The extraordinary claims of an anti-infrastructuralist

The homepage of an organization that apparently considers cycle lanes and tracks to be ‘irrelevant.’

Last week, on the website Cyclechat, a contributor by name of Tommi posted a large list of academic papers that showed – or purported to show – that the construction of cycling infrastructure either increases cyclists’ safety, or encourages greater numbers of cyclists.

I do not intend to investigate the claims of these papers in detail here – that would be quite an exhaustive task.  (What I think it is uncontroversial to say, however, is that there is a burgeoning amount of literature out there of this kind, that suggests cycling infrastructure can increase cycling levels – and may be necessary to achieve truly significant increases in cycling – and also that it can increase cyclists’ safety.) My purpose here is to examine the extraordinary claims of one Cyclechat contributor, made in response to Tommi’s posts.

After a bizarre initial post that accused Tommi of ‘trolling’ – apparently for simply having the temerity to present opinions that differed from his own – we had this contribution from MartinC

The OP [Tommi] makes a fundamental assumption that all cycling facilities are the same – as all as well designed, executed, regulated and maintained as each other world wide. This assumption is clearly false – the most superficial comparison of, say the UK and the Netherlands will show this. Therefore the conclusion that any cycling infrastructure of any standard anywhere must be good is totally specious. Also, I’m not aware of anyhere in the world where there is total segregation of cyclists.

Since all of this must have been obvious to the poster the natural conclusion is that the post is just to generate a useless argument.

Tommi was not making the claim that ‘any cycling infrastructure of any standard anywhere must be good’, or indeed arguing for ‘total segregation’ – but he had the good grace to ignore this mistaken criticism, and responded

Yes, some infrastructure designs can be bad, but Denmark and Netherlands have been improving the designs for years. How about we concentrate at the current designs rather than be obsessed with the ones that were already on the way becoming obsolete ten years ago when certain studies were published?

The contributor ‘Red Light’ then makes an appearance. After a couple of posts quibbling about the accuracy of Tommi’s reporting of the academic papers, he then addresses this point of Tommi’s, about concentrating on Dutch ‘current designs’, rather than outdated, perhaps poorly designed, infrastructure. In a comment apparently designed to imply that the Dutch no longer consider cycling infrastructure – tracks and paths – to be important, Red Light says –

How about we use the Dutch Cycle Balance audit methodology to assess provision. Quick ruffle through for cycle facilities…..ah here they are……cycle parking. No mention of anything else. Probably because the person that oversees it says “How many cycle paths or lanes a town has in not important.”

Red Light is referring to the Fietsbalans, a document produced by the Fietsersbond, the Dutch Cyclists Union. It is an audit methodology used to assess the quality of conditions for cycling in Dutch municipalities.

On reading this claim, I was immediately quite sceptical. Could the Dutch really not be assessing the quality of their cycle paths? Does their ‘provision’ not even include bicycle tracks and paths? Perhaps the overseer of the Fietsbalans might claim that the number of cycle paths or lanes in a town is unimportant – because the audit is a neutral examination of the quality of the cycling experience – but would the only ‘facilities’ the Fietsbalans examines be… cycle parking?

Another Cyclechat contributor, Richard Mann, seemed as unconvinced by Red Light’s comment as I was, and wrote –

I found an English language description of the Bicycle Balance. Seems to be measuring all sorts of stuff that are properties of cycle facilities (smoothness, lack of obstruction etc), and the proportion of short trips (try achieving that with vehicular cycling), and the proportion dissatisfied with road safety (ditto). So it doesn’t measure the km of paths directly, but I’d doubt a road-based approach would score very highly at all.

In other words, the Fietsbalans does seem to measure the quality of cycle facilities, including paths and tracks.

But Red Light was having none of this, and quickly set Richard straight.

I’ve spoken to Frank and asked him why it doesn’t include cycle lanes and tracks in the audit. His answer was they are irrelevant. 

So there it is. Red Light has spoken to the overseer of the Fietsbalans (Frank Borgman, its project manager), who has told him that cycle lanes and tracks are not considered in the audit – and, indeed, that they are ‘irrelevant’.

Red Light is apparently referring to this conversation because Frank Borgman is the author of that ‘English language description’ of the Fietsbalans that Richard Mann discovered. Originally written for inclusion as a chapter in an English book, edited by Rodney Tolley –Sustainable Transport: Planning for Walking and Cycling in Urban Environments, it is entitled ‘The Cycle Balance: benchmarking local cycling conditions’. You can read it here, on the Fietsersbond website.

The trouble is, I’m not sure that Red Light has actually read what Borgman wrote in this piece, because, in the introduction, we find this passage –

As a result of the high bicycle-use, Dutch government, private organisations and companies invest a lot of time and money in support of cycling. There are for example over 20 000 km of bicycle lane and bicycle path along Dutch roads and the capacity of bicycle parking facilities at railway stations alone is almost 300 000. Strangely enough the effectiveness and efficiency of all these efforts have never been assessed. In order to fill this void the Fietsersbond developed the Cycle Balance (Fietsbalans). [my emphasis]

Hmm. So, in Borgman’s own words, the Fietsbalans does indeed asssess the ‘effectiveness and efficiency’ of ’20 000 km bicycle lane and bicycle path’. More than that, it seems the Fietsbalans was explicitly developed by the Fietsersbond for the purpose of assessing paths and tracks, as well as cycling parking.

Did Red Light notice that Borgman’s words, in this Fietsersbond article, directly contradict his reporting of Borgman’s opinion, and his own description of the Fietsbalans?

I must admit, I hadn’t.

So instead of pointing this out, and after consulting a Dutch acquaintance about whether Borgman would genuinely believe what Red Light attributed to him (response – he wouldn’t be in his job if he thought that), I decided to press Red Light about whether the Fietsbalans genuinely didn’t include tracks and paths within its audit. I thought it ‘rather odd‘ that Frank Borgman would hold such an opinion,

because the Bicycle Balance audit is an evaluation of all Dutch cycle facilities – the network of paths, tracks, lanes, and so on, as well as bicycle parking.

In response, Red Light stuck firmly to his guns

No, its an audit of Dutch cycling provision which is not the same as facilities. The only facilities in there are cycle parking. [my emphasis]

As it happens, Frank Borgman is currently away on leave. It will be interesting to get his opinions on his return. There are two possibilities. Either he has lost his mind, or Red Light has entirely misrepresented his opinion. Which is more likely?

I note, finally, that the claim that the only facilities considered in the ‘Dutch Cycle Balance’ are ‘cycle parking’ – that all other facilities for cyclists are ignored – has quite a rich history. You can find the claim being made here, here, here, here, herehere, and here, in virtually identical format. Where did it originate? And, indeed, how, and why?

It’s a claim that can’t even pass a basic smell test.

A screenshot of the Fietsbalans homepage. An interesting illustrative photo choice, given that the Fietsbalans ‘doesn’t include cycle lanes and tracks’, and considers them ‘irrelevant.’

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82 Responses to The extraordinary claims of an anti-infrastructuralist

  1. Marion says:

    I think that it’s a case of ‘Red Light is from Mars, Frank Borgman of Fietsberaad is from Venus’.

    I’m Dutch and have been reading British, American and Australian cycling blogs for a while. I only discovered that the Netherlands was rather unique with the cycling infrastructure a few years ago – we take our cycling culture so much for granted, most of the questions of ‘Red Light’ and his (I assume he’s a ‘he’) cronies ask on these blogs sound rather irrelevant to us.

    To illustrate, one of the questions that regularly pop up is ‘are the Dutch allowed to cycle on the roads’ (when there are separate cyclepaths). This usually baffles us Dutch. Why should anybody *want* to cycle among speeding traffic when there are lovely and smooth cyclepaths which have fewer stops and priority over traffic? To us such a question is totally irrelevant. To the ‘Red Lights’ of the world, this is a deadly serious issue. The vehicular lobby’s rallying cry is, after all, that cyclists should not be ‘forced of the roads’. As I’ve heard of the crap cycling infrastructure which is usually offered to British cyclists, I do sympathise, but frankly, being asked if in the Netherlands cyclists are allowed on the road/highway is as baffling to us as it would be to you if an American asked you wether, with the NHS and all, you are forbidden to operate your child’s appendix in your garden shed. It is totally irrelavant.

