‘No surrender’ – the damaging, enduring legacy of the 1930s in British cycle campaigning

The notion of providing a separate, dedicated space for people on bikes, away from motor vehicles, continues to be met with opposition of a particular form.

I am not talking here about pragmatic opposition; the kind of opposition which tends to form itself around the idea that cycle tracks in this country will inevitably be substandard, or slower than the road, or blocked by too many bike users. This was, in fact, my position several years ago; I was opposed to off-carriageway provision essentially because I had no idea that it could privilege me while cycling, providing a more direct and comfortable experience than cycling on the road itself. My only experience tended to be pavement conversions, or narrow painted stripes at the side of the road. I had no real understanding of what cycle tracks would look if they were done properly, like they are in the Netherlands. It was only when I became aware of David Hembrow’s site, in around 2008-9, that my opinions began to change. (A similar conversion was undergone by a notorious east London blogger).

Instead, the opposition I am talking about takes an ideological rather than pragmatic form. It suggests that almost any kind of dedicated provision for cycling, separate from roads for motor vehicles, represents a form of surrender, and an abandonment of roads in general to motor vehicles. That Jeremy Clarkson and ‘petrolheads’ will have won, and have got all those pesky cyclists out of their way.

Subsidiarily, it suggests that the drivers of motor vehicles will then behave with greater abandon, and a greater sense of entitlement, now that the roads are ‘theirs’. It argues that when drivers meet cyclists on roads without cycle tracks – as they will inevitably do, as cycle tracks can’t be built everywhere – then they will think that cyclists are on ‘their’ roads, and will act possessively. Or – alternatively – that drivers will not be used to driving around cyclists, and may drive badly around them when they do encounter them.

These are not positions greatly supported by evidence. A minority, significant or otherwise, of British drivers already act with a sense of entitlement that the roads are ‘theirs’, despite cyclists almost entirely cycling on them, and not on separate cycle tracks and paths. The situation could hardly be made any worse. Nor is the position supported by a near total absence of hostility from Dutch motorists towards Dutch people riding bikes on Dutch roads that do not have cycle tracks. And nor would Dutch people who happen to be riding bikes (remember – 80-90% of the Dutch population rides a bike once a week) believe that they have ‘surrendered’ some nebulous right to the road, probably because most of them drive cars too, and also because the system of separate provision they have is as good as, and very often far better, than the conventional road network itself.

Nevertheless, opposition to cycle tracks in the UK, of this ideological form, persists. This opposition is not new; it has a long history, dating right back to the 1930s, a time when cycle tracks were, intermittently, being proposed alongside some arterial roads in Britain. Most strikingly, the arguments advanced at the time have hardly changed in the intervening eighty years.

Chertsey Road, Twickenham, c.1930?

Picture via Carlton Reid

The Cyclists’ Touring Club position during the 1930s is set out well in this letter to the Times written by the Club’s Secretary, G. H. Stancer, published on the 4th April 1934 –

The demand for separate tracks for cyclists is part of the campaign of motorists to appropriate public highways for their exclusive use. Have we yet got to accept a condition of affairs when cyclists have to renounce their use of the roads to escape annihiliation? If motorists do not wish to conform to a standard of conduct on public highways compatible with the safety of all other users, then it is they and not cyclists who should abandon the use of the highway, the main cost of which is borne by ratepayers. There is nothing to prevent motorists from building at their own expense private roads where they can indulge their craze for speed without let or hindrance.

Here we see the opinion expressed that cycle tracks – while being presented as necessary for safety by the authorities – are in reality part of a plot by motorists to ‘appropriate’ highways for their ‘exclusive use’; that motorists want cycle tracks because they are unable or unwilling to conform to a safe standard of conduct. In a letter published just a month later Stancer wrote of ‘hostile interests’ seeking to ‘confine [cyclists] to special paths’.

The Times also reported, around the same time, on an international conference about road safety, at which

The Cyclists’ Touring Club stated that the provision of cycle paths at the side of any of the main roads would not be with the object of giving cyclists a good path on which to ride, but to remove them from the road in the interests of motorists. The cost of providing such paths would be enormous.

These are familiar themes, still rehearsed today. 

Maybe less familiar is the attitude that motorists should build their own roads for their use. Indeed, the Cyclists’ Touring Club was strongly in favour of motorway building; they sent a member on a delegation to Hitler’s Germany to look at autobahns. If these roads were not to be built, said the Club, then the existing roads would have to have severe speed restrictions.

Their support for motorways was, perversely, a form of segregation; a separation of motor traffic from cycle traffic, with motor traffic being allocated new roads on which cycles would be prohibited. Indeed, this is how the Club framed the issue, as in this extract from William Oakley’s Winged Wheel, a history of the CTC.

the idea of segregating various forms of road traffic occurred as a way of getting [cyclists] off the public highways onto separate paths: ‘for their own good’, of course! But the idea could also be applied to high-speed motorists by segregating them on special motor roads.

So ‘high-speed motorists’ would be presumed to disappear, almost entirely, from the existing roads, leaving them ‘free’ for cycling; a solution, of sorts, to the emerging problem on the roads that wouldn’t involve cyclists being ‘pushed away’ onto cycle tracks. A semantic difference, but an important one nonetheless, and one which characterised the attitude towards ‘surrendering’ of existing roads.

It is also worth noting that throughout this period, the focus of the Cyclists’ Touring Club was on getting motorists to behave better, and to drive more slowly (see the emphasis on ‘high speed motorists’), rather than on eliminating attitudinal conflict between modes entirely in a way cycle tracks would have achieved. The Times reports a meeting of the Cyclists’ Touring Club in early 1935 thusly –

Objections to special tracks for cyclists were made at a largely-attended meeting of the Cyclists’ Touring Club, held in the hall of the Royal Society of Arts, John Street, Adelphi, last evening, when the following resolution was carried unamimously :-

That this general meeting of the Cyclists’ Touring Club deprecates the view of the Minister of Transport, as indicated by his approval of cycle paths, that the segregation of cyclists is a just method of minimizing the number of road casualties, and strongly urges upon the Minister its opinion that the problem can be more satisfactorily dealt with by the rigid enforcement of the existing laws, which were instituted with the object of enabling all sections of responsible road users to enjoy the full exercise of their rights in safety. Mr. W. M. Robinson (Birmingham), member of the council, who moved the resolution, said that the effect of cycle paths would be that motorists would drive faster. Cyclists were not going to allow themselves to be pushed off the roads and segregated onto a track on the side. The only way to end the shambles of the roads, which had become a national disgrace and crime, was to lay the culprits by the heels and put them in gaol.

The ‘no surrender’ attitude in action, coupled with the belief that motorists would behave worse. The roads must be kept as they are, but with higher standards enforced on the (ever-increasing) numbers of drivers of motor vehicles using them.

At the same meeting, council member William (Bill) Oakley (later a president of the Club, and the aforementioned author) argued that ‘cycle tracks were a tacit admission of failure’ – an apparent inability to get all users to, in an uncanny echo of language still used today, ‘share the highways’, as Stancer put it in another letter to the Times in 1935.

The obviously fair solution to the problem of the roads is to take effective steps for the removal of the dangerous conduct that leads to the accidents rather than to try to remove potential victims while allowing the danger to remain. If the existing laws were rigidly enforced and dangerous conduct by any class of road user eradicated, it would be possible for all sections to share the highways in safety and good will. 

There are further echos of today in the Cyclists’ Touring Club attitude to the safety of child cyclists –

Whatever the circumstances in which child cyclists met their deaths, the only just and reasonable way to remedy them was through the training of children in the principles of a wise use of the roads and by the taking of most stringent measures against vehicle drivers who endangered the lives of other people. The proper solution of the road problem should be sought, not in depriving the vast majority of vehicular users of the roads of their right to use them, but of restraining, and if necessary eliminating, the small minority who were responsible for the present evil.

The Club’s preferred solution to the emerging ‘problem’ of the roads was to train drivers and cyclists to behave better, rather than attempting to keep these users apart. Indeed, the opinions of those who voiced a preference for cycling on tracks away from roads, as a more pleasurable experience, were dismissed. This letter appeared in the Times on the 17th April, 1935 –

In view of the meeting of protest against the proposed cycling tracks reported in The Times of April 9, you may care to publish the views of a regular user of the tracks on Western Avenue. These tracks have converted what was previously a nerve-racking ride into a care-free glide, except for occasional indiscreet pedestrians. I have no objection whatever to being “segregated”, and shall use tracks wherever I happen to travel, if they are kept up to the Western Avenue standard. U suggest this is the view of most sober-minded cyclists travelling to and from work. MR MAURICE G EVANS, Tarrystone, Philip Road, High Wycombe

Stancer was quick to put Mr Evans to rights, writing in response

Mr. Maurice Evans’s letter in your issue of April 17 ignores the undeniable fact that “what was previously a nerve-racking ride” (as he describes cycling on the Western Avenue prior to the introduction of the cyclists’ tracks) was only made so by the reckless behaviour of the inconsiderate section of the motoring community.

In other words, the difficulties and problems those people cycling on the roads in the 1930s were increasingly facing were due solely to the bad behaviour of motorists; the road could be as pleasant as cycle tracks if only we could just get motorists to behave. The fact that cycling in motor traffic could be fundamentally unpleasant was not recognised by Stancer and the Club. They were demanding, as reported in 1936,

a better spirit among road-users, a higher degree of skill and courtesy, and that quality which might be summed up on the word “roadmanship”.

The ‘can’t we all just get along’ mentality that still persists today.

Stancer in action

Stancer in action

Stancer was most definitely a hardened cyclist. In 1910 he had cycled from London to Brighton and back in under 6 hours, a feat that would be remarkable even on today’s modern roads, and with modern bicycles. He had little interest in touring, his focus being time trialling and setting cycling records. He consistently won prizes in racing events. Even at the age of 78, he was still completing century events, and arriving first.

He was therefore hardly a person best-qualified to understand the motivations and feelings of those people who might not wish to cycle confidently in ever-increasing volumes of motor traffic, yet as secretary of the Club from 1920-45 he was a most influential figure during a critical period in cycling history in Britain. He wrote a column in the Club’s Gazette under the pen name ‘Robin Hood’, the focus of which, according to Oakley’s Winged Wheel, was usually

a vigorous defence of cyclists against repeated attempts by motoring interests to encroach on their freedom and welfare.

At the time, the Cyclists’ Touring Club claimed to speak for around 7 million users of bicycles in Great Britain. Indeed, in 1933, cycle users were in a position of relative power – at least compared to today. Bicycles still outnumbered motor cars on the road. It wasn’t even until the 1950s that total mileage travelled by motorcar in Britain outstripped miles travelled by bicycle. So the voice of bicycle users could, potentially, have been very powerful. But the interests of the Club and those millions who at the time were merely riding bicycles for transport, rather than touring, were not well-aligned.

