The dog that barks the loudest gets the bone; is it time for a cycling lobby?

It's so long, farewell, auf wiedersehen, goodbye to Cycling England which hit the skids last week as part of the coalition Government's so-called 'Bonfire of the Quangos'.  The body had a pitiful cash burn and was practically unknown outside of cycling circles, but did help the Government invest in cycling projects based on expert advice, and was the guardian of the re-badged cycling proficiency test "Bikeability"... 

...Here in London even the cycling campaigns are keen to clamour about 'record levels of investment in cycling in the capital', but recent calculations from the Green Party show that our Mayor, Boris Johnson, is only spending about half of what he says he is stumping up in cash. (ie under spending the cycling budget by as much as 50%)  All of the spin but none of the win for the end users, us cyclists... 

...Meanwhile, over in our highest house the good lords and ladies are bumbling along talking about high vis jackets and helmets as if they were the be all and end all of all things two-wheeled. 

I'd despair if it didn't all make me so angry.


In the case of Cycling England, 'Bikeability' will be brought in-house at the Department of Transport, but it's funding is only guaranteed "till the end of this parliament" (which, considering the uncharted territories of running a country by coalition may well be sooner rather than later).  Meanwhile, funding for cycling projects (if any) will come from a newly devised "Local Sustainable Transport Fund".  That is to say, funding for the things that can really matter the most on the ground - the construction of segregated cycle lanes, bike hubs at train stations, bike stands for kids at schools - will be funded from the same pot as improved bus timetables, schemes to implement charging points for electric cars (of which Transport Secretary Philip 'Hoverboard' Hammond seems particularly keen) and any other scheme that can be spun as 'sustainable'.  The transport minister with portfolio for cycling, Lib Dem Norman Baker said "...there will no longer be a dedicated cycling pot of money, but instead a much broader fund, we feel that Cycling England is not the right way to continue to incentivise and encourage local authorities and others to stimulate cycling."

Cycling is going to be up against some seriously well-organised money-thirsty transport schemes.  Bus firms have them, rail firms have them, car manufacturers practically invented them... is it time cycling got serious about its own lobby?

Until recently perhaps Cycling England's most prescient purpose was as a pyramid head for the disparate and varied stakeholders involved in cycling; it drip-fed up to the DfT the ideas, advice and requests of the CTC, Sustrans, British Cycling, the Cycle Training Standards Board and others.  Now, in a classic 'divide and conquer' manoeuvre by the Government these organisations will be left squabbling and scrabbling for every morsel the DfT may care to throw their way.  Meanwhile, the bus boards, the train operating companies and the electric vehicle manufacturers will be flexing their well-toned lobby muscles.  If the future funding of sustainable transport is to be decided in an arena fashion, cycling will be the first to be thrown to the lions.  Or, if you like, the dog that barks loudest gets the bone.

The UK's cycling organisations, if they don't want to implode upon one another in a fit of survivalism, need to get their act together and unify to see this present funding crisis out.  We need to play the game on the playing field that the Government has chosen to provide us.  Cycle England will be gone by spring 2011 and it won't be coming back.  We need a new national umbrella body of some kind to represent the local, regional and national stakeholders at Whitehall.  At present none of our cycling campaigns are broadly popular or skilled enough to be able to do this alone.  More crucially still we need our retailers to be involved.  The Bicycle Association and the Association of Cycle Traders are pissing in the wind if they think their voices can be heard alone.  But their efforts, combined with that of the likes of the CTC, would double their strength and double their volume and help to put them on a more even footing with the likes of the bus and train companies.  On a public front we have plenty of cycling celebrities to add to our voice - get the likes of Victoria Pendleton and James Cracknell, Dermot O'Leary and even Lord Berkeley on side and the publicity follows.  Run a campaign incorporating all cyclists calling for support for cycling.  Remember the impact the NSPCC's green button 'full stop' campaign against child cruelty had?  Something on that kind of scale injecting a bit of cyclist's pride into the voter demographic will help to secure funding in the future.  So long as cyclists are few and represented by many small voices they'll not get the funding we all know they deserve.  Present them as many and with one loud voice and suddenly the Government will start to listen.  Again, the dog that barks the loudest gets the bone.

