Tag Archives: cycling

The DfT pays lip service to cycling again

In September 2012 the Department for Transport released a document called Shared Use Routes for Pedestrians and Cyclists. It’s a strange title, as it mainly discusses cycle paths, although it’s careful to only ever call them “shared use” paths. Dutch-style cycle paths which are separated from the road but beside the footpath are bizarrely called “segregated shared use” but the infamous white-line-down-the-middle-of-the-pavement design also shares this name. I suspect this is because cycle tracks don’t legally exist in the UK – they’re either part of the carriageway (AKA the road) or part of the footway (AKA the path).

There are some good points made in the document, including an admission that

“There are many such examples that have been implemented inappropriately and/or poorly designed … It is essential for designers to understand that shared use is not the ‘easy fix’ it might appear to be.”

Less encouragingly, the document is poisoned by the Hierarchy of Provision and the dead hand of anti-cyclist John Franklin can also be seen:

Stupid diagram of poorly designed road junction with cycle path, which claims to prove that cycle paths are dangerous.

THIS IS NOT HOW THE DUTCH DESIGN CYCLE PATHS AT JUNCTIONS, OKAY? THIS IS NOT WHAT WE’RE ASKING FOR! (Note the similarity to this image from Franklin’s stupid book.)

I’m so sick of seeing this goddamned picture! This is NOT how cycle paths are designed in the Netherlands, and this is NOT what any campaigner in the UK is asking for. This design is so out of date it’s irrelevant. Why even mention it? Does the NHS IT department write about the poor keyboard on the ZX81? No, of course not, it’s a very old design which isn’t relevant today.

The simplest and most obvious answer is that the DfT have taken advice from Franklin’s zombie army of vehicular cycling fundamentalists somewhere along the line, and his 25-year misinformation campaign chalks up another successful infiltration into government policy. It really disappoints me that the DfT can’t think up any solutions to the problems shown in the diagram above. They really couldn’t envisage anything else, other than a cycle track giving way to cars at a minor junction?

I’m not going to go into the document in great detail (and not just because I haven’t read all of it yet) but there’s lots of good advice for UK road planners (such as don’t put signs in the middle of the cycle path – now there’s an idea!) and some not-so-good advice (a bizarre semi-separate cycle path), but the biggest problem is that it’s all just a list of suggestions for councils who might be putting some bike paths in. There’s no actual requirement to install any of this stuff, flawed or not.

I know of a huge road widening project (sorry, “quality bus corridor“) that has recently been completed in Leeds (A65 Kirkstall Road, the section beside Yorkshire Television studios). The road is a major artery from the city centre to the northwest, and it was single lane in each direction until the recent works, although there has always been room to widen it. (You can see the widening in progress here – the original road is still in use at the southern end, which gives you an idea of the scale of the job.) There is now a bus lane and two general lanes on each side of the road – a major upgrade which took months, requiring street lights and drains and utilities to be moved. And what provision is there for cycling? None.

Well, almost none. There’s a bus-and-bike lane, which is very wide – the intention being that bike riders overtake stopped buses, and buses overtake bike riders between stops. This stupid leapfrogging is dangerous and stressful, it’s certainly not an attractive cycling environment. (Sorry, “provision for cyclists to use the new bus lane and enjoy a safer and easier ride.” Who wrote this crap?) There’s plenty of space there for cycle paths, and if they’d been installed when the road was redesigned then we’d have got them for free, or very nearly, as the extra cost involved would have been peanuts compared to the costs of the whole project. But now the work is done, Norman Baker has proudly cut the ribbon on more car-centric infrastructure, and another opportunity to improve conditions for bike riding has been missed.

(Does anyone really believe it is desirabe to mix bikes and buses, or is it just a cheap get-out?)

Until there is a legal requirement to install cycle facilities, it will fall to local campaigners to push for changes – and for local councils to ignore them. We need change from the top, the DfT or Number 10 must legislate installation of quality cycle routes.

Kirkstall Road in Leeds, 2006 and 2012. Lots of road widening, nothing but a shared bus-and-bike lane for cyclists.

This is further along Kirkstall Road, where there’s only two lanes each way, but the message is the same: an expensive road widening scheme offers nothing for cyclists. We could have got the infrastructure for little extra cost if it was included in the widening scheme. (Photos by Rich Tea, from Geograph.)

Footnote: While we’re on the subject, does anyone want to own up to being responsible for TfL’s Cycle Superhighways being on-carriageway? They say they consulted cyclists and were told that they wanted to remain on the road, which gave them the perfect excuse to install nothing but blue paint. Would anyone like to confess to this?

Also, this topic is also covered on As Easy As Riding A Bike.


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A Tale of Two Halfords

When I was in the Netherlands recently, I saw lots of Halfords shops. UK readers will be familiar with this brand, as it’s the name of a national chain of everything-for-the-car shops. They also sell a lot of bikes which, in my experience, are usually at the back of the store. (According to their corporate site, they sell one million bikes a year – are these mainly childrens’ bikes, or do they get left in the garage? Where are these millions of cyclists in the UK?)

The branches of Halfords I visited in the Netherlands were a very different affair. The stores were generally smaller than the warehouse-sized UK shops, and the bike-to-car products ratio was reversed — it was mainly a bike shop which also sold car bits. They were very helpful places, with free bike tyre pumps by the door and they even lent me a spanner to tighten the seat on my hire bike, which had become slightly loose. Maybe they have more car-centric stores out-of-town, but the ones I saw were all in the centre of town.

(Halfords in the UK isn’t part of the same company as Halfords in the Netherlands and Belgium, as far as I can tell. I imagine that they were once joined, but it seems they were split some time ago, and now operate independently of each other.)

Inspired by this post and this post I took a look at the bike sections of the two Halfords’ websites. As you might expect, the two sites vary enormously.

The UK Halfords bike page is all dropped handlebars and helmets…

Halfords UK website main cycling page

If you can find one photo of someone not wearing a helmet even vaguely near a bike then you’re doing well! (I did find one, as it happens.)

…whereas the bikes page on  the Dutch Halfords site is mainly about utility, with a large range of practical bike types (although it does have one section called “ATB” – I assume this means All-Terrain Bikes, or something). Note how all the bikes shown, except the ATB one, have at least a rear rack, mudguards and lights.

Halfords NL website main cycling page

Categories: Grannybikes, Child bikes, Electric bikes, Recreational bikes, Mother bikes (with child seats), Folding bikes, City bikes, and ATB.

The most depressing bit about the UK Halfords site, however, has to be their cycle selector tool – you know the kind of thing, where the website asks you questions about what you’re looking for and then makes recommendations which may or may not be of use.