The membership of the Club had collapsed between 1899 and 1918 as their traditional members – the upper and middle classes – increasingly abandoned bicycles for motor vehicles as a mode of ‘touring’. This was, paradoxically, at a time when bicycle use was sharply increasing in the general population, but these people who were using bicycles as a mode of transport – the lower classes in particular – saw no need to join a touring club, as Oakley writes in Winged Wheel –

The urge to travel over the hills and far away, day after day, had not yet come to them; even if it had, they could not have responded to it.

There was, therefore, no real representation of those people who rode bikes for transport. The only alternative to the Cyclists’ Touring Club was the National Cyclists’ Union, which was a sporting organisation.

By 1934, the Club was, as we have seen, strongly agitating against the cycle paths that were starting to be proposed; it was preparing pamphlets

warning against the threats of cycle-paths, proficiency certificates, exclusion from certain roads, and other steps intended to restrict and discourage the use of bicycles.

Cycle paths ‘discouraging the use of bicycles’; written, apparently without irony, in the year 1977 by Oakley.

One of these pamphlets was entitled ‘Making the Roads Safe’, a response by the Cyclists’ Touring Club to the opening of cycle tracks alongside roads in west London. This also contained the assertion that cycle tracks were ‘a serious threat to cycling’, and its title is clearly suggestive of keeping cyclists on current roads, and moderating driver behaviour. The agitation against cycle tracks continued after the war, with Stancer writing an article in 1946 entitled The Fallacy of Cycle Paths. Oakley writes that

Inter alia, it recorded what had happened on the Continent when cyclists had lost the right of choosing to ride on the carriageway or the cycle path.

‘What happened’, of course, was that cycling didn’t collapse in countries where that ‘right’ was forfeited, like the Netherlands; it collapsed, by contrast, in Britain, where we still have the right to cycle on roads that nobody wants to cycle on. We have the benefit of hindsight, but Stancer quite obviously got this completely wrong. He allowed his ideological attachment to ‘retaining’ the roads to blind him to the potential consequences of increased motor traffic. In 1947, at the Club’s AGM,

Stancer moved a motion expressing determined opposition to cycle-paths alongside public roads, protesting against the threatened exclusion of cyclists from the carriageways and calling for the restoration to the Highway Code of the precept that ‘all persons have a right to use the road for the purpose of passage’.

There was a keen debate. One member suggested the Club was ‘flogging a dead horse’ and that it should press for wider paths. Another said motorists were seeking to monopolise the highways and their should be no surrender of the rights so ardently fought for in the past.

As you can see from the emboldened text, even at this relatively early stage some Club members had started to recognise that the game was up; that there was no point continuing to insist on a right to use the road that was becoming increasingly hollow, and that the focus instead should be on improving the standard of off-carriageway provision.

But these voices were lost, and the following year, 1948, cyclists started being banned from some roads completely, at Southend-on-Sea, and Rowley Regis in Staffordshire, in the apparent interests of safety. Over the next decade the Club also fought vainly to retain the legal right to cycle through the Mersey Tunnel at all times, a battle that was destined to be lost (you can now only cycle through it at night, if you so wish).

By 1955 the Club’s position was stated thusly –

‘The Cyclists’ Touring Club approves the construction of special roads for cyclists and the taking over of existing roads for the exclusive use of cyclists, while at the same time maintaining its opposition to the segregation of cyclists on separate tracks alongside the public highway.’

So, new roads could be built for the exclusive use of cars; new roads could also be built for the exclusive use of cyclists; and some existing roads could be completely given over to the exclusive use of cyclists. But the partitioning of existing roads into areas in which bicycles and motor cars would travel separately was completely opposed.

The only way in which it is possible to make any sense of this position is through an understanding of the ideology of ‘no surrender’ of those existing roads; the construction of cycle tracks on them would represent an ‘abandonment’ of them to the motor car, and a ‘defeat’ for cycling. The Club viewed the claims for the safety of cycle tracks as, in reality, merely a way of getting potential victims off the road, and continued to maintain that the proper way to achieve safety was through training, education and enforcement, and ‘sharing’ of the existing roads.

This was a period in which, with a rapid rise in motor car use, road casualties were sharply increasing, while cycle use was sharply declining. But the CTC stuck to its guns about ‘raising the standard of conduct among motorists and cyclists’, apparently blind to how bicycle users were already abandoning the roads in droves, plumping instead for the comfort, safety and convenience of the motor car.

Cycling in Great Britain, 1949-2010

Graph by Jack Thurston

In a telling passage from Winged Wheel describing mid-1950s staffing problems, Oakley notes that

For many years it had been possible to recruit [Cyclists’ Touring Club] employees from among members of the Club who, almost without exception, cycled regularly to work. But it now became difficult to maintain adequate staff by accepting only those who were first and foremost active cyclists, and even some of the most enthusiastic riders on the staff ultimately ceased to cycle to and form work because of the growth in the volume of traffic.

So even the more hardened riders in the Club were no longer choosing to cycle to work, put off by increasing motor traffic. During precisely the same period, however, the CTC were apparently

continuing to play a significant role in educating child cyclists and winning for them a respected place in the scheme of road-users.

No apparent reflection on how many of those children would wish to take their ‘place in the scheme of road-users’ at a time when the Club’s most enthusiastic members were themselves abandoning the road due to the volume of motor traffic.

Of course, as I have already said, we have the advantage of hindsight, and can see how misguided the Club’s position was throughout this period. I don’t think it would be fair to blame them for getting things wrong. The roads had been theirs, and motor cars were quite easily and reasonably seen as ‘interlopers’, vehicles that should quite properly be restrained, or given their own space. Why on earth should cyclists have ‘surrendered’ the roads – their roads – to this impudent newcomer? By the time it was fully apparent that motor vehicles were going to take over, and that cyclists would quite literally be driven from the road, it was probably too late.

What is less understandable is that the attitude exhibited by the Cyclists’ Touring Club in the 1930s persists today, despite having seen how history has turned out. That attitude continues to manifest itself in an ideological opposition to the separation of motor vehicles and bicycles on the existing road network.

We don’t have to look very hard to find the legacy of this ‘no surrender’ philosophy in action. Perhaps the best-known piece of current UK cycling guidance is the Hierarchy of Provision; every improvement for cycling is filtered (or an attempt is made to filter it) through this table of measures by prominent UK cycling campaigners.

But in the context of the history of cycling in Britain, the Hierarchy is best understood as an embodiment of the 1930s attitude; it first asks for motor vehicles to be removed from the roads, and then asks for any motor vehicles remaining on those roads to be tamed. Then, and only then – once the roads have been sufficiently ‘reclaimed’ from motor traffic – might we even consider putting in measures that ‘separate’ cyclists from motor vehicles.

Sounds familiar?

The CTC’s position on the proposed redesign of the roundabout at the northern end of Lambeth Bridge is a perfect illustration of the persistence of the 1930s attitude, as applied in the formal language of the Hierarchy of Provision. While most respondents to the consultation, and cycle campaigning groups such as the London Cycling Campaign and the Cycling Embassy, called explicitly for a continental-style track around the perimeter of a (narrowed) roundabout – wide provision for cycling, alongside reduced roadspace for motor vehicles – the CTC called for something else entirely. A narrowed roundabout, without any tracks at all.

Our preferred option in this situation would be to redesign the layout of the roundabout along ‘continental’ lines – that is, with a single lane roundabout and small curve radii single exits and entry lanes.

That is, a design that would slow and calm motor traffic, but would leave cyclists in the road, mixing it with motor vehicles – their road, from which motor vehicles are expected to disappear.

There is, I think, no other way of explaining why the CTC would choose a design that would make the cycling experience more uncomfortable than a Dutch-style design than through the persistence, diluted or otherwise, of 1930s cycle campaigning logic; that the roads cannot be abandoned to cars.

The CTC’s pet theory of ‘Safety in Numbers’ also makes sense when viewed as a direct continuation of 1930s thinking. What better way to ‘reclaim’ the streets from motor traffic than by filling up those streets with cyclists once again; and how wonderful it is that we can present that as improving the safety of those cyclists at the same time. No need for any of that pesky ‘segregation’, pushing cyclists off the roads – just convince everyone to switch from cars to bikes and the roads will be made safe again, and belong to cyclists once more.

‘Shared space’ is similarly attractive to campaigners of a 1930s bent; attractive, for instance, to this cycle trainer and advocate, who gave evidence to the Get Britain Cycling Inquiry in January.

the emphasis on segregation by LCC and others is a backward step IMO. Extending and improving shared space is better

He even seems keen to apply ‘shared space’ to Stratford High Street, instead of the proposed cycle tracks to be built this summer.

perversely while some people in london are trying to make us go dutch some people in Denmark are looking a some of the shared space ideas we’ve developed in London.

Quite how a six lane road is turned into an amenable environment for cycling by making it ‘shared’ is not clear. (We should remind ourselves that shared space is simultaneously popular with many motoring enthusiasts, who want to see the removal of restrictions and controls on the use of their motor cars, as well as amongst those cycling advocates who want to use it as a way of encouraging more ‘sharing’, and indeed ‘taming’ of the motor car). Once again, the only credible motivation here must be an underlying refusal to ‘surrender’ the road to motor vehicles.

Both Safety In Numbers and ‘shared space’ are often allied to what might be described as the rallying cry of ‘assertiveness’; that if you are cycling on the road you should take your place in traffic, and show the drivers of motor vehicles who is boss; to ‘own the road’. If you hold this view, it is probably quite natural for you to think that all any other person might need to cycle like you do is training, experience, and confidence. You might also think that those who don’t wish to be ‘assertive’ in this fashion have issues, or are weak-willed. Consequently cycle tracks away from motor traffic would, hypothetically,

offer respite from any status problems people on bikes might feel about taking space on the carriageway

A simple Google search for ‘we have cycle lanes; they’re called roads’, or similar expressions of the same sentiment, will quickly find you plenty of modern devotees of the 1930s attitude that the roads are ours, and need to be reclaimed by assertiveness, pushing cars away. To take just one example, (the first I clicked on – there are many others), we find in this thread a comment about the London Cycling Campaign –

“Go Dutch” is disgustingly defeatist, in my view.  We’ve got superbly wide and smooth paths to cycle on already.  They’re called roads.

‘No surrender.’

The same author writes that less confident cyclists

should be ENCOURAGED to use the primary position (at danger spots).  Cyclists can increase in confidence through training and riding sometimes with a more confident cyclist.  My 75-year-old mother is a case in point.  But also I accept that part of this encouragement needs to come from a drop in the speed and numbers of motor vehicles, and better behaviour from motorists.  This requires some changes in law and policing.

Just as G.H. Stancer was maintaining eighty years ago, the author thinks roads are unpleasant to cycle on solely because of the bad behaviour and speed of motorists. If only we could address that, then people would cycle on them.

Unfortunately – just like Stancer did – the author has ignored, or overlooked, the central message that the vast majority of ordinary people prefer to cycle away from motor traffic, and have no interest in trying to tame it by cycling in it, or by fanciful ‘traffic reduction’ schemes that will apparently get rid of cars by making them hard to use, but without offering people a meaningful or attractive alternative.

