The National Travel Survey; cycling's canary in the coal mine?

** A warning that this is a long and at times involved and fiery blog post; I've spent many hours going over the figures contined herein and considering the best steps forward.  I thought long and hard about what I wanted to say to our 3 main cycling campaigns, and how I wanted to say it, and whilst I know a post of such length is an endulgence, I do hope you'll be able to find the time to read it and join the debate**

The Government published its National Travel Survey at the beginning of the month showing travel trends and figures for 2009.  Detailing how we all move around Britain - by automobile, train, bicycle and foot - the ongoing survey from the Department of Transport shows how and why we get about.  The CTC, our national cycle campaign, has been quick to jump on the results with the headline "National Travel Survey proves cycling is on the increase".  But I think a more detailed look at the survey, and the national health of cycling in general, is in order here.

The CTC states "Government data... ...confirms that in 2009 cycle use increased to the highest level in decades"  If you were a copy editor on a deadline you might feel inclined, on the basis of the CTC's press release, to run a front page splash with a headline like "Meteoric rise in cyclists!" or perhaps even "Cycling grows and goes!".  But the truth is rather more prosaic and shows that despite the efforts of the likes of the CTC, the LCC and Sustrans, and the work of official bodies like Cycling England, cycling seems to me to in fact be in serious trouble.


In 2009 cycling made up just 2% of modal share of all journeys in the UK.  By comparison, rail (including the London Underground) makes up 3%, buses and coaches represent 7%, walking 23%, other (ferries etc) 3%, whilst trips by car account for a massive 63% of all trips by modal share. 

Despite their relatively small percentage share, rail and bus travel are making progress; between 1995/97 and 2009 the average distance travelled by bus outside London increased by 5%, within London by some 66%.  Over the same period, rail travel saw an increase of 44%.  The number of trips per person per year by bus in London increased by 47% between 1995/97 and 2009. 

These are the kind of figures that Government statisticians like to see; clear results as a consequence of direct investment in a type of transport.  No self-respecting civil servant is going to recommend investing money into a scheme which doesn't bear tangible results which can be boasted of at the next general election.

Cycling has made a little progress; average annual distance by bike for Britain's cyclists has increased from 42 miles per person in 2008 to 46 in 2009. That is more than the 1995/97 average. That means average trip length has increased from 2.4 to 2.8 miles.  Hardly a rolling revolution, wouldn't you say?  The survey states clearly:  "Frequency of bicycle use has remained fairly stable over time since 1998/00. In 2009, 14% of respondents said they ride a bicycle at least once a week and a further 9% said they did so at least once a month. 68% said they use a bicycle less than once a year or never."

The likes of the CTC might find small victories in the increases in average journey length by bicycle, or the fact that more people in high social economic groups are now cycling, but I do not.  I see these figures against the back drop that the rest of the National Travel Survey presents:

"DfT Vehicle Licensing Statistics show that there has been a continued growth in the number of licensed cars in Great Britain (an increase of 25% between 1997 and 2009)."

Clearly travel by private automobile is still seen as something inherently more desirable than travel by bike.  The only place in the country that has turned this statistic around to any extent is, of course, central London which has decreased the number of cars on its roads through the introduction of the Congestion Charge.  The decrease in cars lead to an increase in cyclists, a relationship that is nearly impossible to replicate elsewhere with such a large increase in cars in Great Britain.  Even outside of Zone 1 (in Waltham Forest, say) cycling in London is hardly the nirvana it is sometimes made out to be.

If you look at the overall figure, below, it is clear to see that despite campaigning efforts to the contrary, cycling as modal share is on a steady downward pattern.  And whilst all journeys have decreased overall, there are more cars than ever on our roads (click on the image for a closer look at this graph)  The green line represents cycling as a percentage of all journeys since 195 and despite the occasional upward tick, the stronger trend is clear, Britain is abandoning the bicycle and cycle rates are flat-lining:

And there's more doom and gloom for future cyclists, too:

"Overall the average length of a trip to school has increased from 2.1 miles in 1995/97 to 2.5 miles in 2009. During this period, the average trip length for primary school children has increased from 1.3 to 1.5 miles, and for secondary school pupils, 2.9 to 3.3 miles. School runs have increased in modal share to 21% of AM peak journeys."

More children than ever before are being driven to school instead of riding.  The CTC's own Bike Club muses on these figures in a recent blog post of their own.  They were alarmed to find that since the 1970s cycling levels amongst young people in the UK have fallen to about a third of previous levels and that now, on average, young people cycle as much as average UK adults (that is to say, very very little).

Against these somewhat depressing figures the CTC states in its press release "We expected that the recession, along with high fuel prices, would lead to an increase in cycling... ...sales of bikes have soared by 25% over the same period."  This to me says two things; firstly that people are still buying more and more cars despite the economic constraints of our current financial climate, and that people are considering cycling more - even going to the lengths of buying a new bike - but cycling less.  Why is this?  What's keeping people from their bikes?  Why are more and more parents driving their children to school instead of letting them cycle?  What's stopping women from cycling?  The answer, I suspect, is in the road conditions that would-be cyclists discover when they set out on their shiny new bikes for the very first time.  For all the glossy posters encouraging us to 'Catch up with the bicycle', for all the talk right now about there never having been a better time to cycle, cycling on the roads in the UK is still too large an emotional investment for most people.  The British are not really so afraid to actually get on their bikes and ride, nor are they fearful of the weather or finding somewhere to park their bike at the end of their journey (though all these things, of course, are contributory factors) The primary reason why most people in the UK do not cycle even though they can and it makes sound economic and health sense to do so, is because in order to cycle on the roads here you have to do so in spite of the prevailing road conditions and not because of them.  For most, 'sharing the road' with vehicular traffic is just a step too far.

Einstein once said that do something over and over again and expect a different result was true madness, and yet this is exactly what is happening here in the UK.  The UK had a "National Cycling Strategy" back in 1996 which had an aim of doubling cycling by 2002 and doubling again by 2012. It was quietly abandoned by the Government in 2004 after the rate of cycling had actually declined over the previous 8 years. [1]  Over the past 15 years the number of cyclists on the road, by comparison to other transport modes, has grown smaller and smaller.  Yet our cycling campaigns are still calling for the same thing over and over; more cycle parking, SMIDSY campaigns, even pot hole reports. None of the three major campaigns in the UK; Sustrans, the CTC or the London Cycling Campaign are calling for segregation out right.  Did anyone spot the elephant in the room?

Let us consider the city of Assen, in the Netherlands, home to British bike blogger David Hembrow.  It's a largish town of some 65,000, relatively flat and populous, with a population growth of 1.5% per year.  Not unlike countless other towns in the UK and totally unremarkable in most over ways.  But for cyclists like you and I it is remarkable.  You see, unlike here in the UK where the cycling rates pitch down the graph on an ever-downward ebb, cycling rates in Assen are actually increasing.  In 2009 this small town quietly announced that it's cycling rate as a percentage of ALL journeys (not just commuting to work) had grown from 37% four years ago to 41% now.  That is to say not only does it have a higher modal share than ANY town in the UK, but also that this share is growing.  If that's not a measure of success, then I don't know what is.  The key to this success?  Segregation.  David's blog shows in painstaking detail how we can go about 'Assenising' the UK, and for very little money in comparison, say, to building more railways or roads (remember all of the UK rail network represents just 3% of modal share.  How much money gets spent on it?  Considerably more than cycling!)