Get people involved!  If there's one thing the wider public think of Quangos is that they were London-centric 'jobs for boys like us' type outfits.  We all know that David Cameron has this thing about 'Big Society' so let's make it an opportunity to give him some good news; lobby for investment into a project to train out of work miners from Newport as cycling instructors so they can train their kids or something equally worthy and you'll soon have a happy PM praising you from a pit-head press conference and the funding will soon follow...  As I said, the Government has chosen the playing field, cyclists have to be ready to play on it.


Of course, a question of funding comes in to play here which in these financially difficult times is a tough one to address.  It's all well and good proposing to form a national cycling lobby, but who will pay for it?  Let us think of the ubiquitous coffee chain for a moment.  Those popular coffee shops which you find all over the country start by opening just one cafe, and start selling coffee for £1 a cup.  Of that pound 50p is profit, 25p goes on staff, 10p goes to the coffee farmer and supplier, 10p on overheads and that last 5p goes into a little pot to save up to open the next coffee shop.  When that opens you have double the amount of money going into the 'new shop' pot and so on and so forth until you can open shops all over the country, or even the world.  Of course bicycle retailers can only open so many bike shops.  So long as cycling remains a minority modal share of national journeys there are only so many opportunities to sell bikes.  But instead of putting that 5p towards a new shop, why not put it towards an autonomous organisation that helps to gain funding for cycle paths, money for national cycle networks or mountain biking hubs, secures the provision of cycle parking at stations, trains up the next generation to be efficient and enthusiastic cyclists?  Suddenly you'll have a hell of a lot more cyclists than if you leave things in their current status quo.  And all these new riders need new bikes, new locks, new lights and lovely accessories.  NOW you need to open a new shop, and another, and another... and suddenly you're in a position to badger the Government to drop VAT on new bikes, or give tax breaks to bike manufacturers in the UK (all part of transferring to a carbon neutral economy, remember?).  It puzzles me why this hasn't been proposed or discussed before but if a very small percentage of sales of all new bikes and cycling accessories sold in the UK went directly back into a national cycle lobby focussed on securing funding to grow cycling, surely this would be a self-fulfilling prophecy or funding circle?  Everyone wins, right?

We've had a few days to weep and wail over the loss of Cycling England, and that's only right because they did do some good work after all.  But it was, to be frank, a punitive organisation in the first place which worked extremely hard in return for very little.  Now that it is going there is a very real risk that petty in-fighting will descend upon the cycling advocacy scene here in the UK (which is exactly what the Government would like) but we need now to renew and increase our efforts if we don't want to enter another decade of cycling being out in the wilderness.  We have till March 2011, when Cycling England's mandate runs out.  Bike campaigners, retailers, advocates, lobbyists, riders, manufacturers et al; as Philip Hammond would say "Gentlemen, start your engines!"

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25 comments:

Anonymous said...

Absolutely Mark! We just need someone to organize it and head it all up and whip all our different campaigns and associations in to shape first....

Jen

Carlton Reid said...

Such a fund exists, Mark.

It's the Bike Hub levy fund. Most bike shops and bike suppliers pay into this levy.

It raises hundreds of thousands of pounds each year, with cash going to the Sustrans Bike It school scheme, the Bike Hub iPhone app, BikeHub.co.uk, Bike Week and the New Ideas Fund which was for smaller schemes, such as Darlovelo.

I shall do a story on this levy on BikeBiz.com. It clearly needs more publicity!

Mark said...

Hi Carlton,

Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts re the Bike Hub levy. That's great, but what I was thinking of was an umbrella organisation which could elicit funds from Whitehall and be a representative organisation for all the campaigning groups, retailers etc at Whitehall. (Basically what Cycling England did) We need a big, loud over-arching mouthpiece at Westminster which can trickle-up all the good news cycling stories to Ministers and trickle down all the available funding we can get our paws on. A lobby, essentially. The Bike Hub levy is great, but we're going to need more clout in Government if we're going to face off the stiff competition when it comes to this new 'Local Sustainable Travel Fund'. Perhaps the Bike Hub Levy can grow to become this?

Carlton Reid said...

Such a lobby would cost a lot of money; money the bike world hasn't got.

