Tag Archives: cycling

Britain can do it!

My last post — the one about bus stops — turned out to be very popular for some reason. Thanks to all who shared it, and hello, new readers!

One thing that I discovered as a result of that post is that bus stop cycle bypasses already exist in the UK — they’re not a new thing, they’re just very rare. (Do they even have a more concise name? I think I’ll call them BSCBs.)

Here’s a new example in Brighton:

A bus-stop cycle bypass in Brighton. The bus stop is on a pedestrian island between the cycle path and the road.

New BSCB on Lewes Road in Brighton. (Photo courtesy of Mark Strong)

Three cheers for Brighton & Hove City Council for installing this, and for the cycling advocates (including Mark Strong) who pushed for it!

There’s another photo here. I don’t know what the rest of the road looks like for bikes, but this is much better than the old design, which can still be seen on Google Maps:

A photo of the same bus stop before the cycle bypass was installed. Buses crossed the cycle lane to pull in, and people riding bikes were expected to pass stopped buses on the outside.

If you prefer this then you’re insane. (Photo: Google Maps)

The old design really is awful. Buses have to cross the cycle lane to get to the bus stop, and bike users have to overtake a rumbling bus (which will almost certainly not be stopped perfectly within the bus stop, but sticking out across the cycle lane). That’s not going to convince people to start using a bike for transport.

I also received word (thanks to Ambrose White) of a BSCB in Sheffield:

A bus-stop cycle bypass in Sheffield.

A BSCB in Sheffield. (Photo: Google Maps)

It’s rather odd that this exists at all, as the road it’s on is very wide and yet there’s only a poxy advisory cycle lane for the rest of its length. (At least, that’s what it looks like on Streetview, maybe it has changed since.)

But this BSCB does the job pretty well. I like that the cycle path is red, which alerts pedestrians. And the priority is unclear but well marked, too – there are bike icons (as well as the red surface) which tell pedestrians that they’re crossing a cycle-path, but there’s also a give way which warns bike users to be careful of pedestrians. It looks fairly decent to me.

Either way, I know that one place which is never pleasant to be is on the right-hand side of a rumbling bus.

(Stop press! I found another BSCB example on CycleStreets.)

Cycles and buses and lights, oh my!

While I’m on the subject of Dutch cycle infrastructure which can be done in the UK but rarely is, here’s a traffic signal bypass:

A rare example of infrastructure which enables a bike rider to continue while motor vehicles are held at a red light. This is possible because the cycle path runs to the side of the lights, and a bike user is not interacting with the conflicting flow of traffic.

“Bloody cyclists, always riding through red lights! Oh…”

As Mark Wagenbuur explains, bike users heading straight on at a T-junction aren’t actually interacting with the junction so there’s no reason to hold them at the red light. (They should give way to, and merge with, bikes coming from the right, however.)

And it turns out there’s lots of other Dutch touches around the UK, too. Here’s an example of a “free left” in Cambridge, combined with separate signals for bikes heading straight on:

Traffic lights in Cambridge, with a bypass for bikes turning left so they don't stop. Bikes going straight on are held at a red signal while motor vehicles turning left have green to go, and vice-versa.

It’s a bit too British, but Dutch enough. (Photo: Google Maps)

So bike users turning left aren’t held at the signals (but they must give way to traffic coming from the right, ideally the bike lane/path would continue around the corner), while bike users going straight on have their own traffic lights. When the bike lights are green, motor traffic in the left-turn lane is held at a red signal. When the left-turning motor traffic gets a green light, straight-on bike traffic is held at a red. So no conflict – they’re segregated in time.

Again, it’s odd that such good infrastructure exists here at all (though it could be better). There’s nothing behind the camera but to regular vehicle lanes, and the only way to turn right is to get into the right-hand lane (one thing which I’m sure puts off many would-be bike users). But it’s still an improvement over the usual UK habit of ignoring bike users altogether.

So it seems that almost everything we desire is already legally possible in the UK, but there’s often just not the knowledge or the will to do it. If the DfT produced clear national guidelines on how to provide these facilities – and made them mandatory, too – we would start to see them appearing all over the place.


 

Sorry, Northern Ireland — this post should have been called “The UK can do it!” I’d change it, but once WordPress has sent out the feed to other blogs, Twitter, etc., it causes all sorts of problems. At least I didn’t just say “England” though, eh?

 

21 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

How to suppress bike riding #2: Bus stops (and also, the solution)

I wrote much of this post ages ago, but never got around to finishing it. Events have somewhat overtaken me in the meantime, with TfL announcing plans to implement this very solution! (Update, ten months later: Sadly, they botched it.)

