‘confidence’ we can instil in them. It is nowhere near as pleasant as cycling away from motor vehicles, and consequently, because cycling away from motor vehicles is not available as an option, these people walk, drive or use public transport. They will not be brow-beaten into finding this kind of cycling a pleasant experience.

I could go on. Some existing cyclists are advocates of the creation of ‘shared space’ instead of cycle tracks on busier urban thoroughfares (even, bizarrely, in the context of the Superhighway extension on Stratford High Street). Others think bicycle crime is a serious barrier to mass cycling (it isn’t). I even heard showers at work being raised as an issue at the first session of the Inquiry last week.

These are all problems that existing cyclists want addressed; they get sweaty cycling to work; or their bike is stolen; or they get overtaken closely by a motorist; or a motorist took a slightly unnecessary risk. But they are not even on the radar of the people who might want to cycle to school with their children, or might want to cycle to the shops, but have no option to do so because of hostile, car-oriented street design, that force them to cycle amongst motor traffic.

I would desperately like to see these kinds of people giving evidence to the Get Britain Cycling Inquiry; people like this 50+ year old lady in Richmond, or the lady mostly confined to pavements on her trike, or the schoolchildren who love to ride their bikes, but never cycle to school. In many ways their views would be of far more relevance and importance than the well-meaning usual suspects, who seemingly continue to miss the elephant in the room – the general reluctance to cycle around motor vehicles.

I really hope this Inquiry does not spend an inordinate amount of time discussing issues and policies that would have, at best, only a marginal influence on bringing about mass cycling, and pays attention instead to the factors that the Understand Walking and Cycling Report identified, by actually talking to the people we need to be talking to.

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41 Responses to ‘Do not base policies about cycling on the views of existing committed cyclists’

  1. Quite agree. The huge elephant in the room is the danger and fear caused by motor vehicles.

    Rather than saying we need “segregated routes for cyclists”, I prefer to point out that, since it’s the motor vehicles who cause the danger, it is they that need to be segregated away from everyone else. The motor vehicles are the ones who are quite capable of going the long way round: pedestrians and cyclists should have top priority for the most direct routes, and motorists should be segregated onto their own separate routes. Only then will be see people’s individual travel choices properly shifted away from taking the car for every journey.

    Having said that, ideally cyclists and pedestrians should have their own routes too. We need three categories of road user: pedestrian, cyclist/mobility-scooter/segway/moped, heavy motor vehicle.

    I hope that the title of the enquiry “Get Britain Cycling” means that they really are considering getting everyone cycling. If they’re only talking to existing cyclists, the enquiry should have been called “Get Cyclists Cycling”, obviously a much less valuable aim (but typically what we’ve seen in the UK since cars appeared – hence the usual target of 5% growth from very low levels).

    We are doomed to fail if the plan is to turn more ordinary people into “cyclists”. We need to get non-cyclists using bicycles for local transport if we’re to see any significant modal shift away from motor vehicles.

  2. Rob from Really Useful Bikes says:

    Bravo!!

  3. Rob from Really Useful Bikes says:

    Reblogged this on Really Useful Bikes.

  4. 3rdWorldCyclinginGB says:

    Hmm, fine, and I tweeted similar sentiments as Jitensha Oni, but I’m concerned that some of this sounds like giving an excuse for LAs to convert footways to shared use en masse wthout doing much else. Here’s one “conversion” near me that the LA could claim “solves” the cycle-motor vehicle problem: http://goo.gl/maps/NcmJt

    Not sure a trike like Luv2Cycle uses would fit on there. But what else could be done with that road, which gets really busy in rush hour? I’m not entrely convinced that either potential or existing cyclists could come up with an answer to that, but I bet a Dutch or Danish road planner could.

    Another point is – junctions. At some point a cyclist will have to negotiate a junction. Unless you can make drivers more considerate there, the infrastructure will have to be very complex indeed, and while NL is having a go at doing exactly that with its unbundling, that is for the long term in the UK. Most people who have cycled in NL or DK will tell you that drivers give way to cyclists more readily than in the UK. That may well be because the modal share of cycling is higher, more used to seeing and being cyclists etc, but you can’t instantly create that number of cyclists in the UK, so the only alternative in the short term is to do something about driver behaviour IMO.

    But I’m an existing cyclist of more than a few years standing, so I guess my opinion is worthless – though as such I would like to see my grandchildren cycling in safety to school and don’t find it too much of a stretch to look at the roads in that light.