The reason the roads lobby has so much cash is because it's made up of lots of cash-rich concerns, from aggregates suppliers to car companies and many besides.

Cycling couldn't hope to compete in the money stakes. However, what it can do well at is punching above its weight. This involves good use of PR, local and national.

A pre Bike Hub levy was operational in the 1970s and paid for a PR company. This got Barbara Castle on a Raleigh Shopper, that sort of thing. And this was when the UK bike trade was very much smaller (less than 1 million bikes sold per year).

The Bike Hub levy was created to raise £1m. The Government said the bike industry had to raise this much in order for Sustrans to get the £42.5m which kicked off the lottery funding for the National Cycle Network.

Arguably, this network - and the work of Sustrans - has done an awful lot of good for cycling. Of course, some people oppose Sustrans-style cycle paths and this is where an umbrella lobby group could founder. Where would it stand on roads vs segregated cycle paths? Helmets vs no helmets? Leisure cycling vs utility cycling? Sport vs recreation?

Cycling is one thing to one person; a completely different thing to another. The roads lobby manages to focus on one message but that's a pretty simple message: more asphalt, and now.

What is cycling's message? Can it be boiled down to one simple call?

Mark said...

Thanks for the history lesson, Carlton. Barbara Castle on a Raleigh shopper I would have liked to have seen. A hard core socialist on a bike; is that what John Major meant by "old maids cycling" I wonder? ;-)

Of course cycling is a disparate and varied force - there is no 'one' typical type of cyclist or cycling and it's only right and good that it should be so varied. And of course there are always going to be differences in opinion on the old debates like segregation, helmets etc. But all this is a diversion. Outside of cycling circles most people (including the purse string holders at the DfT) have no idea such a debate even exists, they just have some vague idea that cycling is this minority activity that probably deserves some funding, somewhere, somehow in order to get some PR...

This is why Cycling England was so great at steering the DfT and others in the right direction, and feeding up the common message from disparate groups like CTC and Cycling England. But Cycling England is going, and it wont be coming back. What we will be left with are lots of different groups all hunting for the same small crumbs and in the face of the might of the bus lobby or any other strong, well organised 'sustainable' interest group (and in a fight between the CTC and say Brian Souter I know who will win every time)

So yes there will be hurdles to cross (like resolving our differences re helmets, cycle lanes et al) and of course there is the question of funding, but the alternative is much much worse, surely? We can't just do "nothing", can we?

carlton Reid said...

Best thing would be to lobby for the reinstatement of Cycling England.

You say it's not coming back. Correct. Ish.

DfT is already talking about forming a panel of experts. Durr. It'll be Cycling England but with another name.

Hovverboard Hammond had to be seen to be tough and wanted to abolish a "silly little thing pushing for cycling" but DfT officials don't want to talk to lots of cycling groups they want to talk to one group. The stupid thing is, many of the experts who can deliver a cycling programme for the DfT may very well get other jobs in the meantime, a scandalous loss of expertise, done for ideological, Daily Mail headline reasons.

Mark said...

And that's the scandalous thing in all of this of course, that a well-oiled machine like CE, with it's tiny budget and big results, should be scrapped for purely ideological reasons.

The sounds coming out of the DfT are encouraging, but I still can't help but think that cycling was wounded too easily here and that we have to be on our guard in the future. Of course it's a question of funding but I can't help but think that the bus lobby wouldn't have rolled over so easily...

Perhaps it is too early for this debate, but I still *do* think we need to be prepared for an all-out assault on potential cycling funding. Sure it will be great if the DfT talks directly to our cycling experts (those that are left), but we are still going to be competing with much stronger bodies if, as Normal Norman says, there is no longer a dedicated fund for cycling and we will have to be fighting for scraps from the 'sustainable' pot.

Interesting times ahead indeed.

ian... said...

Mark - your comment that 'cycling was wounded too easily' rang a bell. Considering how efficient Cycling England apparently was, why on earth did they not fight their corner better?

£200k is spare change on a governmental scale so it can hardly be portrayed as expensive.

freewheeler said...

