The Anti-Cycle Campaigning Cycling Campaign

Believe it or not, there is no link between
this and riding your bike to the library

Firstly, I hope that all Lo Fidelity Readers had a delightful Christmas and New Year. My first one as a parent involved a lot of personal admin, particularly at the nappy changing mat so apologies that this is my first post in a while. The Guardian recently published an article that interested me.

The government’s flagship training scheme for young cyclists is hugely popular with both children and parents, according to a study, boosting the chances that it will survive funding cuts despite the abolition of the quango which currently runs it. A total of 98% of parents said they were happy with the Bikeability scheme, launched three years ago as a replacement for the defunct cycling proficiency test, according to an Ipsos/Mori poll carried out for the Department for Transport (DfT). Three quarters said they were “very satisfied” with the training. Among children who had used the scheme it gained 96% approval.’

I was under the impression that Bikeability funding was going to be ringfenced in some way as part of the Coalition Governments ‘commitment to cycling’ (despite ending Cycling England in March this year) along with it’s other policies such as investment in electric cars and bigger roads and cutting funding for speed cameras. The Lo Fidelity Bicycle Club believes that the Coalition Government should just have the stones at Stonehenge rearranged to spell ‘Screw You Cyclists’. It’s a cheaper way of expressing how they really feel and would also be a fitting tribute to the Iron Age hill fort that got replaced by the M3 Twyford Down Enhancement.

Anyway, what interested me was it’s very high popularity amongst children and parents. This obviously demonstrates a desire for people to ride bikes. Not cycling in the pure British sense of the word. Just kids wanting to get on bikes and gain a new skill and freedom – after all, they don’t have to just ride between home and school, particularly when there are friends to see and things to do. This kind of thing also pleases the cycle campaigning establishment – it means that there will be lots of new cyclists to help achieve some sort of Critical Mass where everyone else will wake up from it’s collective amnesia and discover cycling again, particularly if taught the right skills.

There’s a fundamental flaw in this. The cycle campaigning establishment seems to have a collective amnesia about the colossal rise in car use over the last few decades. The parents won’t let their children cycle to school unless it’s on the pavement as the roads are too dangerous. All Bikeability is probably achieving is teaching children to ride bikes around Centre Parcs and Mountain Bike Centres in the school holidays (where they are driven to).

The Highways Departments in County Councils are always happy to oblige by painting cycle symbols on pavements and calling them Safe Routes To Schools. The thing is, what about people of all ages considering riding a bike to the shops, or the local sports centre, or to meet friends at the pub but feel that it’s too dangerous to do so? One answer might be to ask the utterly car-sick Highways Departments to paint bicycle symbols on all pavements because that’s where we’re headed anyway, or we could have what cycle campaigners have failed to ask for over the last few decades which is decent infrastructure using best practice from the Netherlands and Denmark.

The Dutch Bicycle Masterplan notes that cycle use suffered a massive decline due to
car-centric policy up to the 1970’s when two things occurred that triggered change; the OPEC fuel crisis and deep concerns about road safety, particularly children trying to get to school. Unlike the Government here however, the Netherlands correctly identified that the big metal boxes were the problem and acted accordingly by raising car parking fees and designing the impact of motoring out of populous areas. Decent cycle Infrastructure was not created for cyclists, it was created for the population at large to carry out their business without the need for helmets or high viz or breakneck aggressive speed. It’s not always perfect, but they managed a modal share that campaigners can only dream of over here.

As I have mentioned before on this blog, campaigns like ‘20’s Plenty’ only work when they are specifically NOT made Cycle Campaigns. The public needs to discover the joys of walking and cycling for themselves again, just as they are allowed to do with events such as the Skyride. With the promise of a safe pootle around the streets of Central London, people of all ages grabbed bicycles out of sheds and turned up in their droves. Provide the facilities and they will come. And we have the money out there to do it.

The Lo Fidelity Bicycle Club believes that this should be the same when campaigning for decent infrastructure in the Dutch model. This is not just about improving life for cyclists – this is about benefiting society as a whole and is why I set up the Cycling Embassy of Great Britain to try a new approach. This is about creating decent infrastructure so you may accompany your children to school without having heart palpitations as an HGV sails past too close and too quick. This is about wanting to lose a few pounds and coincidentally trying a healthier way of getting to the post office. We must not be anti-car (most adult cyclists are motorists
too). We must let the people reach their own conclusions to create a culture change, after all, up until now they decided that they weren’t going to cycle anymore as the roads are too dangerous without realising that as motorists, they are part of the overall problem. And there’s the realisation that they don’t have to wear lycra. At all. Ever. Above all, the motor car has its place, but the people must come first.

As far as the Cycle Campaigning Establishment is concerned, I will leave you with this stunning post by Freewheeler at Crap Cycling & Walking in Waltham Forest. The statement from Cyclenation beggars belief.

Soon we will have VAT increases to compound already record high fuel prices and thousands of people continue to be killed and seriously injured on our roads each year. This has to be our time for change. I would like to also take this opportunity to thank all those who have expressed support for the Embassy. I look forward to hopefully meeting a few of you in London on January 29th.

69 thoughts on “The Anti-Cycle Campaigning Cycling Campaign”

  1. As far as the headline picture goes, well, that’s as far removed from “utility cycling” as a 200 mph F1 car is from “normal driving.” For a start, I would be very impressed if Kwik Fit could change your tyres that fast…

    And of course the motor car has its place. That’s why, if I could actually drive, I wanted to drive round Houten, I would have to take a very circulatorious route, but if I wanted to go to Amsterdam, I could drive on special “autosnelweg.” This is very kind of the Dutch government to do this, even though I am hypothetically doing 155km/h and therefore don’t DESERVE good roads because I am a DANGEROUS lawbreaker. (sound familiar?)

    While you say this isn’t for “cyclists”, I’m sure even couriers will find some benefit:

    “That guy just ran a red light and went the wrong way up that street”

    “Er, actually, that guy used the cycle only left turn filter lane (protected with a kerb where motor vehicles also turn left) to bypass the red light, before riding along a street where cyclists are exempt from the one way traffic regulation. What’s more, is that when he eventually gets to Piccadilly, he won’t get stuck filtering because he decides the gap between the bus and that lorry is too small, and his path to the other lanes is blocked by a taxi 6 inches from the bumper of the white van in front, because he will bypass the lot on a cycle track.”