The first question asks whether you are male or female. Not being into bikes, I wouldn’t have thought this made much difference to the type of bike you could ride – after all, both men and women generally have legs, arms and a head, right? Anyway, it’s question 2 which stumped me:

Halfords UK cycle choosing advice page

“What will you be cycling for? Leisure/Fitness, Extreme Fun, Jump & Tricks, or Electric Bike?” But what if I want to pop to the shops?

Ignoring that the fourth option isn’t an answer to the question posed, what do I choose? I don’t want an electric bike, nor do I want to do jumps and/or tricks, I get enough extreme fun crossing the roads here in London, and I don’t want to get fit. I just want to buy a practical bike and use it to get about – go to the shops, that sort of thing. Is that such an unusual desire?

Let’s give them the benefit of the doubt and choose the nearest match: Leisure/Fitness. Then you can choose from different terrain types – I chose Urban (as opposed to Rural, or Rocky Terrain), then I chose Non-Portable (i.e. not a folding bike), then Upright (of course!) and the site gives me a choice of “hybrid” bikes, none of which have any storage racks at all, or even mudguards! Completely impractical bikes designed for anything except utility.

Halfords UK bikes results page, with lots of impractical bikes

Wot no mudguards or lights?

To be fair, Halfords UK does have a range of what they call “classic” bikes, which resemble the standard Dutch-style bike, although they’re mostly labelled as “ladies’ bikes” and are treated like some kind of deviant purchase and kept under the counter. I could only find a link for them on the huge menu which appears when you hover over “bikes” at the top of the page (where you’ll also find encouraging phrases such as body armour, hi vis clothing, and hydration packs) – they don’t seem to be mentioned or recommended anywhere else on the site.

I’m not having a go at Halfords UK here – surely they’re just providing what the public wants? But it suggests that utility cycling doesn’t really exist here, and if it does then it’s dwarfed by sports cycling. Perhaps this is why, until recently, cycle campaigning in the UK has been dominated by the Right-to-Ride extremists blind to the needs of others – cycling is seen as a sport first, as an ideology second, and as transport third. (Sometimes the first two are swapped around.)

I don’t know really what point I’m trying to make here, except that looking at bikes on Halfords UK site got me down. Surely they hold a mirror up to our society? Or do they help shape it?

To finish off, I’ll leave you with the image that Halfords UK deem suitable for the top of their “Cycle2Work” page.

Photo of lycra-clad helmetted cyclist on a mountain bike drinking from a cycling water holder. He's riding to work, apparently.


Update: I meant to link to this in the article, but this is the sort of bike they should be selling for practical cycling. I’m sure they would sell them, if we had the infrastructure to ride them on.


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Continuous paths across minor junctions

It seems to me that one of the keys to successful cycling infrastructure is getting the detail right. Not everything has to be a massive gesture or huge engineering. Among the many things which impressed me on my recent visit to the Netherlands is how minor junctions are often handled.

In most countries, the tarmac on the road connects to the tarmac on all the other roads without a gap. If you live on the UK mainland, the tarmac on the road outside your front door is joined to the tarmac outside my front door without a break. It’s quite a feat when you think about it! We’re all connected by roads.

The footpath outside your front door, however, probably only circles the block of buildings in which you live. To get to the next path, you have to cross over part of the uninterrupted network of tarmac which covers the land.

This is so innate, so built-in to our way of thinking, that it goes unquestioned. Of course the roads are connected, or you can’t drive from one to the other! But it doesn’t have to be this way, as I discovered on the first night of a recent trip to the Netherlands. It’s such a small thing, such a simple thing that it’s hardly worthy of the word ‘engineering’ and yet the subliminal message it sends to road users is massive.

(This might well have been covered already by David Hembrow – it seems that most Dutch road innovations have! – but I can’t find it if it has.)

First, some diagrams. Here’s how we treat junctions in the UK:

A British-style road junction, where the minor road disrupts the footpath.

I’m not an expert diagram-maker, but I think you’ll all recognise this as a standard UK road junction.

And here’s how we discovered similar junctions to be in the Netherlands:

A Dutch-style junction, where the footpath continues over the minor road, giving priority to people walking.

A diagram of the kind of thing we saw in the Netherlands. Again, it’s simplified and not to scale, etc., but it gives you an idea of what I’m talking about.

And here’s some photos of what I call “continuous path”, firstly from a bike rider’s point of view:

The view of a Dutch-style continuous-path minor junction from the view of a bike rider. The cyclepath and footpath both continue across the junction, and the minor road is disconnected from the main road. Cars have to mount the pavement and cross both paths to get between the two roads.

There’s little doubt who has right of way from this point of view. The white squares make riders aware that there’s a potential hazard at that section.

And from the point of view of a driver or rider on the minor road:

The view of a minor road junction, from the minor road. The footpath and cyclepath both sever the minor road's connection to the main road, and therefore it's clear that vehicles leaving the minor road do not have priority.

To a driver leaving the minor road, it’s clear that they do not have priority here, as they have to drive up a ramp and over the cycle- and foot-paths to access the main road.

It’s not entirely clear from that photo, but leaving or joining the side road means driving up a ramp, over the path and back down again. Here’s a close-up of one:

Close-up of ramp which enables vehicles to cross the continuous path

It slows cars down, and subconsciously tells drivers that they are no longer on the road, but crossing a footpath.

I didn’t get a photo from the view a driver on the main road would have, but you can have a look for yourself on Google StreetView here. Here’s a photo of a similar junction at a different location, where again it’s clear that priority lies with people on the cycle path or footpath:

A view of a continuous-path junction from the main road. It's clear that drivers entering the minor road do not have priority over people on the footpath or bike path.

A different location, view from the road. It’s clear that you can’t just sweep around the corner like in the UK.

I think the design here has a psychological effect, and the clues are all on the floor. Having to drive up a ramp onto the level of the path, and the path surface looking and feeling different to the road surface and continuing across the junction, makes it clear that people walking and riding here have priority and that a motor vehicle is a temporary guest passing through a non-car domain.

Compare this with the British way of doing things. Firstly, at most junctions the road takes priority and the path is severed:

A standard UK-style junction of a main road with a minor road. The footpath is severed and the road sweeps around into the minor road.

A very similar junction in London. Cars clearly have priority here, the wide corners of the junction mean that you barely have to slow when turning. (Image from Google StreetView, click photo to view on there.)

At some junctions in the UK there has been an attempt to implement the “continuous path” style by adding a hump, but as usual they seem to have got the detail wrong:

A British attempt at a continuous-path junction, which fails as the path is still clearly severed by the road, even though it rises up, the double yellow lines continue around the junction, and "look left" and "look right" are painted on the floor next to tactile paving.