The question is, what would a cycling lobby organisation be lobbying for?
The British cycling establishment seems to me to have no coherent philosophy of cycling at all, other than the failed strategy of trying to ameliorate the conditions of vehicular cycling.

Mark said...

@ian... That's a question I'm not in a position to answer, I don't know why there wasn't greater resistence from within, though I suspect, considerng the idealogical nature of the cuts, that no amount of weeping and wailing would have helped.

@freewheeler I agree that some (maybe even much) cycle advocacy in the UK is toothless and without clear direction. But (and it's a big but) it *is* all we have to work with. In order to try and change something to how you might like it to be you have to be in it in the first place I guess... Either way, this is, of course, all totally hypothetical. I don't think a cycling lobby will materialise and I do believe that we will have different cycling groups and campaigns fighting each other for the same funds within a few months. Just what cycling needs!

Cyclists in the City said...

I'm completely with you on this. I asked around at work today. About a dozen of the people on my floor of 40 cycle to work. Not one of them is a member of the London Cycling Campaign. They don't really understand what it's for. I am a member but I don't really understand what it's trying to do either. It seems to me that what cycling campaigns are about at the moment is about protesting one project here, one project there and usually with no really coherent plan. And then we have a cycling body completely committed to vehicular cycling in the LCC. Have you read the latest responses to letters in London Cyclist magazine? Things like only supporting segregated facilities when speeds and volumes of vehicles are high. Err, most routes in London then? I don't think LCC really knows what a cycle lane should be in London. Or if it does, it can't make it's mind up.

Mark said...

That speaks volumes that of 40 commuter cyclists in your place of work none of them is a member of the LCC (incidentally it is worth beng a member even if only to get the free third party insurance and legal assistance!) I saw that letter in the London Cyclist magazine... more on that later!!

Mark said...

P.S @Cyclists In the City - long overdue but I've finally added your excellent site to my blog roll. Keep up the great work!

Chris said...

Mark, I agree, we need one voice.

BTW: Do you really think Cycling England did a good job? Take Bikeability for instance - have you done the course? If you had, you'd realise that we're teaching our children to Run With The Bulls! It's like telling a rape victim to wear a longer skirt next time - it's a safety scheme designed by the vulnerable for the vulnerable - it completely ignores the Bull (Elephant) in the room.

Now, I'm not saying Bikeabilty is evil - far from it. I use it's techniques everyday (and I'll teach my children the same techniques) - but I don't expect a national body like Cycling England to be teaching children such crap (I'd rather we spent our taxes on something else)

I suggest this: CTC, LCC, Sustrans, British Cycling, Bike Hub levy fund (have I missed one out?) - all relinquish their campaign budgets to form one new organisation - call it, I don't know, Going Dutch (or something).

The only thing that's going to increase cycling from the 1-2% mode share we currently enjoy, is segregated infrastructure, along the Dutch Model.

So lets stop talking about training, bike theft, parking, BLOODY helmets (it's all bollox), and lets focus on one thing. Incidentally, it's the same thing that the car lobby focuses on (as Carlton Reid rightly points out) - ASPHALT! Segregated ASPHALT.

Jim said...

There are a couple of problems with the argument that we should focus on segregation and segregation alone. Firstly, it's *not* the only thing that will raise modal share. It may be the most important, but continental cities with high cycling shares do a lot of other things to encourage cycling too, like providing loads of secure cycle parking, redesigning junctions, introducing cycle-only traffic light phases, enforcing low speed limits and keeping HGV traffic away from cyclists. Second, it is just inherently difficult for a lobby group representing 1 or 2% of road users to secure segregated road space for itself. Road users in general don't identify with us largely because there are so few of us.

Put those two together and there is an argument for a more wide-ranging strategy which raises cycling's modal share by *all* the various means available until we've got the requisite political mass to really push for segregated facilities across the board.

We haven't actually been doing that properly though, and I completely agree that the mainstream cycling groups are not aggressive or unified enough. I'm just concerned that we're not going to get a more unified front if some of us want to focus on a probably doomed strategy to the exclusion of everything else.

iswas said...

My biggest horror came when I realised that many people in these groups actively campaign AGAINST segregated facilities. They clearly no longer have any idea what it is like to be a "normal" person who wants to ride a bike without sharing space with buses and taxis!