    • Yes, I’m increasingly aware of how, for the Dutch, their infrastructure, and cycling in general, is completely ordinary.

      I bumped into some Dutch people in my town the other day, and excitedly told them I was going to the Netherlands – Assen – for some cycling in September. They looked puzzled, before asking me ‘What for? A match?”

      It quickly dawned on me that, for this couple, a person getting excited about “doing some cycling” could only be for a *special reason* – rather than just an activity that Dutch people do every day without even thinking about it. It would be like telling a British person that you were going to their town to “do some walking” – why would you go to a UK town for the specific purpose of walking?

      • Kim says:

        I don’t think your analogy really works, the evidence is that British people are walking in their towns and cities, it would be more true to say: like telling a British person that you were going to their town to “do some driving and sit in a traffic jam”…

      • Kim says:

        Ops that should have said “the evidence is that British people are walking in their towns and cities less and less in their towns and cities”

    • Txarli says:

      Compulsory segregation is irrelevant to you because your cage is golden? I’ll not go into that… But the sad fact is that we are suffering all over Europe (and a significant part of the World, for that matter) a crushing drive to impose less-than-golden cages to urban cycling under the guise of “Dutch style infrastructure”, and that drive is having a terrifying effect both in our cities, in our cycling culture and, yes, in bicycle users’ safety.

      That “there is a burgeoning amount of literature out there, that suggests cycling infrastructure blah bla blah…” is, as Aseasyasriding says, uncontroversial. That the “burgeoning amount of literature” deserves the labels “academic” or “scientific” or is just political propaganda disguised as research and science is a completelly different matter. Aseasyasriding says he “doesn’t intend to investigate the claims of these papers in detail”: he just, apparently, intends to accept the claims at face value, seeing as he chooses to gloss over Redlight’s “quibbling” the value of the so-called “academic papers”, focusing instead on the usual “he said / he didn’t say” that is always so useful to gut any productive discussion.

      I understand: I am tiring myself of checking the scientific quality of purported research proving the usefulnes/safety/you-name-it of segregated cycling structures, which lately appear to be the magic wand for all urban needs, from cycling levels to economic development to gentrification to employment creation to cycling sex appeal. And I am tiring of it because every single time I have bothered to do it I have found it to be, uniformly, appalling crap when not downright frauds.

      And as I move further into trying to understand this issue, the question is less and less what the, ahem, literature says and more and more why the cycling community is so eager to buy any kind of segregationist snake oil that the bike lane peddlers keep churning out for strictly political reasons.

      But the answer to that goes way beyond a comment in a blog. Ciao.

      • I await your conspiracy-theorising with interest.

      • Paulonthecloud says:

        Cycling infrastructure is not typically meant for some sort of “cycling community,” just as highways aren’t meant for some “motoring enthusiast club.” Good cycling infrastructure is meant for EVERYONE. Whether the person on the bike really gives a shit about cycling or not is totally irrelevant to the cause of cycling infrastructure.

      • Dude/dudette,

        A “golden cage”? Bike rider, please. Your emotionally laden approach doesn’t work, and your (I am assuming) V.C. techniques have done exactly squat to make bicycling more accepted and acceptable on streets the world over.

        Referring to Dutch cycling facilities for easy reference is what brings in the eyeballs, sparks the imagination, and gets the conversation about what and whom belongs in the right-of-way.

  2. Marion says:

    PS, if you click on the ‘English info’ button on the webpage of the Fietsersbond, you’ll find the following information:

    quote

    The Fietsersbond has more than 35,000 members. With 150 local branches we work towards:

    well maintained, smooth and direct cycling routes (!!!)
    more and improved parking spaces for bikes
    action against bicycle theft
    more safety in traffic for cyclists

    unquote

    So of course cycling infrastructure is not irrelevant. It’s so relevant, it’s a given. It goes without saying. It is to the Fietsberaad as water to a fish; so ubiquitous, so self-evident, it’s a no-brainer. It’s digressive, tangentialextraneous, immaterial, inapplicable, unsuitable, moot. Which are all synonyms to ‘irrelevant’.

  3. Marion says:

    Yeah, yeah. Me again. Third time lucky.

    I just wanted to add to the above that this is not the first time the Fietsberaad has been quoted out of context. David Hembrow explains this better than I could, here:

    http://hembrow.blogspot.com/2011/06/raalte-town-without-clearly-visible.html

    I’m going back to lurking…

    • Thanks for that – the Raalte saga was at the back of my mind when I was writing this. (I should point out that the issue in this case involves the Fietsersbond, rather than the Fietsberaad!)

  4. Branko Collin says:

    How about we use the Dutch Cycle Balance audit methodology to assess provision. Quick ruffle through for cycle facilities…..ah here they are……cycle parking. No mention of anything else.

    That makes no sense. If Cycle Balance is inadequate for assessing provision, then why use it to assess provision?

    I followed the link you gave to the Fietserbond page. It is not clear to me what exactly the Fietsbalans is. That is to say, Fietsersbond does not seem to publish its sources, database, methodologies and so on. Instead they publish reports that show certain views on the Fietsbalans. This year parking provisions get a lot of attention.

    However. The first report, “Meer fietsen met minder risico” (More cycling with less risk), has a chapter 9 that, when translated from Dutch, starts as follows:

    A safe infrastructure

    Cycling can still be made a lot safer by improving the infrastructure. Infrastructure is an important cause of both serious and less serious accidents and of both single party and two party accidents involving cyclists.

    The central strategy for the improvement of traffic safety is the implementation of Duurzaam Veilig [Lasting Safety, Branko] phase 2. […] The starting point [for this strategy] is that bicycle and car traffic must be segregated, and where these types of traffic meet, intensity and speed of car traffic must be low.

    The report then goes on to say that most accidents involving bicyclists and motorists take place on main roads, and specifically on crossings. The author concludes that the two modes are not segregated enough “at a network level”.

    The table shows “the lay-out of 50 kph roads within city limits”. The columns are labelled “Indicator”, “Average (Netherlands)”, “Big cities”, “Average cities”, “Small cities”, and the rows are labelled “No bicycle provisions”, “Bicycle lanes not wide enough”, and “Cars parked to the right of bicycles”.

    HTH,

  5. I do think you have to understand the context. I think I would probably be pigeon-holed as “anti-infrastructuralist” (if there were such a word), but I am not actually against infrastructure per se.

    However, there are three key points: (1) I will certainly be long dead before the UK has anything like the kind of infrastructure that the Netherlands enjoys, (2) the so-called “cycling infrastructure” we have here is generally rather dangerous if you use it, and (3) talking of “cycling infrastructure” without thinking about all of the other contextual issues does not make sense. I’ll say no more about (1), but will expand on the others.

    Regarding (2), we do not currently have the kind of infrastructure that exists in Holland, so the only safe approach right now, based on my own experience, is vehicular cycling. Unfortunately, the pathetic cycle lanes that exists on my commuting route actually make vehicular cycling more difficult because they damage my ability to negotiate with other vehicles. This causes conflict: “you should be in the cycle lane” (i.e. the gutter).

    Regarding (3), in Holland, you have Presumed Liability, which means that in a collision between a cycle and a motor vehicle, it is presumed to be the the motor driver’s fault unless they can prove otherwise. Here, the cyclist has to prove that the driver was negligent, which is difficult even though they usually were. You also have a long history of high cycle use. I think one of the consequences of these is that drivers in Holland treat cyclists with more respect. For example, it is unthinkable here that there might be a place where cycles cross the path of motor vehicles and the cycles are given priority! In our car-centric culture, that would be considered far too dangerous.

