Want to make a difference? Want to see cycling blossom? Get involved. Cycling advocacy is as simple as riding your bike as often as you can but can extend to championing cycling at local, national, perhaps even international levels. Join a campaign group. Join a club. Join a national cycle advocacy organisation. Join in.
According to stats to be revealed soon by Transport for London cycle use in the capital is still growing and, with the roll-out of new protected cycling infrastructure, is expected to keep growing. On some London bridges and streets there are now more cyclists than there are motorists, although cycling still only gets a tiny fraction of TfL’s spend on roads. (Pedestrians still dominate on many streets in London but people on foot are often missing from traffic stats.)
TfL forecasts that cycling increased by 12 percent in 2015
Las year Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, said: “Cyclists are becoming ubiquitous in London and prove, if further proof were needed, why we need to crack on with catering for them. There can be no doubt that our trusty bicycles have changed the way people get around our great city.”
The Mayor of London’s Vision for Cycling details a £913m ten-year programme to improve infrastructure for cyclists and “build on the boom in cycling from the last decade, which has seen cycling numbers double,” says TfL.
Earlier today MPs discussed the government’s investment in cycling during a Westminster Hall Debate. Execs from British Cycling and CTC welcomed the debate but wish to see more action.
CTC policy director, Roger Geffen MBE, said:
“It’s heartening that once again MPs from across the political spectrum have spoken up for the investment needed to make cycling a safe and normal activity. Cycling is not just for healthy young males, but for people of all ages and abilities. I hope the government will now listen, find the funding, and put in place the design standards that are needed to ensure it is well spent.”
Martin Key, British Cycling’s campaign’s manager, said:
“Today’s debate illustrates how much progress has been made in recent years. Cycling didn’t have much political attention in the past and rare debates like these would be poorly attended and often missed the point.
“Today, we have MPs from all parties and all across the UK representing the very real concerns of their constituents, and British Cycling’s 117,000 members – namely that the vast majority of people actively want to use their bikes more often, but are put off by concerns about safety.”
He added: “A clear message was sent to government today that more investment is needed in segregated infrastructure to make our roads and junctions safer. Does this amount to the kind of political will to deliver the ‘cycling revolution’ promised by the Prime Minister? No. Is it a step forward? Yes. We will keep the pressure on.”
Alex Chalk, MP for Cheltenham, and co-chair of the All Party Parliamentary Cycling Group opened his contribution to the debate saying: “We know we have done a good job with investment in cycling when there are as many women as there are men cycling – we know we have done an excellent job when they are taking their children along with them on their bikes.”
Ruth Cadbury, MP for Brentford and Isleworth, and fellow chair of the All Party Parliamentary Cycling Group added to the debate: “We seek a national set of design standards that reflect those that have been created in Wales and in London, to ensure we get good quality space for cycling.”
During the debate the roads and cycling minister Robert Goodwill said that local enterprise partnerships (LEPs) could unlock greater investment in cycling, should they wish to. Most, of course, don’t wish to. As usual from the government cycling is treated as a local issue while motoring is treated as a national issue.
A new study has found that drivers don’t think highly of the road behaviour of cyclists. Naturally, this can be filed in the do-bears-poop-in-the-woods category of findings, but the study also reports that drivers who cycle – even just a little – were found to be more positive about cyclists in general. The study concludes that “events and programs that result in even moderate increases in people’s bike use may have wide-reaching effects on … their willingness to support bicycle infrastructure in their communities.”
Given today’s growing consensus that bicycle infrastructure is an important factor in encouraging more people on to bikes this conclusion could prove influential. It might mean that cycle outreach programmes aimed at motorists have a more significant impact on perceptions about cyclists than is usually appreciated, and such programmes can lead to a greater acceptance that provision should be made for cyclists. For instance, some cycle training providers organise cycle taster sessions for HGV drivers and other professional motorists, such as taxi and bus drivers.
Some cycle advocates view cycle training as a money-wasting distraction from the intervention that makes the most difference – and that’s protected cycle infrastructure – but the new study suggests that cycle training is confirmed as a key part of the mix of measures that will lead to an increase in cycle use.
Getting motorists to experience what it’s like for cyclists in current road conditions could therefore result in a double whammy: more empathy from drivers towards cyclists, and calls from motorists for improved road conditions for cyclists.
While cycle training for children – via Bikeability, delivered through schools – will remain important for encouraging youth cycling, and for teaching the drivers of the future what it’s like to be a cyclist, the new study suggests that adult cycle training leads to wider social acceptance of the need for high-quality, well-connected, direct and protected bicycle infrastructure.
The new study was presented last week during a transportation conference in Washington, D.C. Tara Goddard and colleagues at Portland State University asked drivers and cyclists to rate how well both groups were able to “follow the rules of the road”. It was found that whether or not a driver also cycled was a good predictor of whether somebody supported building separated bicycle facilities.
“The use of a bicycle seemed to have the largest moderating effect on people’s attitudes,” reported the study, which was based on a survey of 2,300 people from Austin, Chicago, Portland, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C.
When Goddard and her colleagues asked about support for infrastructure for cyclists the motorist-only respondents were significantly opposed even though provision of such infrastructure would grant what motorists often say they want and that’s less interaction with “unpredictable” cyclists. Goddard and crew conclude that “getting people on bicycles can improve how they view bicyclists.”