This type of design have also been recently covered at As Easy As Riding A Bike, and David Hembrow has previously discussed this Dutch bike-friendly bus stop design too. I recommend following those two links to see excellent Dutch designs.

If you require physical, concrete proof that the authorities don’t care about cycling, take a look at a bus stop. The design will almost certainly give priority to private motor vehicles, with public transport a poor second and bikes a very distant third.

Consider this fairly standard bus stop design (although it’s lacking the yellow ‘bus stop box’ markings).

What will happen when the bus pulls in?

A bus about to pull into and therefore block the cycle lane, so that cars can pass freely

A bus about to block the bike lane so that cars can pass freely. (Source: Google Maps)

The bus pulls in and blocks the cycle lane, so that cars can pass freely.

A photo of a bus pulled into a bus stop, which blocks the cycle lane but keeps general traffic lane clear.

The bus has pulled in to the bus stop, which blocks the cycle lane, enabling those very important cars to pass freely.

Any bike riders must wait behind…

A photo of a bus from behind. The bus is stopped on the road, blocking the cycle lane but keeping the motor traffic flowing.

Come on children, take the lane! Do it for the Cycling Revolution™!

…or pull out to pass the bus. (Note to any VC evangelists reading this: NORMAL PEOPLE FIND THIS TERRIFYING AND WON’T DO IT, HOWEVER MUCH YOU TELL THEM IT’S SAFE.)

A photo of bus blocking a cycle lane, and a bike rider overtaking the bus which is about to pull out.

People riding bikes must either wait behind the bus, or pull out to overtake it. (Overtaking a bus while riding a bike is something most people don’t ever want to do.)

This is the contempt with which the UK authorities see cycling — and buses are given second-rate status too. For not only do people riding bikes have to pull out to pass the bus (a terrifying place to be for most people) but when the bus is ready to set off it has to wait until there is a gap in traffic before it can pull out itself!

There, in one pithy design, is proof that the private car comes above all else. And it’s the standard design for bus stops in the UK, and it’s one reason why ‘normal’ people don’t ride bikes for transport. The constant leapfrogging between bikes and buses is a terrible way to organise traffic flow.

Go Dutch, go behind the bus stop

Returning back to the top photo, here’s a better alternative:

An alternative bus stop design, the likes of which are being suggested by TfL. The bus stops in the carriageway next to a 'bus stop island' allowing bike users to continue without having to overtake the bus.

An alternative bus stop design, the likes of which are now being suggested by TfL.

This design enables people riding bikes to pass buses without having to ride around the outside of the bus in the flow of traffic. (Remember, dear Cyclists: normal people aren’t willing to do that. Like the woman calmly riding while drinking a coffee there.)

Note the shallow, angled kerbs. I’m a big fan of these. If you’re using a wheelchair or pushing a pram, they’re easier to roll across. If you’re riding a bike, running into them will cause you no harm. They’re often called ‘forgiving kerbs’ (and known as ‘splay kerbs’ to those in the trade) and they’re a tiny change which makes a big difference. (One of the major flaws of the Torrington cyclepath in central London is the high, straight kerbs which mean that you must ride well away from the edge. Making these into shallow kerbs with an angle of about 30º would enable the full width of the path to be used… but that’s another post!)

But that’s just version one. The bus stop island is too narrow for my liking, but because we’ve moved the bus stop and ticket machine onto the island there’s now space on the pavement available to move the cyclepath across, so we can make the bus island wider:

A version of the previous 'bus stop island' design with a wider bus island

Plenty of space for people to get on and off the bus

There’s no loss of space to pedestrians, as the cyclepath would run over where the bus stop is currently located (i.e. you can’t walk there anyway due to the bus stop, ticket machine and bin). In fact, add the footpath and the bus stop island together and there’s actually more space for people on foot because the part of the road which was previously covered in stripes of paint is now the bus island!

TfL sees the light

I never thought I would praise TfL, but that is what we must do, for they have finally seen the light and realised that nearly everyone doesn’t like riding bikes amongst motor traffic. (Seems fairly obvious to me, but there you go.) Congratulations to whoever got this new design through!

More specifically to this article, they’ve realised that people don’t like overtaking buses while riding a bike. (Except for these selfish bastards, of course, but they’re extreme sports fanatics and adrenaline junkies, so we really shouldn’t base transport policy on their desires any more than we should design roads for boy racers.)

So it’s great that TfL are now planning this kind of design for the extension to Cycle Superhighway 2, and it’s the kind of thing which is normal in the Netherlands, and it works very well. Once you’re already dealing with a separate cyclepath it makes sense to put the bus stops on islands between the cyclepath and the road.

