Forgetting Cycling

For six years, between 2005 and 2011, I lived in a Cycling Demonstration Town. Supported by central government, my hometown was one of an initial six that received increased funding for cycling, to get – to follow Cycling England’s mantra – ‘more people cycling, more safely, more often’.

Cycling_Town_Logo

Locally, the project described itself as ‘Celebrating Cycling’. It centred on infrastructural improvements, but also included a wide range of promotional activities, such as maps and brochures, events, led rides, maintenance classes and cycle training.

In an Autumn 2006 publication delivered to households across the district, the City Council said:

Not only do we want to increase cycling in our district but more than that we want to create a real culture change that will not only see cycling become a mainstream and popular way for people to travel locally but that will also see the community understand, positively embrace and celebrate cycling’s vital role in the sustainable future of our district.

(Lancaster City Council, 2006: 11)

Based on various surveys, official pronouncements, anecdotal evidence and ethnographic observations, it’s clear the project produced some gains – a raised profile for cycling locally, improvements to cycling infrastructure on the ground, and increased levels of cycling activity.

So albeit slowly and not on a scale likely to achieve mass cycling anytime soon, change was happening. Building a bicycle system takes time and the project rightly had a long-term focus. In 2009 the Department for Transport published a report containing preliminary findings from the first six demonstration towns. It concluded that:

a sustained and well-designed programme of investment in cycling at about the level of £10 per head of population was sufficient, in every one of the Cycling Demonstration Towns, to achieve an increase in cycling.

It is worth emphasising that this is in some ways a surprising conclusion. It is commonly supposed that past failure to increase cycling levels is proof that it is not possible to increase cycling in Britain. In fact, the Cycling Demonstration Towns have demonstrated, in every case, that it is possible to increase cycling, even in towns which almost completely lack a ‘cycling culture’.

(Sloman et al, 2009: 26)

This report recognised much more still had to be done, but finished on the upbeat note “that the six towns have achieved ‘lift-off’ for cycling” (Sloman et al, 2009: 26).

So change was underway but this was seen as only the start of a longer-term process. The Cycling Demonstration Town project aimed to explore the impact of sustained investment in cycling. Another Department for Transport report noted how the level of funding for cycling in the first six Demonstration Towns was

comparable with the annual investment in cycling in towns that have successfully increased cycling in mainland Europe, which over about 20 years of investment have achieved continued growth in urban cycling.

(Department for Transport, undated but 2010: 17, my emphasis in bold)

It’s now 2013 and I don’t live in a Cycling Demonstration Town any more. I haven’t moved, institutional commitment to cycling has. The Cycling Demonstration Towns project was abandoned with Cycling England’s dismantling in 2011, and Lancaster City Council’s commitment to cycling has declined ever since.

At the Project’s beginning, with ambitions at their highest, signs were erected at each of the District’s road boundaries:

These signs welcomed people with the programme’s logo and the words ‘celebrating cycling in our city, coast and countryside’. They acted as a permanent advert for Lancaster’s commitment to cycling.

(Department for Transport, undated but 2010: 60; my emphasis in bold)

Celebrating Cycling sign

Those signs have gone, the official endorsement of cycling they seemed unambiguously to announce left barely a trace. (In an hour’s trawling of the Internet, the image above is the only one showing the ‘Celebrating cycling’ road signs I found). That we ever were a Cycling Demonstration Town is being erased.

Why? Are we embarrassed that we might once have celebrated cycling, and imagined things could be different? Or was cycling’s celebration only a momentary blip for so long as the money lasted, and we’re now back to business- (and motoring-) as-usual?

And who’s responsible for this local institutional erasure of cycling? Central government pulled the plug prematurely on what always needed to be a long-term process. Local government was unable to develop and institute effective strategies to support cycling once centralised funding ended. Also, what seems an obvious prerequisite for long-term success, the development of broad and deep civil society support for cycling through building links at grassroots level, was never an important objective of the Cycling Demonstration Towns project.

It’s not just that the project has ended; some of its minor gains are now being eroded. One casualty is cycling children. Through cycle training, improved facilities (especially bike parking, which had been ripped out of many British schools as it became seen as irresponsible to cater for, let alone encourage, something so ‘dangerous’ as cycling), and promotional activities, the Cycling Demonstration Towns won quick increases in schoolchildren’s cycling. But without continuous encouragement, cycling to school along roads hostile to cycling is impossible to sustain.

