Cycling struggles, 5

The first four cycling struggles have been middle-class ones.

Britain’s urban middle classes are striving – though struggling and mainly failing – to incorporate cycling into their everyday lives. They know cycling is ‘a good thing’, and would like to ride.

Like Holly, whose story I told last time, many people have yet to take up (or return to) cycling. But others are learning to cycle in partial ways. Leisure cycling is the most common form of partial cycling, because it allows people to exert maximum control over their cycling conditions – riding when and where they please. The UK’s favourite cycling is thus sociably on sunny, summer Sundays, away from roads – conditions diametrically opposed to the monadic on-road cycling through smelly, dirty and noisy rush-hour congestion which various ‘authorities’ most want.

If the prospect of cycling for leisure has broad appeal, that of making ordinary journeys by bike does not. The British urban middle-class realises it ought to cycle for utility as well as pleasure but it can’t, because it’s scared to ride under prevailing conditions. In conversation, people typically first express this fear of cycling in vague and general terms. But probing reveals a set of specific anxieties, including but not limited to:

  • having to share roads with cars;
  • lack of respect towards cyclists among motorists;
  • apparently chaotic provision for cycling – with a widespread perception that specific cycling facilities often exist where they’re least needed, and disappear where they’re most needed;
  • being squeezed (and poor quality riding conditions in the gutter – debris, drains, broken glass etc);
  • excessive speed (both rule-abiding and rule-breaking) of motorised traffic;
  • the apparent vulnerability of those cyclists who do use the roads;
  • dangers presented by roundabouts and junctions; and
  • not being seen (especially after dark, and on fast roads with poor sight-lines).

Across the urban middle classes, then, utility cycling is regarded as something it is good but too hard to do. People realise the car has become king, with most drivers – including themselves – feeling entitled to drive when and where they please. In fact, many people feel they have no choice but to drive. Car use is today imposed on them, and cycling is not an option. Choice has been extinguished. People know this, though struggle with it. Jan from Leeds is an habitual driver; she says “I think my problem is that I’m really anti-heavy traffic, but I’m contributing towards it. It’s very hypocritical isn’t it?” Elisa, also from Leeds, notes what we all know – “to avoid the cars people get in their car.”

Cars run riot, and people can’t face the idea of ‘sharing space’ with them on a bicycle. But understandably, people feel powerless to change the situation they and their loved ones must daily confront – of car use run rampant and cycling discriminated against. So they muddle on. This is a key reason why many people drive even short urban journeys, and a key reason people support dedicated cycling provision.

But a caveat about method here – many people who participated in the Understanding Walking and Cycling research first responded to a questionnaire survey, and then agreed to take part in a follow-up encounter, either a face-to-face qualitatively oriented interview or a go-along (on foot or by bike). People taking these steps are likely to be suburban middle class, and above averagely positive about sustainable travel.

So unsurprisingly, ‘the suburban middle class’ perspective on cycling is not an universal one.

This cycling story and the next focus on experiences of and attitudes towards cycling which were harder to discover. In search of these perspectives, I and my colleague, the Flemish anthropologist Dr Griet Scheldeman, did ‘good, old-fashioned’ ethnography – we hung out, we spoke to people on the streets, in shops, pubs, cafes and at bus stops. We worked with schools, community workers and activists, health practitioners, and city council officers and elected members to find people who might talk to us, either individually or as part of a group. The people we met weren’t interested in our research, but our research was of course interested in them. It was often hard to get them to talk about cycling; it’s not the kind of thing people usually talk about. But we persevered, and I think produced some useful data.

Below I focus on cycling perspectives within a deprived inner-city area; and next time I’ll look at cycling perspectives from a non-white urban area; in other words, this story and the next begin to explore the relevance of class, ethnicity, and their intersections to understanding cycling.

5. A poor cycling story

This is a story of experiences of and attitudes to cycling on a deprived inner-city local authority housing (much of it high-rise) estate. It’s the kind of place which can be found in most British cities. Today it’s peopled by a mix of long-standing mainly white residents, and more recent immigrants from across the world, many of whom are seeking asylum.

The area has known ‘ordinary cycling’. Now in his eighties, Lance has lived in the area all his life; and in one of two tower blocks (the first was demolished) for fifty years. He’s a retired garage mechanic. He stopped cycling in “1965 I think. That’s a long time since isn’t it?” He got off his bike at the same time as the city as a whole climbed into its car – the Transport Ministers of the early- to mid-1960s, first Ernest Marples (Conservative) and then Barbara Castle (Labour), believed cities needed to be rebuilt around the car.

Inner ring roads simultaneously facilitated car use and inhibited cycling. Today people living here are literally surrounded by roads and cars – mostly of course other people’s cars, using roads which constrain rather than enable their own everyday mobilities.

What do people living here think about cycling?

The first thing to note is that, in contrast to the suburban middle classes who are relatively adept at thinking and talking about cycling, these inner-city residents hardly think about cycling, and have little to say about it. Awareness that cycling is being promoted is largely absent – most people here are still aspiring to climb into cars, not trying to climb out of them. (Car use here tends to be problematic in ways quite different from middle class suburbia: there, cars cause social and environmental problems and make people feel slightly guilty; here cars are problematic mainly at the individual level – because one cannot be financially afforded, or – if it can – because they are so expensive to run.)

Second, the bicycle is viewed as a toy much more than as a vehicle. Although for the children who ride one the bicycle can be an important means of moving around, the adult perspective is that it’s a play thing, not to be taken seriously.

Karen has lived in the area for almost 40 years. She cycled as a child:

Oh yeah, I loved it when we were kids. We used to go out on bikes riding all over. Oh yeah, them were the days”.

Why doesn’t she ride now?

Well to be perfectly honest it’s not something I’ve ever tried since. I’ve grown up and sort of left my bike back there.”

Cycling belongs to childhood. It’s something kids do. Many women we spoke to simply laughed at the idea that they might cycle; some of the younger white women said they would look (and feel) stupid riding a bike.

Third then, adult cycling is low status. Such cycling within the area falls into two separate categories, which quite effectively (if crudely) epitomise a class divide in British urban utility cycling.

In the one category are the commuters who can be seen in the morning and again in the early evening pedalling in and out of the city centre on the road running through the area. These cyclists tend to be male, to ride on the road rather than the pavement, and often to wear specific cycling gear, such as Lycra shorts, helmets and hi-viz bibs; to the residents of the inner-city which they ride through, they are ‘alien’.

In the other category are a few young and middle-aged non-white men who ride cheap mountain bikes on the pavements. Our overall sense is that in the absence of a car, and quite often working shift patterns which render public transport useless, a bicycle is a cheap and effective way for these men to move around. They tend to ride on the pavement because they perceive roads to be too dangerous and really only for cars.

But there’s also a localised perception that cycling is the drug dealer’s favoured mode of transport. Here’s another status barrier to cycling at the local level; such a perception, especially if it’s shared by the police, further stigmatises (almost criminalises) cycling.

Overall, we see that from a deprived inner-city perspective cycling becomes something ‘other people do’. Moreover, these ‘other people’ are not role-models; quite the contrary. And ‘negative encounters’ with cyclists – most likely as a pedestrian on the pavement – are likely to see cycling/cyclists constructed as a (very specific) ‘problem’ much more than as an (abstract) ‘solution’.

But for most of the day cycling is invisible on the inner-city streets. Originally from Jamaica, Lily has lived in the area for fifty years.

I don’t see any adults on bikes”, she says, “just kids”.

Lily figures that this is because “they can’t face the roads, going on the roads on a bicycle”.

Pavement cycling tends to be treated – even by pedestrians - as normal (if not, obviously, as desirable). Lily says,

it’s to do with the traffic; they’re safe on the pavement … They need some cycle lanes really. They’ve got a few lanes but I think they’re rubbish myself”.

Overall, in this part of the city cycling feels irrelevant. It’s low status and stigmatised. To cycle is not on most people’s agenda. This is understandable: people have more pressing issues to deal with than whether or not they should be thinking about cycling; many of the people we met, for example, were living with young children in high-rise flats with no heating and broken windows. But just because they don’t orientate to it doesn’t mean cycling is unimportant, only that it’s been made to be unimportant in these people’s daily lives.

Amini is originally from Morocco. She lived in the Netherlands for ten years, before coming to Britain, where she’s lived for eight years. In the Netherlands, she cycled regularly, but although she still has a bike, and so too do her children, she never cycles in Britain.

Everybody”, she says, “from Holland cycles. But the roads there are not like here. There you have got special roads for the cycle. Here you haven’t got always the cycle path. That’s why I can’t do it here. But I did do it a lot in Holland.” Her children “use [their bicycles] just in the playground, because it’s not safe for them to take them on the [road] here”.

There’s nothing inevitable about people living here not cycling. There are reasons why they don’t cycle. Lack of provision is important: people see the roads as unfit for cycling; and there’s a lack of residential cycle parking. But the barriers are cultural as much as infrastructural – to cycle here is to communicate something negative about yourself. To cycle is to be an embarrassment.

There are important issues of justice and equity here. Increasingly people with cars are cycling, but people without cars are not – the car-less are not sick of the car, so much as sick of other people’s cars. These cars – used by people who like to drive into the country and hop onto their bikes on sunny summer Sundays – form a powerful barrier to inner-city cycling by the car-less who live there; the domination of inner-city space by other people’s cars makes it both hard and unusual to cycle in the city.

I got angry seeing people effectively marooned (especially after dark, when many are afraid to go outside) in a sea of other people’s cars. Surrounded by those cars, from which here there’s no escape, no suburban retreat, they have of course come to feel ‘normal’ in precisely the same way that the bicycle has disappeared from view and come to feel ‘abnormal’. The powerful ways in which a culture of car use – even when that’s other people’s car use – as normal has co-constituted a culture of cycling as abnormal was a consistent theme across our fieldwork. In re-making our cities for cycling we must be sure to think not only of those we’re keen to get out of cars, but also those whom the car has left behind.