Here’s TfL’s artist’s impression of a bus bypass:

TfL's artist's impression of a cyclepath with bus stop bypass

TfL’s artist’s impression of a cyclepath with bus stop bypass. Note their fast Cyclist, no doubt about to collide with those innocent pedestrians.

It’s good but not quite right for me. Note the 90º kerbs and typical London Cyclist (capital-C intentional) complete with helmet, dropped handlebars, lurid jacket and probably gritted teeth (though he’s facing away so we can’t see that). (The Cyclist looks a bit too big to me too, but never mind.)

Here’s my slightly modified version:

My amended version of TfL's design featuring forgiving kerbs and female casual bike user!

My amended version of TfL’s design. I also changed the cyclist to a lovely middle-aged woman who isn’t going to run anyone over. “Please, go ahead.” “No, after you!” “Why, thank-you!” “You’re welcome. Have a nice day!” Etc. etc.

Nicer kerbs for starters – really, these are essential in any modern cyclepath design. I’ve also got rid of TfL’s Cyclist and replaced him with a middle-aged female who is merely using a bike for transport. (She doesn’t know anything about bikes, nor has she ever watched the Tour de France. She’s just going down the pub.)

I’m still not keen with how the cyclepath crosses the footpath – who has priority here? For me, this could be clearer.

If pedestrians have priority then can’t we add zebra-stripes to the cyclepath, or at least a ‘pedestrian’ icon on the surface? If bike users have priority then the surface should remain blue throughout the crossing area, which will make it clear to pedestrians that they’re crossing a cyclepath. (Also, maybe the footpath should lower to the cyclepath level rather than the cyclepath rising to footpath level as in the images above.)

While you’re here…

While I’m on the subject, here’s what the Cycle Superhighway looks like at the southern end of Southwark Bridge in London:

The bike lane at the end of Southwark Bridge in London stops suddenly and turns into a bus stop. Bikes are meant to pull out into the road to overtake.

TfL’s current solution: pull out into the stream of cars and vans to overtake the buses! (Photo: Alan Perryman)

That’s really dreadful, isn’t it? Expecting people to pull out into a lane of traffic which will be overtaking the bus? And we wonder why cycling is dominated by fit young men! (And I’m not going to talk about the awful pinch point in the distance there…)

So what would be better? Something like this:

A redesigned Southwark Bridge, where the bike-path continues and the bus stop is on an island between the bike-path and the road.

A better way to handle buses and bikes at Southwark Bridge.

The bikepath runs along where the bus shelter was, and the bus shelter has been moved to where the bus stopping area was. The bus stop markings are now in the main carriageway, which means – shock, horror – that cars have to wait behind stopped buses while people on bikes can ride past.

Anyway, that’s all I have to say about bus stops for now.


 

If you like the sound of this you should respond to TfL’s consultation telling them how much you love this design.

 

29 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

How to suppress bike riding #1: Hyde Park

Update: It seems that Hyde Park has been ridiculous for years, and I’m far from the first blogger to cover it. See this 2011 article on Vole O’Speed, and this 2012 article on As Easy As Riding A Bike.

On New Year’s Day 2013 we went for a bike ride in Hyde Park.

Actually, we first went for a walk. Crossing Westminster Bridge we saw four wide vehicle lanes almost devoid of traffic, but thousands of people on foot crammed onto the footpaths.

At Parliament Square most of the road was blocked off to motor vehicles due to some parade or other, which gave us a clear view of just how much space is taken up by the huge expanse of tarmac we call ‘the road’.

The end of Westminster Bridge beside Big Ben in London – masses of space given to motor vehicles, people crammed onto footpaths

I should have taken a camera, but you get the gist. Does this look like a sensible distribution of space to you? (From Google Maps.)

As The Mall and Constitution Hill were closed to motor traffic, we hired bikes and rode along the ridiculously wide roads to Hyde Park Corner, where we squeezed in to share the tiny two-stage toucan crossing with the crowds of people riding bikes and walking.

So far, our journey was a demonstration of how much space is available through much of London, and how much of that space is given to motor vehicles even when they’re massively outnumbered by people walking.

The Mall in London. Hugely wide roads, massive verges, almost invisible cycle path.

No room for cycle paths here, of course… The 2m-wide cycle “facility” is behind the fence on the right. (Image from Google Maps.)

Hyde Park itself should be a mecca for all forms of non-motorised transport. It’s a huge park so it should be great for walking, of course. But a park on this scale deserves to be great for riding a bike, rollerskating and jogging, too.

