Cycling to School with the CTC

Over a year ago I wrote an article criticising the CTC. What sparked it was their “Right to Ride to School” page, which at the time suggested that everything except the roads was the reason for Britain’s 2% cycle-to-school rate.

Since then, they’ve clarified that that specific campaign is aimed solely at those schools which place additional blocks in the way of cycling — such as mandating on helmet use, refusing to allow bike parking, or even banning cycling altogether.

Fair enough, I suppose, but I’d say that schools’ irrational opposition to cycling is merely a symptom of the unpleasant and dangerous conditions on Britain’s roads and streets. No school wants a dead child on their hands, and so they try to ban what they see as a potentially deadly activity.

But campaign for the right conditions — and this does mean cycle paths, by the way, training and 20mph zones alone won’t convince many parents to let little Timmy and Jenny out on their own — and these fears will evaporate.

To talk about cycling to school without mentioning cycle paths is strange and rather silly. The CTC say that the campaign is aimed solely at obstructive schools, but it’s still ignoring the elephant in the room when it comes to what’s really preventing children cycling to school.

I still think, a year on, that the CTC remain weak (to the point of having no official position) on Dutch-style cycle infrastructure, and whether they get behind it or not isn’t my concern. They do run the risk of being left behind, as today the word “segregation” is on everyone’s lips when cycling infrastructure is mentioned.

They claim that they “have always supported good infrastructure” but that’s not enough. They need to actively push for good infrastructure, but they won’t do it. Meanwhile they’re happy to get behind stupid rubbish such as the Nice Way Code, yet another “share the road” campaign. (Though they do offer some mild criticism where nobody will read it.)

The only overtures they’ve made towards the Dutch model is the frankly embarrassing Cycletopia, which seems to have died a death of neglect anyway.

Cyclecraft for your children, cycle paths for ours

What spurred me to write this post, however, is that I received confirmation of something I had suspected since I wrote that original post. Last year, I wrote:

“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?”

Here is the photo in question, still in use on the CTC’s website:

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.

“Take the lane kids, John Franklin will be proud!”

I asked at the time for the location of the photo, and despite being told that the CTC knew, I wasn’t told.

Well, I now know where this photo was taken, and I know that this is a staged photo of a CTC employee’s children. I’m not going to reveal the location, as I’m not sure whether these particular children use this segregated cycle path (for that’s what it is!), and I don’t want to compromise their privacy (they haven’t had a choice about whether to be involved in this debate, after all).

But I will show you a photo of the location, which I think tells us all we need to know:

A photo of the location of the CTC's Right to Ride to School photo, showing the context. A narrow but otherwise Dutch-style cycle path runs parallel to a road.

Aha, found it! More towards Bikeability, or Go (a little bit) Dutch?

The children were riding on the very type of infrastructure that the CTC are still reluctant to push for. It’s not very wide – probably only about 1.5m – but in most other respects it’s fairly Dutch (well, for a British attempt at a cycle path, anyway).

I find it very cynical and dishonest of the CTC to choose this location to take the photo, yet failing to call for this type of infrastructure. They seem to be saying “oh training is enough for your children to ride on the road, but not for our children. Our children use the cycle paths, but we won’t tell you that!”

Why crop the photo so closely? Why not show the wider context? Because when you’re an organisation which believes the-road-is-right (and, let’s face it, they still do) you can’t admit that, for your children, the road is simply too dangerous (but that this physically protected cycle path is lovely and safe).

So this is a staged photo of children on bikes. It had to be staged because nowhere in Britain has the type of infrastructure that’s required to see scenes like this every single day:

A photo of the school run at a school in the Netherlands. A wide cycle path is filled with children riding bikes.

Why do you think all these children are here? I’ll give you a clue: it’s the cycle path.

This kind of scene is commonplace and every-day in the Netherlands, and it’s the infrastructure – especially the cycle paths – that make it so. If the CTC really want children to ride to school, this is what they need to start pushing for.

I’ve heard voices from the inside who suggest that the CTC is moving towards supporting Dutch-quality cycling infrastructure, but I’ve been hearing this stuff for a year now. When’s the announcement? Where’s the new policy document?

I suspect that while the CTC pay lip service to the notion of cycle paths, some of those in charge remain enamoured with the idea that we can create a cycling revolution on the roads as they are.

