Why I'm riding to Parliament next Wednesday!

With a huge thanks to Anna at Pineapple Bikes for the amazing inspiration!

Next Wednesday many of you are joining us on the Mall at 6.15 for our ride around Parliament to make sure that cyclist's voices are heard - the next day MPs will be holding the biggest debate on cycle safety for 16 years - we want to make sure they get the message right.

Why do I care? Why am I prepared to take to the streets?

Because this....
...is one of my bikes.  It gives me ENORMOUS pleasure.  It's huge fun to use, it gets me to work quickly, it saves me money, it helps keep the air clean, it is quiet and easy to park.  Every time I ride it one of you has a better chance of getting a seat on the tube.

But!  Because I ride that bike, and this bike...
...and sometimes one of these bikes...
...sometimes I feel like this:

You see, even though riding a bike is as easy as, well, riding a bike, we seem to have made it super complicated.  We all get dressed up in body armour just to survive our rides to work, and end up looking a bit like this..
Maybe if conditions were right for cycling, and the Government did a lot more to create conditions which were inviting for cycling for all, we'd all be a lot less like this...
...and a hell of a lot more like this...
...or this..
...or even this...
..just imagine that!
As the Government goes in to debate cycle safety, I'd urge all our elected representatives to take it really seriously, and to dump what has been till now a paucity of imagination when it comes to cycle safety.

What we don't need is more of wasted space like this...
..or having to "keep our wits about us" like this (eek! I didn't pack spare trousers today!)..
...and as someone who pays really quite a lot of tax I'd really appreciate it if you'd stop building this sort of thing...
Advanced stop line
...because I'm just not ready to believe in the magical powers of paint just yet, and I'd like it even more if you'd stop building things like this...
Lambeth bridge cycle lane 2
(I mean, come on, really?!)  And what we certainly don't need is a recommendation that cyclists dress more like this:
..when, let's face it, every one likes it much much more when all the cyclists look like this...
She's from Copenhagen, in Denmark, which is just an hour away over the water from here, where they have cycle paths that look like this:
It's shocking, I know.  I'd like to see lots more of this! And this..
...and this...
...in fact, those last two images are from London, so I KNOW we can do it we really try!  Then, cyclists like me can stop having to get distraught by the side of the road going to things like this..
...and doing wild, angry things like this...
...and we can all get on with being a little bit more like this:

What's not to like, eh?  Please, Parliament, spend the money, build the infrastructure and let's move on from the hi vis, helmets and training "solutions".

Help to focus Parliament's mind - join us on the Duke of York steps at 6.15PM next Wednesday the 22nd February for our ride to the Houses of Parliament in advance of the biggest debate on cycle safety in 16 years.  For full details, see here.

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euan said...

Nice post. But most of the nice cycling pictures you show are not on segregated cycle lanes. I think its detrimental to focus on segregation as the single solution - it confuses the issues.

ibikelondon said...

Hi euan,

I'm not focusing on segregation as a single issue. What I want is high quality cycle lanes where they're needed, permeability, 20mph and home zones on different types of back streets and residential streets. All those treatments are shown here in these pictures, and mentioned in the LCC's "Go Dutch" principals.

What I don't want to see is some kind of compulsion towards more helmets and high vis and training as if that would bring about significantly higher cyclcing rates and increased cycle safety - it simply wont.

For now we don't need to get in too much detail, we just need to convince our powers that be to "step up".

It would be great if you could join us in either writing to your MP or joining us next Wednesday!


Anonymous said...

Great stuff Mark. Please keep up the quantity and quality of your campaigning. My 2 boys are under 3, I don't think it should be 'crazy' for them to cycle to school when when they're 10.
See you on Wednesday.

Kim said...

Well they say a picture paints a 1,000 words, your post is very eloquent on the need for change. As you show the solution is to learn from place where cycling as transport works, rather than simply repeating the mistakes of the past.

Anonymous said...

Hi - is there a Facebook event to promote this? Thanks Samuel

Mark S said...

Very well put, I was riding back across town on Wednesday from Finsbury Circus to Whitechapel and couldn't believe something I saw..An older man out with 2 children on their bikes navigating the Houndsditch one-way system! I know this shouldn't be a shock but I have to admit my first thoughts (as a father) where "Your brave".

That I think pretty much sums up why I will be attending on Wednesday, children cycling around our city shouldn't be the exception.

Teena Vallerine said...

Love it!

Monchberter said...

Great way of demonstrating a few key points.

Cycle safety isn't about paint, or lanes, or reflective clothing. It's about attitude, mainly respect.

