Is the CTC helping or hindering bike use in the UK?

Update, 22nd October 2012:

The article below has opened up a can of worms, but one which probably needed opening. It also gave the CTC top brass a chance to respond to criticism not just from myself but from many others. You can make up your own mind by reading the comments below.

The “Right to Ride to School” page which sparked this piece has since been changed to clarify the intent, which is to work against schools which attempt to suppress cycling. You can view a screen-grab of the original page here.

Since I wrote this the CTC launched their Cycletopia which looks nice (if a bit childish) and seems like it’s going in the right direction, although on closer inspection the words “segregated” “separate” and “protected” don’t appear anywhere, while “training” does. (Come on, guys, catch up!)

They have also declared their support for quality segregation which is a great headline, although I still believe that the devil is in the detail. (Giving councils an option to do nothing beyond painting lines on the road is not going to boost cycling.)

I’m also pleased to have inspired two bloggers to have written articles in response to this post: David Arditti and Freewheeler, both of whom I respect greatly.

Freewheeler wrote more articles related to the same topic – all of which are well worth reading – which you can find here, here, here, and here.

Another update, 28th October 2012: Joe Dunckley wrote an article about the story of what happened to cycle campaigning in 1996, of which Roger Geffen tells his version in the comments below.

Anyway, you can read the original article below…

You know, I read so much nonsense written about cycling that I often don’t know which blog post to write next. If I could hook up my brain directly to WordPress then you’d find a new post by me every five minutes.

While writing my last post I took a look at the new CTC website, which has been updated recently. One thing that caught my eye was their “Right to Ride to School” page. It’s a good idea – every child should have the right to ride to school in a safe and pleasant environment. But the phrase “Right to Ride” made me a little suspicious, as it usually refers to the right to ride on the road with the cars and vans and lorries, which is a right exercised by almost nobody. I wonder why?

The CTC thinks that the reason 99% of children in the UK don’t cycle to school is because…

  • they don’t know how
  • their parents would rather drive them
  • they don’t have anywhere to keep their bike
  • their school actively discourages this mode of transport

Now, is it me, or is this a perfect example of cycle campaigners ignoring the elephant in the room? Why isn’t “because it looks and feels dangerous” on that list? How about “it’s insane to expect small children to cycle around cars and vans”?

Even the photo they have used looks suspicious – why can’t we see where these children are riding their bikes? Looking at the short height of the kerb in the bottom-left corner of the photo, I wonder if these children are actually riding on a protected cycle path. Has it been cropped to prevent angry emails from vehicular cycling zealots?

The CTC's photo of three young children riding bikes, but it is cropped so we can't see what type of surface they're riding on.

They’re not on the path – are we meant to think they’re riding on the road? John Franklin would be proud!

These aren’t rhetorical questions, I’m genuinely asking why the UK’s biggest and most influential cycling group – “the national cycling charity” no less – insists on sticking to this “Right to Ride” mantra. How about “safe cycling routes to schools” – what’s wrong with that? Why does everything have to be tied in with vehicular cycling? On a page about children riding bikes to school they don’t once mention the fear of motor traffic being the number one reason people consistently give for not cycling.

Instead, they blame the children, they blame the parents (they also blame schools, but quite rightly, as there are schools in the UK which are anti-cycling).

Personally – and tell me if I’m nuts for thinking this – I blame it on a lack of safe, motor traffic-free routes. Can’t the CTC see this?

I realise I’m opening a can of worms here by criticising the CTC – an act which, in some circles, seems akin to publishing cartoons of Mohammed – but here goes. The CTC has been around for over 100 years, and where has cycling in Britain gone under their guidance? A 1% cycle-to-school rate (against 89% in the Netherlands), a mere 3% of people riding once a month for utility (compared to 93% per week in the Netherlands).

What are the CTC for, if not to promote the use of bikes in the UK? I know they can’t be held responsible for the brain disease epidemic that affected town planners throughout the 1950s, 60s and 70s, but by focussing on the Right to Ride so much they have ignored the one thing that would get more people in the UK cycling: Dutch-style infrastructure. Riding on the road has failed, they’ve had a century to promote it and still nobody wants to do it.

Apparently, some CTC members are pushing for a more pro-infrastructure stance, which I think is great. I really hope the organisation is waking up to the fact that most of its members are hardcore cyclists whose desires and needs are very different to the rest of the population, and that if it wants to grow cycling in the UK then it needs to promote Dutch-quality infrastructure. But having to argue for cycle paths within the CTC must feel a little bit like having joined the Communist party because you believe in equality and fairness but then finding Stalin in charge.

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50 Comments

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50 responses to “Is the CTC helping or hindering bike use in the UK?

  1. PaulM

    It is not all that long since the CTC changed its popular name from the Cyclists’ Touring Club, and indeed even now if you hover your mouse over the CTC logo on its website (“The Nation’s Cycling Charity”) up will pop a small box showing the full original name. Also, if you read its monthly magazine, in terms of the articles and adverts printed there, you will be left in no doubt that it remains primarily a touring cycling organisation.

    What’s wrong with that, you might ask? Well, absolutely nothing at all, if CTC confined its activities to supporting cycle touring and arranging cycle tours, “birthday rides” etc, but of course it has for some time also been a campaigning organisation of a sort. The “right to ride” element does, as you say, seem to focus heavily on the right to ride on roads, as if they fear that bicycles will be banned by law from roads. Their dismal “hierarchy of provision” statement is shot through with this assumption, founded on I know not what but perhaps on the assumption that because the Netherlands prohibits bicycles from a small minority of the busiest trunk roads (which only a lunatic would want to cycle on in the first place), so would happen here. So it goes through a whole gamut of speed restriction, training, “play nice” and on-road cycle lane options and only at the very end comes to off-road cycle paths. Here it is pretty negative about those too, complaining (with reason) that most are flawed due to obstacles, generally poor quality and lack of priority at side roads.

    In fact, I don’t think they ever gave off-road parallel cycle paths such as seen in the Netherlands or Denmark a chance. I seem to recall a post form another blogger a year or two ago which highlighted how the CTC’s campaigning killed off the UK’s first ever cycle path, alongside the A40 (?) in the London suburbs, which was laid long before the Dutch started their major scheme of cycle infrastructure – around 1935! I think I have read, or perhaps I just inferred, that the local authority more or less put their hands up and said “God, there really is no pleasing some people, but if they don’t want them we won’t waste out money on building them”.

    Is their fear, that fast cyclists will be pushed off the roads wherever a poor-standard cycle path is provided, well-founded? I don’t know, though I doubt it. In any case, is it reasonable that cycle paths, either dedicated or shared use with pedestrians, should be sneered at like this just because they are not really up to much as far as a confident, already-established cyclist, is concerned? On a recent trip to Verona in Italy I noticed that cycling on pavements, whether explicitly permitted or just assumed, seemed to work pretty well for a host of younger, older, and female riders who were evidently content to pootle along at a pace which does not break sweat – perhaps 10-12 mph at most. Of course it is fairly hot there and that alone would discourage energetic riding but also for a trip of 3-4km it would take less time to dawdle along and arrive fresh in normal clothes, than to hammer away and then need to shower and change before you can do anything else.

    I am not saying that I would be satisfied with crap cycle paths – I wouldn’t – and I am not saying that you should not pitch your ambitions high, higher perhaps than you expect immediately to achieve, but if we had a massive increase in the mileage of off-road paths available to ride bicycles on, if only by abolishing the general prohibition on pavement cycling (subject to safeguards, obviously, such as speed restrictions), we should expect to see increased uptake which would evidence the need for improvements and build the political consensus and support for investing in those improvements – exactly like our roads system has developed from narrow 2 lane roads to wider, straighter and often dual-carriageway highways through the pressure of congestion leading to increased capacity which quickly becomes congested again etc.

  2. Mark

    Wow! I work for a London Borough and we are constantly and often personally criticised by the local CTC R to R rep for substandand cycle lanes, shared-used facilities etc. Now it all makes sense. I genuinely did not know that their main thrust is riding on the road. Thanks for the information!

  3. Yeah, Mark, but just because the main thrust of CTC is (mistakenly) on riding on the road, that doesn’t mean that any cyclist wants substandard cycle lanes or shared-use facilities. The choice shouldn’t be between those, and unmodified roads.

  4. To the Alternative DfT (whoever you are):

    You’re dead right that the list of reasons you quote from CTC’s website for pupils not cycling omitted THE really important one! Thanks for pointing this out – it’s now been changed.

    CTC’s “Right to Ride to School” campaign, launched in 2009, focused merely on what schools themselves do to hinder cycling, not the condition of the surrounding road network. The latter is the responsibility of the local authoirty, not the school (although obviously we’d like to see schools trying to influence this too). The amended text on the webpage about the campaign now reflects this.