We can even see what our roads would look like if we did manage to turn the clock back and reduce the speed and volume of motor traffic; we have videos of London in the early 1930s.

What percentage of people would actually prefer to cycle in that kind of environment, as opposed to their own space, free from interactions with motor vehicles? Surely only a tiny one.

This is no way to reclaim the streets from cars; it didn’t work in the 1930s, and its certainly not going to work now, when car use is even more deeply embedded, and when the voice of cycle advocacy is weak, weaker even than it was in the 1930s. We need desperately to move on from this tired, eighty-year-old fixation with opposing the creation of dedicated space for motoring alongside dedicated space for cycling. If we continue to remain stuck in the past, we will not succeed in our ultimate goal of creating civilised urban areas.

Dutch towns and cities are calm and pleasant places precisely because they have separated cars away from bicycles and pedestrians. Yes, they may have ‘surrendered’ the ultimate right to cycle in the middle of some categories of roads, but this was a right that very few people wished to exert; and nor would they wish to do so, when you can cycle on these roads in far more comfort, and with much greater speed, in your own dedicated space.

This Dutch lady has 'surrendered' the right to cycle with trams, taxis and buses in the middle of this road

This lady in Amsterdam has ‘surrendered’ the right to cycle with trams, taxis and buses in the middle of this road

And the bigger gain from this Dutch system has been the creation of town and city centres almost completely devoid of motor traffic, achievable because they have given people an alternative way of arriving in those areas to the motor car. Safe, comfortable and direct routes by bicycle, free from interactions with motor traffic.

No 'segregation' needed here in the centre of Utrecht, because cars have been segregated away almost entirely from these streets

No ‘segregation’ needed here in the centre of Utrecht, because motor vehicles have been removed almost entirely from these streets

The Dutch are still reclaiming space from the car in each and every one of their towns cities; they are able to keep making these gains because they have enabled the bicycle as an alternative mode of transport for the vast majority of the population.

We should embrace these lessons, instead of repeating the same talking points over and over again; talking points that are getting on for being a century old. The record is stuck. It needs to change.

Thanks to Carlton Reid, whose excellent historical piece provoked me into digging out some of the ideological positions taken towards cycle tracks, and David Arditti for his typically thorough and detailed analysis of the legacy of this period

This entry was posted in CTC, Cycling Embassy Of Great Britain, Cyclists' Touring Club, Go Dutch, Hierarchy of Provision, History, Infrastructure, LCC, Road safety, Safety In Numbers, Shared Space, Subjective safety, The Netherlands. Bookmark the permalink.

92 Responses to ‘No surrender’ – the damaging, enduring legacy of the 1930s in British cycle campaigning

  1. Edward says:

    Great work!

  2. A detailed and excellent piece, as usual. CTC was opposed to poor quality ‘cycle tracks’ in the 1930s and beyond. And the first short track provided, on Western Avenue in London – as the piece you link to shows – was of very poor quality, with AA, the police and others all commenting on its failings. Despite CTC’s opposition, local authorities and the Ministry of Transport went ahead and built more tracks anyway. England got a further 98 miles. The provision stopped not because of the CTC’s opposition but because of the outbreak of the Second World War.

    CTC was a very small membership organisation and had little influence with Government. If the British Government wanted to put cycle tracks everywhere in the 1950s, when the roads budget was unfrozen, it would have done so. It was planners and politicians who failed cyclists, not the CTC.

    CTC didn’t send a delegation to Nazi Germany. CTC had one bod on a 224-strong British Roads Federation delegation that was shown Germany’s Autobahns in 1937.

    You may want to check the spelling of ‘public roads’. Missing out that ‘l’ can lead to misunderstandings…

    • Ha! Thanks Carlton. I’ve also updated the motorway bit.

      • It’s worthwhile stressing that the UK Government in the 1920s and 1930s usually did the opposite of what CTC asked for (e.g. rear lights on bikes). The number of cyclists doubled in those years but cycling was by now seen as “proletarian” by the powers-that-be, and not to be encouraged. Motoring was thought to be the future: it was certainly more of a money-spinner for Government.

        The parliamentary Alness Report of 1939 recommended that cyclists should be separated from motorists, especially on new arterials roads, and this was a mainstream position. As shown by http://www.roadswerenotbuiltforcars.com/alnessreport/ separation was the view held by RAC, AA, British Roads Federation, Metropolitan police, Company of Veteran Motorists, County councils etc etc.

        This separation never came and it wasn’t the fault of CTC. Even if CTC had been in total favour of separation (Stancer told the Alness committee CTC would be in favour of separation if the tracks provided were excellent) it wouldn’t have made a jot of difference.

        Where cycle tracks were provided in the 1950s – in Harlow, Milton Keynes and Stevenage – cycling still died a death. Mass motorisation didn’t just force cyclists off the roads, people *wanted* to stop cycling. Motoring was aspirational, cycling was for paupers.

        In the Netherlands there was a similar desire for mass motorisation in the 1950s but the numbers of cyclists in the Netherlands had always been higher than in the UK and, by the 1970s, when the UK’s Buchanan Report suggested that no provision should be made for cyclists whatsoever the Dutch were inspired by the same report to create Woonerfs and cycle-friendly infrastructure.

  3. Mike Chalkley says:

    I, too, converted from a vehicular cycling promoter to being convinced of the dutch system – yes after reading David Hembrow’s excellent blog and also the Copenhagenize site.

    2 points spring to mind:
    1. CTC represents a minority (ctc members) of a minority (regular cyclists). It’s aims do not seem to represent the vast majority of the population who would be riding if decent infrastructure existed. Same with the cycle forum I sit on – all attendees who aren’t council officers or councillors are strident cyclists who would be riding even if the roads were painted with shit and broken glass.

    2. The dutch system is often presented in this country as ‘segregation’ or ’20 mph zones’. It is, in fact, a coherent approach to every aspect of road planning. The segregation works because it’s done on arterial roads. The 20 mph zones work because they are on residential streets. BOTH work ONLY because these types of road are distinct because of filtered permeability. In Bournemouth we’re about to embark on £12m of work on the Poole-Bournemouth-Christchurch main corridor. It’s the main thrust of work to promote cycling for the next 12/14 years. It will fail as nothing has been acknowledged towards stopping rat-running in side streets and the huge disadvantage to traffic we need to put in place in order to get people out of their cars. We will still have wide arterial roads resurfaced outside this project with no provision for cycling put on them in the process.

    • CTC does not even represent its members of which my wife is one. The question is whether to leave or to try to influence as a member. Some of the other work CTC does – around off-road rights for example – is good but elements of their leadership still seem to be lagging behind sentiment of both existing and future UK cyclists.

      “would be riding even if the roads were painted with shit and broken glass.”

      Are still riding ALTHOUGH would be more accurate.

    • Absolutely right. The Dutch road system is often viewed from outside as separating bicycle traffic away from motor traffic, whereas in fact it should be thought of as separating high inertia traffic away from low inertia traffic. Ie. it’s the fast motor cars and heavy trucks that have been moved onto new fast roads of their own.

      They call then “autowegen”, or “car ways”, where bicycle and pedestrians are not allowed and vehicles are not allowed to stop or park, not to be confused with “snelwegen”, or “fast ways”, analogous to motorways in the UK. Autowegen are always an addition to the network, supplementing existing routes for low inertia traffic.

  4. From the evidence given to the Alness committee:

    Earl of Iddesleigh: “If we could enable you to avoid the great motor roads and provide for you really satisfactory roads on which you would not have to compete with a great deal of fast moving traffic, there would be a gain in enjoyment…?

    CTC’s Stancer: “If it were possible to provide facilities that are equal to those that we enjoy now, with the additional advantage that they would not be shared by motorists, I think that cyclists would have no objection…”

    Earl of Iddesleigh: “Supposing it were an adequate cycle track, do you think it would be fair and reasonable that cyclists should be advised to use it?”

    Stancer: “Advised but not compelled to.”

    Earl of Iddesleigh: “Are the two grounds upon which you are against cycle tracks these? First, because the cyclist insists on his abstract right to the use of the highway, and secondly, because it is less pleasant to use a cycle track than a highway?”

    Stancer: “The second one you have mentioned is far more important. Cyclists would never insist upon their abstract rights if it were not that they are losing the chief pleasure of cycling by being forced on to the paths. If the paths are by any miracle to be made of such width and quality as to be equal to our present road system, it would not be necessary to pass any laws to compel cyclists to use them; the cyclists would use them.”

    Earl of Iddesleigh: “You think that the cyclist is being offered an inferior article?”

    Stancer: “A very much inferior article, my Lord.”

    Much more of this evidence is available http://www.roadswerenotbuiltforcars.com/alnessreport/

    • I think it’s very hard to reconcile those statements of Stancer’s with the ones I’ve presented here. On the one hand, he’s arguing that if cycle tracks were good enough, cyclists would use them, and that it is the quality of the tracks, and not the ‘abstract right’ to use the road, that is the principal objection.

      But on the other hand, at very much the same time, he is talking about cyclists being ‘confined’ to paths, and writing articles about the ‘Fallacy of Cycle Paths’, even ignoring, and arguing against, the evidence of Club members that tracks, like those being constructed on the continent (and even those alongside roads in Britain) could offer a more pleasant ride than the road. I’m not sure so Stancer and the Club leadership were so equanimous about losing that ‘abstract right’ as the evidence he gave to the Alness committee might suggest.

      • Agreed. The language Stancer used in letters to The Times and in the CTC magazine was far more strident than the carefully couched language used in front of the motor-mad peers.

        Clearly, CTC officials were opposed to cycle paths but they were opposed to them for good reason. Then, like now, they were crap.

        Thing is, Government paid no heed to CTC’s musings anyway. It chose to ignore the majority of road users (cyclists) and cater to the minority (motorists). In a very short space of time the minority became the majority but this had nothing to do with CTC’s opposition to crap cycle paths.

        The historical lesson is not that CTC failed cyclists of the future in the 1930s but that even when cyclists were in a thumping majority in the UK, the provision was dire. This was not CTC’s fault, it was the fault of motor-centric politicians and planners. To get better facilities for cyclists (and pedestrians) we have to fight motor-centrism.

    • Tom Hyde says:

      “Cyclists would never insist upon their abstract rights if it were not that they are losing the chief pleasure of cycling by being forced on to the paths.”

      Does anyone know what Stancer regarded as “the chief pleasure of cycling”? Was it simply riding without restrictions, perhaps (i.e. quickly)?

  5. Paul M says:

    Yes indeed, Mike C – the clue is after all in the name, “Cyclists’ *Touring* Club”, and in the contents of its two-monthly magazine “Cycle”. Clearly it believes, and I am sure they are correct, that their membership is predominantly composed of keen beans who spend their weekends doing 100 mile audax events and their holidays touring Wales by bike with a tent and a primus stove. (I exaggerate, but not much). The other group they focus on, to a lesser extent, is off-roaders, and by off-road I mean OFF-road – forest tracks (in Wales again, which is certainly not intended to be critical) and mountainsides.

