Saturday, 9 June 2012

Cunning plan of training to like sh*t

All things cycling work in a sort of tandem action, you'd have thought. It's not quite like that in the UK where a concerted effort is made to split and fracture the cycling community and even foster in-fighting. This is achieved by providing funding for only certain kinds of things thereby creating industries with vested interest and setting the scene for cock fights.

I am sure ministers bet on the outcomes and chuckle at the success of their cunning plan.

Both national groups dealing with cycling, Sustrans and the CTC, have been bought and herded into niches by being permitted partial power at government tables and restricted access to limited funds and grants. Both will probably find it very hard to get out of this tangled web of dull dependence if they tried.

What about the academic landscape? Research into barriers to walking and cycling is never really fully funded, or if so, findings are amply ignored: hotly debated, then ripped apart before getting discarded (sustainably re-cycled hopefully).

Followers follow, and we are again veering away from the real focus: "What's the magic ingredient that gets the UK cycling and walking?"

I for one would like cycleways rather than witnessing people getting trained to use the current crap. It's a question of vision of course, and confidence (to communicate that vision). Relying on cycle training is setting the bar too low. It can only be seen as something temporary. It's a coping mechanism, a skilful ploy by a government that hates the idea of making cycling available to everyone for fear of losing their chummy ties to the oil, petrol and automotive industry.

Only when we stop looking at cycling as an insider deal requiring special skill and attention, training and confidence-building, including outfit and equipment, will we have made in-roads into the fiercely blowing headwind of the 'everyday cycling opposition'.

When opening up cycling to everyone - only then will people cycle. And how do we do this?

As Colin Pooley puts it, despite it being complicated, and requiring national coordination...

Solutions to this conundrum are obvious but difficult to implement because they require integrated policy and extend well beyond the usual remit of transport policy and planning. It is argued that to achieve any significant increase in levels of walking and cycling it is necessary to reverse the balance of power between different transport modes. In short, it is necessary to make travel by car for short trips in urban areas more difficult and, most crucial, make it feel abnormal and exceptional. In contrast, policies have to be put in place that make walking and cycling easy, safe, comfortable, and accepted as the normal and obvious way of moving around urban areas for most people. We identify several specific areas where policy change is needed.

He then continues to outline what is important:

First, it is essential that the urban environment is made safe for cyclists and pedestrians. This requires the provision of fully segregated cycle routes on all arterial and other busy roads in urban areas. It is clear from the research that most non-cyclists and recreational cyclists will only consider cycling regularly if they are segregated from traffic and that pedestrians are hostile to pavement cyclists.

Followed by
2) better design of urban space
3) curbing motorised traffic space and speeds
4) putting fairness in the legal system
5) tackling spatial planning
6) incentivising sustainable travel
7) changing the image of walking and cycling

Full text here

When speaking about top priorities he's not talking about soft measures such as training and promotion much, is he? These will be background activities, with more pressing needs addressed foremostly. Of course, it'll take time. But at least the vision is there.

I am certain that in a few decades we'll look back and it'll all be so obvious.

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