A UK attempt at a similar concept.

Clearly, the road continues around the junction here, despite the change in level. There’s tactile paving, “look left” and “look right” markings, double yellow lines continue around the corner. Pedestrians stop for vehicles here, not the other way around. You can have a look for yourself here, and there’s plenty of other examples about.

Not every junction in the Netherlands has this type of “continuous path” but we found it to be common. It’s a great way to show priority, and to slow vehicles down. We never had any problems with this type of junction, vehicles would always wait for people on bikes or on foot to clear the junction before crossing.

Of course, in the UK, cars turning into a road should give way to pedestrians who are already crossing, but in practice this never happens. It’s another example of the perfect fantasy world populated with reasonable, logical automatons that the Highway Code is set in. In reality, the pedestrian either retreats or runs across the road so the turning vehicle doesn’t have to slow down or stop. The stakes are simply too high for pedestrians to enforce this rule, and most people I’ve asked have never even heard of it.

Implementing this kind of junction in the UK would be physically easy – there’s really nothing special going on here, engineering-wise. However, getting the DfT to approve such a simple measure could take years…*

Update, 22nd of August 2012

Mark Wagenbuur of BicycleDutch makes it clear in a comment what I didn’t in the article: that the break in the road also helps signal to drivers that they’re changing road type, from a faster road into a slow residential area.

And Paul James covered this type of junction on Pedestrianise London back in February. I knew I’d seen it somewhere before!

*Update, 25th August 2012

I’m wondering now if the DfT would even need to approve such a thing here in the UK. Surely there could be a short “pedestrian zone, except for access” at the end of a street, thereby creating the same effect within current UK regulations? Sure, it might be a bit sign-heavy (there would need to be ‘pedestrian zone starts’ and ‘pedestrian zone ends’ signs at each end) but still do-able I reckon.


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Franklin and Forester quotes, in a Dutch context

I’ve just got back from the Netherlands. I rode a bike there for two weeks and experienced for myself why so many people there use bikes every day, and why transatlantic comedy duo “The Two Johnnies” are wrong to oppose mass bike riding in the UK and US. Here’s some opening thoughts: photos of real, everyday scenes which show the rhetoric of Forester and Franklin to be ridiculous.

Click any image for a larger version.

Photo of two girls cycling safely on cycle path away from the busy road, with John Forester quote: "I have described several very dangerous situations: bike paths and voonerven being the most dangerous. The correct way to handle the dangers of these facilities is to stay well away from them and ride on the normal roadways instead."

Yeah, go on girls – follow Forester’s advice and get on that road, you’ll be fine as long as you ride your bike like you’re driving a car.


A photo of two families happily using separate cycle paths, with stupid John Franklin quote: "...the majority of cycle facilities require more skill and more experience to be used safely, not less. It is the least experienced who most often suffer the consequences."

Oh, those poor children suffering the terrible consequences of the Dutch cycling infrastructure!


Photo of swarm of people on bikes using segregated bike path during rush-hour in Utrecht, with stupid John Franklin quote: "segregation has no proven record as a 'stepping-stone' to cycling well and more widely"

He’s right, this scene is a figment of your imagination. If you go to Utrecht during rush hour you will see nobody cycling on the bike paths. They’re all just for show, like North Korea.


Photo of a speedy Lycra-clad sporty cyclist using racing bike on long, straight, uninterrupted cycle path, with stupid John Franklin quote: "Efficient and speedy cycling is important if cycling is to compete as a mode of transport with the car. Road-side paths of almost any kind prevent this and make cycling slow and dangerous."

This guy rides his racing bike slowly, the Lycra is purely for sexual reasons.


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!


Photo of three smartly-dressed middle-aged professional-looking people, calmly, casually and efficiently riding bikes on a bike path, with stupid John Forester quote: "Why is it that Dutch people persist in using bicycle transportation when the system is so stacked against them? Why do they still cycle when the system restricts them to slow speed and more and longer delays, disadvantages forced on them by the dangerous design of the system that they are forced to use?"

The system is so stacked against these guys, can’t you see the upset and stress the restrictive cycle paths are causing here?


Three photos of people using bike paths: one of a disabled man using a hand-cranked tricycle; one of two boys and their dog; one of an elderly man. A stupid John Franklin quote: "you are at your safest in traffic if you can move at a speed comparable to that of the other vehicles ... a sprint speed of 32 km/h (20 mph) will enable you to tackle most traffic situations with ease"

I’m sure these guys can manage that 20mph sprint speed (especially the dog). If not then they shouldn’t be allowed out cycling! It’s a tough sport for serious men like John Franklin!

I was going to include more quotes from John Forester, but to read his deranged ramblings requires more resolve than I have right now.

Update, 20th August 2012

Again, some people (mainly on Twitter) are misunderstanding what I’m doing here: Vehicular Cycling is a good coping strategy for fit, confident people to ride on hostile, motor-dominated roads. Opposition to Dutch-style infrastructure is what I’m attacking, and that’s quite a separate thing.

I didn’t have to search far and wide for these quotes — both Johns are clearly against mass cycling — and only the final one is from any Vehicular Cycling instructional material (it’s from John Franklin’s book about VC, Cyclecraft — though the book also contains unnecessary anti-infrastructure dogma too).

All the other Franklin quotes are from this document from 2002, which while I admit isn’t the most current thing available, it’s one of the first documents I came across on his website and is still often quoted by anti-infrastructure people. If Franklin has changed his views since then, he hasn’t done so publicly.

Both the Forester quotes are from this document which is of similar vintage, though again Forester doesn’t seem to have changed his opinions at all since — or even bothered to visit the Netherlands to see the improvements since the 1930s. I’m sure he’d find that a lot has gone on since then.

(The Forester document is an article attacking an academic paper which recommended Dutch-style infrastructure. One of the authors of the paper, John Pucher, replied to Forester: “I strongly oppose this ELITIST view of cycling, and think that many policies should be implemented to encourage bicycling by everyone, young and old, rich and poor, men and women, children and grandparents, students and businessmen, etc. Forester’s policies would guarantee that cycling remains a marginal mode here in the US.” I think Pucher has been proved correct, and I tip my hat to him here.)

Either way, the age of the quotes doesn’t really matter. Both these guys are still quoted frequently by people who have been hoodwinked into joining the ‘Vehicular Is The Only Way’ club, and they have been shown to have had concrete effects on the roads today. Read any article on the many blogs discussing cycling in the UK and you’ll often see a comment from someone saying that the roads are fine, we just need more training, linking to a Franklin document or quoting him. Who knows how Kings Cross junction would look today had the cycling lobby not been split in this way all those years ago?