    Only quite rarely do they have feature articles about utllity cycling or commuting, and I don’t think in all the years I have been a member I hjave ever seen an article comparing the virtues of “shopper” bikes.

    And their campaigning is primarily about roads as they are, and other road users as they are.

    Looking back over history, it is entirely clear that they fear cycle tracks as a precursor to being banned from roads, but what is less well evidenced, to my mind, is whether their fears were actually founded. Were there influential voices backn in the 30s explicitly saying “build them some tracks then we can pass a law to ban them from the road”? I think I read once a quote of a remark in Parliament by some-one with an improbably toffy name (Brabazon?) spluttering through his handlebar moustache, but I have not heard of anything like that making it as far as a government policy option.

    • “Were there influential voices back in the 30s explicitly saying “build them some tracks then we can pass a law to ban them from the road”?

      Yes, very much so. The Alness Report of 1938 has this in spades. Check out the transcript at base of http://www.roadswerenotbuiltforcars.com/alnessreport/

      Motoring organisations, MPs, peers were all in favour of creating a law to ban cyclists from roads when a ‘cycle track’ was put in place, no matter how badly surfaced this cycle track was or how it wasn’t direct or how progress was slow because of pedestrians using it or how cyclists had to give way at lots of junctions with the road.

      Government didn’t go ahead with such bans. As there were 12 million cyclists compared to 2 million drivers it wouldn’t have been a bright thing to do.

  6. paul gannon says:

    An interesting and well-researched posting.

    In my experience it is common to find that cycle activists who adopt the ‘traditional’ British cycle establishment view announce that they ‘started out believing in cycle tracks’ but now ‘know better’.

    This explains how these ideas were passed down through the generations. It has simply been the case in the past that you could not survive and thrive in British cycling organizations and think differently from the orthodoxy. You would be criticized as ignorant, ill-informed and much worse. Cycle tracks were derided as ‘by idiots, for idiots’. The cycling magazines were wedded to the same groupthink.

    No wonder then that those who wanted to become active either converted to orthodoxy or drifted away in disillusion. So, it is very gratifying to see the current eruption of alternative thinking in the blogosphere. It points to a major paradigm shift, with new channels of campaigning and communication loosening the stranglehold of inherited opinion on the British cycling activism.

  7. Tim says:

    A very interesting read, and great to read Carlton Reid’s knowledgeable comments giving some of the other side of the equation.

    I’ve been following the recent articles about the evidence being provided to the All Party Cycling Group’s Get Britain Cycling inquiry, and I do get the impression that most of the major contributors – academics, journalists, sports cyclists, campaigners, or campaigning groups, etc – have all generally tended give a consistent message that roughly matches the views of the CEoGB. Of course we don’t know what the final report will look like and whether anyone will pay any attention to it, but if people’s hymn sheets are at least similar nowadays, that has to help, surely?

  8. An interesting comment from Tim that touches on a thought that I’ve been having for some time now – if it hadn’t been for “a bunch of bloggers” (as some one rather disparagingly described the CEoGB) and the individual blogs of many activists, would the conversation at the APPCG hearings be quite so harmonious? A great pity that nobody from the Embassy was asked to give evidence.

  9. It was only when I became aware of David Hembrow’s site, in around 2008-9, that my opinions began to change.

    [puts hand up] Yup. Me too.

  10. Bob MacQueen says:

    Absolutely spot on, just what i have been saying for the last 20 years or more! I even went to meet David Hembrow and he showed me how they do it in the Netherlands. I started a blog Assenise after his home town, but gave up when no one read it!
    My father was one of those who opposed the provision of cycletracks, born in 1904 and a lifelong cyclist and CTC, RTTC and timekeeper he cited the “we will be forced off the roads, we have rights” school.
    Will it ever change in the UK? I keep hoping but have doubts. Just returned from Brugge in Belgium, few cars in the centre, low speeds, cycle tracks where needed, cycles go both ways on all one way roads and the result? Hundreds of people on sensible bikes shopping going about their business in daily clothing, not lycra, very few helmets and no hi viz. Brilliant.

  11. rdrf says:

    I’m kind of reluctant to get stuck in here (preparing a family funeral isn’t the best time to get stuck into anything) but I’d like to support what Carlton seems to be suggesting and what I think most of you are missing out on.
    I have to say that plenty of us are deeply suspicious of segregationism as the basic philosophy of the way forward for cycling. Carlton’s excavations of how the segregationist movement in this country was basically anti-cyclist should be read: they show how the concept was based on seeing cyclists as a problem to be got out of “the way” of motor traffic. I still see that in most of what passes for “Going Dutch/Danish” by professionals in charge of highway design. A few points, not in any particular order:
    1. There is evidence for safety in numbers (SiN) which I have presented on this blog numerous times, albeit with the right kind of conditions, and requiring additional controls on motor danger as well as cyclist presence.
    2. There are locations where significant increases in cycling can occur without segregation – go to Hackney to see.
    3. Declines in cycling occurred often because people had motoring made convenient for them – some may have been scared off cycling, but plenty just wanted to motor. It does trouble me that some Going Dutch people don’t want to tackle motorisation. For example, rather than talking about the quality of cycle tracks in Stevenage, Milton Keynes etc., the issue is that people don’t cycle a lot there because these places are built around the car. Segregationism can, and in my opinion does, slot into this mindset. As my ex-comrade Freewheeler would say: “collaborationism”.
    4. Grafting on a highly developed highway system in a culture which ahs always had significant levels of cycling into one with a minority of cyclists has a serious problem in terms of motorists feeling that cyclists don’t belong anywhere near them. I don’t see that as an attitude to be promoted/collaborated with. Maybe that makes me “No Surrender”?
    Finally, a quick note on the feeling that some had that motorways would “get motorists out of the way”. This kind of “let’s build a bypass” mentality became mainstream and the penny – motorways would generate more traffic, which would flood on to non-motorway roads – didn’t drop for many until the 1980s. By that time any serious sustainability/cycling campaigner would have been anti-motorway. The point about segregation is that it depends – like everything else does – on which road user group(s) have POWER. If motorists have it, segregation – be it motorways, bypasses, or cycle paths/routes/tracks/lanes works to their advantage. Cyclists in the naïve 1930s thought that motoring wouldn’t increase and so motorways seemed sensible.
    I am not laying down blanket opposition to any kind of segregation in any circumstances. And someone will pop up and (rightly) point out all the shared space in the Netherlands. All I am suggesting is that there are problems with a basically segregationist philosophy which the CTC and others drew attention to then. Carlton Reid has reported on in this in a way which paints a quite different picture of the story than that by current segregationist historians.

    So: I don’t think segregationists have won the battle of ideas here. And of course, even if you do win the battle of ideas – which we thought we had over road building and traffic reduction in the mid-1990s – it still doesn’t mean things actually go in your direction.
    Finally, advance apologies for not answering back just now for the reasons given in the first paragraph, although I will if I can.

    • Simon says:

      Please don’t hold Hackney up as some sort of model on which to build. I live in Hackney. Cycling provision there is generally terrible, and I worry about my children growing up and having to cycle around there. If there was decent quality separated cycling provision then I wouldn’t have this worry. (And there is generally plenty of space in which to put it.)

  12. Anyone who feels that fighting for “our” roads is a battle which can be won might want to cycle on the A406, or the A12 at rush hour, or the A118 on a Saturday afternoon, heck may as well campaign to use the M25! No, this battle was lost years ago and the only way for mass cycling is separate facilities on main routes for commutes, or longer journeys and rat runs closed to cars, other than for access. I have worked for a local authority for nearly 10 years now and I have had enough proposing schemes which tickle the edges, but basically keeps the car as king. We need to be radial. We need to stop traffic calming residential roads which basically let people bypass main roads, we need to close them off. We need decent cycle tracks on main routes and sod traffic capacity. Above all, we need the politicians to grow some and prioritise our local streets for local journeys and not for long-distance through traffic – that can use the motorways and trunk roads. I feel better now!

  13. Fred Smith says:

    Cycling in the Netherlands is simply awesome – pop your bike on the ferry from Harwich and have an amazing holiday if you haven’t tried it (Hook of Holland – Amsterdam – Utrecht is a good short route),

    I don’t see this as giving up the right to cycle on the road, it is about demanding the right to cycle in safety. The ones who wish to cycle on the roads will still be able to do so (I don’t subscribe to the conspiracy). It’s also about giving non cyclists the opportunity of a lifetime 🙂

    I think the debate has moved on to the extent that these views will be simply ignored and they will be increasingly be marginalised as the number of cyclists increases. The focus is now about getting people on their bikes and their suggestion of crossed fingers and (misplaced) moral righteousness never did anything for anyone! These guys don’t have the answers to the big questions and their theories seem to have totally missed the point.

    For those wondering about leaving the CTC I suggest that if you are not able to make a difference to their lobbying you really need to question why you are funding it.

    • Officers from CTC do an ENORMOUS amount of work for cycling, much of behind the scenes (including on the current Get Britain Cycling inquiry and a very large number of Gov’t committees) and largely, so it seems, unsung. If CTC wasn’t there representing cyclists, believe me, cycling would be much the poorer.

      CTC, Sustrans, British Cycling, Cyclenation and local campaign groups work hard on behalf of cyclists, and would-be cyclists.

      The enemy is not within, it is without. Aim ire at the motor lobby, not the cycle lobby. CTC hasn’t failed cyclists and would-be cyclists, planners and politicians have failed cyclists.

      • Fred Smith says:

        Sorry but from their proposal for Lambeth Bridge roundabout, I’m not sure I want the CTC getting involved behind the scenes. Maybe they do loads of other great stuff I would support, but they haven’t exactly inspired confidence.

        The issues are a bit different in London and we have the LCC anyway. The LCC understand what cycling needs to do to reach out beyond it’s current base.

        For every current cyclist there’s someone who wants to but is put off. I talk to people about cycling all the time and people who want to cycle say to me they don’t do it because they don’t feel safe. A lady today told me about her painfully slow bus journey down the Kings Road, but she won’t cycle because she doesn’t feel safe. Building segregated routes is the way to get Silvia on her bike and thousands like her.

        • And wasn’t the Hierarchy of Provision a CTC creation which was taken up by the DfT, and which has been used to justify all the dreadful bits of white lines on footpaths?

          I know that the CTC can’t be blamed for the UK’s dire cycling conditions, but they do deserve some stick for helping to give authorities the option of “conversion of footpaths to shared use for pedestrians and cyclists” while not even mentioning proper protected cycle paths alongside busy roads.

          • Provision of shared use paths is 6th out of 6 items in the hierarchy of provision. Cycle tracks are 5th. Crap cycle infrastructure is installed by local authorities, not CTC. Cycle campaigners, including CTC, rail against such crappy provision but are rarely listened to. Blaming CTC for crappy infrastructure is not fair.