This I find particularly true with those who have been cycling in London for many years. What's worse, is that they are often representing the organisations who are campaigning.

A prime example of this is the Tavistock/Torrington cycle path. When I discovered it I was happy to see it and clearly it's extremely popular as it's very well-used. However read the cycling forums and you'd think it was the devil incarnate. Clearly it's not a perfect set-up but to see calls for it to be removed and a return to on-road cycling nearly brings me to tears. Just fix the problems with the path! Don't throw it away!

Most people (they types who aren't members of organisations or posting on forums) are very glad to be separated from the traffic!

Clearly such paths are NOT always safer than the roadway and can be more dangerous in fact (and I'm sure Tavistock fits that description), but we all know that the main driver of safety is the number of cyclists. Increasing perceived safety with segregation is an extremely important part of that.

Basically, while there is no agreement on such fundamentals I can't see how we're going to get anywhere.

Mark said...

Thanks all for your comments - some really interesting ideas there.

I'm going to address some of these ideas one by one:

With respect to giving up all budgets and committing it to a campaign called 'Going Dutch' nice though this would be it's never going to happen. Furthermore neither should it; the likes of British Cycling primarily focus on sports cycling, the mountain bikers on country trails - utility cycling and Dutch-style segregation is not the be all and end all of cycling. What I was proposing, however, is some kind of national body to acknowledge our differences but still be able to work together to secure any and all funding from the Government over the next few years (be that for cycle paths, training or whatever) because that IS going to be an uphill struggle.

@Jim Of course we shouldn't focus on segregation alone. There are genuine problems with cycle parking and theft and the lorry issue of course, however if the LCC, by way of example, had spent as much time, money and effort this year on campaigning outright for some (any!) segregated cycling facilities as much as it had on it's Beat the Thief, No More Lethal Lorries and Where do you want Cycle Parking campaigns they would have risen ten fold in my personal estimation. Of course we can't focus on segregation alone, but any focus at all whatsoever on segregation would be a good starting point, no? As you say, our existing cycle campaigns need to get their houses in order.

@iswas There are, indeed, people involved in our cycling campaigns who are outright hostile to any segregation of cyclists. That's to be expected, we are a diverse bunch and some people are vehicular cyclists and some people aren't... but I would agree with your point that not enough focus has been given to the cycling experience of 'normal' people (ie non-hardcore cyclists) Sure, Tavistock Place has issues, but I'd rather let my Gran cycle there than round the Hammersmith gyratory,,, this is why most cyclists are young men of course. The reason why there are so few of us is because mixing it up with traffic is perceived by the majority to be just too darn dangerous.

So the message I'm getting here, is regardless of whether you are pro or anti segregation as a primary campaigning focus, our cycling campaigns are not doing enough to get their houses in order and punch above their wait on the issues that matter. Considering the nature of my first blog post, essentially saying 'get organised or get trampled' what hope does cycling have over the next few years if our campaigns can't even agree to do this? What can we do to remedy this situation? (preferably something more proactive than just wringing our hands on here, mind!)

Mark

Anonymous said...

Can anyone suggest a candidate with the diplomatic skills to pull this off? They would need to be respected by the 'community' they represent; trusted to listen to disparate views and then, in good faith, to draw their own conclusions and set their own priorities; eloquent; persuasive; persistent; politically neutral(?); adept at building allegiances; mentally tough; independent of the three main NGOs (there is a century of fierce rivalry there); and cheap.

Who would you trust to represent your views on helmets, segregation, sport, leisure, commuting, training, children on bikes, etc.?

Paul.

Jim said...

Mark, you're absolutely right - focusing on cases where segregation would be both effective and straightforward to achieve would be much more effective than either saying it won't work anywhere or campaigning for it everywhere and right now. I'd love to see cyclists identifying tailored solutions for particular stretches of road, as indeed Harrow Cyclists did recently ...

Mark said...

Paul - I'd do it! :o)

Chris said...

@Mark: BC may have different priorities, but they do promote Everyday Cycling quite heavily. So they have at least some crossover with utility cycling organisations. Therefore they should definitely contribute to the pot! They would still be free to lobby for road racing on the open road!