If you're like me and a little sceptical of facts and figures, especially those drawn up by Governments, let us take a more humanistic approach to this all.  Do you want to see mass cycling in the UK?  Yes.  OK, mass cycling means everyone will  be able to ride a bike as a primary means of transportation; Mums, kids, Grans... Would you be happy for your Gran to cycle on the A-road nearest to your house, mixing it up with the A-road traffic?  No?  Me neither.  Would you be happy for your Gran to cycle on smooth, segregated, wide, well maintained cycle paths like these....

Yes, that's a cycle path! From David Hembrow's A View from the Cycle Path
Yes?  Well then, what are we, and our national cycle campaigns waiting for?  The past 15 years have shown that campaigning for better bike parking or pot hole repairs are having little or no effect on overall cycling rates here in the UK.  In the same time Holland's cycle rate has grown and grown because it has built and continues to improve a quality designated system of segregated cycle paths along side nearly every road in the country.  Yes, it will be tricky, yes there are probably places where it won't be possible (certain parts of central London or the hillier parts of Yorkshire spring to mind) but at least let's all hear the canary in the coal mine before it falls off it's perch completely. 

If we all want mass cycling here in the UK there is only one thing for it; Assenise! Assenise! Assenise!  To do so will involve pushing for Dutch-style infrastructure at a national level.

I would like to see a commitment from our three main cycling campaigns that this is what they are aiming for too, and that they mean to achieve this aim by lobbying for segregated cycle infrastructure.  Otherwise I fear, for all the self-serving campaigns they can muster, the downward slide on the National Travel Survey can only continue.  What's it to be?


townmouse said...

Well said.

Adam said...

Is it possible to look at the stats by length of journey?

I would expect cycling to do well for journeys under say 5 miles. Are there stats for this?

The reason for asking is the classic road lobby technique for dissing public transport is to look at all car journeys, most of which are under 5 miles (school and supermarket runs) and then say railways only account for very little transport. However, with the trains if you look at car journeys over 5 miles only, I'm told there is a very different result as millions of car journeys then go and trains do much better.

Not sure how possible it is to do this.

I agree that off road provision is key. Sustrans recently refused to get involved with a new cycle route round the Chilterns as it's all on road. I'm very luck to live in Hatfied, Herts, where we have seen significant investment in cycle paths and I think it is therefore making a difference.

Thanks for this


John the Monkey said...

The problem with pushing for segregation is that it's a gift to the people who don't want the money spent on anything but more, wider roads. They look at the cost, sigh ruefully, agree that it would be nice, and then ignore you.

I'm not opposed to segregation per se, but I think a mixture of it and on road provision is much more likely to achieve the desired result here.

John the Monkey said...

Blast, I knew there was something else. The other problem with segregation is the way it removes the need for drivers to deal with other sorts of traffic (other than motor traffic, that is) on the road.

That has consequences when the segregated routes disappear (as they surely must at some points of the journey). I guess the hope is that so many drivers will be cyclists at this point in time that the consideration will be present?

Anonymous said...

Hi Mark,

Another good post on the present state of cycling in the UK.

I'd really like to know what we can do, as riders to put pressure on the various bodies and governments to improve our roads and infrastructure.

What can you suggest for the average rider to do in addition to riding to help improve our roads?



Sue 'sans' helmet said...

Go Mark! - great post!

christhebull said...

@ Liv - how about a fake "Barclays Motorway" proposal, where the existing London roads (South Circular, Euston Road, etc) are rebranded as Barclays Motorways. This is intended to remind people that the cycle superhighways are as much of a joke as the South Circular is a joke of a ring road.

Also, a spoof "lorry path" plan could be circulated - where lorries are on a separate lane at the side of the road that gives way to traffic turning off the main road and has more traffic lights than the main road in the same way as a
many cycle paths in the UK. The idea is that if it is a bad thing to inconvenience lorry drivers in such a way, why design bad cycle facilities?

Mark said...

Thanks everyone for joining the debate. I know the segregation vs vehicular cycling argument can be testy at times so it's really great to see so many proactive suggestions.

@Adam the stats by length of journey are all up on the National Travel Survey website and you are right in that rail certainly does carry people a long way. I guess the key factor to take from the small car journeys that should be 'factored out' of the stats is the fact of course that so many more of them than 2% should be cycled, not driven at all (kids going to school being a case in point) It's good to hear Sustrans vetoed a bad cycle route, but what I would really like to see is a 'coming out' if you like at policy level with all 3 of the groups being absolutely clear that they support segregated cycling and see this as an attainable ideal to which to work towards.

@John the Monkey - thank for stopping by and chipping in. I agree that it is all going to take time and I'm sure it will have to be built in stages and stops and starts. I'm not saying of course that vehicular cycling doesn't have a future, but that in urban centres certainly if we *really* want mass cycling we've got to do something that has been proven to work. Everything else, when the base number of cyclists is so low, is just so much hot air. Of course, segregation alone is not a 100% fix-all; the cycle campaigns will have to keep abreast of their push for things like strict liability to keep the motorist in check, but I think it would certainly lead to a better position than we have today.

Mark said...

Liv; you've raised a really interesting question; "What can we as riders do to put pressure on the cycle campaigns and governments?"

I'd love to hear everyone's suggestions on this; the more the merrier!

Firstly, of course, I'd say keep on cycling and try to encourage friends and family to get involved too.

Secondly, at a national level I'd say write to your MPs, your local cycling campaigns, to the 'big 3' and tell them how unhappy you are with the current status quo if this is the case. Furthermore, tell them that you wan to see an outright commitment to the things you think will help to bring about mass cycling. The more people who do this of course the more effective it would be.

Lastly, I would say spread the word about David Hembrow; he really does show how Dutch-style infrastructure is absolutely achievable here in the UK: in my eyes he has successfully shot down every single excuse out there as to why segregation isn't a good idea.

What would everyone else recommend?

Bransby said...

Bloody brilliant post Mark, well done. I've had mixed feelings about segregation in the past, but wasn't aware that cars have a 63% modal share. 63%!! that is a national f***ing disgrace! We're a very small country for god's sake, and the majority of the population is in towns and cities!

I'm all up for a bit more respect from car drivers for other road users, but when they're in such an obscene majority there's no way you can increase cycling by asking or forcing people to be better drivers. The only way to increase cycling is to decrease the number of cars on the road, that has to be done through better public transport and also through getting more people cycling - but you're absolutely right, you can't expect people to get out there and share the road with that many cars in order to make it safer - you've got to make it safer first by segregating the cycling infrastructure.

Paul James said...

I used to think that segregation was a bad idea, that cyclists should be treated like any other form of transport and we should all learn to get on with the road infrastructure we have.

