Friday, 13 July 2012

Building a Cycling Infrastructure in the UK

I spend a lot of time reading cyclists blogs, well, what I call ordinary cyclists, those that cycle for commuting, nipping to the shops, exploring the country etc,.   I don't read the blogs of those that cycle for racing or for what I personally call road running.

So much is discussed about what is needed and what isn't, all contradicting each other, and even our politicians can't agree, and this is why we are getting nowhere fast.

These are the points that I have noticed and my opinions.

1)  Drivers need educating - FALSE! 

Even the Dutch have never tried to educate drivers.  They have simply put obstacles in their way of getting near bikes and totally banned motorists from many roads.  In many other roads motorists are guests for when they need to visit someone in a residential street or they share quiet streets with cyclists but the streets are so well marked with "real" cycle lanes that it's perfectly safe to share.

At junctions motorists most times (not always) have to give way to cyclists.  At traffic lights cyclists have their own set of lights.

In other words the Dutch drivers are no more careful or polite around motorists than in this country. Cyclists have simply been given as much importance as motorists and motorist have been put in their place.

There is simply no way on earth to educate drivers so it's a waste of time discussing it and it just side tracks away from the real issues.

2)  The onus should be put on the motorist to prove a cyclist was in the wrong in any motorist/cyclist accident.  - TRUE!

This is only logical.  The larger, or to be more exact, the most lethal, object whether it be Lorry/Car - Car/Cyclist - Cyclist/Pedestrian - should be counted at fault unless proven otherwise.  Just as the car that hits another car up the backside is always at fault unless proven otherwise. 

3)  Cyclists have as much right to be on the Road as other vehicles - TRUE

But I should imagine pedestrians thought like that before the creation of pavements.  It wasn't many generations ago that apart from large towns and cities there were nothing but dirt tracks where pedestrians shared the roads/tracks with horses and carriages.  Pedestrians had a right to be on the road, and hundreds of them per year were being killed.  Heck!  You should have seen my old home town of Croydon back in my Grandmothers time.

I can only imagine how thrilled they were when pavements came to the country and pedestrians had their own perfectly safe place to walk.  I doubt very much then that pedestrians minded loosing their "right" to walk in the road especially when the faster, noisier, and more smelly cars came along.

Then imagine how it must have been for pedestrians to get their own crossings over busy streets.  Where they had right of way and vehicles were forced to stop for them after years of dodging the horse and carriage and in then later cars as well.

Now imagine cyclists having their own roads.  Roads where vehicles aren't allowed, roads where they aren't going to get a pedestrian jump out in from of them.  Imagine as a cyclist having your own right of way across junctions and traffic lights.  Where the bicycle can travel faster because there are no obstructions, no cars parked where you are entitled to cycle, no having to avoid a car door suddenly opening in front of you.  No being squeezed to the kerb by buses and lorries.  In fact no fear of being maimed or death at anytime when on a bike.  Imagine your own road with no pot holes and no drains to cycle over, 

Tarmac roads were first created for the cyclist.  Then the motor car came along and stole them.  We have lost the war, a war we could never win, to get our roads back.  Therefore it is more sane, and far less exhausting to start fighting for the creation of our own new roads again.  This time roads that can't be taken from us by the motor car.

Do you really want to cling to "Having as much right to use the road" when you could have your own roads.

The Dutch way is the only way to go.  And it will only happen if we all stop arguing over ridiculous points and all fight for the same thing.

4)  Cyclists should have to pass a test - TRUE

But not in the way that many motorists are screaming about.

When the motor car was first invented there was no such thing as a driving test.  It wasn't until 1935 when too many people had been killed and more and more cars were on the roads that the first compulsory driving test was introduced.  There are still drivers on our roads today that have never passed the test.  Anyone that was driving before 1934 was not then and not since ever been forced to take the test.

The vast majority of cyclists have already taken the driving test which means they are qualified anyway to drive or ride on the roads today.  It would therefore be ridiculous to compel anyone over a certain age to take a cycling test.

However just as the Dutch do, I very much believe that all children, from infants up, should have road safety training ending with a cycling test at approximately the age of 12 years old.

This should become automatically part of the education curriculum just as it is in the Netherlands.

Whilst the government are trying to get more people on their bikes now, it is more likely, if things are done right, that it will be the future generations that will be the cyclists en mass.  It is therefore imperative that cycling and road education starts now.  This needs to be put into place, as in The Netherlands, before thousands of people start cycling on a daily basis.

A cycling test isn't important for those cycling now, but it will be important for those now still of school age as more and more take to their bikes in the years to come.

I therefore think that cycling education and the cycling test needs to become compulsory immediately for anyone under the age of 16.

Not only is cycling education and the cycling test important for safety, it is also important that cycling is encouraged.  Cycling education will encourage children to not only be confident in riding but also encourage them to know that cycling is a great mode of independent mobility and rely less and less on using the parents as a form of taxi driver.    By giving children the responsibility of their own transport it will give them pride and respect for themselves.  They are also less likely to want to start learning to drive the moment they turn 17.  Many Dutch today don't own cars.  Ask them why and they will say, they simply do not need one.

Please see this video -

5)  We don't need segregated cycling - FALSE!

a) Segregated cycling will take us through longer routes.
b) Segregated cycling will slow us down and make our journeys longer.
c) Our roads aren't wide enough.
d) Everyone cycles slower on segregated cycle routes

All that and more is absolute BS to put it plainly.

I'm not even going to go through all the tosh of those statements.  Anyone that makes them either have no idea of what true Dutch style segregated cycling consists of or they are totally self centred and only consider how they (quite wrongly) think segregated cycling will affect them as city commuters, and be damned to the rest of the country and quality of other peoples lives.