    I would however strongly take issue with your characterisation of CTC’s views on cycle factilities.

    For one thing, everything you and PaulM are reading into the phrase “Right to Ride” is complete and utter nonsense. Far from being a “mantra” at CTC, the name isn’t actually terribly popular, even among CTC’s “Right to Ride” local volunteer campaigners themselves. We’ll probably change it when we can agree on a better one!

    It is also total nonsense to suggest that CTC isn’t in favour of quality infrastructure, either to school or anywhere else for that matter.

    And it is is even more nonsensical to suggest that CTC’s members are opposed to quality segregated cycle facilities. A recent survey (http://beta.ctc.org.uk/sites/default/files/1205_ctc_infra-fin.pdf) has clearly demonstrated that a large majority would support them if designed well.

    What CTC members rightly oppose (and surely we can all agree on this?) is pavement conversions which do not “facilitate” cycling, and would be better described as “farcilities” or “hinderties” (e.g. see http://homepage.ntlworld.com/pete.meg/wcc/facility-of-the-month/). These are where segregation is merely about “getting cyclists out of the way of the traffic”, creating conflict between cyclists and pedestrians, providing no priority at junctions (thereby increasing the risks cyclists face at the locations where cyclists’ safety is most critical), and perpetuating the dominance of the road network by motor traffic. That is why conversion of footways to cycle tracks rightly remains at the bottom of the “Hierarchy of Provision”.

    Quality segregation will typically involve reallocating roadspace (and very possibly parking space) and redesigning junctions, hence it will ultimately contribute to the wider aim of traffic reduction (i.e. that’s 3 of the top 4 levels in the “hierarchy”). However this in turn requires a good deal of political will, and sadly that’s a pretty scarce commodity in the UK. Conversely, painting white lines on the pavement requires little money and even less political will, it is generally worse than useless, and CTC will therefore continue to oppose it. Our position is pretty simple really.

    The real question is how to mobilise that political will in places where it currently doesn’t exist. In that respect, stirring up vehement arguments about segregation is entirely counter-productive. That’s what happened among cycling advocates in 1997, when we’d persuaded the Government to agree to the targets of the National Cycling Strategy, but not the money to achieve them. All we did was to give the Government a perfect excuse to allocate £0, on the grounds that cyclists couldn’t agree how the money should be spent.

    Those who fail to learn from history are condemned to repeat it. So please, let’s not make that mistake again!

    Roger Geffen
    Campaigns & Policy Director
    CTC, the national cycling charity

    • Hi Roger,

      Thanks for your comment. Sorry it’s taken me so long to respond! I’m just a guy who would ride a bike for utility more than once a week if only it wasn’t a stressful ordeal. Though I live in central London, the roads looked even less cycle-friendly in Leeds and Huddersfield when I was there earlier this week. Maybe it’s just me, but expecting an 8 year-old or and 80 year-old to ride a bike on the roads in the UK seems quite ridiculous. When I tell friends about Cyclecraft etc., they think I’m joking.

      I know you say that the CTC isn’t anti-infrastructure, but it’s not particularly pro-infrastructure, is it? It never has been, as far as I can tell, and it still isn’t if your website is anything to go by. I’m far from alone in seeing the CTC this way — I’m sure you’ve read this article which was written in response. I can’t find anything but lukewarm grudging references to cycle infrastructure on the CTC site. Maybe it’s buried somewhere, but the impression I get is that you’re quite happy with on-road cycling and would prefer to tinker around the edges of that to try and alleviate some of the symptoms, rather than push for proper cycle infrastructure, which is the only thing proven to achieve mass cycling in an affluent society.

      Of course I’m opposed to poor-quality infrastructure as much as you are — I’m sure there are many other things we agree on, too — but by not even trying to push for good-quality infrastructure, it’s guaranteed to not happen. Utility cycling is a niche activity in the UK, and it looks set to remain so (despite the hoopla surrounding the recent sport cycling events), so what will the CTC do to change this? Keep campaigning for better on-road conditions (which has got us our tiny cycling modal share), or try something else for a change? The politically easy campaigns haven’t increased cycling in the UK, so why not try a politically difficult campaign? The worst that can happen is that utlility cycling will continue to stagnate. It can’t get any worse, that’s for sure.

      I hope you’ll take your own advice about learning from past mistakes, and join the growing chorus of us pushing for better cycling infrastructure for everyone.

      Schrödinger’s Cat,
      The Alternative Minister for Transport

      • As a Right to Ride rep, I wonder where this idea that the full title is “Right to Ride..on roads” has come from. If I thought that was all it was about I’d resign from that post straight away. In reality most of my Right to Ride work involves responding to Cycle Tracks and Bridleway orders, for which I have a stock “we support this proposal ” response. The Right to Ride network is a broad church but has clocked up a series of successes in getting safe routes for cyclists implemented – Roy Spilsbury’s campaign to get cycling allowed on the promenade in Llandudno being one such. So far, all the CEoGB can point to is a short stretch of high-quality route in Brighton, which may or not have been the result of CEoGB campaigning.

        • Hi Simon,

          It’s not my intention to start a rivalry between the CTC and the CEoGB. (I think the CEoGB is doing pretty well considering it’s only a year old and has no funding.)

          If that’s your approach to off-road provision, then I applaud your work wholeheartedly. But I think it’s fair to say that the upper echelons of the CTC have generally been at best lukewarm on the idea of Dutch-style infrastructure. (Chris Juden’s comments on this page show an astounding level of ignorance about cycle infrastructure in the Netherlands.) You only have to look at the CTC website to see that infrastructure isn’t a priority, although their Cycletopia campaign looks like it might be going in the right direction.

  5. Mark

    “substandard” facilities is a matter of some opinion, but I disagree that shared use cycle tracks are “farcilities” – it depends on location, pedestrian flow, cyclist flow, traffic speed (speed limit or actual traffic speed if higher) and in many circumstances, physical width of the public highway available and it is wrong for things to be universally rubbished in this way. I agree that the very poor examples shown on WCC should never have been built, but it is very easy to use a close up shot a treatment at an access to make the point (I also like the forest of cyclists dismount signs at the site in Harlow clearly built by a developer for an authority who didn’t have the staff to look after the scheme).

    I would prefer my 8-year old to be using a shared use track than being on the carriageway of a narrow 40mph distributor road for example. Even half of my daily commute is on a shared use cycle track as the alternative is a 50mph dual carriageway.

    This particular track was created by widening an existing footway and sticking in some signs which is a pretty cheap way of doing it – yes the track could have been machine-laid, a bus stop could have been arranged better, bits could have been a little wider and a couple of sign posts put on cantilever posts, but there are cyclists using it – far more than were using the carriageway before the track was built. I could post photos of the 2 or 3 things I don’t like about this track and rubbish it, but this would detract from the rest of it which is fine. In that case, I would rather than the track and then bug the highway authority to then sort out these 2 or 3 issues. If cycle use ever gets to the 100s per hour on this route, then there might be this critical mass for consideration to be given for traffic lanes to be reallocated to a segregated track.

    In terms of reallocating road space, there are tons of roads that I could redesign to provide segregated facilities. All I would need is the money to completely rebuild the highway layout between its boundaries, divert utilities out of the way and ban parking, oh and a politician who is happy to sign this off in an area with less than 1% modal share for cyclists. There are massive missed opportunities such as Exhibition Road where the whole lot was rebuilt, but on many outer London streets, you may have 1500 vehicles per hour with no more than 10 cycles per hour – again, what politician is going to put the 10 before the 1500?

    Campaigners need to better understand the costs involved in their wishes (which may be fantastic schemes in their own right) and the opposition they are up against from car-centric politicians. If there was political will (and substantial funding in many cases) then local authority engineers (so few as we are these days) can design the schemes which are wanted. Until then, we all have to compromise and accept smaller schemes which may not be universally supported.

    • But Mark, that’s not the right way to look at it. We are not asking any politician to put “the interests of the 10 before the 1500″. We are asking politicians to give us a whole new infrastructure that will help everyone.

      Even the most determined drivers will have children, spouses, older relatives who want to cycle. And taking cars off roads will help those drivers that remain by reducing congestion. Also effective schemes will reduce conflict and stress on the roads for everyone. I don’t want to be causing irritation to bus drivers and passengers by cycling uphill slowly on the carriageway through pinch points where I obstruct buses from getting through, as I have to do now. The infrastructure needed is not just for my benefit.

      OK, all this is a radical request, and is not the easiest case to make in the culture that we have, but many of us are trying to make it, particularly through the Cycling Embassy of Great Britain. Why not join us?