            • Right, but it shouldn’t even be in the Hierarchy at all. Instead of “consider last” it should be “never consider conversion of existing pavements”. As things stand, local councils can install crap and then point to the Hierarchy as justification.

              • Be careful what you wish for. Most ‘cycle infrastructure’ in the UK is ‘shared use’. Not all of it is crap. For instance, the Millennium Bridge in Gateshead is ‘shared use’. Technically, pedestrians are allowed to walk on the ‘bike side’ of the bridge. Many often do, despite having a wide path of their own.

                And there are many excellent cut-throughs on shared use pavements which are well-used and well-loved by cyclists. Do you wish for them to be removed until Dutch-style infra is put in place? Of course not!

                However, as we know, ‘shared use’ is far from perfect. In the Netherlands there’s far less pedestrian ingress into the bike paths. How would we get the same across here?

                CTC was asked about this in the Alness Committee of 1938. http://www.roadswerenotbuiltforcars.com/alnessreport/

                CTC’s Stancer complained that pedestrians used the Western Avenue bike path despite having their own path. The Lords asked whether, for bike paths to work, pedestrians would have to be banned from them. Stancer said this would be the case but, of course, there’s never been any attempt to force pedestrians not to use cycle paths.

              • The wording in LTN 2/08 is explicitly “conversion of footways to shared use”, not the creation of new bicycle-specific infrastructure that happens to be shared use. LTN 1/12 is no better – “Convert pedestrian routes to shared use”.

                I think that’s precisely how we end up with crap. Infrastructure designed for pedestrians, onto which cyclists are subsequently allowed.

            • Of course the HoP is to blame, and the CTC is at least partly to blame for the HoP. How do you think it’s used? Designers look at it and think:

              “Traffic reduction? Can’t do it.”
              “Speed reduction? Naah.”
              “Junction treatment? Sounds tricky.”
              “Reallocation of highway space? Don’t think so!”
              “Cycle tracks away from roads? Expensive, and there’s no space.”
              “Conversion of footpaths to shared use? Great, get the white paint!”

              When considering options for a busy, main road, that’s exactly what will happen. Why does it go from wider lanes, to a brand new away-from-road cycle path, to sticking bikes on the footpath? Why doesn’t the HoP have “protected cycle paths alongside the carriageway” as an option?

              As Mark says, putting hieroglyphics on a footpath shouldn’t be on there at all. Coming from “the national cycling charity” it’s ridiculous.

              I doubt that was what the CTC wanted back in the 1990s when they collaborated with the DfT to get it written into official guidance, but that’s what’s happened in the 15 years or so since then. The engineers are getting their guidance from somewhere. The fact that the HoP comes from and is still endorsed by CTC gives the impression that footpath conversions are desired and suitable for cycling, when we all know that they’re nearly always dreadful, poorly planned and frequently dangerous.

              CTC could lobby DfT to have the HoP removed from guidance and replaced with the Dutch version – http://pedestrianiselondon.tumblr.com/post/20170547370/cycleway-provision-from-the-experts – which we know works. But then that would be asking for cycle paths, wouldn’t it?

              • You’re assuming highway engineers look at the HoP. Some might. Do all?

                If an item is at the bottom of a list I think that signals that it’s not to be considered until, you know, last.

                If a crappy cycle lane is one that’s just striped with paint, which pedestrians can access, UK isn’t along at having these. Striping with paint is normal in the Netherlands, as your link shows. I’ve also cycled in the Netherlands, on family cycle tours and on cycle infra tours, and have ridden on plenty of NL cycle paths that are just paint.

              • Carlton, I think you’re a bit confused. The paint in those photographs is a central marker in a two-way cycle track. It’s not a dividing line between pedestrians and cyclists.

              • carltonreid says:

                No, I wasn’t confused, why would I be confused? As I said, I am familiar with NL’s often superlative infrastructure as I’ve been on cycle infra study tours in the Netherlands. I wasn’t referring *only* to those pix. It was a wider point referring to the fact that the Netherlands sometimes uses paint for cycle infrastructure, of which there are many examples that aren’t too dissimilar to the sort of infra that gets (rightly) disparaged in the UK because it’s not part of a grander whole. Clearly, much infra in the Netherlands is wonderful – separated, kerbed etc etc – but there’s a lot that just works cos it’s systemically understood that the white lines should be considered as brick walls. This doesn’t happen in the UK as we see with so many pix of motorists parked in mandatory cycle lanes.

              • Carlton, you said – “striping with paint is normal in the Netherlands, as your link shows.”

                But the link doesn’t show that; it shows something quite different. That is why I thought you were confused.

                In my experience, the Dutch simply do not separate pedestrians and cyclists with just white paint. I have been through my thousands of photographs, and have not found an example. Do you have one?

              • Fred Smith says:

                It seems incredible that protected cycle lanes aren’t an option and the ‘white paint’ option has no caveats. As you say it’s basically an easy option for those who don’t know, can’t be bothered or don’t care enough (and between the three that’s a lot of people). Having this as an option, so easy and able to be so misused (as seen everywhere), undermines the whole HoP.

                If it is an option there should be minimum standards to stop it being a whitewash exercise. I don’t support the HoP in it’s current form – the Dutch version looks great though!

  14. paul gannon says:

    I think Carlton has lost the plot here with this emotional outburst. Sure, CTC and other traditional activists work hard and some of that work has indeed done good for cyclists. But would be irrational to go on to conclude that we must therefore agree with their traditional policies and that we should limit ourselves and ‘aim our ire’ at the motor lobby.

    Of course, we should indeed be doing more than worrying about the finer points of 1930s thinking, but there is no harm in a little bit of navel gazing.

    In the past it didn’t really matter what cycle organisations thought. As Carlton pointed out in previous interesting comments, CTC influence on policy was nil.

    But now things are changing and cycling is coming back on the agenda and we need to start having a real influence on the big policy decisions. It is my experience that the dominance of the traditionalist view within cycling organisations has in the past two decades seriously weakened the ability of the cycling lobby to make real advances in this country. The reason for this is not the malevolence of the traditionalists, but the traditional view appeals only to a small minority, so ordinary cyclists see no point in getting involved. The traditionalist ‘No Surrender’ policy undermines itself.

    When cycling organisations wholeheartedly embrace a strategy of developing continental style cycle networks then they will have a policy that ordinary people can recognise as relevant to them.

  15. By and large, most ‘ordinary people’ in the UK are pro-motoring and taking space away from cars is not popular. (Until it’s done and then people often discover they quite like streets free of cars). Taming cars is something that cyclists and pedestrians will benefit from.

    • fonant says:

      Sorry, I disagree here, very strongly. If I talk to our friends and neighbours, of all ages from 8 to 80, they almost all hate motor traffic and would love to be able to cycle for local transport. Heck, people waste thousands of pounds every year on funding a car just to take their children to school! Look at the popularity of Sky Rides, or whatever they’re called now, where people make big efforts to ride bikes with their families when they get a motor-free environment in which to do so. That’s taking space away from cars, and it’s very popular!

      Taking space away from motorists, and reducing motor traffic speeds, is something that the majority consistently ask for in national surveys (typically 75-80% in favour). The problem is that our politicians are influenced by the newspapers and the newspapers are funded to a large extent by the motor industry (look at the full-page adverts!).

      The CTC do tend to be anti-cycle-facility, but to be honest this is pretty irrelevant. Politicians might say nice things to CTC and similar cycling enthusiasts (I’ve been to enough council meetings to know!) but they feel quite at ease completely ignoring this minority (CTC members) of a minority (keen cyclists).

      The only way to make any progress is to show the general public what is possible to make cycling in our towns and cities not only safe but pleasant and more convenient than motoring. This is where blogs like this one (and, of course Hembrow’s excellent one), and organisations like the CEoGB are pushing in the right direction. We know now exactly what makes for safe, pleasant, mass, popular cycling. TfL are trialling a Dutch roundabout for use in London. We just have to build it, and the population will flock to using bicycles for local transport.

  16. Carlton tends to argue that, as it was a small organisation, the influence of CTC was negligible on national transport policy. The thing I think he misses is that it must have been a contributory factor to what happened because what CTC were saying was terribly convenient for politicians who viewed the motor car as the future. There was huge pressure for more space for both moving cars and car parking. That the representatives of cycling were saying that they didn’t want space on the roads dedicated for cycling was just pushing at an open door in the climate of the times. But it was an open door that led to the edge of a cliff for cycling. CTC were saying they wanted “traffic tamed”, not dedicated space (as they still are saying to a large extent today), but it was so easy and cheap for government to agree with them on the latter and do nothing on the former. It was a terrible strategy.

    The arterial cycle tracks as in the picture at the top were actually taken away, or damaged so much that they lost their usefulness (as in the interruptions to the cycle track on the A40). This could not have happened, I submit, if there had been a determined campaign by cyclists, backed or organised by CTC, to keep them. If you have something, it’s much easier to defend it, than to create it if it is not there. Compare with walking “rights of way” campaigns for instance. If cyclists had protested physically, laid down on those paths, or fought it in courts, resisted in any significant way, I’m sure they would not have lost them. They went by default and through apathy, through many little cumulative degradations, while the focus of CTC was elsewhere (mostly trying to train people to survive on hostile roads).

    Though Stancer seems to have been trying to sound reasonable in his statements to the Alness Committee, saying CTC would accept excellent cycle paths, I suspect, on the basis of what he said elsewhere, that he wasn’t being totally honest; he was taking a gamble, correctly-calculated, on what he knew would not come about. The politicians would not vote large sums of money for excellent cycle tracks to be constructed, especially as CTC was not campaigning for that, so he could seem to accept a principle of separation that he usually vehemently opposed. But all that is long-past and we cannot really say now what his true views and motivations were.

    The point now is that all this is continually re-tested in the present. There are proposals coming forth all over the place for new (for the UK) types of cycle infrastructure. Look at Camden’s proposals for Royal College Street, or TfL’s for CS2 at Stratford. CTC needs a coherent policy framework that it can apply to any of these, based on an assessment of how schemes will impact current non-cyclists becoming able to cycle. They need to be prepared to re-think everything from scratch. I don’t think they have done that yet. Their response on the Lambeth Bridge roundabout was sad, and I have not heard them express any opinion on Bow. They are lagging LCC, other local groups, the CEoGB, and even British Cycling, in the policy stakes. I hope they catch up, but it’s an internal matter for them. They risk being bypassed.

    • David – clearly, there was no concerted campaign to keep the 90 of miles of experimental 1930s bike paths. The CTC didn’t campaign for this, nor did the thousands of cyclists who used the paths. As my piece repeatedly shows, the paths were crappy and that’s why people didn’t use them or mourn them.

      There were 12 million cyclists at the time and only 2 million motorists but Gov’t and planners only had eyes for motorists (except for in Tyneside and in a few New Towns, as my piece said).

