Cycling to school with the CTC again (a follow-up post)

Like the first time I wrote about the CTC, my most recent post (until this one) has also got people thinking about what they do and how they do it.

Roger Geffen, Campaigns & Policy Director for the CTC, responded to the article which is much appreciated, and you can read my reply there too.

The People’s Cycling Front of South Gloucestershire blog wrote an article titled ‘CTC: who do they represent these days?‘ which is well worth a read, as it covers other ground such as the CTC’s support for the disastrous “Nice Way Code” campaign, and their “welcoming note” (albeit heavily qualified) to the DfT’s complete and utter dismissal of the Get Britain Cycling report.

Perhaps most interestingly of all, PJ McNally covered another example of the CTC ignoring cycling infrastructure even when it’s under their very nose. Please do go read PJ’s excellent blog post on the subject, but I think the gist of it is worth repeating here in a little photo-post.

One of the locations in CTC’s “Cycletopia” is Cherwell School (actually in Oxford) where it is claimed that almost 60% of pupils cycle to school. Impressive numbers! According to the CTC’s Cycletopia page, “the school runs cycle maintenance workshops, there’s an active cycling club and they even campaign to improve road conditions for cyclists” which sounds lovely, though I dare say that even with all these pro-cycling policies few parents would allow their children to ride a bike along busy roads.

What isn’t mentioned is the excellent (by British standards) cycle infrastructure around the school, specifically the wide cycle path along Marston Ferry Road.

Though I know it’s not ideal to get a feel for infrastructure purely from online sources, here’s a few images from Google Streetview. Luckily for me the Streetview car seems to have passed by at commuting time on a school day for one of the images.

A photo of a cycle path next to a busy road near Cherwell School in Oxford. Many children on bikes are using the cycle path. None are using the main road.

I can’t help but notice that the children are on the cycle path, not on the busy road to the right. I suspect the children on the footpath have moved there to get out of the way of the Googlemobile. (Image: Google Maps)

A photo of the Marston Ferry Road cycle path, showing a very wide, physically separate cycle path.

Further west, the cycle path loses the hedge but remains physically separated from the road by a kerb, grass verge and lamp-posts. The width looks great! (Image: Google Maps)

A photo of B4495 Marston Ferry Road cycle path, where it crosses an access road to a car park. The cycle path has priority over the side road.

At junctions, the cycle path moves away from the road, gains a centre line, narrows, and rises up gently. It has clear priority over the minor road (though the paint could do with a refresh!). It’s not quite how I’d do it, but it’s clear that bikes have priority here. A shame about the bizarre pedestrian barriers on the narrow footpath though! (Image: Google Maps)

A photograph of the walking and cycling underpass which enables Cherwell School pupils to safely cross the busy main road.

While I can’t vouch for it at night, I’m sure this underpass is safe and well-used during the day, especially at school commute times. (Image: Google Maps)

Looking further around on the map it seems that there are other traffic-free cycle routes from other nearby housing areas, albeit not as wide and well-made as this one.

Again I acknowledge that it’s difficult to truly understand how something works merely by looking at a photograph of it. But it’s clear that the cycle path is at least worth a mention when discussing the high rate of cycling at Cherwell School. To ignore it is madness.

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11 Comments

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11 responses to “Cycling to school with the CTC again (a follow-up post)

  1. Gar Hywel

    CTC’s main purpose is to provide an amateur wage to their Counsellors, who do very nicely thank you very much. They earn useful foreign holidays, by providing them to others. The term “Touring ” ,as in touring bike, which is one of the worst misnomers in the English english language, is their responsibility having taken it from the French without translating it.
    “Touring” as in tour de France means “Race”, ie it is a racing bike.
    They have little concern for improving safety for cyclists, and other non motorised wheeled vehicles.
    There is little safe cycling on road these days unless you are in a peleton, group, which provides safety with numbers, from road vehicles.
    Redefining the push bicycle as NOT a vehicle at any time, is something that would be totally beyond the comprehension of such uncouth people.

    • I agree that if we ceased to regard the bicycle as a “vehicle”, implying a parity with motor vehicles, it would be really helpful. This would make it clearer that it needs its own infrastructure. It would be harder for the government simply to fail to accommodate a whole mode of transport.

      • Chris Juden

        A discussion of whether a bicycle should be defined as a vehicle (or ‘carriage’ as the law presently has it) would be another interesting topic. But becareful what you wish for. Do we really want bicycles to be seen as merely an aid to walking, like push-scooters and roller-skates? Does that seem likely to lead to Dutch-quality infrastructure, or simply more white paint on the sidewalk? It’s a policy that may do well enough for the journey to school, but seems destined to confirm the bicycle as the childish thing its detractors already consider it to be. I think we all agree that the bicycle needs to be regarded as a practical means of transport for adult journeys too.

        We tend to forget that the bicycle is not the only kind of ‘carriage’ that has effectively been driven off the road. The traditional carriage drivers have unfortunately relinquished their right to ‘access all areas’ without a murmur, and retreated into rural enclaves of quiet lanes and greenways. Except when Appleby horse fair is on: when the travelling sort of carriage driver has no option (since it is the only practicable route across the pennines thereabouts) but to cause traffic delays on the virtual motorway that has been made of that old turnpike road, the A66!

