Get Britain Cycling is by definition concentrating specifically on what it takes to create the infrastructure and 'culture' that induces more cycling. To do this requires a very fundamental rethink about what our roads and streets are for. They are the arteries by which people not just vehicles move around, but they are also often the public venues for our leisure, sporting, social and cultural lives. Given unlimited funds it would be easy to create a segregated cycle route Utopia similar to the motorway system if we were to ignore all other modes and all other street functions. Whether we would want such an infrastructure-heavy environment in our villages, towns and cities is questionable. A more subtle approach that balances the needs of all users is required. This means selective use of the oft-criticised 'Hierarchy of Measures' to reduce the danger to cyclists and pedestrians by reducing the amount of traffic or the speed of traffic in some situations, either to enable cycling on a shared carriageway OR to create conditions in which convenient and safe segregated cycle facilities can be provided. At present, where cycle tracks are installed, the measures to reduce speeds in order to tighten up junction geometry, or changes to signal timings or junction priorities to give cyclists a convenient crossing of side roads are lacking. At worse this can lead to more hazardous conditions than using the carriageway, and at best a substandard and inconvenient 'facility' that is shunned by a high proportion of cyclists.
Have you ever driven into a multi storey car park and spotted a vacant space at the end of the aisle, only to find that no matter how hard you try, it’s impossible to manoeuvre into the space? This is the consequence of designing to the ‘minimum’ dimensions and failing even to make those.
If you look at just about any cycle lane or cycle track in England it is highly likely that it fails to meet the minimum dimensions (which are 1.5m for a cycle lane, 3.0m for a 2-way cycle track or shared use trail) recommended in Local Transport Note 2-08, Cycle Infrastructure Design. Imagine the chaos, road rage and inconvenience that would ensue if all roads were designed to the minimum standards of a multi-storey car park so that cars could only ever proceed slowly, in single file, and slow to walking pace at every sharp corner and junction. Welcome to the world of the ‘cycle facility’!
It doesn’t have to be this way, plenty of countries manage to get it right, and there are individual items of excellence around the UK (although none of us ‘experts’ at the Get Britain Cycling Inquiry could name a good town-wide network when asked!). A number of witnesses at the Get Britain Cycling Inquiry have been quick to suggest that the design guidance is lacking, or that engineers and planners are ignorant. While there may be some truth in this, the most prevalent issue is lack of leadership and an unwillingness to accept that the free movement (and parking) of motor vehicles sometimes has to be curtailed in order to release space (and time) for pedestrians and cyclists. This is the essence of the oft-criticised ‘hierarchy of measures’ which emphasises the importance of ‘traffic reduction’ and ‘speed reduction’ as a pre-requisite to good cycle infrastructure. It doesn’t matter whether you believe that cyclists should be on the carriageway or on a separate cycle track, you cannot usually safely provide either on existing streets without tackling motorised traffic and parking in order to free up the necessary space.
A bicycle handlebar is typically up to 0.75m wide, and a cyclists ‘wobbles’ slightly in order to balance, giving an effective width requirement of 1.0m (excluding any need to steer around grates, debris, potholes etc). If a cycle lane is less than 1.5m wide, a cyclist riding in the centre of the lane will ‘hang over’ the edge into the adjacent carriageway and risk being passed too closely by overtaking cars as drivers tend to use the lines as their main guide to road position. If a shared cycle track is less than 3.0m wide, a cyclist cannot comfortably pass two pedestrians walking side by side, nor can the cyclists ride two-abreast and maintain a comfortable margin to the edge of the track, reducing its value and attraction as a leisure asset. If shared pedestrian and cycle facilities are to be attractive and comfortable, as well as safe, then it should be possible to walk and cycle side by side, especially on leisure routes, but also to allow safe overtaking among non-motorised users. Single direction cycle-only tracks in the Netherlands are commonly provided with a width ranging from 1.8m to 2.5m, this width is often used for two-way shared tracks in the UK.