      Cycling died in 50s, 60s and 70s partly because of motorists scaring cyclists off the roads and partly because the road system became more favourable to motorists but a key reason for the demise – sad to say – was a desire for motorisation from Joe and Joanna Public. Gov’t and planners didn’t do cycling any favours but, by and large, they were doing what the majority of Brits seemed to want.

      I agree that Stancer was being disingenuous but as cycling was deemed to be a transport mode very much on the way out there was no desire to spend on cycling and even if CTC had asked for cycle paths, they wouldn’t have got them.

      As to CTC’s current policies on specific schemes I bow to the opinions of others, my focus is historical.

      • “As my piece repeatedly shows, the paths were crappy and that’s why people didn’t use them or mourn them.”

        They may have been substandard, but that doesn’t mean they weren’t used, or were not popular. Not only do we have the quotes and evidence from enthusiasts who liked the paths, and preferred the experience of cycling on them to cycling on the road in motor traffic, we also have statistical evidence, that 84% of cyclists progressing along Western Avenue used the newly opened tracks.

        • carltonreid says:

          When newly minted no doubt the tracks were good but all the evidence points out that, very quickly, the design flaws in the paths were such that cycle use on them dropped like a stone. AA, RAC, police and pretty much all other sources by 1938 said the tracks were sub-standard and only lightly used (this confused experts, why weren’t cyclists using the paths provided for them – the cyclists were everyday cyclists, not CTC die-hards). The tracks were also heavily used by pedestrians even though they had their own path.

          The surface quickly broke down, new buildings created many new junctions on the path (one mile of Western Avenue became famous for its new art deco factories), and the paths on Western Avenue were uni-directional meaning cyclists had to go a long way if they wanted to turn round and go back.

          MoT stats from the early days of the path are one thing, evidence of the sub-standard nature of the path from witness after witness at the Alness inquiry (including from witnesses who had every incentive to play up the quality of the routes) points to a very different actuality.

          And yet despite this sub-standard ‘network’, many experts wanted cyclists to be forced to use the paths.

          • paul gannon says:

            I’m afraid that I can’t go back to the 1930s, but I do remember the 1960s when I was a teenager & used the A4 Great West Road cycle tracks a hell of a lot. I lived in Heston, went to school in Hounslow using the tracks as much as possible, and cycled east & west on the A4 at weekends & hoildays to get around a lot. At that time I was into airplanes & frequently cycled to Heathrow & back. I would never have done any of this without those tracks. On my last visit, a good 10 years ago, they had been substantially buggered up, but back in the 1960s they were great.

          • “all the evidence points out that, very quickly, the design flaws in the paths were such that cycle use on them dropped like a stone”

            Did those 84% of cyclists using the tracks switch to using the road instead? Or did they just disappear? What evidence are you referring to?

            • carltonreid says:

              The copious evidence from witness statements in the 600+ page Alness report of 1939. The evidence was given to the motor-mad peers in 1938.

              The Ministry of Transport witnesses said 50 percent of cyclists used the cycle paths, but the other witnesses were exasperated that, in fact, cyclist use of the tracks was far lower than this. These experts had every reason to exaggerate cyclist use of the tracks and it’s telling that they did not do so.

              The evidence is in the transcripts from the expert witnesses at http://www.roadswerenotbuiltforcars.com/alnessreport/

              • paul gannon says:

                Well that’s a matter of how you define ‘evidence’. The quotations you link to are assertions made by interested parties and need to be assessed as such when being considered as ‘evidence’. It would be in the interest of those who wanted to clear the roads for motors to overestimate the extent of cyclists insisting on clogging the streets in order to give their Lordships the ‘evidence’ they needed to propose restrictive legislation. These assertions should be treated as opinion and not necessarily as evidence of actual usage, especially in the absence of other corroborating evidence. These assertions definitely don’t seem to me to justify the ‘copious’ label.

  17. Tim says:

    Re Carlton’s question about pedestrian ingress into bike paths, surely a big part of the equation is simply kerbs? By way of example, the cycle path here ( http://goo.gl/maps/RjwH8 ) is mostly just paint on the pavement and generally full of pedestrians, many of whom have no idea they’re walking on a cycle path – you can see some in the distance. But a short section at the northern end (in the foreground) is kerbed, in preparation to dump cyclists unceremoniously back into the bus lane. If often seems to make a lot of difference to the amount of ingress.

    • Wow, that’s quite a shot from Google! I know it’s only one photo, but that really does suggest that the kerb makes a massive difference.

      • Tim says:

        Indeed. Of course people do meander into the kerbed cycle-path occasionally too, and the “on-pavement” bit is further back away from the road, but considering the actual walkway next to the kerbed cycle-path is so much narrower than the pavement further south, the kerbs seem to make a big difference. On the non-kerbed section, pedestrians often look at you like you’re in the wrong, cycling on the pavement, and I can’t blame them for being confused.

    • There are a couple of kerb separated paths in Cambridge which are successful in separating pedestrians and bikes: Coton path http://goo.gl/maps/w5Q5W and Devonshire Rd bridge http://goo.gl/maps/mFQOp . It’s not particularly local culture or education: the paint separated paths are as mixed as elsewhere in the country.

  18. While I really appreciate Carlton having dug up the historical evidence about early cycle tracks in Britain, which is a fine service he has done us, he does seem to be determined to put a particular spin on the history. No reason why he shouldn’t, of course, this is what historians do, but we can take issue with it.

    People like Paul Gannon and I who’ve been engaged for a couple of decades are not readily going to accept an attempt to exonerate the British “cycling establishment” from all blame on how cycling conditions turned out in the 20th century. This is because we endured years of abuse and ridicule from that same cycling establishment for the idea that the European model of segregated cycling was a good one that should be copied here.

    In the photos and many of the contemporary accounts it really does not look as if the paths of the 1930s were “crap”. They appear far better than anything achieved in the second half of the century. The surfaces may have been poorer than those of the adjacent roads, but this has often been a problem with cycle tracks in all countries. It’s a detail easily fixed. Resurface. Similarly, criticism of the change of level at driveways was just a piece of detailed bad design that could easily have been fixed. But no details like these could be fixed after that space had been lost. That’s the tragedy. The fact that the junctions went wrong over time was due to bad control from local authorities, not the initial concept. And that, I repeat, must come back to cycling organisations not lobbying actively to defend what they had, because they had a different concept of cycling on the roads as their ideal.

    Though described sometimes as “experimental”, these tracks were a large experiment, and the Alness committee clearly did not regard them as experimental any more, in recommending continued building in 1939. Carlton blames the war and postwar austerity for the end of development, which is fair, but then there was plenty of money for the next wave of road building in the 1960s and 70s. Cycle tracks were not built then (except in some of the new towns). I’ve seen no evidence that CTC ever asked for them in that period. From the mid-1970s British cycle advocacy became infected with the hysterical ideas of the American John Forester, who regarded (still regards) all cycling separate from the “disciplining” presence of dangerous motor vehicles as “degenerate”, and these were translated into a slightly milder form for the UK audience by his acolyte John Franklin. It became almost impossible for anyone to advocate within British cycling for campaigns for continental-style infrastructure. So such campaigns did not take place. Some advocates left the country or gave up.

    Carlton does accept (in the header to his blog, indeed) that at an earlier period, campaigning by cyclists was effective (in gaining better road surfaces in the early 1900s, then exploited by motor cars). But then he wants to claim the failure to campaign for cycle infrastructure throughout the 20th century was of no consequence. I don’t believe this. Further, I see that the positive infrastructure developments now taking place in London and other places are the result of effective, rational campaigning, now the ideology of vehicular cycling has become widely challenged.

    I agree with AsEasyAsRiding. We can’t blame the leaders of cycling in the 1930s for calling things wrong, and pursuing an ultimately damaging strategy. But we can learn from their mistake, acknowledge it, and use it to inform what we do now.

    • carltonreid says:

      I couldn’t agree more. We have to learn from history. And first we have to realise that we had the makings of some good cycle infrastructure. In fact, we were more advanced than many countries at the time, and had the ideas of the AA been taken on board we could have had bike paths with Dutch-style underpasses long before they were installed in the Netherlands. Most of the witnesses to the Alness committee wanted more separated cycle tracks, the later report also mightily recommended this.

      The evidence shows that it wasn’t CTC which stopped the creation of cycle paths – Gov’t and local authorities went ahead and built cycle paths anyway – it was first WWII and then apathy from the powers-that-be for a transport mode that was assumed to be on the way out.

      Mass motorisation created the mess we’re in, not CTC or the ideas of Forester or Franklin.

      I can’t really see how CTC could have done anything to arrest the decline in cycling. AA, RAC, the police, Lords, MPs, etc etc all called for bike paths to be built, but they weren’t. CTC calling for the same would have got the same result: nothing.

      Now, how do we change that situation today? How can we make local and national Government invest big-time in cycling? We can lobby for Dutch-style infra, even all singing from the same hymn sheet, but that doesn’t mean we’ll get it.

      The argument then tends to be “Ah, but we’re not even asking, if only all cycle orgs agreed on asking for infra we’d get it”. Provision for cyclists is always going to be minimal until somehow Brits are weaned off their addiction to cars.

      • Fred Smith says:

        It’s really interesting to hear about this history and the background to our infrastructure as it’s something I’ve only recently started thinking about. For me it’s not about pointing fingers but understanding where we’ve come from and also understanding why other cyclists might have different ideas about road design (we can’t all think the same thing after all).

    • paul gannon says:

      David says: “put a particular spin on the history. No reason why he shouldn’t, of course, this is what historians do,”

      Well, polemicists do, but historians should at least try not to do so. It’s a good reason for always treating with caution the interpretations offered by of historians who identify with institutions.

  19. paul gannon says:

    It’s been a very interesting discussion, enlivened by Carlton’s knowledge of historical sources. I want to tackle a point that was raised early on but has got rather lost in the hustle bustle of discussion.

    Carlton has amply demonstrated that the motor lobby was in favour of segregating traffic in the early 1930s (though he doesn’t similarly emphasise that changed when the motor lobby realised they could get their way without ceding space for segregation).

    Someone added a recent quote from an AA big-wig about segregating traffic being of ‘benefit to everyone’ and thus to motorists.

    My question is ‘so what?’

    I concluded, having spent 3 years each living in the Netherlands and Belgium, that continental style cycle tracks are an enormously more attractive option for cycling than mixing it with motors.

    So, why on earth should I decide ignore that experience?

    I don’t think that just because the motor lobby wants something that I must automatically be against it, not without a good reason, and no reason has been proposed as far as I can see.

  20. rdrf says:

    Apologies about not being able to join in since my posting on Feb 15th : The blog has moved on, but in case anybody is still reading this thread:

    I note that my comments are not responded to, instead a tendency to blame the CTC for what is wrong, with only Carlton Reid questioning this view.