So, use vehicular cycling all you want — there’s not much choice in the UK, after all — but don’t let that blind you to the possibilities of bike riding for everyone, which promoting VC as the best and only option has consistently failed to achieve (and obviously cannot achieve, as the final image demonstrates so clearly). There’s only one proven way to reach mass cycling: the Dutch way.



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Freedom, Easy, Fun, Family Time – A Fair Description of Cycling in London?

Today, this leaflet landed on my doormat:

Front cover of TfL cycling leaflet, "Freedom"

“Catch up with the bicycle” while the taxis and lorries speed past

I’d already seen posters with the same image dotted around the motor-dominated roads around here and had planned on whinging about them, but the leaflet means I don’t have to take the camera outside, and it provides more food for thought. There are four images of bikes throughout, with the frames arranged to read “Freedom” (on the cover), “Easy”, “Fun” and “Family Time”. Do those words come to mind when you’re riding a bike in London?

On the first page is a message from our Dear Leader, Boris, which gives me some hope that he’s slowly coming around to my way of thinking:

“More and more people are choosing to cycle to work or to the shops. It saves money, and can be quicker than driving or taking public transport. Cycling, though, is more than a great means of getting from A to B with a bit of a work-out en route. There’s no better way to explore your local area and the rest of this fantastic city of ours and, best of all, cycling can be fun, for everyone.”

He gets it! He finally understands that cycling should be for everyone, and for every-day tasks! So surely it follows that he wants to install Dutch-style infrastructure, which makes it safe, fast and convenient for kids to ride to school, or for granny to pop to the shops?

Unfortunately, he seems to think that things are fine as they are – despite riding a bike in the UK being 30 times more dangerous than driving a car – and instead of getting the job done properly he seems to believe that yet another poster campaign and a few words of encouragement will turn London into a great cycling city.

“London is a great place to ride a bike. If you already cycle in London, you don’t need me to tell you that. If you’ve yet to start, there’s never been a better time to give it a go.”

Seriously, Boris? I already cycle in London, and “great” certainly isn’t the first word that springs to mind. Sure, occasionally it really is great – around 3am when the back-streets are mine alone, it often feels great – but I don’t think that’s what anyone has in mind when we talk about building mass cycling.

“This leaflet is packed full with useful information to get you on your wheels.”

So, let’s have a look at this useful information which will convert London into a New New Amsterdam. Its five pages of content can be summed up:

  • Use the TfL online cycle journey planner. But fingers crossed there isn’t an arbitrary closure with no diversion, or a van parked in the cycle lane!
  • Use the cycle hire. A good idea, as long as you’re not one of those poor bastards who lives outside the cycle hire area, i.e. the vast majority of Londoners.
  • Use the Cycle Superhighways! The less said about these the better.
  • “Be prepared” Training and maintenance sessions are cheaper than roadworks…
  • Use the back streets. Because we know the main direct routes are hellish to ride a bike along.
  • Use a map. You’ll need one, because the route will be badly-signed with lots of turns through back-streets.

The whole leaflet-and-poster campaign idea is such a half-arsed effort. I don’t doubt the good intentions behind it, but it’s really an admission of failure and defeat. If the conditions were right, there would be no need for leaflets and posters encouraging cycling – people would do it anyway, they would want to do it, because it would be the cheapest, fastest, easiest way to get around.

And it really could be the best way to get around. Even on a clunky hire bike I can ride from Waterloo to Kings Cross in about 20 minutes – and that’s taking a complex (but fairly quiet) route of back streets. That’s faster than the tube or bus, and about £10 cheaper than a taxi.

So if riding a bike is so great, why do so few Londoners do it? Are they all blind to the wonderful world of cycling for transport? Why will this leaflet and poster campaign fail to increase cycling rates by any measurable amount? Is it because people are stupid, or haven’t seen the light?

Or, maybe it’s because while it can sometimes be okay (and even “great” under very special conditions) riding a bike in London contains too many hazards and worries, too many nasty moments, and too many unwelcome surprises from vehicles and the authorities alike.

“There are lots of things to think about when you first get into cycling…”

Damn right TfL – there are lots of things for you to think about if you really want people to take up cycling. We can’t ignore the elephant in the room and pretend that all we need is a can-do attitude, or maybe the real cycle-resistant just need to go on a heart-shaped bike ride (no, really, I’m not making this up). So this whole campaign seems to me like TfL is saying “we’ve failed, we’re out of ideas, we know our infrastructure is substandard and hostile but these leaflets are cheaper than tarmac and concrete, and it’ll have to do.”

Why are there no leaflets or posters recommending people take their car? (“Catch up with the car: Freedom, Easy, Fun, Family Time” – I can see it now!) The reason is because when people look at the streets around them, it’s obvious that the car is the most important mode of transport. It’s obvious that the country has been built around the car. It’s obvious that the car comes before all else in the UK, and therefore a car is the obvious choice for transport.

To turn that around we need a sea change in the way roads are designed in this country, and until we have it, all the posters and leaflets in the world aren’t going to make any difference.

I know this post is just a rant, but I’ll get around to making some positive suggestions soon!


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Frankly, Mr. Franklin

[Note: This is a follow-up to this earlier, angrier post.]

Don’t worry, this site isn’t going to turn into the anti-Franklin daily (though that’s not a bad idea for a blog), but why does he make it so easy to debunk his nonsense? I only had to scratch the surface to find more. Why are his views on infrastructure so well-respected? Someone please tell me!

“I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take it any more!”

I gratefully receive all comments, even Franklin supporters are welcome to try and defend him. In this comment to my previous post, Will Bramhill suggested that Franklin’s 1999 Milton Keynes report was written before the success of the Dutch cycle infrastructure was known about.

However, one of the references on the MK report is a study from 1991 titled “Changed Travel – Better World, a comparison of Milton Keynes and Almere, Netherlands.” I found an abstract of it here, which tells us that:

“The proportions of trips that were by car were 65.7% in Milton Keynes and 43.1% in Almere; the proportions made by bicycle were 5.8% and 27.5%, respectively.”

So even in 1991, in Almere, over a quarter of journeys were made by bike, and Franklin knew this by 1999 — but it seems he didn’t think it worth finding out why. And yet it gets better!

“For all purposes and all destinations, the people of Almere walk and cycle much more than those of Milton Keynes, due to higher level of bicycle ownership and more user-friendly segregated cycle routes.” [emphasis mine]

I think that’s worth repeating, in case any anti-infrastructure types missed it: “the people of Almere walk and cycle much more than those of Milton Keynes, due to higher level of bicycle ownership and more user-friendly segregated cycle routes.” (And I dare say that the high level of bike ownership has something to do with the presence of the cycle routes, too.)