Political leadership and support
In his excellent blog ‘Roads were not Built for Cars’ (www.roadswerenotbuiltforcars.com), Carlton Reid has explored the history of provision for cycling and the general ‘pro-car’ bias of political interests in transport throughout the last 100 years.
In the 1930s when UK cycling was at its highest levels (with 25% mode share and more bikes than cars on many roads) and there was the beginnings of a comprehensive national investment in cycle tracks (with 60% of the transport budget), the tracks that were built were poorly surfaced, often failed to meet the minimum recommended 9ft width, and yielded priority at every side road. Consequently they were often ignored by cyclists in favour of the superior cycling experience that was offered by the carriageway, despite the danger from motor traffic. Faced with calls for cyclists to be compelled to use these inferior facilities (as was the case in Nazi Germany, and later occupied Holland), cycle campaigners were naturally protective of their right to choose to use the carriageway.
The cycle track construction programme was killed off in its infancy by war and post-war austerity, and much of what was provided is now lost to subsequent carriageway widening.
Most of the cycle tracks that were provided in the 1930s were along the ‘arterial’ roads providing inter-urban and suburban links. In this respect the planners had got the concept right, as these ‘high speed, high flow’ roads are exactly where ‘segregated’ facilities are most valuable, and if well executed can provide a safe, comfortable, direct, coherent and attractive form of provision. This ideally means one-way ‘with flow’ cycle tracks, priority at minor side roads and safe crossings at major junctions, sufficient width to overtake and ride two abreast, and separation from pedestrians. Unfortunately existing highways with sufficient width available to achieve all of the above are few and far between, but a good recent example is the treatment of Old Shoreham Road near Brighton created by reallocating carriageway space.
Photo: Old Shoreham Road, CTC
The cycle tracks built in the 1930s were largely used for carriageway space as traffic grew, while roads built in the 1950s through to the early 1990s simply didn’t cater for cyclists at all, and major roads were sometimes deliberately designed to deter pedestrian and cycle access in order to improve road safety.
The Highways Agency looks after the motorway and trunk road network. Historically its remit has been to cater for strategic traffic movements and its approach has been to completely remove ‘slow’ traffic from its network using bypasses, bridges, and subways. It is only since the mid 1990s that it has started to address the needs of non-motorised users in any meaningful way, with guidance in the ‘Design Manual for Roads and Bridges’ and an audit procedure for new schemes. However, this leaves a legacy of high-speed inter-urban roads with no cycle routes and at best a narrow, badly laid footway, and no ‘spare’ space within the highway boundary to improve matters. In some rural areas, it is impossible to avoid these roads without a lengthy detour, or the roads themselves pass through villages and close to schools and local shops etc so they have to be made more cycle and pedestrian friendly. The compulsory purchase of land and buildings adjacent to the highway to make surfaces for pedestrians and cyclists is expensive and the least sustainable option, so the ‘hierarchy of measures’ must be considered.
There is also of course a political dimension. Protected areas such as National Parks and Areas of Outstanding National Beauty are attracting increasing numbers of cyclists. If cyclists drive to remote areas, park, ride their bikes and then leave they contribute to the traffic problems and give nothing to the local economy. If cyclists drive to an area, park in designated car parks in towns and villages and cycle onwards, spending money at the car park and in local businesses their traffic impact is reduced and they bring income to the local economy. However, it is not uncommon for objections to be raised when trying to create new cycle routes alongside existing roads. Local people don’t want to invest in ‘visitors’ and don’t see the benefit unless they have a business directly involved in cycling, walkers often oppose ‘shared use’ and conservation officers do not want to see ‘green’ space and habitat removed to create cycle facilities. It is not uncommon for rural cycle tracks to be refused because of the impact on fauna or trees, which are generally considered more important than cyclists’ safety, or are so expensive to move that the scheme budget is inadequate. The result is that the vital links between settlements and attractions that would enable ordinary people to try cycling are never completed, and only the enthusiasts willing to cycle in traffic or ‘in the know’ about remote cycle routes get to cycle in the countryside.
Photo: Creating adequate space for cyclists on busy rural and inter-urban roads may require land purchase, loss of wildlife habitat and expensive engineering all of which requires political will and support.