As a London cycle commuter, the roads are a battleground where everyone is out for their own, screw everyone else. Why should I be forced onto badly organised, badly looked after, badly integrated, slow, second class cycle lanes while the cars zip past as numero uno's?

But after reading David's blog and visiting and cycling in Holland, I've come round to the idea of segregation. The challenge is to do it well and to do it right. Luckily, we have neighbour who's already done the hard work for us, we just need to follow their lead.

The bigger challenge is one of legislation and public will, changing the fabric of our roads to be more cycle friendly will require there to be less road space left for car drivers, and how many car drivers would be willing for their tax money to go into making their roads narrower and slower?

christhebull said...

Another issue is that existing infrastructure in the UK is a poor example of what to go by. In order to sell high quality infrastructure to existing cyclists and others, it might be better to emphasise cycle "prioritisation" (contra-flows, filter lanes bypassing traffic lights, green waves, short-cuts, etc) as opposed to "segregation" which some may view as an attempt to remove cyclists from the roads. Much of the "prioritisation" would be segregated in nature, of course, but it would be designed to ensure that the cycle track had priority over side roads etc; rather than being a low quality shared use pavement that serious cyclists won't use and pedestrians may feel uncomfortable to use.

Mark said...

That's a very switched on and astute comment Chris; it really is a case of 'once bitten, twice shy' as many cyclists in the UK are automatically opposed to any form of 'segregation' as they automatically assume it means dealing with crap cycle lanes like this. Lanes like that aren't desirable to anybody, so we need to sell interventions as prioritising cycling with A1 infrastructure, not segregating them or 'getting them off the road' as you so rightly point out.

Who knew there was so much sociology to cycling?!

WestfieldWanderer said...

"Einstein once said that do something over and over again and expect a different result was true madness"
Something that the CTC have been doing since eighteen-seventy-frozen-to-death. That organization is so bogged down with the totally discredited vehicular cycling dogma, with just lip-service to the Dutch model (try talking to any CTC acolyte and realize that you'd get better results from talking to a brick wall). In recent years I have completely switched from being a vehicular cycling advocate around to being totally sold on the Dutch model (thanks to personal experience and David Hembrow).
I now believe that one of the biggest stumbling blocks against evolving a proper cycling culture in Britain is the CTC. (Cue howls of protest and derision). The CTC has to completely revise its agenda or a new cycling advocacy organisation has to rise up and take its place. Sadly, I don't believe for one minute that such a thing is likely to happen in my lifetime (or, judging from the "progress" over the past 100 years or more, in my children's lifetime and beyond). Any of us living in Britain today and wanting to live in an advanced civilisation with a decent cycling culture are best advised to pack our bags and leave.
Very frustrating.

piemanpete said...

On the subject of respect on the roads, it goes both way and I find cyclists need to consider how their actions appear to drivers.

I commute by cycle over 100mi a week and find showing a bit of consideration to all road users makes my journeys a lot more enjoyable

Philip Loy said...

Some points:

* The alleged dichotomy between ‘vehicular cycling’ and segregation is a false one. There is no contradiction: they form a continuum of measures depending on a variety of circumstances from what is technically appropriate to what is politically possible.

* Many cycling practitioners recognise that different circumstances require different measures – quiet residential streets need traffic calming whilst busy/ faster streets should have segregation, etc. Both the Dutch and the Danes recognise this in their design reference manuals.

* Actually I know the two key CTC people responsible for campaigns and policy and to say they’re dogmatic is entirely unfair. I was with them in Copenhagen for instance and I think they would agree the facilities were good. Their take on the issues appreciates the continuum mentioned above.

* The actual ‘debate’ is where the threshold for more cycle-specific measures comes in. In the Netherlands and Denmark, it politically possible for them to bring that threshold much lower than we presently can in the UK.

* Implementation and promotion of cycling is principally a political and social initiative, facilitated by engineering according to what contemporary political constraints allow. Campaigning indirectly influences that by creating a virtuous circle of new voting cyclists.

* If you’re unhappy with either the CTC or London Cycling Campaign, join them, make your voice heard, and make a difference.

* Happy and safe cycling everyone.

Anonymous said...

I want to see similar segregation here in Australia, or prioritisation.

The order of priority should be pedestrians, cyclists, motorised traffic, Jeremy Clarkson.

We have 'integrated' cycle lanes here in Australia and they are more dangerous than nothing at all in my opinion. Have a look at this rubbish:

Quality cycle paths that actually go where the roads go is what we need - not just meandering rides through the park (although it is nice to get away from motorised traffic entirely - so peaceful!).

Paul Martin
Brisbane, Australia

David Hembrow said...

Mark, thanks for the post. If people are interested in seeing the "excuses" posts, I collected them together under one tag on the blog. The last "excuse" post included photos of comparable streets in the UK and the Netherlands. You can see the full set of ten examples here.

Philip: In the Netherlands there are around 29000 km of segregated cycle path. This counts just the proper concrete / tarmac paths which go somewhere directly, and not the many recreational paths. By comparison, there are around 130000 km of road, of which around 5000 km has on road cycle lanes. As you can see, cycle lanes are not particularly popular.

So, yes, at a first look you'd think that around 3/4 of Dutch cycling was on non segregated roads. However, that's not how it works out. You never cycle on a road which carries high numbers of motor vehicles.

I think British people often mis-understand how the advice in Dutch design manuals is actually applied. The criteria for whether a segregated path is needed are not necessarily what you think. Most roads without segregated paths have incredibly few cars on them. They're generally not through roads for motorists, and on older examples often this is the result of a deliberate change to those roads to make them unusable by motorists. The result is that there are roads for drivers and roads for cyclists. When you cycle, cars are elsewhere. There is almost total segregation by mode even when there is not a segregated cycle path.

Where the numbers of cars will be higher, it's quite common to find segregated paths next even to roads with 30 km/h speed limits.

When you cycle you see few cars. Conversely, if you drive you see few bikes.

You're right, of course, that this would be difficult in the UK due to political problems. That doesn't mean it's impossible and it doesn't mean it should never be mentioned in case someone says "no".

I think the choice really is simple. Either embrace the only proven way to increase cycling or see cycling continue to flatline.

Tim Lennon said...

As a follow on to a great article, I asked the Met about one element of enforcement, and found that in 2007/8/9 they ramped up enforcement against cyclists, whilst cutting enforcement against motoro vehicles:

I doubt there's any actual corporate plan behind the increase in targetting cyclists, but that doesn't make it any better.

Philip Loy said...

David, thank you for your updates and links, very useful and informative. I think we're in agreement? I haven't suggested that Dutch segregation is any particular proportion of all roads, simply that the threshold for building them is much 'lower' than the UK (at the present time).

Mark, it is indeed a good blog post. I'm sure you're destined for great things!

Kim said...

I was going to make a point that segregated cycle paths are only part of the answer, but David has beaten me to it. You need to restrict the speed and number of cars entering urban areas as well. In the UK this is often see as "anti motorist", but if you look at the Netherlands the Dutch have as many (if not more) cars than we do. The difference is that there are areas where the use of cars is heavily restricted (by restrictions on parking, speed limits, etc), the choice and freedom to use bicycles is greater.

