Entries tagged with “cycle commuting”.


This year has seen an upsurge in the number of people dying on our roads, sadly those with the power to change things don’t seem to be interested, so we need to send them the message: It is time to stop the killing on our roads!

Our roads are not a war zone, this is not the fog of war, people dying on our roads are not some poor buggers who have wandered into their covering fire, they are not collateral damage. They were just ordinary people going about their business who died needlessly before their time. Now is the time to make it stop, we can do something about it, but it needs political will. Throwing money at dualing roads won’t save lives. Lowering speed limits, better infrastructure to protect vulnerable road users, strengthening the law and enforcing it, these are things which save lives. It is not rocket science, there is much we can learn from just across the North Sea. We can make our country a better place to live for all, Active Travel IS a matter of social justice. Here are some Manifesto suggestions for Active Travel, let’s push our political representatives to take them seriously. After all, they are there to serve the people.

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There has been a real sense of hope in the air, cycling was/is on the up following the Olympics. There was talk of a Golden Legacy, which seemed to have some support from the City of Edinburgh Council. It seemed there was a chance that Edinburgh could really become the cycle friendly city that has so long been promised, it is after all the only city in the UK to have signed the Charter of Brussels. It has also committed 5% of its Transport budget to cycling and drawn up an Active Travel Action Plan.

All in all, you might expect that Edinburgh is in a good position to become Scotland’s top cycling city. However, things are not as good as they should be, the money may be there, but what is it being spent on? Well, recently we have seen the opening of the so called Quality Bike Corridor (QBC), built at a cost of £650,000. Now, with a name like that ,you’d expect something really special. You’d expect the local cycling community to be jumping up and down with excitement, but I am not, and I am not alone in my disappointment. I have recently discovered that this route has been 27 years in planning, and that the original 1985 plan was considerably more ambitious that the current miserable effort. Something has obviously gone badly wrong!

As if this wasn’t enough, there is the case of Leith Walk. Following the decision not to take the new Edinburgh tram “network” down Leith Walk, this road now has to be re-developed. This should be an ideal opportunity for the Council to show some commitment and add in some good quality cycling infrastructure. This is something which the local residents named as their top priority in the consultation on the re-development of the area. However, the council planners seem to have decided to totally ignore the local desire for good quality cycle infrastructure alone the entire length of the road, and instead have planned for just a short bike lane between the two roundabouts at the top. This is according to a leaked document, I don’t have any further details at present.

leaked doc

At this point it needs to be made clear that the Council’s Active Travel Action Plan is now aimed at 15% of commuter journeys to be by bike by 2020, rather than 15% of all journeys (in other words, a 15% modal share for cycling). This means the Council is not interested in achieving a modal shift by making the roads safe for family cycling, as has been done in every place where cycling levels are high. The question is: who are facilities like the QBC for? “Experienced, confident cyclists”, according to the plan – who are they? The road warriors, the club cyclists, the MAMILs who are cycling already? But these groups (tribes?) will cycle without £650,000 being spent on some coloured tarmac, and a poorly designed junction at KB. Also, it is very unlikely that this group will expand to 15% of commuter journeys in a few years’ time, let alone 15% of all journeys. It is currently not safe for family cycling. We have seen increased interest in cycling in the past, similar to the current post-Olympic boom, which failed to result in large increases in modal share (whereas commuting modal share has increased slightly over the last decades). The modal share in Edinburgh remains stubbornly around 2%, as the majority of the population don’t feel it is safe to cycle on the roads. If we want to change this, we have to make riding a bicycle as a means of transport safe, convenient and easy for everyone, not just “experienced, confident cyclists”.

According to Prof John Whitelegg, speaking at a recent conference, politicians think that 60% of citizens prefer motorised travel, whereas only 15% of citizens actually do. He is also on record for saying there is no reason why we can’t have 20% of trips by bike by 2020, we just need the political will to do so. Of course, things are not helped by the Dutch saying that it takes 20 years to get to where they are in terms of infrastructure. This maybe so when you look at changing transport infrastructure over the entire country. But at a local level, changes can happen much faster by using temporary measures, such as white paint and plastic bollards to create safe space, as has been done to great effect in New York. The effect of these simple measures had a dramatic effect on the local economy, with retail sales increasing by up to 49%. So you would think this is something that the City of Edinburgh Council would be grabbing with both hands. Instead, Edinburgh is spending £55,000 a week on “free parking” as a part of the “Alive after 5” campaign. Newcastle has experimented with the same campaign, but couldn’t split how many people came by bus, bike, on foot, etc. Basically this is money just thrown down the drain.

Edinburgh is recognised as being the best place in the UK to live, so why is the Council looking to places which are not as good? To make Edinburgh a better place to live, we should be looking outward and copying ideas from cities which are recognised as being among the best places in the world. Places like Copenhagen, a city that owes its success to the ideas of Jan Gehl. A man who told the Sir Patrick Geddes Commemorative Lecture 2012: “Edinburgh looks fantastic from the air, but if you go to eye level it looks neglected and treats people as sheep”. He has “been coming to Edinburgh for 47 years, this is a city that needs to take power from traffic engineers”. He says that “lists of most liveable cities in the world don’t include Edinburgh or other Scottish or UK cities.” In order to change this, “there is a need for political commitment to working towards becoming the most liveable city in the world”. So there we have it, until the Council starts looking for ideas from places that have a proven track record of being the best places in the world to live and stop treating people like sheep, they will continue throw council tax payers’ money down the drain!

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The Times has launched a public campaign and 8-point manifesto calling for cities to be made fit for cyclists:

  1. Lorries entering a city centre should be required by law to fit sensors, audible turning alarms, extra mirrors and safety bars to stop cyclists being thrown under the wheels.
  2. The 500 most dangerous road junctions must be identified, redesigned or fitted with priority traffic lights for cyclists and Trixi mirrors that allow lorry drivers to see cyclists on their near-side.
  3. A national audit of cycling to find out how many people cycle in Britain and how cyclists are killed or injured should be held to underpin effective cycle safety.
  4. Two per cent of the Highways Agency budget should be earmarked for next generation cycle routes, providing £100 million a year towards world-class cycling infrastructure. Each year cities should be graded on the quality of cycling provision.
  5. The training of cyclists and drivers must improve and cycle safety should become a core part of the driving test.
  6. 20mph should become the default speed limit in residential areas where there are no cycle lanes.
  7. Businesses should be invited to sponsor cycleways and cycling super-highways, mirroring the Barclays-backed bicycle hire scheme in London.
  8. Every city, even those without an elected mayor, should appoint a cycling commissioner to push home reforms.

Personally I find this a disappointing mishmash of ideas and lacking in ambition. I think that we can do better, so here is my version:

Active travel is a great idea as it achieves so many policy objectives: it is clean, it is green, it reduces congestion in towns and cities, and it is healthy (active people, such as regular cyclists, live longer). In addition, people who use active ways of travel to get to work are more productive, and it is relatively cheap and therefore has great potential to save money (the future savings in health cost alone make worthwhile).

  1. Commitment to cycling: Cycling is booming in Britain and said to be worth £3 billion to the economy. But while in the Netherlands some £10-£20 per head is invested in cycling. In Scotland it is nearer £2-£3. In England the best achieved was the 2005-2011 Cycling City and Towns project, which invested around £10 per head and achieved significant growth in everyday cycle use. The Scottish government should invest 5% of its £2bn annual transport budget in active travel (cycling and walking). This is exactly in line with its own ‘Low Carbon Scotland’ proposal for £1.32bn over 11 years, and with the per-head figure which The Netherlands spends on cycling alone. Scottish local authorities should invest, from their own internal transport budgets, a proportion at least equal to their existing commuter cycling modal share, as the City of Edinburgh Council has done. Bearing in mind that the Cycling Action Plan for Scotland aim is “By 2020, 10% of all journeys taken in Scotland will be by bike.
     
  2. Improved provision for cycling: this must include a commitment to reviewing major roads and junctions, prioritising dedicated space for cyclists where speed limits are not already 20mph and ensuring quality infrastructure which ensures safe reintroduction of cyclists to the highway where relevant. This should be done following best practice from places which have a cycling modal share of 20% or greater. Local Transport Note (LTN) 2/08 and Cycling by Design 2010 should be scrapped as neither is truly fit for purpose (although the latter is better than the former). The important thing is to get rid of the concept of “dual networks” cycling should be safe for everyone, not just the quick and the bold. The Dutch and the Danes have developed their best practice over 30 years of trial and error, we have the opportunity to learn what works and avoid repeating the mistakes.
     
  3. Slower speeds: in residential and built up areas. There are significant road safety benefits with a 20 mph speed limit. National government must commit to supporting, encouraging and funding local authorities to follow many of their peers and make the change to 20mph.
     
  4. Encouragement of cycling – Smarter Travel Choices. National Government and local authorities must commit to supporting safe and active travel within a wider programme of ‘smarter choices’ investment. By committing to this policy direction, we are more likely to see a joined-up package of measures. A good example of this is the “Better way to work” campaign which was run in Edinburgh last year.
     
  5. Improved road traffic law and enforcement: Traffic law must do more to protect the most vulnerable road users such as cyclists, pedestrians, children and older people. In addition, traffic policing teams much be given more resource to ensure that existing laws can be enforced more effectively. Sentencing must be appropriate when drivers cause harm, and fines should be related to income as following the Swiss model.
     
  6. A focus on Heavy Goods Vehicles (HGVs): heavy lorries are associated with a disproportionately high risk of death or very serious injury to cyclists and pedestrians. Despite being just 6% of road traffic, lorries are involved in around 20% of all cyclists’ fatalities. Government policies must ensure a commitment to the roll-out of a comprehensive package of measures to reduce the risk of HGVs to cyclists and pedestrians.
     
  7. A strategic and joined-up programme of road user training: to include better information, provision and training for all road user types including cyclists from an early age.
     
  8. Improved data: the information that records how many people are cycling is very poor at the national level and inconsistent at the local level. This makes it difficult to monitor what is happening and which interventions have greatest impact. At a minimum, counts should be carried out twice a year using standardised protocols for data collection and handling. Where possible, electronic counters with displays should be used to count the number of cyclists passing certain routes. This both raises awareness and creates a community feeling among cyclists, as well as being a good evaluation instrument to monitor the success of the project.

If these eight points were to be taken on board and fully implemented, we could make this a happier and healthier country.

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Some time ago I wrote a post called Cycle parking, please can we have more… in which I flagged up issue surrounding cycle parking in Edinburgh and the particular problems for tenement dwellers. Finally things are starting to change, as a result of lobbying by Spokes the City of Edinburgh Council has proposed a Pilot of on-street residential cycle parking. They say:

“The City of Edinburgh Council is committed to increasing the percentage of all journeys in the city by bike to 10% by 2020. One of the biggest barriers to cycling in the city is a lack of suitable cycle parking for residents in tenement areas. In recognition of this, the Council is considering providing on-street cycle parking in areas with tenement residences. This will initially be done on a trial basis at a small number of locations. We are planning to trial:

  • covered cycle racks;
  • individual lockers; and
  • uncovered cycle racks.

So if you are interested for your tenement/flat area, please talk to your neighbours and apply by 9th December 2011. Application form [pdf 4.4MB] application form [doc 764k].

However, it should be noted: “Applications are subject to being selected on the basis of suitability and feasibility. We
cannot guarantee that locations that are selected will be installed. Should you require any further information please contact cycling@edinburgh.gov.uk”

I hope to see this project going ahead, but the “suitability and feasibility” clause does worry me that the Council is not fully committed to “increasing the percentage of all journeys in the city by bike to 10% by 2020″. As I have seen existing cycle infrastructure around the city quietly disappearing, such as well used Sheffield stands being removed and not replaced when pavements are relaid, and cycle lanes being converted into on street car parking. Still this initiative does give me hope for the future!

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Ever wonder how the Dutch came to have Cycling For Everyone? Well this wee video from the Dutch Cycling Embassy how they got to where they are now and why they feel they have something worth exporting to the rest of the world.

We will pass over the fact that the Dutch copied the idea of a “Cycling Embassy” from the Danes. Also, it is important not to confuse it with the Cycling Embassy of Great Britain which has been founded to introduce the concept cycling for everyone to British cycle campaign groups people. Unlike the other two, this “Cycling Embassy” is importing the idea of cycling for everyone from more advanced countries…

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