So instead they continue to bang on about Bikeability as if that’s going to change a damn thing:

“Improving conditions and provision for cyclists on the road network is crucial if we want to get more children cycling. But it is also vital to be teaching them basic skills of bike handling, hazard perception and the road skills required to deal with the conditions as they are now.”

No, it’s not, because no parent is mad enough to let their children actually ride a bike on the roads!

Perhaps what the CTC should do, instead of all these campaigns, is start some sort of club for people who like to go on long bike rides. I bet they’d be good at that. Don’t know what they’d call it, though.


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28 responses to “Cycling to School with the CTC

  1. I’m surprised at the lack of comments here so far.

    It’s very sad that a staged photo was used and cropped so as to hide where it was taken in order to support the idea that training along will encourage cycling. Britain has quiet enough cycle-training already and its lack of ability to grow cycling has been demonstrated quite adequately over decades.

    Your photo of Assen shows children cycling in the conditions which are required for children to cycle. A wide smooth cycle-path which goes from their home to their school. This is normal all across The Netherlands, a country which does not rely on training in order to get kids on bikes but which builds the infrastructure required to enable both the children to feel safe and their parents to believe that their children will be safe. The same infrastructure makes it possible for older people and disabled people to cycle, and has resulted in there also being far more fast cyclists in The Netherlands than in English language countries with poor infrastructure. Why ? Because everyone is served by good infrastructure.

    CTC members have nothing to lose and everything to gain from Britain truly copying the Dutch example.

  2. I would very much like to see Nederlands type infrastructure in the UK. However we are now the greater part of a century behind the Dutch in getting off first base in developing such infrastructure. This period of cycling neglect has led to not just a tipping point but an absolute avalanche in favour of motor vehicle provision.
    Every campaign for change has to be tempered with the reality of where we are now. To this affect I think the CTC has in the main got it about right. It is not a situation for complacency though.

    • Have you seen what The Netherlands looked like 40 years ago ? Not so different to how the UK looks now. It took less than a decade for the Netherlands to transform itself adequately that some people from the UK wondered why the UK wasn’t following similar policies.

      CTC has existed for 135 years without starting to campaign effectively for change yet.

      How can you ever expect progress from a campaign of doing and asking for very little ?

      • To answer the first part of your comment. Yes I lived in Holland for the greater part of the 70s, and cycle infrastructure was firmly in place and an accepted part of a developing country.
        It is to the shame of the CTC though they wont acknowledge it, that they campaigned against segregated infrastructure in the 1930s.

        We are where we are now, and the need is to move forward from the present position. A revolution will not happen, but constant campaigning will eventually yield results.

  3. Well said – until there are safe routes to schools, parents won’t allow their kids to cycle – end of story. It doesn’t matter how much you train a 9 year old to ride on the road, the sheer volume of cars doing the school run means it’s very difficult for most kids to be able to cycle safely.

    Until now we’ve been able to tow/carry both boys to school, but as of next week it’s going to be either walking or riding on the pavement. Makes me very sad indeed, but it’s not worth the risk.

    I’m trying to do my bit – for example see this article I wrote,
    but we need safe routes, not words now.
    p.s. Brilliant detective work!

    • Karen, it’s great that you do this. We had enough unpleasant incidents on the way to school with our children on their own bikes in Cambridge that we ended up walking up instead. However, I must correct your statistics as quoted in your blog post:

      I’ve seen the “49% of Dutch children cycle to school” statistic bandied about quite a lot recently and I wondered where it had come from. You provided the source, for which I thank you, but the source actually actually says “of primary school children”. i.e. children aged up to 11. Primary schools are tiny and near everyone’s home. No child in the Netherlands has to travel far to reach a primary school so walking is quite viable. However, when they reach secondary school the distances are often impractical for walking and of course those same children are more likely to want to make extra journeys at the end of the day, for instance to go to the beach or a park, visit friends or take part in clubs. For this reason, walking almost stops and cycling takes over. In this area it’s quite normal for children to cycle up to 40 km a day to get to and from school. This is a rural area, there are no school buses and this can be the distance to the nearest school.