Why did Franklin ignore this major conclusion of the study? Seriously: What the hell? He used it to get the number of bikes per household in Milton Keynes, then didn’t read the rest? Was he in that much of a rush that he couldn’t take a look at the last paragraph?

The report is essentially saying that cycle paths are a good thing responsible for a high cycling rate, yet Franklin insists that on-the-road is the only way to cycle. Does he think that all those bike journeys in Almere are made despite the safe, traffic-free routes?

More Swearing

So for a long time now he’s been aware of the Netherlands’ very high cycling rate — and the reasons for it — yet he keeps looking the other way and pretending it’s not happening. Well, it’s over. John Franklin can fuck right off. Seriously, if you see anyone piping up with this riding-in-traffic-is-best bullshit, point them to these posts, so they can be told to fuck off too. I’ve had it with this crap, John Franklin has had too much influence for too long.

He can fuck off with with all these ancient references, too — the Netherlands proves him wrong. AN ENTIRE COUNTRY PROVES HIM WRONG. How wrong can one man be?


While I’m at it, why do he and his followers continue to use this ancient image of a poor junction design that the Dutch haven’t used for decades? The image in his book Cyclecraft, which is meant to be about Vehicular Cycling but contains anti-infrastructure rhetoric for no good reason. The linked page is on a Bikeability trainer’s site, so it seems that there is a definite overlap between Franklin’s book and infrastructure resistance. (No, I’m not accusing all trainers of being VC zealots. Just that one.) [Note: The cycle training site I had originally linked to has now disappeared, so I’ve replaced it with a link to a similar image.]

It seems to me that you’d have to be exceptionally unimaginative, maybe even somewhat dense, to assume that just because one example of something is bad, then all other types of that thing must be bad too. Note to John & Co.: Just because we have very poor cycle facilities in the UK today, doesn’t mean that good cycle facilities are impossible. (Though it won’t help much if you keep spreading shit about them.)

Dear John

Seriously; John, if you’re reading this: I don’t know you personally — maybe you’re a lovely guy — this is an attack on your “professional” work. I can see that you’ve spent a lot of time and effort disseminating anti-cycleway propaganda, and it may seem difficult to climb down now, but it really is time to stop. Give it up. People are dying out there on the roads.

You don’t even have to apologise (though it would be nice), just admit that you were wrong about cycleways being a bad thing. You can still make money from your book (though you might remove the negative bits about cycle paths). Maybe you can even join others in promoting real, positive change for cycling in Britain. Come on John, let’s be friends, let bygones be bygones, then we can work together to improve Britain’s roads and streets for everyone.

And if you do, I’ll write a nice post about you, I promise.

Sorry about all the swearing but I can’t help it. I really do find it that frustrating to read his stuff.


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Fuck you, John Franklin

[Note: There’s a follow-up post, written a few days after this one, here.]

It is my opinion that John Franklin is a selfish fool who has harmed cycling in this country and endangered lives through his advice. This blog post gives my personal view of him and his work.

If John Franklin’s aim was to keep cycling as a niche activity practised by a tiny minority of confident men, then congratulations! Success! Well done! You may now stop reading.

If John Franklin’s aim was to help riding a bike become an activity which is easy for everyone — men and women, from toddlers to pensioners — then he has failed.

John Who?

If you don’t know who John Franklin is, he’s the author of Cyclecraft, the guide to riding a bike on the road. That in itself is fine, as it contains good advice for riding on Britain’s motor-dominated roads (though it may sound crazy to you that riding in traffic is also aimed at children, and this is actually promoted by the government).

The problem is that he opposes a type of road design which is proven to increase cycling rates and safety and which offers a better way of life for everyone, and not just for “cyclists” either. And unfortunately for anyone who would like to go for a bike ride without battling the traffic, he is quite influential.

So I feel that his work here has ultimately resulted in parents being afraid for their children to ride a bike to school, it’s why nipping to the shops on a bike can feel like an extreme sport, and the reason that for decades cycling in the UK has remained a niche activity, instead of the mass transport option it could be. Also, he is part of the reason that, for me, a Sunday evening pleasure ride turned into a nerve-wracking endurance test from hell.

He’s the king of Vehicular Cycling, which is closely linked to the Right to Ride. The non-cyclist will ask ‘what’s that?’  and the answers might well sound ridiculous to them.

Cyclecraft, AKA Vehicular Cycling

John Franklin quite literally wrote the book on it, but essentially Vehicular Cycling describes a method of riding a bike like you’re driving a car. You dominate the lane, you flow with the cars and vans, and you are almost certainly a middle-class male aged 20-50. (You’re probably also dressed up like a traffic cone at Christmas, but that’s optional.)

You also ignore all the close-passing taxis, pretend that the driver behind you isn’t impatiently blaring their horn, and convince yourself that it’s a perfectly fine way for people of all ages to travel.

I must assume that Franklin can’t see past the end of own nose (it seems patently obvious to me why this way of travelling appeals to pretty much no-one) otherwise he wouldn’t still be ploughing the same failed furrow 25 years on. Surely it’s not hard to see why cycling like this is very unpleasant?

It’s fair to say that the vast majority of people don’t want to ride a bike amongst motor traffic. Whatever the numbers say (cycling is statistically safe) riding a bike on the road doesn’t feel safe. It’s awful, and the woman on her mobile phone who almost knocked me off by turning left right in front of me (actually hit my front wheel!) did not dispel that view. Nor did the taxi which failed to stop at the STOP sign, causing me to emergency brake. Nor did the other taxi which, annoyed because I was legally and properly riding along Victoria Embankment, decided to pass me with only centimetres distance, despite there being an empty lane he could have used (and he was turning right anyway!). And – finally for this lovely Sunday jaunt – the speeding Terravision coach which passed dangerously close to me just so it could get around the junction of Westminster Bridge Road and Lambeth Palace Road before the lights changed.

(Incidentally, this isn’t the only aggressive Terravision driver I’ve encountered, and certainly not the first one to make a deadly manoeuvre. Are Terravision the new Addison Lee?

No amount of Vehicular Cycling made any of this easier or attractive, by the way, as it’s just a way to deal with the horror. The taxi driver intentionally passed too close, even though there was a whole extra lane he could have used. Cycling on the road is unpleasant, it’s stressful, and it’s the reason why nobody in Britain cycles any more.*

The real solution to our traffic problems, which John Franklin actively opposes, is proper infrastructure for bikes. It is possible, it is affordable, and all the answers are easily available across the North Sea in the Netherlands.

The Right to Ride

It’s the right to ride a bike on the road. It’s the right to ride on the busy bypass. It’s the right to ride around the big gyratory. It’s the right to ride amongst traffic speeding at 80mph. That might be a right that you don’t exercise yourself — nor do the vast majority of the public who don’t touch a bike from one year to the next — and I don’t blame you one bit. But it is a fiercely-defended right, and so it should be.

