Cycling – are our policies working?

Is this the way to promote cycling?

The evidence for the success or failure of current cycling policies across the UK is mixed. Apart from some major successes, particularly in London, cycling rates are rising in the UK, mainly for leisure trips, but are still extremely small compared to other European neighbours with a similar climate, population density and geography.

Junior School children nationally do not cycle to school. A large proportion walk,(55%) but 39% travel by car, adding significantly to traffic congestion and denying children and parents exercise.

The use of shared surfaces where cars pedestrians and cyclists share the street  are recommended by DfT and Sustrans, This favours the active and aware cyclist but not children or the less fit. This policy seems to be guided by the idea that when cyclists occupy the road they are more visible and therefore safer. Segregated cycle lanes are less favoured because experience in the UK of using them results in many accidents at the points where cyclists leave the lanes. Sometimes because the junction with other traffic is not well-designed, sometimes because the cyclist is going too fast, or because other drivers or pedestrians are not expecting the cyclist to appear.

But shared surfaces are less popular with pedestrians who feel exposed to danger from cyclists and from cars.

I have concluded that the reason for this state of affairs is that policy officers must consult, and the people who are available to be consulted are those who are cycling already. There is no-one to represent the millions of people who would like to cycle but are too fearful to do so. The result is cycling policy that favours those who are already confident cyclists and ignores the needs of children, most women, and older people who are unlikely to deck themselves out in Lycra.

For our friends on the Continent there doesn’t appear to be any doubt that segregated cycle lanes are the way forward, they are busy and successful. The success appears largely down to their use, there are fewer accidents because they are well-designed and well used, and no one is surprised that they are being used. There have been many studies carried out on the improvement or lack of it in cycling safety due to the use of cycle tracks. This study appeals to me because it makes perfect sense, the more cycle tracks there are, the more people use them, the more people use them the less likely they are to have an accident. Accident numbers will go up, particularly in the beginning as people learn to use the tracks, but will drop as the visibility of cyclists increases.

To see examples of what cycling to school could be like visit this website and watch some of the videos.

Cycle Rates in UK (Summary)
Cycling on the road in the UK has increased 12% up the last 10 years (using 3 year
rolling average).
The biggest increase has been on surfaces other than the road. The % Cycling
‘mainly on the road’ has fallen from 46% (2002) to 40% 2009[1]
London has seen the biggest boom with over 110% increase since 2000.

Britain is spending more on bikes.

Cycling is a diverse activity with participants from all socio-economic groups, but

cycling rates are highest amongst young professional men.

How do we compare with our neighbours?
Cycling Rates in the UK compared with other countries with similar geography, climate
and population density.

  • Holland – 27% of trips, 848 km per person per year
  • Denmark – 19%, 936 km pp/year
  • Germany – 10%, 291 km pp/year
  • UK – 2%, 75 km pp/year

Is cycling becoming more or less popular?

These stats are a little out of date, I cannot find up-to-date national stats, if anyone does know please let me know and I’ll update this.

This is what ‘taking cycling seriously looks like’

Ciclovia happens once a week in Bogota,every Sunday between 7am and 2pm. 120km of roads are shut to cars and opened up to cyclists, walkers and people to enjoy. It’s fun, with around 30% of locals, or 2 million people, taking part.

Cycle routes in Bogota Colombia

‘A cycle route that is not safe for an 8
year old is not a cycle route’ Enrique
Penalosa, Mayor of Bogota


2 thoughts on “Cycling – are our policies working?

  1. You could add that a footpath that is not safe for an 80 year old is not a footpath. After twice almost being hit by cyclists going very fast and with no bells or other means of alerting other path users to their presence, my elderly parents have stopped going for their regular walk along a riverside path as they find it too dangerous. As a consequence, they’re now taking less exercise and getting out of the house less frequently.

    Shared paths aren’t good for anyone, but while they’re still in use – which will probably be for quite some time – all users should behave in a sensible and considerate manner. If some cyclists are unwilling to moderate their speed on shared paths, speed bumps or landscaping should be used to compel them to do so, for the safety of pedestrians.

  2. This is a great post. I appreciate it. We need more people like you to take the sustainability initiative forward. I invite you to check the Environment category in my blog. We can collaborate on this and exchange guest posts too! Let’s spread the word!

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