      Far from just 49%, it’s actually quite common for more than 90% of children to cycle to secondary school in The Netherlands. The lowest secondary school figures are for Amsterdam, which is a bustling city with much old and less than ideal infrastructure. In that city, just 53% of first year students at secondary school cycle (it increases with age). Because Amsterdam is quite large, this low percentage drags down the average for the whole country, but that average is still 89%. i.e. for much of the country more than 90% of all children cycle to secondary school.

      Your link for your Danish source is broken. However, I preserved a copy of their claim here. You were not comparing like with like. Denmark only claimed that 45% of children of all ages “often” cycle to school. This is not remotely the same as claiming that 45% of them do so every day. In fact, Denmark is a very long way behind The Netherlands so far as cycling to school is concerned.

      I think it’s not helpful to present figures in the way you have as this makes it look as if there is near parity. In reality, the Dutch policy for child cycling is far more successful and this is what should be copied in the UK.

      • Thanks David – I’ll see what I can do to get the stats clarified – as I’m only a guest blogger it’s not in my control to update directly.

      • Tim

        David, I think you’d be surprised (or perhaps not) by the number of people who drive their children to our local primary school, despite you being correct about the short distances. A common excuse is that it’s part of a longer journey to work.

        The worst part is that due to the parking on the road where the school is – a dead end – the remaining width is too narrow for cars in both directions, so drivers entering the road just mount the kerb and drive with one side of their car on the pavement. Outside a busy primary school at dropping off and picking up time. Of course this makes it more dangerous to walk (or cycle) so more people drive, etc…

    • Hi Karen,

      Thanks for your comment. I do admire you for persevering with cycling to school in a country which does its best to prevent it! I ride around London (on quiet back routes) but the thought of taking my 5 year old niece with me sends shivers down my spine.

      I completely agree that cycle paths (and footpaths) are what’s required to get children cycling and walking to school. Focussing on training while we have no cycle paths is all cherry and no cake. That won’t assuage anyone’s hunger!

      I can’t claim credit for the detective work, by the way. It was sent in by a reader who wishes to remain anonymous! Truly top-notch sleuthing.


  4. Martin, Cambridge

    Is it just the perspective of that picture of a British cycle path, or is it really as poor as it looks?

    Narrow paths, which are anything but Dutch, and suit nobody (faster cyclists, slower cyclists, people not yet cycling, and pedestrians alike) are exactly the kind of thing that campaigners who have in the past been wary of segregated infrastructure have been scared of getting (and almost always do get) when they’ve asked for it.

    I think the whole cycling community has got to be 110% clear that requests for segregation means proper, real infrastructure (to Dutch standards, with proper width and priority at sideroads) that are better for everyone to use than the road – and not the kind of thing usually seen around the UK.

    Can you take a picture from the path itself, showing the width?

    • Yes, the cycle path in question is poor. I was never suggesting this is an example of good quality infrastructure! I even mentioned that the path is far too narrow.

      So I agree with you, we campaigners do need to ask for the best. But I think you’ve missed the point of this post, which is that the CTC are still not calling for proper Dutch infra (as in my third photo) yet they stage their photos using a motor traffic-free cycle path.

      If Bikeability is so good and effective, why were the children not photographed riding on the road – why use a cycle path at all? For your children, Bikeability is enough to get them on the road, but for their children, that’s not safe enough. They found a cycle path instead.

  5. “It had to be staged because nowhere in Britain has the type of infrastructure that’s required…” Actually, I can think of some, but even those are little islands and often right next to some truly horrific screwups, which does limit usage – parents would let little Jack and Jill ride on the nice stuff, but not through the disaster zone you have to cross to reach it. It might be just that none of the good bits were near where the photoshoot needed to be fo some reason.

    Anyway, so is your headline message is that CTC should Go Dutch? That we should all give up on CTC and join CycleNation groups or BritishCycling instead? Start another new group that we can lose control of? Or what?

    • Hi MJ,

      Thanks for your comment. You’re quite right about the good bits of cycle infrastructure in the UK, they’re nearly always surrounded by absolute rubbish, making them pointless islands in a sea of danger. (I always wonder who they’re for, as anyone who can reach them has to be happy riding with fast motor traffic anyway, why would they choose to leave the road for a few yards?)