I do actually believe in the Right to Ride on the road — there’s nowhere else to ride in the UK, after all. But many of the Right to Ride faithful, John Franklin included, are also a force against everyone else’s actual right to ride confidently and safely in the real world. By opposing proper Dutch-style infrastructure, they are saying we must not make cycling suitable for everyone, as that may theoretically erode my right to the dual carriageway!

By blocking the building of bike paths, these people therefore prevent the majority of people from feeling safe enough to ever use a bicycle. Because this tiny minority of the population fear it will impact on their right to cycle on the road, they oppose something which would be beneficial to the other 99% of society. This is such an incredibly selfish act, and anyone who has campaigned to block the building Dutch-style cycle paths should hang their heads in shame.

Pubcraft, AKA Thugular Drinking

How about an analogy to lighten the mood?

We all have a right to enter that horrible pub on the rough estate — you know the one, full of aggressive, drunk men who stare threateningly at you as you enter. For some reason my right to enter pubs like that is not one I use often, if ever, and I can’t imagine that many other people do either. It’s just easier not to bother, I’ll go somewhere else instead.

I’m sure that maybe 3% of the nicer local characters do go into this pub, however. Maybe on match days it increases to 10% — safety in numbers, right? And perhaps there’s a book called Pubcraft which describes the best way to deal with drunken thugs, and the best way to avoid getting punched in the nightly fight.

And the worst thing is, the people who use this pub are actively blocking the building of a swimming pool nearby! Though the pool will be used by and benefit the whole community, it will mean the pub-goers can’t walk across the corner of the waste ground to get home any more! They might have to walk around the newly-built swimming pool, though they haven’t seen the designs yet so they’re not entirely sure, but this pool must be stopped at all costs! Even if we have to lie about the safety of swimming pools to turn people against it…

The Right to Reality

These rights are now, in 2012, largely theoretical. They’ve gone. The pub is, in reality, a thug’s pub, and the UK’s roads – as far as the vast majority of the population are concerned – belong to the cars and taxis and lorries and vans and motorbikes, and no amount of point-scoring or Lycra or helmet-cams are going to change that. The 3% modal share for cycling is pathetic. The war on the motorist is over, and the internal combustion engine won. I’m not happy about it, but that’s where the UK stands right now.

Yes, those who wish to use it do have the right to ride a bike on the road. The CTC and others do great work in supporting that right when it is threatened. Let me emphasise once more that I agree with the Right to Ride. But it shouldn’t be at odds with safe and convenient Dutch-style cycling provision.

Back to John

So, apart from being the poster child for VC and the anti-infrastructure branch of the Right to Ride, the government turns to him for advice. I can hardly believe it’s true, but it is.

Having read this report (PDF) I think I know why UK highway authorities turn to him for advice: it’s because he’s cheap. Well, not the man himself — I don’t know how much he charges for reports like this — but, to my mind, his recommendations are so small and don’t really challenge the dominance of motor vehicles that they must be cheap to implement. It enables councils to say they’re supporting cycling but without actually doing much to change the roads.

Franklin is clearly against having separate cycle ways — the kind that have proven to be so successful in the Netherlands — stating…

“The potential for increasing cycling through separate cycle facilities … is very limited and experience has shown that these can sometimes be counter-productive in terms of cycle use, safety and encouraging attitudes helpful to more cycling. Instead, there is a need to recognise that most cycling takes places on roads with other traffic, that this will remain the case in the future and that those aspects of road design and traffic management that deter cycling need to be re-examined and policies reconsidered.”

So despite all the evidence which proves that cycling infrastructure increases both cycling rates and cycling safety, John Franklin really is saying that cycle-specific stuff is bad and dangerous, and everyone should ride on the road with those nice, safe lorries. This includes your 5 year old niece, and your 85 year old great-grandad, by the way — it must include them, otherwise what sort of a transport policy would this be if it excluded all but the fittest and most confident?

Lies, Damn Lies and Statistics

One of the most frustrating things about Franklin and his ilk is their ability to selectively choose and misread data to fit their ideology.

In this article from 1999 Franklin points out that in Milton Keynes (which does have separated cycle paths, though they’re very poor by Dutch standards) there are sometimes more accidents on the “redways” (the cycle tracks) than on the roads, but doesn’t actually count the proportion of cycle journeys made on the redways as opposed to the roads. Without this information, his table of accidents is useless — the redways could carry 99% of bike traffic in Milton Keynes, which would make them extremely safe. Who knows, as he hasn’t included those numbers, just the ones that suit him.

You’ll also find that his articles often quote hard numbers rather than percentages, a statistical sleight-of-hand which can be very misleading. With the Milton Keynes data, he also splits up the roads into different types which makes the on-road accident rate appear lower, and claims without evidence that there is “considerable underreporting” of accidents on the redways. Most of the accidents on the redways are down to the faults with their design — badly designed junctions, steep slopes, etc. — than with the concept of cycle paths per se.

Just because there are problems with cycle paths in Milton Keynes doesn’t mean that all cycle path designs are bad (do I have to mention the Netherlands again?). I don’t think any cycle path campaigner is suggesting we use Milton Keynes as a blueprint.

Redeeming Features

Of course, I’m not suggesting that John Franklin is an evil man — that would be ridiculous — but I believe him to be a misguided and ideologically blinkered man. I agree that poor cycle lane design does more harm than good, and he rightly criticises the atrocious white lines and green paint that successive UK governments have had the gall to suggest is cycling infrastructure.

He isn’t entirely immune to the charms of the Dutch, either. In this document (PDF) from 2009, in addition to describing the UK’s current dreadful infrastructure, he includes a photo of a good quality Dutch cycle path and writes:

“…not to say that cycling infrastructure is never appropriate. However, there are probably few aspects of traffic engineering where getting the detail right is so important. The Dutch example [in the photo] shows how cycle tracks should be. A decent verge, centre lines, a good and unobstructed surface and a separate footway for pedestrians. Good forward visibility, no close vegetation and signs to warn of all hazards are also important as, of course, is safety and ease of use at junctions. A cyclist should at all times expect to receive a similar level of service to that on a road.”

I almost fell off my chair! John Franklin supports Dutch-style cycle paths! But then I read the rest of the document, and realised that it was just a brief out-of-character moment for him. (I imagine he felt a bit dizzy while writing it.) Apart from that, it’s the usual diagrams of bad junction designs which the Dutch stopped using in the 1970s, and quotes from bodies not renowned for their cycling expertise (is the Viennese state known for its bike paths?) backing up his foregone conclusions. How can he look at what the Dutch have and yet still oppose it in the UK?