The Strategic Approach
The situation in town and city centres and established residential areas is more complex. There are options to provide ‘quiet routes’ for cyclists using parks, canal banks, new paths through open space and ‘back-streets’ but ultimately if cycling is to be a mainstream form of transport the cycle route network has to connect residential areas with busy transport interchanges, shopping areas, employers, schools and colleges all of which will attract motor traffic.
The most influential publication shaping the philosophy of planning and design in our towns and cities is ‘Traffic in Towns’ by Buchanan, originally published in 1963. Unfortunately the mode-share of cycling was in freefall at the time of publication, and consequently it has little to say on the subject other than to dismiss it as a mode in decline and therefore not an important consideration. The overwhelming idea was to accommodate traffic in towns and cities by creating big wide roads and to separate pedestrian and cycle movements from motor traffic using bridges and subways. The legacy of this approach is particularly evident in places such as Birmingham, Coventry and Wolverhampton where a central area is surrounded by a busy ring road with pedestrian access via subways and bridges. Dismantling these ‘concrete collars’ to enable the city centres to expand and re-connect with adjacent areas is at the heart of regeneration strategies. The extent of works required to re-model these highways to make them safe and pleasant for walking and cycling is enormous, and requires a political and financial commitment that goes way beyond the transport budget. It requires a complete rethink about the role and function of urban roads and is usually achieved as part of a wholesale redevelopment such as Birmingham’s Bullring Shopping Centre.
Photo: Illustration from Traffic in Towns – still influential today. HMSO
It is unrealistic to expect that a network of fully segregated cycle tracks can be imposed on all existing streets, but using the ‘hierarchy of measures’ it is possible to allocate priority to cycle traffic along some routes and motor traffic along others. A good example of this is Tavistock Place in the London Borough of Camden where a two-way cycle track has been created by reducing vehicle capacity and taking out on-street parking. This offers a parallel route to Euston Road which is one block to the north and carries the motor traffic. Incidentally, the parallel streets to the north of Euston Road also feature road closures and cycle contraflow schemes although severance by railway lines, gradients and the general alignment of the roads provides a less continuous and coherent route.
Tavistock Place cycle track – Created by reducing traffic volume and reallocating carriageway space, and with creative interpretation of design guidance.
Creating facilities such as Tavistock Place required a commitment to traffic reduction, at least on that link, and an appreciation of a strategic cycle network (the LCN+) that complements the strategic road network for motorised traffic.
Most towns and cities have made a commitment to improving public transport and this offers one of the best opportunities to cater for cyclists, especially where the numbers of cyclists are currently small and cycling doesn’t have the political clout required to release road space exclusively to cyclists. Bus lanes are de-facto bicycle lanes when buses are not present, and thanks to the poor observational skills of drivers, they tend to be clear 24 hours a day even when they are only meant to be part time. They are not a panacea. Bus stops can be hazardous where cyclists have to move into the all-traffic lane to overtake, narrow bus lanes with insufficient space for buses to pass safely can be unpleasant and threatening for cyclists, and bus-priority traffic lights don’t always detect cyclists unless designed to do so. However, bus lanes can be one way in which cyclists benefit from at least some priority.
Photo: Proposed bus priority measures in Belfast City Centre, Arup
The creation of a ‘public transport box’ covering Leeds city centre in the early 1990s helped to release space for a number of cycle facilities and an extended pedestrianised core. Unfortunately the resulting multi-lane gyratory ‘city loop’ for all traffic creates its own severance issues for cross-city journeys by bicycle, but within the core area conditions for pedestrians and cyclists have generally improved due to the removal of through traffic. If the council had fully considered strategic cycle routes at the time of the traffic management and public transport works, many of the current barriers to cycling could have been more successfully addressed at the time. This was perhaps a step too far at the time for a city that had declared itself ‘motorway city’ during the 1980s, had low levels of cycling and had previously done as much as possible using new roads and traffic signal systems to smooth the flow of traffic right through the heart of the city. Routes around the edge of the city centre are slowly improving, but typically involve indirect and tortuous shared footways and signalled crossings with lengthy delays. Such facilities are of some benefit in giving cyclists a degree of safety but they are of such poor quality that existing cyclists often ignore them and they are insufficiently attractive to would-be cyclists, so they are of limited value to ‘Get Britain Cycling’.