When all talk seems to be heading in the direction of 'segregation', what does that tell you about attitudes?

ibikelondon said...


I agree that attitude on all sides is so important, or rather perhaps mutual respect and an understanding that we are all humans. It's for that reason that I think design is so important in our streetscape; building to a human scale and prioritising people on foot and on bike. However, we can also use design to build high quality segregated cycle paths where they are needed; ie on large fast and busy roads which don't operate to a human scale and are all about throughput of motor vehicles. You might be interested in my previous post on the human scale in the city:

Monchberter said...

@ ibikelondon

I've been following your blog and enjoyed that particular post.

Why I get so exorcised about attitudes is that the root cause of most issues that we face with cycling, in particular the way other road uses perceive cycling has been strongly linked to attitude.

Namely lack of respect for cyclists and fear of cycling in two major reports over the past decade from the Transport Research Laboratory in 2001 and again in 2010 by the Department of Transport. That little has changed over ten years tells me that the problem is very deep rooted.

http://www.trl.co.uk/online_store/reports_publications/trl_reports/cat_road_user_safety/report_drivers_perceptions_of_cyclists.htm (Well worth a read)


ibikelondon said...

I know both the reports you link to - the second one by the DfT is especially gloomy and terrifying in equal measure.

The lack of respect for cycling and indeed cyclists is deeply ingrained; that we've not had a serious debate in Government for 16 years about what to do for cyclists - as oppose to about cyclists - tells us everything we need to know.

The problem with the lack of respect is that it leads in turn to fear of cycling as well. That fear is a massively contributory factor in putting people off riding all together. I think, but it is just my opinion, that fixing the situation on the big roads will give lots of people confidence to tackle the smaller roads themselves, especially as there should be a lot more cyclists about. Whatever we decide to campaign for, we are at a bit of a "chicken and egg" situation.

Monchberter said...

@ ibikelondon

I do think it's important to raise the respect issue though as the measures the Times campaign seem to be pushing don't seem to be aware of the impact, this by extension seems to be the default response of parliamentarians.

Perhaps they need to be sent these reports to better inform the debate. What worries me is an uninformed spate of policy making that effectively pushes all the onus back on those who cycle or focuses on an infrastructure solution and doesn't ask motorists and other road users (but MOSTLY motorists to perhaps tackle their own pre / misconceptions.

ibikelondon said...

@Samuel Is there a Facebook event for this event? Yes, there is now!


Thanks for the idea!

Freddie said...

Good post, but you do seem to focus on the not wearing lycra a bit, as if that's the fault of the infrastructure. I wear cycling gear on my commute as it's a long way and I get sweaty, not because of the danger. I don't bother if I'm popping down the shops or to the pub or whatever.

I wear a helmet because of the danger, although don't usually bother on the short journeys I make on Boris bikes.

ibikelondon said...

Hey Freddie, thanks for your comment. I don't mind what people choose to wear on an individual level; everyone is welcome to wear as much or indeed as little(!) as they like in my books.

When I talk about high vis and helmets I'm not concerned about people's individual choice, rather more I am concerned when these are singled out as sticking plaster solutions and ideas for making the safety of cyclists better. I just don't believe it works. Bringing about mass cycling is all about allowing all sorts of people to ride a bike - not just the fast and the fit but old people, people with kids etc. They're not going to wear cycling gear and neither should they have to, but they deserve just as much right to stay safe as those of us who are capable of keeping up with the speed of traffic. So in a way, people ride fast and get sweaty because they have to ride fast and hard with the traffic and intensely concentrate. They wear cycling kit as a consequence. Therefore, it kind of *is* all the fault of the infrastructure :o)

Vocus Dwabe said...

In fact only (at a guess) about half of Holland's total road kilometrage is cycle-tracked. Country B-roads mostly make do with a painted-off strip along each side, kerb-segregated tracks being reserved for the faster urban routes where motor traffic is dense enough and fast enough to be a danger to cyclists. Also most Dutch town centres are pedestrianised, with bicycle and foot traffic co-existing perfectly well to the great benefit of local businesses.

I can understand UK cyclists being rather suspicious of segregation, suspecting that on past form any network of cycle tracks would be ill-constructed and poorly maintained, while Mr.Average-Brit Motorist would no doubt take the view that No Cycle Track = Road Barred to Cyclists: effectively the situation that we already have on our A-roads. But believe me as one who lived in the Netherlands, it does make cycling an awful lot more relaxed when you're not having to worry the whole time about motor vehicles.