Now, lets get real here. What do you think the cycling 'campaign' budget is in the UK? Combining all the campaign budgets from CTC, LCC, BC, Sustrans, levy fund etc...? 500K? Any other offers?

At 500K (which is probably an overestimate), I think it becomes very clear, very quickly, that we possess very few bullets in the lobbying scheme of things.

So, if you guys think that at 500k this new organisation can be all things to all men - then you're deluded.

I'm not saying parking, theft, potholes, weather etc are not issues - they are, but they become very unimportant when you've only got 3 bullets in the barrel and the opposition is packing a nuclear warhead. Parking, helmets, theft, training - they're all way down the list of obstacles as to why most people don't cycling. Regardless of the actual risks involved, people in this country avoid cycling because the roads are atrocious - cycling daily on UK roads is at best a thoroughly unpleasant and stressful experience - at worst, deadly.

Remember, we have 500k - it's nothing.

We don't live in the 1930s any more - this obsession with the right to ride on the road is archaic (and I'm saying it as a Vehicular Cyclist for over 25 years). Take a look out the window, cars everywhere! We may have won the vehicular battle, but surely we lost the modal war?

Remember, we have 500k - it's nothing.

In general, the challenge for us as cyclists will be to persuade the established powers to relinquish space (usually road space) in favour of cycling and walking, to make it more attractive to walk and cycle. That's what we should focus on, that's our challenge. It won't be easy. In fact, I don't see any progress for at least the next 5-6years. But I think it's important that we put our own house in order now, so that we have a consistent theme going forward.

I'm not saying that this new organisation shouldn't have a view on other issues such as helmets, parking, positive marketing - obviously it should. But it should always be in the context of Dutch Model Infrastructure. There really is only one agenda that we should be pushing.

Remember, we have 500k - it's nothing.

And, BTW, the Dutch Model is not all about segregated tarmac, it's about segregating the modes of vehicular activity as best as possible, thus reducing conflict - it's a conflict reducing technique. The car lobby, in their own little way, have been banging on about this for years. Common ground perhaps?

@Paul: some suggestions: Jeremy Paxman, Will Self, Martin Porter.

Chris said...

@Mark: BC may have different priorities, but they do promote Everyday Cycling. So they have at least some crossover with utility cycling organisations. Therefore they should definitely contribute to the pot! They would still be free to lobby for road racing on the open road!

Now, lets get real here. What do you think the cycling 'campaign' budget is in the UK? Combining all the campaign budgets from CTC, LCC, BC, Sustrans, levy fund etc...? 500K? Any other offers?

At 500K (which is probably an overestimate), I think it becomes very clear, very quickly, that we possess very few bullets in the lobbying scheme of things.

So, if you guys think that at 500k this new organisation can be all things to all men - then you're deluded.

Hard decisions will need to be made.

I'm not saying parking, theft, potholes, weather etc are not issues - they are, but they become very unimportant when you've only got 3 bullets in the barrel and the opposition is packing a nuclear warhead. Parking, helmets, theft, training - they're all way down the list of obstacles as to why most people don't cycling. Regardless of the actual risks involved, people in this country avoid cycling because the roads are atrocious - cycling daily on UK roads is at best a thoroughly unpleasant and stressful experience - at worst, deadly. And, to top it all off, people are not going to give up their cars.

Remember, we have 500k - it's nothing.

We don't live in the 1930s any more - this obsession with the right to ride on the road is archaic (and I'm saying it as a Vehicular Cyclist for over 25 years). Take a look out the window, cars everywhere! We may have won the vehicular battle, but surely we lost the modal war?

Remember, we have 500k - it's nothing.

In general, the challenge for us as cyclists will be to persuade the established powers to relinquish space (usually road space), speed, and priority, in favour of cycling and walking, to make it more attractive to walk and cycle. That's what we should focus on, that's our challenge. It won't be easy. In fact, I don't see much progress for the next few years. But I think it's important that we put our own house in order now, so that we have a consistent theme going forward.

I'm not saying that this new organisation shouldn't have a view on other issues such as helmets, parking, positive marketing - obviously it should. But it should always be in the context of Dutch Model Infrastructure. There really is only one agenda that we should be pushing. Attracting funding for Vehicular Cycling schemes will be a waste of time and taxpayer money - they have no proven track record in improving modal share. It's what the car lobby is saying too.