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76 Responses to “Cycling struggles, 5”

  1. samsaundersbristol Says:

    More important insights here. I used to cycle around streets like those in my lunch break sometimes. Pretty bleak. One sub-group you haven’t mentioned are the young men who occasionally steal bikes from the University campus and ride quickly down the hill before CCTV and security staff can get to them. Cycling as an escape tool that can be sold on…

  2. Pedro Stephano Says:

    Brillian article. I undertake to RT this this ad lib :-)

  3. Simon Says:

    Very interesting themes here. The inner-city poor are people who would benefit hugely from the safe and cheap transport option that cycling provides. I live in Hackney, and your description of young guys on cheap mountain bikes on the pavement is spot on.

    Plus also very interesting as I’ll know that if I need to score some drugs then I should ask the guys cycling on the pavement. (Actually I hope that this doesn’t filter through to the Daily Mail-reading public. Surely drug-dealing is the only way that pavement cyclists could make themselves more hated.)

  4. Myriadgreen Says:

    Very interesting! I note you say that regular cyclists are frequently male, lycra clad and have all the kit, so to speak. Do you know if any research has ever been done in to why female cyclists, who apart from gender fit into that category, ride their bikes? There’s a lot of research into why women do not (helmet hair, safety) but I’ve seen nothing about what makes some women overcome these barriers (personally I’ve got very short hair so that doesn’t seem to matter and so far I’ve bounced off the one car that hit me with no real injury).

    That comment about the blokes who ride on the pavement at odd hours due to lack of bus provision really makes sense – I often see these kind of people, knees akimbo, on their inevitably cheap and squeaky mountain bikes on the pavement.

    • Dave Horton Says:

      There’s a lot of recent research which foregrounds gender in cycling (something which research in which I’ve been involved hasn’t ever specifically set out to do). For the UK, you could start by checking out the Cycling Cultures project, led by Rachel Aldred (http://www.cyclingcultures.org.uk/). There’s US-based research as well – some more ‘edgy’ (and interesting, done by PhD students often) than others (much of which is typical – and in my opinion rather lacking in politics – ‘transport studies’ type stuff; I’m aware I’m getting into the complexities of research around transport and mobility here – suffice to say, if you want to follow anything up in more detail, drop me an email at thinkingaboutycling at gmail dot com).

      Off the top of my head, I’d say that the less hospitable the conditions are for cycling, the lower the proportion of women who cycle. Unlike many recent commentators, I don’t think this has anything to do with women being somehow ‘innately’ or ‘essentially’ more risk-averse than men (and sociology as a discipline finds such ‘essentialising’ rather embarrassing these days); it has more to do with a ‘macho’ culture which has (understandably) developed around UK utility cycling, and in which different kinds of people (for many reasons, ranging from how many people depend on their staying alive, to how ‘enjoyable’ they find ‘mixing it’ with lethal metal objects) will find variously attractive, tolerable, and off-putting.

      I think this potentially erodes the power of gender as an explanatory variable for cycling a little bit, forcing us to examine the situation more widely? Clearly women do ride, and I think very often for similar reasons to men. But whereas a small minority of people (mainly men) seem almost to thrive on the difficult conditions for urban utility cycling which prevail in today’s UK (a future ‘Cycling struggle’ will examine one or two of these people’s cycling), the big majority of people (both men and women) don’t.

      I’m aware I’ve not really answered your question though – sorry!

      Best wishes
      Dave

  5. Tim Says:

    Going through your anxieties list:

    1, 6, 7, and 8 are all pretty much the same thing (with various levels of specificity).

    2 and 5 wouldn’t matter if it weren’t for 1.

    And I would suggest they are all (including 4, which I haven’t mentioned yet) basically because of 3.

    ie A lack of decent provision for cycling is the root cause here.

    So, back to the Netherlands.

  6. Stephanie Says:

    I’m a female type of person who used to cycle so much that walking felt weird. It was my only transportation as I don’t drive and tried to avoid paying for taxis or public transport. But I lived in Cambridge, where in the city centre traffic is restricted, most people cycle, drivers are aware of us, and the size of the ‘peloton’ commuting each morning is enough to dominate the lane. Cars are submissive to bikes, in the city centre, so there isn’t a need for bike lanes or special safety engineering – it is sheer numbers of cyclists (and tiny medieval lanes) that make it a good cycling city. But I haven’t really cycled for three years, however; because I moved to London and had a child. There is no way I could carry my son on my bike – I would be totally petrified. I’ve been knocked down by enough drivers (always totally their fault) to make it impossible. Ironically one of the cycle highways in south London would take me door to door in the mornings, but there’s no way I’m going to use it.

  7. Anna Says:

    looking at those high rise blocks, other reasons for not cycling if that’s where you live might include nowhere safe to store your bike, the hassle therefore of taking it up stairs when the lift is (usually) broken, the possibility of theft anyway (including mugging), bike insurance is expensive (and insurance requires the purchase of expensive locks), plus if you are worrying about what to put on the table, bikes are expensive in themselves. Even a £100 Halfords bike is a lot if you are on a reduced income.
    The poor are always with us, there are rural poor as well as urban. People are often poor because they do manual or physically demanding jobs with early starts and finishes. Leaping on your bike at the end of a tiring day lifting, carrying, standing etc may be a different prospect to someone who has been sitting at a desk all day.
    Areas of deprivation are associated with higher crime rates and in a car you can lock the doors, being on a bike you are much more vulnerable as you say.
    This line of investigation is a bit like the ground trodden by the National Trust a few years back when they stopped to think about the fact that only the white, middle classes seem to visit their properties. Not sure where they came out on that.
    I gather NICE came out today and said cycling and walking should become the norm for short journeys and ‘councils should look to introduce bicycle-hire schemes, car-free events and better cycle-route signalling and maps’. The report on the BBC website drew nearly 1000 comments last time I looked and many, if not most, of them were about safety and road conditions.
    Away from theorising and ‘on the ground’ surely the answer has to be to directly address the situation by schemes like Sustrans Travel Smart which go into areas of deprivation and work with individuals to look at their travel options and how these might be changed. And on the question of embarrassing essentialism, I am interested then to know whether you would think Sustrans research on the question of women and cycling which has resulted in a number of intiatives by them to address the issue of fewer women cycling, is somehow wrong headed or to be ignored? Their publication Bike Belles http://www.sustrans.org.uk/assets/files/BikeBelles_for_women_who_want_to_cycle_Feb_2010.pdf
    aimed at women and specifically including images of women of all kinds and ethnicity surely attempts to promote cycling to those who might not be the natural ‘market’.
    My background is working class and I teach a number of classes in deprived areas and I suspect that simply providing better facilities will not necessarily change attitudes which are often very different indeed from middle class norms. (I hate to bring in gender again but I can think of one husband who refused to let his wife join us in cycle training because ‘he wanted her at home’. Men who are working class and/or in ethnic groups often have different ideas about what women should do and think they can set the agenda.) I can also think of a couple of little Asian girls who joined us on some cycle training. They had barely ever been on bikes and they didn’t really stand a chance given the short duration of the course. They both ‘failed’ the test and I was really upset on their behalf and thought that probably this would result in their family feeling even more that cycling was not for them.
    It’s a dual problem, isn’t it – getting ‘in there’ and changing attitudes and/or finding a way of either changing the car-driven environment or persuading people that they can negotiate it after all.
    Are you going to try looking at kids attitudes too? Cycle training is a real eye opener to general attitudes towards cycling. Cycling organisations are working at getting more kids out on bikes and schemes like Bikeability are so much about looking after yourself on the road, they give confidence in a way the old cycling proficiency never did.
    Thanks for the opportunity to spend a bit of time thinking about these issues, very interesting.

    • Dave Horton Says:

      Thanks Ann – wow, there’s so much there I don’t know where to begin! Thanks, all great points, and very interesting. I’ll try, briefly, to answer the two specific questions you ask:

      1. No, I don’t think schemes which specifically target women are wrong-headed. I think we need all kinds of schemes targeting all kinds of groups; the more the better. But I also think any scheme designed to get different groups onto bikes will become more successful (as well of course as themselves contributing to) the more ‘normalised’ cycling becomes. And there’s much more general work to be done (especially in terms of political support and funding for cycling), in order to normalise cycling. (We could get into a debate here as to what ‘norms’ mean – norms are always some people’s more than others; but I think the general point is reasonably clear and uncontentious.)

      2. Kids’ cycling. Yes, I’m planning to look at one ‘cycling family’, which includes two children, in a future post (hopefully before Christmas). I’ve just put up an article, ‘Towards a Cycling Revolution’, which says a bit about my general attitude towards cycle training. Basically, I think it’s an indispensable part of a bicycle system, but by itself (in the absence of a bicycle system), it just can’t do the kind of work (getting a generation onto bikes) which we expect it to, or at least hope it can. I also think there are some important ethical and political questions which have gone unasked around especially child cycle training, concerned with attribution of agency and responsibility for challenging and changing the dominant transport order. The personal, professional and political intersect in an intimate way for me, here – and I’ll write my own ‘cycling struggle’ (as someone who tries to be a responsible, self-reflexive sociologist ;-) at the end of this series, both to set down where I am in my own life (and my own children’s lives), but also to help people reading and interpreting what I say to see more clearly how/where I am (presently) situated.

      All the best
      Dave

  8. Mick Mack Says:

    Yeah, sorry mate, but all of this has been known for a very long time by cycling campaign groups all over the country. We don’t need to be told yet again about the barriers to cycling or even what the solutions might be, these we know as well; what we need is people pressing the solutions into practise and Kerbing – pun intended – the car and the automotive and petro-chemical lobbyists.

