There always seem to be people of a certain persuasion, writing on the internet in English, who react to these videos with the cry of cherrypicking. You are creating a distorted impression of the scale or nature of cycling in these places, they claim, picking deliberately unrepresentative locations or times at which to make these videos.
Of course anybody making any kind of political point cherry-picks what they present. When the Cycling Embassy of Great Britain decided to go on a study tour this year, we cherry-picked the nation of the Netherlands to visit. We did not pick Russia, or Berkshire, or Los Angeles. And there was a reason for this. And, strangely enough, a staff team from the London Cycling Campaign soon after cherry-picked the Netherlands to go to, to study cycling policy as well. Coincidentally – nothing to do with me. Surprising?
The point about cherrypicking surely is this: one can only do it where there are cherries to be picked. The sort of cherry seen in the Copenhagen video can only be picked in a couple of countries in the western world. There is nowhere else this could have been filmed, that's the point. There is something special going on here, that those other countries, where this could not have been filmed, need to understand.
One needs to look for what is common to those countries, regions and cities, where this sort of scene can be witnessed at all. I've stressed this before, but it seems to be one of those things that needs saying again and again. So here is the graph again, a few years old, it has to be admitted, courtesy of CTC, "The UK's National Cyclists' Organisation".
|From CTC's Safety in Numbers|
And we note that what these high to moderate-level cycling nations all have in common, across major cultural differences, and differences of climate and physical and human geography, is the provision of networks for cyclists separate from motor traffic. Cycle paths and cycle tracks, as you see in the video. And we see there is a perfect correlation. The Netherlands and Denmark have far more cycle-specific infrastructure than the other countries, and they have far higher cycling rates, and genuinely safer cycling. The cluster of nations further to the left all have a significant amount of quality cycle infrastructure, but far less than the Netherlands and Denmark. The nations on the left of the graph have hardly any proper cycle infrastructure (though the city of Paris at least seems to be making some progress on this).
The CTC wanted to demonstrate in this graph a relationship between cycling safety and numbers of cyclists, which clearly does exist, but they have largely ignored the most important lesson of this data, which leaps out from it: that you get safety and high cycling numbers simultaneously from high quality dedicated cycle infrastructure. Their document from which this graph is taken has nothing to say about infrastructure!
I can't cherry-pick a scene in London to video, comparable to the bicycle rush-hour on Nørrebrogade . The closest I can get is this scene in Bloomsbury, which I have shown before. And, funnily enough, the infrastructure in this picture, exceptionally for the UK, looks a little bit like Dutch or Danish cycle infrastructure.
But, such rare exceptions notwithstanding, the UK, by and large, continues on a strange cycling path of its own, a path of trying to "promote" cycling rather than actually accommodating it. Here's some "low-hanging fruit", that I snapped in my garden in June:
|Low-hanging fruit in Brent|
|"Catch up with the bicycle", Gladstone Park, Brent, London|
Well, with no criticism intended to Gerhard or the other staff of LCC, but plenty of criticism intended for TfL, I have to say I think this is utter bunkum. When bureaucrats come up with crappy phrases like "low-hanging fruit", you know you are in fantasy-land. They should have taken cognisance of what Griet Scheldemen of Lancaster University said, commenting on the Understanding Walking and Cycling study of which she was a part:
Regrettably, we did not find this mass of people on the threshold of change, who only needed a little push to start cycling as a daily means of getting around...For the truth is there is no way that many families are ever going to cycle the main roads of Brent with their kiddies in these cycle trailers or child seats, without an infrastructure revolution in London of which there is absolutely no sign. There is no way these families using these contraptions will "take the lane" through the deadly concrete tunnel in Neasden under the North Circular Road, or ride on the equally terrifying motorway-style flyover across the North Circular at Staples Corner: the junctions on that road that lie immediately to the north and west of this park. And, if they want to go the the areas of Brent to the north and west of this park, if they live in Neasden, Wembley or Colindale, these two roads are where they are going to have to cycle. Because there are no other crossings of the North Circular Road for miles in either direction that you could get these bike trailers through.
|The approach to the footbridge across the North Circular Road at Kenwyn Avenue|
Here's the second off-road option I mentioned, the horrible Neasden cycle/pedestrian underpass. Try getting your Bakfiets or Christiana round those barriers and corners. The lady with the pushchair is having enough trouble.
|The pedestrian/cycle underpass of the North Circular Road at Neasden Lane|
|One-way slip road at Neasden shopping centre that makes it impossible to legally cycle to the official bike underpass of the North Circular|
|The shared pedestrian/cycle tunnel under the North Circular at Neasden|
|The Neasden cycle/pedestrian underpass exit into Neasden Lane North|
|Neaden northern roundabout|
|Exit from Neasden cycle/pedestrian underpass on the west side of Neasden Lane North|
|The Neasden North Circular Road underpass , looking north-west|
|Neasden's "Death Valley" looking towards the southern Neasden roundabout|
|Neasden Lane North junction with Verney Street|
|Blackbird hill, the meeting-point of Neasden, Wembley and Kingsbury|
It is not the slightest bit surprising that families cycling with children are seen round here less frequently than UFOs.
Much less frequently, in fact. If anybody wanted further explanation of why, as mentioned in my last post, the wards of Brent to the north of the North Circular have true cycling mode shares probably below 0.5%, here it is. When TfL come up with this crap about just needing to put a bike trailer under the noses of their "low hanging fruit" of Brent parents who are just dying to cycle their kids on these monstrous roads, or trying to negotiate these impossible, crappy, tenth-rate cycle "facilities", I have to despair.
What the Dutch and the Danes teach us is that, with cycle facilities, you have to engineer for everybody to make it work for anybody. You have to build your cycle infrastructure to a quality that works safely and efficiently, simultaneously, for 8 year-old children on their own and fit young adult commuters and for everybody inbetween, including every kind of bike and bike trailer. If you under-engineer, or try to cheaply adapt already inadequate pedestrian facilities with just a bit of lining or surfacing, or try to get away with something that some idiot in the council thinks might be "OK for slow cyclists or novices or those afraid of the traffic", you just get unusable rubbish. If TfL can't get together the money and political resolution to implement sensible, safe cycling infrastructure, they should stop trying to promote cycling at all with these ridiculous tents at community festivals. For doing so is simply a waste of money.
The Dutch do not seem to waste their money in this way. They actually build things. They are strange, like that. The nation of dyke and dam and sluice builders and drainers of polders actually build stuff all the time. While the infrastructure of Brent, and most of outer London, seems frozen in a time-warp as it was left by the road and flyover builders about 1972, with seemingly all further change impossible, or impossible to afford for the UK, the eighth richest nation in the work, apart from putting in the odd stainless steel anti-cycling barrier, or putting down of two colours of slippery paving in a narrow, wet, horrible pedestrian subway, the Dutch constantly build high-standard bridges, tunnels and underpasses everywhere, from one end of their country to the other, to separate cyclists from motor vehicles and pedestrians and let cyclists travel in safety, speed, and style, to all the places they could want to go. If the North Circular Road were in the Netherlands, cyclists would go under it like this:
|Dual carriageway and two-way cycle track go under a motorway in Assen, Netherlands|
|Cycle bridge over a motorway in Groningen, Netherlands|
So are Hammerson going to give the cyclists of north-west London something like this? I'm afraid I'm not holding my breath.