I was impressed to see 77 MPs turn up to the cycle safety EDM yesterday, brought about by The Times’ Cities fit for Cycling campaign. I was fortunate enough to be able to watch the debate through the parliament website. Whilst the debate lacked strong focus, it was pleasing to see cycling discussed seriously in parliament, with red-light jumping being mentioned only once, and the MP who brought it up quickly chastised by the chair of the debate, Dr Julian Huppert MP.
Since watching the debate, I’ve been thinking about where I’d personally like to see this sudden momentum directed. Obviously, our elected representatives cannot be experts on every subject, and so it is my hope that they will be looking to the right groups for guidance. There were a lot of ideas floating around the debate and I think it would be beneficial to propose a few basic principles and a few short and long-term objectives which would help get us to the point where cycling is safer for existing cyclists and safe enough for the rest of the population to want to cycle.
- “Cycling” should not be treated as a single entity; transport cycling should one of the core responsibilities of the Department for Transport and the equivalent local institutions, sport and leisure cycling should be overseen by the relevant government departments which oversee sports, leisure and tourism.
- Measures to increase the safety of cyclists should be primarily external to cycling and the cyclist. Make cycling truly safe for all and helmets, high-visibility apparel and Bikeability become an irrelevance. The single largest change needed is the design of our roads.
- Measures to increase the safety of cycling should not make cycling less convenient; cycle infrastructure needs to be convenient and safe for children and fast, experienced commuter cyclists alike. The dual network approach is confusing and causes more problems that it solves.
- Measures to increase the safety and convenience of cycling should not come at the expense of safety (including subjective safety) or convenience for pedestrians.
- The Netherlands model for road design should be the basis for the changes needed to our road network in order to make cycling safe and attractive for all.‡
- Commit to integrating cycling into all stages of road design, planning, construction and maintenance
- Overhaul LTN 2/08 in order to reduce the beurocracy involved in producing reasonable-quality cycle infrastructure such as the Camden cycle tracks and to prevent it being misinterpreted and used to justify facilities such as these.
- Replace the current hierarchy of provision with a much more specific set of separation principles.
- Continue with driver awareness programmes and Bikeability whilst road designs remain in place which put cyclists in danger.
- Cycling needs to be integral to the design of new roads. Existing roads are refreshed periodically based on wear & tear and their importance; this work must include bringing the road up to the new standard for safe, convenient cycling.†
- In urban areas, basic functional cycle networks should be built as a matter of priority. These should be along main roads and informed by existing desire lines of those using all modes of road transport.
- Central government needs to set a final compliance date by which time all relevant Highways Agency and local authority roads must comply with the new standards.
- As the cycle networks become fleshed out, phase out Bikeability in schools in favour of Dutch cycle training which will be more appropriate for the redesigned roads.
† Whilst admittedly an incredibly blunt instrument, rolling out safe, convenient cycle infrastructure as a part of the existing process of refreshing roads should help construct basic cycle networks along existing desire lines, as these are generally the roads with the most wear & tear and importance.