    • Dave Horton Says:

      Well mate, the thing about it is … ‘-) Let’s just keep on doing what we’ve been doing, and then in thirty years time – when we’re in even more of a state than we are already – we can tell people there are loads of reasons why they should cycle, and feel optimistic that finally politicians are beginning to get the idea, and on and on we’ll go, with cycling always a good idea which is always on the periphery of car-centric and eco-cidal societies. Many of the organisations purportedly promoting cycling have lost their ambition – they’ve been recuperated by oil-addicted capitalism. We need to become bolder, much more ambitious in what we’re demanding. Such ambition demands evidence – evidence that if we keep doing as we’ve been doing nothing much is going to change; and evidence that the way to get change (modal shift from the car to the bicycle) is to start doing a great deal more than we’ve been so far doing. So this is not about more talking, and feeling sorry for ourselves, but also smug that we were right that the world will never change. It’s about trying to stretch and redefine debate, so that cycling finally has a real chance of playing a part in people’s lives, and in the future of a sustainable planet. Thought without action is irresponsible, but so is action without thought ..
      Cheers
      Dave

  9. carmarthenbaywatcher Says:

    The bike, as a solution to Transport Poverty will only work if people can be persuaded that it IS the solution! Sadly our society has encouraged a different set of aspirational values resulting in the idea that car ownership and usage is the only way to travel. This was put very succinctly to me by a fellow utility cyclist – “you could be riding a £3000 carbon fibre bike but the 17 year old in a £200 banger still thinks he’s better than you!”.

    The idea that a lack of infrastructure is the only thing putting people off cycling and that all we need is the political will to change things completely ignores the fact that people have been “conditioned” for the past 50 years to burn petrol in order to move. They won’t admit it but they’ve been brainwashed!

    • Dave Horton Says:

      Yep, it’s taken fifty years for the UK to become a car-centric society. It’ll take fifty years to turn it to a bike-centric one, more if we hang around, less if we get a move on. So what are we waiting for? Do something now!

      • Tim Says:

        I always think about how long it took the Dutch to get to the level they are at, but they did it without the benefit of the Dutch just over the channel setting a good example.

        Surely we could get to where they are now within a decade, IF (huge if) we could get the political will and the motivation.

        Of course, it’s worth recognising that the initial political will in the Netherlands was seriously motivated by the hugely emotive “stop the child murder” campaign, rather than well evidenced economic arguments etc. And even then it was close – I read about one Dutch cross-city motorway which lost approval by one vote?

        I think we know personal safety – especially child safety – is a big motivator and this is why we find ourselves saying “Actually cycling’s statistically safe, you should try it, but of course we need better infrastructure because it’s too dangerous – look at all these deaths!”. Weird as it sounds this does make sense – better infrastructure could encourage cycling across all demographics (particularly the more vulnerable) at the same time as making it safer. What’s not to like?

      • carmarthenbaywatcher Says:

        Dave, I am campaigning for the infrastructure – I’m a founding member of the Cycling Embassy but somehow we need to de-stigmatise and de-mystify cycling – especially in the eyes of the Beeb etc – we need to be seen as “normal” and at the moment I don’t think we are. Comments like “did you really cycle here?” when I arrive at a meeting 2 or 3 miles away illustrate this.

      • Dave Horton Says:

        I absolutely agree with you, but I also think that ‘normalisation’ is a process, and one which is won (or lost) through social and political struggle. It requires hard, unrelenting cultural work (the Dutch know this; Mikael Colville-Andersen at Copenhagenize knows this). The currently shifting contours of ‘the cycling debate’, although this debate will always involve some ‘wins’ and some ‘losses’, provides I think tentative grounds for optimism.
        Cheers
        Dave

  10. John Stewart Says:

    As someone who is always trying to improve the image of cyclists in the public at large, I despair at the widespread law breaking by cyclists and the toleration of it as evidenced in this article and the comments on it. Cycling on the footway is illegal and there is no excuse. One cannot claim concern for one’s own safety as a reason for putting that of others at risk. The problem will stop only when the police are empowered to confiscate the cycles and crush them in front of the rider. if the cycle has been borrowed from a mate, hard luck, they will have to sort that out between themselves.

    Has anyone tried to ascertain why, amongst young men, it is the local hard men who have such an apparent fear of cycling on the carriageway whilst the more normally behaved are more likely to abide by the law? I suggest that it has nothing to do with fear of traffic; it is because the people concerned don’t care about observing any law they don’t like and breaking the law on a bike is just part of their normal lifestyle.

    Once illegal riding has been beaten out of cyclists we shall have rather more right to campaign for better facilities and consideration.

    • Mick Mack Says:

      This is a pretty thin attempt to turn the problem of an automotive-centric traffic system into a problem about people riding bicycles on pavements.

      1. When there’s a traffic system that helps cyclists to feel safe on the road – unlikely anytime soon – then we’ll use it – which I do always by the way, unless there’s pavement space designated for shared use.
      2. I don’t know what the stats are precisely, but I feel very confident that the number of people killed in automotive crashes here and around the world, every day, far exceed those killed by cyclists globally for the past 50 years and more – i.e. stop harping on about a perceived threat when there are 10′s of thousands actually being killed by cars on a daily basis.
      3 Let’s hear your solutions for achieving the above instead of whingeing about minor issues that don’t address the problem.
      4. Do you work for the AA ,RAC, BP or Shell?

    • carmarthenbaywatcher Says:

      John, re the bicycle crushing, whilst I agree that the police should “police” better, I will only agree to the crushing of bikes when drivers on mobile phones get their phones crushed or drivers who drive onto pavements also get their cars crushed – this latter solution would go a long way to stop the pavement parking that forces pedestrians with buggies, people on mobility scooters and so on into the road. I suspect your blind friend would also have a lot to say if he was continually being tripped up by cars obstructing the footway.

      I could also take issue with dog walkers who fail to keep their dogs under control on shared use paths despite a legal requirement (normally enshrined in a local by-law) to do so but I’m sure you see my point – there are plenty of people who frequently break the law but for some reason it’s only cyclists who seem to cause such extreme reactions.

      It is worth pointing out the number of people killed by cyclists / cars:-

      Pedestrian casualties 2001-09
      Killed by cycles: 18
      Seriously injured by cycles: 434
      Killed by cars: 3,495
      Seriously injured by cars: 46,245

      So whilst pavement cycling is an issue, I believe that it is the very fact that so few people are killed or injured that makes it newsworthy – the old “Man bites dog!” story. Maybe we should start by targeting the real killers!

    • Mark Says:

      Small incident I noticed today while driving (yes I know the shame ;) )
      On the A65 as it approaches a particularly badly designed traffic light interchange (a sort of roundabout thing)
      The painted cycle lane, moves on to the pavement for 20 yards as the road divides into two lanes…then dumps the cyclist back into an advanced stop box.
      A young lad (guess about mid teens) took the obvious decision to remain on the path…coming towards him is an elderly lady with shopping, and the path narrows.
      The lad waits allowing woman to pass, she smiles and says thank you (yeas I did watch out of interest).
      In Johns book, the lad’s bike should have been crushed because he was breaking the law.

      I think anyone else would think that with the right attitude, there is scope to share facilities between both pedestrians & cyclists and Motor traffic & cyclists…

      ..also our village car park is plagues by “boy racers” on an evening, I will write to my MP explaining that until this illegality is sorted out, all planning for road development in West Yorkshire should be put on hold ;)

      • Dave Horton Says:

        Thanks Mark, whoever we are, we seem to notice anti-social behaviour much more readily than social behaviour, eh?

        I think some of this is due to how vulnerable you feel. I’m fairly sure that a woman or a black man will *tend* to feel more nervous walking through a white, working-class estate than will a white man (although he too might feel nervous).

        Similarly, when I’m out riding – because I am relatively vulnerable – I tend to feel threatened by the occasional instance of anti-social driving, and such driving stays with me long after the vast majority of social driving, to which I’m also exposed (and for which I am thankful, and try visibly to acknowledge, by raising my hand off the handlebar), has disappeared from memory.

        And similarly again, the person who feels vulnerable on the pavements is likely to notice the occasional (or more than occasional, in some places) person cycling on the pavement in a potentially reckless manner, rather than the (I assume) majority of pavement cyclists who are making themselves less visible, less noticeable, less notable, less problematic, by cycling (and stopping cycling) in more social ways.

        I strongly agree with, I think it was Tim, when he said that proper provision for cycling will enable ‘anti-social’ cycling, should any remain, to be noticed and dealt with. Currently, all pavement cycling tends often to be lumped together as ‘irresponsible cycling’; whereas (and most police forces know this) there’s a big difference between respectable (and respectful) pavement cycling (the vast majority – although there’s always room for improvement, particularly in recognising how vulnerable and/or threatened people can feel even by such respectable cycling), and disreputable, disrespectful pavement cycling.

        The real shame is in 1) how ever-so-slightly unruly cycling is labelled ‘deviant’; whilst 2) motoring, *even when it’s rule-abiding* is so horribly anti-social, so antithetical to civilised urban life, yet barely/rarely labelled ‘deviant’ because it’s become so absolutely taken-for-granted, and passes largely unnoticed.

        Cheers
        Dave

    • Simon Says:

      Until the police crush every car that speeds, which are actually likely to kill or injure someone, then crushing bikes for pavement cycling does seem a bit disproportionate.

      • Tim Says:

        When I posted the other day I was looking for the unusually sensible Home Office guidance which was issued when fixed penalty notices for pavement cycling were introduced in 1999. I just found it.

