So in one post I seem to have upset lots of people:
I seem to have caused upset on three counts:
- I said that wearing cycling kit (lycra shorts, muddy waterproof, cycling helmet) into a large town centre coffee shop on a Saturday afternoon does not help promote riding a bike for transport to ordinary people. Here is one very upset person: Treachery! Infamy! They’ve all got it in for me…!.
- In the process I was rude about a nameless cyclist’s legs saying that they were unattractive. You can see I have upset a whole cycling club with this one.
- Finally in one of those weird attempts at conversation that only happen on the internet (you know, the sort where you can never work out what the other person is trying to say, they appear to never actually respond to what you have said, they seem to fixate on odd details and refer in coded ways to something that apparently proves you are an idiot – as if anyone who knows me needed any proof) anyway in this conversation with “Wee folding bike” (whatever else you do make sure you type that correctly every time and don’t laugh aloud or you will turn out to be a hateful and spiteful person) it seems I was tricked into revealing my secret plan to destroy cycling in Britain.
and also by Carlton Reid on Cycling Embassy of Great Britain – the ambassador responds on 15th February 2011 at 14:16 (sorry can’t seem to find a link to the specific comment).
I would also like to see CE of GB’s policy on mandatory use of cycle paths.
CE of GB supporter Dave42w has said on his blog: “If we have a Dutch quality and style of infrastructure it does not bother me at all if it is a legal requirement to use a cycle facility.”
This scares the hell out of me and has always been one of my fears about this debate.
Who decides whether a segregated bike route is genuinely of Dutch quality and therefore will agree with a local council that ALL CYCLISTS should be banned from adjacent roads?
“They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.” Benjamin Franklin
It looks like I have a bit of explaining to do doesn’t it.
First, on promoting bikes.
My post was intended to be a bit light hearted. I wear cycling clothes sometimes if going out for a longer ride for exercise/fun and sometimes when touring or on holiday. Not so much recently, partly because I am happy to say it is becoming rather baggy and maybe some of the shorts might start falling down.
However, I stand by the sentiment I intended to express, albeit without insulting either the whole of the Leicester Forest Cycling Club (“Leicestershire’s Friendly Club”) or anyone else who sometimes wears lycra when cycling (or at any other time for that matter).
I believe passionately that the UK needs a transport revolution. We need it to be radical and fast. We need it to tackle the largest (by far) external cause of death for our children. We need it to tackle our huge obesity problem. We need it to tackle our poor air quality, our congested cities and towns, our over dependence on cheap oil, our over stretched NHS, our hurting economy, our fractured local communities, ….
I believe that many changes are going to be needed as part of this revolution. They will include loads more walking, there may be a place for some electric vehicles, there will need to be significant investment in public transport, and more things besides this.
However, their is one obvious big big win. I believe the only cheap, easy and proven way to make progress on all these issues is to achieve a huge switch from using cars for short journeys to using bikes. It has been shown to work at the country scale in some places and at the city level there are many examples all around the world.
I believe that we can only achieve a transport revolution if we get people of all ages, both women and men riding bikes, people who have never considered riding a bike to work/school/the shops/a friends/… before.
I stand by my point that we will not attract ordinary people who are not cyclists to ride a bike by wearing lycra, riding amazingly fast for huge distances, becoming super fit. It does not attract people to use bikes for everyday transport.
So by all means wear lycra when you wish. Enjoy wearing lycra for racing, sportives, audax, cyclocross, mountain biking, time trials, epic tours, training for all these things and more BUT please do not imagine that when you turn up in this gear at a coffee shop in a large town centre you are going to be helping people switch to riding a bike for everyday transport. Instead your beautiful body , honed by your amazing cycling feats will intimidate them and none of them will be thinking “Next time I come into town, I could come by bike, it would be fun and convenient”.
Second, on freedom to wear lycra.
Confession time. I did not actually look very closely at this persons legs. They may have in fact been beautiful. I was, at least in part, thinking of my own legs as I do like wearing 3/4 length trousers and even shorts in hot weather.
My sincere apologies for the devastation my comment has caused up and down the country as cafe after cafe has now banned cyclists. It is all my fault and I am at least slightly sorry. Please feel free to gather round my table next time I am at Starbucks to show me how beautiful your lycra topped legs are. I promise to sincerely praise the legs of every cyclist I see in the future.
Third, on the destruction of freedom
Wow, those red horns have sprung up quick. Tonight parents all over the country were probably trying to scare their children into good behaviour by saying”If you are not a good girl/boy then the evil Dave Warnock will stop you riding your bike on the road”.
