No, not the latest Matt Damon film. The ‘Badgertown Exception’ is a debating technique which employs the following logic.*
- Cycling infrastructure requires x amount of space.
- Here is Badger Street, Badgertown. It has many competing demands, and cycling infrastructure won’t fit.
- Because cycling infrastructure won’t fit on Badger Street, cycling infrastructure is pointless/won’t work, anywhere, and we should employ other techniques, everywhere.
This kind of logic is actually employed by Hackney Councillor Vincent Stops – calling it the ‘Hackney Cycling Test’.
You should take the @hackney_cycling test. How would you put segregation through Dalston Kingsland?
The implication being that because cycle tracks ‘won’t fit’ on Kingsland Road, by Dalston Kingsland station, the strategy of cycle tracks on main roads is entirely flawed, anywhere in Hackney.
This section of the A10 is undoubtedly a busy area, with competing demands for the space between the buildings. It’s a through route for motor traffic, there are bus stops, the footways are busy with pedestrians, and loading needs to take place.
Creating cycle tracks here would not be straightforward (although certainly not impossible). But even if it were impossible to do so, that doesn’t tell us anything about anywhere else in Hackney, nor should it. Failing a ‘test’ on one particular road shouldn’t rule out that design intervention everywhere else, any more than a failure to fit bus lanes on Dalston Kingsland means that bus lanes should be ruled out everywhere in Hackney.
It might be the case that Dalston Kingsland remains a ‘gap’ for the foreseeable future; one of those bits that are just difficult to get right. Dutch cities have these kinds of roads and streets too, places they haven’t really got around to sorting out yet, because of similar competing demands. Mixed use streets where children have to cycle outside parking and loading bays, on a route shared with buses, for instance.
Importantly, however, these are the gaps, not the model itself. These gaps are only really tolerable because the rest of the network is so good – good enough to keep large numbers of people flowing through these low quality areas. The city of Utrecht did not look at the street above and think – ‘well, it’s quite hard to fit in decent cycling infrastructure here, so that rules out the principle entirely – let’s give up.’
Utrecht got on with creating good conditions everywhere else, and at some point in the future will presumably revisit this street and come up with a decent solution.
By the same token, Dalston Kingsland tells us nothing about the kind of treatments that are available, and could be employed, on other main roads in Hackney. Difficulty on one section of road should not rule out attempts to improve other parts of that road, or indeed other major roads.
Equally, it would be silly to suggest that the current arrangement on Dalston Kingsland is ideal, or even ‘perfect’. It really isn’t. It’s unpleasant, and hostile, even for someone used to cycling on London’s roads.
Yet Stops is presenting this road as a perfect cycling scheme.
It’s true that putting cycle tracks here would require compromises; delaying motor traffic while making buses stop in the carriageway, for instance, or trimming some of that (wasted) footway space you can see in the picture above. But in acknowledging these compromises, we shouldn’t go so far as to suggest that the current scheme – which does very little to take cycling into consideration – is ‘perfect’ – or indeed that it should teach us anything about any other road or street.
Credit for the Badger Street, Badger Town formulation goes to Jim Davis