It is at such locations where both political leadership and technical design skills are crucial. Within a given highway boundary, the range of technical solutions is simple: Either take carriageway space to create cycle lanes and tracks and advanced stop lines, and/or take away ‘time’ at junctions from flows of motor traffic, and reallocate it to pedestrians and cyclists at toucan crossings or separate cycle-only phases on traffic lights. The difficulty is that the principal measurement of political and design success in junction design is usually to ‘avoid traffic congestion’, which is achieved by giving space and time to motor traffic, and the only consideration given to cyclists and pedestrians is to ensure their safety is not unduly compromised. To Get Britain
Cycling, we have to accept that we cannot always offer the optimum conditions for motor traffic even at these strategic junctions where radial routes cross the ring road. Cycling in such locations must not only be safe, but also appear to be an attractive and convenient option. If we concentrate solely on pedestrian and cycling safety we risk repeating some of the errors of the 1960s and 70s approach that led to sterile and inconvenient pedestrian environments.
The importance of ‘Attractiveness’
Much of the debate around cycling in 2012 has focussed on The Times newspaper ‘Cities Fit for Cycling’ campaign and London Cycling Campaign’s ‘Going Dutch’ initiative. Tackling safety on existing streets for existing cyclists is important, but just doing this with ‘cycle facilities’ is of limited value.
The photos above show a street on the outskirts of Groningen in the Netherlands. In the 1980s it had cycle segregated cycle tracks, a 30mph (50Kmh) speed limit and a signalised pedestrian crossing. It is the classic Dutch scene and reasonably safe for cyclists. It has a lot of infrastructure and signs, and pedestrians can only cross at the designated point, although there are shops along both sides. Cyclists would often go the wrong way along the cycle track or footway to reach the shops and pedestrians would stand in the cycle track to cross the road. The tracks were created by banning parking (i.e. reducing traffic volume) although it can be seen that this leaves a clear road for anybody that wishes to ignore the speed limit.
In the 1990s the street was revamped with a low 20 mph (30Kmh) speed limit and all kerbs and lane markings removed. This has created a safer (although visibly more chaotic) environment which is more convenient for pedestrians and retailers as the ‘footway’ is much wider and has no kerbs, just a change in surface treatment, and it is easier to cross through slow moving traffic as drivers are more willing to give-way on a shared surface where there isn't such a clearly defined territory for different modes. Opposing traffic flows are close together on the narrow carriageway, and drivers also wait behind cyclists as there is no room to overtake so speeds are kept low as everybody feels 'vulnerable'. There is more space for official (and unofficial) car parking which also contributes to the speed reduction effect.
To make totally coherent cycle routes we have to use the whole range of measures available. It is important to reconsider the balance between the needs of ‘the car’ and the wider question of moving the optimum amount of ‘people’. In town and city centres, residential areas, rural lanes and village centres and rural we also need to properly address the ‘function’ of roads and streets. While moving and storing cars on them may be important, streets are also places to meet friends and neighbours, to play, to browse around shops and spend and make money, to sit and ‘people watch’, to take leisure and exercise and to host sporting and cultural events.
It is clear that many existing town centre high streets are failing to attract the wide range of activities that they once did. Large retailers and commercial organisations have relocated to out of town ‘sheds’ with free parking, large units and low overheads. With fewer workers in town centres and the growth of online shopping, retailers are struggling. Successful town and city centres are re-inventing themselves with a return to residential development within the core, a growth of independent shops, venues for start-up and pop-up businesses and high quality public realm. Walking and cycling play an important part in the life of such places where the centre once again becomes a hub of cultural and social activity as exemplified by the work of Jan Gehl in Denmark (Public Spaces, Public Life).