It’s ironic that the ‘Celebrating Cycling’ signs welcoming people (people driving, mainly) to the district were on roads, because it is those roads where the project spectacularly failed to change conditions in cycling’s favour, and those unchanged roads are the reason why the small gains made for cycling during the project’s lifetime are now so easily being lost. The car’s centrality to the local transport system was never even questioned, let alone challenged. Even in a Cycling Demonstration Town cycling had to fit in with, never displace, the car.

Still, the signs that demonstrated a brief and fragile institutional commitment may have gone, but cycling of course remains. It’s two years since we stopped ‘celebrating cycling’, but the last week has been dry, warm and sunny – perfect cycling weather – and people are out and about on bikes, though fewer than you might imagine given how recently the push for cycling has ended.

Of course many of the people cycling have been here all along; people like us. Unlike our governing institutions we don’t forget cycling, and alongside our enjoyment of it, at least part of our collective grassroots task remains, to help others remember it again.

References

Department for Transport (undated but 2010): Making a Cycling Town: a compilation of practitioners’ experiences from the Cycling Demonstration Towns programme, Qualitative Survey, 2005-2009.

Lancaster City Council (2006): Your District Council Matters, Issue 9, Summer/Autumn, 8 page pull-out guide – ‘Celebrating Cycling in City, Coast and Countryside’.

Sloman L, Cavill N, Cope A, Muller L & Kennedy A (2009): Analysis and synthesis of evidence on the effects of investment in six Cycling Demonstration Towns, Report for Department for Transport & Cycling England.

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27 Responses to “Forgetting Cycling”

  1. fonant Says:

    So sad, so frustrating, and what a waste of effort and money.

    Sadly we’re stuck in a vicious circle: cycling on our roads is only for experts and enthusiasts, so few people do use bicycles for transport, so cycling is not seen as a mode of transport, so there is no investment or commitment for making the environment better for cycling. The Cycling Demonstration Town failures only reinforce that: it seems that although we spent lots of money, nothing much changed, so cycling as transport is a lost cause and people mostly ride bikes as a sport.

    To break the circle we need one or more of:
    1) Strong long-term political leadership really wanting to encourage cycling for social and environmental reasons.
    2) A grass-roots movement along the lines of “Stop the Child Murder” that galvanises the press and forces the politicians to take notice.
    3) A serious energy crisis, that makes motoring in one-tonne-plus vehicles too expensive for the majority of the population.

    The first is almost certainly not going to happen while our politicians and press are so closely linked to the motor industry and big energy businesses, and while political terms are only five years long. They don’t want people cycling as demand for fuel and cars would drop dramatically (of course the Dutch economy does fine with all their cycling, but vested interests are powerful).

    The second might work, and is having some impact in localised areas such as central London. But it sadly takes rather a lot of people being killed before this can take off as a national movement.

    The third could happen sooner than we think, or we might “get lucky” with shale gas from fracking and cars might keep driving for another decade or two. Either way it would be better to have cycling established as transport sooner rather than later to save our finite energy reserves.

    • Dave Horton Says:

      Thanks fonant, that’s a super summary of the situation, although for me perhaps ever-so-slightly too cynical because there are tentative signs of change in a pro-cycling direction, aren’t there?

      I admit a lot of it seems like bluster, but an increasing number of politicians do seem to be making the right noises about the relevance of cycling to urban futures (and a few of them even ride expensive carbon fibre machines). Cycling is also clearly now ‘cool’ in a way it’s not been before, certainly in my lifetime (born 1967). And these ‘pro-cycling’ politicians and ‘cool cyclists’ are politically significant (perhaps particularly in the inner cities of the ‘hippest cities’ where they tend to be concentrated) in a way which the invisible (i.e. poor & enforced) and hardcore (i.e. enthusiastic & committed people like us) cyclists who between them have kept cycling alive are not.

      And in addition to the oil question, there’s growing evidence that cars have lost their sheen for younger generations, for whom they are fast becoming ‘yesterday’s technology’. (Though that’s a socio-spatially limited trend, for sure; and also, whatever directions we might take in the UK/USA etc, what happens in China/India etc probably matters more to future life on the planet.)

      Maybe I’m deluded, but for me, these things represent perhaps the biggest glimmer of hope on the horizon.