        At the time Home Office Minister Paul Boateng issued a letter stating that “The introduction of the fixed penalty is not aimed at responsible cyclists who sometimes feel obliged to use the pavement out of fear of traffic and who show consideration to other pavement users when doing so. Chief police officers, who are responsible for enforcement, acknowledge that many cyclists, particularly children and young people, are afraid to cycle on the road, sensitivity and careful use of police discretion is required.”

        It would appear this guidance is often ignored by some forces.

  11. Roman Steven Toczyski Says:

    A well presented argument, I was a regular cyclist until recently, however, 8 “knock downs” one near terminal, caused by unfocussed, inattentive drivers has finally convinced me that I should forsake utility and commuting cycling if I want to continue living. The provision for cycling in the UK is shameful and sadly there’s little if any real political will to change this especially when there exists such a powerful motorised transport lobby to contend with. I lived and worked in the Netherlands and Denmark for a number of years the provision in these countries is an inspiration. The cyclist is way down the food chain in this class riven society of ours. What a shame to ignore the opportunity to provide an envigourating and liberating mode of transport to the UK population, a population more concerned with the amassing of stuff than actually enjoying this one and only life. A sad indictment.

  12. Susan Says:

    I wish you would not make excuses for pavement cyclists. I live in an East London borough and have got around by walking and using public transport for my whole life.

    I live on a main road and it is no longer possible to take even the shortest walk without being passed by several pavement cyclist, nearly everyone an adult man. I see the same men coming back from the shops with carrier bags on their handle bars – they are not working unsocial hours but just going about their daily lives the same as I am, except that I am not putting other people at risk.

    Many of my neighbours are elderly and are very afraid of pavement cyclists; one, who is nearly 90 and was knocked flat by a cyclists shooting across a zebra crossing, has turned from a confident person into a nervous anxious one. Others have been hit in less dramatic ways but a fractured hand is not nothing for an old person, or anyone else for that matter.

    None of my neighbours “accept” pavement cyclists. All of them loathe and fear them as most try to ride at road speeds on narrow pavement, weaving in and out of pedestrians, with little regard for their safety or state of mind. It shocks you to have a cyclist whizz by a few inches from you from behind with no warning.

    A friend who is blind has been hit by these horrible people three times and when I told one he should be in the road – a barely used service road runs in front of our flat, I was threatened and sworn at. This is the experience of more pedestrians than you might want to believe. We don’t accept it – we have just been bullied into saying nothing.

    • Dave Horton Says:

      Thanks Susan – please read ‘Cycling struggles, 7: a pavement cycling story’ when I’ve published it, which will I hope be at the end of next week (14th December). It’s your comments which have inspired me to write it.

      As I’ve already said in a previous comment, I want to take a step back from the ‘stress on the streets’ which you experience and feel, and which I utterly accept. I am seeking to understand and explain pavement cycling; in doing so, I am seeking neither to excuse nor to persecute pavement cyclists (although I can see that both excusing them and persecuting them are, depending on where you’re standing, understandable responses in the current climate). Pavement cycling is a fact. It is also clearly problematic for pedestrians; it is also problematic for the cyclists themselves (the big majority know, in my experience, that they are somehow ‘out of place’).

      There’s a predicament at the heart of pavement cycling. As you know, cycling is currently being promoted big time. But most people don’t want to ride on the roads – those roads are seen as too dangerous. So if we crack down on pavement cycling, we crack down on cycling. But cycling is much more civil, all told, than driving in cities.

      So the thing we most need is a structural solution. Certainly on the bigger and busier urban roads, the kind of road on which by the sound of it you live, we need space for cycling which is away from both cars and pedestrians.

      People who dislike pavement cycling can play a big part in getting this kind of provision for cycling. What I would like to see, then, is a re-shaping of ‘the pedestrian cry’, away from ‘get cyclists off the pavements’ and towards ‘give pavement cyclists somewhere safe to go’.

      If we create improved conditions for cycling, the kind of conditions through which I’d be happy for my kids to ride, then I think the police would find it much easier to challenge the kinds of riding which cause so many problems today, because they’d more obviously have ‘common sense’ on their side.

      Thanks so much for ‘beating the bullies’ and being prepared to say something! I’m fairly sure that these comments won’t have convinced you, but I hope they’ve at least whetted your appetite to come back here and read more in a couple of weeks time.

      Best wishes
      Dave

      • Tim Says:

        Mr H. In case you’re interested I’ll put my hand up and enter the pavement cycling confessional.

        Location:
        http://goo.gl/maps/RuSYt

        Princess Road is a busy dual carriageway not too far from me. The speed limit varies between 30 and 40, although the traffic is often faster between the traffic-lights. In 1962 there were plans to turn it into a motorway, but they never materialised. The pavements are generally deserted except for parked cars, despite it being residential with the odd group of shops and bus stops all the way along.

        Also, it does have some on-pavement cycle path in some sections but the signage is very unclear and the paint is worn in many places.

        It’s by far the most direct route to a park a few miles away which I sometimes take my four year old daughter to using a child seat.

        So should I ride in the road or head onto the pedestrian-free pavement, taking great care to slow\stop\dismount if I see a pedestrian and hoping that I’m not breaking the law in too many places?

        Without my daughter I have occasionally cycled in the carriageway, but I’ll be honest, it gives me the willies. When lorries come past in pairs, there’s no spare room for me or the lorry to get out of the way.

        But as you’ve seen I have no time for the kind of pavement cyclists Susan describes, so it saddens me to think her neighbours might “loathe and fear” me for trying to get my daughter to the park safely. Walking would take too long, and it seems a shame to have to get the car out, but other less busy routes are really circuitous.

        I guess my point is that in the same way it’s unfair to punish all cyclists for the pavement hooligans, it’s overly simplistic to lump all pavement cyclists in together. Or maybe other commenters will feel I’m just making excuses for my bad behaviour?

        All that said, you make a good point about cyclists needing to recognise how intimidated vulnerable pedestrians can feel in the presence of a cyclist, perhaps coloured by previous bad experiences. It’s easy to underestimate. Early on Saturday morning in an unfamiliar part of town I realised I’d made a wrong turn. I pulled off the (relatively busy) road onto the (less busy) pavement to check where I was and then dismounted and walked along the pavement towards the junction. A lone woman who had been quite some 20 metres away when I got off thanked me as we passed each other – which was nice of her but a bit weird because I had no intention of cycling past her.

      • Dave Horton Says:

        Thanks very much Tim, that’s a great (almost textbook!) example of the kind of pavement cycling which I would imagine almost everyone can see is understandable, sensible, and responsible. (Though I hasten to add, you are very much not alone – everywhere I’ve studied cycling ethnographically, the kind of pavement cycling you do, and your reasons for it, are widespread.)

        But it just beggars belief that you should have to be put into the situation at all, doesn’t it? (How serious are we about promoting cycling, when people such as yourself can be made to feel as if you’re persecuting pedestrians; and many of those pedestrians feel persecuted by cyclists?)

        From the photo, the road looks to me like a perfect candidate for re-thinking and re-designing, to make much more pedestrian and bike-friendly, and much more convivial for all. Is that, or has it ever been, on the cards?

        Thanks for the evidence; the base is building!

        All the best
        Dave

  13. Gary Dawes (@gazza_d) Says:

    I see lots of pavements cyclists on the estate I live which was council & now mixed council/private

    There are several factors which I think “encourage” pavement cycling, and in no particular order of importance are:

    1. People riding bikes though shortcuts between streets, often just stay on the pavement as there is nothing telling them not to, such as signs or dropped kerbs, so they just naturally stay on the path.

    2. There is a “fear” or desire to keep away from the cars as you often get cars & motorbikes (usually illegal) speeding around.

    3. These people don’t see themselves as part of the “car culture” associating with pedestrians more, and are of a mindset that as they don’t have a car then they don’t belong on the road.

    I don’t think that 1 & 3 will ever reduce, in fact with councils introducing more shared use paths, people will have an even greater perception that pavement cycling is legal. Strong enforcement, including crushing or impounding bikes, is way too strong, unless cars which park on pavements, skips, building materials are also tackled with the same level of punishment.

    the first point could be reduced by better infrastructure, conveniently positioned dropped kerbs, signage, and enforcement of parking to ensure that the junction points are not blocked by drivers

    Cars parking on pavements are much more of an issue here, often you would struggle to get a wheelchair or pram past.

    20mph zones will(should) make local estate roads much safer, but do need strong enforcement where necessary to change attitudes and slow drivers down.