    @Antony Cartmell – there are (at least) 2 elephants in the room – as described previously by AEARB (and elsehere by such as Voleospeed, Countercyclical and Ranty Highwayman), and highlighted at the Inquiry last week, another is the attitude of government (local and central) to cycling provision. That needs sorting too.

    • Thanks for commenting.

      To be clear, when I argue that ‘cycling policy’ should be informed by the views of people who are not existing, committed cyclists, I am not saying that we should hand over the design of cycling facilities to people who don’t cycle. As you say, these should be designed by the experts. I am specifically arguing that the policies and strategies we come up with – what we ask our designers to do – should be informed by non-cyclists. One of these policies, for instance, would be – ‘provide safe, direct and continuous routes away from motor traffic on busier roads’. Then build it to a high quality.

      Nor am I saying your opinion is worthless!

  5. Tim says:

    But this post is about cycling policies, and by your own admission you’re an existing committed cyclist – a paradox!

    On a more serious note, considering your comparison of various other measures which might (not) encourage cycling I would rate 20mph limits above presumed liability and definitely above bus lanes, and of course 20mph limits are cheaper and easier to implement than a comprehensive dedicated :) cycle network, although despite cross-party agreement on the implementation of 20mph limits in Manchester a year ago ( http://bit.ly/Wq6wyF ) , 20mph is still on hold while they try and find funding :( . But of course you’re right – at the Go Dutch conference and site visit the Dutch representatives were keen to explain they ALWAYS aim for physical separation where the traffic is fast (over 30kmph or 20mph) OR where the traffic is BUSY (regardless of speed). This second detail is often ignored.

    • The simple test for a cycle facility that will “Get Britain Cycling” is this: “can it be used safely by an eight-year-old?”.

      Around here, the answer for all cheap pavement conversions is “no”. And the answer for town centre roads, even if/when they’re 20mph limits, is also “no”. The answer for NCN2, a motor-traffic free route along the coast that includes Worthing Prom, is “yes”. In the Netherlands almost all children from the age of 8 ride bicycles on their own to and from school. That’s what we should be aiming for.

      The results are also pretty conclusive: near Worthing cycle counters show near-zero growth in cycle trips on pavement conversions and roads, and an average 13% increase year-on-year on NCN2. The coast route carries several hundred commuters on bicycles now, and bike counts on NCN2 have doubled in six years with zero effort or money required (over 1,000 bicycles counted per day on several summer days in 2012). That’s way more new bicycle trips than you’d ever expect to generate from training or other soft measures.

  6. Rob from Really Useful Bikes says:

    i don’t hear my planner talking much about cycle provision, but when they do, its not about how to get people safely to the shops, workplace or nursery. I hear them talk about fast road based schemes..Mass cycling is all about the great unwashed, the non bike lovers who might see that with the correct provision a bike might just be the best way to get from a-b. (thus positively affecting the 30-40% of car journeys are under 3-4 miles stat making it better for everyone).
    Bike advocacy is a class of cultures within a clash of cultures at the moment.
    If the government and local councils truly want to have mass cycling and the benefits to local society/communities it can bring, it needs to distance itself from all the jingoism and look at planning with the bicycle viewed as a vehicle,

  7. Paul M says:

    I entirely agree that to “get Britain Cycling” you need to address people who are not, as of now, cycling, as a mode of transport anyway, and there is indeed some irony in committed, experienced transport cyclists seeking to represent the interests of proto-cyclists. But that is OK as long as we can be recognised as making an honest attempt to speak for others and not just ourselves, and it seems to me to be necessary as those proto-cyclists don’t speak up for themselves. Do you atually see hordes of kids and grannies and housewives marching on Parliament demanding safe separate cycle routes so that they can start cycling? Thought not. In fact, I have just had a slightly sour exchange with someone who objected to something I said in one of my own blog posts, and who in my view had misunderstood my point even if perhaps I had not expressed it very well. They took the remark to be about car parking controls when actually I was trying to make the point that car parking is another sympton of the same malaise which afflicts cycling in this country. This individual describes himself as a “keen recreational cyclist”, which I can well believe, as we have the good fortune to live on the edge of the various Surrey commons around Hinhead/Thursley/Witley/Hankley which are a paradise for off-road riding. It was however entirely apparent to me, if perhaps not to him, that he consigned cycling to a box labelled “leisure”, or “toy” if you wish to be pejorative about it.

