What is needed for a cycling revolution?

29 Aug

map (2)
The benefits of cycle are clear, extending right across the board and encompassing health, economy, sustainability and general well being. Even those drivers who would never consider cycling, would stand to benefit from increasing numbers of cyclists (reduced congestion for one thing). So what is actually needed to create a cycling revolution? What is preventing the majority of the population cycling?

According to a study by Sustrans, roughly 56% of people consider cycling in urban areas to be too dangerous (source). This is not surprising, the majority of cycle trips in Britain involve sharing the road with large numbers of cars, HGVs and buses. Telling people to ‘take the lane’ and ‘just keep your wits about you’ is clearly not the answer to getting the majority of Britain’s population cycling.cycling 1 030
“It’ll be okay, just take the lane”

What is needed is cycling infrastructure for everyone, not just those who are young, fit and assertive enough to survive on the current roads. An infrastructure network that allows anyone from the age of 8, to the age of 80 to get about safely and effectively. Based on what is in place in countries with a high percentage of cyclists, Particularly the Netherlands and Denmark, a cycling network should consist of: High quality fully segregated routes along all major roads, supplemented by a network of quiet and traffic free residential roads. To reduce traffic flow in residential areas, a system of one way and dead end streets with a 20 mph speed limit is often put in place. This is usually accompanied by filtered permeability and contraflows for cyclists and pedestrians thereby reducing motor traffic to access only, but not restricting the movement of pedestrians and cyclists. Due to the low speed and traffic flow, these areas do not often require full segregation. For a rough guide, Copenhagenize’s bicycle planning guide sums up the required provision admirably.
bicycle planning guide (Source)

As can be seen in the above graphic, as soon as vehicle speeds (and traffic levels) begin to increase, dedicated cycle infrastructure should be considered mandatory. However, to deliver a cycling revolution all infrastructure should be of extremely high quality and should, at the very least, meet three core guidelines.

1) Safe– all cycle infrastructure should be safe to use. If you would not consider it safe enough to let your 8 year old son/daughter or 80 year old grandparent use it, it is clearly not good enough. Full segregation from both motor traffic and pedestrians (where there are decent levels of either) should be considered mandatory for all dedicated cycle infrastructure. Shared use pavements are NOT a solution in any but the most lightly traveled areas. They merely cause similar friction to that experienced between cars and cyclists.

2) Continuous– The majority of the cycle infrastructure in Britain lacks this. To be truly effective a cycle network should actually be a network, not a half-hearted mix of on and off road provision that terminates at random (and often dangerous) points. All cycle infrastructure should be of standard design and should be continuous from the beginning to the end of a particular route, a mix of provision merely leads to confusion and refusal to use said infrastructure. Those on bicycles value smooth and uninterrupted travel even more so than those who drive, as stopping and starting is quite an energy loss not to mention a significant inconvenience. All cycle infrastructure on a main road should therefore have equivalent priority to the main carriageway itself. Which includes priority over driveways, minor roads, turning vehicles and through junctions.

3) Convenient– a cycle network should be about getting people from A to B, and therefore should at the very least be as direct as the parallel routes for motor vehicles. People on bikes do not want to tour all of the other letters of the alphabet to get to B any more than those driving.

While these are the core three, other important criteria include:

  • Width– one way cycle tracks should, at the very least, be of sufficient width to allow one cyclist to overtake another comfortably.
  • Clutter– cycle infrastructure should not require cyclists to swerve around bollards, ticket machines, trees, drains, etc…
  • Surface– cycle paths and tracks should have a uniform smooth surface and be kept clear of debris.
  • Parking– vehicles should not be allowed to obstruct/park on cycle infrastructure and all infrastructure should be well removed from the ‘door zone’ of parked cars.

To ensure that all of these criteria are met, there is one last ingredient that is needed for a cycling revolution: Public will.  This isn’t about making life hell for drivers. It isn’t about removing everyone who wants to drive from the roads, and it isn’t just about men in Lycra on carbon fibre bikes. It’s about people wanting to get about on their bicycles, safely and free from harassment. It’s about a future, a future for you, your children and your children’s children.

If you haven’t signed the e-petition for safer cycling please do http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/49196 .
And if you’d like to keep up to date on what’s going on in the world of cycling, and future blog posts please visit either my Facebook page or follow me on Twitter.
Thanks for stopping by.

One Response to “What is needed for a cycling revolution?”


  1. Route Review 2: Auckland Drive and Windward Way | a solihull cyclist - September 27, 2013

    […] This is a review of the new cycling route along Auckland Drive and Windward Way, in North Solihull. This route is part of the North Solihull Cycle Network, which aims to create a ‘connected network of high quality cycle routes for the benefit of residents and local employers in the area‘. While there are a few good points to the route, it still falls short of what is needed for a cycling revolution. […]

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