      • Mark

        But the problem (here in outer London) is that in order to build the type of direct and high quality segregated facilities with priority at junctions means some substantial highway engineering and loss of motorised capacity (including impact on buses). I visualise a 4 metre, two-way cycle track along the A12 (part of my commute route) where I don’t need to slow down at side roads, but will Transport for London and politicians even consider the idea for my 10 cyclists per hour when the A12 must be running at 5,000 vehicle per hour (being a dual carriageway). I cannot see it until petrol costs a tenner a litre. In the meantime, will carry on reading these blogs, keeping up to date with my training and hope to be designing some of this stuff before I retire!

        • Tim

          It’s not about the 10 cyclists an hour! And I’m sorry to sound critical but I think it’s shortsighted to imagine it is.

          The 10 cyclists already cycle. A segregated cycle lane would be nice (and a bit safer) for them (us) but they (we) don’t *need* it because, although there are tragic cycle accidents, actually cycling’s not as dangerous as it often feels (I hope).

          It’s about the who-knows-how-many potential cyclists, who will never cycle along busy congested roads inches away from the lorries. Who currently sit on their own in stationary cars in traffic jams to travel two miles, just waiting for the diabetes to kick in.

          It’s easy to canvas existing cyclists, but often they are happy with the status quo and their opinions of segregated cycle paths are jaded by experience of poor facilities; slow indirect disjointed shared-use facilities with no priority at junctions.

          It’s hard to canvas potential cyclists. Who are they? Commuters, kids, pensioners? Where are they? How many are really out there? People often won’t imagine changing their behaviour until the opportunity arises and they see other people doing it, although many of my friends and colleagues already say they would love to cycle if the roads were safer. And in surveys including non-cyclists, reasons to do with subjective safety are ALWAYS given as the main deterrent to cycling.

          But you can look at places where they’ve already built those cycle-paths, and see the effect it’s had there. I’m sure you’ve seen the videos. The evidence is all there. It’s the chicken /egg thing again. Which comes first, the cycling culture and the cyclists or the safe environment for cycling. (clue – I’m guessing it’s the second, so if you wait for 100, or even 20 cyclists an hour before you get started, you could be waiting a very long time).

        • I couldn’t agree more with what Tim is saying here. There are plenty of surveys which show there’s a massive latent demand for cycling, if only the infrastructure was there. The CTC has waited decades for this critical mass of cyclists, how about changing tack now and try campaigning for the infrastructure (rather than just being ‘not always opposed’ to it)?

        • Mark

          I completely agree with the build it and they will come argument – I talk to people at work who are sick of the traffic and would cycle but the facilities. My cycle track example has more cyclists than before it was built, so something is happening. The problem in outer London at least is that there is the political game to be played. Their constituent’s complaints is about congestion and they cannot make the leap to walking and cycling a way of solving it. Of course, the other issue is the surveys local authorities do to gauge priorities. People will tick a box about congestion, but they are never then asked to tick a box on how to tackle it. We need a campaign group to do the same sort of survey, but with the detail and also pointing out the amount of people who dive through their area to get elsewhere.

  6. Tim

    I don’t understand.

    Freewheeler’s response ( http://crapwalthamforest.blogspot.co.uk/2012/09/the-ctc-and-segregation.html ) to Mr Geffen’s comment above provides some relatively convincing evidence that the CTC inclination towards vehicular cycling is more entrenched than Geffen will admit, perhaps even to himself, despite the preferences of the CTC membership which Geffen himself links to.

    But how has the CTC come to think like this, ignoring the proven success of the Dutch model (hands over ears, “RA RA RA, I can’t hear you Holland!”)?

    Can we really blame it on the campaigners all being “men of a certain age”? Do none of them have kids? Are they all completely MAMIL-ified to the extent that none of them have child-seats on their bikes? Do they not want to take older kids cycling on their own bikes? Where are the children while they’re touring around Britain’s inhospitable road network? Languishing at home with Mum?

    I ask as a man in that age bracket (38) who has children. I’m pretty sure the wife is not happy with the idea of me regularly cycling off into the sunset for a week or two without them, and actually I’d prefer to go cycling with the family, but British infrastructure doesn’t lend itself to opportunities for safe cycling holidays, or even just days out.

    Incidentally, I’m also a paid up CTC member. So I welcome Geffen’s insistence that the CTC are open to the idea of segregated cycle-paths, but I remain unconvinced by it. I’m not even clear where a cycle path like this ( http://aseasyasridingabike.files.wordpress.com/2012/06/dscn9423.jpg ) sits in “the hierarchy”? It’s not shared use (segregated doesn’t mean “cycle on the pavement”), but it’s hardly “traffic reduction”? Is it “Cycle tracks away from roads” one from the bottom? Because I’d like it to be top.

    • That’s exactly right Tim. The problem is not actually CTC’s emphasis, which both Roger Geffen and Chris Juden now are defending on this page, though their emphasis could be improved – it’s their actual policy, particularly their promotion of the disastrous “Hierarchy of Provision”, which, as you point out, puts the type of facilities that we most need, to fix the worst roads, right at the bottom of the hierarchy, so they hardly ever get implemented, and also doesn’t clearly define standards. I think they are revisiting this area of their policy, but they need to get on with it, and catch up with what I believe most cyclists and potential cyclists now think. They often still seem to be fighting the long-lost battles of the 1930s.

      • Tim

        To be fair, I can appreciate some of what Chris Juden is saying.

        – Fair enough the CTC allows differing views within its membership.

        – And I’m sure I haven’t campaigned as much as Chris and been disappointed as often. Maybe I’m as naive as he is bitter.

        But surely the CTC have to realise that if they don’t push for Dutch style infrastructure all the time, then whatever they do push for…

        a) …is far less likely to actually persuade more people to cycle, making it a bit of a waste of time.

        b) …will be at odds with other campaigners like the CEoGB. And politicians and planners will say, “Well, if the cyclists can’t even decide between themselves what they want, sod the lot of them, we’ll make it up as we go along. As usual.”.

        If what you say is true, and the segregated cycle lane is at the bottom of the hierarchy, then all the refutations ring a bit hollow. But it’s still unclear to me.

        • Chris Juden

          The Heirarchy of Provision is lifted straight out of DUTCH planning advice. THEIR top priority is to create calm neighbourhoods where people can live, play, walk and ride bikes in safety and only drive motor vehicles with great caution. They call it a Woonerf. Outside the Woonerf, if the traffic speeds and volumes are low, they still don’t separate bikes from cars on quiet country lanes for example. Slightly busier low-speed roads get on-highway cycle lanes (a whole lot wider than UK ever provides of course), but Dutch PRIORITY is to make those roads less busy: interrupt them (not for bikes though) and send through traffic another way.

          Separate sidepaths are a last resort for the Dutch too. They are provided where the road simply must carry significant traffic at a much higher than cycling speed.

          All this is in Hembrow and Wagenbuur, but they concentrate on the separate sidepaths because that’s the most concrete difference between what they have and what we don’t have.

          No actually it isn’t. There’s something else, involving a whole lot more concrete that Hembrow and Wagenbuur completely ignore. The Dutch motorway network. The Dutch can close roads to through motor traffic to create Woonerfen and reduce capacity on other roads to make room for high quality off carriageway cycle tracks because they have not been shy about building ring roads and motorways for the displaced traffic. Go onto Google maps and check out any Dutch city. I challenge you to find any part of any city that is more than 10km from a motorway or does not have a complete ring road. Now go look at London on the same scale. Or any British City. They all still depend upon general purpose roads to get traffic around through and out of the city, roads on ancient alignments that provide the line of least cycling resistance but intersect in maelstroms like Bow and cannot be equipped with good quality cycle infrastructure so long as so much motor traffic has to go that way too. It’s a problem for anyone who wants cyclepaths but opposes new road schemes, which is probably most cycle campaigners.

          • Are you seriously suggesting that you know more about how the Dutch arrange their roads than two people who live there — one of whom has lived there all his life? (Also, they both know it’s much more than just segregated cycle paths. Have you actually read their blogs?)

            When half of journeys are under 3 miles, what difference would a motorway make? Those journeys — to the shops, school, theatre — can’t be helped by more motorways, but they can be helped by more cycle infrastructure. And there are huge numbers of people who would cycle, if only it felt safe. It’s no good just wagging your finger at them quoting statistics about stairs or gardening, or they’ll just take the car.

            Are you sure that the HoP is lifted straight out of Dutch advice? It sounds like a simplification to me, and one which is obviously going to be misused by the government. What’s wrong with actually campaigning to use the Dutch CROW guidelines?

            If find your “can’t win, don’t try” attitude pretty depressing, to be honest, coming from one of the top people at the CTC. Has the CTC ever even considered pushing the government for Dutch-style infrastructure, instead of tinkering around the edges of the failed concept of sharing the road?