There are other infrastructural issues as well, such as cycle parking, if drivers ran the same risks of having their cars stolen or vandalised, as cyclist their bicycles, then they would be far less likely to use them.

David Hembrow said...

Kim: Segregation is a very large part of the solution if you want to get everyone to cycle. My point is that there are two ways to achieve this: either by building separate provision for cyclists or by eliminating the vast majority of the cars. It's much the same for cyclists either way. The centre of Groningen has no segregated cycle paths, but also very nearly no cars even at rush hour.

The Netherlands used to have higher car ownership than the UK, but not any longer.

It is indeed much easier to cycle than to drive here. For instance, between my home and the centre of the city I have no traffic lights by bike, but two sets if I was to drive. Between here and my workplace 30 km away I have one set of traffic lights by bike (and they default to green for bikes so rarely stop me) but six sets in the first 5 km by car.

christhebull said...

The nature of roads in London and elsewhere is why I think any talk of it being like Copenhagen in ten years is nonsense - I can't see a good network of facilities being installed - only the pathetic Stupidhighways and the same labyrinth of one way streets, blocked off streets, turning restrictions and gyratories build according to 1960s principles that should now be considered obsolete. Hopefully, despite the issues of the Cycle Hire, some good will come of it - Londoners who try it out will realise how convoluted the road layout has been made in a vain effort to contain motor traffic and funnel it onto certain roads with scant consideration for non motorised vehicles and to a lesser extent pedestrians.

The reason CTC et al concentrate on things like parking is because it is an obvious problem when cycle parking is inadequate - bikes are chained to railings and lampposts; however it is less obvious when road conditions are off-putting because the only clues to that are a near absence of cyclists, with cyclists having a significant presence only when driving is more intolerable than riding - which is probably the case in Cambridge, York, and anywhere else in the UK with a decent modal share. [I would say that both those cities also have lots of students, but they're probably the demographic group most inclined to cycle]

And the Sustrans off road routes are best not mentioned.

Mark said...

I'm going to address a number of your issues one by one:

You said "The alleged dichotomy between ‘vehicular cycling’ and segregation is a false one."

I strongly disagree with this statement; some of the key figures in cycling advocacy circles are quite public about their distate for segregated cycle infrastructure (John Franklin, anyone?) A senior bod at the LCC is prepared to admit that he believe that segregation in London is wholly unnattainable.
Of course there are also many campaigners and advocates who are tireless in their work and this is not to try and make out that they are the enemy of cycling, but I do believe their beliefs are doing little to encourage mass cycling in the long run; I think the stats in the blog post above back me up on this.

You said:
"Actually I know the two key CTC people responsible for campaigns and policy and to say they’re dogmatic is entirely unfair. I was with them in Copenhagen for instance and I think they would agree the facilities were good."

Again, I'm not accusing anyone of being personally dogmatic, but if these two campaigners have seen at first hand what facilities like those in Copenhagen (which aren't nearly as good as Hollands, but at least follow a segregationist agenda) why aren't they out publicly advocating for them? Because they are afraid of hearing No? Where are the CTC's public policies pushing for a nationwide system of Dutch-style cycle campaigns?

I recognise that there are lots of issues surrounding building the right kind of infrastructure (as toutched on by some of the great comments above) but what I'm pushing for here is not a debate about how to build this stuff, but a resolution once and for all from our major cycling campaigns that their policies to date have not done enough and that they undertake to try and emulate to the maximum of their ability the only system proven to increase mass cycling rates; that is to say the Dutch-style streets system (and all that it entails; strict liability, cycle streets etc etc) Is it really too much to expect? Frankly I find it astonishing that we are even having to have this conversation at all! :O)

WestfieldWanderer said...

Well said, Mark. You have summed up the situation perfectly and what you say cuts right through the flowery waffle and weasle words that have been coming from the CTC and others for too long.

Philip Loy said...

Hi Mark. Ah yes, there's a difference between the concept of vehicular cycling and one's attitude about it. The problem I think you're suggesting is that there are people who dogmatically adhere to that type of cycling without willing to consider alternatives. That might well be true, but my point was to highlight the range of alternatives, and that a variety of solutions will be required for a variety of situations. Further, that these situations are not static, but change over time, one influence being campaigning.

As for the once and for all resolution, I think you will find there is are a few LCC activists who will support you and have been pushing this agenda for well over ten years or more. LCC was looking for a new chief executive...

Mark said...

New Chief Exec at LCC? Now THERE'S an idea!!!!

christhebull said...

re: Vehicular cycling - it should be regarded as a riding strategy for the individual, not an organisational strategy for the development of cycling.

I rode in London today for the first time, and the best way of riding was, typically, as a motorcyclist would - don't hug the kerb, and filter around the outside, not the inside [regardless of how ASLs are marked out]. I would not object to proper cycle lanes where I do not have to move out for buses etc, but unfortunately that is beyond the imagination of TfL engineers and our politicians, and so, whenever I use a bus or cycle lane, I am anticipating when I will next move out...

dining room tables said...

Cycling is one of the great ideas to travel anywhere. Cycling is an economical way to enjoy and travel a wonderful place. It is big help for our body and also for our mother earth.

Mark said...


Absolutely agree; vehicular cycling is a means to an end for getting around safely and successfully in our current road environment, not an aspirational target for cycling campaigners.

Buffalo Bill said...

Hi Mark,

just one thing I wonder about in your post was the statement:

"The only place in the country that has turned this statistic around to any extent is, of course, central London which has decreased the number of cars on its roads through the introduction of the Congestion Charge. The decrease in cars lead to an increase in cyclists, a relationship that is nearly impossible to replicate elsewhere with such a large increase in cars in Great Britain."

Apart from wondering about the numbers for places like Oxford, Cambridge & York, I think I would want to see some numbers for C. London. My recollection is that Hackney has the highest numbers for cycling, and most of Hackney is outside the Con Charge zone.

I also have a problem with this statement:

"The British are not really so afraid to actually get on their bikes and ride, nor are they fearful of the weather or finding somewhere to park their bike at the end of their journey (though all these things, of course, are contributory factors) The primary reason why most people in the UK do not cycle even though they can and it makes sound economic and health sense to do so, is because in order to cycle on the roads here you have to do so in spite of the prevailing road conditions and not because of them."

On what evidence is this proposition based?

lilucycleadventures said...

Great debate. I agree, cycle advocates must be committed to segregated cycle paths, but not just in London - nationally. We must force policy-makers to think longer than political terms and consider the long-term public health costs of not investing in segregated cycle paths across Britain. Let’s talk about money, because cyclist win the money debate.

Classic chicken or the egg: bike or path? Which should come first? In London, people never say: “Wow, you own a bike? That’s amazing.” Instead they say: “You ride a bike in London? You’re insane. It’s so dangerous.”

Sure, the new bikes are going to help commuters from the outskirts of London on trains/tubes, from where it’s near impossible to smuggle in a bike during peak hours. But cycling on roads from Hackney to my office in Bedford Sq is a death trap.