    It is my view that most of our current facilities should be removed, until such time as decent facilities can be provided (without making the cities even more undesirable to live in). Most of our cycle lanes do not even come anywhere near meeting our own government’s guidelines on cycle facilities!

    I could go on, but hopefully you see something of the contextual difference now.

    • Grahame, thanks for that. I largely concur with what you’ve written – I’m quite aware of the contextual difference.

      I agree that there is a vast amount of unhelpful, dangerous rubbish in Britain that falls under the banner of ‘infrastructure.’ In my opinion, cycle paths painted on the road are worse than than useless – and indeed may encourage close passing – if they are less than 2m wide, which I think should be the default width on 30 mph roads, if they are to be put in at all. Like you say, a lane 50 cm – 1 m wide is worse than no lane at all. See my post here for a classic Horsham example.

      I also agree that it’s going to be a long hard struggle to get the kind of provision the Dutch have. I certainly don’t think we should accept *any* infrastructure; I don’t believe that any infrastructure is better than none. What I do think is that we should be more vocal about *pushing* our local authorities to up their game, to adopt Dutch standards. I think this is a more helpful and pragmatic approach than attempting to persuade them to stop building what they are currently building, or to stop them putting in ‘cycle routes’. Local authorities have an incentive to do this, however crap it is, because they can make fantastic claims about how ‘green’ they are, or how ‘x’ many miles of ‘routes’ they’ve put in. I can’t see how we can persuade them to stop, or indeed strip out what they have already put in. But I do believe that we can – possibly – alter their approach.

    • Oh, and I do try to avoid pigeon-holing. It’s not very helpful. But I think it is fair to say that someone who claims the Dutch Cycling Union considers paths and tracks to be irrelevant is against infrastructure, generally.

  6. Red Light says:

    Oohhhh……looks like I’m bête noir of the month.

    But since you say
    “I certainly don’t think we should accept *any* infrastructure; I don’t believe that any infrastructure is better than none.” and you clearly think Richard Mann (who presides over the cycle facilities in Oxford) is one of the “good guys” what do you think of his following statements from the thread you are railing against and the illustrations of his handiwork in Oxford in the thread?

    “Most of these roads are 50ft between property lines. If you have two 10ft pavements (typical for a main road), there’s 30ft (just over 9m) left. In places it’s less than that. If you can fit in two traffic lanes, good width cycle tracks and parking into that, then you’re a miracle worker. What would the Dutch do – probably narrow the pavements. We have a higher ratio of pedestrians to cyclists, so that isn’t politically practical here. ”

    “I don’t think the width of the cycle lane is crucial, as long as “traffic space is constrained so that speeds are less than 30mph (nearer 20mph)”.”

    “Door Zone: the door zone is indeed a concept invented by cycle trainers”

    “Certainly more width is desirable if there’s room. But if they’re about 1m minimum and the road surface is in reasonable nick, and traffic speed is under control, then they’re OK.”

    “Danger zone at side roads: Another invention of cycle trainers.”

    When the disciples of segregation have views like that is it any wonder that many of us rail against what they put in in our name? And while we’re waiting for these wonderful Dutch style cycle lanes that you are going to get installed eventually, I’d rather, like you, that the crap that we have is removed from the roads and in the meantime we teach people how to cycle with traffic. If in the far future some segregated cycle nirvana emerges then great but I doubt I’ll be alive to see it so meanwhile I have to deal with what we have.

    And feel free to speak to Frank Borgman when he is back from vacation. I think you are making the mistake of equating well maintained, smooth and direct cycle routes with cycle tracks and lanes. The very methodology of the Cycle Balance audit – picking 12-16 routes from random starting points – works against specifically measuring the quality and length of cycle tracks and lanes. A good road route will score better than a poor cycle track route.

    • Do I clearly think Richard Mann is “one of the good guys”? As it happens, I don’t really have an opinion on his attitudes towards cycling provision, because I know next to nothing about what he thinks. Based on the comments of his that you quote, I think it’s fair to say I would have some disagreement with him. But as I only quoted him in this post to give some context to your comments, and not as a sign of universal agreement with him, I’m not entirely sure of the relevance.

      Your claim that the Fietsbalans ‘doesn’t include cycle lanes and tracks’ is dishonest.

      • SteveL says:

        Having cycle round oxford, can I point out it shite for cycling.
        http://bristolcars.blogspot.com/search/label/oxford

        It’s not even that good for walking. On leaving the station last month I had a row with some woman who wanted to turn over me to get into a car park. Then the shared space that bans bicycles by primark still allows buses through. For a small town -and it is small- it’s pretty mediocre. The funniest bit: I was there for a meeting at Keble college, and they wouldn’t let me park my bicycle there because I wasn’t “a fellow”. There is no visitor bicycle parking in the colleges.

        If Oxford is somewhere to dream of, well the country is stuffed.

        Everybody seems to agree that one way to make cycling better in-town is to remove facilities that make driving more convenient than cycling: the allocation of space to parking, the complete neglect of the need to cycle safely from destination to destination, the creation of one-way gyratory systems that emphasise traffic flow over shorter differences. So why not implement that by adding proper segregrated bike lanes. We aren’t talking about the mediocre 50cm dotted-line paths that get painted on under the bits of tarmac that HGVs occupy. I mean good paths like the east half of the (uncompleted due to political pressure) Portsmouth seafront path, like the Bristol-Bath Railway path. Nobody who cycles from Bristol to Bath along the RP will say “I prefer the A4” unless they can sustain 30mph and aren’t that worried about whether or not they make it to their destination alive.

        Oh, and nobody should use East Kilbride as a counter example: I have family there. I know what the town is like and why anybody sensible leaves unless they like driving and then spend their mornings stuck on some M-way into Glasgow complaining that “something must be done”. It’s not a place you want to live.

  7. MonkeyMagic says:

    What interests me is that everyone in the debate over on the forum are clearly involved in the cycle advocacy scene and passionate about cycling; no fault to be found there; any one who rides a bike is a friend of mine and all that… But, all I really wanted to know is, who *is* Red Light? Does he or she care to out themselves? Now, they might have a purely personal interest in cycling and provision for cyclists, and that’s just great. But, if they were say board members or staff or campaigners at one of our cycling campaigns I think it would only be fair to understand who they are? Then again, maybe I am just being nosey. The only reason I think this, is, having read a lot of Red Light’s posts I’d be slightly alarmed if it turned out they were the Chair of the CTC or something… that’s probably only because their view and mine couldn’t be further opposed, but at least I’d know where I stand when dealing with their organisation.

    • Red Light says:

      MonkeyMagic, I can reassure you I hold no position in cycle campaigning or cycling more generally and deliberately so. As you note I could have a severe conflict of interest if I did so I make a point of staying independent although I am an active participant in a personal capacity. But the views above expressed by Richard Mann are as Vice Chairman of Cyclox, the cycle campaign group for Oxford and as a transport consultant. So your question is well posed but aim at the wrong person.

  8. Phew, why the aggression? Surely we can get along: those who want to encourage cycle training and vehicular cycling can carry on as before, and those of us who want to campaign more actively (or even at all!) for what the Dutch, and other continental European countries, are doing for cycling as a mode of transport can do so too. Keen cyclists can continue to fight for their right to ride on our roads, and those who are currently too frightened to consider cycling for transport can campaign for decent facilities too.

    We all know that (a) the crap cycle facilities we almost always get in the UK (and the thoughts of the highways engineers that design them) are often more dangerous than useful, and (b) vehicular cycling is the only real way to get around on a bike in the UK, and (c) it’ll take some time to get political will to move away from motor-centric transport policies. But it’s also clear that Dutch-style segregated facilities, along with the different political attitude towards cycling as a mode of transport, are essential if we are to get any serious modal share for cycling in the UK.

    People cycle in the UK in spite of the road conditions, not because of the road conditions: I personally think that this should be completely reversed.

    • “But it’s also clear that Dutch-style segregated facilities, along with the different political attitude towards cycling as a mode of transport, are essential if we are to get any serious modal share for cycling in the UK.”