(Maybe I should have ignored the rest of the PDF, focussed on that paragraph and written an article all about how John Franklin loves separated cycle paths? Seems to be the done thing, after all!)

He ends the above document with two quotes. The first quote is from another John F — his US equivalent John Forrester, similar in both name and ideology — stating the usual treat-bikes-as-cars bullshit which is so absurd that I’m not going to repeat it. The second quote is from Ernest Marples, a former Minister of Transport, though instead of backing up John and his stateside twin, it is surely an endorsement of the Netherlands’ approach to cycling:

“If you make conditions right, there’s a great future for cycling. If you make them wrong, there’s none.”

Which country got it right, and which country is doing it wrong?

My conclusions

I believe that the anti-infrastructure policies that Franklin promotes are responsible for the high cycling death toll on Britain’s roads.

I think only the insane would prefer using a bike as transport in the UK over the Netherlands.

I have to assume that John Franklin is a selfish idiot. He doesn’t seem to care whether people ride a bike or not, just so he can keep selling his stupid book and telling councils that people on bikes should mix with motor traffic.

The same goes for others who would deny us proper Dutch-style cycle paths, despite it being obvious that the Netherlands’ solution is better.

To those of you who would defend Franklin and his anti-infrastructure stance, answer me these questions:

  1. People in which country make more journeys by bike, the Netherlands or the UK?
  2. Which country has the most cycling infrastructure, the Netherlands or the UK?
  3. Which country — the Netherlands or the UK — has a 89% national average cycle-to-school rate, and which country has a 1% national average cycle-to-school rate?
  4. In which country — the Netherlands or the UK — is it considered normal for nine year-olds to travel independently by bike?

If you can answer these questions correctly, then you must know that Dutch-style infrastructure is right, and John Franklin is wrong to oppose it.

Final remarks

To finish, I would like to say once more — and I really mean this, from the bottom of my heart — fuck you, John Franklin.

* While “nobody cycles any more” is obviously not technically true, it’s true enough: Similarly, around 3% of UK households don’t have a television, but if someone said “everyone has a television” it would probably go unchallenged, as an accurate enough generalisation for common discourse. Funnily enough, 3% is more or less the number of people who ride bikes, see p7 and p12 here for example.

Note, added 20:45 – Before you comment, may I reiterate here that I’m not against Vehicular Cycling or the Right to Ride (both are currently essential when riding a bike in the UK). I am against VC and RtR being the only options, at the expense of proper infrastructure: filtered permeability, lower speed limits, etc., in addition to cycle paths.

Update, 30th July 2012: I corrected the Netherlands average cycle-to-school rate from 95% to 89%. Impressive and far ahead of anywhere else, either way.


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Does the DfT listen? Fingers crossed!

Government should always be a two-way street – those in charge should always listen to what the public is saying, and act upon the real-world conditions. Otherwise, you end up with some ideal-world utopian fantasy like the Highway Code.

At the end of 2011, the DfT changed the rules around some signs, at the request of local authorities who wanted to make changes to roads that weren’t legally possible. For example, until late 2011 it wasn’t possible for a council to add “Except Cycles” to a “No Entry” sign. As a result, where councils wanted a “one-way for cars, two-way for bikes” street, they had to work around the existing regulations. One solution was to add a “No Motor Vehicles” sign at one end, or to have a small filter lane to the side of “No Entry” signs. The “No Motor Vehicles” sign is often flouted, and the side-lane took up more space than was necessary, so allowing a “No Entry Except Cycles” sign gives councils a cheap and effective way to make a one-way street useable in both directions for people riding bikes.

This is good, and I congratulate the DfT for being flexible and reasonable! I hope they continue to adapt the UK’s streets and roads rulebook to reflect life on the ground in the 21st century. [Update, 5th July 2012: I just read that it took years for the DfT to agree to trial this, in Cambridge. Thank you Cambridge council, for pushing this!]

With this in mind, I was pleased to read that Transport for London (TfL) are talking to the DfT about introducing guidelines for bike infrastructure, because…

Bikes are the solution to most of our traffic problems.

There, I said it. You might not like the sound of it, or you might think it sounds fanciful, but it’s the truth, and it’s backed up by decades of research and statistics. The Netherlands has fewer traffic jams despite having higher car ownership and longer commutes than the UK. (See here and here.)

How is this achieved? Most short journeys are made by bike. And not by the Lycra-and-helmet speed warriors who you think of when you hear the word “cyclist” but by everyone – young and old. Even the over-65s make 1 in 4 journeys by bike, on average.

So, the solution to reducing congestion is to build bike paths and other infrastructure, and to prioritise walking, cycling and public transport over the needs of private cars. And cycle infrastructure shouldn’t be designed like what we currently have in the UK (a bit of paint down the side of the main road here, a ‘Cyclists Dismount’ sign there), but actual separated bike paths, wide and well-maintained.

I should say here that I am not a cyclist, any more than I’m a pedestrian or a motorist. I’ve never worn Lycra to my knowledge, never worn a bike helmet, I don’t even own a bike! (I use the hire bikes in London.) I’m just a person who sometimes rides a bike, sometimes walks, sometimes rides in cars, and sometimes drives a van. Believe me, I’m very impartial and balanced here when I say that the UK needs better bike infrastructure, and less bias towards motor traffic, even if it inconveniences me occasionally.

By starting to use the hire bikes in London, I have gained some perspective on the UK’s road and street system: it’s heavily skewed to discourage bike use and promote car use, which is why cycling rates have flatlined for decades, despite what successive governments have promised. Cycling should be easy and enjoyable, not arduous and stressful. It should be an option for everyone of all ages and abilities, not restricted to fit, fast young men.

How does this relate to the DfT? Well, they make the rules, and right now they’re not very good. 

If a council wanted to put in separate bike traffic lights at eye-level for cyclists, they can’t. It’s not allowed by the DfT. (In fact, to have a road-facing red light anything but the standard large and round isn’t allowed, unlike on the continent, where a red light can be for turning traffic only, or for bikes only, etc.)

If a council wanted to put in a separated bike lane beside a road, they can, but they have to make it up for themselves, as there’s no national rules about infrastructure provision for bikes, beyond the crap we have now.

The reason that traffic lights are the same in Penzance as they are in Dundee, the reason that the road markings are the same in Edinburgh as they are in London, is because the DfT sets out the rules that the Highways Agency and local authorities must follow.

So the reason that provision for bikes is crap throughout the UK is the same: it’s because the DfT’s rules for cycling infrastructure are poor.