      But what do you think?
      Thanks
      Dave

  2. khal spencer Says:

    What is the difference between the preeminence of cycling in those mainland European cities and places where it seems to not take root, such as parts of the UK and most of the USA? Here, we proclaim great strides in getting cities up to a few percent cycling mode share. But the lion’s share of people fall into two camps: One, “cycling is dangerous” and two “it’s too difficult”.

    In the US, some of the “cycling for the masses” organizations have tried to increase cycling by disowning the avid transportation cyclist, thinking we are ridiculous Luddites who revel in self-inflicted over-achievement; being therefore irrelevant to the convenience-loving public. I don’t know if that angle, best portrayed in magazines like Momentum, will work. I wish it would, actually.

    Frankly, I’m tempted to abandon any idealism towards promoting cycling as a cure for the human malaise. Humans, like other animals, will simply eat (s.l.) there way out of house and home like any other species without predators, until we crash and burn, joining other species in the fossil collection. Meanwhile, I don’t try to be a role model in my choice of cycling clothing, bicycle type, or political purity, but in my ability to have been consistently riding as transportation as well as pleasure (not exclusively, mind you) for going on 35 years. I’m content, or should I say condemned, to be an oddity in modern America.

    I’ll be 60 next year. While I don’t have the speed and stamina I did decades ago, I can still get up those Jemez Mountains on weekends quite nicely, which makes an 8 km commute to work seem like a pretty nominal and pleasing effort. Sure does beat sitting in a car.

    • Dave Horton Says:

      Thanks Khal – it does sometimes seem that the cities which shout loudest about their cycling achievements are those most saturated by discourses of neo-liberal capitalism and which are global centres of media hype & hysteria, full of journalists desperate to make the slightest increase in cycling (from 0.2% to 0.3% of all journeys; that’s a 50% increase!) into a story. And meanwhile, the Dutch quietly and modestly continue the business of keeping people moving by bike. It’s hard not to be cynical, eh?

      (I think like you, by the sound of it) I find the ‘what should a cyclist look like’ discussion very depressing. There’s some ‘anti-lycra’ sentiment amongst some cycling advocates in the UK too – I think the idea is we should all look ‘completely normal’ (whatever that means!) as we ride, and that ‘lycra sends the wrong message’. Excuse me? It’s a bit like the helmet debate, isn’t it? I wear lycra (& helmet) when it makes sense to me, and not when it doesn’t.

      I feel increasingly as if I’m writing more out of my love for cycling than out of a desire to promote it. I think we all have that tension to some degree though, don’t we? We are a minority who love to ride; and sometimes we feel condemned to minority status, other times we feel like celebrating it. We might not be able to take the rest of the world with us, but (to take the title of a Critical Mass documentary) ‘still we ride’.

      And the older I get the more I seem to relish the sense of freedom which being on a bike produces.
      We’re lucky,eh?
      Dave

  3. khal spencer Says:

    fonant sort of nails it. There are huge institutional vested interests in the present auto-centric paradigm, including the auto industry, housing industry, and energy industry. Plus, much of the public has bought into the car as a requirement, including those who bought into suburbia, at least in the USA.

    Sadly, one thing the public face of cycling advocacy has done is convinced the general public that cycling is really as dangerous as it looks to the casual observer. The constant refrain that we need separate facilities because the roads are too dangerous results in the cart being pushed before the horse–how can you build a political consensus for something as you at the same time send people fleeing from it?

    Finally, we have had several oil shocks already (1973, 79, and 2008) that have resulted in minor and temporary boosts in cycling. Generally, the public adjusts. Whether it can adjust to a new world where wages are even lower and gas prices higher is another story. Perhaps Europe did it right–rather than wait for price shocks, these were permanently imposed through taxation.

    • Dave Horton Says:

      The separate facilities debate is interesting here in the UK, though, Khal, because my sense is that we might finally have succeeded (however partially) in circumventing the dilemma you describe. In that it does feel that more people in power, including some of those who hold the purse strings, have been persuaded that ‘ordinary’ or ‘mass’ (call it what you will) cycling won’t come about until you separate cycling along those (bigger, faster, more direct) roads which most people are too scared to ride. So politicians are I think beginning to understand that there’s no powerful voice for cycling because the prevailing conditions have so endangered cycling that such a voice can’t possibly exist – it’s been repressed by the repression of cycling; and so we have to start with the vision (of more cycling) more than the voice (of existing cyclists). I think, I hope, this is happening, anyway. Does that make sense?

