A view of Leicester Critical Mass

I rushed into Leicester for my first Critical Mass this evening. I was a little late having had a funeral this afternoon but caught the mass close to the Curve.

I was told afterwards that there were exactly 100 riders, they were very friendly and the reactions from pedestrians were positive. I didn’t hear or see any problematic exchanges with drivers.

It was the nicest ride yet up the A6, felt very safe to be among such a large group of riders.

The route was just over 4 miles and we ended up at the Criterion Pub for drinks and pizza. Met some nice people.

Afterwards thinking about it I do believe it is a good thing as an opportunity for socialising and perhaps for making cycling more visible to drivers.

On the other hand I am not optimistic for the chances of it changing much in Leicester. I am more and more convinced that to get people cycling we need a high quality separated infrastructure. So far as I know there is no developed country with high levels of cycling without a dedicated cycle infrastructure and this is for good reasons. However, when it is considered prohibitively expensive to alter a junction that has no safe crossing for pedestrians we have a long way to go.

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  1. Glad you enjoyed it Dave. As for the dilemma of increasing cycling numbers without a dedicated infrastructure – we are where we are. Cycling numbers in London have increased dramatically, as you’ve experienced, without what any Dutch rider would recognise as ‘dedicated infrasructure’. For me, the single biggest change would be to introduce the ‘assumed liability’ law that exists in almost every other EU country, whereby accidents involving a motorists and a pedestrian/cyclist arr assumed to be the fault of the driver unless the evidence proves otherwise. ‘Equality of arms’ as the lawyers say.

    But in the meantime, Critical Mass will be celebrating cycling in Leicester on the last Friday of every month!

    • Sounds like things are moving (slowly) in a positive direction in Leicester. I got around the city by bike for 3 years during my undergrad degree and remember the only thing that made it cycleable was the heavy volumes of slow-moving traffic at peak times when I rode.

      Totally agree that the 2 main things that could improve things are the infrastructure and strict liability – the former is the safest, the latter the cheapest. In the meantime, this may have more to say about the rising number of cyclists:
      http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2011/jan/28/petrol-prices-record-high

      Keep up the good work!

      • Adam,

        Yes nearly stationary traffic does make cycling easier. Sadly the infrastructure is generally poor and not being improved by current road works (with recent work completed on Granby Street it is now possible to cycle easily from the station to the city centre but not in the other direction (incomplete cyclist contraflow on the one way street).

        The idea that Leicester claims to be a “Cycle City” does mean there must be some people in the Council with very over active imaginations and little acquaintance with reality.

    • Hi Eric,

      Sadly my phone lost internet connection as I sent my reply and it got lost.

      Having cycled in London on Mon, Tue and Sat this week I agree that numbers of cyclists in London has increased a lot from when I used to work there. However, there are lots of big buts:

      – The % of all journeys by bike is still absolutely tiny compared to the Netherlands and cities like Copenhagen.
      – There are almost no children who are able to cycle to school
      – There are very few parents riding with young children
      – Drivers are the greatest external cause of death for children
      – London is failing miserably to meet pollution targets

      None of these things will change without a high quality dedicated separate cycling infrastructure. There are no examples of building up to high %’s of all journeys by bike without a dedicated separate infrastructure – not one anywhere in the world. So why would London or Leicester be different?

      I will support the Leicester Critical Mass when I can. But that will not be because I think it will get lots more people cycling (it won’t) but it is a nice social event.

      • Dave
        Agree re Critical Mass – it’s not going to revolutionise the cycling world in Leicester. But it is fun, and it does keep cycling in the public eye. It attracts people beyond the usual suspects. Talking of which, I followed a flourescent-trousered pedaller on a creaky cheap BSO the other day. We met at the lights, and he said he’d just started cycling to work to save petrol costs. By no means ‘a cyclist’ but certainly ‘one less car’. Perhaps the financial imperative will trump all other cards?

        • I wish I could share optimism about petrol prices bringing about a significant change. It won’t.

          Sadly history is very clear. Before the 1970’s fuel crisis cycling rates in UK and Netherlands had both been dropping. They responded with huge infrastructure changes and since then have seen significant growth in cycling. We did nothing to improve our infrastructure and cycling in the UK has continued to decline year on year. Increases in London are localised and when you look at the people who are cycling in London it is not a very wide cross section of the population.

          If we want change we have to change the infrastructure, nothing else works.

          I know that many people who rides bikes now do not believe in separated cycle facilities. I don’t care, 98% of the population will not ride a bike because they are (rightly to some large extent) afraid of traffic. Nothing but major traffic calming on small roads and separated cycle infrastructure elsewhere will change this. Again look around the world. There is nowhere seeing cycle use growth without first investing in infrastructure.

          Also people who cycle now and don’t want separate cycle infrastructure should go and ride in the Netherlands on their cycle superhighways and they will discover they can ride at very high speed for miles and miles – enthusiastic cyclists don’t suffer when there is good infrastructure instead everyone gains.

  2. Leicester Critical Mass « 42 Bikes - pingback on March 25, 2011 at 11:05 pm

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