Friday 7 December 2012

My Response to All Party Parliamentary Cycling Group

My evidence to the APPCG is here.
I hesitate to publish it since it is a personal response based on my experiences and is intended to cover what I perceive to be a gap in The Times and associated campaigns.  Segregation (especially if it comes with the assumption which most would make that the existing streets are for the segregated motorised, and not non-motorised, traffic) cannot it seems to me be the only answer for the foreseeable future.  We need a civilising of our streets (and Highways bar Motorways) everywhere so that they are more pleasant and inviting places to cycle.


  1. I think the Government should license all wheeled road users so that they can all be identified and fined if the Highway Code is broken. I think £50 p.a. for a cyclist would not be too much. Thanks

    1. Happily government policy is to encourage cycling and not to stifle it in bureaucracy. Why not try cycling: you might enjoy it and it would be good for yoour health.

    2. Licensing not seem to have much effect on mobile phone use, speeding and the myriad other offences committed by motorists in their thousands every day. And some of these motorists pay £0 for their VED.

      Martin's evidence to the APPCG is a powerful, well-argued piece, particularly in relation to the police attitude to drivers who endanger cyclists. I wish we had more advocates for cycling like Martin.

    3. I think Anonymous is trying to say, here I am in my very expensive car that I paid hard earned money for, and I had to pass a test to drive, and the government taxes me in a multitude of ways so I can use it, but here I am trying to get to work, occupying my rightful paid for roadspace but not going anywhere because of the millions of others doing the same as me. I feel oppressed and what do I see when I look through the windscreen? I see cyclists with freedom. They can move through the traffic and get to work quicker than me. Don't they know the speedo on my car says I can go 140 mph. Why doesn't the government oppress them?

      If he just left his car at home and cycled to work he too could enjoy the freedom. But no the answer is obviously more control of the population, more taxes, more bureaucracy, more civil servants to pay to deal with it.

      He assumes that this will not affect him and he will get to work quicker. Think again Anonymous. Big Brother is just around the next corner.

    4. With the state of the country as it is Anonymous may well have to resort to a bicycle. It will serve him right if when he does he may find that he has to register it and pay tax to use it because of his current opinion.

    5. Anonymous,
      It's very easy to jump to the entirely wrong conclusions when one has completely ignored the evidence. Like so many with such strongly-held, but entirely ill-informed opinions, you are completely wrong.

      Doubtless, you also believe pavement cyclists are frequent killers. While I don't like pavement cycling, the resultant death-toll from cycling on the footway pales into utter insignificance behind pavement driving.

      Between 2005-2009, if we look at pedestrians killed on the footway or verge, the figures still show that the threat to pedestrians comes overwhelmingly from motor vehicles, not pedal cycles. There were 226 pedestrians killed by motor vehicles on footways and verges in that five-year period: 161 by cars, 65 by other vehicles. That’s an average of 45 a year, almost one a week. Even if we double the period to a whole decade (2000-2009), the total number of pedestrians killed by cycles on pavements or verges was just three, or one person every three years four months.

      That's a body-count ratio of 151:1. Every death of an innocent person is tragic, but surely fewer must be better.

      I realise that entrenched views, such as yours, are frequently impossible to change with mere facts, but at least you now know that the threat derives almost exclusively from motor-vehicles. Which means fewer people in cars and more people on bicycles will inevitably make the roads (and pavements) a safer place.

      And this completely ignores the tens of thousands of people who die each year as a result of physical inactivity because they are deterred from active transport because of a hostile road environment, or as a result of transport-related air-pollution and noise. None of which can be blamed upon people on pedal cycles.

      While we're at it, it would be nice if motorists paid their fair share of the costs of motoring, and stopped free-loading on the taxpayer. See external costs of motoring for details.

  2. Terry Duckmanton7 December 2012 at 19:38

    Well said Martin. As a qualified Bikeability instructor I feel that not enough attention is paid to the requirements and recommendations of competent cyclists. It seems to me that when the planning authorities do listen to anyone it is always the inexperienced who get the biggest say.

  3. Reducing urban speed limits to 20mph and producing cars that worked well at those speeds would be an enormous step forward for cyclists and pedestrians.

