«”…What we appear to need is a national study of what the public want from a cycle network and for the designers like myself to give them what they want”…
I could go out tomorrow and conduct two surveys, and be quite confident
of the findings.
Survey 1. Posted on the CTC and Cambridge Cycling campaign websites.
People will favour on road cycling, with “no facilities” being better than “bad facilities”. These are people who ride most days, in any weather, to get from A to B. Their kids cycle too.
Survey 2. Interview people outside my childrens’ school. People will want cycle tracks, their own space, separate from the traffic. Most of these people will ride a bike only a few days of the year, mostly in summer, with their families around Grafham water having driven 50 miles to get there. They do not allow their children to cycle unaccompanied.
Our objective (in transport, health and environmental terms) is to get group 2 to behave more like group 1. If we persuade group 2 to ride more by building more segregated cycle tracks, unless we build to a high standard they will discover, as they start to use cycling more for transport than merely leisure, why group 1 is so sceptical of “cycling infrastructure”. What looks so good from behind a car windscreen is never quite as appealing when you ride along it and it swings off
suddenly in the wrong direction, abandoning you at a dismount sign.
So “cycling infrastructure” needs to be inclusive, it needs to satisfy both groups. For group 2 it needs to have little or no traffic, and for any traffic to be moving slowly and considerately. It needs to be attractive and physically undemanding. Railway paths are ideal. For group 1 “cycling infrastructure” needs to be quick, direct, hazard free but not necessarily traffic free.
What facilities satisfy both groups ?
Pavement conversions don’t. Even good ones are never as quick as riding in the road, and they can be very difficult and hazardous to negotiate. Group 1 hates them.
Cycle lanes on hostile roads don’t. The lanes give you no physical protection and anecdotal evidence suggests that cyclists get squeezed more in narrow cycle lanes than they would in open traffic. Group 2 is too frightened to use them.
So what works for both ? Everybody is happy to cycle in low speed / low traffic environments. Home zones, 20 mph zones etc, shared spaces and so on. These are inclusive, everybody will use them (parking on one side for a moment the issue of visually impaired people and shared spaces)
from the most nervous parent to hard nosed commuters. And they don’t just benefit cyclists, they benefit everybody, making streets safer, nicer places in which people can live their lives, not just drive their cars.
That is why we have the hierarchy of solutions with area wide, inclusive, widely beneficial solutions (traffic speed and volume reductions) at the top, local traffic management (eg junction improvements) in the middle, and cycle specific, user specific solutions (cycle tracks and cycle lanes) down at the bottom. Pavement conversions are right at the very bottom because they can be actively detrimental to many supposed beneficiaries – regular cyclists because they get harassed if they stay in the road, frail old ladies who don’t like sharing pavement space with cyclists.
So, I can do you a survey. Tell me what you would like the conclusion to be and I can arrange the survey to confirm that position by the simple means of asking the right people. That is the beauty of marketing – you never need get the answer wrong.»