      • khal spencer Says:

        Makes sense. Separating cycling along the “A” roads here and on your side of the pond makes perfect sense. In Albuquerque, NM, we do it by administratively declaring “bicycle boulevards” that run parallel to the ugly streets, and set the speeds on those secondary connectors at 30 kph (the 18 mph signs might not even be MUTCD compliant l, but they sure do catch people’s attention).

  4. bikemapper Says:

    I spent an hour or so looking at Google Street View images of Lancaster a little while back. Bearing in mind that it is not possible for me to see what is happening on those routes which are inaccessible to the Google Street View cameras—i.e. off-road cycle paths—the only substantial piece of infrastructure I remember seeing was the cycle / pedestrian bridge over the River Lune.

    I was interested to read in Cycling: the way ahead that with a similar budget that was available to the Cycling Demonstration Towns, several German towns and cities were enabled to “introduce” an entire pro-cycling policy (network, information, promotion). This would have been back in the 1990s some time, and I have no doubt that if we were to visit those same towns now, we would see that their cycling environment has come on in leaps and bounds.

    As far as I could determine from Google Street View, Lancaster does not have a functioning cycle network. Many of the one-way roads are inaccessible to two-way cycle traffic, for example. It is therefore hardly any surprise to read that the small gains made for cycling during the project’s lifetime are now being lost, since a solid base from which to build upward was never established.

    • khal spencer Says:

      Good points. When we designed our cycle plan, we made central the idea that all the major destinations and major residential areas should have priority on cycle connectivity by some means. If you don’t do that, its tough to cycle or to provide a base from which to grow. Having said that, Dave’s point is a good one–we couldn’t get the political consensus to say that cycling was in any way displacing King Car. Its been rolling a snowball uphill from there.

      Tearing out schoolyard bike parking, though, sends a pretty clear and cynical message.

    • Dave Horton Says:

      Thanks bikemapper. It’s certainly true that the off-road routes tend to be seen as, and to act as, the centre-pieces of our local cycling network; but they obviously don’t constitute a network, and many people who are/would be prepared to ride along them are not prepared to ride elsewhere, because that elsewhere just hasn’t been rendered sufficiently cycle-friendly.

      We might, like the Germans, have built on the Cycling Demonstration Towns project if much local thinking wasn’t so resolutely stuck in the 1960s, when cars were still very much ‘the thing’. There were attempts, between 2005 and 2011, to build ‘cycling literacy’ (why cycling matters, what it can do for the city, etc) amongst local politicians and council officers, and you would of course hope that the generally increased ‘buzz around cycling’ would have had broader positive effects (on, for example, the attitudes of local institutions and business towards cycling). But you know what I think happened?

      First, the money & status associated with being a Cycling Demonstration Town was seen as more about the money & status than about the cycling (i.e. key people saw things ‘the wrong way round’;

      Second, the project’s goal to enable more short trips to be made by bike very quickly got transformed (because it is easier to do) into a focus on making the district a more attractive cycling destination (i.e. the project became about using cycling to sell the area as a tourist destination, much more than about doing the difficult things required to get local people cycling). That’s a bit unfair (I’m skipping some important detail), but I’m confident of my general point.

      Third, people (including key decision-makers, but also ‘ordinary’ local people) were never convinced of the case for re-making the district around bikes. That’s because there were too few people articulating that level of vision and ambition, and they were too peripheral to the process. The main people in the project, in other words, didn’t believe in the product they were selling enough (and related, were not sufficiently charismatic).

      Fourth, that local institutional capital which did get built during the six years of the project was immediately lost when it got cut. Key council officers were made redundant, the dedicated website became neglected etc.

      All up, what I’m saying is the seeds which the project sowed have for various reasons withered and died. Whereas in the German project similar seeds were sown, but were cultivated and thrived. The Cycling Demonstration Town project here could have helped all kinds of people to take cycling seriously, and set the scene for modal shift on a large scale, but I’m not sure that even the people tasked with delivering the project took it sufficiently seriously to begin with. It is these *institutional processes*, as much as the *infrastructure on the ground* which we are contending with.

