The Times Campaign – Where Next?

Alex Stefanovic, Peter Dixon, Iain Dawson, Ian Macsporran and many other cyclists wrote to our local MPs in the lead-up to yesterday’s House of Commons debate on cycling in Westminster Hall.

John Cutler, our Right to Ride Officer, kept a record of the correspondence as far as he could.  Of our MPs:

Philip Hollobone (Kettering) gave encouraging responses to his constituents.
Chris Heaton-Harris (Daventry) responded with paper letters.
Mark Lancaster (Milton Keynes North) and Ian Stewart (Milton Keynes South) responded with very similar wording to their constituents.
Louise Mensch (Corby) responded to at least one e-mail.
Andrea Leadsome (South Northamptonshire) received several e-mails but her response is unknown.
There was nothing from Brian Binley (Northampton South) or from Peter Bone (Wellingborough).  Mr Bone, by the way, is the MP who tried to introduce a law to make it compulsory for children to wear cycle helmets.

So the prize goes to Michael Ellis (Northampton North) who attended the debate and made a short intervention.  The debate can be viewed on this site (where Mr Ellis’s intervention is at 14:40:20).

So, where next?

The CTC position is to call on the Secretary of State for Transport, Justine Greening MP, to support for an action plan for ‘more and safer cycling’ and to echo calls from MPs for the restoration of Cycling England in order to co-ordinate delivery of this plan.  The CTC also notes that MPs from all three main parties queued up to call for more 20mph speed limits, for better cycling provision, for junctions to be redesigned to improve cyclists’ safety, for action to reduce the risks which lorries pose to cyclists, and for cycle awareness to be incorporated into the driving test.

Now, the following set of proposals from the Chester Cycling blog have been described as “the best articulated, most coherent and holistic set of principles … seen in a long time”.  Have a read and see what you think!  It’s worth following the hyperlinks, particularly if, like me, you’re tall and thinking of cycling in Wolverhampton!

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Since watching the debate, I’ve been thinking about where I’d personally like to see this sudden momentum directed. Obviously, our elected representatives cannot be experts on every subject, and so it is my hope that they will be looking to the right groups for guidance. There were a lot of ideas floating around the debate and I think it would be beneficial to propose a few basic principles and a few short and long-term objectives which would help get us to the point where cycling is safer for existing cyclists and safe enough for the rest of the population to want to cycle.

Principles:

  1. “Cycling” should not be treated as a single entity; transport cycling should one of the core responsibilities of the Department for Transport and the equivalent local institutions, sport and leisure cycling should be overseen by the relevant government departments which oversee sports, leisure and tourism.
  2. Measures to increase the safety of cyclists should be primarily external to cycling and the cyclist. Make cycling truly safe for all and helmets, high-visibility apparel and Bikeability become an irrelevance. The single largest change needed is the design of our roads.
  3. Measures to increase the safety of cycling should not make cycling less convenient; cycle infrastructure needs to be convenient and safe for children and fast, experienced commuter cyclists alike. The dual network approach is confusing and causes more problems that it solves.
  4. Measures to increase the safety and convenience of cycling should not come at the expense of safety (including subjective safety) or convenience for pedestrians.
  5. The Netherlands model for road design should be the basis for the changes needed to our road network in order to make cycling safe and attractive for all.‡

Short-term objectives:

  1. Commit to integrating cycling into all stages of road design, planning, construction and maintenance
  2. Overhaul LTN 2/08 in order to reduce the beurocracy involved in producing reasonable-quality cycle infrastructure such as the Camden cycle tracks and to prevent it being misinterpreted and used to justify facilities such as these.
  3. Replace the current hierarchy of provision with a much more specific set of separation principles.
  4. Continue with driver awareness programmes and Bikeability whilst road designs remain in place which put cyclists in danger.

Long-term objectives:

  1. Cycling needs to be integral to the design of new roads. Existing roads are refreshed periodically based on wear & tear and their importance; this work must include bringing the road up to the new standard for safe, convenient cycling.†
  2. In urban areas, basic functional cycle networks should be built as a matter of priority. These should be along main roads and informed by existing desire lines of those using all modes of road transport.
  3. Central government needs to set a final compliance date by which time all relevant Highways Agency and local authority roads must comply with the new standards.
  4. As the cycle networks become fleshed out, phase out Bikeability in schools in favour of Dutch cycle training which will be more appropriate for the redesigned roads.
‡ The Netherlands model of road design also offers advantages pedestrians in the areas of safety (including subjective safety) and convenience.

† Whilst admittedly an incredibly blunt instrument, rolling out safe, convenient cycle infrastructure as a part of the existing process of refreshing roads should help construct basic cycle networks along existing desire lines, as these are generally the roads with the most wear & tear and importance.

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It would be great if you would post your comments!

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