Tag Archives: British Cycling

British Cycling’s myopic “Vision” for Leeds

Somehow, I missed this gem from earlier this year, but it’s so bad that it deserves a thorough savaging.

In July, British Cycling published their “Vision” for the Headrow in Leeds. Actually, it seems to be just a vague concept for a very small section of one street in Leeds, so its scale is hardly visionary to begin with.

First of all, let me tell you that the bit of the Headrow in question – directly outside the Town Hall – is utterly crap as it is now. Almost anything would be an improvement. (This is why the poll at the bottom of British Cycling’s article is rather stupid – “would you prefer to be fed shit, or shit with a crispy sugar coating?”)

It’s a very wide road designed for the movement of large numbers of motor vehicles (lots of buses here, with stops on the north side), and without even basic features such as pedestrian crossings in suitable places. Where crossings do exist, they’re staggered, for the benefit of motor traffic.

People crossing the road in Leeds city centre, where the Council would prefer they didn't

Google’s Streetview car caught this scene randomly. It shows that a crossing is required here. (Google Maps)

The very wide Headrow in front of Leeds Town Hall, with no pedestrian crossing

Narrow medieval streets? (Google Maps)

A long staggered crossing outside Leeds Town Hall, and very wide carriageway.

No space for better provision for walking and cycling here? Oh, no no no. (Google Maps)

Clearly, there is lots of space available here. Eastbound the carriageway has two wide lanes, there’s a wide central reservation, and the lane westbound is two cars wide for most of its length. Lots of buses use this road, and there’s no restriction on general motor traffic here either.

So with such a large canvas on which to paint some excellent infrastructure, I’m completely baffled as to how British Cycling, with help from Steer Davis Gleave, have created an absolutely awful concept, with painted lanes, unusable bus stop bypasses, and bikes sharing space with buses.

British Cycling's vision for Leeds graphic, showing painted lanes, if you're lucky

Plenty of space here for segregation, yet British Cycling’s highest fantasy is a painted lane followed by sharing with buses. (Note the fetid stench of “shared space” fancy paving, which costs a lot of money so it surely must do wonders for cycling.)

Mixing with cars will boost cycling, right?

I hate cycling in front of cars, even if they are painted in sporting colours and waving flags out the window. (Note invisible buses and bus stops.)

Bikes, buses and cars all sharing happily in British Cycling's la-la land.

It’s easy to cut-and-paste photos of Dutch elderly people and families into a picture like this, but the simple truth is that people DO NOT WANT TO SHARE WITH BUSES. (Also note the cack-handed attempt at a bus stop bypass on the left.)

Catch up by doing less

The images above are taken from this video, which ends with a pathetic request for “£10 per head”, which given that the Dutch invest more than twice that amount on road infrastructure alone (not on “soft measures” such as training or promotion), it is nowhere near enough to “catch up” with the Netherlands.

Some campaigns have actually done the maths and are asking for real money, not pulling nice-sounding numbers out of thin air (I’ve not yet seen an explanation at how £10 per head was arrived at).

Pedal on Parliament gets it. Stop The Killing gets it. The Cycling Embassy gets it. Why are the big guns of cycle campaigning so unwilling to actually ask for a decent amount?

Anyway, I digress. Back to the Leeds “Vision”.

Standing still while claiming to move fast

So there’s plenty of space – and a need – for Dutch-quality segregated cycleways along this stretch of road. Why haven’t British Cycling suggested any?

I don’t get it.

Steer Davies Gleave have some people in Leeds who seem to be on the ball.

British Cycling have got Chris Boardman, who is always saying the right things these days, and yet he’s talking about this crap as if it would make a blind bit of difference.

I don’t understand how Chris Boardman can say this…

“Millions of people in Britain say they would like to cycle but they are put off due to safety fears. We cannot pretend that this is going to miraculously change.”

…when describing a road plan which does nothing at all to address those fears. Perhaps the “we” in the second sentence refers to the cycle campaigning establishment, who, it seems, continue to pretend that people’s natural dislike of sharing roadspace with heavy motor traffic is going to miraculously change.

They quote the Leader of Leeds City Council, Councillor Keith Wakefield, as if he isn’t lying through his teeth:

“…we want to put cycling at the heart of the future of Leeds… That is our long-term aim, to do everything we can to encourage and help as many people as possible to get cycling.”

This is a man who went on the local news to make excuses about Leeds’ “topography” as if the huge mountains of Leeds are alone responsible for the city’s zero-point-something-percent cycling modal share. (Before anybody starts, even Swiss cities have a much higher modal share than Leeds.)

Default Man says “take the lane”

Is this simply another example of a wider problem with our society, that everything is dominated and designed by middle-class, middle-aged, white men – AKA Default Man? Do they lack the empathy to see things through the eyes of others? It seems they’re unable to listen to what people want or need.

Fifteen years ago a teenage girl from Leeds identified what the city was lacking, and what it would take for her to use a bike in her home town. Rather than listen to her, the sombre grey Franklinists explained that she was wrong, that she was much better off riding on the road instead.

Nothing in Leeds has changed since then. They didn’t listen to Zohra back in 2000, and those in positions of power still aren’t listening.

If this sort of crap is the best they can come up with, then it’s time for the grey men to get out of the way, and make space for a new generation of campaigners.

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This isn’t a Cycle Safety Fund, this is Space for Motoring

This is part two in a series of three posts about the Bedford turbo roundabout and the funding behind it (AKA “Turbogate”). You’ll find part one here, and part three here.