          • Tim

            Chris. Thank you for taking the time to write such a thorough reply. I’m loosely familiar with the Dutch methodology from sites like Hembrow’s – I know what a Woonerf is – although I’ve tended to see it as more of a binary thing.

            a) Smaller residential streets: reduce traffic speeds by imposing limits, closing through routes (to cars), and other design elements (like junctions with tighter turns where pedestrians have priority on ramped pavements).

            b) Bigger thoroughfares with faster traffic, like main radial routes: segregated cycle paths (NOT shared use, and NOT on-road cycle lanes).

            My understanding is not that segregated cycle-paths are a “last resort” in the Netherlands, but they are the default for certain sorts of route. This seems to agree with your explanations. Hence a hierarchy makes little sense to me in the context.

            Incidentally I’m not one of those looking for segregation everywhere, since that would be ridiculous. Part a (as I’ve described it above) seems great too where appropriate, but actually my local streets aren’t too bad. I’m more interested in part b, not because that’s “the most concrete difference” but because that’s where my cycling is potentially most useful, but also most scary.

            Admittedly I’m no expert on the CTC hierarchy, but the above is not conveyed at all by the three CTC web pages on the subject, which have a huge section titled “What’s wrong with off-carriageway provision?” (it basically explains what’s wrong with cr*p off-carriageway provision – i.e. it’s cr*p). The text indicates that segregated provision is occasionally tolerable in “green spaces and parks” – what I would consider leisure routes. This is NOT what I’ve seen in the Netherlands.

            Have you actually read the pages on the CTC website?

            And motorways. Surely this is just more of the same – getting bikes away from cars? Big roads for cars, where I don’t have to get in the way because I’m comfortable on the segregated cycle path. Manchester (where I live) doesn’t have any part more than 10km from a motorway. It has a complete ring-road,an inner ring-road, a motorway between them and dual-carriageways. I just don’t buy that we can’t have cycle paths because there aren’t enough big roads for cars yet. We all know that if you build more roads for cars then more cars will fill them.

        • Further to the posting I’ve just left, I’d just like to tackle a couple of myths being propounded here.

          Firstly, CTC does not have an “entrenched” inclination towards vehicular cycling. Our online survey (http://beta.ctc.org.uk/news/2012-05-22/what-does-ctcs-membership-think-about-infrastructure) shows that, as Chris J has said, we have a minority who are deeply sceptical of segregation, and another minority (of similar size) who are equally strongly in favour of it.

          However the majority view seems to be exactly where we’ve now gone with the policy we’ve now set out. We found there was strong support, from CTC members and non-members alike, over the need to see cycling as both a contributor to, and beneficiary from, the wider objective of traffic reduction. Likewise for speed reduction, the redesign of junctions, some form of ‘dedicated space’ for cycling on or alongside busier roads, quality cycle routes away from roads, cycle parking, good signage, surfacing and maintenance. There is also a real ambivalence on segregation. The majority view would clearly support it if they felt it could be designed to Dutch or Danish standards, but are very wary of the risk of merely getting the worse-than-useless UK-style “get cyclists out of the way” stuff.

          Incidentally, I’d readily acknowledge that the survey respondents are a self-selecting sample, so we don’t know for sure how “representative” they are of the views of CTC membership as a whole. And we obviously know even less about whether it represents the views of non-members – all we know about the wider population is that their attitudes towards cycle facilities change pretty quickly once they actually take up cycling! However my hunch is that the survey is a pretty good indicator at least of the views of CTC’s members – and that it there is a good deal of “segregation scepticism”, but this is based on doubts about the quality of segregation in the UK, rather than an “entrenched” opposition to segregation in principle. On the contrary, they’d support it if they thought it was going to be done to Dutch/Danish standards.

          We’ve therefore adopted a policy which clearly states that CTC will support quality segregation which values cyclists, provides decent priority at junctions, and is decently designed, surfaced and maintained. Conversely we will continue to oppose the worse-than-useless stuff. And I hope the rationale for this stance is clear!

          The second myth is that the phrase “Right to Ride” is symptomatic of an entrenched anti-segregationist viewpoint. Actually, our local volunteer “Right to Ride” campaigners have no great love of the name! So we’ll probably change it one day, when we can come up with a better alternative which gains widespread agreement (however this is proving easier said than done – but that’s another story!)

          The third myth is that segregation is that the Hierarchy of Provision is an anti-segregationist policy. It isn’t – as Chris J says, it actually comes from Dutch policy! Moreover, the bottom tier of the Hierarchy isn’t “segregated facilities”; it’s the conversion of pavements to shared use – i.e. merely “getting cyclists out of the way of the traffic”, and creating conflict between cyclists and pedestrians instead.

          Quality segregation, by contrast, will typically involve reallocating roadspace, and will usually necessitate the redesign of junctions too. By narrowing the road, it may well also contribute to the aims of traffic reduction and speed reduction which lie at the top of the Hierarchy.

          Most of the road network in countries like Denmark and the Netherlands consists of streets and minor roads with traffic volumes and speeds which are low enough not to require segregation. As LCC says, the Dutch principle is “integrate where possible, segregate where necessary”. Providing dedicated roadspace for cyclists is what you do on the relatively limited network where traffic volumes and/or speeds are too high for safe and comfortable sharing, and is set to remain that way. However, if our longer-term vision doesn’t also encompass lower traffic volumes and speeds, then we are really making life difficult for ourselves. It will be hard enough to get quality segregation at all in the UK, let alone on every minor street or rural lane.

          However we also need to ask a more fundamental question. Do we merely want a sliver of space at the side of each road for cyclists – with the remainder left to be dominated by motor traffic? Or do we want to live world where children can play in the street, neighbours can meet, where everyone (not just “cyclists”) can enjoy cleaner air, better health and a quieter, more civilised quality of life?

          In short, it’s not just about “cycle facilities”. We need to think much bigger than this, if we want to build public support for what we’re calling for.

          • I’m glad to hear you say that CTC doesn’t have an inclination towards VC. But I’m not the only person to think that it might. Why do you think this is? I think that historically the CTC did lean towards an ‘on-road’ view of cycling. (There’s the CTC’s opposition to separated cycle paths which were installed alongside the A40 in 1936, for example, though that was well before any of us were born!)

            I really like the LCC’s “Go Dutch” campaign title as it gives them very little wiggle room to compromise on. Their “dual network” designs were widely disputed for this reason. I think if the CTC defined some minimum standards (based on the sort of thing which is commonplace in the Netherlands) then maybe you could get the bulk of your membership supporting promotion of those standards?

            The “Right to Ride” thing might be a bad title, then. I apologise for misinterpreting that in that case. But it does conjure up images of militant VC-addicted road warriors!

            If the HoP “comes from Dutch policy” then I can only assume that it came via a poor-quality fax machine or something. It’s a gross over-simplification of the CROW guidelines, which are simple enough for transport planners to understand. While I know it’s not CTC’s intention to provide transport planners with excuses to put paint down the middle of the footpath, that’s exactly what it does do.

            I’m also not sure that the Dutch principle really is “integrate where possible, segregate where necessary.” This suggests that the Dutch install cycle paths as a last resort when all else has failed. I’ve seen many quiet residential roads with separated cycle paths alongside them in the Netherlands – especially in places where there will be children cycling, such as near a school, or where there will be high levels of cycling, such as between a housing estate and the local shops. If there’s space, why *not* install facilities for cycling? After all, we still install footpaths alongside quiet residential roads on new estates.

            I completely agree that this is a wider issue than cycling. I say without hyperbole that Dutch roads and streets design results in a better life for everyone. It is about people enjoying their neighbourhood, children playing safely and having independence, cleaner air, quieter roads, and so on. It sounds like a great place to live, and all we have to do is change some technical manuals held in a building on Horseferry Road! It sounds so easy!

  7. I heard a John Cage interview on the radio last night. You know, the guy who gave us 4 minutes and 33 seconds of silence. Perhaps strictly cycling nerds may regard him as not their cup of tea, but for me it is important to consider as wide a variety of opinions as possible.

    Anyway, it was put to him that many people find it difficult to understand why an artist would abandon his role as a creator by embracing chance: “Not abandoning it,” Cage replied; “simply changing it from the responsibility of making choices to the responsibility of asking questions. I do ask the questions, and I try to ask radical qestions; I mean to say, questions that get at the roots of things. If I succeed in asking radical questions, then the answers, even though they come through chance operations, will be, I believe, revelatory, in the sense of revealing to me more of creation than would have been revealed had I stayed with my mind the way it was. It was Erik Satie, I think, who said that experience is a form of paralysis, because we get absolutely stuck with our ideas. Through chance operations, and faithfulness to them, we can get free of that paralysis.”

    So firstly, well done to you for asking the radical questions! Thanks to people like you, “many diverse voices are now challenging the gatekeepers of official cycling policy, its received wisdom, and its supreme authority”.

