This post isn’t about cycling as sport, or about leisure rides, club rides, Sunday rides, charity rides…. or any sort of ride where the point and purpose of it is the ride. They all play their part, but not what this is about.
It’s not for “keen cyclists”, special clothes not required, don’t know how to fix a bike? – that’s what bike shops are for. There is no need for speed.
The important thing is people riding their bikes just to get around – to go to the shops, work, the pub – normal everyday stuff. This is the change needed for a better world.
Why doesn’t this happen already?
Around 27% of commuter trips in the Netherlands are made by bike compared to around 2% in the UK. Its tempting to point to NL and say “well they have no hills” or somesuch, but these levels are comparable to UK cycling levels in the mid 20th century, and our hills haven’t changed since then. The big change has been the rise of the private car.
Here is the Albion parking arrangements from the olden days. Count the bikes.
The Cycling Embassy of Great Britain have produced a key policy piece Design principles for mass cycling. The introduction:
The conditions required for mass cycling are well known: people are likely to choose cycling for their journey if they believe their route will be safe, comfortable and convenient.
In practice, this means providing cycling facilities that are separate from walking and driving facilities, and it means designing our urban and rural environments so that cycling is an obvious choice, minimising interactions with motor traffic, wherever people choose to cycle. The focus should be on providing attractive and safe conditions, rather than attempting to mitigate hostile conditions through training, or education, or changes to insurance law.
Reducing the impact of our transport systems – and particularly reducing the impact of private car use – is a crucial part of the work to avoid climate catastrophe. Campaigning for improved conditions, infrastructure and facilities to promote everyday cycling is essential action and part of our shift toward a sustainable and low carbon society.
What needs to happen next
UK cycling facilities have generally been extremely poor, with energy expended on creating facilities which are inconvenient, disjointed and sometimes downright bizarre. Because of this – until now – investment in cycle facilities has not appeared to be matched by a substantial increase in cycling, leading some to claim that such facilities are not wanted or needed.
Here is Lower Thames Street in London being upgraded to form part of the new East West Cycle Superhighway and below is a bit further west on the Embankment that has been completed
It seems that at last we are starting to see high profile examples of cycling infrastructure which actually works – which provides safe, comfortable, direct routes which can be used by anyone wishing to cycle – from 8-80 and covering a wide range of skills and abilities, and will encourage more people to use their bikes for more journeys.
It is all looking rosy? Not for Brighton & Hove (yet). Although our last council administration was very supportive of cycling, and gave us the Lewes Road improvements, the North Laine cycle contraflow scheme, the Edward Street cycle Lanes and the proposals for Valley Gardens, the only scheme which offers more than just paint is on the Old Shoreham Road and the protected lane down Grand Avenue to the seafront. Much more needs to be done.
Our current administration has made promising noises – last November our council voted to become a Space for Cycling City, but we don’t yet know how this statement will translate into real improvements. We need to support a movement in the city to ensure that we start to see high quality, Dutch standard protected cycle infrastructure on our streets, as the only proven way of getting people onto bikes in sufficient number to make a difference. because bike lanes are a climate issue.