      All the best
      Dave

  5. Kim (@kim_harding) Says:

    Here in Scotland we have been trying to build the Pedal on Parliament protest (http://pedalonparliament.org/) into an national campaign, we are managing to apply some pressure on the Scottish Government. Of course you won’t have heard of it because we a long way from London and nothing of significance happens out side London…

    • Dave Horton Says:

      Thanks Kim

      Keep up the great work (which, because I don’t live in London, maybe) I had heard about.

      In some ways I don’t mind too much the London-centric focus of current cycling discussions because if things change in London, and if those things are tracked & reported by the London-centric media, then maybe they’ll ‘filter out’ and have wider effects, (But I note what you’re trying to do there, and wonder if anything similar is happening in London – is anyone in London saying, ‘hey, this (e.g. people being killed by lorries) isn’t just about London, these issues are everywhere, so let’s generalize our focus, and demands?’)

      But do you think the current London-centric perspective on cycling is hindering your work there?

      Cheers for reading/commenting
      Dave
      (Who is happy & proud to live & ride in & around Lancaster!)

  6. Joe Dunckley Says:

    Interesting. I suspect the Lancaster experience will contrast quite considerably with Bristol, where one still regularly sees the “cycling city” brand used (and where that brand can be cited back at the councils if ever they propose anything that is out of place or not good enough for a “cycling city”).

    • Dave Horton Says:

      Thanks Joe

      When I visited Bristol last year, to give evidence to the City Council Inquiry into cycling safety at the City Hall, I was struck by how much more advanced is understanding of and sympathy towards cycling issues there than it tends to be here. There seemed to be, to me anyway, a genuine appetite to make cycling mainstream, something still missing here in Lancaster.

      But are you saying, then, that the Cycling City status has worked/is working in Bristol as a kind of pivot around which the city is revising, or re-visioning, itself away from the car and towards the bicycle, and that there’s evidence that those processes are continuing? (And you don’t think the local authorities will (try to) quietly drop the ‘Cycling City’ badge?) I’d be exceptionally pleased to hear a positive story!

      • psychobikeology Says:

        It’s interesting to hear that some people think Bristol is ahead of the game on this – but that just show how bad things are elsewhere. Yes, there are some good things and everyday cycling has visibly increased, and I’m glad I decided to move to Bris from London, but …

        I’m not sure that the Cycling City ethos is all that firmly embedded. There is currently a thread on the Bristol Cycling Campaign e-list about the way that some new road works, which have not taken any account of cyclists, have simply “appeared” – no consultation. there is a feeling amongst activists (who know more about this than myself) that the cycling city ethos is still fragile and could be wiped out easily.

        Still, we have pro-cycling mayor, and things do on the whole look hopeful – but don’t hold us out as the Great Example (at least not yet, he said optimistically)

      • Dave Horton Says:

        Thanks psychobikeology (also for the link); it’s good to know there are differences of opinion. (Even within our little local cycling campaign here in Lancaster, Dynamo, there have always been clear differences in people’s attitudes to bits of cycling infrastructure, and in how much more could and should be done for cycling. A lot depends, I think, on your assumption of how big cycling can ever be – I suspect you and I think, under favourable conditions, it could be really massive!)
        Cheers
        Dave

  7. Tom Cahill Says:

    A slightly sad blog, but certainly a true one. But mostly sad, as it does not seem that many new cyclists have been encouraged in Lancaster, or am I missing something. On the other hand, not a big surprise.

    • Dave Horton Says:

      Yes, I felt a little depressed after posting it, and re-reading it I wondered whether I’d been more bleak than I intended. (I think I sometimes come across as more bleak than I intend – in general I’m quite upbeat & optimistic, aren’t I?!)

      You know what, I was a bit cynical about our being designated a ‘cycling demonstration town’ at the outset (I didn’t really get involved in the application process, because I thought ‘who are we to get loads of money to boost cycling when we just don’t seem to give a toss?’). Over time, particularly if you’re reasonably involved in local issues (and I was more so than I am now, back then) you get a sense of your local area, your local ‘representatives’, don’t you – a sense which informs what you think they’re capable of, and of what’s locally possible?

      So I don’t think I’m hugely disappointed it’s made so little difference. That said, we (Dynamo) basically force-fed the City Council the (unrealistic?) ambition to double cycling in the first three years, in an effort to get serious about what could be done. (And certainly personally, once we’d got the money/status, that’s when I got serious about using them to make a difference. And that’s why I’m disappointed, looking back now, how little difference they seem to have made.)