  4. With respect Martin, this was an inquiry about "getting people cycling". As a self-declared 3rd Cat and Chair of not just a Cycling Club, but a "Road Racing" club I think we can safely assume that it would take quite a bit to *stop* you from cycling. And this is exactly why cyclists and cycling groups often aren't best placed to answer the question in hand. They don't fully appreciate what stops people cycling because they are the only ones who haven't been put off.

    You mention that "even the Dutch do not just do segregation". No, but they do ALWAYS aim for it where speeds are greater than 20mph - ie on most of the more useful routes across town - or even where the speeds are low but the traffic is busy. You're right to say that integration is appropriate in some environments, but we're never going to have kerb-seperated cycle paths on every tiny residential estate so I don't think we need to worry too much about that.

    As for the "civilising of our streets" to a degree where grannies and school-kids will be comfortable riding next to lorries (with caring smiley drivers)? Yeah. Good luck with that.

  5. I'm afraid that I have to agree with Tim's general sentiment that an opportunity to make cycling accessible to ordinary folk has been wasted here. Asking for cycling to be made slightly nicer for the odd ones among us (myself included) who are willing to cycle with motor traffic, whilst the majority remain effectively excluded from this mode of travel seems almost a bit, well, selfish.

    Asking existing, enthusiastic cyclists for contributions to these kinds of consultations often seem like asking SAS members for their views on how to improve ordinary folks' personal safety. It seems like a good idea until you realise that these are not really the people you need to be listening to.

  6. I expected hostility to my evidence to the Group though I had perhaps not expected to be branded as selfish. Perhaps all evidence presented, as mine overtly was, from the author's own experiences could be seen as selfish. It is quite wrong, though, to suppose that nothing would stop me (and 'my type')from cycling. If it takes me more than 2 hours to do my commute I will reluctantly abandon the bike. Sure I will carry on doing club runs, training rides and maybe racing but none of this is really transportation. If I am ever banned from the road on my bike, I just maybe will be truly selfish and commute in a car.
    You are free to make whatever submissions you like to the Group, I do not speak for you nor you for me.
    Finally I see nothing wrong with a vision where roadusers, including HGV drivers have consideration for others including child or elderly cyclists. Most already do; those that do not should be forced to find other occupations.
    I conceded in my evidence that segregated routes have a place. It is a pity that some cannot bring themselves to acknowledge that civilizing cycling on the road also has a place.

    1. If you're including me in that, you have me wrong. I think that civilised behaviour on the roads is really important, and I agree that many people are already very courteous, but you'll never get everyone to behave perfectly all the time; people make mistakes.

      So most people won't be persuaded to cycle while they have to share with motor vehicles on faster or busier roads. I really do think it's that simple, and that was the crux of the question.

      Fair enough, you do grudgingly accept there's a place for segregated infrastructure, but you also play down its importance. It's not just useful on school routes.

      I worry this will undermine the issue of how important it is to feel safe when cycling for most people, but of course you're entitled to your opinion and I'm grateful to you for having the decency to share it with us. (much as you might be regretting that now!)

    2. "If it takes me more than 2 hours to do my commute I will reluctantly abandon the bike"

      Martin, while I can see that it is reasonable to presume - going on current UK practice! - that off-carriageway provision will indeed slow your rate of progress to below 13 mph average, there is no *necessary* connection between off-carriageway provision and slowness.

      I certainly don't want to see any infrastructure that will make the progress of cyclists slower than using the carriageway equivalent; quite the opposite. Indeed I am firmly of the opinion that it is the inconvenience of using very poorly-designed and circuitous off-carriageway 'provision' that is one of the main barriers to cycling in this country.

  7. For anyone who seriously argues in preference of road over segregated infrastructure can I suggest that you try an experiment. There is a 13 mile 2m wide cycle path which connects the town of St Ives (Cambs) and Cambridge; and there is the A14 dual carriageway, which does likewise. Please try both and then report back which was your preferred experience.
    Given the huge volume of leisure cyclists, shoppers, workers and (yes) roadies out for a training ride on the cycle path I think I know the answer. Elsewhere, if this is a bit off your patch, you could try the Bristol-Bath cyclepath or its road equivalent, the lovely, peaceful charming A4 with its renowned careful, friendly cycle loving motorists.