So it is very good news that TfL are talking to the DfT about bike infrastructure. TfL don’t have the best track record when it comes to bikes, despite what the BoJo PR machine might have you think. so we don’t know yet what these discussions might yield. But if something positive comes out of these discussions, then we should see the benefits nationwide, not just in London.

Fingers crossed, the DfT might even take a look across the North Sea and find inspiration about how to implement bike-friendly infrastructure.

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A Tale of Two Streets

What is the difference between a street and a road?

Roads carry traffic from one place to another. When you make a journey by car, you should be on roads almost the entire time, the exceptions being when you set off from home, and when you arrive at your destination.

Streets are where people live, and the only traffic on them should be traffic that needs to be there – residents, visitors, deliveries.

So why is the phrase “rat run” so familiar in the UK?

A rat run is a street that is being used as a through-road. Most streets in the UK can be used like this, which is why children don’t play out in the street any more, as it’s highly likely that someone who has no business in the neighbourhood will be using the street as a short cut. This is the standard UK road design – but why?

Near my home there are two streets, and they’re very similar:

  • They are both residential streets (though one has many shops on too).
  • There are main roads to the North, South, and East.
  • They are connected directly to the road to the South.
  • They are connected the road road the East, very near to the junction with the road to the North.
  • They have a one-way street connecting them to the road to the East.

One of them is great to walk or ride along, but the other one can be horrible. One of them has hardly any traffic, the other is full of speeding taxis, motorbikes and vans.

Here’s why:

Hercules Road in London SE1, showing bad design which encourages rat-running

There is no restriction on traffic through the street here

As there is no restriction on traffic passing through the street, traffic heading from the North to the South-West (or vice-versa) can skip one set of traffic lights by using it as a rat-run, instead of keeping to the main through-roads.

Lower Marsh in London SE1, showing design which prevents rat-running.

Better design makes rat-running impossible, and the street is pleasant as a result

On this street just around the corner (I’ve kept the same layout for comparison) you can see that rat-running is impossible here, it doesn’t help you to use the street instead of the road. As a result, only vehicles who have reason to visit the street will do so.

The streets in question are Hercules Road and Lower Marsh, both in London SE1. Okay, so I kept the same layout for both streets, they’re not really quite as similar as that – Hercules Road has three one-way streets connecting to the West, whereas Lower Marsh has none any more, due to Waterloo station –  but they are very much the same in most important aspects.

Lower Marsh is pleasant to walk down, ride down, or even drive down, if you must! On how many streets in central London can a cat sit and wash?

A cat washing itself on Lower Marsh

Now this is what I call “shared space”!

Whereas Hercules Road isn’t even safe for fast cyclists, due to the aggressive rat-running, and also this awful pinch-point:

A nasty pinch-point on the rat run that is Hercules Road

I didn’t intentionally set out to get photos of taxis here, but they are very numerous! (Hercules Road is mainly residential, though the railway arches at the South-West end, seen in the background, are used as business units It’s also extremely wide at the Southern end.)

So here we have an example of good design, and bad design. Lower Marsh works, and there is no reason for Hercules Road to be a through-route for motor vehicles. Who do I get in touch with to look at this?

UPDATE, 29th of May 2012: I’ve been thinking about the options for Hercules Road (I do actually have that much time on my hands!) and a Lower Marsh-style solution won’t work, as it will still allow traffic heading North to rat-run around the traffic lights at the junction of Kennington Road and Lambeth Road. There’s tons of options, but I think the main point should be to remove the desire to use a street as a thoroughfare – a street should be a destination, not part of a route.

So, here’s one possible solution (I’ve added in a few more roads on this plan – all the one-way restrictions on these streets are already there):

Hercules Road, suggested motor traffic reduction scheme. Blocking motor traffic just south of the junction with Cosser Street will solve this.

Aah, I can see the cats sitting safely in the road now!

With this plan, the southern part of Hercules Road remains two-way. This is useful for the business units who rent space beneath the railway on the west side. (Luckily for the catering company which faces Cosser Street, they have a driveway on each side of the barrier!)

I’m not sure whether the top half of Hercules Road needs making one-way or not (probably does), but I’m certain that putting that motor vehicle restriction in place will remove the desire for using the street as a rat-run. Residents and businesses still have access, but the ability to skip the lights has gone.

I don’t know how much a few signs, a lick of paint and a concrete kerb cost, but I dare say it’s well within the budget of Lambeth Council to make Hercules Road into a street fit for those who live there.


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The National Cycle Network in London

If the hot air generated by successive UK governments talking about cycling could somehow be harnessed, then we could stop importing gas. They keep on talking about increasing bike usage, and yet cycling rates in the UK have stagnated since the 1970s. This might have something to do with our road and street design!

According to the cyclists’ group CTC, the National Cycle Network “is a comprehensive network of safe and attractive routes to cycle.

Perhaps that should be changed to “a patchwork of theoretical routes which sometimes go near where you want to go.”

While I acknowledge that the CTC aren’t responsible for the NCN, and that the quality of NCN routes in central London may not be typical of the UK as a whole, here are three examples of the safe and attractive NCN Route 4 in my area:

NCN Route 4 at junction of Belvedere Road and Chicheley Street, London SE1, where there is a plastic chain blocking the cycle route.

London’s cycling revolution?

Heading North on Belvedere Road near the London Eye, the citizen who has fallen for the current government hype about cycling will come across the lovely arrangement above. Is this really meant to encourage people to start riding a bike?

NCN4, on Park Street near the Tate Modern gallery. The cycle lane is blocked by roadworks, with not even the usual "Cyclists Dismount" sign!

I assume Boris Johnson never comes this way.

On Park Street near the Tate Modern gallery, the cycle lane is blocked by roadworks, with not even the usual “Cyclists Dismount” sign! It shows the contempt with which people on bikes are held in London that there is no warning, diversion or provision for bike riders here – not that I could see, anyway.

NCN route 4, on Clink Street. The route has been narrowed, and is full of pedestrians.

NCN4 on Clink Street. Safe, convenient and attractive, or just treacherous, narrow and difficult?

This part of NCN4 passes through a “shared space” zone. These shared space areas seem to me to be unfair to everyone – especially people on foot or riding bikes. Nobody ever seems to know what’s going on in them.

Does the map of NCN4 below look convenient to you, or does the main road look more direct?

NCN route 4 along the South Bank in London. It's not very convenient!

NCN Route 4 winds and twists its way around the South Bank, while the roads smoothly glide by.



The NCN seems to be endorsed by the DfT, and it’s part of the UK street and road network, so it seems a relevant subject for this blog. I don’t mean to slag off the good people of Sustrans or CTC, but this sort of thing really isn’t going to convince anyone to switch to pedal power.


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