      While I agree, you might have some trouble persuading absolutely everyone that it’s essential…

      And the problem with your first paragraph is that some people see campaigning for Dutch style-provision as, rightly or wrongly, an erosion of their right to use the road. Personally, I don’t see an incompatibility between that provision, and continued use of the road (I wouldn’t mind being banned from the road where the provision for cyclists is better than the road, as in the Netherlands – see Marion’s comments above) but they do.

      I don’t think we can wish these disagreements away.

      • The essential nature is if we, as a nation, decide that a significant modal share for cycling is a Good Thing. Given the benefits that arise, and a need to reduce our dependency on diminishing oil resources, it shouldn’t be hard to persuade people. Anecdotally, the parents at our primary school are all keen to cycle to school, but don’t because of the lack of facilities and the huge danger from motor traffic. There seems to be quite a lot of suppressed demand for cycling as transport.

        The other good news is that those people who campaign against segregation for fear of losing their right to ride on some roads are probably a minority of cyclists, so are a very small minority of the population. We’ve discussed this fear on the CTC’s “Right to Ride” mailing list (this title for CTC campaigners is interesting!) and only one or two seem to really think we shouldn’t campaign for segregated facilities for this reason.

  9. Red Light says:

    Whether you are banned from the road or not, some motorists in the UK take exception to cyclists not using the cycle facilities and express it vocally and sometimes physically. “Get on the cycle path” is not an unknown phrase to most road cyclists. Therefore providing crap facilities does directly impact those who wish to do vehicular cycling.

    It also misses out two other factors. First that the Dutch started from a cycling modal share that never dropped below 20% and in many cities 30% compared with 1% or less in the UK. So facilities followed the high modal share not caused it.

    Second, the Dutch model is much much more than just facilities. Its also includes land use, recognising that short journeys increase cycling and doing their urban planning accordingly, and control of motor traffic. The focus just on cycle lanes and tracks ignores all those other important factors.

    • “Therefore providing crap facilities does directly impact those who wish to do vehicular cycling.”

      Since I am hardly arguing for the provision of crap facilities, what is your point?

      “Second, the Dutch model is much much more than just facilities. Its also includes land use, recognising that short journeys increase cycling and doing their urban planning accordingly, and control of motor traffic. The focus just on cycle lanes and tracks ignores all those other important factors.”

      You’ll get no argument from me about competitive advantage. I have plenty of pictures of Dutch cities, showing restrictions on motor traffic, short cuts for bicycles, and so on. The trouble is, if anyone is doing any ‘focusing’ just on cycle lanes and tracks, it is you – consistently opposed to them as part of a model promoting bicycle use.

      Why?

      • Red Light says:

        “Since I am hardly arguing for the provision of crap facilities, what is your point?”

        There are plenty of people that are. You can find pictures of crap facilities in Oxford and the defence of them by their architect in the CC topic this blog is about.

        “The trouble is, if anyone is doing any ‘focusing’ just on cycle lanes and tracks, it is you – consistently opposed to them as part of a model promoting bicycle use.

        Why?”

        http://homepage.ntlworld.com/pete.meg/wcc/facility-of-the-month/index.htm and the Oxford examples above. Show me one example in the UK where a good and successful network of non-crap Dutch style cycle facilities has been achieved by all the people like you campaigning for them. All those efforts just result in yet more crap facilities.

      • What ‘efforts’? There hasn’t been a concerted campaign for Dutch-style facilities, largely because UK organizations – and I’m thinking mainly of the CTC here – are fundamentally uninterested in off-road provision. Search for ‘The Netherlands’ on the CTC website, and all you find are articles about ‘Safety In Numbers’, with no mention of their intrastructure design.

        If you ignore off-road provision, the sad fact is that councils will go on building crap – as I said in a comment above, it’s in their interests to do so, because they can boast about it. How about we campaign to make sure it’s up to code? That’s surely more realistic than trying to get them to stop.

    • “It also misses out two other factors. First that the Dutch started from a cycling modal share that never dropped below 20% and in many cities 30% compared with 1% or less in the UK. So facilities followed the high modal share not caused it.”

      You’re dead wrong. From 1955-1975 national cycle rates dropped by 70%+ to around 12% and most rates in the city were either below 10% or rapidly heading there. Since revising our transportation vision & policies (if you want to know what made that happen, you can just ask), by taking away space from cars, implementing (a network of) tracks, institutionalize integral urban planning, etc, in essence giving priority to bicycles on all levels. Consequently & exhaustively researched & documented, we’ve gained back about half of what we’ve lost it that particular/disasterous post-war era.

      You often (ab)use that particular graph to make the case that rates never dropped or that it has flattened, but apparently, aside from your lacking ability to check facts in general, you’re also not very good at reading graph data. On the left side it clearly states ‘average cycled distance per day’. It’s very likely you now think: “Well, that’s still not very much.”, as your MO seems to be to ignore substantial commentary on your false claims & move the goal posts. Reminder: ‘avg cycled distances per day’ is really ‘per capita’, in absolute terms. So not ‘commuters’ or some other demographic. Every person, be it infant, child, parent, either sex, seniors, etc. Keep that in mind when I say our population has grown from 10 to 16.7 million since 1975.
      With that, bear with me, the graph reveals a rather extraordinary achievement: avg cycled distances per day per capita since 1975 started rising again to a very high level (in absolute terms)…all the while when cycle RATES & population growth went up significantly. I emphasize this, to be absolutely clear you understand the meaning of this.

      The Netherlands have shown that it’s possible to (re)build a cycling nation, it really is man-made (not ‘in our genes’ or ‘because it’s flat’, or whatever excuse is used). Nobody is saying you ONLY need to focus on cycle tracks (strawman), but infrastructure designed to give preference and the proper amount of safety to people on bikes is incremental in achieving high cycling rates.

      PS: I’m also looking forward to Frank returning from his leave. I talked to his colleague & his first response to your claim was: ‘That sounds rather ridiculous’.

      The UK could have and still take a page from these lessons and speed up the process, instead of continuing on the route of tinkering around the edges, blaming the victims & generally ignoring the bull in society’s china shop.

      • Red Light says:

        Amsterdamize, I suggest you have a look at Figure 5 in the Ministerie van Verkeer en Waterstaat publication, Cycling in the Netherlands 2009. It shows the modal share of bicycles in 9 European cities over the past century, five of them Dutch. The same graph is Figure 10 in the Ministry’s 1999 document, The Dutch Bicycle Master Plan.

  10. Graham Cooper:

    “For example, it is unthinkable here that there might be a place where cycles cross the path of motor vehicles and the cycles are given priority!”

    No it’s not. I can show you plenty of photographs of this.

      • MonkeyMagic says:

        CS3 on Cable Street (also segregated)
        Tavistock Place (also segregated)
        …two examples off the top of my head, probably some of the busiest cycling infrastructure in London.

      • So, your examples are one that is hardly segregated – effectively a cycle lane, albeit with a contraflow and a kerb – and one that requires traffic emerging from a gated premises entrance to give way, which also has this. Hardly compelling examples.

        What about crossing a real traffic flow, such as the entrance or exit to a roundabout such as those seen in Holland?

      • I think we are arguing at cross-purposes here. We can find examples of tracks crossing sideroads, with priority, in the UK – here is a new one in Glasgow, for instance, where I will admit the design is not perfect. Grand Drive in Hove is another. So it’s not entirely ‘unthinkable’.

        But Grahame is in a sense right that it is the default position of local authorities (certainly in my area) to make cyclists give way, or stop.

        Cycle lanes should proceed across junctions, but this should be in addition to good sight lines, raised tracks proceeding across the road, and tighter radius bends, which slow traffic sufficiently. Unfortunately the layout of our towns and streets is designed around the car, rather than pedestrians and people on bicycles.

  11. I’m very much in the “can’t we all just get along” camp. I ride fast, I have been known to wear lycra, and if I’m within 15% of the posted speed limit, I’ll ride in primary all day long.