    Slightly off your point, I hope that contrbutors to the enquiry will make another important observation: cycling provision in this country is a postcode lottery. While little of it can really be described as world-class, it can vary from the high end of mediocre through to the bottom end of awful/non-existent. You are better served in Hackney than the City, and both are better served than Westminster, surely one of the worst London boroughs. In the country, you are better served in Brighton or Gosport than in most provincial towns, and better served in Hampshire than in Surrey, which must rate as one of the very nadir of cycling counties once your tyres touch tarmac.

    The point is that cycle infrasturcture needs to become subject to nationally imposed standards, because the Tufton Buftons in a typical shire county council are viscerally hostile to cycling or indeed anythihg else which gets in the way of their route in the Jag to the golf club. We already have national standards on road construction, maintenance and management which highway authorities must observe. Similarly, while counties are responsible for schools (or many of them) they do not have any discretion over fundamentals such as curriculum, admissions criteria etc – education is a legal right. There is absolutely no reason why cycle provisoin should not be added to this list.

    • Simon says:

      Whilst I agree with your point that facilities are variable, I’d question whether Hackney is better than the City. As far as I’m aware there is very little decent infrastructure in Hackney to use, apart from things like the canals and parks, which are there anyway.

      • PaulM says:

        Well, let me see, there is the Pitfield Street cycle path and contraflow. There is also the area around Paul Street, effectively from the border of the City at the back of Finsbury Square up to Shoreditch High St where you can cross to Pitfield St.

        And there is a long straight north-east line through Columbus Market, Goldsmiths Row, London Fields to Hackney Town Hall.

        I can’t think of anything comparable in the City.

  8. I am very lucky living within 300 meters of the Millennium coastal path (NCN 4) which, whilst being “shared use”, provides me with a safe direct off road route to Llanelli and (apart from about 1/2 mile) Swansea. It is great apart from being almost totally unlit for much of the route but during the spring, summer and early autumn is a joy to use and busy with commuters and leisure cyclists. I also live in a 20 MPH town mainly “policed” by traffic humps. This is where it all goes dreadfully wrong. Parked cars on both sides of the road and idiots using the traffic humps like some kind of stunt from the Dukes of Hazard make even a 20 MPH area uncomfortable and awkward to cycle. 20s Plenty might be great but without effective policing is frankly a waste of time.

  9. Fred Smith says:

    I totally agree, and it’s not a viewpoint which is presented often enough.

    If having mass cycling means not pandering to the wants of experienced cyclists (like me) that just what we need to do. It turns out that going a bit slower on a segregated path can be quite pleasant too :-)

  10. Bruce Ryan says:

    Agree with the thrust of this article. While I enjoy mixing it with traffic and challenging for my place on the road, my better half is more choosy about her routes. She’s come late to commuter cycling (in her mid-40s) while I’ve been commuter cycling all my life, and so have possibly become too blasé (and macho-stupid). So I’ve witnessed the fear that can put off even the most determined person – it’s real and needs to be heeded.

    I’d add, however, I’m not keen on totally segregated cycle-paths, especially for night-time commuting. While my feelings on this formed on experience of Edinburgh’s cycle paths, a recent experience in north-east Fife confirmed them: http://myceliumme.livejournal.com/204489.html.

    To be fair, Edinburgh cycle-paths are great **during the day**, provided you don’t mind the occasional detour. The lack of obstructions often means I can can arrive sooner than if I used more direct roads.

  11. Rob from Really Useful Bikes says:

    i think the crux of the matter is, most people are frightened to cycle and put off walking, preferring the ‘safely’ and convenience of the car. I think it clear that a nation where the large majority will not use its streets for movement by anything other than a car because of fear, needs to recognize and address those fears. These are not the fears of cyclists but fears of citizens. ask them the question and they will say why they don’t cycle. fear will be right up there. ‘Cyclists’ may provide the details but no one is stepping back and seeing the big picture. people use cars cos the’re safe and convenient, people don’t cycle because they fear for their safety and it’s not convenient.
    Theft, poor provision at destinations and the bikes they are being sold lacking function are all part of the detail but all ignored because its not really an issue for cyclists .Owning and riding a bike is difficult for the masses. Government policy is at the heart of the ‘fear’, the rest is detail is irrelevant unless we make moving by bike desirable and convenient. The government needs to ask why its citizens are frightened to utilise an ‘open space’ provided for it. cars should not be a necessity and non ownership should not relegate one to a 2nd class citizen. The bicycle liberated people, now people are frightened to use one….that’s a terrible thing.
    (i also realise that some are more fortunate than others, postcode lottery call it what you will, the bicycle needs to be an integral part of transport policy)
    ,

  12. Sara says:

    I am a comitted cyclist – what I’m struggling with at the minute is getting my child cycling.