    • ann furtado Says:

      Yesterday I was driving back into Oxford and was queued behind 3 cars at a junction controlled by lights. On the other side of the lights the left hand carriageway is divided into two with the left hand lane becoming a bus lane which can also be used by taxis and cyclists and the adjacent pavement has been divided into a shared cycleway/footpath.
      As we waited at the lights, a cyclist came up the left and pulled in front of the cars. He had no lights and it was dusk though not yet pitch black. As the lights changed, the cyclist pulled away in front and maintained a primary position. I expected him to pull over into the bus lane once that was available but no, he stayed cycling towards the centre of the traffic lane and he maintained this position until about half way down the half mile long road, when he suddenly switched to the pavement. He did the latter without warning or signalling or checking over either shoulder, I noticed.
      I was interested in his cycling for a number of reasons, just leaving out the question of not being particularly visible, I initially wondered if he was being very correct and taking up the DfT recommended primary position for cyclists where traffic speed allows, then I wondered if he was foreign, so unable to understand the rules of the road and I also noticed the patient behaviour of the drivers in front who all stayed back without angry behaviour of any kind, then pulled ahead when he moved out of the way.
      Cyclists like to regale other cyclists with tales of drivers carving us up or nearly mowing us down but for every incident like that, it is also possible to see drivers trying to understand what the cyclist is doing, making allowances and giving way.
      Civil societies continue to function broadly because there are agreed rules which, for the most part, we all abide by. Cycles are vehicles and you can’t drive a vehicle on British roads without taking a test which involves you in learning a few rules about how to behave. I don’t see any reason that cyclists should not obey rules too and those who blatantly flout the rules just wind everyone else up. I get really annoyed as a cyclist when, for instance and as happened recently, two cyclists pull across from the other side of the road through both lanes of traffic and pull in front of me without looking or noticing that I am there too, another cyclist, and I have to brake hastily to let them in (they were emerging from a side road).
      Some of us are keener rule followers than others, and the world needs all sorts. I feel that as cyclists we should be paying attention to this kind of issue because the extent to which other road and pavement users are being upset and frightened by the behaviour of some, helps no one. I am actually increasingly annoyed about cyclists riding on the pavement, coming up silently behind and passing too close, often too fast. Segregated tracks without markings can actually create another problem where those who don’t drive tend not to automatically move to the left to pass each other and so you get wobbles and even collisions sometimes because indecision arises and neither of you is sure, in time, which way to move to avoid each other.
      I find myself having every sympathy with frightened pedestrians and I honestly think that homicidal motorists are the minority rather than the majority. I don’t know how we might go forward on this but I do think that it is going to get worse if the number of cyclists increases as is hoped and planned for. Maybe enforcement of the rules would help but as the police force reduces in number, I’m not sure how we are going to achieve that.

      • Mick Mack Says:

        So Let me ask you Ms Furtado:
        Was the life of any individual at any moment in this whole process in the slightest physical danger, except perhaps the cyclist himself?
        If not, is it that perchance the cyclist caused the motorists behind to have to go a little slower along this stretch of the road than they would normally do? If so, perhaps this is a good thing.

        I often take up the middle of a lane when necessary as CAR DRIVERS cannot be trusted to drive carefully without endangering my life and I will continue to do so as long as I deem it necessary and those like yourself who somehow believe that just the very fact that you are driving a car entitles you to have priority on the road will be shown the contempt they deserve.

        I’m a professional cyclist in Bristol and I’m sick and tired of the ignorance and arrogance of motorists of all descriptions. From my perspective the motorists who behave in this way get what they deserve.

      • ann furtado Says:

        I don’t think that I have any priority on the roads when I am driving a car and in fact the situation I described shows the drivers actually giving the cyclist priority!! However, when there is a wide bus lane with no buses in it, it was actually quite peculiar to be taking up the main lane. The fact that he had no lights and was not that visible was peculiar too, why is it ok for cyclists not to have lights? In order that we all get around as best we can in a crowded world, it helps if ALL of us do our best not to hinder others. The cyclist who couldn’t care less about a motorist or pedestrian is just creating the world that he then rages about. What you choose to notice becomes your reality.
        I don’t know what a ‘professional’ cyclist is, unless MickMack is Bradley Wiggins. I’m all for slower speeds but can that be the case for cyclists too so that when I walk down the street and a cyclist passes me, on the pavement, can they cycle at 2mph and not 20 mph? That way, if I happen to step sideways I won’t end up on the floor. Why should there be a difference?
        Untold damage was done to the case for shared pavements when a cyclist knocked down a blind person outside of some RNIB premises and said aggressively to the blind person ‘that’ll teach you to look where you’re going’.
        This is a peculiarly aggressive nation, why do we think it is ok to attack each other endlessly and take up battle stations from which there is no negotiation. Thank goodness we don’t have guns available.

      • Mick Mack Says:

        “This is a peculiarly aggressive nation, why do we think it is ok to attack each other endlessly and take up battle stations from which there is no negotiation. Thank goodness we don’t have guns available.”

        This is NOT a peculiarly aggressive nation, unfortunately. And in case you haven’t noticed the state does have guns and uses them continuously. We are as aggressive as most other nations, especially those whose dominant economic system is Capitalism, as it is integral to it, as can be evidenced by 350 years of slaughter and mayhem all over the world, which continues to this day. And if it is OK for governments to bomb millions of people into submission with impunity, surely it is OK for a few people to become aggressive if they missed a red light. The irrationality is of a kind and is hardly surprising.

        A solution? Get rid of the Economic Imperative that drives us all to disaster.

      • Mark Reilly Says:

        Ann,
        I will not defend a cyclist without lights, or anti-social cycling on a pavement (although sharing is a possible way forward) in the same way as I’m sure you do not defend the chap who drunk without insurance the wronh way down the M62 killing a young woman…

        However your reply to Mick does show that you do feel you have an entitlement. It appears that the cyclist’s crime (lights apart) was going slower than a car could have on that stretch of road, holding you up for a few seconds or even minutes. You don’t mention how long it would have been until the traffic slowed again, in my experience I often catch up motorists who think it is life of death (mine obviously) that they get ahead of me. I don’t suppose you have been on “thinking about white vans” or “thinking about buses” or “thinking about parking” complaining about the time you have spent being held up by other road users.

        Also you comments about tests, you have this the wrong way around. You don’t need a test to use the road, people managed from the dawn of history until 1935 without one. You need a test to use a Motor Vehicle because their use is dangerous to you and other people. So the regulation applies to your vehicle not the road, in the same way as cyclists, horses and pedestrians are not covered by speed limits.

      • Anna Says:

        for god’s sake, I have cycled for the last 30 years quite seriously, club rides, overseas tours, I’ve cycle trained in schools, I have done the National Standards Training. I LIKE WATCHING PEOPLE AND WHAT THEY DO. I THINK PEOPLE ARE EQUAL AND I THINK WE ALL HAVE RIGHTS, CAR DRIVERS AND PEDESTRIANS INCLUDED. THE ROADS ARE SHARED. I AM A CYCLIST AND A PEDESTRIAN AND A DRIVER AS I SUSPECT ARE ALL WHO CONTRIBUTE TO THIS BLOG.
        It seems to me that you can guarantee that any comment on a bike blog that is not 100 per cent in favour of cyclists and supporting all and everything a cyclist wants to do will bring a catalogue on shit on your head.
        Actually I was being intentionally provocative when I wrote that piece and the humourless, didactic, unthinking, prejudiced postings that have, for the most part, followed are absolutely par for the course. You failed my little test folks.
        If there is an empty bus lane adjacent to the lane you are in, as a cyclist, I cannot see the point of hugging the traffic lane and therefore deliberately obstructing others, it probably wasn’t deliberate but whatever, if it was, it is the same level of behaviour as parking in a bike lane. I wouldn’t condone either.
        I wasn’t fussed by having to drive slowly, in fact I usually do drive slowly, I am fortunate in my life in that I don’t work for some god awful parcel delivery company or similar who set me unreasonable schedules so that I feel forced to drive as fast as possible between drop offs.
        Ah well, what’s the point of continuing, it just means that some other self righteous bigot will read the first line and spout off and tell me I think I am entitled or something without bothering to stop and think what sharing the roads might mean. This is all so deeply ironic, it makes me crease up laughing, I am quite capable of criticising drivers for racing from traffic light to traffic light and for mowing cyclists down, carving them up etc etc ad infinitum, I just seem to have an unlikely ability these days to see things from other points of view. Ho hum.
        As to MickMacks comment about getting rid of our capitalist based economy, yeah, yeah, been there, done that, got the t-shirt, let me know when the revolution starts and I’ll be right there. Meanwhile, isn’t slagging each other off a long way from what this blog is intended to be about?

      • Dave Horton Says:

        Thanks Anna. For what it’s worth, I’ve found all your comments related to this post very useful, interesting and level-headed. And you are quite right, my intention (both in my posts, over which I obviously have control; and also in the comments, over which I obviously don’t!) is to encourage thinking, the development of new views, and the REPRODUCTION IN A PROGRESSIVE WAY of understandings of cycling – by those bold words I mean not reproduction as replication, saying the same old things about cycling time and time again (we know through experience that that hasn’t got us towards a bike-friendly Britain!), but reproduction as something much more developmental – reminding ourselves, and sometimes reinforcing (through examining fresh evidence), what we ‘already know’, but also being prepared (again through looking at fresh evidence) to think – and so act – differently. For me, this is the spirit of my work and this blog – and I’d ideally like people to respond accordingly. But I also know that I’m an (unapologetic) idealist.

        Thanks again for your intelligent, considered and useful contributions.
        Best wishes
        Dave

      • Anna Says:

        Thanks. I think you’re doing something really interesting with your blog and published pieces and it’s great to be stimulating such a lot of debate (apologies perhaps though for being naughtily provocative!). I appreciate your idealist approach and it would be great to see some infrastructure changes – as the UK gets ever more crowded it sure ain’t nice being on a car clogged road.
        I assume you know your blog got mentioned and a link given in the latest CTC weekly newsletter? It may partly explain an influx of visitors.

      • Mick Mack Says:

        Oh dear Anna, did we upset your middle-class sensibility. Deliberately provocative? Little test? Pathetic. Done that? What have you ‘done’ exactly. Nobody has asked you to agree with anybody. the point of debate is to get opposing perspectives to confront each other. Your perspective is the dominant one we hear from motorists and those who advocate the automobile as the answer for transport in the 21st century like the petro-chemical industry and government. You like to think your position is a mature one, unfortunately it represents the minority who would take us backward or maintain the status quo, and doesn’t want to see the car and all the infrastructure that supports it as the problem, If you can’t see that and you feel ‘insulted’, then what are you doing here.

      • Dave Horton Says:

        Thanks to everyone for what is, collectively, such a rich and insightful set of responses.