    In some of your other captions you mention the Guildford school run. Is this because teh CTC is based there? Well, it would be a good place to focus on as it has a cyclist impenetrable town centre ( the usual mix of pedestrianised streets forbidden to cyclists, one way streets, blocked off streets, dual carriageways, banned turns, and a gyratory past a major pub, club, and shopping centre, on opposing corners of the same junction). Not that living nearby has anything to do with it… ;p

    1. I actually picked Guildford because that is the town of my birth and I was raised in a village 8 miles away. I agree that Guildford is an excellent place to start – the A3 has been a physical barrier cutting right through the heart of the city for decades making any attempt to cycle or walk north-south a near impossibility or at best very unpleasant – which is what you would have to do to get from the railway station to CTC HQ.

      1. Well, the A3 did bypass Guildford when it was first built in the 1930s, although originally following Ladymead and then rejoining the London road south of Burpham. And I agree that it forms a barrier (but so does the River Wey and the railway lines), although it’s not in the town centre. This is probably a bigger obstacle to cyclists (and pedestrians) in the town centre. One can see the Boileroom music venue, and yet one must go into a subway or walk to the traffic lights to cross the road at such an obvious “desire line” location. The street in front of you also has a large roundabout at one end, providing the less experienced cyclist with plenty of opportunity to attempt to out accelerate a Yamaha R6, then stare into the eyes of motorists as they wait impatiently for a gap to pull out. It also encourages pedestrians to get fit by providing a nice detour to the pedestrian crossing!

  2. I’m the American author and photographer of the new book ‘Bicycle Mania Holland’, the first book on the market that explains and illustrates the Dutch bicycle culture — with some amazing photos. I’ve just learned about your new Cycling Embassy and would like to send you a complimentary copy of my book for your meeting and document file. I’ve posted a message on your Cycling Embassy site, and hope to hear from you or a representative.

    Shirley Agudo, Author/Photographer
    Bicycle Mania Holland
    Twitter: @BicycleMania

  3. We had a Sky Ride in Brummagen this year. Took the Brompton on the tram. The route wasn’t as good as the London one I went on last year but it woule be hard to beat London for historic interest (especially as Brum kept us well away from the more interesting parts such as Chamberlain Square) but it was well attended and very worthwhile.
    I believe other cities had them for the first time, as well. Perhaps Cycling Embassy consuls could attend them all this year and further spread the message?

  4. Great post Jim.

    As a compliment to the photo of the wet lettuce from the Isle of Man, here is a link to another that believe it or believe it not, has no link to somebody taking a stroll to the local pub ;>D

    Happy New Year to yourself & your family – treasure every minute with your young ‘un – precious moments y’know!

    Sorry to say I can’t make Jan 29th, but sincerely hope it goes well.

    1. Oh dear – big edit required.

      The link to the photo was intended just to show a mountaineer. In fact it does, albeit one more amazing than your average if you look closely (which I really should have done beforehand). No offense intended.

  5. Must admit to being surprised at the John Franklin bashing in Freewheelers post. I’m getting the impression that JF has been involved in a few arguments!

    I’ve read his book and think that if you’re going to cycle on the road, then it is well worth reading for survival purposes. The need to ride defensively though kind of illustrates the problem.

    1. ^ This. VC should only be “cycling techniques for the individual to learn” – not “strategy for mass cycling”. It would be useful if we could make sure riders don’t do silly things like undertake bendy buses, but it is a riding strategy for a hostile environment, not the way forward to a world where mother and daughter will be riding around Parliament Square in primary position, because mother and daughter will be on a bus instead.

      1. Yes a survival handbook, that’s just my point.

        I’d recommend it to any cyclist but yes you’re quite right – it’s no strategy to mobilise the masses.

  6. I really don’t see how schisms between cycle campaign groups is going to help us get more people using the bicycle as a means of transport. There simply isn’t a one size fits all solution, at the end of the day we are most likely to end up with a hybrid mix. We need to keep the pressure on to get the best we can, rather than fighting over whether it has to be one or the other. Better to fight on a broad front than to fight between ourselves.

    1. Kim

      I beg to differ. I believe a new group will fit in quite nicely. British Cycling represents cycling as sport, CTC represents cycling as leisure and the Embassy will represent cycling as transport.

      Trust me, I’ve tried other ways, as have the people that have pledged their support. It’s time to try something new as I’m sick and tired of banging my head against a brick wall just to continue seeing cycling flatline at 3%. The solution really is just across the North Sea and it is economically viable.

      The point is not to be anti-CTC or anti-Sustrans or even anti-car. I simply don’t believe CTC represents the interests of the everyday cyclists including those that don’t realise that they’re cyclists yet. I also don’t believe that CTC is the correct mechanism for cycle campaigning as it is essentially a Cyclists Touring Club with members that would think nothing of a gentle trek through Afghanistan on a Brompton.

      1. Oh I agree the solution really is just across the North Sea and it is economically viable. We also need to look to see how they achieved it and try and use so of the same methods to get there.

        Sadly the current government has declared today it wants to take us all in the opposite direction.

      2. This is why we need to appeal to the everyday cyclist Kim. The Government can try and pull us whatever direction it likes but if we get the general public on board as opposed to just ‘Cyclists’, we can do this. Particularly if we present them with solutions, as opposed to more problems.

        Keep the faith!

      3. Fair. British Cycling is a sport organisation, so while they are good at helping the UK win gold medals, expecting it to campaign for general cycling improvements is like expecting the FIA to stop fussing about rallying and Formula 1 and start campaign for new motorways. Maybe convince them that good cycle paths will give roadies more people to scalp :p

  7. I don’t think it’s fair to say that cycle campaign organisations have amnesia about the rise in motoring – we exist because of it, as a response to Thatcher’s “Great Car Society”. Few if any people in campaign groups are against good quality off-road cycle facilities on the Dutch or Danish model – what we are against is Crap Cycle Lanes, you know the ones – see
    and we are against our views being misrepresented, as they have been on blogs elsewhere.

    Have a look at which dates back several years, mostly as a response to the introduction of traffic calming schemes, and see whether there is anything you fundamentally disagree with. The point we’ve made in our statement as that you need to have all these factors working together if you are going to achieve modal shift – slower speeds, stricter liability, off-road facilities where they’re needed, cycle training (bearing in mind that even in Copenhagen using the excellent off-road network is statistically more dangerous that cycling on-road, mostly becasue they still haven’t solved the problem of what to do at junctions) We are also against compulsory use of cycle tracks where they are available, as enacted in Germany and which the last revision on the Highway Code seemed to be working towards. Creating imaginary divisions between cycle promotion groups is not going to help anyone.