    In his testimony to the GLA’s Transport Committee, Steffen Rasmussen said that the key word is an holistic approach, and then a separation of functions. He said that there is a very extended road network in London, and that we ought to choose some places where we can give priority to pedestrians and cyclists.

    Freewheeler said that he has no idea what was going on in UK cycle campaign circles in 1997. I haven’t got much more of a clue, but I do know that what people like Jeremy Parker were saying back then was that the approach outlined by Steffen (above) was not appropriate, as detailed here: “Virtually all of the LCN will use existing streets,” he said. “Designating such streets as part of a network does nothing by itself for cyclists. Worse, designating some streets as part of the network implies that other streets are not part of the network, which in turn implies such things as that they need not be maintained properly, or not given safety improvements, or even that bikes should not be on those streets at all.”

    “The idea that we need a [...] network,” Jeremy said, “just for bicycles, is ludicrous.” And if you think this idea is no longer fashionable in CTC circles, their Policy Coordinator, Chris Peck, has recently asserted that introducing a cycle network even to a minimum level of functioning “is an unrealistic thing to ask for when all it seems to do is replicate the existing road network.”

    CTC’s Islington rep once told me that if my proposal was adopted there would be nothing left for him to campaign for! I had thought for a long time that this revelation was evidence of the so-called ‘Sinclair Theorem’, which says, “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.” But maybe it was more ideological than this. Maybe he shared Jeremy Parker’s view that thousands of people ride bikes happily and safely in London right now. Maybe he thought that a network introduced to a minimum level of functioning would be the end-point, and not, as I regard it, the start-point.

    Finally, it might even have been you who recently posted a comment on the Cyclists in the City blog about the TfL consultation. Whoever it was, thank you. I responded, and was told that my submission “will be collated with those of others and submitted to the Task Force with a view to being discussed at a stakeholder event later in the year.” Which means to say, the same old sticks in the mud giving their constipated view of the world of cycling. What concerns me is that these people are likely to say in private what they dare not say in public.

    • Thanks for the reply Simon, I agree with what you’re saying here. I’m happy to be a challenger of received wisdom!

      Maybe it’s because I’m not a cyclist, but most of the wisdom which has been common in cycle campaigning circles (coughJohnFranklinCough) made me wonder if I was reading a spoof article. It still amazes me that people expect children to ride on the road! Maybe in an ideal world where everyone drives like they did when they took their driving test, but let’s get real here!

      Only when I began reading David Hembrow, David Arditti, As Easy As… etc., did stuff start to make sense.

      • Well thank you for your reply as well.

        Interestingly, I’m not much of a cyclist either! Don’t get me wrong, I use the bike a lot when I’m in London, but … well in case you don’t know, back in the summer of 1999, I had a job hiring bikes to people in Richmond Park. And I’ve got to tell you, it was an amazing experience. Without exception, when they returned the bikes every person had a big smile on their face. They’d just been for an eight-mile bike ride, and they loved every minute of it.

        And so I thought, I’ll have some of this. I started looking at Hyde Park, but that wasn’t big enough really so I wondered if it would be possible to identify routes around and about which could allow families to take the bikes out for an hour or two. The options were fairly limited there, however, so one day I went out to Victoria Park. From there I went down alongside the canal, and then on to the Isle of Dogs and Greenwich (via the foot tunnel). That seemed more promising.

        But now I was in a part of London where I’d never been before, and my map only covered the central London area. I was trying to get back to Wimbledon, and there was an LCN route that was heading out that way, so I decided to follow it. Sure enough, the signs disappeared once I had reached the end of some residential street, leaving me with no clue as how best to continue my journey. The idea for compass colours had its origin in that moment. Indeed, as I think about it now, it was one of those “chance operations” that John Cage was talking about.

        From then on, I spent literally thousands and thousands of hours drawing lines on a map, basically trying to get my signing strategy to fit the existing network. It has very much been a labour of love.

        So actually I am more of a map nerd than a cycling nerd, but whatever butters your biscuit, all advocates of cycling should at least be able to agree that the more widespread use of the bicycle would help to create an environment which would facilitate more smiling.

        You say, “… but let’s get real here.” Indeed, as Roelof Wittink recently told the GLA’s Transport Committee, “Do not underestimate that you have to come a long way.” Which is why I say, let’s try and do as much as possible now and build up some momentum. After all, it’s much harder to stop something once it gets going; far easier to stop it from moving in the first place.

        Roelof went on to say that if we can accelerate the process, mainstream, do it. Of course I agree with this, and I also agree with you about the positive influence provided by the likes of David Hembrow, David Arditti, aseasyasriding, etc. I think they deserve enormous credit for the way in which they have broadened the debate.

        But let us not forget that the key word is an holistic approach, and then a separation of functions. As I indicated earlier, TfL are only planning to make improvements to about 35 junctions and to create about ten miles of segregated cycling. I know that this is going to be of great interest to those involved with the Cycling Embassy, as it should, because they are very much focused on the delivery of high-quality infrastructure. But as Rachel Aldred said to the committee hearing, obviously we don’t need to segregate every single road, but rather, segregated routes should form the backbone of a network that is friendly to people of all abilities. That’s where I come in.

        Oh, before I forget, Chris Juden says that separate sidepaths are a last resort for the Dutch. That’s not my understanding. As I have read (here), the Dutch authorities are under a legal obligation to classify their roads. In the built-up area, there are three categories:

        1. Through Roads for high volumes of fast traffic on longer distances.
        2. Local Access Roads from which end destinations can be reached.
        3. Distributor Roads which connect through roads and local access roads.

        In accordance with the first principle of Sustainable Safety, all roads in the Netherlands are designed to mono-functional, which means to say, their traffic functions cannot be mixed. This is of particular significance on the Distributor Roads. It is on these roads that segregated cycle paths are installed. The second principle essentially reinforces this philosophy, though from another perspective.

        Finally I like your pseudonym. The parable of Shroedinger’s Cat tells us that if we don’t look, we will never know. An important part of an holistic approach is to analyse journeys, and there is a feature on my website which enables people to plot their most often-used journeys. At the moment, the design of the proposed network is largely based on existing routes, but that could be changed if there was a particular demand for it. I wondered if I could encourage your readers to take a moment or two just to log their most often-used journeys (they will need to sign in to do this, but it doesn’t take long, honest!).

  8. Chris Juden

    Oh it is sooo much easier to blame CTC for failing to build Amsterdam already in England’s green and potentially pleasant land – than to address the fundamental problems of Anglo-American transport culture.

    We know the Netherlands is great for cycling. A lot of us are cycletourists remember, we’ve been there (before any of you did) and enjoyed it. If you were to read our magazine you’ll find joyful accounts of how great it is to cycle there and the other cycle-friendly countries of Northern Europe. So please stop writing this rubbish about CTC ignoring the Dutch Model. We would love to have what they’ve got. We do NOT enjoy cycling amongst fast traffic and most of us would not care if that were banned in exchange for a wide, smooth, straight cyclepath with the same priority over side roads like there always is in the Netherlands.

    However: as someone with experience of demanding paths like that when main roads are ‘improved’, I am sorry to tell you that such demands are either ignored completely as ‘unrealistic’ in a country where so few people cycle already or get watered down to result in the usual narrow, twisty, badly surfaced paths that yield to every side road. So I’m sorry if we sometimes forget to include a demand for High Quality Cycling Facilities (Just Like In Holland) with every single piece of cycling advice, but it’s hard to remember to do that when all we’ve ever got for it is so disappointing.

    Regarding cycling to school, CTC’s advice is not wrong. Not all schools are surrounded by busy high-speed roads and more kids could cycle than do. Almost nobody cycled to our local secondary 10 years ago when our kids did so they immediately stopped doing it: not because we thought it too dangerous but because they soon noticed only chavs cycled! My wife became a governor, they built smart new bike sheds, involved the kids in travel plans, etc. The school also lobbied the local authority for lower speed limits and infrastructure to deal with danger spots, but with no results on that score so far. Those new bike sheds are nevetherless full nowadays, because the school made cycling look like a smarter travel choice. Some proper bike paths are still wanted and now more kids are cycling they might actually get built, but if you tell parents it’s too dangerous without special facilities you could be waiting forever and in the meantime achieve nothing.

    You will find a few CTC members who stubbornly insist on riding on horribly busy main roads and object to all cyclepaths. Sorry, but we are an inclusive organisation and do not vet the opinions of applicants for membership. If they can fill in the form and send us the money they’re welcome! Opinions like that are nevertheless an extreme minority.

    • I know your reply wasn’t directly aimed at me, but I absolutely agree with you that it is so much easier to blame CTC for the parlous state of the capital’s cycling environment than to face up to the real villains of London cycle campaigning.

