On the weekend of the 28th of January there will be a meeting to really hammer down CEoGB policy. The agenda for the event can be found on the CEoGB website. If you wish to be involved, please email email@example.com. It will be a great opportunity to have your say about exactly how the UK’s brightest new cycling organisation pursues its ultimate goal of a real return to everyday cycling in the UK.
Personally, I feel that the CEoGB cannot be too specific in setting out what is and is not acceptable when building infrastructure for cyclists. The present guidelines allow for really quite good cycle infrastructure to be built in the UK, however they are too easily open to the kind of abuse which results in useless facilities which do nothing to help cycling at all, merely providing fodder for Facility of the Month. I find it baffling that such dangerous (and functionally useless) facilities exist in the same country in which I once had to take a workplace safety training course in order to use a step-ladder. Providing the DfT with a set of rules for cycle infrastructure where useful, legally-binding minimum infrastructure standards are set based on the speed and volume of motor traffic and where the difference between roads, streets and lanes, along with the measures each of these requires to make cycling viable for normal people, is clearly defined. At the moment, the established norm is that ‘people have their place, but the car must come first,’ what we need to work towards is the making idea that ‘cars have their place, but people must come first‘ the new norm.
With the new standards being a legally-binding minimum standard, we will need realistic final compliance dates. One potential method would be to have several compliance dates, a compliance date for a minimum functional network of cycle paths along the main roads in the most highly populated cities (London, Manchester, Birmingham, Glasgow etc.) followed by a date for smaller cities and towns and final dates for complete compliance dates. I’d like to see a minimum functional network of cycle routes along main roads as a priority. There’s no point in trying to tinker around the edges with sign-posting ‘quiet routes’ along back-streets as these areas are already less problematic and are the routes people ideally wish to use to get around. The main roads are the currently the biggest problem for cycling and any approach which ignores fixing the problem of main roads in favour of relegating cyclists to often circuitous routes along back-streets sends a message of cycling not being taken seriously as a mode of transport. Such schemes will fail, as they consistently have in the past.
An interesting idea (although one not likely to happen) is to take the scientific approach and do an experiment. Choose a decent number of towns with broadly similar sizes, population densities, employment rates and geography and split them into three groups. In the first group, re-design the road network in-line with the measures used in The Netherlands. In the second group, waste invest the same amount of money on more traditional British approaches to encouraging cycling, ‘promote cycling through advertising campaigns, cycle training, handing out lights and high vis, cycle maintenance workshops, building town centre cycle enclosures with lockers and showers and asking motorists to be nicer to cyclists. The third groups would be the control group. In all three groups, modal share amongst all modes of transport would need to be thoroughly monitored, with demographic information also being useful. Run the experiment for ten years and then publish. I think we all know what the results would be, but at least it’d start an ‘interesting’ thread on Cyclechat.
Interestingly, this central policy of the Cycling Embassy will actually benefit everyone, not just cyclists. Ending the system whereby our streets and roads are effectively ruled by those who are most able to get their own way by (intentionally or otherwise) intimidating other more vulnerable road users comes with huge and obvious benefits which are simply too numerous to mention in the scope of this piece. Needless to say, anyone who is ever a pedestrian, ever rides a bike, is (or may ever be) disabled or elderly, is (or has, may one day have, or was once) a child, owns or works for (or may one day do so) a retail-based business or who pays (or may one day pay) any form of tax in the UK (amongst many, many other groups) has everything to gain from the UK road network being dragged into the 21st century, closely in line with the system used in The Netherlands today.
Put simply, the Dutch system of Sustainable Safety takes the approach that sometimes people can be dicks. Once you accept this, it becomes easily possible to utilise the design of the roads, streets and lanes themselves in order to minimise the harm resulting from this inevitable fact of life. If you want to have your say on the specifics of this infrastructure, or how we go about lobbying for it, the policy bash is your chance to get involved.