    Simon Geller – Secretary, Cyclenation (the federation of UK cycle campaign groups)

    1. Simon

      We are all against crap cycle infrastructure and are all too aware of the Thatcher’s Great Car Society. However, Thatcher has been away for 21 years and there has been no real improvement for cycling in the UK – in fact it’s got worse considering that car rates have continued to soar. This allied to giving councils ‘guidance’ that can be easily abused by car-centric Highways Departments, as opposed to standards based on European best practice has compounded the issue of dangerous circuitous rubbish that passes for a UK cycle network these days.

      The document that you refer to (Campaign for High Standards) – who outside of cycle campaigning establishment has heard of it? Who in their right mind is going to want to wade through such a verbose document?

      You say that Copenhagen, ‘whilst having an excellent off-road network is statistically more dangerous than cycling on the road’. Well, I have news for you Mr Geller – statistically, they’ve achieved a modal share beyond your wildest dreams. The problems probably occur (if any) due to volume of cyclists. Can you imagine such a problem occurring here?! It was telling that at your last conference you didn’t have any representation from countries that managed successful infrastructure and modal shift (which would have been fascinating) but left it to Roger Geffen from CTC to discuss Copenhagen, based I assume on his visit to the VeloCity conference (of which notes suddenly appear a bit sparse). Someone from the Cycling Embassy of Denmark probably would have been quite prepared to pop over to discuss where you think they are going wrong.

      I understand where you are going with the perceived ‘Ghettoisation’ of cycle paths – basically cyclists being banned from the roads in favour of cycle paths. No-one is saying that that should be the case but I have news for you again Mr Geller – it’s already happening in this country and the alternatives are far, far worse than in Germany. We should be striving to match global best practice that in essence ‘Ghettoises’ the roads. And strict liability is a bit of a red herring in that it was only introduced after infrastructure was implemented in the Netherlands and most Dutch people are unaware of its existence because a cycling culture was allowed to proliferate first.

      Cycle campaigning needs to change. There are a lot of others that feel the same way.

      Jim Davis

      1. I find the tone in this reply to be too aggressive, Jim.

        I’m all in favour of this embassy and 100% behind the movement, but Simon Geller gave a perfectly polite response and whether you agree with him or not I don’t think the tone of your reply was warranted.

      2. You’re probably right and for which I apologise to Simon Geller.

        It’s good to get angry sometimes but that was a little bit too angry in tone. However, the points remain valid. We’ve collectively got a mountain to climb (Mr Geller very much included), particularly when one considers that in one fell swoop planning regulations get changed to favour parking and electric car infrastructure.

    2. While very few cycling campaigns are actively campaigning against good quality off-road provision, none of them are really actively campaigning for them either. And that’s what’s missing.

      BTW, regarding Copenhagen’s supposedly dangerous tracks, I read the report that that is based on. What it showed was an increase in collisions between cyclists and cars on cross streets (that crossed the tracks) in the first six months. This, the authors of the report surmised, was mainly due to parking being removed from the main roads (to make room for the tracks) so more cars were turning onto the side roads to park. The increased danger was due therefore to increased traffic, not any inherent peril in the tracks themselves. I have not seen any follow-up study now that the tracks have been in place for a while to see whether rates have fallen as cars get used to the idea of bikes having right of way, but it would be interesting to find out.

      1. IIRC, the cycle paths in Copenhagen give right turning motorists and continuing cyclists a green light at the same time, potentially causing conflict, which newer Dutch cycle paths avoid (some of them even have “all way green” – the cycling equivalent of Oxford Circus). It should be noted that many foreign countries allow phasing where drivers may turn across the path of pedestrians with a “walk signal” once they have given way, whereas this situation would never happen in the UK. (But then, we don’t let you turn left at red either, even on a bicycle.)

  8. I have to say that I agree with Kim and Simon, further schisms aren’t helpful and only play into the hands of those who don’t want to see improvements for cyclists.

    One of the main barriers to increased modal share, which you captured in on of your previous excellent posts, is that driving is too easy. Just look at the many cyclists who drive to the start of their club run or local race, even they take the easy way out. Segregated facilities would be great, but the won’t overcome this flaw.

  9. You don’t have to tell me what’s going on in Copenhagen – I went to the Velo-City conference, and I spent two weeks cycling across Denmark to get there, so I think I’m aware of what they have done. We covered the conference in our newsletter – and this gets circulated to all our groups, as well as via the CTC’s distribution list for Cycle Digest.My own report to my campaign group is at Incidentally I also have a presentation on the conference which I am willing to give to meetings if my travel expenses are paid.

    The statement by cyclenation that you thought “beggars belief” was based on the consensus reached at the Edinburgh conference following a discussion about the Copenhagen experience and the implications of the Copenhagen experience, also approved by the cyclenation board before it was made public. I don’t personally have a say in what speakers we invite to the conference, this being agreed between the cyclenation chair, CTC and the local host campaign group, so I can’t comment on that.

    One of the points many of the speakers from Denmark and elsewhere made was that you can’t just copy and paste from what other countries have done – it has to suit the local environment. There are differences – for example the total population of Denmark is 5,475,791, somewhat less than that of Greater London. (source:wikipedia)

    With regard to the Campaign for High Standards document, it was aimed at highway engineers, and linked to an award we used to give for the best designed cycle facility in the UK nominated by our groups.

    Back in the ’80’s and 90’s many of us were very enthused by the idea of proper off-road facilities for cyclists, and actively supported Sustrans in the development of the National Cycle Network (which was based on the Danish model, as are Boris’s cycling super-highways, but both concepts have got compromised in the translation to the UK). Sadly, what we got did not meet our expectations, and deteriorated further as local authorities failed to maintain it, so it failed to attract new users. It’s understandable therefore that many campaigners became disillusioned with the notion on off-road routes being the solution. With lessons learnt from that experience however, we are starting to see some better quality off-road cycle routes emerging.