    Give me a break! Those who speak out against segregated infrastructure do so because they are basing their opinion on the abysmal half-baked schemes they see in the UK. Anyone who is unfamiliar with what the gold standard is should go to the Netherlands, or Copenhagen. Failing that, take a look at the excellent David Hembrow's blog, "A View from the Cycle Path". This clearly sets out what can be achieved when planners set out to foreground cycling requirements. Priority over side roads; over other road users; direct routes; quality surfaces (including anti-ice); regular maintenance; sufficient width to enable overtaking. In short a national network for bikes. Now tell me; who wouldn't want that?

    Oh, I should add; I'm a roadie, and I'm a convert to segregated infrastructure. Give me it every time!

  8. From Chair RDRF:
    Good post as always Martin. It is worth waiting during the interludes when you do not post.

    Two points:
    1. If trolls find your site and use it to parade anti-cycling prejudice, why not just moderate them out?

    2. I do have worries about segregationism. I'm not going into them all here, suffice it to say that there has always been a concern that a stress/emphasis/focus on segregating cyclists away from motor traffic inevitably leads to reduced concern about our rights (and those of pedestrians)when we are in the vicinity of motor traffic - which we will inevitably be, whatever the road layout is.

    Another problem is that we now have an orthodoxy among segregationista bloggers that it is the one true faith. If anybody deviates from it - including by suggesting that other things may be important, such as law enforcement that you quite righhtly spend so much time on - then woe betide you.

    I think there is something wrong with that.

    1. "woe betide you"?

      I think that's a little silly, along with talk about "true faiths" and "orthodoxy". I could quite easily say the same sorts of things about people who disagree with me about the need for Dutch-style practice in the UK - but I don't.

      We're just disagreeing. I don't see anything wrong with that, contrary to your last sentence.

  9. As I think I have mentioned in a previous blog post we should be careful not to lose sight of the fact that there is a lot more that unites us than divides us. With The Times campaign there is a strong momentum behind off road infrastructure. I believe there are other issues that need to be pursued as well and have never quite understood why this causes such concern amongst those who are fixated on one solution. I almost sense people willing the on-road experience to remain scary.
    My commute has quite a lot of segregated infrastructure none of it (even the newly built bit) is remotely useful to me. It has along its length absolutely no 20 mph limits (for example).
    There must be more than one way to skin a cat.

    1. Martin -

      If that infrastructure is not remotely useful to you, it's almost certainly not remotely useful to anyone else, bar perhaps those people who have no option but to use a bicycle to get from A to B. An inability to make progress is frustrating at whatever speed you are travelling on a bike.

      This is a serious problem, one that is not going to be resolved by working on the basis that different kinds of cyclists need different kinds of approaches. Indeed, making that very assumption invites solutions that are rubbish for everyone. Assuming that off-carriageway provision is for 'slow' cyclists carries with it the presumption that they won't mind wobbling around rubbish bins, or bus stops, or pedestrians, or giving way at every side road. Likewise assuming that the road is the proper place for 'fast' cyclists, once something (however awful) is put in place for 'slow' cyclists, suggests that nothing needs to change on the carriageway, because if you are nervous, there is a wonderful shared use pavement for you to use.

      Can you see how inimical this 'two track' approach is to a decent cycling environment?

    2. No I do not see that. If the infrastructure is really good people will vote with their wheels and use it. If it is rubbish we should be free to use the road. Our choice. There will not be a choice everywhere anyway (at least not in my lifetime). Do we really want to say that all the roads are for motor vehicles alone?

    3. It is hyperbolic to suggest that a logical consequence of separation on some roads is that "all the roads' are for motor vehicles alone. Even in the country with the highest degree of physical separation, cycle tracks only amount to around 10-20% of the total road network.

      I would also add that if cycling infrastructure is built to an acceptably high standard, the road is still just as available to you as a route, and with just as great a degree of convenience. You are just cycling on a different part of it. But why should that matter?