      Why do we get crap like this? It’s nothing to do with CTC, surely. As Roger Geffen made clear: “What CTC members rightly oppose (and surely we can all agree on this?) is pavement conversions which do not “facilitate” cycling.”

      “Part of the problem,” Kim Harding explained, “is the ‘dual network’ approach. This is based on the idea that people will start off on the ‘family network’ which is ‘catering for less confident cyclists’ and then, as they gain confidence (and maybe have some training), they will ‘graduate’ to using the ‘Quality Bike Corridors’ as part of the ‘cycle-friendly city’. According to the council’s Active Travel Action Plan this is to ‘include on street cycle facilities such as cycle lanes, enhanced cycle parking/loading restrictions and marketing’ [sic]. Here is the central flaw, ‘this cycle-friendly city’ is aimed at ‘confident cyclists’ who are happy to ride on the roads with the existing motor traffic. These are the people who are already cycling, not the ordinary people who want to cycle but don’t at present because they don’t feel safe. If the aim is to create a truly cycle-friendly city, then there would be no need for a ‘family network.’”

      So whilst I am happy to agree with Roger about pavement conversions, particularly alongside what the Dutch call Distributor Roads, I am concerned that they regard the development of a ‘single network’ as “an unrealistic thing to ask for”. After all, as Rachel Aldred told the GLA Transport Committee, we need to learn from those places that do cycling pretty well, and we need to be ambitious. Surely we can all agree on this, as well?

      Over the next fifteen months, TfL are planning to make improvements to 35 junctions and to complete the CS2 extension and all of CS5 to (what I hope will be) European standards. But as Rachel suggested, the Cycle Superhighways should form the backbone of a network that is friendly to people of all abilities.

      Ben Plowden said that TfL need to look with the boroughs at identifying those routes which would complement the Cycle Superhighways, and to deliver those. So hopefully this is something else that TfL will be doing over the next year or so, although, as Ben also indicated, it is likely that this work would be undertaken in phases.

      But what will CTC say about this, I wonder? Don’t bother? More trouble than it’s worth? A waste of money? Jeremy Parker said: “The idea of an LCN forgets that there is an LCN already. The entire London street network is the London Cycling Network …” What this idea forgets – or rather, ignores – is that certain routes are more direct, and more conducive to safe, pleasant cycling than others. Identifying the best of these, and joining them up, is part of the “holistic approach” which Steffen Rasmussen thought “key”.

    • I’m not blaming the CTC entirely for the state of the UK’s roads. But whatever the fault, the CTC’s methods haven’t achieved mass cycling in Britain. Okay, the cycling lobby has always been up against powerful interests, but by not pushing for the one thing which is proven to work — indeed, focussing on everything except that, it seems — then it’s all doomed to failure.

      If the CTC is pro-infrastructure, then why is the website so wishy-washy about it? I’m not the only one who considers the CTC to be anti-infrastructure, not by a long shot. You must address these concerns if they’re ill-founded, not respond with more misdirection.

      I’d like to have the amount of influence you think I do, but I’m merely reflecting public opinion that “cycling is dangerous” (as have other bloggers). We’re not changing public opinion about cycling, people don’t need us to do that — they look out of their window and see an environment which is designed exclusively for motor vehicles, and decide for themselves that cycling isn’t for them.

      However, many people love the idea of a safe route to school. Most people hate the idea of drivers using their street as a rat run. Most people would jump at the chance to nip to the shops without having to pay for petrol or parking. Sell cycling on the benefits which people are already aware of, and I’m sure we’ll see some changes.

    • Ladieswotbike

      I know the school Mr Juden refers to VERY well. I think that the fact that the bike shed for 60 bikes is sometimes almost full for a school of 900 students, the vast majority of whom are within cycling distance, just goes to show how limited the potential is in the absence of a proper network of segregated cycle paths.

  9. I live in Poland and cycle tracks in our country have been massively built in recent times. However, their quality is very low…

  10. CTC published a new campaigns briefing last week, which provides an overview of our policies on cycle-friendly planning and design. See http://beta.ctc.org.uk/ctc-declares-support-for-quality-segregation-while-still-opposing-farcilities. It was launched at our joint CTC/Cyclenation campaigners’ conference last Saturday.

    To Shroedinger’s Cat et al: I’ll be genuinely interested to see what you make of it.

    There’s one thing I’d want to add, which isn’t included in the briefing. Back in 1996, the cycling lobby managed to get some ‘fine words’ on cycling written into a new National Cycling Strategy (NCS), together with some ambitious targets for increased cycle use. It had taken several years of persistent effort, led by CTC, to get that far.

    However, at that stage, the Government had made no commitment either to fund the NCS, or to integrate it into wider transport policy objectives. In other words, the targets to increase cycling weren’t seen either as a way of contributing to the wider aim of traffic reduction, nor were the aims of reduced traffic or reduced speed seen as necessary for cycling to flourish.

    [BTW, the above briefing provides a few key references for evidence on the importance of traffic reduction and speed reduction for achieving more and safer cycling. And this in turn explains why the approach we've taken on segregation stresses the crucial difference between facilities which makes cyclists feel 'valued' and those which merely treat cyclists as a nuisance, to be "kept out of the way of the traffic". We are very happy to support segregation where it involves reallocating roadspace (and therefore contributes to traffic reduction), and ensures a decent level of priority at junctions. However we will continue to oppose the worse-than-useless 'get-cyclists-out-of-the-way' variety. We also stress that all cycle facilities (whether on or off-road) need to have decent widths, surfacing and maintenance].

    Going back to the mid 1990s though…
    At the very moment when we needed to focus on securing funding for the NCS, and integrating it into a wider policy framework which supported cycling, the cycling lobby instead broke into a big argument about segregation. This merely provided Whitehall with a perfect excuse to allocate no funding to cycling – “if cyclists can’t agree what they want, what’s the point of funding it?” In other words, we allowed ourselves to be divided and ruled. Hence the NCS never got anywhere near achieving its targets (which were then abandoned c8 years later), and we’ve been living with the consequences ever since.

    Following the Times’s campaign, and some really promising dialogues which are now happening in its wake, I am beginning to feel optimistic that we may once again be building up towards another ’1996 moment’. There is a real possibility of at least getting some “fine words” about cycling written into the Government’s forthcoming transport strategy. However, even if that does happen, we will still have a huge amount of campaigning to do, to secure the funding and the wider transport policy framework needed for cycling to flourish. Because if we don’t tackle these wider issues, it’s very difficult to see traffic engineers designing segregation to Danish or Dutch standards.

    Instead, the risk is that we continue to get UK segregation of the “get cyclists out of the way” variety. This in turn just gets criticised by cyclists and anti-cycling journalists alike as a complete waste of money (because the cyclists don’t use it), and merely encourages the more agressive breed of drivers to abuse and even assault cyclists when they chose to use the road instead.

    So the question is this. Will we now learn from history, and work together to mobilise the political support we need for cycling to flourish – or are we condemned to repeat it? Blogs like IBikeLondon and Cyclists in the City have been doing a great job of working with LCC to get cyclists out on the streets in support of LCC’s Go Dutch campaign for more and safer cycling. That is surely more useful than arguing amongst ourselves over whose fault it is that cycling in the UK is still in such a parlous state!

    I’d far rather be having a dialogue to work our way through this stuff, acknowledging that there are differences of viewpoint (and that it’s perfectly healthy to debate these), whilst avoiding a repeat of the ‘divide and rule’ syndrome which has so seriously hampered us in the past.

    In short, I’m up for the conversation, any time you like! However, if the aim is to build trust and collaboration, I’d merely say this is much easier done face to face rather than relying solely on blogs or social media.

    Roger Geffen
    Campaigns & Policy Director, CTC

    • Tim

      Hello Roger,
      As both a CTC member and someone who has been (vocally) disappointed by what I perceived as the CTC attitude, I’ll try and gather a few thoughts as succinctly as possible.

      – Great to see positive and constructive engagement. I completely agree that a consistent message is vitally important. And yes, while written comments on blogs can allow participants to gather their thoughts coherently, they can also be a breeding ground for petty anonymous sniping which doesn’t help anyone.

      – The campaigning press release was certainly welcome, as an effort to clarify the CTC position.

      – My take is that everyone (who’s given it thought) agrees that cr*p cycle-specific infrastructure (or farcalities) is (or are) worse than no cycle-specific infrastructure, but (as you indicate), there are tragically few examples of quality segregated paths in the UK to base opinions on.

      – I think that everyone also agrees that calming and slowing traffic in appropriate areas (e.g. residential areas) is key – total segregation isn’t what happens in the Netherlands and anyone asking for that probably hasn’t thought about it much.

      – And again, I do know it’s hard trying to represent a large membership with differing opinions.