      As for my headline message, it’s that the CTC should actively begin to campaign for proper infrastructure, rather than this vague and half-hearted “support” they currently offer. I know of many people who have left the CTC as they see them as ineffective and old-fashioned. (Not that everything they do is bad, of course.) CycleNation, as far as I can tell, is institutionally Franklinist. British Cycling is a sports body, though they’re more on the ball than CTC and CycleNation when it comes to utility cycling campaigning. Of course, I openly support the Cycling Embassy of Great Britain, and recommend that anyone keen to see safe cycling for all should do so too!

  6. Hey Schrödinger

    Just to confirm that CTC *does* support continental-style segregation. We announced this last December – see

    A CTC campaigns briefing, providing an overview of CTC’s stance on the subject, is here:
    (N.B. Several more detailed briefings on various infrastructure issues are planned. Meanwhile the full list of current CTC campaigns briefings is at

    Among other things, the infrastructure briefing above tackles the question (as discussed above by Martin, Cambridge) of how we balance positive advocacy of quality segregation, whilst continuing to oppose the worse-than-useless segregation that has historically given the term such a bad name in the UK.

    It also explains that some key facets of segregation will need changes to UK traffic regulations in order to work as well as they do in countries like the Netherlands. It is good news that DfT is now committed to reviewing those regs (even though they don’t propose to consult on them till 2014, adn to implement them till 2015 at the earliest!) My colleague Chris Peck blogged about this only yesterday in a comment piece on the current TRL trials of Dutch infrastructure – see

    So please, rather than waging out-dated (non-)arguments, how about we get a constructive dialogue going about how we secure the political will to put in place the necessary traffic regs (preferably sooner rather than later!), and to make available the funding and the roadspace / junction capacity needed for high-quality cycle provision? Likewise, to work out how best to explain the difference between quality segregation and the rubbish variety to the UK’s traffic planners and engineers? That explanation will then need to be enshrined in new guidance – not least stop the provision of unsafe infrastructure. But how we do all this involves addressing some real “devil in the detail” issues, so that the cycling lobby can broadly unite around a shared agenda to achieve the outcomes we all seek.

    I’ve said many times that I’m very keen to hold this discussion, with CEoGB and with pro-segregation bloggers such as yourself. The sooner you and/or your CEoGB friends get in touch, the sooner we can get a time and place sorted!

    A lot of the political progress that cycling has made in the past 18 months has come about thanks to really close collaboration between CTC, British Cycling, Sustrans, LCC etc in the pursuit of shared goals. We aren’t necessarily unanimous on every detail. However we don’t have any major differences either – and we’re very good at hammering out any minor ones ‘within the family’, rather than waging them publicly!

    That preference for resolving issues through dialogue (rather than online argument) also explains why I’m so non-responsive to the various bits of flak that get posted in the blogosphere or Twittersphere. This determination to avoid “Judaean People’s Liberation Front v People’s Liberation Front of Judaea” type arguments (with apologies to anyone unfamiliar with the Monty Python reference) has been crucial to the cycling lobby’s success in avoiding the hugely damaging rifts that allowed DfT to allocate precisely £0.00 to cycling in the 2 years following the National Cycling Strategy’s adoption in 1996. With cycling now at last regaining some glimmers of the political momentum we had back then, I personally remain utterly determined to avoid landing ourselves in pitfalls like that ever again.

    With that, please, let’s get talking! (N.B. I’m away from mid next week till last week Sept. Ping me an email though – we’ll take it from there).

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

    • sbtxt

      Am bemused by the way cycling advocates and lobby groups can seem so dismissive and slightly sneering of online conversation, preferring cosy and private chats amongst the ‘experts’. IMO the energy and shift on attitude which has changed public debate over the last 2yrs has come about because of the online work of excellent independent bloggers and contributions from ordinary cyclists. Wish the ‘professionals’ would get this, as they are at risk of being left behind here

      • Hi sbtxt,

        I completely agree with everything you say here. It’s 2013, the Internet isn’t going away any time soon! These things are no longer monolithic, information is no longer controlled by the few, and the conversation can’t be controlled by one entity.

        Without blogs such as ‘A View From The Cycle Path’ and ‘As Easy As Riding A Bike’ (to name but two) I sincerely doubt we’d be talking about “Go Dutch” or know the benefits of good cycle infrastructure. We’d still be talking about Cyclecraft and vehicular cycling, and how depressing would that be?


