Partition is a panacea

The title for this piece is borrowed from an old article whose author creates a straw man to argue against pro-infrastructure views. The title of that piece came to mind again recently when reading reports in June of the UKs worse-than-expected quarterly growth. This was also around the same time that the Cycling Embassy of Great Britain wrote an open letter to Nick Clegg urging for some of the infrastructure investment being discussed at the time be directed to provide Dutch-quality cycle infrastructure. The title of that particular old post came to mind because the failure of austerity policies in reviving the British economy has been leading to ever louder calls for a different, more Keynesian approach; in addition to the many proven benefits which come from actually having dedicated cycle infrastructure, right now we stand to benefit from significant wider societal effects from the process of actually buying this infrastructure too.

At a time when unemployment (particularly of the young) is staggeringly high, imagine the benefits of a project as grand in scale as finally making Britain’s roads fit for purpose, for all users, regardless of transport mode. As many of the detractors of cycle infrastructure are quick to say, reconfiguring our entire road network to something resembling that of The Netherlands is a big and expensive job. However, right now this should be seen as an opportunity in itself; we have a huge number of young (and plenty who are not so young) people who are desperate for work and who are on the verge of becoming a lost generation if they do not do so.

A project to reconfigure the entire nation’s road network would create a huge number of jobs, in every corner of the UK. Those new to the world of work would be given a chance to learn a trade and earn a wage; the jobs wouldn’t just be limited to obvious areas such as construction, a huge amount of design, planning and legal work (to name a few) would also be required. Such a project must be handled correctly, through publicly-owned enterprises paying a living wage, rather than private contractors whose ‘cost savings’ are typically provided by driving down wages, which subsequently have to be topped up with tax credits, housing benefit, council tax benefit and so on, negating any real savings to the public purse. Even worse would be to finance it through private finance initiatives.

The knock on effects of boosting employment this manner are obvious and the same as for other big infrastructure projects. However, unlike other many other infrastructure projects such as traditional roadbuilding or motorway construction, once built cycle infrastructure actually pays dividends. Reduced healthcare spending, reduced congestion and its associated costs, increased employee productivity, increased wellbeing of citizens to name but a few, the benefits of high-quality cycle infrastructure are well-studied and broad. Added to the significant economic benefits we could reap from merely building cycle infrastructure, it really does start to look like a panacea.

Greater Manchester LPT3 Consultation

I have been reviewing the preliminary information coming out of the Greater Manchester LTP3 consultation. It lists the specific responses given to the proposal by various organisation, in addition to the broad trends seen in individual’s responses:

Comments on Cycling & Walking Issues

Amongst the 163 comments received on cycling and walking issues, the following comments were made with significant frequency:

39 comments were made encouraging the development of cycle

23 comments highlighted the importance of cycle promotion activities.

22 comments revisited the call for cycle carriage on Metrolink

Whilst I am not sure about the promotion of cycling being particularly important in relation to the actual provision of infrastructure, it is nice to see a reasonable number of people asked for more cycle infrastructure. I hope enough of them added the condition that it should at least meet existing minimum design standards, or be based on best practise from The Netherlands etc. It does seem a shame however, that there is little attention from those who read the proposal on the issues affecting walking.
Further along the document comes the aforementioned organisational responses:

British Cycling highlighted:

The link between health and the economy

The potential for 20mph enforcement in residential areas

British Cycling is mainly the regulatory body for cycling sport, but it is nice to see them weighing in on the LTP3. Oddly however, there is no mention of dedicated cycle infrastructure based on best practise from The Netherlands and Denmark, those similarly developed countries where cycling has a much higher modal share than the UK.

Cyclists Touring Club (CTC) highlighted: 

The need to specifically include cycling in the LTP ‘Vision’

The impact of ‘safety in numbers’ in promoting cycling

Potential greater emphasis on the carbon benefits of cycling

The importance of consistent safety levels across the whole road network

The potential for 20 mph as default speed in residential areas

The need to provide parking at other major (non public transport) destinations

The potential for the carriage of bikes on trams

The need to increase capacity on trains

A general call for more resources for cycling

Unlike British Cycling, the CTC describes itself as “As the UK’s National Cyclists’ Organisation,” and is not focussed as strongly on sport cycling as British Cycling is. Most of the points raised are completely valid. Oddly however, there is no mention of dedicated cycle infrastructure based on best practise from The Netherlands and Denmark, those similarly developed countries where cycling has a much higher modal share than the UK.

GM Cycling Campaign highlighted:

The potential for more focus on reducing need to travel
The potential for further commitment on alternative fuel sources for buses

The potential for cycle carriage on buses and Metrolink

A request for more detail on cycle parking at stations

The potential to charge for car park & ride

The potential for 20mph as a default position in residential area

From the GMCC site; “The Greater Manchester Cycling Campaign is a voluntary group working to make cycling in Greater Manchester quicker, safer, easier and more enjoyable. The group wants more people to use bicycles – or other kinds of human powered vehicle – for transport and leisure. And it represents and empowers people who do this.” Oddly however, there is no mention of dedicated cycle infrastructure based on best practise from The Netherlands and Denmark, those similarly developed countries where cycling has a much higher modal share than the UK.

Collective input from a convened group of deaf/hard of hearing representatives highlighted: 

Training areas for bus drivers

The importance of segregating spaces for cycles and pedestrians
A request for further accessibility both on trams and at tram stops.

Specific  views  on  the orientation  and  regulation  of  pedestrian  (green  man)
crossing signals

The importance of addressing deaf people’s information requirement

The only definitive reference to segregation of cycles comes not from one of the three cyclists’ organisations who responded, but for a groups of representatives for the deaf or heard of hearing. Even then, understandably their focus is segregating cyclists from pedestrians rather than other traffic, due to the inevitable problems caused by “shared use” to those who are deaf/hard of hearing (and presumably also the blind too).

Trafford Youth Cabinet highlighted: 

A suggestion for reduced fares on short bus journeys / school bus services and a
general need for more simplified fares across the system

The need for more double tram units

Support for more cycle lanes needed and later cycling proficiency

I had not heard of Trafford Youth Cabinet before, but their site described them as “Representatives of the children and young people of Trafford.”  Its members are aged 11-19. They are also not a dedicated cyclists’ organisation, but they can see the need for dedicated cycle infrastructure and they correctly see this as being more important than cycle training

University of Salford highlighted:

The need for links to Mediacity/Salford Quays from the Salford Crescent area

The potential for safe cycle routes from the university area

Whilst “safe” is open to interpretation, I would interpret this is alluding to segregated away from motor traffic.
These are the main organisational responses which relate to cycling. British Cycling, the CTC and the GMCC all failed to mention the only thing which has been shown to be successful in promoting mass cycling in similarly developed parts of the world; dedicated, segregated where needed cycle infrastructure.
Personally, as a cyclist, I feel that my needs and the needs of the wider community of existing (and importantly the many more potential) cyclists has been utterly failed by the fact that these organisations, which claim to represent cyclists’ interests, have chosen to ignore the successes of other great cycling nations. Instead they have chosen to stick to the same basic strategies which have failed to deliver mass cycling in the UK for decades.
And yes, I am aware of how much I sound like Freewheeler right now.