Thursday, 13 November 2014

Space for cycling

There is a cycling campaign called Space4Cycling, which was started by the London Cycling Campaign, but has since spread nationally. You can read full details of the LCC Space for Cycling campaign here: http://space4cycling.org/campaign-info

Below I've copied part of the text found on the other side of the link above:

"It follows directly from our successful Love London, Go Dutch campaign in 2012, which won a promise from the Mayor, Boris Johnson, to make the streets under his control as safe and inviting for cycling as Holland.

Following this success we’re now calling on councils to also create Dutch style space for cycling in the streets they control. By working together the Mayor and Councils can turn the whole of our city into a place in which all Londoners, whatever their age or ability, have the choice to make and enjoy their everyday journeys safely by cycle."

Please keep in mind the bit that calls on councils to create "Dutch style space for cycling" - we'll revisit that later.

The Space for Cycling campaign has six main strands to it, as detailed below:
1) Removal of through motor traffic
2) Protected space on main roads and at junctions
3) 20mph speed limits
4) Safe cycle routes to schools
5) Cycle-friendly town centres
6) Cycle routes through parks and green spaces

Again, pay attention to especially point 2 - we'll revisit that later, too.

These six points are mirrored by the national Space for Cycling campaign, as can be seen here: http://www.ctc.org.uk/campaign/space-for-cycling with more details available here: http://www.ctc.org.uk/article/campaigns-guide/what-do-we-mean-space-for-cycling

You will notice the national campaign differs by making Protected space on main roads and at junctions point number one, something which I entirely agree with. It goes on to say "Often the most direct route for cyclists is along main roads - where they have to mix with fast moving and / or heavy traffic.  This can be intimidating for would-be cyclists.  We need to see protected cycle lanes on main roads that allow people of all ages and abilities to cycle.  This is distinct from inadequate pavement conversions that stop and start.  Adequate provision is also needed at major junctions."

Now it will probably be no surprise to learn that cycling advocacy groups are divided, and while there appears to be a slow swing towards supporting protected, segregated cycle infrastructure, there are a tenacious minority that actively resists that.

This minority is represented by many various individuals, some of whom are quite well known in cycling circles, and many of which have over the years worked their way up to exert the maximum amount of influence that they can.

One such individual is David Dansky, a National Standards Instructor and professional cycling instructor with Cycle Training UK (http://www.cycletraining.co.uk). CTUK have the following to say on their web site: "We deliver training that meets and exceeds the UK’s National Standards, standards we helped to develop.We believe that the best way to promote cycling is to teach people to use their bikes safely and with confidence."

Think about that for a bit: David Dansky's income depends on continued governmental funding (from local and national government) to pay for National Standards (Bikeability) cycle training. This training is largely based on Cycle Craft, and favours what is termed vehicular cycling (VC). VC involves concepts such as "taking the lane", which means riding in the middle of the lane, to try and avoid drivers doing dangerous overtakes.

Many cyclists, myself included, follow Cycle Craft guidelines when riding on the road. However, like I suspect most others who do so, I view it as a coping mechanism, and certainly not a way to grow cycling. In fact, to claim that VC would grow cycling is in my view delusional. For the past 40 years we've had VC advocates proclaiming that all that is needed is training for cyclists.
Now while I don't dispute that training does help a bit, it certainly is NOT the answer.

Crucially, somebody forgot to train the drivers, so drivers often get highly aggressive when cyclists "take the lane". I know, I've often been on the receiving end of that aggression.

Times are changing though, and campaigns like Space For Cycling are gaining increasing support. There is tangible evidence that the tide is slowly turning in favour what is PROVEN to work - protected, segregated cycle infrastructure.

Everywhere that protected cycle tracks are built, numbers of cyclists soar. There is a huge latent appetite for cycling, but research effort after research effort all say the same thing: more people don't cycle due to fear of mixing with other (often lethally dangerous) forms of traffic. And who can blame them?

However, when protected, properly segregated infrastructure is installed, more people choose to ride their bikes. It really isn't rocket science, and crucially, they ride their bikes without needing any advanced training.

It therefore stands to reason that protected cycle lanes are a direct threat to the livelihood of people like David Dansky, which explains why he's trying to hijack the Space For Cycling campaign, and why he's campaigning against protected cycle lanes.

Disappointingly, Carlton Reid, a cycling journalist, is defending David Dansky in this approach, which raises many doubts in my mind about where exactly Carlton Reid's loyalties ultimately lie.

I've nailed my colours to the mast ages ago: the ONLY way to really grow cycling is to build more Dutch-style and Dutch quality segregated infrastructure.

On Twitter, David Dansky posted a photo of a parent cycling in heavy traffic, with a child on board their bike, and he used the #Space4Cycling hashtag, saying that the parent claiming the lane is Space For Cycling. Many others challenged him on that, and Carlton Reid rushed to his defense.

Carlton went as far as to start questioning me on trivia, such as who's paying for the national Space For Cycling campaign, and he scoffed at my reply that it is various cycling companies and cycling organisations combined (which is actually correct). He pointed out his heavy involvement with the campaign, too, and said that segregation everywhere isn't realistic (nobody claimed it was - even the Dutch don't have segregation everywhere!)

So let's revisit those points I highlighted earlier, shall we? Let's start with "Dutch style space for cycling" - does that IN ANY WAY come across as "taking the lane" while mixing with heavy traffic? No, absolutely not!

The Dutch are renowned around the world for their separated approach. They separate cyclists from other traffic both in time and in space. In space, by building a great deal of high-quality, direct and segregated cycle tracks, and in time, by innovative junction design in locations where the different forms of traffic must share the same space. This keeps cyclists safe, and their track record for cyclist safety is magnificent.

The number one point of the national campaign, with which Carlton Reid is heavily involved, and therefore must know rather well, is simply this: Protected space on main roads and at junctions. Read that again - it says PROTECTED space. That most certainly is NOT "taking the lane" when mixing with heavy traffic.

The trouble is, David Dansky is viewed as an authoritative voice by many local authorities, and what he's saying allows them to deliver absolutely nothing in terms of Dutch quality cycle infrastructure, while claiming they've consulted with cyclists and have their support. The fact that Carlton Reid supports David Dansky simply reinforces the total abdication of their duty of care by such local authorities.

This needs to change.
David, you either support Space For Cycling openly and vocally, or you should step aside. Perhaps you can have a wonderful future as cycling advisor to the current Australian government, who seem extremely anti-cycling?
Carlton, if you're actually getting PAID to be involved with the national Space For Cycling campaign, isn't it time you opposed those who try to hijack it for their own benefit? Aren't you supposed to vigorously defend and support it? If you're uncomfortable doing so, you really should step aside and allow somebody who believes in those six points to take over.