    At the same time, I’m vehemently opposed to the unnecessary use of cars in cities & suburbs (I can’t believe how much environmental – in the broad sense of the word – degredation people will accept & participate in for the sake of sheer laziness), and I know that the high-speed, vehicular approach (and let’s face it, vehicular only works well in cities if you can ride fast enough to keep your speed differential with the motor traffic down to 10mph or so) is unpalatable and indeed impossible for most /potential/ cyclists on our current roads. So even though my own infrastructure needs are modest, I know road conditions won’t improve without more infrastructure of one sort or another.

    20mph limits do help a fair bit, because they let riders with a less intensive approach maintain a comfortable & relatively safe speed differential; as Red Light observes, there simply isn’t the room for segregation-style infrastructure everywhere, so in many inner-urban scenarios traffic taming has to be the answer. We also need to be careful not to advocate infrastructure that make streets worse as /places/ – pedestrians’ needs should rightly come before cyclists, within reason (closing entire spacious precincts to considerate riders because a few people complain out of sheer prejudice is not “within reason”…) – and additional kerbs, bollards etc. make crossing the road harder for those with mobility & sensory impairments, buggies etc.. so in a high-street setting, my personal view is that /10mph/ limits & some kind of shared space approach (Access Only etc.) is probably the way to go.

    Where we’re talking fast main roads though, even if your target safe cycling age range is say 13-70 rather than the more ambitious 8-80, proper infrastructure is the only way to go. If there’s room for 2 lanes of motor vehicles in each direction to travel “safely” at 40mph+, there’s room to build proper bike lanes & no excuse for not doing so; and little need to worry about inconveniencing pedestrians (only the fit & foolhardy are going to attempt to cross that lot anyway) or destroying a street’s ‘sense of place’ (with all that traffic there ain’t a whole lot left to destroy).

    • SteveL says:

      I agree, but note as others do that the people given the task of building the bike paths are the same ones that want to design multi-level motorway exchanges in the sky, and view bike paths as either a waste of time or some learning exercise.

      This can be used as an anti-bike-path argument, but remember these are the same people who design the roads, which is why all recent road designs are so awful to cycle on.

      If there is one group of people we need to convert to making cycle paths and roads safe to cycle on, it is the road designers of the councils.

  12. Richard Mann says:

    I’d suggest that we run the Bicycle Balance in a few UK cities. I reckon Oxford would get one of the top scores.

    Some of us try to do the best we can with the money/space/politics available. If you don’t like it, then try something different. If you get a better result, I’ll be one of the first trying to learn from it.

    • SteveL says:

      This is some kind of spoof right? You are looking for a guest entry on the Bristol Traffic Blog? If so, get in touch.

      Look at this: there’s a dedicated bike path on the pavement east of Keble, with complete barriers across it. And last month: a large hole too
      http://bristolcars.blogspot.com/2008/07/oxford-5-enforcing-give-way-junctions.html

      Then go down to Primark and think “I am glad that only buses can go through here, as buses are much safer to pedestrians than cyclists”.

      Go to the station, and say “wow, what lovely bike parking here”. Then instead of leaving your bike, try getting it on the train to Bristol and back. Notice how the didcot stopping train has nowhere for bicycles other than by the doors, and that peak hours there isn’t room for it. Notice how when you come up from Didcot you seem to end up carrying your bicycle up and down a flight of stairs.

      If this is your dream, I don’t want it. I want cities where I can take my son to school without having to send videos to the police of cars almost hitting us on roundabouts. I want schools where the primary hazard to pedestrians and cyclists aren’t parents parking their 4x4s on the pavement “because it isn’t safe to walk”. I want town centres where visitors new to the city can cross without being directed into a junction of death. And when I get to my destination, I do want cycle parking. It is valuable. It is necessary. But it is not sufficient.

      • Richard Mann says:

        Oxford isn’t perfect, no. Changing any city is a collective work over decades, with people working together in broadly the same direction. I’m not sure that hostile blogging helps anybody.

      • Red Light says:

        Richard, it seems that on the one hand you think that Oxford is in the running for a high score in Cycle Balance for its excellent provision for cyclists and on the other every time someone points out yet another bit of crap provision you claim Oxford is not perfect and that it will take decades to change it.

        So instead of apologising for trees in the middle of cycle paths, barriers across cycle paths and lanes like these* that are far too narrow, how about you point us to a bit of truly excellent cycle facility that you have achieved in your twenty years in Oxford. Only the rest of us are having real trouble finding one.

        And therein lies the problem of the hostility. You think you are doing a great job for us in Oxford and are committed to doing more of it on our behalf whereas the rest of us just groan at yet another piece of crap cycle facility we are going to have to deal with thanks to you.

        *http://bristolcars.blogspot.com/2008/07/oxford-2-bike-lane.html

      • Richard Mann says:

        Red Light – how about you point us to something you have achieved?

        I’m reasonably comfortable that what’s been done in Oxford is broadly supported by the electorate, and ultimately these things are tried in the court of public opinion, not by anonymous blog-commenters.

      • Red Light says:

        So after 20 years you can’t point to a single piece of good provision in Oxford that you have been responsible for? I think that says it all.

  13. I tend to agree with SteveL. Unless cyclists get angry about the crap we are delivered by local authorities, as he sounds to be in his comment, we will continue to get the same thing. What we have had in the past from our campaigning organisations is too much “diplomacy” (e.g. LCC’s “engagement” with the Cycle Superhighways, which has achieved very little) and not being angry enough about being fobbed off with rubbish.

    On the other had I disagree with his earlier comment where he says:

    “the people given the task of building the bike paths are the same ones that want to design multi-level motorway exchanges in the sky, and view bike paths as either a waste of time or some learning exercise.

    This can be used as an anti-bike-path argument, but remember these are the same people who design the roads, which is why all recent road designs are so awful to cycle on.

    If there is one group of people we need to convert to making cycle paths and roads safe to cycle on, it is the road designers of the councils.”

    No, it is not the road designers that need convincing. It is the politicians. The road designers come up with crap because they are forced into an impossible position with politicians demanding contradictory things: e.g. cycle routes plus maintenance of motor traffic capacity plus maintenance of parking. So cycle routes get pushed onto the pavement. Engineers come up with crap because they correctly absorb the cues from politicians that they do not really want effective, high-priority cycle facilities. They do what they are paid for.

    It is very important that cycle campaigners start understanding that it is the politicians they need to convince, not the planners or engineers. Otherwise they are mis-directing their efforts. I have seen so much of this mis-direction of efforts in my time in the LCC. It may be because cyclists are often technically-minded people, and so find it easier to talk to engineers and planners than politicians, but it is a mistake.

    I have not the slightest doubt that if politicians said absolutely clearly to the planners that high-quality cycle facilities was what they wanted, and that that was their top objective, overriding all the other excuses (capacity, parking etc), then British traffic engineers would be totally capable of delivering solutions that worked. I am sure the people who now want to design”multi-level motorway exchanges in the sky” would relish learning the new skills (probably from the Dutch) that would allow them to design safe cycle infrastructure, if they had 100% political backing. Why shouldn’t they?

  14. SteveL says:

    @Arditti: Good point. it is the “institutionalised motorism” that is at fault. One key issue here is perception: cars are good for the economy, vans are good, congestion needs to be fixed by adding more roads -and people on bicycles or on foot are worthless. If the DfT equations valued people equally independent of how they chose to get to the shops, school or work then the roads would be fairer. And who can fix that pricing model? The politicians

  15. SteveL says:

    @Arditti of course, if you look at the mess of S Gloucester, where they have the space to do wide bike paths you can see that (a) they lack the competence and (b) they don’t want to spend the money on eliminating bike/pedestrian conflict by having paths wide enough for two bicycles separate from a pavement wide enough for two pedestrians. That is incompetence and politics.

    http://cyclingfront.blogspot.com/

    One decision those people haven’t picked up on is the change in policy of S gloucs council to stop paying for vegetation maintenance on any of the paths, to make them even worse. That’s a management level decision.

