After many years of support I recently had to tell both Sustrans and the CTC that I would probably be stopping my support over their endorsement of the disastrous NicewayCode campaign in Scotland.
I was pleased (and somewhat surprised) that both Sustrans and the CTC engaged with me over the campaign, including several emails and a phone call with Gordon Seabright the Chief Executive of the CTC.
Fortunately, it seems that campaign is now coming to an abrupt end, albeit not soon enough, so this seems a good time to followup on how Sustrans and the CTC can rebuild our relationship.
To regain my full support will require visible change from both organisations. It has to be visible so that it can be scrutinised and be accountable, in a democracy I do not support arguments about what can be achieved behind closed doors or out of public sight.
Yesterday @Katsdecker wrote an excellent blog post about the same sort of problem with Sustrans and the CTC: Eyetest: Collaboration beyond a 20/20 vision
Sustrans and the CTC got it badly wrong by putting their names to a campaign that turned cyclists into victims and indulged in the odious sport of victim blaming. In doing so they highlighted that they still do not properly and publicly “get” people like myself. They do not represent people who believe that we need a radical transformation of our transport system to make cycling and walking as means of everyday transport safe (both statistically and subjectively), convenient and normal.
I have said many times that we need to do this for lots of reasons. We are facing multiple crises all of which can be reduced by a dramatic shift in our means of transport, these include: the death toll on our roads, obesity, congestion, air pollution, oil dependency, climate change, our economy, childrens freedom and our health care.
So what is needed for Sustrans and CTC to find me an enthusiastic supporter?
1. A formal, public, high profile adoption of the need for full Dutch standard infrastructure everywhere in the UK.
- By this I absolutely do not include the adoption of slightly better than typical but not Dutch standard infrastructure as being accepted by the London Cycle Campaign.
- By this I mean much much more than we see in The Times newspaper campaign.
- By this I mean orders of magnitude more than the All Party Cycling Group in Parliament are calling for.
All these fall short of what normal Dutch infrastructure is like. If you don’t know what I mean then see my posts from our summer holiday there, but more importantly go and read A view from the cycle path and Bicycle Dutch.
Pressure for, education about and building of full Dutch Infrastructure needs to become a top priority policy focus for both CTC and Sustrans.
We urgently need a legally binding British standard for cycle infrastructure design that meets the latest Dutch standards and a commitment to improve it further.
Oh and when I say everywhere I mean that you should be able to get (safely, conveniently and without extra complex planning) from any A to any B. To/from every home, every school, every public building, every shop, every workplace, every park, every beach etc.
Sustrans and the CTC need to start being honest with their supporters, with the government and local councils. They need to admit that they have been building and asking for infrastructure that is not good enough.
I am appalled that Sustrans still promote their work in Watermead Park on the North side of Leicester as amazing and award winning. There are numerous safety issues, it brings pedestrians, cyclists and dog walkers into frequent conflict, it is flooded for much of the year, it increases the distance to Leicester for commuters from Syston from 5 miles to 8, it is slow, narrow and bumpy, it includes sharp and blind corners, it includes steep cobbles, it includes unsurfaced sections, it includes barriers that are narrower than most bike handlebars. The County Council like to claim that they are doing a great job encouraging cycling and the endorsement by Sustrans of low quality infrastructure designed for leisure use in daylight in good weather by confident riders is not helpful.
3. Ban the John’s
The CTC in particular still suffers from being associated with Cyclecraft author John Franklin and John Forester the inventor of “Vehicular Cycling”. Both John’s, Cyclecraft and Vehicular Cycling need to be never again mentioned in a positive light by the CTC or Sustrans nor in any campaign they endorse (just recently the appalling Niceway Code justified one of it’s particularly dangerous campaign elements by referring to Cyclecraft author John Franklin).
This needs to be done clearly and publicly. For example the type of thing I want to see is “The CTC believes that Vehicular Cycling has no part to play in the development of cycling in the UK, it’s demands exclude nearly everyone looking to get around on a bike and puts people in vulnerable places with fast moving vehicles. The CTC will no longer lend it’s name to any initiative or design that mentions or assumes Vehicular Cycling.”
4. Set targets
The government are running away from targets and commitments. The CTC and Sustrans should be setting out clear expectations of what is possible. I suggest the following as a starter for discussion (and I would hope that the CTC and Sustrans would enter an open public debate before agreeing in public what the targets they will demand are).
- An annual national target for increases in cycling (and walking) as a mode of travel. We are basically starting from almost zero, with maybe 1 or 2% of all journeys are by bike. I suggest a target of a 1% increase in total share per year for the next 50 years. That means after 10 years 10% of all journeys in the whole country will be by bike. It means it will take us some 30 years to get to Dutch levels but it would at least give more feedback on progress than targets of x% by year y.
- Within 5 years every new road building project must demonstrate how it meets Dutch standards and how it will cope with the increasing modal share of cycling in the future.
- Within 5 years no road resurfacing or other change to the road network beyond filling a pothole be permitted without full provision of Dutch cycle infrastructure standards.
- School targets. To reach higher levels in the future we need to make rapid progress with children at school. This needs a range of multiple targets. I suggest:
- Within 1 year every school to publish a Cycling Plan that details how they are going to encourage cycling to school.
- Within 2 years every school to have an entrance that has been made safe for students to cycle into the school grounds. This will include enforced restrictions on vehicle access and parking.
- Within 2 years every school have some secure bike parking for pupils. This must come with a commitment to expand it as needed to ensure that every child who cycles to school will always have a space for their bike.
- Within 5 years there must be Dutch standard safe routes to every school for at least a 1/2 mile radius of the school.
- Within 10 years there must be Dutch standard safe routes to every school for at least a 1 mile radius of the school.
- Every school to publicly report the number of children cycling to school every day and demonstrate a continuous year on year increase.
- Within 2 years every new home built must meet the higher standard of the Code for Sustainable Housing for cycle parking (ie one secure bike parking space for every bedroom).
- No new industrial estate, business park or shopping centre may be built without providing suitable cycle parking. For staff that means secure and dry. For everyone it means lit and accessible.
- Over the entire rail network secure, accessible cycle parking must be available at every station for everyone wishing to travel.
- Within 5 years there needs to be convenient cycle parking for every existing shop, workplace and public building.
What do you think?