      But there are always different lenses you can look through, aren’t there? For example, I could have mentioned how – partly as a result of our being a Cycling Demonstration Town – it’s no longer against the law to cycle along Morecambe Prom, or how we’ve got some cycle contraflows on one-way streets, or how both my kids’ schools have bike parking; and I could have said how some of our neighbours are riding bikes in this sunny weather, people who probably wouldn’t have been riding ten years ago.

      And there are more cyclists than a decade ago, for sure. But not many more. I’d be interested to hear what you thought when you next return – have things changed for the better since you lived and rode here? Most people are still unwilling to cycle. And the streets are still utterly dominated by cars. And people still often drive like they’ve a right to the road which I, on a bicycle, do not. And being a Cycling Demonstration Town was supposed to have changed these things, was our opportunity to change these things. And we’ve blown it.

      So some people have been encouraged to cycle, but not enough. And the reason why not enough people are cycling is clear; they’re still being told (through any & all available means) that it’s better to drive.

      So I find a ‘positive spin’ wholly unconvincing and, yes, it’d be false. I don’t like to be dissatisfied (and in life generally, I’m not), but when it comes to cycling I’d rather be dissatisfied than too easily satisfied.

  8. Notebook: why did the cycling demonstration towns fail? « Psychobikeology Says:

    […] of the stack (so’s I don’t look like a sluggard who leaves old news lying around) and Dave Horton has just listed some possible reasons for the somewhat disappointing results of the project. He’s talking about Lancaster, but I […]

  9. dghigson Says:

    Such a shame. As I reach the right age (not long now) we were considering retiring to the Morecambe Bay area, one of the drawing factors being the positive attitude towards cycling. We live in the North of Manchester where there is ambivalence at best towards two wheeled traffic. We’d envisaged living in Morecambe area and cycling into Lancaster for the weekly shopping etc.
    I suspect that the attention of the local authority is taken up by the Heysham road plans – there’s an opportunity to plan for cycles but I doubt whether they’ve even considered anything but trucks.

    • Dave Horton Says:

      Thanks David for your comments, but please, don’t let me put you off moving here! Because this is a relatively good area for cycling, and particularly so if you’re able to pick and choose your routes and times. To ride along Morecambe Prom is one of my life’s great pleasures, and I highly recommend it. Also, the off-road walking & cycling route (sometimes called ‘The Greenway’) between Morecambe and Lancaster is really excellent for so long as it lasts, and it lasts almost all the way from Morecambe town centre to Lancaster city centre (and it’s only at these two ends, as you encounter roads full of motorised traffic, that things get tricky).

      I’d best not start on about the Heysham-M6 Link Road, but suffice to say that if the funding allocated to that were instead put towards sustainable transport solutions, well, then, we’d be on our way somewhere really good … 😉

      Thanks for reading, and drop me a line if you do end up here and want some recommendations – I’m always happy to help if I can!
      Best wishes
      Dave

      • dghigson Says:

        We have ridden along Morecambe prom a few times from Hest Bank to Heysham and back. You’re right, it’s one of life’s real pleasures. We re-discovered Morecambe when our son was at Lancaster University. He’d been persuaded to get a bike by his cycling friends and told us about the cycle infrastructure being promoted by Lancaster. “What a great idea!” we thought, and promptly packed the bikes and trundled along the prom and also the canal path from Glasson Dock to Galgate (another great and gentle ride out.)
        I don’t think that the lack of an “official” position on cycling by the local authority puts us off, as such. There are far more locating factors than just that. What I was bemoaning was the facility of councils to over politicise their approach to cycling (and a whole lot of other things.) Expediency rules over commitment. Manchester got all excited in the run up to the Commonwealth Games in 2002 and the building of the National Cycling Centre. Some good cycle tracks/paths were placed but since then, interest seem to have come in peaks and troughs. Recently a “Cycling Hub” was opened in the city centre and my home town of Bury is about to follow suit with one as part of the Bus/Metrolink interchange. The Oxford Road corridor plans are predictable, given all the students who ride the busiest street in Europe. Less attention is given to the A56 road from Bury to Manchester (not that I’m biased, of course,) one of the accident black spots for cyclists I’m afraid. Most of the investment goes to where it is highly visible rather than where it is really needed.