      Points where I would still remain critical, in the spirit of healthy debate:

      – the CTC website is bound to be the first port of call for anyone interested in your policies, but much of it seems at odds with your more recently stated position on this post, and the opinions of your membership. I’m thinking of pages like “Off-carriageway – pros and cons” which mostly consists of “What’s wrong with off-carriageway provision?”. maybe it just needs a refresh, like the “Right to Ride” rhetoric.

      – the “hierachy” itself. Does the Netherlands really lay out policy in this way? Where? To argue that quality-segregated-cycle-paths in place of sharing-fast-busy-roads-with-lorries is included in “traffic reduction” and “speed reduction” seems like a fudge to me. Segregation in those situations is key to Dutch policy and should be much more clearly stated. Surely the whole point is that when you build a good alternative for cyclists you don’t have to slow the motor traffic (as you did in the residential areas)? And maybe you don’t even need to reduce traffic if space exists elsewhere (although often traffic reduction is a good idea). So, “quality segregated cycle facilities to remove conflict at source” and “traffic and speed reduction” are NOT the same thing, and frankly I find it odd that you try to suggest they are.

      – Also you *still* maintain that segregation takes place as as a secondary measure “where necessary”, and on a “relatively limited network”. Certainly I would agree, again, that 100% segregation isn’t the aim, and in practice only a minority of roads might need good-quality segregated alternatives, by number of miles. But my feeling is that those bits are the REALLY USEFUL bits (and of course the most difficult to get implemented). If I’m popping to the corner shop for a pint of milk then my bike can stay in the shed and the slowed traffic makes little difference, but if I’m heading across town, then typically I need to cycle through my local residential streets onto a main thoroughfare (or two) for the majority of the journey, and then maybe onto some smaller roads at the other end. I’m sure you can appreciate that? Also, is it not the case that in the Netherlands, segregation is usually preferred where traffic speeds are over 30kph? If so, the UK would either need a lot of slower roads, or a lot of segregated cycle paths.

      In short, the last two points could be summed up as: I still feel like you’re still trying to downplay something that Hembrow et al always describe as pivotal (and this description is borne out by my own experience).

      Anyway, less succinct than planned, but isn’t that always the way? Cheers to anyone that read this far!

      • Chris Juden

        No Tim, the Dutch don’t lay out policy in exactly the same way as the Heirarchy of Provision. What they have is a set of criteria based on speed and volume of traffic that amount to much the same thing. Arranging this into a heirarchy was a way of making it simple and, it’s true, a way of putting the crap shared-use footways at the bottom and the stuff we all like at the top. Not just cyclists but pedestrians and residents prefer to be on a street with less and slower traffic. Prioritising those measures have led to the Twenty’s Plenty movement that’s now going strong.
        Unfortunately, the only place where a proper cyclepath can sit in such a heirarchy is second from bottom. But so long as Britain wasn’t building them properly, that’s where they belonged.
        So we are on the way to getting a lot of slower roads. We surely also need a lot of segregated paths, but it’ll be hard to avoid getting a load more rubbish instead.
        If Britain now has the political will and money to build proper bikepaths, to continental standards and with priority over side-roads, just like over there, I would agree that a different presentation of the options is needed. But its a big IF and like I said, I don’t make those decisions.

        • Fetlock Boots

          You bloody horse-riders! I gotta tell ya. The whole width of a path that I use to walk into town is like a quagmire now, thanks to you lot!

          Last week, through continued footfall, us walkers had managed to create a narrow channel for ourselves along the side of this path which was relatively mud-free. But now, after all the rain we’ve had over the last couple of days, the entire path is once again, quite literally, bog-standard.

          You couldn’t just stick to your side of the path, could you? Oh no. You wouldn’t want to have to put yourselves to any inconvenience. The idea of having to share space with you lot is a joke!

          Oops … I have just realised this isn’t a blog for equestrian types, is it? Sorry about that. It’s just that I got a tremendous whiff of horse-shit from this site. Don’t mind me. Carry on.

        • Tim

          Chris, this reply suggests to me that the Hierarchy is a simplified CTC interpretation of the Dutch policy. Not the same thing.

          And it suggests that the idea is to ask for one thing, and if the will to spend some real time and money on cycling ever materialises, to suddenly ask for a different thing. This seems a contrary to me. I know that in the current cultural context asking for even a tiny fraction of the road budget to be spent on quality segregated cycle facilities might seem rather optimistic. But if that’s the thing (or one of the main things) that will make cycling more popular and safer, then surely we need to push for that from the start, together.

          As for “the stuff we all like” being at the top? I hope you won’t mind if I share a story from last week.

          Last Wednesday night on the way home I was waiting to turn right across two lanes of traffic at a busy light-controlled junction. My light was green and I was in the middle of my lane, on the edge of the box junction, one van in front, one behind.

          Seeing a gap in the oncoming traffic the van driver in front pulled away. As he did so, the lights began to change, and the two oncoming cars were still a little way off so I followed. The (white) van behind also decided to go and it was right on my shoulder, so, feeling pressured forward, I accelerated hard to get across and off the junction, while looking left to check the oncoming cars were stopping – that they weren’t “amber gamblers”.

          But I shouldn’t have been watching them, because as I looked back to the road ahead the first van had stopped abruptly right in front of me despite what I thought was a clear road. I went to brake, but it was much too late.

          My front wheel hit the van, followed shortly afterwards by my face. Turned out someone had stepped into the road in front of the van, forcing an emergency braking manoeuvre, and that’s how I ended up in A&E at 3am (after a very long wait), with a doctor stitching up both sides of the hole my tooth had punched all the way through my upper lip. It looks great.

          Of course it could have been much worse. At least my bike was OK. I was able to un-bend my three-year-old daughter’s top-tube-mounted child-seat. And I wouldn’t use that junction with her in it. Plus I was the one who rear-ended the van, so you could certainly argue it was my fault.

          But I don’t want to be sandwiched between vans, looking out to check whether the oncoming traffic is going to mow me down or not.

          I don’t consider myself old. I’m pretty fit and generally alert, so if I don’t riding in these conditions, how do other people feel? And when you talk about the “the stuff we all like” being at the top, I’d point out that the stuff *I like* is a “proper cyclepath” where I don’t have to worry about conflict with motor vehicles. And you put that “second from the bottom”. And it’s still there.

    • dexey

      “And this in turn explains why the approach we’ve taken on segregation stresses the crucial difference between facilities which makes cyclists feel ‘valued’ and those which merely treat cyclists as a nuisance, to be “kept out of the way of the traffic”. We are very happy to support segregation where it involves reallocating roadspace (and therefore contributes to traffic reduction), and ensures a decent level of priority at junctions.”

      I know of two A roads, the A40 and A449, that have, in part, cycle lanes running alongside them. They keep the motor traffic out of my way.
      They are not new facilities and I think it a shame that the CTC wasn’t more vigorous in the later part of the last century in promoting the inclusion of cycle lanes in new road building.
      It seems to me that the CTC is a bit late in coming to the Dutch style segregation idea and is now playing catch up. Cycling on the road maybe statistically safe, but those of us who do it find that it is in fact dangerous and having your own segregated lane is very much safer. As a pedestrian I get a 4″ high kerb as a barrier between me and the motor traffic and that has served me well. As a cyclist, unless I can share the pedestrian’s route, I am in danger. I don’t want to be ‘valued’ I want to be alive and uninjured.

    • Hi Roger,

      Thanks for your comment, I’m sorry it’s taken me so long to reply but I’ve been really busy over the past week!

      I started writing an article about the CTC’s support for quality segregation but haven’t had time to finish it yet. The headline sounds like we’re 100% in agreement – I’ve never been in favour of bad infrastructure either! I’m really pleased that the CTC has made it clear that they support Dutch-style facilities. I think the website could certainly reflect this more, but the main problem I have with your current policy is that it allows too many get-outs for councils. When you say “[if the] budget only extends to painting some white lines, CTC believes these would be better placed on the road,” that (unfortunately) allows councils to tick the cycling box with nothing more than a dashed white line, and they think they have the support of cyclists. The Hierarchy of Provision suffers from this too – it gives planners the perfect excuse to say “well, white paint it is then!” I believe that nothing at all is better than a white line on busy roads, especially when it leads you into a lorry-blind-spot ASL at the lights. White lines should never be supported, on the path or the road.

      Getting rid of the over-simplified HoP would be a big step in the right direction. I’m sure you’re well aware of the CROW guidelines (via Paul James). Unlike the HoP, it doesn’t allow transport planners the option of doing nothing. If they can’t lower the speed or the traffic volume then the road falls into the segregation category. If they can’t segregate then they must reduce the speed or volume. White lines on a busy, fast road (or on a narrow footpath) aren’t an option. Yet that’s exactly the fall-back which the Hierarchy of Provision gives planners.