    So yeah, there is a case for properly designed segregated cycle routes, and I could see a place for fitting this anti-campaign in with the other campaigns that are currently running, eg.. 20’s plenty which has been very successful and stricter liability which is only really coming up on the horizon. However, I don’t think you will get where you want to be by misrepresenting other people’s views – so far this campaign seems to have got off to a rather shameful start.

    1. Good points and I already get Cycle Digest as an occasional CTC Right to Ride Representative (not that anything has been sent my way for a long while).

      The question is, where do we go from here? I simply don’t see cycle campaigning in its present form as achieving much more than it has already. 20’s Plenty, from experience, works better when it is specifically NOT a cycling campaign. I also don’t see CTC as the correct mechanism for campaigning as it is a membership organisation that is therefore pretty hopeless at communicating to a public that doesn’t know that they are cyclists yet. I know. I used to work for them! This doesn’t make them bad people! There’s nothing Chris Juden doesn’t know about the technical aspects of a bike and Roger Geffen is a very nice chap.

      The point, as made by someone else earlier, is that nothing was done to push the envelope of high standards for cycling infrastructure. We just seem to be good at cataloguing and criticising the crap. This is amusing for a while but I’m sure you’re aware tends to lose it’s amusement as the years pass! We all know full well that you can’t cut and paste solutions. However, with New York also stepping up to the plate we now have an even broader pallete to draw on for best practice. It’s no good harking back to the bad old days. I agree, they were grim for sure (as someone who witnessed first hand the M3 Twyford Down protests where private security firms were used for the first time) but we have to find a new approach.

      Thank you for your comments. I would like to point out however that this blog represents my own personal views and not that of the campaign so to arbitrarily dismiss me and the hard work that people have put in as getting off to a ‘shameful start’ thus far is a bit unfair.

      1. Isn’t Wildnorthlands also Simon Geller or is that another Simon?
        Are all agreed that cycling has not made any enormous gains in the past couple of decades in terms of inreased numbers of cyclists, or this to be argued over and picked at with academic rigour? If it is so, why are so many of those who have been campaigning for those years so determined to carry on with what, to us, has failed?
        I ride regularly and I don’t feel safe on the roads and in the city. If I don’t feel safe as an experienced cyclist, and I understand that the statistics show that I am more likely to be injured in my garden or the like, then what hope is there of convincing non cyclists to cycle?

      2. To confirm, it is the same Simon Geller and I’ve been pondering over the same questions as well you know!

  10. I have to admit that I was rather disappointed by the Edinburgh Cyclenation conference, I had hoped to hear more about how we were going to use Continental best practice to increase modal share.

  11. I don’t think you need to convince cycle campaigners that we need to use continental best practice – it’s the highway engineers and the politicians that need convincing.

    1. So how is Cyclenation going about that? It sounds like we’re all in agreement… what we need is what they have in the Netherlands, so that primarily is what we should be campaigning for. It’s just that’s not what I’ve seen in the cycle campaigns to date. What did I miss?

      1. Usually, when people keep doing the same thing with little success, I suspect that they are motivated by pride, status, or money. I cannot see that any of these apply to cycle campaigners so, as disgruntled says, “what have I missed”?

    2. Simon / Wildnorthants,

      With the greatest respect I don’t think the statement “I don’t think you need to convince cycle campaigners that we need to use continental best practice” is true at all. I think there are plenty of cycle campaigners who would like to try anything but adopt continental best practise to boost cycling numbers. And by ‘continental best practise’ I do, of course, mean the construction of parallel segregated cycleways (not Sustrans routes, but a part of the road that is protected for cyclists). One of those campaigners would be John Franklin. Here in London it would be some of the more senior members of the policy committee of the LCC (see here as to their track record )

      At the Cyclenation Conference Roger Geffen questioned Copenhagen-style cycle paths, is “segregation – leaving most of the roadspace available for motor traffic – quite simply the wrong answer in principle, at a time of growing awareness of the need for drastic cuts in CO2 emissions?” which to me sounds either downright deceptive or demonstrates a gross misunderstanding of the sort of thing we are talking about here; namely taking space away from cars (lane space, parking bays etc) and dedicating it to bicycles. (See for the fall out on that one!)

      How, Simon, do you propose cycle campaigners convince politicians, planners and road engineers towards the need for decent quality cycling infrastructure if those very cycle campaigns don’t themselves ask out loud for it or don’t understand?

      With the greatest respect and cordiality in cycling.


  12. Yes, what have we missed?

    Firstly apologies for any confusion over aliases – I normally used the alias wildnorthlands when posting to blogs newspapers etc- there are people out there who seem to think I am responsible for the state of the whole of the UK transport system and I don’t particularly want them coming to my house. I used my real name in my first posting to make it clear that I am the person about whom people have been posting comments that verge on the abusive in recent days. From now on I will go back to being wildnorthlands.

    Cyclenation supports a network of local groups. Some of these groups have seen significant
    local gains – cycling is a form of local transport after all. Sheffield has seen cycling go up by 85% in 10 years. Leicester has been growing at a similar rate. Merseyside has achieved a 14% increase in overall cycle use. We know about Oxford, Cambridge, York and Central London of course – the situation in the boroughs is patchy. What is for sure is that if a town doesn’t have a local campaign group cycling levels in that town are likely to remain static or decline. We don’t define what policies local groups should adopt, they decide that for themselves. so I’d suggest if you don’t like the policies you local group are adopting go and talk to them about it, and if you don’t have one in your area start one up. Most cycle campaign groups consist of a couple of hundred members, 4 or 5 people who are actually prepared to do some work, and a budget of practically zilch – they are not great monolithic organisations that define transport policy in the UK.

    You should be going after the politicians, civil servants, consultants and highways engineers who have allowed the current situation in the UK to come about, not the campaigners who have tried very hard to stop it happening.

    1. I have to agree with Simon on the abusive nature of some recently. I really enjoy the thought provoking posts of Jim, Mark from ibikelondon and others, but the personal attacks of a certain Blogger who I won’t name for fear of reprisal has put me off sharing opinions. I’m sure it must be really disheartening for those who have struggled through the years with councils to now be attacked in this way. Its no wonder they are a little prickly, they’re war weary and now they’re being attacked..

      There’s great ideas coming up, as an outside observer with no ties to any org, can’t everyone work together? The problem isn’t the perceived intransigence of existing campaigners, it’s that there are very few of them on the ground to influence councils, like you have achieved in Worthing.