    • Hi Roger,

      Thanks for your comments. I appreciate that you take the time to discuss these things.

      I must say first of all that I agree with the comment by ‘sbtxt’ below – the perfect place to discuss this stuff is online. Everyone can say their piece, do their research, prepare photographs and diagrams, cite sources, etc. It gives people time to consider and write a response. It’s great!

      Live and in person it’s much harder to do this. I’m sure you remember the meeting last year where Oliver Schick claimed that the Dutch have the shortest commutes in Europe, and when challenged he refused to cite a source or back down. I’ve since done the research and found it to be complete cobblers, but he managed to derail the whole discussion with such spurious nonsense.

      Online, nobody can get away with making stuff up like that, or they’ll be pounced upon by dozens of knowledgeable readers and lose all credibility.

      Furthermore, there’s always this vague threat of 1996 repeating itself. I sincerely doubt that the (other) Department for Transport is reading this blog, or others, and using it as an excuse to ignore cycling investment. If they are then they were never planning on investing in cycling anyway, and would have found some other excuse. I’m not a national organisation with access to the DfT’s ear, I’m just one guy writing his personal thoughts on an obsure, niche blog.

      With regard to the CTC’s commitment to “support” Dutch-style infrastructure, I think that proclaiming “support” is different to advocating something. The policy articles are full of good stuff (though I’m not a fan of the ‘early start’ concept!), but it’s still not clear that the CTC is pushing the government to “Go Dutch”, and I’m clearly not the only one who feels this way. It feels rather hidden and secondary, while I believe it should really be the main focus for anyone who wants more and safer cycling.

      Having said that, I am glad that the CTC is starting to discuss these things. Chris Peck’s recent article about the TRL trials was very interesting and raised some valid points. I’m in complete agreement that the DfT needs to create standards (not mere guidance but actual, must-be-followed, illegal-to-ignore standards) for cycling infrastructure. But I don’t think that should put us off working within the current rules to create good quality cycle routes in the meantime.

      This article itself was about the misleading photo on the ‘Right to Ride to School’ page. You surely understand that I couldn’t ignore the information that was passed to me. It neatly sums up the problem that many have with the CTC’s selective blindness for infrastructure. The comment and article by ‘triptogenetica’ shows another example of this. While the CTC “supports” infrastructure, it seems much more enamoured with soft measures such as training, even to the extent of hiding or ignoring the infrastructure when it’s there.

      I’d have thought that, for an organisation which “supports” Dutch-style infrastructure, the headline message about Cherwell School would have been the excellent, wide cycle-path which runs alongside the main road! But apparently that’s not worthy of mention, while the training and maintenance classes are solely responsible for the high cycling rate there. I know that the idea behind ‘Cycletopia’ was to give examples of different techniques, but it seems to focus on the soft measures icing rather than the cycle path cake.

      Anyway, I think I’ve wittered on for long enough now. I do appreciate your openness and willingness to talk and reach some consensus. I’ll email you shortly, but I have to reiterate – personally, I much prefer to do my debating in public and online!


    • JItensha Oni

      Hey Roger,

      “A lot of the political progress that cycling has made in the past 18 months has come about thanks to really close collaboration between CTC, British Cycling, Sustrans, LCC etc in the pursuit of shared goals. ”

      Pull the other one. Prove it. You’re just riding a small wave of popularity that is probably driven by other factors, not least the rise of a potentially significant vote. The Mayor of London commended the bloggers and London is where the biggest changes are likely to happen. In detail:

      How influential have the CTC, Sustrans etc been in getting people on bikes, outside of leisure? Yours and sister organisations have done good work in promoting off-road cycling, training, and representing cyclists legal rights, but looking at the modal share stats over the past 50 years, it seems other influence has been almost wholly negative. Any recent rises can readily be explained by other factors, such as our sporting success, the recession, fashion and possibly even global warming. When other parts of Northern Europe were getting on with cycle provision, and provision that worked, you oversaw a decline in build standards, the disbanding of Cycling England, the rise of almost complete automobile hegemony, and are now welcoming a wishy-washy statement from the DfT that does nothing to improve matters for would be utility cyclists in most parts of the country. From the age of 10 -19 I cycled to first primary and then secondary school witnout parental supervision without an issue, but by the time my kids were of school age, conditions had got so hostile that my wife and I decided, with most people, that this was not an option. We knew we had cycled through a major decline in conditions for cyclists. You and your sister organisations presided over this and could do nothing to ameliorate it – I can’t tell whether you were trying or not. And with that record, you have some neck in criticising the methods of people like Schrödinger’s Cat and CEoGB. If it weren’t for them, and many others on the internet, would you have been driven to rewite your campaigns briefings? Not judging by the dates on them. Now my kids are preparing to have their kids, I will advise them about which set of cycling advocates I should tell them are likley to have the greatest influence on utilty cycling in future. In this past few weeks we’ve had Walton-on-Thames plans which you lauded for their “cycle tracks” which are unmarked and discontinuous paths shared with pedestrians; the Royal College Street “extra-narrow Danish-Catalan-stylee” paths wth added planters and disembarking bus passengers to knock into; and the bizarre loopy plans for a junction in East London. Your “dialogues” don’t seem to have stopped this kind of nonsense. Meh.

      Coming to the rally in central London tomorrow?

      JO just an everyday klutz on a bike

    • triptogenetica

      Dear Roger –

      The People’s Cycling Front of South Gloucestershire has an excellent 4 point action plan – please do read it!

      Not my blog, but i agree with much of the thinking behind it.

  7. Pftt! Clearly your picture of the so-called British cycle path is a Photoshop effort. If it were real, there’d be give way lines either side of those two gates, and at least four “Cyclists Dismount” signs visible.

  8. triptogenetica

    For more context, I’d offer the Oxford example –

    from Cycletopia, point 8, “schools” – Cherwell School, Oxford. CTC think Cherwell School has nearly 60% of pupils cycling to school thanks to “maintenance workshops”. I’d respectfully suggest there might be some other reason. (hint – the answer is in the picture in the article – and it’s a stonking great big cycle lane and underpass).

    Nice to see Roger getting stuck in here for the CTC! Thank you for taking the time. You seem to be both pragmatic and committed to proper infrastructure, which is encouraging.

    I’m a bit confused by a preference “for resolving issues through dialogue (rather than online argument)” – surely online argument is a form of dialogue? Or do you mean a room with lots of high-viz jackets on the backs of the chairs?

    Seriously though – I do want us all to pull together.

    And I do have a high viz jacket, myself. And the CTC does a good job of defending the right to ride, for those of us who own one.

    But we are all “cyclists” – we are the low-hanging fruit, the people who are already cycling in the UK, despite local and national transport policies that are deeply flawed or just downright hostile for people on bikes.

    I want to see my children cycle! I want them to leave the house in the morning, to ride to school, without me being terrified they will die. And no amount of Bikeability will do that.

    Being charitable, and taken in isolation, this heavily cropped picture might just be a mistake.

    But in context, it’s symptomatic of a head-in-the-sand, stubborn refusal to see the truth staring us all in the face – that until conditions are right – until the infrastructure is there – most people wouldn’t dream of letting their kids ride to school (and they might well be doing the right thing).

    • Thanks for your comment, and your excellent follow-up article about Cherwell School. That’s very interesting. Looking at the area on Google Streetview, there’s a very wide cycle path running from the area to the south-east right to the school.

      While the school is obviously supportive of cycling in many ways, it’s clear that the infrastructure has a massive effect on the number of children cycling to school. And yet the CTC fail to mention this!

      This is exactly the ‘head in the sand’ kind of thinking which annoys people about the CTC. As you say, no amount of Bikeability (or maintenance classes, for that matter) would convince parents to let their children ride on the main road!

  9. triptogenetica

    Also –

    “British Cycling is a sports body, though they’re more on the ball than CTC and CycleNation when it comes to utility cycling campaigning. ”

    Yes- this is exactly why i joined BC rather than renew my CTC membership this year. Bizarrely a sports body seems to “get” my kind of cycling better than the bodies who posit themselves as the obvious choice.

  10. Man on bike!

    John Snow seems to be the president – have you tried tweeting him your concerns?

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

  12. I’d decided not to enter this particular debate because I didn’t think my response to Roger’s comments could have a positive outcome – they never have in the past, and tbh, they may not now. I also know the cycle network around Cherwell School very well indeed but was really pleased to see others vouch for its #space4cycling credentials so I didn’t have to.