It really should not be necessary to wear high-visibility clothing and protective headgear to go out in public, but it is increasingly regarded as ‘the norm’. One insurance company recently tried to reduce their drivers liability for a child pedestrian injury because the child was not wearing hi-viz clothing when walking on a country lane. This already happens regularly for cycling injury accidents. Wearing special clothes adds to the inconvenience of cycling for short journeys compared to driving, and may also draw unwanted attention when ‘off the bike’. These are often derided as minor issues but how many people would object to wearing a ‘driver helmet’ or a ‘pedestrian helmet’? Both of these modes result in high numbers of head injuries each year and there is a good case for head protection to be worn.
Within the cycling community there is a whole host of sub-cultures featuring roadies, fixies, urban warriors, eco-freaks and gnarly mountain bikers. Magazines full of grainy art photography, brash juvenile cartoons and expensive product reviews together with angry outraged blogs reinforce these cultures. Sometimes these enthusiasts are the only people who engage in the planning process, giving a skewed view of what ‘cyclists’ want rather than what ‘people’ need to enable them to cycle. The research paper ‘Understanding Walking and Cycling’ provides a more thorough investigation of this issue (http://www.lec.lancs.ac.uk/research/society_and_environment/walking_and_cycling.php). For many campaigners, road cyclists and mountain bikers concepts such as ‘suffering’, ‘risk’ and expensive clothing and equipment appear to be a vital part of what defines their relationship with cycling, so while they may have excellent local knowledge of routes and problem areas, they are not necessarily the best people to ask about popularising ‘everyday’ cycling for non-enthusiasts. It is like asking train spotters to run a railway. It is a world away from the everyday life of a mother (and it is still mostly mums on the school run) cycling around the corner with her children to the local primary school and then onwards to suburban or village shops or a part-time job, the sort of journey commonly undertaken by car in the UK and by bike in countries with high levels of cycling.
In contrast, people with little or no experience of cycling have an exaggerated perception of the dangers and effort involved, and probably underestimate the frustrations of stopping and starting. The effort for each stop and start is estimated as equivalent to adding 200m to the length of the journey (Parkin, J. (2005) The users' perspective. Presentation to conference on new perspectives in designing for cyclists, University of Nottingham, 14th April 2005), which is why Dutch guidance places an emphasis on maintaining momentum where possible. They will tend to design for ‘the novice’ cyclist but facilities that are designed in such an extremely risk-averse context are often impractical for everyday use. They also may have an exaggerated perception of the danger posed to others by cyclists as can be seen by the photograph below.
Photo: Harlow, by Warrington Cycle Campaign
A number of assumptions then combine to lead to the sort of infrastructure that is portrayed in this video made by Chris Boardman (http://road.cc/content/news/76220-chris-boardman-video-asks-who-are-cycle-lanes-ahead-parliamentary-inquiry):
· all cyclists are slow moving and can share with pedestrians
· all cyclists are risk averse novices/children
· motor traffic queuing must always be minimised (hence a vehicle queuing lane commonly replaces the cycle lane at a junction or road narrowing)
· cycle facilities always have to fit within existing kerblines and highway boundaries, there is RARELY sufficient money to move kerbs or purchase additional land for a cycle route
· the cycle track surfacing can be of lower quality and maintained less frequently than the carriageway
· a ‘cycle facility’ must be a cycle lane or track (i.e. there is no consideration of speed limit changes, low-speed shared space, traffic calming, point closures etc).
‘Education escort’, rural and suburban car journeys have been growing, while in contrast car journeys into many town and city centres have stabilised or fallen. Around 20% of peak time traffic is associated with the school run, and this still often falls to the woman of the household. Research for Cycling England showed that ‘Mothers’ effectively hold the keys to the bike shed in deciding whether a child is allowed to cycle to school, and that if a mother in a family cycles, children will be more likely to do so. Often people don’t realise the amount of money and time that is invested in car ownership, and it is likely that many people in part time employment barely earn enough to cover the cost of owning and running the car that is ‘essential’ to enable them to take the kids to school and get to work. How often are infrastructure consultations held at a time or place that is accessible to working mothers? How many cycling initiatives, websites or campaign groups target this population? Thankfully there is a growing web prescence for stylish young female commuters and racers, and increasing use of bikes in advertising, but it is likely that many women will need further assistance and encouragement to cycle compared with male counterparts because its sporty, healthy or fashionable image may in itself be intimidating.