  16. Richard Mann says:

    Red Light: the subject is why you are hostile to all infrastructure (you seem to keep changing the subject for some reason). You have cited three items of evidence – the lack of a measure of length of cycle track in Fietsbalans, the alleged lack of growth in cycling in the Netherlands, and the alleged lack of impact of the Delft project. All three are nonsense.

    What you seem to be left with is “all infrastructure is crap” and “crap infrastructure makes conditions worse”. I don’t think anyone would much disagree with the second: it’s quite evidently a problem with some types of infrastructure. Few agree with you that “all infrastructure is crap”, however, and there isn’t really much point going through every piece of infrastructure trying to find something you don’t regard as crap: you seem to have pre-judged the matter.

  17. Richard: I think you are being a little unfair here. Your own web site prominently features two examples of what I would consider “crap” cycling infrastructure. I explained why in the discussion on CycleChat. You actually agreed regarding one of them, and disagreed regarding the other whilst also apparently admitting that there had been at least one accident that could be attributed to that cycle lane. Neither of those examples is anywhere near the quality we see in the pictures and videos that are regularly presented of Dutch cycling facilities (though I admit it is possible that the Dutch examples we see have been carefully chosen), and yet you present them as examples of good practice, and have tried to defend them in the CC discussion.

    Red Light has even quoted some of your statements that suggest you are skeptical about the dangers of the door-opening zone, and the dangers of cycling close to side roads, despite doorings and SMIDSYs being well known causes of collisions in practice.

    There is, I agree, sometimes a tendency for people to take extreme positions in this debate, but please don’t use that to distract people from, or misrepresent, the positions you have already expressed in the discussion.

    • Richard Mann says:

      A nuanced conversation about what makes “good” infrastructure would be a sensible debate, but that’s impractical if there’s someone sitting on the side screaming “crap” all the time (which seems to be Red Light’s position). Crap-spotting is entertaining, but divorced from context, it becomes meaningless.

      My view is that there’s a class of infrastructure that can be turned from crap to good if car-speed is brought under control. Sometimes the engineering is quite subtle, but not impossible once you know what you are doing.

      This is important in the UK, because our roads are generically a bit narrower than is typical elsewhere, because we mostly laid them out at the end of the 19th Century. Dutch-style tracks therefore don’t generally fit. So we have to find a different solution.

      Dual carriageways and roundabouts are a different problem: fixing them is going to be a long job. But if we can work out positive solutions for main roads inside towns, then that should create some momentum to fix the big roads in due course.

  18. @Richard “This is important in the UK, because our roads are generically a bit narrower than is typical elsewhere, because we mostly laid them out at the end of the 19th Century. Dutch-style tracks therefore don’t generally fit.”

    Mr Hembrow, who has lived and cycled in both the UK and the Netherlands, disagrees:
    http://hembrow.blogspot.com/search/label/notenoughspace

    The only problem we have in the UK is that road planning is 99% oriented to maximising motor traffic throughput (even though that has been shown time and again to be a policy that merely increases motor traffic levels and congestion). Roads and streets are planned for cars and lorries, then pedestrians and cyclists get to pick up scraps of what’s left (in space and in money).

    The answer is extremely simple: roads should be designed for people, not cars, and people should have the same priority whichever mode of transport they happen to choose (in fact, people using sustainable modes should probably be given higher priority!).

    There is no lack of money in highways budgets either, we spend billions on road construction every year. Just 10% of that budget would pay for masses of useful Dutch-style infrastructure to get ordinary people using bikes for transport. We all know the benefits of doing that, and they include lower levels of congestion for motorists!

    • Richard Mann says:

      Mr Hembrow may have lived in both the UK and the Netherlands, but he’s a bit glib about the space question (and the funding question).

      UK urban main roads were typically laid out to be 50ft (15m) wide between property boundaries, and 30ft (9m) kerb-kerb. If you can fit in cycle tracks into that space, you’re a miracle-worker.

      • Branko Collin says:

        According to Duurzaam Veilig (which is, as I pointed out earlier, a relatively new plan), main roads in the Netherlands should have a minimum width of approx. 8 metres within built-up areas (which I presume includes a bike lane), and 7.5 metres outside of built-up areas, excluding the segregated bike path.

        See also: http://www.wegenwiki.nl/Gebiedsontsluitingsweg

      • Red Light says:

        Branko. The 8m width cannot include the cycle lane. A two way Dutch cycle lane is 4m wide, and two singles 5-8m in total. That leaves between 0 and 4m width to fit in two lanes of motor traffic. So the true width with cycle lanes will be between 12m and 16m

        Richard, I agree there isn’t room to fit in Dutch width cycle facilities and that it the crux of our differences. You think it acceptable to narrow them down to fit the width available but that produces something that most of us would consider “crap” and worse than no facility. So if Dutch facilities are not feasible and attempts to fit them in results in “crap” we do have to find another solution and the best candidate is called vehicular cycling.

  19. Well, if there’s room for motor traffic, there MUST be room for bicycles! The problem is that in the UK the motor car is sacred, and removing space from motorist use is almost never considered.

    Anyway, a quick look around Assen, Holland, in Google Earth finds a street that is only 8.5m wide kerb-kerb. That is made up of two 1.5m cycle lanes, leaving 5.5m for two motor traffic lanes. There are many streets considerably narrower, but there, instead of trying to squeeze as many motor cars as possible, the Dutch have 30kmh speed limits and limited motor vehicle access, leaving the street to be shared happily by people on foot and on bikes🙂

    As for funding, if we spent just 1% of the Highways budget on cycling here in West Sussex we’d have half a million pounds per annum to use. If we spent 5% of the budget, we’d have £2.5 million per annum. The problem isn’t lack of cash, it’s incorrect prioritisation!

    I’d be interested to know what percentage of the Highways budget is spent in Oxford for facilities to encourage cycling. I expect you have a higher priority for encouraging cycling in Oxford?

  20. Richard Mann says:

    @Branko – that’s in line with CROW25 Design Manual for Bicycle Traffic, but the 8m certainly doesn’t include cycle tracks (it might allow cycle lanes to be marked, though probably only suggestion lanes). It’s this guidance (which isn’t dissimilar to CROW10, Sign up for the Bike) that points to what might be possible on UK main roads, and has informed what we’ve done in Oxford.

  21. “We do have to find another solution and the best candidate is called vehicular cycling.”

    There is no problem to which vehicular cycling is a solution.

    • SteveL says:

      Actually, it is the solution of “how to usually arrive alive in an infrastructure designed for motor vehicles”. At the same time it accepts the existence of that infrastructure. Admittedly, that’s because the alternatives we have historically got in the UK are cycle paths with trees down them, barriers to stop tagalongs and trailers (Sustrans NCN2 to Salcombe: we’re talking about you on today’s ice-cream run!) and a tendency to abandon you whenever it gets hard. Things like the CEoGB aren’t pushing for more of these, What they want are cycle paths of the kind you get in Amsterdam and Denmark. Yes, it’s ambitious, but so what. If you don’t have a dream, you’ll never get it realised.

      Oh, and for people saying “what have you done, then”, my most recent accomplishment was actually a zebra crossing in my road, which drops car speeds and improves walking. Before that: keeping BRT off the railway path. My next project: fixing the school run by way of the council and the police. As we do have council support here in Bristol, it just needs to be managed effectively.

  22. I think the discussion of road widths is complete rubbish.

    “This is important in the UK, because our roads are generically a bit narrower than is typical elsewhere, because we mostly laid them out at the end of the 19th Century.

    No we didn’t. The vastly largest part of urban space in the UK was laid out in the 20th century, from the 1930s onwards, to accommodate cars. Look at the map of London (for example) to prove that. London in 1900 extended to about the edge of Zone 2. This is only a small fraction of London’s total area today. Same goes for every other city.