    I was always fearful of taking him out on my bike when he was small, now I find myself carless and trying to introduce him to utility cycling at the age of 8 (when we started.) Frankly, it’s terrifying. I don’t care too much if a car squishes me – but watching them zoom past my precious child only inches away is horrific. I’m trying hard to teach him cycle craft, but he isn’t the problem is he?

    So yes! PLEASE lets have segregation, But we MUST do it properly and cyclists MUST have priority over motorists, cycle lanes MUST be continuous, MUST be well maintained and snow free in winter.

  13. Fabulous article. I’m female and have cycled since the 80’s in this country, I’ve been car doored, woken up in hospital with concussion and broken collar bone, hit by many cars turning left and right and can’t count the number of near misses over the years. I wouldn’t recommend cycling to anyone in this country and yet I still cycle as much as I can and I am committed to teaching my kids to ride bikes! I lived in Holland for 10 years and never had even a near miss. I loved it there.
    When the Dutch built their network for fast speeds in the 60′ and 70’s they built new roads for the fast moving cars, this is why all their A roads are motorways. The old roads between places are now part of the cycle network and are restricted to cars or have strict speed restrictions. Here our A roads have become no good for anyone – potentially lethal for everyone. The roads should be for all to use and speeds above 30mph should be restricted to roads purpose built for going fast – dual carriageways preferably, where no other slower vehicles need to be. It’s a completely different philosophy that would make using transportation like cycles and horses much safer and more attractive.
    The other thing is that the simple idea that if you drive a motor vehicle it is a lethal weapon, a loaded gun, therefore you hurt someone, it’s always your fault. It makes drivers more cautious around cyclists and pedestrians. Here in the UK people say it’s not fair but why should it be? The driver of a car or lorry is the one in the lethal weapon. In the UK now, cyclists killed by drivers not looking simply goes through magistrates courts and it’s seen as just unfortunate. I’ve often felt I should cycle with a replica automatic weapon in my free hand, maybe drivers might see my loaded gun and give me some respect on the road!

  14. petestevens2012 says:

    I thought I was browsing The Daily Mash when reading this. Bikes mixing with buses? Kids training to ride to school in the rush hour? What a joke. I’d laugh if it weren’t for public officials and campaigners actually touting this with a serious face.

  15. Doug Culnane says:

    As a keen cyclists I who has done his fair share of self confident riding in fast motor traffic I now have developed a total allergy to share the road and safety in numbers. It did not work and it will never work lefts get rid of this shit idea and concentrate on building a cycling environment we all can enjoy and use.

    Great blog post keep up the good work.

  16. Sue says:

    As a committed cyclist – i.e my bike is my everyday all year round main form of transport and has been for many years – I just wanted to say that I am absolutely NOT “reasonably happy cycling on roads that are in reality extraordinarily unappealing as a cycling environment for the vast majority of the population.” Although I do it because there’s really no choice, I hate mixing it with motor traffic and with pedestrians, and in my experience most of what passes for cycling provision in this country is rubbish. The only real way forward for both existing cyclists and not-yet cyclists is to go Dutch everywhere.

  17. Duncan Kay says:

    Excellent blog. I share the hope that the inquiry will listen to non-cyclists, and agree with you that we need to create environments where for the most part cyclists do not have to mix with motor traffic if we want large numbers of people to cycle. I’d only quibble with two points:

    1) 20 mph limits may not make busy roads attractive to cycle on, but I do believe their introduction as a default for residential roads is an essential step towards creating environments that will get people cycling. Indeed, as I think you know, 20 mph/30 kph is used extensively in the Netherlands (Note the t-shirts the children are wearing at 3 minutes into this video about cycle training there: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=16AO0_08r3o which leads me on to…).