They are not looking at the bigger picture of getting less cars on the road.  Nor are they looking at the money that the country will save.  They are not thinking of a better quality of life their children and their Grandchildren would have.  They are still holding on to the belief that they "Have a right to use the road" and they aren't going to give it up for anyone.

All I will say on this matter is check out "A View From the Cycle Path" along with Davids many Youtube videos.

Another page that is extremely interesting is "Comparing British Roads with Dutch Equivalents".

I have seen what the so called London Cycling Highway is, and quite honestly if that's the sort of cycling you want then you are absolutely barmy.   But perhaps you don't care if your children or future Grandchildren cycle or not.  You probably don't care that they can't cycle to school.  You may not worry if Granny or Grandpa did or didn't get on a bike to enhance their lives, and if they did get on a bike you might not worry if they got knocked off.   Because just like the motorist, you possibly don't give a thought for anyone else as long as you get from A to B as quickly as possible and anyone that gets in your way is a blasted nuisance.  I can't imagine what it must be like to be so blinkered.

For those of us that want to see a better, longer and healthier, life style, a place where our kids will no longer be killed on our streets, and where our elderly enjoy life more to the full,  we will continue to fight for Cycling segregation.


  1. I wrote a long comment and then lost it. Hence the test. I agree we need a change in attitude and on,y then will the physical logistics change. On our recent summer ride, we encountered both the best and the worst that is happening here in the UK. Morcambe and Lancaster had a great cycle network without sturdily restricting barriers. There was one near an unmanned railcrossing but it was big enough to use with relative ease. Near Liverpool we encountered a set of steps with barriers across at intervals. If it hadn't been for the help of passersby we could not have negotiated those. This is on part of the Transpennine route, which is touted as the easiest way to cross the Pennines - don't believe that hype. We cycled this route in 2007 and there are many more barriers now.
    We saw hardly anyone using the route near Liverpool but plenty families in Lancaster/ Morecambe. Speaks for itself. A few years ago cycling the North sea cycle route we saw lots of groups of school children's young as 5 being taken out on cycle paths by teachers. In my experience it just doesn't happen very often here and only if it is part of some cycle test. Get the. children and women on bikes. Change the law on drivers needing to stop for cyclists and pedestrians. The car is king here and it's time for change. I drive a car too so I'm not anti car but we need some sanity bringing back.
    Brenda in the Boro

  2. I don't drive but I am also not anti car. Nowadays a car is very important. If we said cars were not important we might just as well say planes are not important, and once again take weeks to sail to other countries.

    Motorists are the human part of the machine, as cyclists are the human part of the machine. Humans attitude can't be changed by just talk, it can only be changed by training.

    As you say, it needs laws to be changed. Not laws for humans per se, as in written laws, but just as one would put out of reach a dangerous article for a child or move a child away from a dangerous article, cyclists must be moved out of danger.

    Our roads are so congested that it's getting ridiculous. If cars are to travel freely and steadily then it needs the removal of smaller and slower objects in their path.

    Cyclists, mobility scooters, electric bikes, the very low cc motorbikes, they all need removing from sharing the same space with faster and bigger vehicles. Surely anyone with common sense should be able to see that. But seemingly not as there are so many fighting against segregation.

  3. I was thinking about seeing very young school children being taken out by their teachers in Denmark ba k in 2007. They were cycled 10kms one way and then back again. The weather wasn't brilliant but the children were dressed for the conditions. Some of them still had stabilisers on the bikes but they were out there. The teac her told us these were the first class of 5/6 year olds. They were using a separate cycle track.
    The will to change our society to be more cycle friendly will only come with a groundswell from the people. Those like us who get out there and cycle regulaly.
    Great to read your views

  4. I have a feeling that I will be too old to ride by the time we have a decent infrastructure. But hopefully it will be here to benefit my Grandchildren and my future Great Grandchildren.

  5. In Holland, many people ride into later old age and that is my aim. There is a lady I see round here doing her shopping on her bike. She's in her mid 80's and has worked out her routes so she doesn't have to turn right, only left tiurns to get where she wants to be. She told me its easier for her to ride than to walk to get her things. I hope I'll be like that.
    BTW are two wheels getting any easier for you?

  6. I also intend to ride until I drop, but am so pessimistic about ever getting a real cycling infrastructure I feel I will be in my box and buried before it happens, lol.

    As for me now having two wheels. I haven't been able to get out to see how I am about cycling further afield yet because of this blasted rain we have had non stop. I have yet to try cycling down a steep hill on it without being terrified. But the little I have ridden I have very much enjoyed and I can see my poor old trike being very neglected in the future.

  7. Thank you for an interesting read, I sold my last car in 1994 and haven't owned one since.

    One of the problems with cycle infrastructure is that it is much misunderstood in this country (almost deliberately so, by CTC). The Dutch approach is one of "Sustainable Safety" (or "Duurzaam veilig" in Dutch), which is a very different way of doing things from here. However, I don't disrepair for the future, there are people who are campaigning hard to change things and I feel that change will come, in time...

  8. My Daughter and Niece are continually banging on about me getting a car, but I honestly do not need one with my life style. I do admire you. It must be a big decision to give up a car if one has relied on one for many years.

    I have never bothered to own a car. I loathed driving, and even during my working life I always found the train easier to get to and fro work than fight on the roads when I needed to travel, or walked the times I worked near home.

    Things do seem to be moving a bit faster now regarding providing for the cyclist, so fingers crossed that one day we might catch the Dutch up.


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