With the opening of the Superhighway 2 Extension yesterday, I found myself looking through some photographs of Stratford High Street, before the new cycle tracks appeared. This one in particular caught my attention –
Now that cycle tracks have been built on this road (in place of one of the vehicle lanes) this kind of behaviour will almost certainly disappear – there will be no need to cycle on the pavement, now that attractive conditions for cycling exist away from it.
Pavement cycling in the Netherlands is, to all practical purposes, non-existent, for precisely this reason. There is no need to cycle on a pavement because there will be a much more suitable alternative beside it, both in terms of comfort and attractiveness.
These are all busy roads with – in particular – a high volume of bus traffic. Without cycle tracks a significant proportion of these people would either be cycling on the pavement, or would not be cycling at all. The presence of cycle tracks creates pedestrian environments that are free from uncertain interactions with people cycling.
By contrast, when the pavement is the most attractive place for cycling on a given road or street, we should not be surprised when people choose to cycle on it, regardless of potential fines or penalties.
Indeed, if there is a problem with pavement cycling in a given area, it is an almost certain sign that conditions for cycling there are far from attractive for the vast majority of people. The proper response in these kinds of situations should not be to clamp down, or to increase patrols and fining operations – not least because this would be a disproportionate use of police resources. (Although of course I am not arguing that genuinely anti-social and dangerous cycling on the pavement should not be dealt with).
Instead it should be to create a safe and inviting environment for cycling, for anyone who wishes to ride. As Dave Horton has argued
Pavement cyclists aren’t seen as heroes, but perhaps they should be… in Britain we are taught that pavement cycling is a problem and that it’s wrong; though in truth it is neither. Today, Bradley Wiggins is the great hero of British cycling, and I hope he enjoys all the adulation he richly deserves. But in the meantime, the great unsung heroes of British cycling – pavement cyclists – bravely pedal on, or try to any which way they can. They are not celebrated; they are seen as deviant, and are demonised.
Because the vast majority of people feel there is nowhere safe to ride, everyday cycling across the UK is being very effectively and very systematically blocked. Much premature talk of ‘a cycling revolution’ conveniently ignores the fact that a big majority of people are afraid to cycle, and will not start anytime soon unless something fundamentally changes. In the meantime, in most places most of the people who do ride a bicycle do so (either always or mainly) on the pavements. They ride either because they have no alternative – for example, needing to get to shift work (rendering public transport infeasible) at a location beyond walking distance – or because they actually like cycling but they just don’t like cycling in roads full of cars, trucks and buses.
The people in the pictures above are cycling despite the conditions, not because of them. Their journeys – and the trips of the people on foot that they are cycling around – should be made easier and more pleasant. Separating cycling from motor traffic benefits pedestrians, as well as those on bikes. An ideal way to make common cause with pedestrian groups?