The Importance of Sufficient and Sustained Funding
In 1996 I was given my first ‘paid’ part-time job in cycling, at £6 per hour, at a local authority funded with a one-year grant from the Department for Transport. This was part of the National Cycling Strategy which brought together all of the latest research and set out an ambitious programme target to ‘double cycle use’ based on mode share. A year later the money ran out and I was back working outside cycle planning. This is a familiar story to many local authority (and DfT) employees in sustainable transport, on precarious fixed term contracts with low status and low pay. It means that there is no defined career path, limited training and a high turnover of staff, providing little continuity for the development of strategic infrastructure and encouragement programmes. Much transport planning training is 'on the job' and again, with a typically limited capital programme meaning only a few cycle schemes per year, there are few opportunities to practice skills through repetition.
Unfortunately after these one-year grants for innovative projects and research in 1996 there was little additional money for cycling through the ‘Integrated Transport Strategy’ although it was supposedly a priority, and progress on the ground was slow. We should remember that ant-cycling sentiment was even worse in 1996 than it is now, and that this Sun headline below was how the 1998 sustainable transport white paper was greeted by the popular press (and much of the transport planning profession!).
Targets for progress in Local Transport Plans were initially on ‘outputs’ and so local authorities were rewarded for the length of route created regardless of quality or relevance. When the monitoring parameters were changed to ‘outcomes’ it also became clear that few local authorities were counting cyclists or had any idea of how to measure the impact of interventions. A Cycling Strategy Board and English Regions Cycling Development Team (ERCDT) were established to try to address these issues and to reward ‘willing’ authorities. Unfortunately, with so little data, trying to unpick exactly what was happening in each authority and why some were better than others was expensive and time consuming and the ERCDT itself was disbanded to be replaced by ‘Cycling England’.
Cycling England had a simple remit of More Cycling, More Safely, More Often and a simple philosophy of working with willing local authorities and other organisations rather than waste time and resources on those that were doing little or nothing. At the consultancy briefing for Cycling England, DfT officials said that the Minister’s view was that this was ‘Last Chance Saloon’ as they were fed up of initiatives but no tangible progress.
From 2006 to 2011 Cycling England was able to unlock an apparently ‘winning’ formula by providing grants to local authorities equivalent to £10 per head of population and developing projects that offered a combination of infrastructure, training and encouragement measures to specific populations (schools, trips to the station, workplaces, leisure riders). The projects were led by local authorities and their partners, but additional experts from the Cycling England Board and consultancy teams were on hand to help support. This provided officers with both political support, often with Ministerial assistance to help overcome objections and technical help with developing infrastructure and promotional ideas. Although the funded project partners were ‘willing’ they didn’t necessarily have the local expertise, skills and experience. The whole set up was not dissimilar to the successful coaching structure at British Cycling with the best relevant experts on equipment, nutrition, training, skills and tactics available but the implementation left to the individual riders. This is quite a different concept from the idea that a ‘central agency’ would dictate what to do and how to do it.
The Cycling England projects provided documented evidence of more cycling in 18 towns and cities, 4 train operating companies, 4 regional employers and 3 leisure cycling projects. By monitoring cycle use before and after, and in ‘control’ populations it was able to prove the case for cycling investment. The results of projects, monitoring and economic evaluation of the Cycling England programme together with some of the technical guides are at http://www.ciltuk.org.uk/ExploreCILT/ProfessionalSectorsForums/Sectors/ActiveTravelTravelPlanning/Cycling/TheHub/MonitoringEvaluation.aspx. Many of those involved in the successful Cycling England projects were made redundant at the end of the funding, like sacking Team GB after the Olympics.