    2) There is evidence that cycle training can give some people enough confidence to cycle in today’s traffic conditions. It certainly won’t get everyone cycling regularly, but there is a percentage of people that will become regular cyclists as a result of increased confidence through training. (This can be particularly true for women from minority ethnic backgrounds). Again adult cycle training is considered an important instrument in the Netherlands (http://www.velo-city2009.com/assets/files/paper-van-der-Kloof-sub3.2.pdf), and I think the work that cycle trainers in the UK do should be valued.

  18. Don says:

    @ Doug Culnane,

    You and me both mate, you and me both..

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  20. D. says:

    I find the differing attitudes of the different advocacy groups very difficult. I’d like to join one, but I cannot find an easy comparison between them. I ride on the roads, except where I think its too dangerous and there’s a convenient cycle (or shared-use) path. I also know that my wife wouldn’t dare ride on the road. I think infrastructure is important, but also that motorists should be educated more about their obligations toward bicycles (and the road laws generally!). Hmm – maybe I should just throw my weight behind ALL of them!

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  22. JThooker says:

    Well said and a brave post.

    The on-road battle against cars is one that I see ‘rights-based’ cyclists waging around here on a daily basis. Unfortunately, they are risking their lives all too often to prove a point that they, too are legitimate ‘traffic’. All technically true and great until they are squashed under a truck. There are better battles for cyclists to live and fight another day for.

    I’m stunned by the number of cyclists I read that were killed in London last year – 100? Awful stuff.

    • ddansky says:

      16 people were killed while cycling in London last year which was awful.
      More people were cycling in London last year than had been for decades

  23. ddansky says:

    A broader question, more important than than what will get Britain cycling, is how do we want the places where we live, work and shop to look and feel like for all people whatever mode they choose to use.

    I agree we need spaces where all can move around without fear, and can move around without ‘continuously’. We need to prioritise modes by their benigness ensuring modes that cause harm are always tamed. This means people in cars need to move slowly when around people on bikes or on foot, they must be punished and held responsible if they cause harm or intimidation, this must be enforced. People on bikes must take similar care around people on foot or suffer the consequences.

    There is a role for designing this through infrastructure, also for educating people through training (All modes especially the modes that cause the most harm), and through law and enforcement. We should be discouraging the use of harmful modes (Cars and lorries) making driving hard and expensive, and encouraging benign modes (Public transport, walking and cycling) making these cheap and easy.

    • smallfurrygravatar says:

      People on bikes must take … care … or suffer the consequences.
      Absolutely! A couple of episodes in my early teens that brought home this point: one where I hit someone stepping out from between parked cars (no injuries to either party); the other where I was hospitalised overnight after hitting the back of a car at the bottom of a hill. I believe I’m partly guilty in both cases.

      I’ve lost count of the number of adult cyclists doing **stupid** things that endanger themselves and others. (I should admit I know I’m not perfect.)

      Perhaps such people should be stopped and made to choose between a hefty fine or **passing** a suitable course. (This choice has been imposed on motorists caught speeding.)

  24. Thanks for a great article! =)
    Would you mind if I make a translation into Russian and post it (with all the back links) in my blog?

  25. Rachel says:

    Fantastic article. I will be sharing and promoting it in Australia. Thank you

  26. Eric Doherty says:

    Bravo! Will be sharing this in Canada. One very minor comment is that shared bike / bus lanes don’t work for either bicycle riders or bus riders. And most people who ride bicycles also ride transit, but as noted folks in continental Europe figured this one out a long time ago.

  27. Pingback: As Easy As Riding A Bike | Well it should be, shouldn’t it? | Don't Fart Too Loudly!

  28. bentpanda says:

    Your position is understandable and well-argued, but . . . it still fails to address the real problem. The deeply ingrained, and at bottom, aggressive and violent attitude that ‘motor-vehicles are important’ and mere bicycle-riders should ‘get out of the way’. Even if we have the best segregated cycle-system in the world we would still be leaving our roads poisoned with the kind of aggressive attitudes that lead to thousands of deaths annually – of motorists and pedestrians, never-mind cyclists.

    I would argue that a lot of the use of speed by motorists on ‘fast roads’ in urban areas is illusory: It gets them to their destinations no faster and just burns fuel uselessly.

    Public attitude change is difficult but essential. Its time motor users took responsibility for the blood on their hands. Nervous cyclists ghettoised into incomplete, indifferent or downright ill-conceived ‘cycling infrastructure’ and driven off the highways is not likely to be any more attractive as a future than the present situation.

  29. Pingback: What value in the perception of cycling safety? | Northern Ireland Greenways

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