      I see no problem with being banned from certain categories of road - 60 mile an hour trunk roads, or dual carriageways, at the very least - if (and I should stress *if*) there is provision alongside it which allows me to make progress just as fast as on the road itself. Indeed I would prefer that.

      There are some categories of road that rightly *should* be for motor vehicles alone, on the grounds of comfort and safety. It is completely backward that in 2012 we still expect cyclists to cross sliproads on roads with 60 mph or 70 mph speed limits. (This is a completely different issue, of course, from the care and attention you should expect from drivers if you were cycling on these roads, with no alternative.)

    4. Here here on the more that unites us, etc. Which is why I appreciate the fact you've made the effort to share your response for some (hopefully) healthy debate, despite knowing not everyone was going to like it.

      I'd like to see a world where certain cycle routes (particularly in more central areas) don't exist for personal motor vehicles at all. It would be nice to see drivers wishing they were allowed on the cycle routes for a change.

      This might sound like pie in the sky, but there are examples of things like this happening even in the UK.

      Back to civilising the roads, I've just seen this and am grasping for an excuse to share it. I'm guessing a lot of racers might hate the idea of being forced onto a cycle track with a mobility scooter, but I've passed these kind of scooters on very busy roads and this seems more like the way a civilised society treats its members to me:

  10. Chair RDRF :
    In response to aseasyasridingabike:
    I don’t think it is just disagreement. I think there is a strong tendency among segregationists to be very forceful (to put it mildly) against people like myself and Martin who are concerned with the well-being of cyclists - and others - who are going to continue to be in the vicinity of motor vehicles. Sometimes (not in your case) it becomes abusive and unpleasant – you would think the CTC was responsible for danger on the roads, not motorisation and the institutions and ideology which support it and its abuses.

    I have to agree with Martin here, who puts it well:” …we should be careful not to lose sight of the fact that there is a lot more that unites us than divides us. With The Times campaign there is a strong momentum behind off road infrastructure. I believe there are other issues that need to be pursued as well and have never quite understood why this causes such concern amongst those who are fixated on one solution. I almost sense people willing the on-road experience to remain scary.” Absolutely.

    I have commented on this before on your blog: plenty of us have concerns that this approach slots in all too easily with the anti-cyclist view we have put up with for decades- that we are asking for trouble by riding on the roads. Cycling is “dangerised” with negative effects.
    Of course, any political movement has splits and factions. And the more committed you are, the more you will disagree with each other. And debate can be productive, useful, and necessary.

    But I do feel that there are problems with the segregationist movement. And a very dismissive movement towards others – and it is very dismissive, hence comments about “one true faith” etc.

    Finally, on a co-operative note, I would urge people to look at aseasyasridingabike’s blog: the pieces such as those on cycle helmets and motorist rule and law breaking are dealt with in a thorough and well-argued way.

    1. Whilst people calling for a Netherlands-style approach to road design here in the UK are, much like cyclists themselves, a fairly broad bunch, there are certainly some who can be quite hostile to those proposing any number of more piecemeal approaches. Of course, much the same can be said of some who are opposed to separation of modes; go to any local cycling campaign meeting in the UK as a new member and bring up separated cycle infrastructure. Almost invariably there will be at least one attendee who will attempt shoot you down, often in a vitriolic manner. But then, as cyclists we have all experienced how the transgressions of an out-group are always noticed even when much the same behaviour goes unnoticed within the in-group.

      There is of course a history behind the anger of some who support separation of modes; I suspect many who are as you describe as 'very dismissive' have likely arrived at this position having discovered that they, along with most cyclists in this country, were mislead regarding the safety of separation during the years when John Franklin was at his most influential. Naturally, in many this has produced feeling of anger at a perceived cycling establishment which they feel may have deliberately mislead them. Whilst I am not arguing that this makes it right to completely dismiss other measures, I at least wish to make it understandable.

  11. I'm with Martin and Anon in that 95% of the time I ignore current UK cycling infrastructure because it is not fit for purpose. This does not mean, however, that segregated cycle infrastructure per se is ineffectual.

    There is a misapprehension here. Why would one choose to cycle on the road and mix it with HGVs, speeding motorists et al, when we could be on a separate high quality, well maintained cycle path which has priority over motor vehicles at junctions and side roads, and is the most direct route between two places? Because this is what we are talking about when we discuss proper,well designed cycle infrastructure; not the ramshackle rubbish which passes for it today.