Importantly, the minimum benefit:cost ratio from the cycling programmes was estimated at least 3:1 and the maximum much more than that (up to 7:1), and with a short pay-back time and rapid implementation (meaning employment directly in scheme delivery). Contrast this to High Speed 2, a worthy project, but with a benefit:cost of only 2:1 and much longer implementation and payback, providing limited employment opportunities for local people affected, and little direct investment in jobs during the current recession period.
The Local Sustainable Transport Fund has been a key funding mechanism for cycling since 2011, and has taken many lessons from the Cycling England project, but with no central expertise or skills sharing opportunities we see LSTF money being squandered on the poor quality infrastructure such as shared footways, and a host of low rank, low experience employees on short term contracts tasked with delivery.
Our present approach to cycle planning will only ever deliver a pale imitation of the Dutch and Danish facilities for as long as we continue to prioritise car travel over other modes. Making places pedestrian and cycle friendly by removing traffic will help to make them pleasant places to visit, and therefore to spend more time and money. The core areas of Dutch and Danish towns and cities and residential areas are characterised by high quality public open spaces with little traffic, slow speed limits on access-only roads and no need for segregated facilities. Residential and urban streets with lots of people and traffic are subject to 20mph limits and designed in such a way that higher speeds are impossible. It is then only on the busier roads with higher speeds that segregated cycle lanes and tracks are provided. This is the essence of the ‘CROW diagram’ and Hierarchy of Measures included in LTN 2-08 and the London Cycling Design Standards. In new-build situations, it is of course possible and desirable to create and prioritise separate cycle and pedestrian infrastructure and fully accommodate the anticipated levels of motor traffic, but on existing streets it is usually necessary to make a difficult decision about which modes get priority. Building for cycling is cost effective compared to many transport schemes because the benefits are great and delivered quickly, but this should not be confused with cheap. It will be necessary to move kerbs, drainage and other services to create ‘good’ infrastructure rather than just try to draw lines on the existing carriageway or share an existing footway.
It is not acceptable to live in a society where children are deemed to be in danger as soon as they set foot in the street, and where drivers take no responsibility for that danger unless they are proven to be breaking posted speed limits or committing some other crime. Vulnerable road users will make mistakes, just as drivers do, and need the protection of the law and a more forgiving highway environment where drivers routinely adhere to a 20mph limit which drastically reduces the incidence of crashes and the severity of injuries. Currently, drivers in a 20mph limit may typically drive at up to 27mph, but even this is sufficient to very significantly reduce the likelihood of death and serious injury compared to impacts of 30mph and above.
Crucially in design we have to recognise that cycling is a dynamic and high speed activity in comparison with walking. The slowest cyclist travels at 8-10mph, typically three times faster than a pedestrian, while faster cyclists are travelling at up to 20mph on the flat and faster than this on gradients. Cycle facilities should enable cyclist to maintain momentum, and offer appropriate separation from motor traffic and pedestrians. The extent to which separation is required will depend on the mix of users and the function of the route (cyclists must be prepared to slow down in some circumstances just as other vehicles must), but the ‘minimum’ dimensions set out in guidance must no longer be routinely ignored because that creates danger and conflict. Similarly, the extent to which cyclists can safely be given priority at side road crossings needs to be based on design criteria and measures to change the speed and flow of traffic where appropriate, not simply yielding priority at every occasion.
Much emphasis has been placed on commuter trips to town and city centres, but the key territory for utility cycle trips is local journeys typically up to 5 miles, and many of these will take place entirely within a neighbourhood. Schools, higher education institutions, business parks, commuter rail stations and other suburban destinations can provide a focus for targeted investment in facilities and promotion of cycling for these short journeys. It is important to understand who is making such journeys, to engage with them directly and to address their concerns. This includes directly involving parents in the experience (of cycling and walking their local area) when promoting cycling and walking to school.
Infrastructure is an ‘enabling’ mechanism that will initially attract people who are predisposed to cycling. To get even more people cycling also requires provision of support, training, marketing and information to help introduce new people to cycling and to help them overcome their personal ‘barriers’.