        First off, can I please ask that people abide what until now have been the implicit ‘rules’ of this blog – passionate debate and disagreement is OK, but please try to conduct ‘the conversation’ in a general rather than personal way (i.e. making comments which all readers can consider on their merits, rather than directing them at one person), and also please be tolerant of other people’s views and polite and respectful in your disagreement. Thanks.

        I want to go back to comments from John Stewart and Susan, who express strong disapproval of pavement cycling. I have spent a lot of time talking to people with various disabilities about cycling, and am well aware of the difficulties which pavement cycling present to many people, particularly our society’s most vulnerable. John and Susan’s comments, and the responses to them, have actually persuaded me to base ‘Cycling struggles, 7′ around the experiences of these people; something I hadn’t anticipated doing. But three quick points here:

        1. I am not excusing anything; as a critical social scientist I am exploring what people do, in order to understand (and suggest change).

        2. So I am trying to explain pavement cycling. I believe that explanation of a practice is better than persecution of a group engaged in that practice, in effecting progressive change.

        3. As others have already suggested, I would hope that my explanations for pavement cycling make it clear that proper (safe, convenient) facilities for urban cycling will go a long way to sorting out the important problems currently posed by pavement cycling. So I would encourage anybody who dislikes pavement cycling to lend their support for improved facilities for cycling (a progressive move), rather than (perhaps inadvertently) to demonise people moving around on the most humane mode of urban transport, so potentially undermining opportunities for rolling cycling out more democratically (a regressive move).

        Pavement cycling is a structural issue around which the two main oppressed groups (pedestrians and cyclists) should find common cause. Cyclists are forced onto pavements because of uncivil conditions for cycling (and many people won’t cycle because of those conditions). The most vulnerable users of pavements are scared of going outside because of the threats posed by pavement cyclists (and some actually won’t go outside because of pavement cycling – effectively becoming ‘house-bound’ through ‘choice’ rather than risk becoming so through injury). Both groups are oppressed by the car’s unruly domination of urban space. Winning much more of that space for cycling will give pedestrians their space back, and will benefit both ‘groups’.

        Best wishes
        Dave

      • Anna Says:

        Sane stuff Dave. :-)

  14. Roman Steven Toczyski Says:

    The reason most cyclists tend to use pavements is born out of a sense of self preservation. OK there are more than a few inconsiderate idiots on bikes to contend with but nothing compared to that which faces the average commuting/utility cyclist on the roads at the hands of unconscious or aggressive drivers on each urban journey

  15. Tim Says:

    Geez. I should never have subscribed to comments on this one.

    Just to clarify.
    – It’s NOT OK to ride in the dark in dark clothes with no lights (on roads or pavements).
    – It’s NOT OK to whizz along a crowded pavement at speed scaring, and in some case injuring, old people (or any people for that matter).
    – It’s also NOT OK to hurl abuse at those people if they challenge you.

    I can’t speak for all commenters but I’d be very surprised if anyone on here is arguing any of this is OK.

    Even if we got the Dutch style infrastructure so many of us would like I’m sure some people would break the rules and cycle in ways which were everything from inconsiderate to downright dangerous, in the same way that some people drive drunk with no insurance at the moment.

    Maybe on balance more cyclists break rules than drivers, although I’ve not seen any clear evidence to support that and cyclists certainly do less damage and ruin fewer lives. I’m pretty sure drivers get away with a lot too – jumping red lights, using mobiles, speeding, etc.

    Even pedestrians, taken as an arbitrary group, aren’t without fault. Some pedestrians behave irresponsibly too, although they probably do the least harm, and are far more likely to be on the receiving end.

    Either way, blaming all cyclists, or all drivers, or whoever for a minority of idiots is completely missing the point. And threatening to withhold improvements until everyone behaves is ridiculous too.

    The sooner we can get infrastructure that everyone can use safely and without fear, the sooner we can all benefit, and the easier it will be to differentiate between those who ride on pavements and jump red lights because they’re scared of being run over, and those who do it because they’re rude morons with no sense of social responsibility.

  16. Charles BH Says:

    Let’s not forget, the 80′s were a time when cycling was seen as a sign of poverty, any successful man was supposed to have a car. That theme still needs to be reversed.
    I know people knock the ‘hipsters’ of East London but for them it’s about how cool your fixie bike is rather than what type of car you have.
    If we could get this shift into other built up areas then we could be onto something. (Bike theft reduction also needs to be addressed imho)

    Charles
    http://www.bikehound.co.uk

    • Mark Reilly Says:

      Interestingly there have been a few articles about “peak car” and declining use particularly young men (insurance being the main reason cited)
      So perhaps “hipsters” in East London (where insurance is no doubt as high as it comes) are the start of a trend – which I guess would please them ;)

  17. Gareth Rees Says:

    Once again, the comment thread recapitulates material from the post.

    Dave Horton wrote in the original post: “Overall, we see that from a deprived inner-city perspective cycling becomes something which ‘other people do’. Moreover, these ‘other people’ are not role-models; quite the contrary. And ‘negative encounters’ with cyclists – most likely as a pedestrian on the pavement – are likely to see cycling/cyclists constructed as a (very specific) ‘problem’ much more than as an (abstract) ‘solution’. [...] Overall, in this part of the city cycling feels a bit irrelevant. It’s low status and stigmatised.”

    And what do we see in the comments? Descriptions of ‘negative encounters’ with cyclists. Cycling described as a problematic and often illegal activity, one which should not be encouraged or promoted. Cyclists stigmatised as “horrible people” who would happily knock down a blind man.

    No wonder people choose not to cycle.

    • Mark Reilly Says:

      Interesting piece on your site about peoples perceptions of cyclists (and probably explains many cyclists perceptions of drivers). Especially the study which showed only 15% of commuter cyclists “jumped” red lights and a high proportion turned left on red – the equivalent manoeuvre is legal for cars in the US and I seem to remember the idea made it into the Tory party manifesto in 2005! Compared to the perception that “all” or 75% or even 95% of cyclists jumped red lights.

      When or if we get better infrastructure, hopefully it would lead to a better view of cyclists.
      Firstly because at the minute most cyclists your average non-cyclists encounters is either a commuter or perhaps juveniles “messing around”. (I’ll leave the perceptions of young people as this is a subject in its own right). Commuting cyclists by their nature either positively enjoy “mixing it” with traffic or can tolerate it and take what they see as necessary measures, and I’m prepared to accept that this sometimes spills over into perceived aggression or belligerence.
      Some of these cyclists would use the new infrastructure and would need to accept different norms as they would encounter other cyclists who were slower, more children. The majority would see this as a price worth paying (I do when I use the canal tow path), others would continue to use the road.
      There would also be a larger number of less aggressive cyclists, probably more women and children, also people in less of a hurry. The change in the mix would change the perception of cyclists. A similar thing has happened to football supporters over the last 25 years, now seen on the whole as colourful and high spirited rather than dangerous.

  18. John Says:

    What a very interesting blog based on some interesting research. I’ve spent a lot of my life on two wheels as I ride a motorcycle as well as a bike and I’ve also worked as a motorcycle instructor. I’ve always thought that two wheelers have a lot in common and in fact, motorcyclists could do all the things so many cyclists do, going up on the pavement to get around difficult junctions or queues of traffic but of course can’t because we can be traced and prosecuted rather more easily than a cyclist!
    That aside there are two other similarities that are important, these are being able to turn flexibility of road position and speed to your advantage and the importance of communicating with drivers. I’ve looked at the National Standards cycle Training material and it seems to be aiming to do much that motorcycle training does, riders need to be aware of what is around them at all times, to signal clearly and take up a road position that makes them visible, to travel at appropriate speeds and if possible, to make eye contact with drivers so as to communicate intent and make sure the driver realises what they are about to do.
    The thing that strikes me (apart from if you are going to communicate your intent to a driver it helps not to have annoyed them in the first place!) is that the kind of people who need to be encouraged back onto bikes are in the majority going to be slow riders and possibly nervous of mixing with traffic. In reality, the chances of much speed reduction on UK roads are slim and so teaching the primary position is not that helpful unless a cyclist can be both fast and confident so increasing amounts of segregated cycle paths has to be the answer.
    It does seem there is quite a bit of carelessness towards pedestrians around which hardly seems fair, surely it helps the whole cycling community if cyclists take a great deal of care on shared paths and if they are cycling on a pavement, at least give way. I know in our local paper there are regular rages from frightened pedestrians of all ages and gender. I don’t know how much money can be squeezed out of central government to finance better infrastructure but let’s hope this research finds an ear in the right quarters, so well done Mr Horton.

    • Tim Says:

      John, I think when looking at modes of transport it’s really useful to recognise both the similarities and the differences, and I entirely agree with your last couple of paragraphs.

      However, where you say “the chances of much speed reduction on UK roads are slim” I would point you towards the “20s Plenty” campaign. 20mph limits in residential areas are entirely in keeping with the Dutch policies – slow traffic in residential areas, segregate where roads are busy or fast – and 20 mph limits have the advantage that they can be much cheaper to implement than consistent good-quality segregated infrastructure. So far the limits have been implemented or trialled (or are awaiting County Council approval) in 34 boroughs, potentially improving the lives of some 8.4 million residents. Not to mention making the environment a bit less hostile to cyclists in those areas.

      • Mark Reilly Says:

        @Tim
        This week I have encountered one problenm with the 20s Plenty scheme…(this is my first winter commute)..back roads are not gritted… and yes I came off yesterday!! – luckily had spotted it and was going at snails pace.

      • Tim Says:

        Indeed. Icy roads and cycle lanes have just become an issue where I live too, as they do every year, but I’m not sure I can blame the speed limit? Especially since we don’t have area-wide 20mph limits here. :(

        John, I know what you mean about enforcement, but it’s a good start. My understanding is that enforcement isn’t such an issue in the Netherlands but they will often help encourage safer speeds in residential areas using other methods – tighter turns at junctions, raised surfaces to give pedestrians and cyclists priority straight on at junctions, traffic calming measures, closing through routes for cars to make them access only instead of rat-runs, etc. All that can follow formal decreases in the speed limit.