Goddard is a former bicycle and pedestrian coordinator of Davis, California.
Driver Attitudes about Bicyclists: Negative Evaluations of Rule-Following and Predictability. Tara Goddard, Jennifer Dill, Christopher M. Monsere, Portland State University. The Transportation Research Board, 95th Annual Meeting, Washington, D.C. January 10–14, 2016.
Northumberland Street is a wide shopping street in Newcastle upon Tyne. Before it was fully pedestrianised in the 1980s it was part of the A1 between London and Edinburgh. In peak times it is thronged with shoppers, but during off-peak hours cars, vans and even HGVs are allowed to access the street. However, cycling is banned at all times. This morning Newcastle Police tweeted that officers were “advising cyclists” who were using Northumberland Street yet, ironically, in the photograph featured in the tweet there were two vans shown behind the police officer. Is it not rather strange that cyclists can be stopped for cycling on a street where motorists can pass at will?
Newcastle Police weren’t singling out cyclists in this morning’s call for road safety there was also this tweet aimed at motorists.
Last year a stallholder on Northumberland Street started using a megaphone to tackle what the local newspaper called “rogue cyclists”. That is, any cyclists spotted riding on Northumberland Street, which is often cluttered with vans, many of them belonging to stallholders.
Smallholder Karl Fitzpatrick complained that: “Nobody takes into consideration all the ‘no cycling’ signs which are on every other lamppost. I find it really annoying.”
Inspector Darren Adams, of the Newcastle Central neighbourhood policing team, told the Evening Chronicle: “Bicycle related offences are a neighbourhood priority which officers are tackling.
“Since November 2014, over 70 people have been spoken to about cycling related offences.
“Officers try to educate the cyclists rather than simply prosecute them. As a result the majority have been either verbally warned or have received letters of advice, while three repeat offenders have been summonsed to court.
He added: “There are signs on Northumberland Street and I would remind cyclists to heed these warnings.
“The restrictions are there for a reason – for the safety of both cyclists and pedestrians.”
Many towns and cities have restrictions on cycling in pedestrianised areas even though there is strong evidence that cyclists and pedestrians can mix safely. For instance, a 1993 study by the Transport Research Laboratory found that in 66 hours of video footage of pedestrian areas, not a single collision between a cyclist and a pedestrian was observed.
The study, commissioned by what was then the Department of Transport, found that “cyclists adapt their speed to pedestrian density, and dismount if necessary.”
CTC and the AA have joined forces to issue a list of winter guidelines to ensure cyclists and motorists share the road safely during the current cold snap.
With lying water now freezing over on thousands of roads, and the sun low in the sky, the CTC and Britain’s largest motoring organisation advising road users to tread, pedal and drive carefully.
CTC has drawn up six tips for cyclists, while AA President Edmund King has reminded drivers to give cyclists an even wider berth in the icy conditions than they usually do (which isn’t usually wide enough).
CTC advises cyclists to:
Deflate – grip is improved by increasing contact with the road. Letting a little air out from your tyres can make a real difference.
Slow down – icy conditions and narrow cycle tyres at speed can be a recipe for disaster. Give yourself more time and, if in doubt about conditions, take it easy.
Keep out of the gutter – this advice stands no matter the conditions, but with the recent rain and following a freeze the sides of roads can be treacherous. Seek the primary position where you can.
Chill pill – if you do hit some ice or a similarly slippery surface, sudden steering movements and sharp braking can see you go from the vertical to the horizontal in record time. Relax and ride it out or, if it’s an extended stretch, consider walking the distance
Stay seen – low winter sun and the longer nights can make the cyclist’s visibility all the harder for other road users. If it’s dark make sure you have the appropriate front and rear lights (a legal requirement) and if in the day, watch out for that low sun – it’s a hazard for all road users.
Dress appropriately – layers are best for trapping in warm air and can help you regulate your temperature while riding. Pay particular attention to your extremities like hands, feet and head, these are all set to suffer more in the cold. Also consider bringing a thermal top in case you need to stop for a long period of time.
AA President Edmund King said: “All road users need to ensure they get into a winter mindset. People need to appreciate that potentially they will not stop in the same sort of distances they normally would.
“This cold snap comes fast on the heels of heavy rain. Puddles have now frozen over and cyclists face a minefield of icy patches, especially at the side of the road where so much water has accumulated because drains have been unable to cope. Drivers need to bear that in mind and give cyclists a wider berth when overtaking.
“The low winter sun can also be a particular problem at this time of year, especially as it is at its most dazzling at the end of the morning commute and the beginning of the evening rush hour from 4-5pm, when the roads are at their busiest.
“We would advise drivers to get up at least 10 minutes early to give time to prepare the car. Don’t drive off like a tank-commander, with a tiny hole cleared in the windscreen. Clear all windows using a scraper and de-icer to ensure good all-round vision.”
King stressed: “Cyclists have the same rights on the road as drivers.”
He added: “Drivers should give as much room as practically possible when overtaking a cycle – Highway Code Rule 163 illustrates one car’s width – they may have to move out to avoid hazards like drains, potholes, or other debris on the road that you may not be able to see. And now ice has added to the potential dangers.”