But it’s not. Even here, the anti-bike planning is clear. On the baffling North Carriage Drive and South Carriage Drive there’s little more than a painted line to protect bike riders from taxis. On the equally baffling West Carriage Drive there is an off-carriageway cycle path on each side of the road – about 1m wide, painted on the footpath. It’s crap, but for me it’s still better than an adrenaline-filled ride along the busy road itself.

I describe the Carriage Drives as baffling because I can’t work out why they’re there at all – there’s no need for a large road bisecting the park, and there are perfectly good roads outside the park so why are there parallel roads within it? Even if these roads are absolutely essential, why is the cycling provision on them so poor given the vast amount of space available?

But what really annoys me is that so little space is given over to people riding bikes, and even walking is given short shrift when it crosses motor traffic. I mean, it’s meant to be a park, isn’t it? For people? Why is there a two-way unrestricted road running through the middle of it?

Even the most ardent ‘little Londoners’ would find it hard to argue that there is a lack of space here – after all, the whole park is ‘space’ – yet people riding bikes are pushed into conflict with people walking, as both groups are crammed onto narrow strips of path with a white line down it. It’s confusing and unpleasant.

Conversely, huge swathes of land are given over to horse riding! I have nothing against horse riding, but the number of people riding horses is miniscule when compared to people riding bikes or walking. The horse path which runs alongside Rotten Row is about 20m wide – compared to the two-way cycle-path which is perhaps 3m wide, and the footpath alongside which is about 4m wide. (My own visual estimates, may be wrong.)

Satellie photo of Rotten Row in Hyde Park, London. Very little space given to walking and riding bikes, tons of space for horses.

This is just crazy. So much space, so little sense. (Satellite photo from Bing Maps.)

Not that I want to turn this into a horses-vs-bikes debate – there is plenty of space for everyone in Hyde Park, it’s just very badly apportioned. Why are the foot- and cycle-paths so narrow? There’s nothing stopping them from being widened, and this would result in a much more pleasant park for everyone.

The experience of riding along Rotten Row can live up to its name at times. People walking on the narrow cycle path, hardcore Cyclists glaring at other people riding bikes for not doing it properly, the holier-than-thou look on the face of the Daily Express readers which says “I know you’re thinking about killing a child with that bike…”

And yet it’s immensely popular. When I was there on Tuesday it was chock-full of tourists riding hire bikes, lights blinking in the dusk.

The Royal Parks, who manage Hyde Park, claim that this is a “fantastic green route“. Have they actually tried to ride a bike there? Or is this an example of “Hype Park”?

Then there’s this PDF document, which says

“Taking cycle routes through the centre of the green space creates the potential for more conflict between park users.  It has been shown in studies and by experience that most conflict occurs at junctions, therefore taking paths through the centre using an existing footpath increases the likelihood of conflict. This has a detrimental effect for park users and their safety.”

Oh how considerate! One minute, people walking and cycling are crammed together on a narrow footpath, now all of a sudden they’re concerned about safety. Do they really think that there’s no solution other than to make bike routes longer and less desirable?

At the moment, the cycle paths are dangerous, but only because they’re too narrow, and crammed onto the edge of a footpath. They’re an afterthought, installed on the cheap.

Really, Hyde Park should (and could) be a great traffic-free place for walking and riding a bike, but due to the usual UK anti-bike planning, it’s not. (It’s better than almost everywhere else in London, but that’s faint praise indeed.) It should be great for leisure riding as well as for through-travel.

For an example of what Hyde Park could be, see this article on ‘As Easy As Riding A Bike’ about Amsterdam’s Hyde Park equivalent, the Vondelpark.

10 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Cycling in the Netherlands picture post #5: Older people

People who ride bikes in the UK are mostly fit, confident young and middle-aged men. Sure there are outliers of course (such as retired tricyclist blogger Zandranna) but these are exceptions to the rule and do not make up numbers of significance. Cycling in the UK does not offer equal opportunities for all.

These picture posts aim to show how good quality infrastructure means that people of all ages and abilities choose to use a bike for transport and leisure, unlike the UK style of riding on the road with cars and vans, which will mainly appeal to those fit, confident men aged 20-50.

So here I present photos of older people riding bikes. These are scenes which are rare in the UK but are commonplace and unexceptional in the Netherlands. As with my previous picture post, my brief trips to the Netherlands yielded so many photos that I had a hard time selecting which ones to use. I dare say you could hang around for a month in most British towns and never find any scenes like these.

The first photo shows a group of people out for a ride together. Note the friend in a mobility scooter further ahead. In the Netherlands, cycle infrastructure is designed to also be suitable for people with disabilities, which means that everyone has very high levels of independence and freedom.

Let’s see your Bikeability achieve that, Franklin fans!