The experience. As a daily cycle commuter in DC and London, I now live in Amsterdam and the difference segregated cycle paths create is palpable. Creating space to cycle safely alters everything about the experience. Segregated paths normalise the experience for the mainstream population. In Amsterdam, it’s not just the insane or the athletes out on their bikes. Two older women are cycling side by side, a girl is on her mobile, some guy is carrying luggage from Central station. The experience is like walking.

In Amsterdam, people do not associate cycling with fear. In London, cycling is a stressed frenzy of strategising for the next light and frantically glancing back to see how close you are to being hit by a bus. More bikes on the London roads are not going to change that experience.

You must create a safe space to alter that experience and normalise cycling in London for the mainstream. Cycle advocates are supposed to be voicing the ideal, not compromising from the outset. Cycle advocates and policy-makers, please consider the big picture and prioritise segregated cycle paths in the national agenda.

The big picture is about choosing where the UK spends money. According to the Faculty of Public Health “The cost of obesity to the nation is around one billion pounds”. Everyone always adds in “oh, and cycling is healthy, too”. Cycle advocacy groups should be more closely aligned with public health advocates that are working towards the same objectives, that have evidenced based reports and recommendations on why policy-makers should be making room for cycle paths.

Investing in a safe cycling experience though segregated cycle paths would cut significantly into the long-term national cost of obesity, heart disease, stroke, cancer and mental ill-health. Let's look for a integrated public health solution.

Long-term. The public health costs must be part of this debate, if money is the excuse for not creating segregated cycle paths. No matter how many bikes there are, mainstream London is not going to cycle down Edgware Rd because it’s a stressful experience dodging cars and buses.

Branko Collin said...

I tried to get a feel for what the English situation is like by looking up a similar sized English town as Assen and see how they do things there.

Guildford is the same size, but did not seem to be part of Google Street View. Torquay is more like my city of birth Venlo than Assen, in that it regularly has more visitors than citizens, and it has some hills that may come into play for cyclists. Stafford though seemed to fit the bill. Like Assen it is in the boonies, and it has the same flower shape where the sub-urbs are like petals surrounding the old city centre.

I noticed a couple of things:

- Iron railings separating the sidewalk from the road. I have seen this in photos of other English cities as well, and it always reminds of what Monte Carlo looks like. During the Grand Prix, that is, as seen from a Formula 1 race driver's car. How common are these, and why do you use them?

In the Netherlands you sometimes see similar railings, usually when a tram stop is located in the middle of the road (presumably to avoid people taking risks to catch a tram), and near elementary schools (presumably to avoid kids running into the road).

- Everything is asphalt. If you look at the Assen Street View, often the only thing that is asphalt is the bicycle path, with the road being made of brick and the pavement of tiles. Asphalt suggests "high volume through road" to me.

- The Stafford quality of road maintenance seems on the whole a little lower than Assen's. That may just be down to differences in budget. Any ideas?

The impression the Stafford roads give me is that they are 'optimized' for three ton trucks. I have no idea of course if that is the impression the English themselves also have,and in the end that is what counts.

Stafford seems to have tried to create a livable environment. The city centre has a nice boulevard along the river (for cyclists and pedestrians only), it has pedestrian streets with nice boutiques, it has separated two-way bike paths connecting neighbourhoods, it has got a Stafford Borough Cycling Working Group with a plan, it's got a second hand bike store (Back2Bikes) where they sell very nice city bikes for half the going rate of Amsterdam (and they have got a blog too!), and so on.

But it also has, for instance, a cyclist dismount sign on Silkmore Lane, one of the through roads. Why? Because that is where the driveway of a unused yard connects to the road. (Perhaps that is a temporary sign: the Google sattelite view shows that the Midlands Co-op supermarket next door was only recently built.)

Sorry for the ramble. Perhaps you can use the observations of this Dutchman to help determine what we find remarkable about the way you design your roads.

Mark said...

Hi @BrankoCollin, thanks for taking the time to compare a typical UK street with one in Holland. Without going in to too much detail I think you hit the nail on the head when you said "The impression the Stafford roads give me is that they are 'optimized' for three ton trucks." We do have very different streets indeed; ours are nearly always made of tarmac / asphalt and the metal railings used to coral pedestrians are very common (although a lot are being removed in central London due to the danger they pose to cyclists as a 'trap' space'.)

Road maintenance is quite a problem in certain areas; it's complicated in that different roads are maintained by different authorities depending both on where the road is in the country and also how large it is. As a consequence you do get a lot of variance.

The cyclist dismount signs you mention are common. This is a real sticking point against the construction of decent cycle infrastructure in the country. Because a lot of the stuff that has been built so far has been utterly awful a lot of cyclists are nervous of campaigning for the kind of infrastructure you guys have in case we get stuck with what we have had in the past. I can understand this totally, but it's not going to bring about mass cycling any time soon.

All the best, and thanks for stopping by!

sheffield cycle chic said...

That is a very well though out and perceptive post, Mark. I've been thinking about this for some time (years in fact) I have some fledgling ideas. If you are seriously interested in doing something about this please email me at ogelblocks dash cycle at yahoo dot co dot uk

Chris said...

Mark, great post.

The problem with the 3 main cycling organisations in the UK is one of independence. Most of the projects they run are, essentially, funded by the government. Hearing 'No' to a campaign policy runs the risk of seriously rocking the boat, which has consequences: projects get cut, people lose their jobs.

And here's the other problem - by and large they represent the views of their membership (or at least the active membership). CTC and LCC membership are exactly the groups of people (out of the UK population) that campaign organisations should NOT be representing! If modal share is to be improved in any significant way they should be representing people that do not cycle, cycle rarely, or cycle just for leisure. These people, by and large, are afraid to cycle because of the road conditions*. SUSTRANS and Cycling England probably come closest to this aim. But again, they are seriously hamstrung because of a lack of independence.

What we need is a properly funded Cycling Think Tank, employing some seriously hard-arse lobbyists. It should be responsible for campaigning only, and should not run/deliver any projects. It's primary motivation should be driven by improving modal share for cycling. It will take serious money. These things are usually funded by industry (using the car/medical industries as examples). The cycling industry should be motivated by improved modal share, making it a natural backer. Unless, of course, someone out there has an uncle with plenty of spare cash, and a motivation to improve our urban environment for future generations? ;-)

* Some recent stats from Scotland: 42% of people stated the biggest deterrent to cycling was Danger from traffic, not enough road space and lack of good routes. The next deterrent was the weather at 26%. 77% of cyclists thought off-road routes would encourage them to cycle more. 61% of non-cyclists thought the same.

Philip Loy said...

Chris, your point about representing wider society in cycling organisations is exactly right but I cannot let you get away with the implication. London Cycling Campaign has always participated in all manner of events to attract and encourage more people to take up cycling and be involved in whatever way with the LCC, be it public festivities or its own events such as rides, which are open to all. The discussion forums are also open to all as this enriches any discussion and gets people involved even if they are not 'activists' or members.

Your suggestion about a 'think tank' is interesting and I would emphasise your point that it needs to be about lobbying, not about cycle implementation per se, of which there is a wealth of information both in the UK and internationally (indeed that's what Cycling England is about).