      There’s a great opportunity to harness the energy and ideas of the embassy to get cyclists involved in those councils where there are no campaigners at present and to bring in the new fresh ideas.

    2. Simon

      By abusive, I believe you are referring to this

      It’s not other campaigners being individually attacked – it’s the methods of campaigning that they are using that are being questioned. As a result I think people are misinterpreting blog posts questioning the status quo as personal attacks. ‘That blogger’ had not even questioned cyclenation until your public statement. Many of us are those campaigners of which you write about. We have attended cycle campaign groups and County Cycle Forums etc for years. You are right that there have been local gains dotted around the country but the fact that the campaign groups you represent are all acting completely independently I believe leads to inconsistencies which is the last thing you need when facing a Highways Department representing the whole County/City. Surely there needs to be some form of guidance to get some continuity across groups.

      We will be going after the politicians etc who have allowed the current situation in the UK to come about, and certainly not the campaigners who have tried very hard to stop it happening. The question is, why hasn’t there been a concentrated approach before? And why hasn’t there been a consistent push for infrastructure based on, for example the Dutch model?

      I welcome your thoughts.

    3. Ah yes statistics, I just love statistics. They can be used to find nuggets of useful information from seemingly useless data. They can be used to elucidate very complex ideas. They can also be used to obfuscate very simple ones.

      “Sheffield has seen cycling go up by 85% in 10 years. ”

      This boast sounds impressive until given a little thought. If this represented a cycling *modal* share change over 10 years from 40% to 74% then I think every cycle campaigner in the country would be heading to Sheffield to get advice on how to do things.

      If, on the other hand, this represents a cycling *commuter* share change over 10 years from 1.00% to 1.85% then I think this would not really be worth boasting about and may well be within the noise of the data. Without internal and preceding data points, it’s not evident that this even demonstrates a trend. Also it would be useful to compare it with the change in cycling over the rest of the country or to similar towns without cycle campaigners.

      I think that the new Embassy should be very open and honest about what’s happening rather than trying to bamboozle with statistics.

      1. I would say that 87% of Embassy activity won’t use statistics of any kind.

        It does make me chuckle when people start spouting off that for example, ‘Cycle Superhighways have seen cycling go up 100%’ or whatever. That’s all very well. Wonderful in fact when put like that but it’s from very lowly beginings in the first place and if the Modal share only goes up from 2.85% to 3.1% – Suddenly it’s not the cycling renaissance that we are led to believe. It’s maybe a start though.

        The Embassy will be open, honest and transparent because as volunteers that want to attract more volunteers and the public onto bicycles, we can’t really go any other way. Besides, we only have to look at the Netherlands (we are organising an ‘Infrastructure Safari’ field trip to NL later this year). How much more proof do you need?!

      2. Quite agree about statistics. All the 85% figure does is support what locals will tell you anecdotally – that there are a lot more cyclists around than there used to be. There is some detailed data to back it up, but it is based on cyclists crossing the ring road “cordon” – people who are just cycling around their local areas are ignored. I suspect if there was some way of recording every cycle journey that is made in the city the figure and the modal share would be higher. The increase in people writing about cycling, made possible in part by blogger , wordpress etc, also points to an increased interest in cycling.

        If the increase peaked there we would very unhappy – we want to see that upward curve continue, and I for one am prepared to look at new ways of doing it.

  13. Lots of thoughts in there and I wish I had all the answers. I’m also glad that we seem to be settling down to some kind of rational debate. Although we don’t tell our local groups what to do, we have tried to establish some central principles that groups to adhere to. I also think that you need local solutions to local problems – here in Sheffield, at 620 feet above sea-level & with everything on a slope of some sort the cycling landscape looks quite different from Central London. (incidentally I was born in the lovely Borough of Waltham Forest). This call for segregated lanes does seem quite London-centric to me.

    Various people have criticised the campaign themes that we have been supporting, strict liability, 20’s plenty etc – and set out reasons why they will not work. They are in many respects quite correct – none of these things will work *on their own*. I think we need to have all these things working together to get real modal shift. That’s the real lesson I have brought back from Copenhagen and that’s why I’m interested in seeing whether we can work together.

    The validity of the Hierarchy of Provision has also been questioned. To my mind it supports the principle of segregated cycle lanes – we’ve tried everything else and it hasn’t worked, so that’s what’s left. I’d go back to what I said about the history of cycle provision in the UK – all too often what starts out with the best of intentions gets compromised in the implementation. It’s actually quite easy to design decent facilities – just design a road and halve the dimensions of everything. We build stuff that doesn’t work properly, cyclists decline to use it (but get harrassed by motorists for maintaining their right to ride on the road) and the whole concept gets discredited. Also cyclists aren’t the only group of people
    who have drawn the short straw in the UK’s transport hierarchy – pedestrians have to put up with cars parked on pavements, wheelie-bins and dog mess and often end up walking in cycling paths where they exist, as they are better quality than the adjacent pavements.

    I wonder what people think of some of the segregated facilities that have been built in London – Tavistock Place, Waterloo Station, NCN4 where it crossed Blackfriars Rd, Meridian Way up in Edmonton come to mind?

    I don’t speak for Roger Geffen or the CTC , but I know he was impressed with the Copenhagen experience and I do give him credit for getting it on the agenda at the Edinburgh conference. Another point worth making is that big organisations take time to change – everything has to go through committees, voted on at AGM’s etc otherwise we are accused of not being democratic.

    Cyclenation does wish the Cycling Embassy well, and we hope to get someone to your meeting on the 29th. It might also be appropriate for you to come and talk to the Board at one of our meetings about your aspirations at some point.

    1. I’m curious, but why do you feel segregated lanes are London-centric? If anything, it’s the rest of the UK which is unpleasantly dominated by the car, whereas London is one of the few places where many people quite happily live without one even though they could easily afford one. Having lived in London and now in rural Scotland, and cycled all round the UK, I wouldn’t say London traffic was any more dangerous than anywhere else – if anything the average London pedestrian’s habit of crossing the road wherever and whenever they please keeps drivers on their toes. Besides, there are many non London groups who seem to be equally keen on dedicated cycle infrastructure. Here’s Bike Darlington calling for exactly that, for example.

      I too shall be at the Embassy kickoff meeting, hopefully by Boris Bike, and hoping to find real common ground.