A grey-haired woman rides a bike alongside a canal and a windmill in the Netherlands

An older woman rides a bike on the safe cycle infrastructure in the Netherlands

An older woman rides her bike along a cycle path, past houses with driveways

A grey-haired woman casually rides her bike one-handed along a Dutch cycle path

A late-middle-aged man calmly rides his bike past a cafe in the Netherlands

An older couple ride their bikes along a bicycle road in the Netherlands

An older man rides his bike past hundreds of parked bikes in a city centre in the Netherlands

And finally, an old favourite! I like this one a lot because it really does demonstrate how the Dutch infrastructure allows people of all ages and abilities to get around safely and easily. Can you imagine this man having the freedom to ride a bike around your town or village, or in the British countryside?

An elderly man rides his bike on a safe, wide, rural cycle path in the Netherlands

You can find all the picture posts here.

7 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Cycling in the Netherlands picture post #4: Children

I thought this would be one of the easiest picture posts to choose the photos for, but it turned out that I had so many photos of children riding bikes that it was hard to choose which ones to show.

It’s often said that children are the pit-canaries of our society, and if this is the case then the UK has got a problem. Our pit canary lost its feathers years ago and is now gasping for air.

One of my aims with these Netherlands photo posts is to challenge those who insist that we can achieve mass cycling without infrastructure, by showing scenes that simply wouldn’t exist if the cycle paths weren’t there. I really can’t imagine any of these scenes happening on the UK’s roads!

Two young girls ride bikes home from school in the Netherlands, safely on the cycle path, away from motor vehicles.

A boy rides down a hill on a wide cycle path in the Netherlands, safely protected from the busy road.

Groups of schoolchildren ride their bikes on a safe, wide cyclepath in the Netherlands.

Three boys ride on a Dutch cyclepath, protected from the traffic on the road.

Two teenagers ride their bikes on a cyclepath in the Netherlands, protected from the main road.

A boy rides his bike across a junction in Holland.

Three Dutch kids ride their bikes past one of the many bike parking areas in Utrecht.

Three teenagers ride bikes on a rural cycle path in the Netherlands – up-hill!

Three Dutch girls ride home on a 'bicycle road' alongside the canal in the Netherlands.

Two boys riding home from school, practising riding no-handed! They are safely on a cycle track away from the motor traffic.

Two girls ride on a cycle path in Holland, beside a busy road with a tractor on it.

And of course there’s this old favourite too.

 


As this post is meant to be uplifting I recommend you ignore the following link, but if you really want to see the UK government’s equivalent vision of children cycling then click here. Just make sure you have a nearby wall handy to bang your head against.

 

5 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Cycling in the Netherlands picture post #3: Animals

Or ‘dogs’ to be more precise. (Although I did see people with cats in cat baskets being taken to the vet, I got no photos of them.)

In the Netherlands, it’s quite common for people to take their dogs with them when riding their bike. Either in a basket, a trailer, or scampering along beside, I’ve never seen such happy dogs as I saw in the Netherlands.

Three people on bikes waiting at a crossing. One is carrying an umbrella, the second person is carrying a crate of beer, the third person has his son on a child seat, and his dog on a lead.

Note that Super-Dad here also has his son in the child seat!

A man on a bike in the Netherlands, waiting at a cycle traffic-light. His son is on a child seat, and his dog is walking alongside them.

A man rides his bike on a protected cycle path in the Netherlands. His dog is sitting in the rear basket.

A young couple riding a tandem on a Dutch cycle path. A large dog is sat in a trailer attached to the back of the bike.

man-and-dog

outside-school

Even the family dog can take part in the school run!

two-boys-and-dog


You can find all the picture posts here.

 

8 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Cycling in the Netherlands picture post #2: Shopping

Time for another picture post! This one shows people going shopping. A rather dull, every day activity really, but one which most people would never dream of using a bike for in the UK. In addition to the general fear of cycling on the roads, sensible bikes with storage aren’t the norm here, there is often no cycle parking, and shopping centres are usually designed with only cars in mind.

Most Dutch people would think this a very boring blog post, as in the Netherlands it’s a common sight to see old women filling panniers with their shopping and riding off, for example. But that’s something you’d never see in the UK, and it shows that shopping by bike is perfectly feasible for people of all ages when you have the right infrastructure.

It’s interesting to see that at supermarkets in the Netherlands the cycle parking area is right beside the entrance, as opposed to the standard UK provision of a few wheel-bender bike racks shamefully hidden round the corner by the bins.

A bike parking lot outside a supermarket in the Netherlands. Hundreds of bikes can be seen with customers amongst them.