      • Dave Horton Says:

        Indeed, David. It’s the problem of not having an embedded culture of cycling, in the way of the Dutch, isn’t it? It leaves cycling open to the whims and vagaries of political fashions, with funding, projects and on-the-ground cycling infrastructure coming in patches before going again (quickly in terms of projects and people; more slowly – fading gradually back into the status quo – in terms of the infrastructure). As you suggest, commitment to cycling needs to be built into the institutional fabric of local government; one (largely now past) attempt to do that was by employing ‘Cycling Officers’, but outside of a few places with truly exceptional officers (and I’m sure they all in their own ways try hard to do a good job), I don’t think they’ve had enough impact. It’s the old chicken-and-egg thing isn’t it? When will Councils, and Council Officers start taking cycling seriously? When national government instructs them too? Or when their local citizens demand it? We’re all connected, and looking for ‘the answer’ in only one place misses the point – we must find the answer everywhere, simultaneously! And if/when we can’t find it, we must wonder if perhaps part of the answer is us!! Personally, I think this interplay between the personal and political is intriguing and compelling; and I suppose I quite like the fact that cycling seems so clearly to be a great example of it! (Though I’d like a firm resolution in cycling’s favour sometime soon, of course ‘;)

        I’m less clued-up on Greater Manchester than I should be, given it’s my regional city, it’s a place I’m very fond of, and it clearly has potential to be a superb cycling city. I’m interested to hear Bury is getting a cycling hub. Surely that adds pressure to the case for a top-quality cycling route along the A56 between Bury and Manchester? (I can never quite decide whether Leeds’ Cycle Hub reminds me more of a mirage or of an oasis in the desert!)

        Thanks for being so engaging
        All the best
        Dave

    • pencilmark Says:

      Morecambe has its own Morrisons, Asda and Lidl – you don’t even need to go into Lancaster! As an ex-Lancster now Bristol cyclist I think that Lancaster has a lot to offer (and I haven’t even seen the new routes). If you believe the ‘new speak’ then making cycling visible/normal through your family and friendship networks appears to be as important as all the official discourse in encouraging other cyclists, including the next generation. So perhaps a bit more positive buzz to encourage others, and never mind the road signs?

  10. Creaky Says:

    I should nail my colours to the mast here: I have a deep-seated mistrust of all politicians. I don’t think the old Left-Right politic landscape is valid, or even true, any more – it just suits a lot of people for it to be presented as the case still.

    That said then, I was interested to see that the item didn’t mention the politics of who introduced and who scrapped the scheme in question – nor what was the stated reason – and nor the likely real reason (!).

    My fear is that, as a group, we cyclists (and many other ‘good people’) are just too nice. We don’t name names, we don’t call our political classes out for how they really behave – etc. As a result we get trampled on whenever it’s no longer politically expedient to butter us up. If you like, we make it too easy to trample on us.

    • Dave Horton Says:

      Thanks Creaky. I share your general distrust of establishment/representative politics but that said will always vote, Green (we’re lucky to have that option here in Lancaster, which has a long and effective local Green political presence; indeed, it was local Greens who were key to the City Council getting Cycling Demonstration Town status & funding). Cycling England, the body which managed the Cycling Demonstration Towns project at a national level, was scrapped by the coalition government in its ‘bonfire of the quangos’; and I’d suggest there’s currently zero ambition or leadership for cycling visible at the national level (however admirable and brilliantly-intended the ‘Get Britain Cycling’ parliamentary process). Everywhere you look, there are good people trying their best for cycling, but unless/until this finds concerted voice and action in a shift in policy which embodies a shift in paradigm, I’m afraid it’s not enough. London makes us think things are happening, but outside there they’re not, really. (It’d be great to see more pressure being put on Leeds – just the kind of horrendously anti-cycling city where radical pro-cycling action desperately needs to be taken – as it moves increasingly into the media spot-light ahead of next year’s Tour. Part of that work could include British Cycling (which has a truly wonderful (and potentially transformational) spokesperson in Chris Boardman) combining forces with CTC, the Cycling Embassy of Great Britain, Cyclenation and other key groups (not necessarily cycling-based) to shout ‘enough is enough! It’s time for change in how a city like Leeds moves around.’

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