It seems that progress is something that we are bad at spotting.
I notice it in terms of my own progress towards a healthier weight and gaining fitness. It is easy to get mislead. This morning I looked in the mirror and grumbled there there was not a lot of progress to see in recent weeks. Yet I am now 6kg lighter than I was on January 1st, I am on target for losing 15kg by the summer holidays and I have now ridden 1,000 miles so far this year. The numbers contradict my impression.
The same is true on a larger scale. There is a lot of talk about how much cycling has grown in London. Yet as freewheeler notes (Official: London’s ‘cycling revolution’ never happened) from an official report (Dec 2010 is a pdf):
Evidence suggests that the growth in cycle travel between 2001 and 2008 was largely caused by cyclists increasing their cycle trip-making. There is no evidence of a net increase in the number of cyclists overall
although many people have taken up cycling in the past decade, a similar number have stopped cycling – i.e. there has been “churn” but no change at an aggregate level.
Much of the growth in cycling since 2001 has been driven by existing cyclists making more trips by bicycle.
Research exploring the barriers to cycling and the factors which would encourage people to cycle more found that frequent cyclists were more likely to be put off by their experiences with traffic and other road users and to mention practical barriers, such as a lack of suitable parking or shower facilities (TfL Cycling Behaviour Survey 2010). For all groups, including frequent cyclists, safety was the most significant barrier to cycling in general and for specific trips. This suggests that, in order to realise the remaining potential from existing frequent cyclists, practical measures to increase safety and improve the provision of facilities will be the most effective.
I would also add from the key findings in the report:
There remains significant potential to increase cycle trip making amongst existing infrequent cyclists – safety, traffic and lack of facilities are the greatest barriers to this
So if the research shows that the greatest barriers to people cycling more (even among those who already cycle a bit are:
- lack of facilities
Then why oh why oh why are we not doing something about this?
Transport for London have their own report saying that safety, traffic and lack of facilities are keeping people from cycling. So lets see some action based on their own report. Why are we not seeing lower speed limits? Why are TFL not campaigning for tougher penalties for dangerous driving? Why are TFL redesigning Blackfriars Bridge to make it less safe for bikes, to increase traffic and to remove cycle facilities – DUH don’t they read their own reports?
Why are the cycling organisations still stuck on their idea of Vehicular Cycling? Again this report demonstrates that it is failed, it has not worked at all here or anywhere else in the world. Nobody has been able to point me to anywhere on this planet where there is even a 20% modal share of all journeys by bike with vehicular cycling.
Let us see some real campaigning for major changes in safety, traffic and facilities. Given the failure over many years of vehicular cycling why are the CTC not using my membership fee to campaign loudly and publicly for
- full Dutch/Danish infrastructure
- for 20mph speed limits (with rat runs blocked and other traffic calming measures) all over London
- for large traffic free areas (how about a car free City of London? – it is only about a square mile after all; also Oxford and Regent Streets, the West End),
- for significant increases in the size of the congestion charging area and it’s charges,
- for cycle superhighways that are super,
- for all taxis to carry bike racks for 2 bikes (as in Copenhagen),
- f0r bike parking at commuter stations for 1 in 20 of the population,
- for lifetime driving bans for drivers who kill,
- for strict liability etc etc.
We have been kidding ourselves that there has been progress when there has not. What has been done, what has been the focus of campaigns has not resulted in growth and it needs to change and fast.