    I think he should have been more robust: segregationism slots in nicely with increased motor vehicle usage and has potential adverse consequences for cyclists in areas where we will be in the same space as motor vehicles. After all, if you spend your life banging on about the need for cyclists to get off the road (whether or not you accept the idea that David Arditti has proposed of campaigning to not be allowed on at elast certain roads) you can’t be surprised if motorists feel more justification for endangering you on these roads.

    A few points in no particular order:
    • Ranty Highwayman: It may be the case that segregated tracks alongside dual carriageways are appropriate (as in the long and tedious discussion about the A40) such as the ones you describe. But if you are talking about restricting through motor traffic in certain areas as you do – and a good idea it is too – then you are referring to an area where motor vehicles will be NOT segregated from cyclists.
    • The people who want to cycle but don’t. A lot of hope is being put on these people: maybe they actually just don’t want to cycle? People are known for saying things to others who have an obvious interest in getting them to cycle which may just be excuses. And are these people going to have fully segregated cycle tracks from origin to destinations of all types? No? Ah well then, another excuse for not cycling.
    • Hackney? No response to mention of a place with a big increase in cycling and precious little segregation (but lots of permeability).
    • Paul Gannon’s point about not worrying if the motor lobby supports segregation. The obvious pint is that their version of segregation won’t be one which will benefit cyclists, as it is going to be necessary to take capacity (time and/or space) away from motor traffic and/or car parking. But more important: a key justification for cycling is the reduction in motor vehicular usage. So Germany (loads of cycle tracks etc., much more cycling, better local public transport) is better in some ways that the UK, but worse in terms of adverse effects of motoring. And in the Netherlands, while cycling is better than bus use, because it has not restricted car use that much, you still have the problems (emissions etc.) of mass car use.

    • inge says:

      just imagine, all those “fietsers” not on a bike but in a car. Oh wait, like the U.K. you mean!

    • paul gannon says:

      In Martin Luther King’s famous speech he talked about having a dream, where he climbed a mountain and saw the Promised Land.

      Well my argument is not based on a dream but on real life I experienced in the Netherlands (and to a lesser degree in other continental European countries).

      I didn’t see a Promised Land for cyclists, but I did witness an actually existing mass cycling culture. The intensive cycle network is not without dangers, annoyances, problems, shortcomings, irritations. It is not the Promised Land. But it is good enough to attract more than the young adult males that dominate the cycling profile in the UK. It is good enough to offer an urban cycling experience that, while not the Promised Land, is certainly in Another Universe when compared with the urban cycling experience in the UK.

      I think that if you could understand that, you would be able to realise that, for millions of cyclists in a score of European countries, all your other concerns would simply never occur to them.

      For example, you suggest that the motor lobby won’t want to allow adequate cycle networks to be developed. So what? I realise that getting what I want is not going to be easy. That’s not a reason not to try, just a reason to try harder.

      There are innumerable examples from several European countries where the motor lobby has lost its struggle (as you say they will have wanted) to get bad quality networks. I don’t see why you can only envisage an inability to do here what others can do elsewhere.

      Cycle networks are not being proposed as a solution to all problems in transport (as you seem to insist that they should), but as a practical and essential basis for developing a real mass cycling culture in the UK (which could go on to provide a basis for more far-reaching change we all dream of).

    • RDRF: “…segregationism slots in nicely with increased motor vehicle usage…”


    • Bob –

      Apologies for not responding to your earlier comment; I too was a little busy, and it didn’t seem appropriate to wade into a discussion when you were indisposed.

      To address your points (largely similar ones made in both comments) –

      1) Nobody is suggesting that the CTC are directly or solely responsible for the parlous state of cycling in Britain; the argument, however, is that their policies have not made a bad situation better, and that much better policies have been, and are, available. To the extent that they are blamed, it is for failing to adopt those policies.

      2) ‘Segregation’ as being a way for motorists to get cyclists out of the way. Well, to put things simply, the country that has the most separation has the most cyclists! It also has the towns and cities that are almost completely dominated by walking and cycling, and where car use is very difficult, and consequently at very low levels by comparison. Indeed, across the Netherlands, the vast majority of trips under 5 miles are walked and cycled; by contrast, the majority of trips under 5 miles in Britain are driven.

      This is no accident; cycle paths are a necessary (but not sufficient) component of encouraging bicycle use at the expense of the car. By contrast, the countries that *do not* separate cyclists and motorists have practically no cycling at all, and plenty of driving. The lessons from around the world are not conducive for your argument!

      3) In areas of the Netherlands where motor traffic is restricted, or where it is difficult to drive around, you will *still* find cycle paths alongside the street. Take a look at central Amsterdam, or Groningen. The reason this happens is to improve the comfort and experience of cycling, to make it a more inviting prospect.

      4) “And are these people going to have fully segregated cycle tracks from origin to destinations of all types?” I’m sorry, but this tedious argument has been made far too many times for its own good.

      5) You say that the people who don’t currently want to cycle might not want to cycle. Maybe that’s true, but then how on earth are you going to bring about a shift away from the motor vehicle in towns? Pogo sticks? Cycle use simply has to be encouraged if the motor vehicle is going to be curbed, and we have a textbook example of how do so in a country only a few hundred miles away.

      6) Hackney. Well, let’s not forget that Hackney is really nothing to write home about. It has a modal share hovering around 5%, which for a borough with no tube stations, a relatively poor population with low car ownership, and high density, should probably be viewed as *rather bad*. Just 2% of children in Hackney cycle to school. The few children I do see cycling in Hackney on the major roads are cycling on the pavement.

      7) That motorists will behave more badly around cyclists on roads where there aren’t cycle paths. Well, anyone who has cycled in the Netherlands will tell you that this is simply nonsense. (There are many other reasons why the claim doesn’t stand up to scrutiny, as I wrote in the original post).

    • Fred Smith says:

      Maybe people just don’t want to cycle: I think it’s worth pointing out that where you build cycle infrastructure it somehow manages to fill up with cyclists, and they must come from somewhere – I keep emailing Camden about how their cycle lanes are really nice but way too small and they keep emailing me saying that they were OK when they were built 5-6 years ago but cycling on them has increased 300% (Parkway, Tavistock Place). Also the fact that some really quite similar countries not very far away have tons of cyclists, and if we want to control for Dutch people somehow being ‘different’, try asking British people in the Netherlands how much they cycle (probably a ton more than 2%), and Dutch people in the UK too (frankly if you were a cyclists why would you make that move!).

      The proof is in the pudding – building good quality cycle lanes in the UK, segregated where appropriate, does attract lots of cyclists. You can’t argue that because these routes are indirect people won’t use them, then argue that the only reason they’re full is that people are making a detour to use them, despite that fact that experienced cyclists don’t tend to put these lanes as a high priority and potential/new cyclists do (I suppose you then argue that’s what they say but it’s opposite day or something?).

      It seems like some very complicated explanations are being found for things which are pretty simple to explain, and have already been shown to work, simply because you don’t like the answers.

      Not liking cycle lanes seems a bit odd to me, but if that’s what you like more you’re entitled to your view. It’s OK to have an opinion so you don’t have to make up spurious arguments like ‘lots of people cycle in the Netherlands, but they still have car emissions’ – so what? like car emissions are the only benefit of cycling, despite the fact they’re obviously going to be reduced if people are on bikes and not in cars.

  21. rdrf says:

    Firstly, thanks for your various comments.

    Secondly, family and other pressures mean I am going to have to keep it short and leave it at just a quick set of replies which I hope will briefly cover the points raised – I won’t be able to carry on the debate at this time, so apologies. Also, I am aware that the blog has moved on and so nobody may actually read this!

    In no particular order:

    A. As Easy: “..how on earth are you going to bring about a shift away from the motor vehicle in towns?”. I am interested in how we have a non-equitable, unsustainable transport mix, and a culture and institutions which support it. I think having a more equitable and environmentally sustainable scenario would have a lot less use of motor vehicles in general and cars, lorries and motorcycles in particular – and not just in towns. Getting motor traffic reduction – there was a Bill (only) nominally supported cross-party in the 90s to achieve this – means, well, reducing motor traffic.
    This would involve:
    • Higher pricing of fuel for motor vehicles, whether through fuel duty or carbon rationing – you have to do this anyway to make sure that motor vehicles become more fuel efficient, and it is a disgrace that cycling costs more than half what ti costs to run a basic car.
    • Enforcing road traffic law and having appropriate penalties – not vindictive or harshly retributive, but more than the current leniency.
    • Planning developments both residential and otherwise so that there is less car parking at both origins and destinations.
    • Removing road space on carriageway from motor vehicles, particularly cars. (this could be replaced by cycling, or bus or pedestrian use).
    Basically it is an approach focussing on motor traffic as a problem in a way which we don’t. Most motorised societies don’t either – but this doesn’t mean it isn’t a problem to be tackled. And while cycling is a crucial part of the solution, you can still have a higher modal share of cycling – but also more problems from motor traffic, as in Germany (see the report referred to in http://rdrf.org.uk/2012/12/31/the-true-costs-of-automobility-external-costs-of-cars/
    B. As Easy: Hackney. Maybe not that much to write home about, but a very significant modal shift achieved without segregation: the key has been cultural change plus some good policies on permeability and planning. Re- the “poor” issue, I find it fascinating that very few people talk about the demographic issue only with regard to women, children, the elderly and disabled. For me the most obvious demographic issue is how the working class are the ones not cycling, particularly the Cs and Ds, and to some extent Es. These groups are car aspirants, but also have the obstacle that cycling is – as I see it – quite expensive for many.
    C. Schrödinger’s Cat “…segregationism slots in nicely with increased motor vehicle usage…” How? By not prioritising the problems caused by motorists on the roads shared with cyclists, seeing motor traffic as the problem and needing to reduce it and regulate it properly. Most (hopefully) segregationists now may not want to accommodate existing or higher levels of car use, but that isn’t what most traffic engineers advocating segregation I have met over the years (and not a few politicians) have been into.
    D. As Easy: That motorists will behave more badly around cyclists on roads where there aren’t cycle paths. Well, anyone who has cycled in the Netherlands will tell you that this is simply nonsense. In the Netherlands that may well be the case (although I wasn’t too happy on some country lanes outside Maastricht a few years ago) – but I’m talking about us, here, now, in the funny old UK. We have a completely different background with regard to how people get about; we lost the cycling culture in a way the Dutch never did. We are just starting from a different place. If you spend lots of time focusing on segregation and how bad it is for cyclists to be in the vicinity of motor vehicles, then that is what people are going to think.
    E. As Easy: “And are these people going to have fully segregated cycle tracks from origin to destinations of all types?” I’m sorry, but this tedious argument has been made far too many times for its own good. I have read the link, but, as with D above, I have to carry on being tedious. Stress segregation, and that is what people think about.
    F. As Easy, your Point 2: Do take a look at Carlton Reid’s piece on Stevenage to see how and why segregation may not achieve a significant modal share of cycling http://www.roadswerenotbuiltforcars.com/stevenage/ .
    G. Paul Gannon’s bit. I guess the worry is that (apart from
    (a) dangerising cycling;
    (b) stressing the experience of one country in an almost “one true faith” way;
    (c) avoiding addressing car culture and its manifestations – which will have to be done at some stage if you want to re-allocate highway capacity from cars
    (d) the issues around assumptions that cyclists do not “belong” on the roads near cars – whatever CEoGB and ohers may think
    (e) you attempt to replicate a scenario which started from a quite different base) is that:

    It just seems like a clunky theory of stages wherein: We somehow get loads of money, take lots of capacity away from motors (fine by me, but difficult to say the least) , get a massive increase in cycling modal share the like of which has never been achieved over a decade or three – and we may still after all this have a car dominated society, which we may then question.
    There’s a few other points to make, but I have to leave it at that this time. Thanks for the space.