    So what ‘s brought me here now? This week’s CycleClips dropped into my inbox today with the title:

    Why are children being banned from cycling?

    It’s an excellent question. It’s just the kind of open, big picture question that ought to bring us closer to understanding what’s behind this sorry phenomenon. But before I start running with it I want to make it clear I agree with CTC’s stance of protecting cyclist’s rights. CTC are an organisation of cyclists and if a member needs help in allowing their child to cycle then the organisation has a duty to help. There are other human rights issues affecting cyclists that I think CTC could do more to support but if it’s not an ‘on-road’ situation the campaign department have been far less forthcoming with that help. But that’s another story.

    The CTC are now an organisation for ‘cycling’ rather than just for ‘cyclists’, and it marked that, as Roger points out, by making an announcement that “CTC *does* support continental-style segregation” at the Bristol Campaign Conference, although that was in October rather than December. I know because I was there and can tell you it was the most negative, caveat laden presentation of ‘support’ I’ve ever witnessed. So much so that my wife took away the message that CTC weren’t listening to her or people like her and joined LCC instead.

    I know a little about not being listened to by Roger because I’m one of the people he christened a Monty Python PFJ splitter on the CTC Right to Ride forum and it stung to see him bring it up again so long after in this comment thread. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve not got a problem with being a splitter, I’ve grown to be quite proud of it, the real problem was following that incident Roger never read or listened to a damn word I said. And when I decided to resign and leave the forum he said he knew they’d lost me when…

    What does it matter when or what? Open debate, even behind closed doors, was simply a sorting hopper to see whether you’re in or out.

    Open debate was what I craved. I asked for it, I questioned when and where it could happen, both on the Cyclenation forum and the Right to Ride forum, but it was never allowed. Eventually I got out into the open, here, where it is. I suggest you stay here too.

    Back to the kids. Before CTC’s ‘support’ for ‘continental-style segregation’ bike life existed on the road, indeed it appears it still does, very much a right to be clung to whatever the cost. No matter what the cost to kids’ health any deviation from the Right to Ride on the road, in crap conditions, was a betrayal to cyclists and cyclesport in particular which needed to be on the road to race and feared having its time trials banned. Sounds like bollocks? That debate went beyond a hundred emails, which I won, but it was a hollow victory; it didn’t change anyone’s view. I came to recognise over time that CTC campaign dept’s yardstick for a pro-bike measure was a 2 yard anti-car stick.

    Carlton’s doing a sterling job taking historical fact – that CTC were opposed to ‘segregation’ until last year – and pointing out that others were opposed to it too so by some arse-and-elbow logic CTC aren’t the bad guys at all – it was Hitler, or the road lobby, anyone but CTC, the cyclists’ champion. He might be right. We’ll never know. But CTC got what it wanted and stepping back to see the bigger picture it left bikes in a very unpleasant place in towns and cities.

    I ride a tandem sometimes and I can’t count the number of conversations it generates with old guys and gals coming over to check out how it’s set up and recall the old times. Invariably they love it, and loved riding them, but have all given up because of the unpleasant road conditions. Even ‘keen cyclists’ see the problems and don’t want their kids riding on busy roads. It’s almost universally accepted amongst the public and outside of the CTC campaign department that cycling on many of today’s roads feels dangerous and is generally unpleasant. Give anyone in a position of responsibility for safety the choice and they’ll very often come down on the side of PPE or in extreme cases a ban.

    OK, banning is wrong. The inexorable rise of the car is a depressing reality too. But for the UK’s main cycling organisation to devolve ALL responsibility for the situation our children now find themselves in – the lack of safe #space4cycling – because of a consistently blind belief in the cyclist’s right to ride in crap conditions is, in my view, a case of the roadrunner stepping off the rock before it hits the deck. Deft but implausible.

    We all have a responsibility to sort out our kids’ only form of independent transport, and most of us know the answer doesn’t lie in level 3 Bikeability. Children are banned from cycling because we, the society they’re born into, have failed them. Fucking own up to it!

    ps I’m a CTC member, and choose to stay there because it supports inclusive cycling in its cycle champions arm. Although still not in the campaign dept.

  13. Pingback: St Paul Bicycle Plan: Good Enough? |

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

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