The marvellous Mad Cycle Lanes of Greater Manchester has posted an extract from a history of provision for cycling in the Netherlands:
the government decided to develop a large array of measures to promote cycling, walking and traffic calming, such as:
- Reducing car access to city-centres and create car-free areas;
- Making parking in city-centres more expensive;
- Constructing cycle paths and reducing road space for cars;
- Facilitating cycling through cycle network planning, road design, signalling, parking and enforcement;
- Reducing maximum speed on the majority of urban roads to 30 km/h or less;
- Promoting cycling to encourage the use of bikes and discourage car-use.
But MCLGM draw a rather odd conclusion from this, which is not supported by the quoted text:
Note how most of the measures are about reducing and removing access by motor vehicles.
The key to increasing cycling is reducing motor traffic, the cycle tracks are the follow-up measures.
I tried to post a comment, but of course because MCLGM is hosted on Blogspot it disappeared with a server error page somewhere in the gazillion-step commenting processes. (Seriously Blogspot bloggers, it is way past time you came and joined us on a platform that works.)
I’m going to post the comment here, because it seems to be a very common mistake, and one that needs to be laid to rest.
Er. Not quite. All of the measures are “key”; none of them are “follow-ups”. They are the different solutions that apply to different situations. The British seem desperate to put things in a hierarchy. It’s completely the wrong approach, and it’s certainly not the Dutch approach.
In some places — residential streets and city centres — we need to reduce traffic speed and remove vehicular access. In other places — main arterial roads and other places with high traffic volumes and/or large vehicles — we need to reallocate space for cycle tracks. You start from the specific problem, not the preferred solution.
That is the key to increasing cycling. Knowing what needs to be done in each situation.
I’ll use this opportunity to expand on this point about putting solutions into hierarchies a little.
In Britain we have a “Hierarchy of Provision”, which recommends some types of cycling provision as preferable to other types. It was developed by the DfT and CTC in 1997, is still endorsed by many cyclists (sometimes enthusiastically so) as well as officials, and is part of the design guidance for cycling infrastructure — Local Transport Note 2/08 — upon which the nation’s Crap Cycle Facilities are modelled.
Specifically, the Hierarchy of Provision states that one should “consider first” reducing the speed and volume of motor traffic, and “consider last” shared use footways. (Note, not: “never ever consider”, the Hierarchy of Provision thinks shared footways should be “considered last”.)
This is, as my lost comment says, approaching things the wrong way around: bringing a set of pre-ranked preferred solutions to a road and trying each one in turn to see which one fits. The correct approach — the one that the Dutch apply — is to start with the purpose and properties of a road: whether it is the main A-to-B road, or a little residential or access street; whether it needs to carry big dangerous trucks and buses; and so on. Once you’ve answered those questions, there is no need to try different solutions on for size: when you understand the problem, the appropriate solution follows.
For many years in the UK there was a Hierarchy of Provision way of thinking, which led, and still leads, to some absurdities, such as the idea that in the Netherlands cycle tracks are a “follow-up measure”. When the Cycling Embassy of Great Britain came along and made the then heretical statement that, actually, for some kinds of roads, we should be asking straight-up for Dutch-style cycle tracks instead of trying to apply one preferred top-of-the-hierarchy solution to every road in the country, this entirely sensible position was often misunderstood. Unable to think outside The Hierarchy, the embrace of cycle tracks was interpreted as an attempt on the crown: to put cycle tracks at the top of The Hierarchy and to campaign exclusively for the construction of segregated cycle paths alongside every inch of road, lane, street and cul-de-sac in the country.
It seems that this misunderstanding is still spread, and by those who should know better:
(Readers can follow Carlton Reid’s link that to the essay in which David Arditti explains very clearly and at length, in 3,000 words and two diagrams, his ideas on the interventions which might be appropriate solutions the problems that cyclists face in different situations, placing it in the context of David’s other articles, and can draw their own conclusions about whether Reid is right to sum up David’s argument as a call for segregated cycle tracks on every public road and street in Britain.)
Campaigners seem to be growing more comfortable advocating the full breadth of solutions in the Dutch “Sustainable Safety” package, but even when doing so in the Xmas edition of their magazine, the London Cycling Campaign can’t stop thinking in hierarchies: “the Dutch mantra is mix if possible, separate when necessary,” they say, as if the Dutch have a hierarchy of “consider first: mix”, “consider last: separate”. But as the LCC magazine says elsewhere, the Dutch “start by deciding the function of a road, and from this flows the design.” On a busy trunk road they don’t first consider mixed traffic.
But not everybody has quite come to terms with it all yet, and in attempting to reconcile the comprehensive and detailed Dutch solution with the crude and uncomplicated British hierarchy approach, it seems that many have had to resort to what MCRcycling calls the Dutch pick and mix: we’ll pick the filtered permeability to put at the top of our hierarchy, and campaign for that one, thanks.
Over the past couple of years, the breadth of the successful Dutch approach to street design and cycling has begun to be explained and appreciated in this country, thanks initially to the likes of David Hembrow’s blog, Mark Wagenbuur’s videos, and occasional articles like this, and recently spread even further by the Dutch Cycling Embassy and London’s Go Dutch campaign. The activity stirred up by The Times CycleSafe campaign will, I hope and expect, lead to its much wider dissemination. I imagine that attempts to arrange the continent’s engineering into a hierarchy of provision will keep people occupied for a while yet.