    • “By not prioritising the problems caused by motorists on the roads shared with cyclists, seeing motor traffic as the problem and needing to reduce it and regulate it properly. Most (hopefully) segregationists now may not want to accommodate existing or higher levels of car use, but that isn’t what most traffic engineers advocating segregation I have met over the years (and not a few politicians) have been into.”

      Bob, do you really think that the Dutch and Danes have “not prioritised the problems caused by motorists on the roads shared with cyclists” while still building cycle paths? This suggests total ignorance of what has happened on the continent. It is the countries that have built few cycle paths, like the UK, that have not prioritised those problems. The second part of the quote is exactly the funny reasoning that Gannon referred to. it’s not sensible to oppose something that would achieve what you want (more and safer cycling) because some of those who might have have been in favour of certain versions of it at certain times might have viewed it in part as a way of achieving something else that you oppose (more accommodation for cars). You must look a the evidence of what has actually happened when policies have been implemented.

      Actually you have lost me in your arguments, because one of your bullet-points, that you seem to be advocating for, is:
      “Removing road space on carriageway from motor vehicles, particularly cars. (this could be replaced by cycling, or bus or pedestrian use).”

      That’s called segregation. As for Hackney, well it seems to me that what has been achieved there has been achieved in large part through “segregation” in the broad sense. The filtered-permeability streets are just one method of segregating through-flows of cyclists (on the filtered streets) from through-flows of motor vehicles (on the parallel grid streets). Segregation does not have to be total to be effective. Goldsmiths row is an example of segregation. People are segregated away from motor vehicles here – motor vehicles must take a different route. This is the Dutch street-planning model in action.

      What you are saying is an absolutely crystal clear example of the “No Surrender” philosophy that the piece is targeting. Your mindset ultimately seems to be that any attempt to separate the transport modes is pandering to the danger posed by the most dangerous of them. it’s a bit like saying there should be no insulation allowed on high-voltage electrical cables, because to allow that is only encouraging the devilish electrical companies to put their dangerous product into our houses willy-nilly, where it might cause damage. It’s what is called in other areas Luddite; an anti-technological worldview that worries about the risks of a technology while not evaluating rationally its likely benefits. We’re not going to stop using electricity, and we’re not going to get cars banned any time soon. Best to get over those facts, and look at the best ways of allowing safe cycling in the world we have.

    • “Motorists will behave more badly around cyclists on roads where there aren’t cycle paths.”

      I love this argument. As a daily cyclist on our current, unsegregated, London roads I struggle to see how drivers could possibly behave worse. Verbal abuse, unsafe passes, and vehicles being used to bully cyclists out of the way are the norm. Today was typical.

      3 motorists who drove straight at me at speed assuming I would be forced to move out of the way on narrow back streets (which of course are used as rat runs). I tend to stop and put my feet down which appears to give the correct message. A high revving van right on my back wheel as I negotiated a one way system (‘taking the lane’). Parking/stopping in cycle lanes and ASLs. A school run mum taking a junction on the wrong side of the road as she used her mobile phone.

      • Fred Smith says:

        Very true.

        Also where is the evidence to back up this assertion that cars will behave worse? I think it could be the other way round – more bikes = more bike awareness = better driving.

        These guys are very quick to try to pick holes in the pile of evidence showing cycle lanes work, but happily assert apparent non-sequiturs without justifying why they believe this is the case.

  22. Nobody but nobody says:

    “Clearly, CTC officials were opposed to cycle paths but they were opposed to them for good reason. Then, like now, they were crap [although, as is conceded later on] when newly minted no doubt the tracks were good …”

    However …

    “It was planners and politicians who failed cyclists, not the CTC.”

    “The UK Government in the 1920s and 1930s usually did the opposite of what CTC asked for.”

    “It wasn’t the fault of CTC.”

    “Thing is, Government paid no heed to CTC’s musings anyway.”

    “Cycle campaigners, including CTC, rail against crappy provision but are rarely listened to.”

    “Even if CTC had asked for cycle paths, they wouldn’t have got them.”

    If CTC wasn’t there representing cyclists, believe me, cycling would be much the poorer.

    “This was not CTC’s fault, it was the fault of motor-centric politicians and planners.”

    “CTC hasn’t failed cyclists and would-be cyclists, planners and politicians have failed cyclists.”

    “Mass motorisation created the mess we’re in, not CTC.”

    • paul gannon says:

      One can criticise CTC for its policies without thereby implying that it is also fully and entirely responsible for the present state of the road system.

      The historical question of how this ‘no surrender’ policy developed is of interest in itself and can help us avoid making the same mistake.

      But there is an area of potential criticism. I think it does need to be asked in this sort of forum whether adherents of the ‘no surrender’ approach at the top of the British cycling establishment have undermined the development of continental style networks over the past few decades – or were these modern activists, like their 1930s and 40s counterparts (as Carlton pointed out to us), wholly lacking in any influence on what happened?

      I don’t know fully what the answer is as my evidence in entirely anecdotal.

      I do know that a few senior cycle activists did lobby against the Royal College Street and Bloomsbury tracks. I know this, not courtesy of these activists, but of the councillor who received their lobbying efforts. They didn’t think it necessary to inform us in the local cycling group about their active lobbying against what we were campaigning for in Camden at that time.

      I also suspect that senior cyclist activists are the reason why, in the early days that certain doors which opened to us outside the borough when people wanted to find out what was happening in Camden, were soon closed, but I cannot be sure of this.

      In the case of Camden the ‘no surrender’ campaigners were ineffectual, but on a wider London scale I think they may have had an effect (or it may be that we were somewhat ahead of the time). Our saving grace was the federal borough structure of LCC which allowed us to go against the wishes of core activists.

      Another incident I recall followed close on the Blackfriars death when the Daily Express (of all papers!) got wound up and started writing about cycle provision. An email was circulated in which a senior national activist recounted how he had rung up the reporter and ‘patiently explained’ to her why cycle tracks were not the answer.

      I can’t properly evaluate the effect of this sort of background briefing against cycle networks undertaken by cycle organisations, but I am certain it must have retarded the development of cycle networks in the UK generally.

      I’m critical of the British cycle establishment for that, but I don’t blame them for anything. They subscribed to informed opinion and did their best to promote it in all good conscience. When they lobbied against us behind our backs they did it because they honestly thought they knew better and supposed that we were silly little ill-informed fools who, knowing nothing about cycling, weren’t conscious of the inherited truth that cycle tracks are the spawn of the devil.

      I am happy to acknowledge all the good work they have done in many other ways. But I can do all of that and at the same time still think that they got the policy quite wrong on this question of the critical role of modern cycle networks.

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  27. Magic Bullet says:

    Important observation! Enormous text, enormous reactions. Hardly dare to add anything anymore. But too important to let go. Just a few remarks:
    1- So, this is all about how British Petrolhead-and-Never-Surrender-(two sided)-Culture negatively influences cycling. Thank you for this post! Just dumping whatever kind of cycling infrastructure (segregated or not) does not solve the real issue in the UK…apart from the fact that this structure will never turn to reality, simply due to this political snake pit.
    2- Under such circumstances, segregation means also: less space for cars (perceived or for real). Mark my words: In the UK, increasing the no. of segregated cycle lanes will induce hijacks by cars, as a parking spot, to pass traffic jams, to buy a pack of cigarettes…or just openly to annoy cyclists.
    3- The key cultural difference with NL is well described in a few sentences: we are automobilists AND cyclists. There is hardly any dispute here. We just want to fix things in such a way that it works out best for everyone on any pick-of-the-day mode of transport. We’re so much more pragmatic towards many issues than the British. One of them being transport. I didn’t know one could have such serious political fights over anything simple like transportation, until I stumbled upon British cyclists blogs…

    Car/Bike Segregation = Collaboration. Amazing, I would never ever have thought about it like that. To me, the British have some really weird brain wires. This is Monty Python in real life. Even Hitler is brought into the arena.

    Towards all the British: Grow up! Get a life and just start fixing things!

    BTW pragmatism isn’t always positive…we surrendered in 5 days against the Germans…please don’t mention the war. Also, whether you like them or not, Top Gear did deliver hilariously good TV (I think the formula is worn out by now). It was one of the best watched shows in the NL during the zero’s. So much much better than any pragmatic dull Dutch car series. Every Friday night, they made me start the weekend with a smile…but did they influence my cycling habits? No, of course not.

    Oops a long reaction again.

  28. MrT says:

    Fascinating article – thanks!

  29. fonant says:

    Not sure how much one can read into it, but CTC cycle campaigners like me are still called “Right to Ride Representatives” – i.e. we are apparently campaigning for some “right to ride”, which can presumably only mean “on the carriageway” as that is the only place cyclists have a right to ride.

    I personally would love to see our duality of “carriageway” and “footway” on roads turned into a triality of “carriageway”, “cycleway” and “footway” as they have in the Netherlands. This not only provides somewhere safe and convenient for cyclists of all types, but it also proves that cyclists are as important as motorists and pedestrians on our roads, and are provided for as such.

    We have already surrendered our “right to ride” on the carriageway, because the “carriages” have become so much more numerous and dangerous since the decision to make cyclists “carriages” was made back in the late 1800’s. Almost no-one exercises their “right to ride” on carriageways around here, but ordinary people in masses ride their bicycles where they can without fear of being run over.

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  38. Clive Durdle says:


    I hope people are still looking at this discussion!

    I wonder if this apartheid separation v sharing discussion was actually an early variation on the “shared space” discussions and thus “vehicular cycling” is a form of shared space argument?

    So maybe we need to approach this from a different angle?

    I think the equality act 2010 needs serious consideration here. The various guidance (what is hop, Houses of Parliament?) are in my view institutionalised discrimination, and I get the impression highways engineers haven’t actually thought through what a public equality duty means.

    I think there is an obvious community of interest of children, parents of young children, disabled and older people, pedestrians, cyclists and equestrians that can easily be built up.

    It is not only non existent cycle ways – pavements in very poor condition with crossovers are everywhere – even where it is new why do pedestrians give way to cars entering and leaving driveways? There is a serious problem of theft of the commonwealth.


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