    We have old narrow city centre roads which lack effective cycle facilities and huge wide suburban roads which lack effective cycle facilities and everything in between, all lacking effective cycle facilities. In the Netherlands they have all of this same range of street types, all with appropriate, different, effective cycle facilities, respective to each street type. And it’s not just the Netherlands. You find similar solutions in Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Belgium, Germany, Switzerland, Austria and Italy, albeit less consistently. You are telling me there is something different about UK roads compared to roads in all these places which all have some commonality which ours lack? This is an absurd claim, and suggests a lack of knowledge of the world.

    The truth is that there is no difference in our roads. The difference is in politics.

    • Richard Mann says:

      I’ve got a lot of 8-9m carriageways carrying more than 10,000mvpd, that have terraced buildings on them, which I would date to the 1875-1914 period.

      I can’t find anything in Dutch guidance that really tells me what might work in such a situation. I’m sure you can point me to lots of Dutch examples?

      • Richard Mann says:

        Strange – no reply from David Arditti providing lots of Dutch examples of 8-9m roads with 10,000mvpd.

      • Are these residential roads? In which case the problem is not the width, but the volume of traffic. Stop the through motor traffic, and the problem is solved. That would be the Dutch solution.

        This is even in the UK’s guidance: top of the Hierarchy of Provision is “traffic reduction”. If you really can’t stop the cars, second on the list is “speed reduction”: install a 20mph speed limit.

        The important thing is to treat cycling as a mode of transport that’s more important than the motor car. Everything else follows naturally.

      • Richard Mann says:

        10,000mvpd is a low-end value for an urban main road (a typical residential road would be about 1000-2000mvpd). The ones I’m thinking of are A roads.

        Perhaps I should put it more directly: David Arditti was patronising and rude, and said there were lots of examples of good treatments of busy (10,000mvpd+ / urban A roads) for all road widths, including the widths we get in the UK (where 8-9m is not an uncommon width, in my experience). He is yet to provide any examples.

      • Can you give an example road name, so we can see where you’re talking about? It sounds like there is far too much motor traffic being allowed down a narrow residential road.

        Of course, your example road in a Netherlands town with decent cycle facilities would have more like 6,000mvpd and 4,000 cycles per day: a significant traffic/congestion/pollution/noise reduction🙂

      • Richard Mann says:

        Abingdon Road, from Western Road to Weirs Lane
        Iffley Road, from The Plain to Howard St
        Cowley Road, from The Plain to Magdalen Road
        Headington Road / London Road, from Marston Road junction to the ring road
        Marston Road, from Headington Road junction to Edgeway Road
        Banbury Road, from Marston Ferry Road to the ring road
        Woodstock Road, from Leckford Road to the ring road
        Botley Road, from the railway to Binsey Lane

        I’m still waiting for examples of wonderful Dutch treatments of such roads (or for David to withdraw his rude and patronising comment).

  23. My answer to my correspondence with Grahame Cooper, where I promised to show photographs of UK locations where
    ” cycles cross the path of motor vehicles and the cycles are given priority!”
    is here.

    • (Your blog doesn’t seem to accept my reply, so I’ve put it here.)

      A very good post. You have convinced me with your examples to revise the statement that you said you would focus on, and say instead:

      “For example, it seems almost unthinkable in most towns and cities here that there might be places where cycles cross the path of motor vehicles and the cycles are given priority!”

      (Never say never!)

      In response to ndru’s comment, I should point out the first sentence of my quoted text above: ‘I think I would probably be pigeon-holed as “anti-infrastructuralist” (if there were such a word), but I am not actually against infrastructure per se’. I am perfectly prepared to listen to argument, and believe strongly in evidence-based planning.

      I haven’t time just now to do a big post, but key points are:

      1. I still believe that it will be a long time before we have the kind of infrastructure the Dutch enjoy, and I do not believe it is unduly pessimistic to believe that I will not see it, even if I live to be 100. It is a matter of attitudes and, as you said, that takes a long time to change.

      2. People promoting segregated infrastructure tend to pooh pooh vehicular cycling as if we already had an alternative, which we do not. I do not wish to return to my car to wait until this fantastic cycling environment is built. Vehicular cycling is all that is available to me right now and for the foreseeable future.

      3. The current poor and dangerous facilities are not acceptable even as a stepping stone to decent facilities because they are damaging to vehicular cycling; they should be removed immediately until such time as decent facilities can be built.

      4. The discussion about cycling “networks” tends to be framed as if we do not already have them when in fact we do – the roads. The focus should be on improving the network that already exists by means of a mixture of methods, including judicious use of segregation where appropriate (i.e. taking the motor vehicles out of parts of the network), but also including lower speed limits, traffic calming, enforcement, etc.

      5. The argument should not be just about infrastructure, but should address all of the characteristics. In particular, presumed liability would be very cheap to implement if there were only the political will to implement it. Also, my understanding is that the Dutch do not have this culture that gives primacy to the motor vehicle as we certainly do.

      By all means campaign for the big dream – if you build it, (maybe) they will come (unlike in Milton Keynes). In the meantime, I have set my sights a little lower and wish to take a first step, which is to improve my lot in the shorter-term.

      • @MrHappyCyclist
        We seem to agree in most places, amazingly. However
        1) We will never get decent cycling tracks in UK unless we ask for them explicitly and set the design standards, don’t you think? The current standards are very low and there is a lot of room to wiggle around them. Hardly anything has been done to fix this by the campaigns.
        2) Sure we all use vehicular cycling. The problem is some people think of VC as the only way, not a mean to get somewhere (in both senses). They will laugh at dreamers, who don’t want to cycle like they do… Sometimes it feels like devoted VCs want cycling to remain elitist so they don’t have to wait behind a “nodder” who is going slower.
        3) Agreed. Only they are not even remotely obligatory, so feel free not to use them. I use substandard cycle tracks if the alternative is a dual carriageway. Sorry my preference.
        4) Yes there is this network, which is totally dominated by cars and not fit for all people to cycle on. There is an excellent route of railways – why won’t cars use it? Provided that they would be allowed by law, do you think they would? Or would they rather use the dedicated infrastructure. Infrastructure means that we allocate space of the road network to cycles. Pure and simple. Not build another totally separate network. Lower speed limits, traffic calming and enforcement work until someone disobeys and rams into my son and kills him for instance. So…
        5) Presumed liability applies to insurance not criminal or even civil liability as far as I know, and while it’s great, knowing that I will receive compensation for my son’s theoretical death wouldn’t give me enough confidence to make him cycle on most roads.

      • Well:

        1) OK, go for it.
        2) Some people are not me, and it was my comments to which David was specifically referring in his blog post.
        3) That’s the point. They cause problems and conflicts with drivers if they are there and I don’t use them. Vehicular cycling becomes much more dangerous in the presence of crappy cycle lanes.
        4) I don’t understand what you are talking about: cars using railways? As you say, the problem is the cars, so we need to deal with the cars. Segregation has its place, but it can’t be the whole solution in all situations.
        5) Presumed liability is precisely about civil liability. The point is not whether you receive compensation, it is the effect that it could have on drivers’ attitudes (along with a range of other measures).

        By the way, do you allow your son to walk on the pavements of the public roads, and to cross the road? After all, that is statistically more dangerous than cycling on the roads even in the UK. (See the STATS19 reports for the last few years.)

        We need to step back from our parochial cyclists’ world-view and think about spaces for people. That includes cyclists (of all kinds), pedestrians, wheelchair and mobility scooter users, skaters, etc. The problem is the motor vehicle, and that is where the attention needs to be placed.

  24. Cowley Road appears to have space for a few car parking spaces, and pavement build-outs, which could perhaps be replaced with cycle lanes. The narrowest bit has 12 metres between buildings. It has roundels on the road, is it a 20mph limit? It seems to have some traffic calming, where the motor lanes are only around 3m wide. Looks to me like a classic road for two 2m wide advisory cycle lanes plus a narrow motor lane in the middle. Cars use the cycle lane space to pass each other.

    Oude Boteringestraat or Oosterstraat in Groningen look quite similar, but are clearly much less designed for motor vehicles, and more designed for people. There are other streets in Groningen that are even narrower.

