7 Feb 2013

A long view on cycling safety and facilities

DfT Statistics: show that the number of cyclists killed or seriously injured in Britain is up 8 per cent in year to September 2012. It's hard to tell if this is down to changes in the weather, new cyclists who aren't as familier with the roads or any other factors but it does show that something meaningful needs to be done to give us better cycling facilities.

If you are a confident cyclist, happy and confident to ride on the roads St Albans isn't too bad. Sadly that's not much good for children or the less confident- and these are the people we need to encourage to make St Albans a more livable place for everybody on 4 wheels, two or two legs.

There's a parliamentary enquiry going on at the moment, run by the All Party Parlimentaty Cycling Group. The enquiry is farily heavyweight, with represenatives from many areas. If you're on twitter you can follow them at @allpartycycling and follow comments using the #cyclesafe hashtag. The Times is running a good summary too.

Reading around the subject I think we need a real change in cycling provision to increase bike usage. The STACC comittee has recently responded to the county's Active Travel Strategy asking for: a default 20mph limit in urban areas, more continuous traffic-free cycle routes (provided if necessary by re-allocating roadspace)  and improved junctions.

In St Albans we need to re-address how roads are prioritised, which means looking at the domination of the car. This doesn't mean for a moment that STACC thinks cars should be banned, but that our environment should be changed so that cars are no longer the default choice for most people for local journeys. This is a sea change which will take a long time, but if the Parliamentary enquiry results in changes in the law on bike provision like Wales has done we'd have a good start.

Carlton Reid at BikeBiz reports : Sustran's Tony Russell told the MPs and peers that the number one and two requirements for getting more people cycling was high quality infrastructure on busy roads and getting speed limits reduced. It was important for cycle infrastructure to be designed for less experienced cyclists so segregation from motor traffic was key.  

Dave Horton's thinking on provision in the Guardian is useful.

1. If cycling conditions remain much as they are across Britain, cycling will remain a very minor mode of urban mobility, practised mainly by a committed hardcore of cyclists who feel able to "do battle" with motorised traffic, while being completely off-putting for "the normal", and vast, majority. Current conditions for cycling STOP Britain cycling.

2. A significant increase in levels of cycling requires a reversal in the balance of power between the car and the bicycle. Travel by car for short trips in urban areas must become more difficult, so that it starts to feel abnormal and exceptional. In contrast, policies must be put in place that make cycling easy, safe, comfortable, and accepted as the normal and obvious way of moving around urban areas for most people.

3. It is essential that the urban environment is made safe for cyclists. This requires provision on all arterial and other busy roads in urban areas of dedicated space for cycling, separated from both motorised traffic and pedestrians. It is clear from the research that most non-cyclists and recreational cyclists will only consider cycling regularly if they are separated from motorised traffic and that pedestrians are hostile to pavement cyclists.

4. There needs to be effective restrictions on traffic speeds, parking and access on all residential roads and other routes without dedicated cycle and pedestrian paths so that cyclists (and also pedestrians) feel that they have a safe and convenient environment in which to travel. This could include 20mph speed limits and resident-only access by car in some areas.

5. All provision for cycling should be predicated on people often needing and/or wanting to travel as a group. It is very rare indeed for people currently to feel able to cycle together in British cities, which is a significant barrier to cycling in general but family and child cycling in particular; this must change for cycling to become normal. Dedicated cycling provision must be designed for group rather than solo cycling, and where cycling shares space with motorised traffic cyclists should be given priority

Ride safe, ride often.

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