Vast sums of money would be nice but need not be an issue. Ingenious thinking about how to present ideas (value for money, return on investment, reduction in health costs, etc), coupled with good old-fashioned campaigning - the sort that you see with CTC and LCC - can I feel be very effective.

Chris said...

Philip, you know as well as I do that LCC, and the others, have purposely not campaigned for infrastructure along the Dutch model because it's deemed too controversial. Read Koy's articles in the LCC mag, it's very clear indeed.

Going on about the good works that these organisations do for school children, disabilities, women and SkyRides etc is completely irrelevant, and avoids the discussion at hand. If you want to talk about that stuff, and avoid the great big enormous elephant, then I think you should return to the forums that you say are so inclusive. Let me be very clear with you though - these organisations DO NOT represent the views of ordinary people when it comes to the reasons for them not cycling.

These organisations are avoiding the very campaign the survey data tells them they should be campaigning for. Why is that? Are they afraid of losing a little face? Losing a little money perhaps?

I'll accept you may be getting a little bored by my rant, but this next bit you should really pay attention to: These organisations are sending kids on Bike-It and Bikeabilty courses, whilst, practically, not saying a damn word about segregated infrastructure - it's beyond BELIEF! Don't believe me? The recent cycling story about the Schonrock’s in Dulwich, the most important opportunity to talk about segregated infrastructure in years, possibly decades, and what did the CTC have to say? Honestly, I can't bring myself to talk about it, you'll just have to read for yourself:

I mean, honestly Philip, have you ridden out there recently, can you honestly say it's not a stressful experience? You say NO, I don't believe you. You say YES? Then what should our campaigning organisations really focus on?

By the way Philip, you seem like an individual that's clued up, what do you do for a living?

Mark said...

Thanks Chris, and Philip, for continuing this discussion. All your comments have been insightful and constructive - this is of course a debate that *does* need to be had out in the open (I only wish some of our campaigning orgs might read it!)

Philip is rigt; the LCC is especially good at reaching out to women, people with disabilities etc and encouraging them to cycle - thats all super. Indeed, all our campaigning orgs are great at encouraging people to cycle and promoting various schemes to help them do it. I think the problem in hand is that people aren't afraid to try cycling but that when they do they don't like the experience of cycling in our present road environment (remember the stat in my post about how many new bikes had been sold but how the modal share of cycling hadn't increased?) Therefore our campaigns should carry on with the nice stuff - the Skyrides etc - but not at the exclusion of campaigning for the one thing that will truly bring about mass cycling in the UK.

I've said it a 1000 times before and I'll say it again; people who presently cycle do it instead of the current prevailling provisions for cyclists as oppose to them. Until our campaigns tackle this head on (and yes it will be tough and difficult and people will say 'no'), we might as well not bother.

Branko Collin said...

Philip Loy is right about the cost of campaigning: it approaches zero. All it requires is working e-mail skills.

Chris and Sheffield Cycle Chic and others in England might consider getting together (over the internet) to campaign for the hidden cyclist. It's just a matter of starting up a mailing list, setting targets, gathering information, and approaching politicians and committees from time to time.

A tip: campaign pro-actively. It is very easy to get bogged down into reacting to things that have already happened, especially since opposing interest groups are so much bigger and have so much more resources. Instead, pick well-defined targets and stick to them.

As long as you are loud, policy will start shifting your way, if only because other, nearby voices will suddenly sound less radical.

Chris said...

Branko, Philip Loy is not right. If you think, in general, that the cost of running a campaign (even of the half arsed kind) approaches zero, then I fear you've never actually participated in any kind of successful campaign.

What is this thread discussing? The discussion is about where our limited campaign resources should be focused.

I acknowledge, and accept, that email/web is free. But lets not kid ourselves here, the only thing that would be free about doing a proper campaign of the nature we're talking about is this very blog - you're looking at it! Starting the fire is free. Keeping the fire fuelled and angry, definitely not!

You know, not all of us are born to campaign. Personally, I have no intention of getting involved in a campaign. But you know what, that's why I join LCC, CTC, British Cycling, and regularly contribute to SUSTRANS. I don't want to go to meetings- I WANT to be passive. And I will be. For me, I prefer blogs like this.

It's as clear as day to me - if LCC and CTC continue to ignore the comments provided on this blog, they will sadly achieve the modal share they deserve. I don't need to go to any patronising (and, frankly, ignorant) committee meetings to communicate my point - I can get my point across quite adequately here.

Look at it from a different perspective. There are very few people in this country saying anything significant in the modal share stakes (both pro and anti dutch model). Of the few, one of them doesn't even live in this country! Now, what does that say?

Freewheeler, Hembrow, Mark - I salute you.

Philip Loy said...

Hey hang on chaps I never said cycle campaign costs zero! Just that whatever resources are available can be used imaginatively. Lord knows that's what is needed right now with Cycling England under threat.

Chris, afraid I don't have the entire back catalogue of London Cyclist to hand, but I re-read Koy's editorial in the last two mags and I see a very sophisticated understanding of how to influence and bring about change, and moreover an understanding that the work doesn't stop until the true results are seen: ordinary people on bikes. It's there for all to see. Do we read the same words but see different worlds? To be fair, I may be more involved with the work of LCC.

Going on about the 'good works' is entirely relevant and probably the only realistic way of achieving the objective you so vehemently aspire to. Trying to campaign for segregated facilities with all the political and technical upheavals that implies will not be easy. It will be even more difficult when there's no cyclists around to justify them; saying they will come will seem like pie in the sky to the powers that be that have democratic accountability and the glare of the media. Elephant? Yes, they see a huge white elephant in the room. How are you going to persuade them?

You ask about my riding experience. I ride every day, and no it's not stressful but it is indeed punctuated occasionally with the odd act of aggression. Anyway you won't believe me. Do we ride the same streets but inhabit different universes? But I do agree with you: by your own reasoning what I think doesn't matter, it's the perceptions of 'ordinary people' who don't cycle that do, which I entirely accept.

Have you ever dealt with boroughs, TfL, GLA, politicians, engineers, cyclists, the general public? Have you ever campaigned for cycle facilities of any sort? Have you ever been involved with campaigning? Have you actually experienced the hurdles that have to be overcome to implement anything? Have do you ever dealt with opposition? Have you ever had to negotiate something that might be acceptable as a compromise? Have you ever had to think about what strategies should be adopted to accept the interim solution now with an eye on the optimum solution in the future? Over a decade or so this is what I've had to do, and that's just my voluntary time. My 'living' is also cycling related since you ask, as I work for the transport consultancy Colin Buchanan as a Cycling Consultant.

On the Schonrocks story, well, to be fair to CTC, to have talked about changing the roads to make cyclists safer would have played into the hands of those at the school that were trying to get cycling banned. Whilst I agree with you the perceptions of wider society should be addressed by making the roads safer, perceptions also tend to exaggerate the dangers. That's not to belittle people with anxieties about cycling on the road - they have genuine concerns which should be addressed. But the Dulwich story seems to be a clear cut case where the nature of cycling was clearly misunderstood. The parents had a right to determine how safe their children were.