      1. (that’s ‘cycled all round the UK’ as in ‘cycled in many parts of the UK’ not ‘circumnavigated the country by bike’, btw. Before anyone gets seriously impressed…)

  14. I’ve cycled in London and Sheffield recently and the cycle landscapes are just the same – dangerous. I don’t see this as a Londoncentric affair not least because I haven’t live there for 46 years (born in Hackney)
    I also feel that the parochial approach that has been used until now is part of the reason for the lack of success . When I observed the CTC Right to Ride reps working so hard I thought it too often led to a waste of their skills and effort. Perhaps it’s a question of fiefdoms but it seems to me that if a campaigner is achieving success in Middle Northshire it should benefit the good folk of South Nowhere as well, and immediately.

  15. I dispute that cycling in Sheffield in dangerous – our collision rates are actually pretty low.
    We have encouraged the council to adapt the hierarchy of provision principles which mean we have alternative routes along most of our main roads, either off-road cycle routes or parallel routes on minor roads.

    The main cause of injuries to cyclists in Sheffield is the tramway, and we have been campaigning for years for alternative off-road routes along the tram route, as well as for carriage of cycles on the tram . The real issue is the perception of safety and that is what the Danes have done that is really clever – they have created a network that is actually more dangerous than the on-road alternative, but which is perceived as being safe. Because so many people use it all the other benefits of cycling kick in – general health, social inclusion, pollution and so on – so the increase in cycle collisions is seen as a price worth paying. Also the Danes are so incredibly laid-back that if you do the wrong thing it doesn’t matter – you can expect to be rebuked fairly quickly in Germany if you veer from your allotted bit of space, but not in Denmark.

    1. I dispute that cycling in Sheffield in dangerous – our collision rates are actually pretty low.
      We have encouraged the council to adapt the hierarchy of provision principles which mean we have alternative routes along most of our main roads, either off-road cycle routes or parallel routes on minor roads.

      Your opening paragraph to me sums up everything that is wrong with British cycle campaigning.

      Someone has written in stating that they find cycling in Sheffield dangerous. Without questioning why, you dispute it instantly because collision rates are low and come up with your own conjecture. It may be a case that it’s only a few experienced people that are cycling in Sheffield, particularly in mid-winter. I don’t think you are really trying to understand things from a novice cyclist point of view.

      You claim to have encouraged the council to adopt Hierarchy of Provision. That to me means that you have gifted the City Council Highways Department carte blanche to put more crappy paths on pavements, dreadful on road provision that traffic will still dip into or fizzle out at a car parking space and other poorly designed, cost compromised rubbish. This is partly because the current design guidelines are just guidelines and not standards and now they can carry on because they can rightfully claim that they have been consulted by cyclists.

      As far as Denmark is concerned, well nobody’s perfect! However, you portray it in a very negative light. Even if it is more dangerous, their modal share is the stuff of dreams for the UK if we carry on down the same campaigning route. I also don’t think it’s quite the slaughterhouse you seem to infer and motorists attitudes are bound to improve as they get more used to the infrastructure being there. With new infrastructure comes learning a new discipline of dealing with it for motorists and indeed people on bikes. You also manage to elegantly sidestep the Netherlands which even you can’t dispute has had unbelievable success. I’ll simply refer to to the latest blog post by David Hembrow‘. Brilliant stuff.

      Finally, I’m still scratching my head as to why you think the call for segregated cycle facilities based on the Dutch model should be regarded as a London-centric thing. Even if it is, so what? I’m based on the South Coast, and since the new campaign started gaining momentum, I’ve had very positive support from Scotland, the North East, North West, West of England and of course London. One reason that London probably has a bee in it’s bonnet is because people are waking up to the fact that the Cycle Superhighways are TfL’s way of painting the same crap blue thinking that will change everything. A report recently published for the Greater London Assembly suggests otherwise.

    2. Sheffield has a low collision rate, and thus is safe? Does this mean that if a driver squeezes past me when there is oncoming traffic, he is therefore safe if he hasn’t collided with me? I can’t recall any cyclists being injured recently on the A31, but I doubt the lack of casulties will persuade Joe Average to ride along a 60 mph dual carriagway. (Likewise, the low rate of horse rider fatalities on public roads means that one can be assured of a safe horse ride along the A25.)

      Cycling may be tolerable for some, but it is the other 95% of people that we have to consider.

      The thing with the Danish network is that at traffic lights, cyclists and pedestrians going straight ahead and cars turning right get the green light at the same time. This is similar to the way that in New York, drivers might turn across the path of pedestrians who have the “walk” signal (and are supposed to give way to them). That would not happen in the UK as a green man means there is no traffic turning across ones path. (Of course this is sometimes an excuse to have nothing at all, where there is clearly no room on those huge verges for something better than a white line on a pavement. And no room for so much as a staggered pedestrian with a separate stop line for traffic that has just made a turn.)

  16. I think perhaps you should read my post again – I said I think that the reason that novice cyclists are deterred is the perception of danger, not the actual level of danger. Cycle training can help to reduce that perception of danger, but again it’s just one of the tools in the toolbox. I certainly don’t think that that the cycle lanes of Copenhagen are a slaughterhouse (although I wouldn’t recommend going down one the wrong way, which seems to be standard practice in the UK) . However, the Danes freely admit that they still have safety issues to address. What I am saying is that they have addressed the perception of danger issue.

    I’d love to hear why Dexey thought cycling in Sheffield was dangerous, and anything I can take up with the Council, I will. Cyclesheffield doesn’t endorse the building of poor quality
    cycle facilities. I have been impressed with the number of people who have continued cycling in Sheffield despite severe winter conditions. A combination of snow and ice and steep gradients can be pretty scary.

    I freely confess I haven’t been to Holland for a while so am unwilling to comment on somewhere I don’t know enough about. I did visit Ghent & Antwerp last year and was impressed with what they have done there. The impression I’ve received that this campaign was London-based is from the blogs I’ve read, and I am relieved to hear that this is not the case. I’ll look forward therefore to the Embassy setting up meetings in Birmingham, Bristol,
    Leeds, Sheffield and so on.

    1. I appreciate that Cyclesheffield doesn’t endorse building poor quality facilities. But surely Hierarchy of Provision with infrastructure design guidelines takes that destiny out of your hands. I’ve found from experience (as I’m sure you know only too well), that by the time any given campaign group gets to see any plans, the design has already been signed off and the work programmed months in advance. It’s a win-win for them – they can come up with a piece of crap that meets budget and conveniently gets cyclists out of the way to improve traffic flow, and they get to consult with cyclists – by which I mean lay the plans down at the meeting and tell them that’s what they’re getting and they should be grateful because times are hard etc.

      We need standards, not guidelines and that’s something we can all agree on. We do need to set high standards from best practice in Denmark and the Netherlands however as they have had undeniable success with modal share. To be brutally frank, and pardon the language, councils up and down the land have been taking the views of cyclists for granted for many years and have been completely taking the piss (as Pete Owens ‘Facility of the Month’ will testify). Try asking them for a copy of the safety audit they would have carried out! This desperately needs to be addressed as the rising tide of crap is not abating.

  17. Total agree on standards, and the lack of safety audits on cycle facilities. There has been much talk of the “skills deficit” that traffic engineers seem to have when it comes to cycling – Cyclenation has been running seminars for local authorities to try to address this. At the moment ltn2/08 seems to be the best guidance we have –

    Christhebull, no, passing cycles at close quarters isn’t safe. Warrington cycle campaign opposes all cycle lanes that are less than 2 metres wide – we have taken a more pragmatic approach and said that if the situation demands a 1.5 metre wide lane or even slightly less we will accept it if for example it allows cyclists to get to the front of queuing traffic at a junction. I’m sure you’re right about the A31, luckily the only 60mph dual carriageway rd I can think of in Sheffield is the Parkway, which cycles are banned from & which has a national cycle network route running alongside – not that that’s ideal either. Of course a 60mph road should have a good quality off-road route running alongside – bearing in mind that the route has to be well maintained and not full of broken glass and other road debris. (Incidentally Denmark has a glass bottle deposit scheme which coupled with being a civilised country means that broken glass is a rarity)

    Another reason I think that UK cycling facilities aren’t up to scratch is that they have often been retro-fitted. Much better to put them as part of a total road re-design, rather than on top of what’s already there.

    1. It’s good that you don’t think lanes under 2 metres wide are adequate except as filter lanes, but the lack of enforceable standards means these are the exception and not the rule in the UK; and the A31 is an extreme example of a road that is unsuitable, although I have seen time triallists along there. Broken glass could be a problem, but my main issue in terms of road surfaces at the moment is potholes, which are caused by heavy motor traffic and therefore don’t seem to affect cycle paths.

      As for the “retro-fitting” argument, I know what you mean by cycle symbols on pavements and toucan crossings, but the standard of cycle provision in new developments is hardly outstanding, and cyclists are typically ignored outright when major junctions are re-modelled. One of the main criticisms of the new “eco towns” was the extra – er – car traffic these green-field sites would generate when the residents went to work or shopping elsewhere. That is more to do with the busy A roads outside the development than the design within it, and the lack of a train connection (at Dunsfold Park), but the fact that “extra traffic” is an automatic response to any new development from existing residents is a problem.

  18. Cycling in Sheffield is dangerous just as it is in London, Birmingham, Norwich and any other town or city, because of the near misses. In 52 years of cycling on the roads I have never been hit but I have had several near misses and they are are occuring more often. That is because of the density of traffic and poor provision for cyclists. My most unfavourite being the pinch points formed by placing pedestrian refuges in the middle of roads that are wide enough for a dedicated cycle lane. Put there to encourage motorists to slow down so the city road officer tells me!
    I know this is a subjective fear, I know that I have never been hit but I am sure that what worries me stops other from even starting to cycle. Lest it was my declining skills at fault, I employed a cycle trainer for the day just three ago; he reckoned it wasn’t me.
    I find it hard to understand the complacency of so many cycle campaigners, almost a fear of trying something different, even radical, but until we do cycling will remain in the doldrums.

    1. Whether or not cycling in Sheffield is statistically safe or not is irrelevant, subjective safety is low and hence modal share is only 2%. The policy of designating quiet back streets as cycle routes also reduces subjective safety in a different way, because there are less people about, the fear of crime is increased. Copenhagen originally tried this policy as documented in one of Jan Gehl’s books (can’t remember which one) and found very few cyclists used them (even though most had bicycle lanes). What they discovered was that people want to use direct routes and be where other people are.

  19. Just had a little thought: is there a sub plot and non segregationist cycle campaigners are actually trying to keep cycling as a minority mode of transport?
    Nah, can’t be! Can it?

    1. Little thought indeed.

      What leads you to you suggest that ‘non segregationist cycle campaigners’ want to keep ‘cycling as a minority mode’?

      I think of them as experienced realists, as opposed to naive idealists. I think the latter honestly believe that if a few campaign groups only asked for 4 metre wide cycle paths to be built with priority over side roads and excellent maintenance then that is what they would get. If a £20 million turnover engineering charity (Sustrans) can’t do it with a few hundred paid staff, why do you think a bunch of scruffy amateurs can? The problem lies with the local authorities and a lack of resources and commitment to do things properly.

      1. It’s come to a point where I’d like to try being a naive idealist (like those pesky Dutch!) as opposed to these doggedly experienced realists (who, I might add, attend meetings in very tired old lycra looking very scruffy indeed. Especially when compared to a Highways Engineer).

        The ‘scruffy amateurs’ as you insultingly put them will be attempting to draw support from the 97% of potential people on bikes, as opposed to the 3% experienced realists.

        Sustrans is elegantly written about here

        And people actually want to see correct design standards (as opposed to guidelines) based on the Dutch Model as opposed to a Gorilla with an Etch a Sketch. This obviously does not mean 4 metre wide segregated paths everywhere (although even you have to admit, that would be jolly nice)!

      2. I’m sorry. Did I suggest anything? I thought I had only raised a little thought and asked a question.
        The ‘experienced realists’ have done well in their efforts to raise cycling numbers, haven’t they?

  20. Perish the thought! (although in my darkest moments I wish all the other cyclists would clear off out of the poxy little bike lane I’m in so I could have it all to myself. 😉

    But seriously, one thing that occurs to me (I’ve been thinking about this stuff a lot as I pedal about) is that a lot of cycle campaigners are general road safety campaigners as well. I don’t think there is any such thing as a “cyclist” – we are people who use different modes of transport as appropriate. Anyway, my point is that we want the roads to be safe for everyone and we certainly do want to protect the rights of cyclists who choose to ride on the road. About 3,500 people die on the roads each year in the UK of whom about 200 are cyclists, so are a relatively small proportion of road deaths (you can argue about deaths per mile travelled and so forth all you want – as soon as you get into statistical analysis you are in a minefield)
    see – – you will also see from that that the number of cyclists fatalities has been going down so that’s good news)

    Shunting cyclists off into their private network and letting carnage continue on the general road network isn’t really in the best interests of anyone. No amount of raised kerbs will save you from a vehicle that has left the carriageway at 60mph and landed on top of you. By contrast, most collisions between motor vehicles & cyclists are low speed and involve relatively minor injuries. Not saying I have the answers to all of this – I’m just pointing out that it is a complex situation.

    To Dexey, I understand your point about near misses and pedestrian refuges. We complained bitterly about these when they started to put them in in Sheffield. The advice from cycle trainers has been that you should take the lane when you encounter these, and not allow people to pass you. I appreciate that this is not an easy thing for a novice cyclists to do. One thing we did get the council to do was offset them when they are on an uphill gradient, so there is more room to pass a slow-moving cyclist – on the downhill the speed differential isn’t so great. (Speed differentials are a major factor in all of this which why we support 20’s plenty)

    And far from being complacent, a lot of campaigners are bitterly angry about the current state of affairs and recent discussions of the CTC right to Ride list have highlighted this. It is difficult to keep up consistent campaigning over a period of years and there is a burn-out factor – many of us will be quite happy to let someone else have a go.

    1. erm, are you seriously saying that, in order to maintain the general safety of the roads, cyclists should continue to mix in traffic so we can function as some kind of lycra-clad mobile speed bump? I know I cycle partly as an altruistic act, but I don’t think I’m prepared to go that far! If the only thing that’s keeping our roads safe is the handful of cyclists who already ride, then I think we’ve got more than the design of our bike lanes badly wrong as a nation. But still, nobody’s advocating compulsory cycling tracks here, just as there are no jaywalking laws in the UK, so I’m sure you will be able to keep cycling on the roads if that’s the only thing that’s going to save us from carmaggedon.

      1. No I’m not saying that. I am extremely careful about what I write and I wish people would be as careful in reading it! I am trying to explain why cycle campaigning is in the position it currently is in the UK and see how we can move forward and I am saying the road safety issue in the UK won’t be solved by building some off road tracks alongside busy roads. The UK road system in the UK was recently described as the equivalent of open sewers – in future years we will look back and wonder why we allowed so many people to die on the roads. (see

        In the UK we do have a substantial number of cyclists who are confident road cyclists and we wish to maintain their right to do so. There have been moves to ban cyclists from roads where alternate off-road facilities exist – the Daniel Cadden case is one such. I am trying to explain why cycle campaigning is in the position it currently is in the UK and see how we can move forward.

  21. Re the Sustrans link given above – this to my mind shows the perils of blogging. This guy decided off his own bat that it would be a jolly good idea to convert the Kennet & Avon canal towpath into a cycleway and contacted Sustrans about it. Sustrans who at the time were engaged in developing NCN4 between London and Fishguard via Bristol, turned him down. He has since conducted a vitriolic campaign against Sustrans. The picture he paints of Sustrans is a far cry from the people I have had dealings with in the organisation.

    This rather reminds me of a recent case where another cycling organisation was accused of failing to take the call for more segregated paths seriously. This organisation responded that it did recognise the benefits of this type of path, but it believed that there were other differences between the UK and those countries that had adopted this model that also needed to be addressed. The response from the original blogger was to launch a vitriolic attack on the person he believed had written the statement (he had got the right person, but the statement was agreed by the board of the organisation, and was described by another blogger as “beyond belief” . Hardly the response you would expect to an expression of support however qualified.

    The sustrans blog states that a large proportion of the NCN consists of
    ” a large number of substandard side paths that run along busy roads or motorways, where cyclists and walkers are burdened with toxic air, a noisy environment- not to mention hazardous crossings of side roads where non-motorised traffic is de-prioritised. ” I think you should be aware that more of this type of path could result from what you are proposing.

    Still, I read it on the Internet, so it must be true…

    1. …of course, we could just follow the CTC & Cycle Nation methods of doing nothing in the way achieveing design standards for infrastructure and councils continuing to build more of the same whether you like it or not!

      This is the crux isn’t it? It’s no good saying that more of these paths will be created if we campaign for decent infrastructure, because they’re being built anyway! And it seems that Cycle Nation and CTC are powerless to do anything about it.

      That a ‘Federation of Cycle Campaign groups’ should start publishing statements without background notes against individual bloggers who question the Status quo, I do find unprofessional. The fact that you needed to explain your position in that way implies that you need to clarify what your aims really are and put them on the front page of the Cycle Nation website.

    1. My own little West Midlands city is only 40, 000 people short of Utrecht’s size and we have four devices to count cyclists. It’s hard to know where to place them for best recording.

  22. I believe I pointed you at our Campaign for High *Standards* earlier in this dialogue, so I don’t think that comment can stand.

    We probably do need to make our policies more clear and this is is something we will address. However, please bear in mind as far as Cyclenation goes that we are volunteers, doing this in our spare time, actually because we do want to see more people cycling.

  23. Jim, you certainly have kicked the anthill (so to speak). Good! At the very least you will expose the lies that are this governments “commitment to cycling/health/climate/child safety etc… No one who is serious about this stuff would be doing anything other then what you are advocating and they well know it! Their own studies have been saying that the popoulation needs to do more excercise and they have been saying it for years! see:

    Old as the hills and totally ignored… The NHS is doomed. Tragic.

    Go for the dream or live the nightmare!

    PS I am a long term “road warrior” and active cycle instructor. The them and us nature of some of this debate is total BS. Two wheels good…

  24. VC is NOT Safe

    How do we know when a riding style is “safe”?

    Safety implies some kind of metric that we can measure this by.

    In the US, the VC movement is based upon an excellent paper in 1977 by Kenneth Cross. Strangely enough, the paper is contradicted by many of the statements in _Effective Cycling_.

    I urge anyone who thinks that VC riding is “safe” to read this excellent pdf which is available at this side:

    Personally, I believe that VC riding is dangerous and irresponsible, and I wonder why there haven’t been lawsuits due to death any injuries which have occurred when people have attempted riding in traffic, something I would never recommend.

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