    Remember, Oxford’s roads were never designed to have modern-sized motor vehicles travelling down them. The streets aren’t the problem, it’s the motor cars!

    • Richard Mann says:

      Neither of those has anything like 10,000mvpd (both are within the old city area, which is heavily restricted). 10,000mvpd means two-way traffic that drives in expectation that something will be coming the other way. It’s that two-way flow, that basically requires around 6m width, that makes dimensions very tight on UK urban main roads.

      The shopping area on Cowley Road was mostly about 10m, before it was rebuilt, but has heavy parking demand, which effectively left about 8m to play with; I haven’t seen a good Dutch solution for that scenario either. The rebuild has a very long 20mph zone, but that’s too fast for most cyclists (10mph might work, but that’s probably only viable for quite short distances). 8-9m with low parking demand is a much more common scenario for me.

  25. Richard Mann says:

    Ah, so the only solution is a major reduction in traffic, in a city with one of the lowest levels of car-use in the country. Be serious.

    • Sounds like you’re the one who isn’t serious.

    • @Richard – I am being very serious. You are putting words into my mouth though: I didn’t say “the only solution” is a major reduction in traffic. You certainly do need serious motor traffic reduction, as the UK’s Hierarchy of Provision (almost universally ignored!) states. But you also need decent facilities to make cycling easier than driving and visibly safe and pleasant, and legal changes to ensure motorists are more responsible for the death and injury they cause daily. How else are we going to see 40+% modal share for cycling in Cowley Road and Oxford as a whole?

      The Dutch and Danish highway planners consider people to be more important than cars, unlike in the UK where motor vehicles are more important than people. In the Netherlands, cycling is just another ordinary mode of transport, as safe as, and more convenient than driving or walking. Their streets are some of the safest in the world for non-motorised road users (i.e. people).

      It sounds like you feel that Oxford has done as much as it can to reduce motor traffic in roads like Cowley Road near the town centre. I think, given current UK attitudes to transport, you’re right, and this is why the Cycling Embassy of Great Britain was formed. We’d rather see a real end to the terrorisation of our streets by the few in motor vehicles, and real mass cycling (40% to 50% of trips in towns). To do this requires cycling to be as ordinary as, and easier than, driving for almost all journeys. It’s not difficult, the Dutch and Danes have shown exactly how to do it (The city of Copenhagen has nearly 40%, and a target of 50%, modal share for cycling: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cycling_in_Copenhagen). But it does require taking off the UK’s motor-car-loving blinkers. Design roads for people, not cars, please!

  26. thecyclingjim says:

    Is this debate still going on!!

    Richard

    David Arditti probably made the comment and then moved on. Strutting around like a peacock isn’t going to solve that. Also, you are citing some very specific examples close to you where others here have no real idea of the conditions – I certainly wouldn’t expect you to speak with any authority on my home town of Worthing wthout checking it out first which leads me to my final point – the CROW Manual has lots of solutions for the design professional and planner based on all sorts of variables (traffic volume, movement, surrounding network etc). If UK Transport Planning has been reduced to potted Feasibility Studies via Google Streetview then God help us all.

  27. Richard Mann says:

    Jim – I’m happy to accept Anthony’s answer (that main roads should be made one way, so that cycle tracks can be built). It’s an interesting answer. Of course, I’d quite like to see an example where it’s been put into practice etc.

    In the mean time, I might stick with two-way main roads and painted cycle lanes.

    • @Richard: where did I say “main roads should be made one way”? An over-simplification, if ever there was one!

      As for examples where exactly what we would like has been put into practice (we’re now going round in circles!), see Denmark, Copenhagen, The Netherlands, Groningen, Assen, etc., etc. These places have solved the problem you have in Oxford that motor vehicles dominate the streets and cycling is a marginalised, dangerous, activity. There is no reason, apart from the UK’s overriding urge to maximise motor traffic volumes, that the same things can’t be done in Oxford or any other UK town.

      • christhebull says:

        @Richard Mann
        One way main roads are most common where there are two parallel roads that can be made one way in opposite directions (a “one way pair”), a common feature of grid layouts. I am not familiar with the street layout in Oxford (although I realise it isn’t a grid), but there are plenty of examples in the UK and abroad of main roads that are one way (for the supposed benefit of drivers) These include Gloucester Place and Baker Street; and Tottenham Court Road and Gower Street in central London, Victoria Park Road in Hackney, as well as the “City Centre Loop” in Leeds, a one way ring road around the very heart of the city, in a similar layout to the smaller town of Huntingdon. All of these were built with no consideration for cycling whatsoever, although the latter example has some retrospectively signed shared use pavements.

        As for one way main roads with two way cycle tracks, I’m foolishly assuming you haven’t heard of the fuss surrounding Prospect Park West in Brooklyn. This road was however already one way before the cycle track was implemented. Closer to home, the original intention with the cycle track on Torrington Place was for the road to be made one way for a wider cycle track, but this didn’t happen due to opposition from the black cab lobby.

        Regarding road widths, these vary significantly in every Old World country, and the UK is no exception. Rather than argue about some physically constrained A road, why not argue about the lack of facilities on much wider roads which are, to be blunt, even more likely to be a problem for cyclists due to the increased speed and volume of traffic? Why does extra road width have to be wasted on hatching that does nothing for cyclists and traffic islands (sorry, “refuges”) on fast roads that simply put them in danger? Why do rural A roads have huge verges but no cycle tracks?

        Here, we have, on the former A3 in Milford, a junction with a road that has been cut off by the new A3 and made a no through road, and yet it still has its own filter lane and left turn arrow! No attempt whatsoever has been made to rehabilitate the old road, despite having plenty of room for cycle infrastructure. And look, we have some new houses as well just off it, which, IIRC, got planning permission for extra parking due to the pre-existing car dependency in this area…

  28. Richard Mann says:

    I think we may have to differ about the prevalence of narrowish main roads in the UK.

    It might be worth looking at http://www.fietsberaad.nl/library/repository/bestanden/Fietsberaad_publicatie7_Engels.pdf
    (warning! 8MB), which describes how Groningen developed. Over several decades, and far from smoothly.

    • I think the difference is in the meaning of “main road”. It seems that, for you, a “main road”‘s overriding requirement is to allow 10,000 motor vehicles to travel along it per day. In more enlightened towns, a “main road” merely has to allow 10,000 people to travel along it per day. As such, it looks much less like a “main road” in the UK, and is a much more pleasant place to be.

      I quite agree that the Fietsberaad documents are worth reading. Page 22 of the one you quote is particularly good. We could learn from their mistakes and get it right first time.

      At least Groningen has developed🙂 Some of their streets now have 10,000 cycles per day, instead of 10,000 motor vehicles per day! That’s the same number of people travelling, but with a lot less danger, pollution, and space needed. Hang on, that sounds ideal for Oxford’s unusually narrow streets!

      • Richard Mann says:

        A typical urban main road has more like 20-40,000 people/day travelling along it. It would be a huge achievement to get the number of motor vehicles down to a level where you didn’t need to cope with a two-way motor-vehicle flow.

        I’d suggest that you need to know what you’d do if it turns out that you’re short of space (or don’t yet have enough money to do a proper job) & have too much traffic. Maybe you’ll be lucky and never have to confront the issue, but I suggest you measure a few roads before you dismiss it as a problem. Otherwise you’re just building fantasy castles.

        I think the most viable approach in constrained locations is to slow the traffic down, and make do with painted cycle lanes. Junctions are the real difficulty. Either you have to bypass them (which needs space or a reduction in traffic capacity, or both), or you have to get traffic down sufficiently to use an integrated design (such as a Balsiger roundabout, or a Copenhagen shared filter lane, or – with less traffic – a simple ASL).

        “Continuous and Integral” gives you an impression of how long it takes, and how complicated it is, even when you’ve got a high level of cycling demand to start with. I think the thing that might speed it up is being realistic about what can be achieved, and being positive about the intermediate stages.

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