So, just to be clear, I think we're in agreement about the longer term aim. It's just that to actually acheive it is painstaking and long-term. You don't want to be a campaigner and that's fine, but before you criticise those that are remember there's a little more to the story.

Best regards

Chris said...

Philip: this thread could go on forever.

My point is, we'll never agree on the approach, because LCC/CTC et al are virtually incapable of standing arms length due to the perceived risks of rocking the boat. 'Rocking the boat' equals cuts to projects. 'Rocking the boat' equals loss of perceived influence. And worst of all: they have no conviction when it comes to infrastructure along the Dutch Model.

It boils down to this - if you had to choose a campaign: Dutch Model Infrastructure vs I don't know, encouraging Skyrides, what would you choose? Philip and I would arrive at different answers.

Cycle campaigning really is as simple as that. It's not like we're in a position where we're defending a campaign budget that's equivalent in value to the crown jewels. We have to decide as a group the one or two things that are important, and really focus on them. Clearly our leading organisations have got it wrong by spreading themselves way too thin.

I'm not saying the Dutch model is perfect, but it does come with credibility - there's a country out there that we can point to that's been (very) successful at it. No other approach measures up to the Dutch success.

Which brings me to the Schonrocks - CTC LCC et al were completely hamstrung by policy. They have nothing credible to say when it comes to 5 year olds cycling to school! They had to watch, while the biggest opportunity to have a national infrastructure debate passed them by. Sad, but true.

And finally, Cycling England. I don't want to appear overly harsh here, because I have to concede, I'm fairly ignorant of their track record. But surely, with CTC, LCC, BC, SUSTRANS and the like, we didn't need another body to administer Bikeability? On the campaign front, they stirred the pot with 'Strict Liability' - but that's all that comes to my mind. It's obviously a shame that 'Cycling' as a group will lose the money, but with little improvement in modal share, I'm not surprised they're on the chopping block.

freewheeler said...

Philip Loy represents the siren voice of business as usual. Yes, the LCC's quiet diplomacy has worked so well over the past 20 years, hasn't it?

'Trying to campaign for segregated facilities' hasn't begun, because the CTC doesn't believe in segregation and the LCC barely has a cycling philosophy at all. If the LCC really believed in 'Trying to campaign for segregated facilities' it could start by, well, suggesting that this was the solution to the current stagnation of cycling, or its development where modal share crawls above the usual 2 per cent. It might even dare to use the term 'segregated infrastructure'. Instead the LCC is dominated by people who think that segregated infrastructure is impossible because London's streets are too narrow, which is rubbish, or that cycling is being held back by billboards advertising cars. This is witchcraft cycle campaigning.

When Philip Loy says that campaigning for segregated facilities is pointless "when there's no cyclists around to justify them" he is echoing one of the excuses of TfL. It's also blatantly contradictory since both the LCC and TfL are keen to claim that cycling is going up and up and up (up by 80 per cent since last Tuesday or whatever the latest frothy statistic might be).

Hackney has the highest modal share in London (8-10 per cent) but absolutely nothing is being done to develop this to 15 per cent or 20 per cent. Hackney is as bad to cycle in as anywhere else in London.

As Philip admits, he is involved with both the LCC and the transport consultancy Colin Buchanan. Top expert Buchanan is the man who says that "In Central London space for such segregated infrastructure is scarce."

Which is garbage. Buchanan is another obstacle to the development of mass cycling in London, just like the rest of the cycling establishment. Cycle campaigning is packed with vested interests which have no interest in acknowledging their catastrophic failure to progress cycling over the past 20 years.

Philip Loy said...

Well as Chris says this could go on forever.

I didn't say campaigning for segregated facilities is pointless, just difficult.

And I didn't say we shouldn't campaign for them just because they are difficult, just that you have to bear in mind that since it is going to be difficult you have to think more strategically about what should be prioritised.

That article represents an innovation in modelling techniques which for the first time included cyclists in traffic modelling, something which had never previously been taken account of before.

The lesson is sometimes you can't always get what you want, or at least get it straight away. It's a fundamental fact of life. Thank god there are people out there, practitioners in all sorts of places, be they local authorities, campaign groups, charities, and yes consultancies, who are actually working on cycling.

freewheeler said...

Look again at Mark's conclusion: "I would like to see a commitment from our three main cycling campaigns that this is what they are aiming for too".

The problem is they are not making this commitment. The CTC and LCC won't articulate it as a desirable goal. Nobody expects it to happen overnight but it will never happen if you aren't even prepared to say this is what you want.

In the meantime, while the talking goes on, highway engineers are re-allocating road space for drivers and for car parking. This is happening in Redbridge and Waltham Forest, which are outer London boroughs where the next great phase of the 'cycling revolution' is supposed to happen. Here the conditions for vehicular cycling are growing worse, not better.

Mark said...

To wrap up this long and fascinating thread (46 comments and counting, phew!), arguments aside as to how difficult or achievable building segregated facilities actually are, Freewheeler is right in pinpointing my analysis, that is to say "I would like to see a commitment from our three main cycling campaigns that this is what they are aiming for too" [in addittion to what they do already]

At the moment, none of them are prepared to do this.

This, I think, is what needs to be rectified.

Jim said...

Of course Dutch style segregation would work. I don't think anyone disputes that. The trouble is that Dutch style segregation simply cannot be built in the UK - even in Cambridge, the cycle paths being constructed are feeble in comparison, despite dollops of cash and the political will that comes with 25% cycle to work share and a powerful local campaign group.

How do you get Dutch-style facilities? Several people who have already commented think that it requires the main campaigning organisations to call for it.

Those people clearly have no experience of what campaigning on cycling issues is like at the grassroots. They've never had to comment on plans sent by a careless, disinterested engineer who proposes yet another pavement conversion cycle track, yielding at every junction, fiddling past street furniture and railings.

You sit here carping on the internet and clearly never lifting a finger to do anything which would expose you to the realities of what campaigning is like in Britain - the pure idiocy of council officials who couldn't give a shit about cycling and who cannot lift a finger to reduce car traffic.

Over £10 million quid each was spent on the "Supershiteways" in London and much of that went on partially a repairing a road surface destroyed by ridiculous double-decker buses and lorries decades of under-investment. Why were they so bad? Because TfL refused to allow the removal of any roadspace. You can't pretend LCC didn't oppose them. CTC also voiced their discontent.

Mark said...

Hi Jim, I want to address some of your points in your comment on the National Travel Survey because I do not believe they stand up to scrutiny.

If you stand back and read my post again you'll see that I state quite clearly that it won't be easy to campaign for Dutch style facilities (which emphatically *are* possible to build here; we've done it already in a few places in London), however it *is* important that the national campaigns at least admit in public that eventually, somehow, someday this is what they are aiming for. Sadly, at the moment, this is not the case, with the CTC in particular being especially opposed to segregated routes. If they don't want to do that, fine, but then come out loud and proud and say 'we don't think segregation will lead to mass cycling in the UK and we adopt vehicular cycling as a campaigning tool' instead. A little bit of honesty all round wouldn't go amiss.