      • Mark Reilly Says:

        Tim, sorry I realised after I had posted that my comment was open to mis interpretation.
        I am a real fan of taking the side roads so the 20s Plenty schemme which Leeds and Bradford seem to be pushing ahead with is great, and I can see real potential in building up wide areas of roads which could be used as a cheap (if not so good) version of segregation – changes to priority would help, and I think bring it more into line with the Dutch system.
        In fact about a 1/3 of my commute is along such roads, often jut a few yards back from a main road.
        But this week I have seen a downside, they are not treated during the winter (unlike you this is the first year i have continued commuting after the clocks went back)

  19. John Says:

    Yes, 20s plenty is a good scheme but it needs enforcement or else it’s meaningless, just a lot of council money spent on signposts that everyone ignores!

  20. Why is cycling popular in the Netherlands? Infrastructure or history? - Roads Were Not Built For Cars Says:

    [...] get back on their bikes? Some would. Many wouldn’t. As sociologist Dave Horton shows on his excellent and thought-provoking blog, cycling is not even considered as an option by many groups in British society. For instance, bike [...]

  21. Simon Geller Says:

    Going back to the theme of the original article, it will be interesting to see whether a scheme in Bradford will encourage people from high rise flats to cycle more. The Connect2 scheme (http://www.sustrans.org.uk/what-we-do/connect2/schemes/yorkshire-and-humberside/bradford-living-streets-manchester-road-bridge ) has provided a link across busy Manchester Rd and the route continues through the high-rise estates into the city centre. Eventually it will continue out to Shipley and the canal towpath to Leeds. The scheme opening day was very encouraging – If it is the case that quality infrastructure will get people from the poorer areas cycling then this scheme should prove it. I think it will take more than just the infrastructure, personally.

  22. Simon Geller Says:

    Oh and by the way what on earth does this mean: “Many of the organisations purportedly promoting cycling have lost their ambition – they’ve been recuperated by oil-addicted capitalism. “?!

    • Anna Says:

      I wondered about that phrase too, I think it means he disapproves of Sustrans though he hasn’t said why! Bit of a shame as they are almost the only organisation which has consistently been able to construct alternatives for cyclists through the last 30 years. The National Cycle Network may be patchy and unsatisfactory but at least it is there and it has made a huge difference both in infrastructure terms and bringing to the attention of local and national authorities, the need for separate facilities for walking and cycling (though of course not everyone wants these, horses for courses).

      • Simon Geller Says:

        There’s a tendency amongst cycling bloggers to blame the cycling organisations for the state of cycling in the UK. I think that’s utterly wrong and to be deplored. (The real state of cycling in the UK according to that War on Britain’s roads BBC programme is that there a million more cyclists on the road than there were a few years ago – not where we would like to be, but progress.) If you’re looking for someone to blame, why not try the governments and LA’s who have consistently failed to take the advice of the cycling groups, not to mention the media who have been only too happy to leap on any anti-cycling story they can find? (Thankfully there has been a bit of a sea-change in the media following the #cyclesafe campaign in the Times.)

      • Tim Says:

        So the bloggers should blame the policy-makers – and I don’t disagree with this – but the policy-makers in turn will often use the excuse that “even the cyclists don’t know what they want”, and that’s difficult to argue against.

        I might say “Dutch style segregation on fast or busy roads please”. And then the LA might argue, “but this organisation is asking for road-focussed solutions” (either because the organisation in question is still into “vehicular cycling” or because they’ve given up on ever getting decent dedicated infrastructure, and see any efforts to get it as a distraction.

        So campaigners who feel that we should keep pushing for high-quality Dutch-style infrastructure often feel that the “old school” organisations are undermining those efforts, and making a mass-cycling culture even less obtainable.

        In fairness, I do think many pro-cycling organisations (like the CTC) have started to think harder about which direction they should push in. One big question being how they are represent their own membership, which might include a vocal hardcore of fast racing (or fast commuter) cyclists – but should they be considering the thousands of people who would like to cycle but never will in the current environment?

        As for “the media”, they just want to sell papers (or get viewers). This doesn’t excuse them, but I’ve stopped taking them seriously at all. I was naively surprised to discover that if you type “i hate cyclists” into google, the first “serious media” result is an old but unpleasant Guardian article. I would have hoped for better.

      • Simon Geller Says:

        In terms of “what do cyclists want?” I think that’s quite easy to answer. We want it all – and we want it now. That means high-quality infrastructure, 20mph on residential streets, freely available training, parking, information, promotional campaigns, projects that look at breaking down barriers to cycling, proportionate liability. All of that can be provided for a fraction of the cost of a few miles of motorway.

        Chestercycling says that ” cycling organisations are against, or at best lukewarm towards the measures which the non-cycling majority consistently identify as addressing the main barriers to their uptake of cycling.” This is simply not the case – it’s part of the partial approach that some bloggers have taken towards cycle campaigning. What all the cycling organisations I’m involved with are against is the kind of poor quality tokenistic infrastructure of which we have so many examples in the UK.

      • Tim Says:

        Simon, I know what you mean and I wish it were that “easy to answer”, but terms like “high-quality infrastructure” are still a little vague, and many cyclists and groups are still against ALL segregated facilities even on fast or busy roads for various reasons (including experience of poor historical facilities for cyclists).

      • Simon Geller Says:

        I’ve entered into discussions about what “high-quality infrastructure” actually means with people from various of the pro-segregation groups, and I can sense their eyes glazing over, even over the internet, when you start talking about turning radii and the like. One of the things Cyclenation is doing is to update our “Campaign for High Standards” document which dates back to the 1990′s, with a view to incorporating what we now know from continental experience. However, I would challenge you to find a national cycling organisation that is against segregated, or at least alternative facilities on fast or busy roads – this could be a separate off-road path, or it could be optimising parallel less busy roads for cyclists. I understand that the Hierarchy of Provision causes problems for many people because it reads like segregated provision should be the last resort, but actually it challenges traffic planners and engineers to tackle the root cause of the problem – too much traffic going too fast – rather than putting a sticking plaster over it in the form of a few shared use signs on the pavement. I would prefer it to recognise more fully the value of continental style cycle tracks, personally. There are of course individual cyclists and possibly local groups who think that cyclists should be on the road no matter what, but as far as I am concerned they are as much on the fringes as those who believe that if you just put some bike lanes along major roads the British Public will take to wholesale cycling. It’s a bit more complicated than that IMHO.

      • Tim Says:

        Simon, I completely agree that it’s more complicated than just segregation. And I’m all the the 20mph stuff. Maybe certain kinds of generalising and labelling – eg “pro segregation groups” – isn’t helpful, but I’m probably guilty of it myself in the other direction – eg “vehicular cyclists”.

        And perhaps you’re right that the more mainstream groups are thinking more open-mindedly than they have done historically which of course I welcome, although it seems to me that change is relatively recent, and my personal understanding is that the Hierarchy, which of course is still going strong, is at best a simplification of the Dutch policies. I was thinking more of smaller local groups in my earlier comment.

        The CTC does seem to have a strict line about how we should only have kerb-separated facilities where we can take the space from the motor vehicles, and I’m not so sure why that is. Obviously in many (or even most) cases that’s the only place to find space and I quite agree that motor traffic has been prioritised for far too long at everyone’s expense, but actually the motor traffic being fast or busy (or slow and busy and congested) is less for an issue for me if I’m not forced to ride in it (assuming my alternative isn’t an indirect winding route, or a painted pavement).

        I think there has been a lot of acceptance of substandard facilities historically because that was seen as the best we could hope for. Maybe cycling has reached a point where we can afford to be more indignant at the way cycling (and pedestrians and therefore cities in general) have been sidelined in favour of the car culture, and we need to step up the demands?

        (I do have some interest in even the nerdy bits of infrastructure design. I was about to buy the CROW guide until I discovered how much it costs!)

      • Dave Horton Says:

        Apologies for not responding to your question sooner Simon – I’ve been busy trying not to get distracted whilst finishing off the next post – now published.

        Partly that sentence was me joshing in anarchistic banter with MickMack, who – with his comment – had provoked me slightly (note to self – be more responsible in the comments I make on my blog in future! (I’ve tended towards trying to be ‘serious’ in my actual posts, but then have been happy so far to ‘let my guard’ down slightly in comments)). But quite rightly you want to know what is the serious intent of that sentence, and it is based on a kind of critique of ideology, so:

        It’s certainly not a critique of Sustrans, or any other cycling advocacy organisation. Nor am I ‘blaming’ anyone or thing.

        Basically, any/all ‘cycling organisations’ which have either emerged during, or had to survive through, ‘the time of the car’ have adapted to that ‘time of the car’. This is understandable; it’s what organisations do. Blame would be an inappropriate reaction.

        What we mean by ‘ambition’ and ‘boldness’ for cycling have been shaped and defined within this wider pro-car context. It has been remarkably difficult to construct, let alone promulgate, a bicycle-based future urban vision (Ivan Illich probably came closest in the early 1970s).

        I think cycling groups have learned to be content with very minor gains. The kind of gains which reproduce cycling at a low level, as a minority activity/transport. This keeps those groups and cycling alive, but it hasn’t enabled cycling to grow.

        Perhaps worse, the ‘illusion’ (a word which needs unpacking, but not here/now) that we’re promoting cycling has I think effectively enabled the reproduction of a car-centric society.