        Although they seem to have thrown in the towel already, I do wonder if it might help to campaign jointly with carriage drivers for small separate roads for slow traffic, adjacent to all of those routes that have been stolen from us. It might be one way to get the Dutch-quality infrastructure we all want, rather than simply getting shunted onto the sidewalk.

        • Yes, better infrastructure for horse-drawn carriages! ;)

          The problem with that, is that for the overwhelming majority of people, the horse-drawn carriage is irrelevant. We simply don’t care about it. My grandfather occasionally goes out in his pony-and-trap, but even his fellow farmers see that as eccentric.

          It was replaced by the iron horse. And then, for most people, the horseless carriage. And that is real progress.

          Please let’s not make any retrograde steps. Lumping cyclists together with horses and carts sounds like something the Nice Way Code might do, which is not a good sign.

          Most importantly, the Dutch did not get where they are today by campaigning for carriages. They campaigned for their children.

        • I agree with PJ McNally, linking the bicycle with horse-and-cart will only serve to make us look even more old fashioned and out of touch!

          We’re not suggesting that bikes should be removed from the “vehicle” definition, but rather splitting the “vehicle” category in two. (So there’s no fear that bikes will be, legally, a “walking aid”.)

          So in law, there would be “pedestrian” (or whatever tortured legalese they use), “motor vehicle”, and then the new bicycle-and-related-vehicles category, which would probably be “non-motored vehicles”.

          I’d be happy to include low-speed (sub-15mph), low-acceleration electric vehicles in this category, to allow for e-bikes, mobility scooters, etc. It would probably be rendered as “non-powered and low-powered-electric light vehicles” or something.

          The law should reflect reality here. The majority of vehicles on our roads are clearly in a different class to the bicycle. Spot the odd one out – HGV, bicycle, bus, car, motorbike. Really, cycling does not belong in the same space as the driving of motor vehicles any more than walking does. It’s a separate, third category which should be separately provided for, and this should be reflected in law.

  2. davidhembrow

    Very interesting to see this. Cherwell School would seem to be almost uniquely blessed (for the UK) by having infrastructure which encourages children to cycle and makes their parents feel it is safe to do so.

    Infrastructure of this type is a far more powerful incentive to ride a bike than any amount of training.

  3. triptogenetica

    Thanks for the mention!

    About the Cherwell School / Marston Ferry Road cyclepath;

    You say:
    “Though I know it’s not ideal to get a feel for infrastructure purely from online sources”,
    “Again I acknowledge that it’s difficult to truly understand how something works merely by looking at a photograph of it”.

    Ok – as someone who rides it regularly – it is brilliant! It works really well, so much so that I’d rather ride this way to work than any other!

    Also – you clearly have better Google skills than me, I wasn’t able to get those Streetview images – but yes, it is that busy with commuting kids, every single school day.

    Re the “vehicle” thing – perhaps just make the distinction between pedestrians, vehicles, and motor vehicles clearer? For instance – my commuting bike *is* my vehicle to work – but just as “sharing the road” with motor vehicles doesn’t work, “sharing the pavement” with pedestrians just leads to mutual antagonism and achingly slow journeys.

    • And thank you for providing feedback from a frequent user of the cycle path!

      Regarding the “vehicle” thing, I agree with both of you. The problem with UK law is that a bike doesn’t really exist as a distinct form of transport. It’s usually lumped in as a vehicle, equal to the lorries and cars and buses. Which of course is nonsense, the bicycle is quite clearly a different class of vehicle altogether. Or alternatively, it’s lumped in with walking, the dreaded ‘shared use’ footpath. There needs to be a separate category for bicycles in law.

  4. Coincidentally, I cycled past Cherwell school and along Marston Ferry Road last month. Was the best cycle infrastructure I’d seen in Oxford, perhaps in the whole UK. The path on Marston Ferry Road is a decent length, very wide (perhaps enough for 5 abreast), well-surfaced, and completely free of traffic. An absolute pleasure, even in the rain!

    Completely agree that this infrastructure (and other infrastructure in Oxford such as cycle lanes and widespread 20mph limits) explains high cycle rates at Cherwell School (and nearby schools too).

    Great post.

    (Now we just need to smash those plans for road-narrowing on The Plain… Can’t believe they are *supported* by local cycle campaign group… £1m completely wasted)

    • triptogenetica

      Yes, The Cherwell cycle route is great. Even has clear priority over side roads, which drivers so respect!

      Also fairly well connected to other segregated routes, particularly North-South. And that makes it work.

      The fact you’re in Oxford almost makes me want to meet up, do some campaigning. But then I remember, this is bigger than just Oxford. And it will have to be solved with some real direction, guidance, and binding standards, at a national level. In no other transport do we see local campaigning – except NIMBYism – and local-level tinkering just leads to poorly connected networks that don’t work. (Tried taking a bus across county borders lately?).

  5. Pingback: It can be done! Here’s an English arterial road with a wide lane for bikes - Roads Were Not Built For Cars

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