As to 'carping' on the internet; firstly, as you can see, this isn't exactly an idle forum - there are many visitors to this website who have contributed comments; both from everyday and ordinary 'cyclists' right up to people who spend their professional lives working on road design, cycle campaigns and all the rest in between. To say that these people "clearly have no experience of what campaigning on cycling issues is like at the grassroots" is not only a massively misinformed assumption it is, quite frankly, rather rude. Are you sure I haven't sat through hours of planning meetings, Jim?

As for the Cycle Superhighways, if you look closely at the budget a lot of the money also went on free cycle training, signage, cycle parking, marketing. To say that all the cash went on re-surfacing roads would be untrue. As for the LCC; they were involved in the consultation for the first 2 pilot routes and expressed strong concern that they were being rushed through. The CTC happily pointed out some of the more obvious design flaws; again to say that they opposed them outright would be an untruth.

To this point, Jim, this debate about the National Travel Survey (47 comments and counting) has been articulate, respectful of individuals and well-measured. Might I suggest you re-read your post, think about the tone you come here with and take a deep breath before writing again? As I say in the comments box introduction "Discourse is good - just keep it civil"


freewheeler said...

“Those people clearly have no experience of what campaigning on cycling issues is like at the grassroots” says Jim.

Well Jim I’ve stood in the streets with petitions, I’ve written hundreds of letters, I’ve had innumerable meetings with councillors and highway engineers, I’ve contributed to planning documents, I’ve spoken to transport committees, and I’ve used the usual channels in every possible way. So I can do without being patronised by you and others who have contributed to this post. Quite possibly Mark can say the same.

When the Greater London Assembly did a consultation on parking controls I made the effort to respond, because I believe in taking a holistic approach to cycling and I am keen to see more parking restraint and the liberation of road space for cycling. The London Cycling Campaign with all its paid staff couldn’t even be bothered to respond, unlike petrolhead organisations like the Association of British Drivers, who take such consultations very seriously.

I have no idea how much or how little campaigning Mark has done but it’s irrelevant to his arguments. The simple point is that neither the CTC nor the LCC are prepared to acknowledge that Dutch-style infrastructure is the only way you are ever going to get mass cycling in Britain. Both organisations need to make this their number one priority in campaigning. It doesn’t mean they have to stop doing all the other stuff, but it does mean they need to have a very clear vision of what works and to what end their campaigning is directed.

Both the CTC and LCC remain committed to the doomed strategy of trying to ameliorate the conditions of vehicular cycling. Take a look at the LCC’s pitifully impoverished notion of what “Redesigning our streets for cycling” involves. The LCC is quite unequivocal that it believes the city’s roads should be made safer and shared by motorists and cyclists.

hope chests said...

This is one of the best posts I have ever seen this week. I read that article and I find it very informative. I had a great time reading it. Great post.

crossrider said...

Good debate, although I think we need new ideas on how to solve the problem. A few thoughts.
1. Catalyzing change in any organization is extraordinarily difficult. I don't believe that LCC/CTC will change its priorities in the short/medium term.
2. LCC/CTC, as has been noted by others, are part of the establishment. They rely on government access and funding for a lot of their work so can't rock the boat too much.
For both of the above reasons, I think we need a new organization to campaign for segregated infrastructure. It could be an existing organization like Living Streets or Campaign for Better Transport, or a joint venture involving a number of existing organizations, or something entirely new.

I think it is fine to have 'Dutch infrastructure' as a ideal long-term vision, but the problem to be solved is how we get there. Not enough of the population share that vision, so politically the time isn't right to push a wholesale reallocation of roadspace away from parking and motor traffic. In terms of making progress, hoping for Dutch infrastructure in the UK is as futile as hoping vehicular cycling will ever work.
However, I think there is a third way. You have to start with approaches that are politically realistic - that make sense to the majority of ordinary people. Approaches need to solve problems that ordinary people understand, such as congestion, rat-running and child safety, and solve them in a way that doesn't threaten car-dominated lifestyles too much. For example, I believe it would be possible to build support for safe, segregated routes to schools, and to engineer residential areas so that the traffic is strictly limited to residents and their legitimate visitors, with effective traffic calming. With enough such schemes, you have the start of a segregated or low-traffic cycle network. It won't be ideal, and most of the road system will still be motor-dominated, but you have a number of segregated routes for people who want to cycle away from traffic.

JohnBaldy said...


I really want to cycle into central London and back out to the suburbs each day once again - but since having children I can't justify the risk - so have not done so for 10 years.

Modal apartheid now!

Philip Loy said...

Crossrider your suggestions are fine but risk re-inventing the whole goddam wheel all over again. A new organisation will simply encounter the same historical development that any campaign goes through: radical phase in the beginning, then consolidation and gradual professionalisation, then the "collaborationist" phase (to coin the beloved phrase of people above). Mind you, two organisations could be in different phases I suppose and represent a good cop/ bad cop approach. Your third way is quite right but again this exactly what several LCC groups are pursuing. It was first formulated (I think) by the Hackney LCC group in 1998, so here's an idea 12 years in the making:
Is there anything really new, or do things come around in a slightly different way?

freewheeler said...

That's right, Philip - an idea in the making which Hackney council regards with contempt. Check out the obstacles to permeability in Hackney shown here.

Hackney is a borough which is poisonously hostile to walking and cycling, and where the car is number one.

The Hackney branch of the LCC is an obstacle to mass cycling because it is doggedly committed to making vehicular cycling a bit better. Permeability is vital but only on the Dutch model, not the rubbish alternative of the kind to be seen in Hackney and all over Greater London.

Cycling is stagnating in Hackney and the reason for that is precisely because the LCC and its local branches are collaborationist in outlook, desperately trying to make their failed vehicular cycling strategy work.

Hackney is a failed borough for cycling, despite the absurd and exaggerated claims which are often made about it.

Take a look at the latest TfL figures. They show that for "Londoners’ trips by borough of origin: Trips per day and shares by main
mode, 2006/07 to 2008/09 average, Seven-day week" cycling's modal share in Hackney is 3 per cent.

All the years of activity by Hackney cycling campaigners have signally failed to deliver, and the reason is precisely because these campaigners have no interest in what works - the Dutch model.

Anonymous said...

An exaggerated and simplified example to why good infrastructure is needed:

You have cycling share of 1%. Those who cycle now are the lunatics, insane people who like dodging cars. There are no more lunatics, so you are stuck at 1%.

There are sane people who want to cycle, but not on the roads as they are now. They do not feel safe. Helmet marketing or PR stunts is not going to make them feel safe.

You want cycling share to rise to 10%, by getting 9% of sane people to start cycling. So you must build facilities that those 9% need to feel safe, not what the lunatics can get by.

It's that simple, isn't it?

Now, will that get them do something about it, or will they just launch another plan to double cycling in five years?

David Hembrow said...

I came back here, after months, from today's post by Freewheeler.

I'd not read Anonymous' post about "lunatics" before, but I'd like to say that he/she is exactly right. It really is exactly as simple as that.

You have to make conditions such that they attract people to cycling.

JohnBaldy's post about how he "can't justify the risk" also hits the nail on the head. These are the reasons why even people who would like to cycle don't do so in the UK as it looks right now.