So what have we learned since Tuesday’s article about Bedford council spending £300,000 of Cycle Safety Fund money installing a design intended to speed motor traffic?

Well, David Hembrow got in touch with Sustrans to ask what the hell they were thinking to support such a scheme. Their reply was mealy-mouthed but also illuminating.

Paul Hilton of Sustrans is essentially saying “don’t blame us, we only recommended spending £300,000 on a turbo-roundabout.” But he did point the finger at various other individuals who apparently share responsibility for this decision.

You can read the full exchange here, in the comments of yesterday’s post.

Franklinstein’s Monster

For me, the most surprising thing was that John Franklin – yes, that John Franklin – is part of the team which decides on which schemes the DfT’s pot of Cycle Safety Fund money will be spent.

This is the John Franklin who wrote, amongst other things, that:

Photo of a young girl (aged about three?) riding her bike without any fear as there are no cars around, with John Franklin quote: "The extra care enforced by the presence of motor traffic, generally results in the safest cycling environment overall."

If only there were more vans and taxis around here, this toddler would be truly safe from all those cycle paths!

That’s right: a man who believes that you’re safest cycling while surrounded by cars, vans and lorries is making decisions about how to spend millions of pounds of Cycle Safety Fund money.

I was surprised at this because he is Cyclenation’s representative on that board, and I’d previously been told that John Franklin didn’t have anything to do with Cyclenation these days beyond looking after their website.

I mentioned this on Twitter and then the following short but hilarious conversation took place between Cyclenation and Mark Treasure:

A Twitter conversation. Cyclenation says: 'Actually John Franklin no longer manages our website or membership database. The only connection between ourselves and JF is that he is a member of Cheltenham Cycle Campaign.' Mark Treasure says: 'But - just to clarify - he is your representative on the Cycle Safety Stakeholder Group?' Cyclenation says: 'Yes, sorry had overlooked that.'

Oh, that guy? He just speaks on our behalf when deciding where millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money will be spent. Apart from that, there’s no connection.

As Cyclenation is not just one body but a federation of local cycling campaigns across the country, it really does need to explain the reason for this bizarre situation to its members.

For a group which is a leading part of the national roll-out of the Space for Cycling campaign, it makes no sense to give such a position of influence (and thus power) to someone who believes that the only place for cycling is on the road mixed up with the cars and lorries.

Luckily, some conscientious Cyclenation members are already asking the right questions.

They Named Names!

Other members on the Cycle Safety Stakeholder Group include Chris Peck of CTC, Tony Russell of Sustrans, Ruth Jackson of British Cycling, Ralph Smyth of Campaign to Protect Rural England, and Robert Semple of TfL.

Now I don’t know the views of everyone on this panel – I have no idea of Ralph Smyth’s stand on urban roundabouts, nor whether Robert Semple gets involved in decisions about places outside London – but I would suggest that members of CTC, Sustrans and British Cycling should contact these bodies and demand to know what their decision was, and their reasoning for it. (Indeed, it seems some CTC members understandably feel this way already.)

Update: Chris Peck of CTC has written an article explaining his side of the story. I think it was written before this one was published, as he refers to Patrick Lingwood’s explanation as if it’s a good one (see below). I appreciate that the whole funding situation is far from ideal, but I’m still not convinced that they took the best course of action by approving such projects. At least Chris Peck has taken the time to respond, however flawed it may be – but there has been word as yet from Cyclenation or British Cycling.

Out With The Old Rubbish, In With The New Rubbish

The more I find out about this turbo roundabout scheme, the less sense it makes that cycling organisations should support it.

One of the architects of this scheme, Patrick Lingwood, Cycling Officer for Bedford Borough Council, defended the turbo-roundabout on Mark Wagenbuur’s blog last year.

His main justification for it seems to be that what is currently there is awful, which he spends a lot of time explaining in detail. This may well be the case, but it’s irrelevant as nobody is suggesting that current layout is great. We’re criticising this specific new design, not defending the existing layout, so trying to re-frame the debate to be about old versus new is distracting and false.

He sounds like a dedicated believer in the supremacy of Vehicular Cycling, just like John Franklin and John Forester. His language is typical of those who see “cyclists” as some special breed which excludes most of the population. He believes in the failed “dual network” concept of providing for two classes of cyclist. He clearly sees his job as being to cater for the few existing cyclists rather than provide safe cycling transport conditions that everybody could use.

For someone who is a cycling officer, he has designed a scheme which increases motor vehicle capacity at this junction by 40%. Rather than create something which is suitable for all users, this is a design which only the confident few can use efficiently, and which will be slow and awkward for others. He’s taken a Dutch concept which is intended to speed large volumes of motor vehicles on trunk roads (and which cycle routes are intended to bypass altogether) and has applied it to an urban location with high pedestrian flows.

And the cycling lobby has waved it through in your name.

And There’s More…

Finally, for now, it seems that this isn’t the only dubious project that Cycle Safety Fund money has been spent on. Cycling campaigner Alex Ingram has begun to compile a spreadsheet of Cycle Safety Grants so we can see where the money has gone.

Pretty quickly, he found this £70,000 Cycle Safety Fund scheme in Hereford:

A diagram showing a roundabout in Hereford, with eight cycle symbols painted on the road

A bargain at only £8750 per cycle symbol painted on the road.

It seems that all a council planner has to do is drop a few cycle symbols into their latest design (or simply claim there’s something “Dutch” about it) and Sustrans will recommend that money intended for cycling will pay for your motor-centric scheme.

As Private Eye would say, trebles all round!

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