Sadly for all the Daily Mail journalists around the truth is somewhat different.
If you wish to get lost in a what I found a highly frustrating “discussion” with Wee folding bike by all means go and read all the comments in the “discussion” (I have not changed or deleted any of them).
I think my position is simple and logical. I think there are examples around the world that support it. Essentially Wee folding bike and Carlton Reid think I am nuts and evil. You decide.
I believe that to achieve a significant switch to using bikes for transport (and I use 30% of all journeys to be by bike as a good interim target for a city and a very significant achievement for a whole country) you need at least 3 things
- For main routes a high quality segregated cycle infrastructure (and I refer to this as a Dutch cycle infrastructure). There are clear documented standards in the Netherlands and Denmark for this. My belief is that this includes:
- width (2.5m wide single direction and 3m wide for two way)
- physical separation from the road
- not to be blocked by car parking (and usually protected from car doors opening)
- safe, prioritised ways to cross junctions
- For residential areas traffic calming. For me that includes:
- enforced low speed limits
- home zones where children are expected to be able to play in the street
- restricted car parking
- lack of through routes for cars
- chicanes etc for cars
- For city and town centres for me this includes
- No through routes for cars and lorries
- pedestrianised areas (with bikes allowed)
- bike paths direct to facilities
- lots of secure bike parking
- expensive car parking
- bikes integrated with public transport
There are other things that I think will help but are possibly not as essential (eg strict liability, much higher penalties for driving offences).
The problem comes with a couple of things. It seems to me that the position of Carlton Reid and Wee folding bike is that they believe:
- the UK is incapable of implementing high and consistent standards of cycle infrastructure
- that by demanding such an infrastructure (that I believe is needed to encourage parents, children and grandparents to ride bikes) I am opening the way for it to be made illegal for cyclists to ride on the road.
I understand that they therefore believe that any campaigning that I might do is dangerous and scary as it will inevitably lead to cyclists being forced to ride on dangerous separated infrastructure because they are not allowed on the road and only crap infrastructure will be built in the UK.
I believe that my understanding of how to massively increase the numbers of ordinary people riding bikes is supported by the examples of the Netherlands, Denmark and many cities around the world that are currently building separated cyclepaths. The Dutch have the highest standards and most consistent application (and the highest rate of cycling), however, even less sophisticated implementations such as those in New York are causing huge changes. My understanding of the evidence is that non separated cycle lanes such as the London Cycle superhighways are far less successful at increasing cycling levels and at reducing deaths, especially of children.
I also believe that in the Netherlands cyclists don’t want to ride on the road when there is a cyclepath. Why would they? The cyclepath is faster, safer, more convenient and more sociable. See David Hembrow’s blog for many many examples.
Hence, my conclusion that with a Dutch cycling infrastructure I would not mind if it were a legal requirement to use a cyclepath. Note from above what I mean by a Dutch infrastructure, note also that it is not a legal requirement to use a cyclepath but also that the Dutch would think you crazy for not doing so.
I completely fail to see why anyone would mind being “forced” to use a cyclepath that is faster, safer, more convenient and more sociable than riding on the road.
I also reject the idea that UK transport planners and builders are incapable of following design standards. They have not been given required standards for cyclepaths yet, but they have for other things and so far motorways seem to be pretty consistent in their implementation of standards, so do zebra crossings, Pelican crossings etc etc.
Do I believe that I am being forced into these views by an evil manipulative Jeremy Clarkson figure whose only goal is to get cyclists banned from the road. Nope I don’t think so.
In fact it seems to me that the de-facto result of Wee folding bike’s solution would be exactly that. He wants a 20mph speed limit on all single carriageway roads to make cycling safer. He does not want any money wasted on cycling infrastructure as nobody uses it. It seems to me the inevitable result would be that drivers would expect bikes to stay on the 20mph roads thus losing all the direct and fast routes to places for cyclists.
To see the transport revolution I believe we need we have to make progress on getting primary school children riding bikes to school and elsewhere. We have to get parents using bikes to transport their pre-school children, we need retired people popping to the shops on bikes. None of these things will happen in any significant way without a Dutch style infrastructure.
I want a revolution and while I look for that I I am going to continue to say that cyclists demanding lycra do not help bring about a transport revolution. I will continue to say that focusing on the right for cyclists to right to ride on the same road as cars and HGV’s doing 60mph will not help bring about a transport revolution.