Remember, we have 500k - it's nothing.

And, BTW, the Dutch Model is not all about segregated tarmac, it's about segregating the modes of vehicular activity as best as possible, thus reducing conflict - it's a conflict reducing technique. The car lobby, in their own little way, have been banging on about this for years. Common ground perhaps?

@Paul: some suggestions: Jeremy Paxman, Will Self, Martin Porter.

sheffield cycle chic said...

Mark - like you my blog has just had its first anniversary and looking through all the photos of people riding their bikes that I have taken it is clear that pavement cycling and riding through pedestrian areas is not a minority activity, but a MAJORITY one. Even the police cyclists ride through the pedestrian areas. I think that tells you everything you need to know about how cyclists regard "sharing the road".

Most cyclists vote with their feet and ignore the various cycling organisations because they don't represent them. I, for one, refuse to join the CTC until they campaign for segregated infrastructure and the local Sheffield organisation Pedal Pushers seems to be just as much under the influence of the "vehicular cycling" ideologues, who were quite happy to report to members that they didn't have any problem with Sheffield axing its cycling budget for next year because so much good work had been done over the last few years. They are clearly mad! Sheffield's cycling infrastructure is better than London's but that's hardly a cause for celebration.

When we talk about cycling being a minority activity, we have to remember that there is a significant chunk of the population that would like to cycle, but are too scared by traffic. The conventional response is that they need educating, but of course they are merely being sensible. There are also a significant number of people who used to cycle but gave up after being knocked off their bikes, again very sensible people. I am constantly meeting people who tell me I'm mad and to be honest I have to agree with them. As someone mentioned earlier there are other ways of increasing modal share, but let's face it they are merely tinkering with percentage points and as far as I'm concerned safe junction design is part of proper infrastructure - you can't have it without!
Segregation is the ONLY way to get MASS cycling.

BTW thanks for reading my email, sorry it was a lot to digest, but I guess it's sinking in now ;-)

Mark said...

Hello Sheffield!

Great to hear from you and apologies for taking so long to get back to you - I have a half witted response to your email sitting in my drafts but it hasn't been until recently that I've been able to really clear my thoughts on this subject. Will send through soon!

Congratulations on the anniversary of your blog, and for sharing your thoughts on on cyclists and cycle campaign groups. More on that subject on the blog tomorrow (27/11/10)

Anonymous said...

@ Chris

Bikeability and cycle training (VC or whatever you want to call it) makes everyone who takes it better cyclists AND better drivers. That's the point. Those children grow into better road users.

You say with respect Bikeability:
"I use it's techniques everyday (and I'll teach my children the same techniques) - but I don't expect a national body like Cycling England to be teaching children such crap"

You think it's crap but you use it every day and teach it to your kids?

People who want to ride in the streets of London as they are now in 2011 benefit massivly from the training and emphatically are not taught to "run with the bulls" unless and untill they want to. You must have seen some really poor training. Even with cycle lanes out the kazoo, at some point on a journey you will mix with cars. These are good skills to have.

Cycle training is not a policy for massed cycling. Experienced riders develop the same strategies in any case.

On a broader note. It took 80 years for cycling to decline to where it is today and it will take a while coming back. Don't blame LCC CTC VC etc. for "failing". It's a long game and they are doing a lot of good. Cycling's fall was linked to petrol/cheap cars and its rise will be the same. There are many drivers for the increase in cyclists in london of late and petrol prices are one of them. Cycle training is part of getting that modal share up above 5%ish where we can start asking for some of the infrastructure you all seem to want.

I train many new cyclists. Very few of them are men in their 20's. It's mainly women who are nervous of traffic. 2 hrs of VC training usually has them riding wherever they want with no problems. Cycling in London is safe and fun.... mostly ;-) No mode is perfect you know....

To be clear, I would love to have some good cycle lanes.... does anyone know where I can score some? No? I'll just have to go back to making new cyclists till there enough of us to demand more road space. No quick fixes i'm afraid. Just keep riding.

-Dr Moohahaha