    I understand the counter argument that by pressing for decent separate infrastructure we are relinquishing our right to cycle on the roads, but this really does not stand up to serious scrutiny. Why would one choose to ride on a road when there is a purpose built cycle path of comparable road quality running alongside? Where the infrastructure is substandard then of course, one would have the right to remain on the road; but we are talking about providing fit for purpose cycle infrastructure that is clearly better than the road alternative. Otherwise, on residential areas; quiet rural lanes etc, shared use will continue. There is and will be interaction with motor vehicles, but these will be in controlled environments where the cyclist has priority and speed limits are low; one-way streets etc.

    Moreover, if we all want to increase the modal share of cyclists we have to think of ways of encouraging people who are not currently cycling to do so. However much we punish motorists for offences against cyclists and enforce speed limits, the subjective experience for the vast majority of non-cyclists is that it is just not pleasant to mix it with motor vehicles. Therefore, we have to provide separate infrastructure which caters for all different types of cyclists from "roadies" to kids, grannies, and people who just want to saunter casually on their bikes, without turning every cycle ride into a sweaty, high intensity workout. However much we think we can "civilise" the streets and re-educate drivers, there are a vast number of would-be cyclists out there for whom the subjective experience is that road cycling, given the huge volume of traffic, is unpleasant and unsafe. Do we really expect our 8 year olds to be riding on the same roads as skip lorries? Why should anyone be penalised for a small mistake on their bike, by being crushed under the wheels of a cement mixer? These are real fears for many, however much we battle hardened road warriors might be inured to it.

  12. I'm right on side with you Martin.

    Segregation of a high standard would be great and will no doubt improve the safety for cyclists and encourage more people to cycle. I would like to see facilities provided especially on school routes and on major trunk roads making long distance travel a real and safe possibility.

    I am, however, very wary of segregation as the primary solution to reduce death and injury to cyclists. I fear that it will become compulsory to use them where provided and even if not compulsory I fear it will increase the frequency of the "punishment pass" and overall aggression of bad drivers. It will reinforce the view that cyclists should not be on the roads and will increase the risk where segregation is not provided. Just think what happens now if you choose not to use a cycle lane for what ever reason or take primary at pinch points.

    I also doubt that segregation in the UK will never give priority to cyclists at junctions as it does in other countries.

    I doubt that any single solution will work without presumption of liability being introduced to curb driver behaviour as Blondwig is submitting at UK Cycle Rules.

    Cycling commuter and occasional mountain biker for 30 years.
    Only now have I acquired my first road style bike with drops for the daily commute.
    NOT in any way a road warrior, activist or competitive cyclist.
    Aged 60 but still averaging 14 to 17 mph on my 8.5 or 12.5 mile each way journey.
    I cannot avoid having to travel on 40 and 60 mph roads.
    I dislike and avoid cycling/pedestrian shared facilities; they are dangerous for everyone.
    I just want to get home safely every day.

  13. A nicely balanced piece. I completely agree that there isn't a one-size-fits-all solution for cycle facilities. We need intergation AND segregation depending on circumstances.
    The attitude of the police and CPS is depressing. The lack of enforcement of minor offences just bakes in bad behaviour. If it takes a QC to write to the DPP to get any traction, then the rest of us stand no chance.

  14. Until the segregated utopia arrives, we have to ride on the roads and therefore civilizing the motorized traffic is the one thing that can be achieved at little cost in a short timeframe.

    It would be great to have decent segregated facilities on primary commuting routes and the Bristol-Bath path shows what can be achieved if the will is there. But even if the government started tomorrow to build a segregated infrastructure, it would take years to complete and commuting cyclists will have to continue to use the roads. In the meantime, strict liability would be a big help.

  15. As someone who's commuted miles across Amsterdam and been late for business meetings regularly in Utrecht and Rotterdam, the idea that Dutch cycling provision is 'slow' or 'inconvenient' is ridiculous.

    Good street design can be safe and inviting for everyone to cycle, no matter your age, experience or athleticism.