Many bikes parked outside a supermarket in Groningen, Netherlands. A young woman rides past on a bike.

A middle-aged woman rides a bike on a cycle-path in the Netherlands. She has a shopping bag on her handlebars and flowers in the panniers on the rear of the bike.

Bikes and shoppers outside a supermarket in the Netherlands

Bikes parked outside a supermarket in Woerden, Netherlands. Shoppers are loading items into their bikes' panniers. The bike parking is nearer to the shop entrance than the car parking!

A person cycles home from the shops in Amersfoort, Netherlands. Both panniers are full and they are holding a large shopping bag on the rack behind them.

A huge number of bikes parked outside a supermarket in Utrecht, Netherlands. Shoppers can be seen.

Cycles are parked ouside shops in Groningen, a woman is riding away with shopping bags hanging from her bike. A man waits with his Saint Bernard dog in the large front compartment of his 'bakfiets'.

 

I don’t know why the only supermarket in these photos is Albert Heijn — other supermarkets are available in the Netherlands and people cycle to those too! Maybe I should mention Jumbo, C1000 and Plus, just to even out the balance a bit.

 


You can find all the picture posts here.

 

14 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Cycling in the Netherlands picture post #1: Families

A picture is worth a thousand words, and most of the words I write tend to be rather cynical.

In an attempt to focus on something positive instead of banging on as usual about why cycling in the UK is so awful, here is the first of a series of photo-posts. The aim of the series is to show how people in the Netherlands enjoy and benefit from the cycle infrastructure — and to show how good we could have it, too.

This first instalment shows how Dutch families use the safe cycling conditions as an easy way to get around town. These photos don’t show rare occurrences — they’re all simply normal everyday scenes in the Netherlands.

A family riding bikes on a cycle path in the Netherlands.

A woman and her son ride safely along a cycle path in the Netherlands.

A mother and her two daughters set off at the traffic lights.

A mother and daughter cycling in the Netherlands.

In the Netherlands, a mother cycles to the shops with her young daughter in the large container at the front of the bike.

A young family prepare for a journey. Father and toddler on one bike, mother rides a 'bakfiets' with the baby in.

A family riding bikes in the Dutch countryside

Families ride bikes on the Dutch cycle paths.

A woman rides her bike along a cycle path in the Netherlands, her toddler in a seat behind the handlebars. The child is drinking from a bottle.

 

And I didn’t say the f-word once!

 


You can find all the picture posts here.

 

8 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

History continues to repeat itself

In a recent post I pondered on the fact that cycling campaigners were saying the same stuff in 1978 that they’re still saying today. I find it quite depressing that cycle campaigners seem to be running around in circles, although that article did generate some very interesting comments from people who were there 30 years ago, discussing how they’d do things differently if they had their time again.

The focus of that post was newsletters published by Spokes, the Lothian Cycle Campaign. If their response to Edinburgh’s “Quality Bike Corridor” is anything to go by then they don’t seem to have learned anything at all:

“While Spokes very much welcomes the new corridor, we would have liked stronger measures, including further restrictions on parking in cycle lanes, trial of segregated sections where possible and resurfacing of the worn-out red lanes on The Mound.”

I actually feel a little bit sick reading that sycophantic, snivelling quote, with its ultra-mild criticism, as if they’re meekly asking “please sir, can I have some more?”

Let’s get one thing straight: the “Quality Bike Corridor” is shit. It really is absolute shit. (I know I have a reputation for swearing after writing that article, but I really only use it when necessary; this is one of those moments.)

Let’s have a look at this great new infrastructure:

(Video by Dave McCraw – also, see his updated video here.)

Remember, you have just watched footage of what Spokes “very much welcomes” as “progress towards achieving the aim of making Edinburgh a truly cycle friendly city”.

Their criticism is so very mild it’s almost non-existent. Their most daring request is for a “trial of segregated sections where possible.” Even here you’ll notice they’ve handed the council a get-out-of-jail-free card with the words “where possible”, which will come back to haunt us as “segregated cycle paths just aren’t possible here”.

Is this really what Spokes were hoping for when they started in 1977? Is this the result of 35 years campaign work?

I know that Spokes isn’t responsible for the actions of Edinburgh Council, but why do they “welcome” such crap infrastructure? Are cycle campaigners so starved of success that they’re willing to accept any crumbs that fall from the traffic planner’s table?

Well — like David Arditti — I don’t welcome it. Many local cyclists don’t welcome it, the great Kim Harding doesn’t welcome it, and the Lothian Cycling Campaign certainly shouldn’t be welcoming it. (Those who drive or walk along its length probably won’t even notice it.)

