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I’d love to see a whole bunch of Dutch-style segregated cycle paths in the UK. Real ones, done to standard, not yer usual fob-offs.
But I’m not holding my breath. In the meantime, I’d love to see more cycling. Many advocates believe this won’t happen without protected, segregated cycle paths. If that’s the case, then we should just give up on cycling right now because even if the UK Government was an overnight convert to the sense of cycling, it would still take many years for the perfect infrastructure to be designed and built (and for the objections from motorists to be quelled).
It’s also worthwhile pointing out that the Netherlands - a wonderful cycling country because of its sustained efforts at encouraging two wheels over four - doesn’t have segregated cycle paths that go absolutely everywhere. Dutch cyclists still have to mix it with motorised vehicles at times. As this video shows, Dutch cyclists can also be knocked from their bikes by reckless, dangerous motorists:
The motorist who knocked the cyclists off their bikes on a road where cars and bicycles have to travel together was rightly villified. Sadly, that wouldn’t happen here.
Segregated bike lanes would have protected those Dutch cyclists from the monster pick-up but no Government is going to build as many bike paths as there are roads. Roads are highways we must not be shunted from.
Just because I don’t think UK politicians are ready to champion protected bicycle lanes, doesn’t mean I think mixing it with motorised traffic is pleasurable or desirable. I’d be mad not to want safe cycle routes. And such routes can be built.
In Seville, Spain, a 120km network of segregated bike lanes were recently built over a period of three years and by the end of those three years cycle trips went from 6000 to 60,000 trips per day. The segregated lanes were brought into fruition by the Infrastructures for Sustainability department, a part of the Seville City Council. The template for the new segregated infrastructure was developed from Seville’s Steering Plan for Bicycles (2007-2010).
Today, in Seville, 7 percent of all journeys are made by bicycle, a rise from 2 percent before infrastructure investment was made. 30 percent of those attracted to start cycling switched from driving cars.
Seville also created a bike share program, SEVici, provided by JC Decaux as per in other cities. These Velib-style rental bikes get a lot of use because of the protected bicycle lanes.
Because of the success of its segregated bicycle network, Seville was selected as the venue for the cycle advocacy conference, Velo-city, this year staged March 23-25th.
“In a very short time, we have combined our economic efforts with a firm, decisive policy aimed at developing road interventions, sectional programmes and strong policies to foster the use of bicycles as a healthy and sustainable means of transport with a positive impact on both the individuals involved and on society in general. There is no going back.We proved that it is possible to prioritize in favour of sustainable transport and make a significant contribution to the necessary battle against climate change.”
José Antonio García Cebrián, member of the City Council of Seville and director of Velo-city 2011
Top marks to Seville for showing it can be done. But segregation alone is not enough. Seville’s Bicycle Plan also contains many ’softer’, pro-cycling measures. These measures should not be sidelined by those believing UK politicians will be converted to the cycling cause by the power of logic and common sense (and templates from other cities).
Dreaming of a brighter future is necessary but pushing for segregation as the number one solution to getting more people cycling is not something that helps us right this second in time. I want to see more people cycling now and - until all the magical bike paths are built - work on getting a whole variety of ‘go by bike’ messages out there.
I’ve created smartphone apps (iPhone and Android) which direct newbie cyclists on to less busy roads, and oftentime imperfect cyclepaths.
I’ve helped make funding decisions on which cycling projects should get Bike Hub levy cash (the Beauty and the Bike project for young women on Dutch bikes in Darlington one of them). I’ve travelled with MPs and Lords on the All Party Parliamentary Cycling group to work out how to get more people cycling.
I’ve created ‘how to’ videos for new cyclists, including the one below.
In the 1990s I published a quarterly magazine called On Your Bike which was specifically targeted at new and returning cyclists; more recently I wrote a book to get new people to consider cycling to work. The online Bike to Work Book has had nearly 300,000 reads and downloads. I expect many of the readers are new to cycling, and I hope some of them were encouraged to cycle to work from reading the book.
An article from a proof of the expanded and revised 2011 version of the book is embedded below. Click on the ‘expand’ option to read it in full-screen and hit the right-hand arrow to flip the page. The article is a shortened and edited version of a Quickrelease.tv article which gets some cycle advocates hot under the collar, partly because I say I want to keep riding on the road as an absolute right.
It’s a case of ‘be careful what you wish for.’ The addition of cycle lanes in the UK can sometimes make conditions worse for cyclists. Drivers both love and hate cycle lanes. They love them because such lanes are perceived to be a way of shunting cyclists out of the way; they hate them because (a) they think they pay for them with “their road tax” (iPayRoadTax.com is another one of my little projects) and (b) because cyclists don’t always use them (for the obvious reasons we’re all familiar with).
In a Department for Transport research document full of stand-out quotes, this is worth highlighting:
“In practice, cycling infrastructure may not be designed to tackle problems of road sharing at all, but as part of efforts to promote cycling. Since one of the major barriers to cycling is the behaviour of [motorists], one natural response is to focus on providing ways for cyclists to avoid traffic – in line with this avoiding cyclist logic. However, as we have seen, this may run the risk of delegitimising the presence of cyclists on the road in the eyes of [motorists]. It is at least theoretically possible, that is, that one could end up making the barrier to cycling – the behaviour of [motorists] – worse.”
Five minute video which lovingly zooms into bike parts, and names them. “Watch this guide and you’ll be talking bike in 5 minutes.” The ‘bespoke’ soundtrack was made using bike parts (spokes, gear shifting, disc brake rotor twanging), recorded in my garage and then made into music by Greg Johnston. It’s bike tech techno: I’ve called it ‘Bong. Psst. Twang. Whirr. Psst.’