The corollary of that, however, is that in Holland bicycle traffic all travels at about the same speed of 9-10mph, with very little overtaking. So for many of our UK sport-commuter cyclists the morning 25mph blast in to the office would no longer be possible along cycle tracks barely two bikes wide. Primitive and brutally gladiatorial as conditions are for cyclists in this country, you can't help suspecting that some of them have come to prefer it that way.

Anonymous said...

Inspiring post, and a visual feast to brighten up a dull Friday afternoon!

It should not be necessary to wear any special clothing to do something as simple and joyful as riding a bike.

Paul M said...

@Vocus - I think it is actually about 20% - 28,000km out of 140,000km of roads.

Segregation is neither the first resort in the Netherlands or Denmark, nor is it the last (as it almost is - above only shared-use off-road - in the UK under the "hierarchy of provision"), but the solution adopted for individual roads on the basis of individual assessments of their environment and needs. Roads with high volumes or speeds, or both, of traffic, would be likely to have a segregated track. Roads with low speeds/volumes, eg 30kph limits or residential areas, perhaps would not but might instead have calming measures, or "filtered permeability" - road design which permits pedestrians and cyclists to make straight-line routes between A and B but blocks such access for cars, partly to prevent rat-running and partly to make a car journey longer than a bike journey thus less attractive.

In the City or Westminster for example, both for cyclists' benefit but also to enhance the streetscape and built environment for people who primarily intend just to be there, the solution might be to gate off the street so it can't be used as a through route - free to access for service vehicles etc but nowhere else to go. In principle that rule already applies to the City - streets designated as local access roads are theroretically prohibited for through traffic, but with a few exceptions no physical measures exist to enforce this. Breams Buildings, Cursitor Street, Blackfriars Lane have all in recent years been gated or bollarded, while Gresham St has been temporarily re-opened and is in danger of being so permanently now.

Dr. C said...

I really wish I could be there too Mark, I really hope this gets the sort of turnout it deserves.


I agree the issue of respect is a significant one. As a major cultural issue, I expect that it will take a while to change. This is where changes to the built environment come in; by making cycling a viable and attractive mode of transport for the average person, everyone on the road (even if they still never cycle themselves) will have people in their lives who do. The result is that cyclists go from being seen by them as a vilified out group to people, like the friends or relatives they have who cycle, and empathy kicks in. The result is drivers showing the basic respect for cyclists that they should be showing now, but aren't. The other advantage of infrastructure (including segregation on main roads where needed) is that cyclists are at least protected from the worst of it whilst attitudes are still changing.

Vocus Dwabe said...

@Paul M:

Thank you: I'd no idea it was as low a percentage as that. The cycle-track network over there is just so brilliant that it seems a great deal more than it really is. And so carefully looked-after as well. I've just got in from a trip into town and back along Colchester's one serious bicycles-only cycle track, and the tarmac stretch of it is littered every ten metres or so with bottles smashed for fun by delinquent youths. The worst of it is that it will now lie there until removed by a gradual process of cyclists picking splinters of it up in their tyres. The borough's attitude is "right, we've given you your track: so what more do you want?" Where I lived in Nijmegen the little sweeper machine from the Gemeente did the bike tracks twice a week...

True, the Dutch were a bit more favoured by history than ourselves when it came to putting in cycle tracks because their suburbia didn't really being to spread until the 1900s, half a century after ours, and the roads were deliberately made wide enough for now-vanished tramways. Also the fact of most Dutch towns being fortified until the 1870s meant that when the ramparts were demolished they were left with the spacious boulevards you see around Amsterdam. But I still think there's a great deal more that our traffic planners could do if they really put their minds to it. The only question is, would they be prepared to face down the inevitable howl of rage from the motoring lobby and the Daily Mail? A lot of back-stiffening will be required over the next few years.

Ah, the Daily Mail: the paper that simultaneously sneers at cyclists for wearing silly headgear and scolds them for not wearing silly headgear. ("The cyclist, who was not wearing a helmet, was hit on a level crossing at 125mph by the 8:45 Paddington to Bristol service...")

Schack said...

This post was brilliant, it explained all I wanted to say. Thanks!
Can't wait for wednesday, hope it is gonna be big!

btw - on the second picture from Copenhagen, someone is transporting a tree on their bike. Awesome. I miss the streets of Copenhagen !

Milo said...

Enjoyed the post - articulate and will speak for a lot of people (myself included).

Am looking forward to partaking in the ride next week myself; I cycle over Parliament Square twice a day on my commute to/from work.

Anonymous said...

those painted bike lanes are pretty pathetic...it looks like a child's drawing

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