Instead of welcoming this sort of crap, they should be condemning it. They should be telling the local news that they asked for a protected cycle route that children and the elderly would be safe using, but that Edinburgh council went for the easy, dangerous, unappealing option instead. They should be saying that Edinburgh’s target of 10% cycling rate by 2020 will be missed by a mile if this is the sort of thing they’re installing. They should be telling the council that they reject this route completely, instead of slapping each other on the back and considering it a job well done.

It’s not just Spokes who think this sort of thing is great, either – according to the Times, the CTC “praised” it, albeit with the same quibbles about enforcement of car parking restrictions and so on.

Transport Minister Keith Brown says that “Edinburgh already has an admirable reputation on cycling” although when I visited in May 2012 I found it to be no better than any other UK city which has been following Whitehall’s guidelines for decades. It was the usual crap, multiple lanes for cars, narrow paths for pedestrians, and little or nothing for bikes. (While we’re on the subject, Edinburgh isn’t even a particularly pleasant city to walk around, thanks to years of car-centric planning. It should be one of the best cities in the world to visit, but it’s badly let down by its transport planners. I won’t even mention the trams…)

Edinburgh councillor Leslie Hinds, Transport Convenor, said that the “Quality Bike Corridor” will help to make “cycling as safe and appealing as we can to commuters and cyclists of all ages” and will “encourage even more people to take to two wheels.”

If this is how people view the kind of infrastructure shown in the video, then we might as well all give up now. Seriously. Forget the target of 10% by 2020, it’s not going to happen if this is your idea of “safe and appealing” cycling. Spokes might as well disband if this rubbish is something they “very much welcome”.

This so-called “Quality Bike Corridor” is not an example of the government supporting cycling or finally taking it seriously as a transport option. This is yet another example of the government paying lip-service to utility cycling, along with – and this is the saddest bit – yet another example of cycle campaigners lapping up the crumbs from the floor.

 


 

Footnote:

I expect that Spokes do all kinds of wonderful stuff that I’m not even aware of. I’m sure they’re dedicated and working on the front line. What have I ever done? I sit here writing this stuff, I’m not out there on the street, etc.

But I couldn’t let this lie. The congratulatory tone grated on me when compared to Dave McCraw’s video and Kim Harding’s photos. As long as cycle campaigners continue to accept crap and say ‘thank you’ as if everything is fine, all we’ll ever be given is yet more crap.


 

Another footnote, added on 20th November 2012:

Sigh.

So Edinburgh’s goal is 10% modal share for cycling by 2020.

Well funnily enough, in 2001, Edinburgh’s goal was 10% modal share for cycling… by 2010.

Which didn’t happen.

Is there an echo in here?

(Source: here, via here.)

 

14 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Anti-cycling John Forester versus the facts about Holland

I know that John Forester is older than Mr. Burns (if not quite as pleasant) but while he’s still as sane as he’s ever been then I don’t see any reason to rebut his nonsense any less robustly than I would if he was younger.

He’s a man who, apparently, has never visited the Netherlands and yet feels able to make bold claims about what it’s like to cycle there (passing through on a train in the 1930s does not count, John!).

I’ve never visited wherever the hell Forester lives either, but I can guarantee you that the trees are made of old gloves, and the roads are full of custard. Obviously, this is ridiculous, but I have as much authority there as Forester does on the Netherlands, i.e. none at all. Coincidentally, ‘none at all’ is the amount of sense which Forester frequently makes in his online ramblings.

Someone sent him a link to my post which put two of his comments about the Netherlands in context and he responded by accusing me of having no evidence to back up my assertions.

How much evidence do you want, John? How about an entire country? One which I have been to, and you, apparently, have not! Are you really going to die having never visited the one place on the planet which has achieved high levels of safe cycling across all sections of society? It’s like being a life-long Elvis fan — a self-proclaimed Elvis expert, no less — yet you’ve never even visited Graceland.

How can anyone take this incoherent drivel seriously?

“The posting critical of the views of John Forester and John Franklin … is just one more of the illogical and sophomoric position papers in the spiteful controversy concerning bicycle transportation in the USA. Those with a fervent anti-motoring faith that if the USA copied Dutch bikeway designs and traffic law practices the USA would have an enormous switch from motor to bicycle transport. This is a faith for which there is no evidence whatever. Furthermore, there is plenty of evidence that such an outcome would be most unlikely, evidence from sociology, urban design, traffic engineering, psychology, and similar fields, areas in which the anti-motorists do not show expertise.