      The CTC could define a minimum set of standards for cycle paths, which you would support. Let’s say a minimum width of 2 metres (one-way) or 3.5 metres (two-way). A minimum distance of 2km, or between two strategic points if shorter (between a university campus and halls of residence, for example). Clear and safe priority over side-roads. Separate light phase to eliminate conflict at junctions. You could even set maintenance standards – must be cleared of snow before 7am, for example. Even the most hardened Lycra lout would surely choose the cycle path I’ve just described over a busy road alongside?

      I think the very worst option that cycling campaigns should accept is “light separation” such as the separating kerb seen in the middle photo here. Anything less on a main road is worse than useless.

      I wasn’t involved in cycle campaigning in 1996 (although I did ride a bike for transport back then) so I can’t comment on what happened, but did the government really refuse money because of differing views of cyclists? It seems more likely that no money would have been forthcoming anyway, and that division was used as an excuse. Major motorways go ahead despite a million competing views, after all! Surely if the new cycle paths guidelines had been made mandatory on all new roadworks from 1996 onwards, then no extra money would have been needed anyway? I lived in Leeds between 1996 and 2009, and every main road I can think of has been reconfigured or renewed in some way during that time, and many of them have been completely redesigned. Had legislation demanded separate cycle paths then we’d have had a great network by now, and all for (effectively) no cost!

      I’m touched that you’d be prepared to meet with me, but I’m not sure what’s in it for you – after all, I’m just one guy, you’re the CTC! I have no influence anywhere except this blog, and I can’t see the government using this as an excuse to ignore cycling.

      I don’t want to sound like I’m attacking the CTC for no reason at all, merely expressing things as I see them. The reason I titled this post “is the CTC helping or hindering cycling” is because I see all this in a very logical way. Do you want mass cycling in the UK? If the answer is ‘yes’ then the next question is: Is there a proven way to do this? The answer to this second question is ‘the Dutch way’. So therefore if you want mass cycling, you must therefore demand Dutch-style infrastructure. It’s logically sound. Conversely, anyone who isn’t promoting Dutch-style infrastructure must, logically, not want mass cycling. (This is why I call John Franklin an anti-cyclist. Have you ever met him?) At the time I wrote this piece, there was very little on the CTC website that said anything positive about Dutch-style infrastructure.

      I’m not blaming CTC for the parlous state of the UK’s roads, but I am saying that whatever happened in the past wasn’t the right thing to do, as it hasn’t worked. (You could say I’m learning from history!) One thing that’s never been tried is all the UK’s cycling campaigns demanding Dutch-style roads. I think it’s worth a shot, which is why I hope CTC policy changes to reflect that glorious headline!

      By the way, do you know where that photo of the kids was taken?

      • Schroedinger:

        There’s so much to comment on here, but I’m at risk of repeating my previous postings by doing so. I’ll merely repeat my central contention. That is that this debate isn’t about whether or not Dutch cycling conditions are better than British ones. It’s about how best to mobilise the political will to get a cycling revolution started in the UK – and then how to sustain it.

        Now, your answer – namely, “The Dutch way” – may be overly simplistic. And I’m not saying that because I dispute the quality of Dutch infrastructure – I don’t. My question isn’t about the infrastructure itself. It’s about the steps we need to take to build up the political will to deliver it. And I say “steps”, because I suspect that, in most parts of the UK, the gulf is too wide to get there in a single leap. Hence the more caveated position CTC has adopted. This difference in viewpoint is purely about political strategy, not infrastructure.

        Anyway, to answer two questions near the end of your posting:
        1) I’m pretty sure the photo of the two girls was taken in North London. I know their parents and the person who took the photo.

        2) I also know John Franklin well. I have to say that your characterisation of him is grossly unfair. I hope you too will have the chance to meet him one day, to verify this for yourself, and perhaps even apologise for what you’ve said about him. But that’s for you to decide.

        As for meeting up, well, actually I’m not simply thinking about a private meeting – although I’d be very happy to do that too. Actually I suspect that wouldn’t be too difficult. From some of your other postings, it appears you live somewhere near the Elephant & Castle? If so, I do too!

        However, what I’m really thinking about is an open debate. Indeed, I’ve just emailed the convener of the Movement for Liveable London meetings to propose this. As you’ll have gathered, I don’t think it’s terribly healthy bashing away at the segregation debate in the blogosphere. This merely perpetuates entrenched positions, misunderstandings and myths. And that doesn’t help us deal with the real issue, namely galvanising the political will to give cycling the priority and funding it so needs and deserves.

        If this idea comes off, I very much hope to meet you there – I think I’d enjoy that, Even when you’re being profoundly abusive, I have to say you do write well!

        Roger

        • Hi Roger,

          I’m glad to hear that we both agree on the quality of Dutch infrastructure. Now we’ve just got to figure out how to get it here – that’s the hard part!

          I’m not sure I agree with a series of small steps – improving conditions on the road, encouraging more vehicular cyclists until there’s enough demand for change – is that the idea, or am I misunderstanding?

          I really do think that if a majority of the UK’s cycling campaign groups (of which the CTC is the oldest, and I assume the largest?) could get behind a “Go Dutch” message then that would have a positive effect on the government. That hasn’t been done before.

          But how do we convince the non-cyclists that better street design will be good for them, so they don’t vote against pro-infrastructure politicians? Well, I’m writing a post about that at the moment. It’s not quite finished yet but it shouldn’t be too long now.

          Thanks for answering my questions. If you could find out the street that the photo was taken on, I’d really appreciate it – I’d like to put it into context.

          And as for John Franklin, I don’t think you’re being fair to me here – I don’t think I characterised him, and I don’t think he’s due an apology from me. I poured scorn on his work, which is fair game. Though the articles were pretty sweary, I still stand by the critique of his severely flawed anti-infrastructure output.

          I don’t see the harm in discussing this stuff online though. The CTC has been going for 134 years now, I doubt this blog will be the end of cycling in the UK! (Not that cycling rates could get much lower anyway.) Either way, this blog is just one person’s personal outlet, nothing more. However, I’m really pleased that it’s sparked off so much discussion, and I appreciate that yourself and others have taken the time to comment and debate.

          The open debate sounds interesting, although it might be a bit tricky wearing the mask and cape – I’ve heard it can get rather stuffy upstairs in the Yorkshire Grey!

          S.C.

          • I wonder, S.C., if you have read a book by Dawkins called Climbing Mount Impossible? In front of us is a sheer cliff, rising up thousands of feet, at the top of which is a complicated thing like an eye. Dawkins asks, How do we get there? Only God could climb to the top in a single bound, he says, so for much of human history we leave that approach to Him. But about 160 years ago, a couple of English gentlemen found that, if we go around the back, there is a gentle meandering slope which takes us just as easily and surely to the same place.

            As we start our journey we find something as simple as photoreceptor cells. About half-way up, we discover the first pinhole camera eye, and then a little bit further on, colour vision, and so forth.

            For me, it’s about finding the path that would take us to our destination. I do expect the journey there to involve more than one or two steps.

          • Hi Simon,

            You’re absolutely right – I’m sure it won’t all happen at once. But I was trying to find out if Roger was referring to that magical day far in the future when there will be lots of vehicular cyclists, enough for the cycling lobby to be able to demand proper infrastructure. It’s more like Waiting for Godot!

            There really will be many stages, but I’m convinced that the first step is admitting that (to use your analogy) the eye is what we really want – and not to keep looking for more pinhole cameras!

            S.C.

  11. Richard Burton

    An interesting and informative article, which totally misrepresents CTC and its policies in an attempt to denigrate it and promote some other organisation. Informative because it says more about the author than CTC.

  12. Pingback: CTC asks for a vehicular cycling solution again | The Alternative Department for Transport

  13. Pingback: Some notes on the National Cycling Strategy | At War With The Motorist

  14. My name for it is the Jon Snow Cycle Touring Gang. they should change the name to CTG. Cycle touring Gang. That is what they are and that is what they have always been. Race chasers. Their much vaunted insurance is next to worthless merely refering you to a solicitor who advises you how much it will cost to make the claim against a third party or whoever. Totally worthless. I was on a Marathon class 2 wheel chair, so they ran an article in their mag on class 2 marathon wheelchairs. and then banned me, without refunding my membership fee. They can not cope with anything that is not geared towards racing. “Tour de France” translated means the ” French RACE”. A touring bike is thus a RACING bike.
    I have seen two potantial accidents for women in the last month, from women confused by the wrong language, and using drop handle bars for getting around in heavy traffic. I am running a campaign against CTG as well it is called : SUCKEGGS!

  15. Pingback: Cycling to School with the CTC | The Alternative Department for Transport

  16. Pingback: Cycling to school with the CTC again (a follow-up post) | The Alternative Department for Transport

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