Saturday, 26 March 2016

Cameron's Cycling Revolution - Why I am not waiting for it and why I am getting fed up

The Times campaign spearheaded by Kaya Burgess to make our Cities Fit for Cycling thankfully goes on and pulls the Government up for failing to invest more than a tiny proportion of the money required to turn cycling from a niche to a mass-participation activity.

We are currently in a vicious spiral of hopelessness.  A significant proportion of the general population believes that only the brave, the foolhardy and the weird cycle and that nothing should be done to encourage the activity.  Has-been celebrities come out of retirement to rail against the Mayor of London's vision for cycling and specifically his segregated cycle lanes (the first to be built anywhere in this country in modern times that are of sufficient quality to be worthwhile).  

Even worse, though, than this active hostility is the casual acceptance of cycling as appropriate only for the brave few.  The Metropolitan Police Commissioner, ultimately responsible for law enforcement on London's roads simply states as an acceptable fact that cycling in London is too dangerous for him (and by implication for anyone else with any sense of self-preservation).  My fellow school governors meet all efforts to increase cycling and walking to school with protestations of how dangerous (certainly the cycling) is and whether we should require pupils not in cars to wear fluorescent vests, armbands or backpacks.  My local authority councillors would rather encourage sponsorship whereby high-viz is given to children than reconsider the 40 mph limits on narrow roads where many walk (and a hardy few cycle) to school and where one pedestrian child was run down trying to cross the road this winter.

All this chimes with the tabloids (deriving some support from otherwise distinguished criminal lawyers) questioning the expenditure of maybe five to ten thousand pounds (greatly increased by Defence tactics) of public money on the reasonable and necessary costs of bringing a driver to Court in circumstances where there was really quite incontrovertible expert evidence that he passed a cyclist (happened to be me but could have been anyone) with 60-80 cms clearance (excluding wing mirrors) at 51 to 57 mph in a 30mph narrow suburban road.  What type of person is going to be willing to cycle in those conditions?  Whilst widespread casual indifference to this kind of behaviour persists, cycling will remain for the hardy few (perhaps with a few more who are fortunate enough to have their whole journey on a CSH).

This casual assumption that cycling is dangerous extends to totally misdirected law enforcement.  The Times (this time behind a pay wall) reported earlier this year the greatly increased law enforcement directed at cyclists  with the police presumably assuming that it is cyclists that are the problem.  Every piece of independent research that has gone into this indicates that they are not.  Even red-light jumping by cyclists is not in any objective sense dangerous as I tried to explain in this article  I would not mind this enforcement of the law against the essentially harmless if there were resources to spare after dealing effectively with the very harmful.  However there clearly are not.

Finally thank heaven for the irreplaceable Chris Boardman who understands that cycling must be opened up for everybody and the only way to do it is to spend public money.  Not many professional cyclists have his inclusive sense of vision.

4 comments:

  1. Spot on. It is also becoming ingrained. When driving and holding back in a narrow lane with a cyclist in front I have on more than one occasion been hooted by the impatient car behind in spite of there being no way to give the cyclist sufficient room while overtaking. I have experienced this on the bike as well and always make a point waving thanks to the driver who waited in spite of pressure from behind.

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  2. Nevertheless, aspects of the design of the new segregated cycleway in London indicates that London traffic engineers just don't get it. There are numerous lights-controlled pedestrian crossings over the cycleway - not merely a whole road-width crossing that includes crossing the cycleway too, but specific crossings over the cycleway. Do you see this in the Netherlands or Switzerland? No, you don't. Do we know better than them? No, we don't. What do they do in the Netherlands? They have zebra crossings protected by specially profiled cycle appropriate speed humps ("drempels"). Is that a better idea? Yes it is. But not invented here, I suppose.

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