In the UK the nature vs nurture debate would start here. Why a meagre 2% of all journeys are made by bike in the UK? I believe the answer entirely lies in nature... the nature of our roads, the way the space is divvied up and carefully designed. People react to their surroundings, and get (subliminal) messages of what the coded practice is. It is NOT a cultural thing, it's a inherently human thing.
In my hometown, space is so much clearer to read. It's inevitable. You feel you must use it. And others do, so you "follow".
|Wolfenbüttel - typical cycle path, grade-separated|
|Wolfenbüttel - cycle path on high street|
Besides the cycle paths on busy roads, as above examples for Wolfenbüttel (home of Jägermeister), my hometown's one-way streets are fitted with cycle-contraflows. Neighbourhoods are just that: places for people and you know it: parking space is broken up by trees and green build-outs, not every inch is eeked out for car parking akin to a boring and predictable production line in a factory. There are still plenty of cars (of course, Autostadt Braunschweig is nearly "owned" by Volkswagen). But the machine has been tamed by providing space for other ways of getting around too. It is a car city, not afraid of transport diversity. There are Fahrrad-Straßen too. And their network is expanding year on year.
But there are no cyclists in the UK! So transition is the key question.
You don't want to be the odd one out, you do as others do. Herd instinct. Again, people react to the surroundings. Who are we building these "new-fangled and innovative" paths for? It's people not yet currently cycling. People who now say "Too much traffic, too aggressive, there is no space for cycling". Because there's another difference: in my hometown granny and grandad cycle; kids bike to school together; and so many more women use the bicycle here for transport. People feel safe. You see very few helmets, an indicator for the little worry people have about their personal safety.
|Grandad taking kiddo for a ride|
So. Others have done it before. Cycle paths on busy roads opens up cycling to the whole population. I estimate it's a maximum of 30% of roads that are accompanied by cycle paths in my hometown. The others are dealt with by traffic calming and informal 'community enforcement' - where people live and play and they will feel a sense of belonging towards their street. Cycle paths in combination with bike-friendly junctions is important, as these follow the main arteries and primary routes, they are direct and don't send you 'round the houses.
The driver-turning-left concern. I can report there are no problems apart from that by its sheer nature it is a conflict point. Every junction is a danger spot, as routes are crossing. Again, it's clearly in the design. Corner build-outs for slower turning speeds, a clearly marked cycle path across the sidestreet and possibly combined with a speed bump. And I won't lecture you on appropriate junction design and traffic light phasing.
Some civil cycling courage is needed for the transition in the UK.
Fast cyclists (a minority in a cycling country, probably a majorty in the UK) may like to stick to the road. So listen up, CTC. One thing that Germany did get wrong was the "Radwegebenutzungspflicht". Let's learn from that too and not repeat it here. This is not to say cycle paths aren't required for the not-so-super-fast cyclist (ie the majority in a cycling country).
So, how are we hatching this chicken's egg in the UK? And don't say it's too wet for chicks.
|Braunschweig - side street with clearly marked cycle path|
|Braunschweig - crossing with clearly marked cycle path (elephant's feet)|
|Wolfenbüttel - crossing with clearly marked cycle path|