        How? Because pro-cycling schemes take up the energies of cycling advocates, keep us busy, give us the sense that we’re ‘making a difference’, and – potentially – blunt our impatience and frustration for ‘something more’. And whilst we’re busy ‘promoting cycling’ more people are driving more journeys in more cars along more roads across more of the world. Car-centricism spreads across the world and we’re part of it; it almost needs us, it cries out “look! We like cycling too!”. It enables the ‘illusion’ that cycling doesn’t thrive because more people don’t like it, when the reality is cycling is being ideologically trashed. We as individuals and our representative organisations have, on this reading, been ‘co-opted’; we’re part of the system we’re claiming to oppose, used by that system in order for it successfully to reproduce itself.

        A proper treatment of this topic would be of book-length, so I can’t hope to do it justice here. (And I should be more careful in future, in making potentially incendiary comments which are difficult to suport!) But this all relates to why I think the current situation is promising: many people are (according to my own research and to the reports/research of many other people/institutions) seriously now disenchanted not only with car-based mobility but with the entire system of car-based automobility (and particularly its consequences); cycling is making a ‘come-back’ in the most powerful places (i.e. amongst rich people in rich cities); and there are new voices and new organisations (I’m thinking particularly of the Cycling Embassy of Great Britain, but there are of course many others) which are to a large extent free of the compromises which inevitably have had to be made in the past, and the limited visions for cycling which were acceptable in the past, and these voices/organisations are framing cycling differently, and demanding much more.

        I might add more on this as I read through other comments (although I don’t want to ‘destroy’ what’s become a very interesting thread). But please be assured, I don’t intend to offend any existing cycling organisation – although political/sociological/cultural analysis is sometimes antagonistic to a ‘rose-tinted’ or ‘naive’ view.

        Thanks for reading, and making such great comments.

        Best wishes
        Dave

      • chestercycling Says:

        It certainly doesn’t help when cycling organisations are against, or at best lukewarm, towards the measures which the non-cycling majority consistently identify as addressing the main barriers to their uptake of cycling.

  23. mrsydneyroad Says:

    Utterly brilliant thread and explains why our town, Crewe has gone from having the biggest proportion of cycling in the country (except Oxford) to one of the lowest. HELP!

  24. John Says:

    Dear Blogmaster,

    This is a truly excellent discussion. I have spent most of the day reading this blog which considering the date is pretty disgraceful. 

    I’ve held off making any sort of contribution until now. There are some very thoughtful and thought provoking contributions, so I am a bit nervous of causing unintended controversy; please don’t kick me to death.

    One strategy which may be effective is to go after children. They are a rather obvious but easily targetted demographic. For a child between the ages of 7 and 12/13 the only possible chance of independent mobility is the humble bicycle (excluding roller skates and skateboards and the odd go cart none of which provide the sort of real independence and range of a bike). 

    Through a media campaign targeted at kids (girls and boys) cycling could be glamourised and presented as a normal exciting activity. May I suggest that for every advert on prime time childrens television promoting non healthy toys/games/pastimes there should be a cycling advert sponsored if need be with PUBLIC MONEY (probably from a road safety budget but perhaps even from public health budgets). The advertising campaign would need to be of the highest quality, matching the sort of thing the motor industry can afford to do. Parents would find themselves subjected to an ensuing irresistible clamour from their offspring demanding they be provided with this wonderful liberating device. Here then is the basis of a massive demand for improved cycling safety which politicians would have to respond to. The whole thing within a period of about 7-10 years would gain its own momentum and become self financing. All we as a cycling community have to do is decide what sort of improvements want.

    In the short term it might need money being diverted away from current front line projects. But I feel the end justifies the means short term loss for long term gain.

    Just a thought.

    • Mick Mack Says:

      The long and short of this whole discussion IMO is that, THERE IS NO MONEY TO BE MADE OUT OF HORDES OF HEALTHY CYCLISTS SO WHY WOULD A GOVERNMENT GET BEHIND IT. End of.

      • Dave Horton Says:

        Cheers Mick Mack, but you could see this the other way, potentially, couldn’t you? For a government which is concerned about *spending*, there is an awful lot of money to be *saved* by encouraging hordes of healthy cyclists, so why would a government *not* get behind it?

      • Mick Mack Says:

        I’ll tell you why Dave; Big Pharma. Ill people means money. The automtive industry; the petro-chemical industry; the retail industry, if people have cars they buy more food to carry it away therefore we need bigger car parks to accommodate more cars; the cycle trade itself – lots of cheap bikes, high turnover in whole bikes and components; is that enough for you to get your head around. Listen mate, you’re up against the dominant economic system, which is onl;y interested in making more money and keeping us all under the thumb. On the other hand, is there in any money to be made in lots of healthy cyclists? Answer: NO. they’re not interested in saving money mate they’re just interested in privatising and giving our money they don’t spend on us to their rich mates. Wake up and smell the coffee…

      • Dave Horton Says:

        I tend to agree with you on balance Mick Mack, and that’s why cycling is so revolutionary. But you make it sound like there’s a capitalist conspiracy, and I don’t think there is. Sure, there’s a great deal of money to be made out of cars and the miseries which they inflict, including illnesses of various sorts. And I would also add that there’s a (capitalist) point to having a high profile but largely ineffectual cycling lobby which enables governments to give the appearance of supporting cycling whilst actually doing (on the whole) the opposite. BUT, BUT, BUT …

        I don’t know where to start, but I’ll start by suggesting that the danger with your analysis is that it leads to a sense of disempowerment and political quietism, doesn’t it? We could just throw up our hands and say ‘what’s the point?’ There is no single capitalist agenda, there are cracks everywhere, and we can identify and use those cracks as opportunities, to push for another world. The world can and does change, constantly. Cars have come and they will go. That’s for sure, however long it might take. It’s up to us, including you and me, to make sure that bikes are there to fill their place, rather than – for example – ‘smart cars’ (which is a real possibility, but then so is large-scale velo-moblity, if enough of us dream it and make it happen).

        Revolution happens on the ground – instigated as a result of dissatisfaction with the way things are, and people shouting ‘Enough!’, and coming together to organise to re-make the world differently. Don’t think we can’t do it or we won’t do it. Come on.

      • Roman Steven Toczyski Says:

        Absolutely, if ever there was a clear example of half empty vs half full this must surely be it. However, most politicians equate burgeoning car ownership as the only “healthy” thing they’re interested in – the health of our consumerist society.

    • Dave Horton Says:

      Thanks very much for your thoughtful comments and suggestions, John, which unfortunately got lost amidst the Christmas excitement which was just then descending in my household. It’s great to hear that you’ve found the discussion so engrossing.

      I absolutely agree with you, that we need to get kids excited about cycling and onto bikes. And there’s a great deal more which Government could and should be doing to promote, and endorse, cycling, including children’s cycling.

      That said, many kids (and probably most middle-class kids) already have bikes (if not necessarily very good ones), but there’s little appetite (amongst either parents or – usually by association – their kids) to ride these under ‘normal conditions’. So I’d argue there’s a question of which order we do things in here, and I’d suggest we need to transform these ‘normal conditions’ first. Only then can children and their parents justifiably be expected to cycle from their front doors, and only then will they want to.

      (Both of my own children fall into the age range you suggest, both know how to cycle, both have lots of positive role-models (my son Bobby has posters of Geraint Thomas, as well as various MTBers and BMXers on his bedroom wall); yet neither I, nor my partner Sue, nor they themselves feel very inclined to let them go off as and when they like by bike. I know you’re suggesting that if many more families were like us then the clamour for improved conditions would become deafening, and I agree; but how do we create that clamour if people can’t first at least *imagine* their kids cycling? I’d argue that such imagination depends on, rather than precedes, improved conditions.)

      By the way, no kicking allowed here, and certainly not to death! I hope that everyone feels encouraged and that they have a right to comment, and that this blog’s ‘ethic’ is that together we are the people who can work to make the world a better place, for cycling and because of cycling. So please don’t feel backwards in coming forwards!

      Thanks again for taking the risk to comment. Hope you managed to stop reading in time for Christmas!
      Very best wishes
      Dave

  25. Andrew Says:

    Often think the design of bike has a lot to do with the fall in cycling. Dutch type bikes are comfortable due to the upright, walking like posture. Cycling this type of bike is less frantic and really should be described as amplified walking. The cycling tempo, mudguards fixed lights make it easy to step on step off. The heads up position gives great visibility. Somehow in the Netherlands they have clung on to this design so everybody has tried it and seen the difference between this type and performance based designs. I just think cycling has been mis sold by the industry who have chased the recreational market and forgotten about the transport market. It’s a shame but the bicycle as a tool of urban, personal mobility has been forgotten by the very populations that it would most benefit

    • Dave Horton Says:

      Thanks Andrew. Of course you’re right, but Dutch-style bikes make a lot more sense in a transport environment which has been civilised sufficiently for the more dignified, sedate style of cycling which they enable. You could argue that riding one on many of the roads which UK cyclists are expected to ride could leave you feeling rather exposed and vulnerable, so that the sportier machines which some of us favour are actually more ‘fit for purpose’.

      It’s all related, isn’t it? But I’d be tempted to say ‘change the riding conditions to make that (Dutch) style of bike appropriate’, rather than simply ‘promote that (Dutch) style of bike’ (in the absence of the civilised surroundings in which it makes sense).

      Very best wishes
      Dave

  26. Socio-economics of Belfast commuter cycling // Deprivation « Northern Ireland Greenways Says:

    [...] would be needed to draw clearer conclusions on this. There is some interesting research work on cycling perspectives within deprived inner-city areas, and perhaps this is a rich vein for study in [...]

  27. Cycling Struggles – a summary | Thinking About Cycling Says:

    […] the deprived inner-city (Cycling Struggles, 5) cycling feels irrelevant. Affluent people might see the bicycle’s relevance as a mode of transport […]

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