The sophomoric nature of the presentation comes across immediately. For example, the photograph of a cyclist in sporting clothing riding on a bike path between a rural highway and open fields does not disprove the argument that, in urban areas, side paths get involved with a nasty tangle of driveway and intersection traffic. No single example of an exception disproves a general statement; only a contrary description of all the instances could do so. However, a picture of a crowded bicycling area does demonstrate the argument that such places are not suitable for cycling at American bicycle transportation speeds.

I have written before that the combination of anti-motoring motivation and traffic-fearing cyclist faith not only does not require any factual support, but it actually requires contra-factual arguments to pretend to be persuasive. I advocate changes that make cycling safer and more useful, based on valid theory and supported by factual studies. However, the anti-motoring, Dutch-favoring bicycle advocates have not been able to present such studies based on American conditions.”

There is so much wrong with this that I hardly know where to start. But I’ll start here: a picture of a crowded bicycling area does demonstrate the argument that such places are not suitable for cycling at American bicycle transportation speeds”. What is he talking about? Is he suggesting that all US citizens are fast cyclists? Because the last time I looked, the average US cycling speed was almost zero, considering that pretty much nobody rides a bike there. He seems to be arguing for elitism in cycling, showing his belief that riding a bike should be reserved for the fast and the fearless. Anybody not fit and in a rush need not apply.

The photo in question shows commuter traffic heading into Utrecht central station at rush hour. Is he suggesting that everybody should be able to travel at racing speeds, even in crowded city centres? Cars aren’t allowed to do this, and I wouldn’t recommend going for a jog around Paddington station at 5.30pm unless you really enjoy bumping into commuters. The fact that busy areas in city centres become crowded is proof of the success of cycling infrastructure in the Netherlands. It’s proof that people are choosing to cycle because it’s the fastest, easiest option.

He also argues that “in urban areas, [bike] paths get involved with a nasty tangle of driveway and intersection traffic.” Well this just isn’t true, and I can say this because I have been to the Netherlands and studied their infrastructure, and John Forester hasn’t.

He goes on to pre-empt this response by then saying: “No single example of an exception disproves a general statement; only a contrary description of all the instances could do so.” So what he’s saying here is that he won’t admit he’s wrong unless someone documents every inch of the Netherlands for him? Or maybe he’s saying that my photographs don’t mean his quotes aren’t true (although he’s happy to use just one photograph to back up his assertion about American speeds). How many photos do you want, John? I’ve got hundreds, and each one of them proves you wrong. Or maybe you want some statistics again?

Well the Netherlands has a very high rate of cycling – far higher than the UK and the USA – and yet it has the world’s safest roads. That’s not “contra-factual argument” or “traffic-fearing cyclist faith” but cold hard statistics.

In the spirit of my previous post, here are two photos of every-day Dutch scenes:

"…in urban areas, [cycle] paths get involved with a nasty tangle of driveway and intersection traffic." - John Forester. Juxtaposed by a photo of a cycle path and driveways, and a large intersection, without problems.

A nasty tangle of driveway and intersection traffic in the Netherlands, recently.

Just because John Forester isn’t clever enough to envisage any practical solutions to make cycling attractive to everyone, it doesn’t mean that these solutions don’t exist.

Do you get it yet, John? You don’t know what you’re talking about when it comes to cycle infrastructure, and the VC fundamentalism which you spread has failed to deliver anything but a risible amount of cycling – and a high accident rate – in the US.

People in the Netherlands choose to use the bike for transport because the infrastructure makes it so quick and easy. Almost nobody in the US cycles, and it’s partially because John Forester backed the wrong horse in 1972 and spent the next 40 years shouting about it.


NOTE TO ALL COMMENTERS:

I welcome comments on this blog, but please understand what this post is about before typing: I’m criticising things that John Forester has said about cycling infrastructure in the Netherlands. This post has got nothing to do with the USA or any other country, so I can do without a load of comments about how it’s politically difficult for you, or how it’s economically impossible where you are, or how you ride on the roads and you’re 97 years old with one eye and you love it. All those things are fascinating but they have nothing to do with Forester being wrong about the Netherlands.

The above message mainly goes out to Forester’s faithful army of “bicycle driving” zealots, especially “Erik”/”Clare Wolff” who posted the same message nine times on this page.


Footnote: Forester thinks I’m someone called Paul Nevins – it was on a group email thread, so I guess this name got mixed up in there somehow. I don’t know who this Nevins guy is, but if he’s annoying Forester then he must be a fairly decent bloke. [Update: It turns out he is a decent bloke — Paul Nevins comments below!]

Also, I know that Forester pushed against helmet compulsion and hates ASZs (“bike boxes” in the US) which shows that he’s not wrong all the time. But why can’t he see that people simply don’t want to ride a bike amongst motor traffic?

27 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized