Pedal Power Issue 36 January 2002

QUO VADIS ?

(Extract from Cycle Campaign Network News)

The promotion of cycling is at a crucial stage. Just a year away from the 2002 target of the National Cycling Strategy, by which cycle use should have doubled from 1996, cycle use is actually 7 per cent lower than in the base year. Now concern is mounting that the remaining target of quadrupling cycle use by 2010 may not just fail to be met, but fail spectacularly. The implications of this for continued political support for cycling cannot be overstated.

So where have we gone wrong? Is it all Government's fault, the actions of the road lobby or motorists, or could it be that at least part of the problem lies in the strategies pursued by cyclists?

Without doubt we have succeeded in persuading Government that the promotion of cycling is a Good Thing. Most councils now have policies intended to encourage cycle use, and development plans commonly have to show that they have considered cyclists' needs. But are those policies the right ones and is the perception of what cycling really needs correct?

Feedback from cyclists increasingly suggests that many don't like what they're getting, whether it be cycle facilities, traffic calming or expectations of where they should ride. Costly initiatives such as the new town cycle networks, urban demonstration schemes and the Gloucester Safer City project have not only failed to increase the number of cyclists, but in the opinion of many have made conditions worse, a fact often reflected in casualty statistics. The National Cycle Network, too, has not led to any overall increase in cycle use despite the substantial sums invested and considerable publicity.

Cyclists within the professions put the blame on a lack of understanding about cycling, driven by the constant perception of cycling as 'dangerous' and therefore not compatible with traffic. Much of the emphasis on 'danger' and the need for 'safe routes' and special facilities (which de-facto imply danger) has come from cycling organisations, yet as Malcolm Wardley demonstrated at the autumn CCN conference in Chesterfield*, cycling is not by any reasonable standard a dangerous activity, whilst improved safety is much more likely to come from greater cycle use than the other way around.

It is all too clear that the general public now strongly associates cycling with danger, which must weigh heavily against its otherwise well-known benefits. As TRL has acknowledged, you don't encourage people to cycle with messages about safety or danger.

Michael Jackson won this year's Falco Lecture Prize with a paper 'Promoting bicycling as a normal part of a healthy lifestyle'*, in which he advocates advertising campaigns based on positive images. No other product would try to sell itself with negative associations, so why cycling?

A large majority at Chesterfield supported a view from the floor that it was time to move the emphasis from the 'hardware' to the 'software' in encouraging people to cycle. After all, even if the hardware was right (is this a realistic possibility?), would the software be programmed to accept the changes as sufficient?

*Available from the CCN Website -http://www.cyclenetwork.org.uk

The slowest crossing in Leicestershire?

by Antony Kay

A subject that has been raised at recent meetings of the Charnwood Cycle Consultative Committee is the time it takes for the lights to change after the button is pressed at a pelican or toucan crossing. For crossings in Loughborough, there is a standard delay of 28 seconds, and there have been complaints that this is too long and tends to encourage risk-taking by impatient cyclists and pedestrians, especially where the signals aren't sensitive to whether the road is clear. However, the situation seems to be worse in Leicester ....

In recent weeks I have needed to walk from the railway station to the Royal Infirmary on several occasions. I use a toucan crossing over Welford Road (4 lanes of one-way traffic) near the prison. I noticed that the delay before the lights changed seemed to be particularly long, so I have timed it on three occasions. The best result was 37 seconds, and the worst was 55 seconds (although the signals do at least seem to be sensitive to gaps in the traffic). Is this a special feature to frustrate escapees from the prison? Or has anyone recorded any longer delays than 55 seconds at any other pelican or toucan crossing?

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