Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Andrew Mitchell, a Greenway, and the bike as a negotiable carriage

Andrew Mitchell has become an unlikely hero of cycling. Though he should not have been uncivil to anyone, especially a policeman doing his job, the real point about the story is the confusion in this country about the use of bikes as transport.

On the one hand, we are continually told that a bike is a vehicle: a cyclist must ride on the road, not the pavement (except where cycle paths are provided, which is hardly anywhere) and obey all the rules of the road. Cyclists must behave a drivers of vehicles. No matter that the whole road system has been engineered, not for them, but for far larger, faster and more powerful motor vehicles which surround and threaten them at every point. A bicycle is a carriage in our archaic road law.

On the other hand, it seems like the vehicular status of bikes is negotiable: but not by cyclists themselves – oh no, they must keep pretending to be cars, and obey all red lights, even when doing so puts them in danger, and keep off the pavements, even when that means risking their necks in 60mph traffic – but by those in authority whom in in large or small ways would be inconvenienced or caused expense (which is always an inconvenience) by the consistent application of the vehicular principle to bicycles.

The policeman who refused to open the gate for Mitchell is an example of one who would be inconvenienced in a small way. Larger examples are provided in a route for a proposed new "Greenway" for walkers and cyclists in north-west London that I have recently seen. This greenway is proposed to run from Stanmore, on the northern edge of Greater London, to the Thames at Brentford.  It is a Transport for London funded project that has been planned by Sustrans, and is supposed to be implemented by the boroughs. It has some potential, in particular in bringing back into use as a useful route the line of a long-closed railway from Stanmore to Harrow. In other places it consists of the somewhat complex and twisty mixture of minor roads (lacking, of course, general priority for cyclists using the route) and paths across open spaces that Sustrans tends to favour for its projects. I tend to feel that this kind of thing is fundamentally misconceived anyway: cyclists, whether they be commuters, shoppers or schoolchildren, for practical journeys, really need direct, simple and consistent routes, with preservation of momentum and priority, which, in this part of London, due to the railway barriers, with crossing points only at the main roads, will only ever be achieved using segregated cycle tracks on those main roads: but Sustrans don't seem to be interested in this kind of idea (Dutch-style infrastructure with a proven record of working) but stick to their own idea of trying to connect up parks with a convoluted hodgepodge of measures.

Sustrans' bizarre masterplan for the Greenways in Brent. Who would use this convoluted network?
However, even if we ignore my view on this for the moment, and agree to be satisfied with the general principles of Sustrans' Greenway concept, we see that they quickly become unstuck with this route. For in order to try to connect up their chain of green spaces, they have to get to Northwick Park, on the borders of Brent and Harrow (point A on the map above), from the north, and there is no way to do this using current infrastructure. Their proposal involves cyclists dismounting and walking across one narrow pedestrian bridge over a railway, getting on again to cycle along a minor road (which, as it leads to a station, actually has quite a lot of traffic on it, including buses) and then, only about 200 metres further on, dismounting again to actually wheel their bikes through the ticket hall of the station, and then through a passage, used by substantial numbers of train passengers, going to and fro all day, that is literally only 1.25 metres wide, because this is the only passage under the Metropolitan Line that allows access to Northwick Park.

Sustrans thinks it's a sensible idea to include this passage in a Greenway route, telling cyclists to "dismount"
If the whole route were to work, and actually attract cyclists (which seems unlikely), this clearly would be a recipe for chaos and conflict, because no pedestrian could pass a cyclist wheeling their bike coming the other way in this passage. It is beyond me why the builders of the Met line decided to build such a stupidly narrow passage, but that is how it is, and since the line was put here early in the 20th century, nothing has been changed.

Now if bicycles are really "carriages", then they can't be dismounted and pushed through 1.2m wide passages. If they are road vehicles, them sharing this sort of infrastructure with foot passengers is clearly impossible. So there's a big and costly inconvenience implied here for the "authorities". They really need to knock a bigger passage through, under the Metropolitan line at Northwick Park Station. And I expect the Dutch would actually do this (they would actually have done it decades ago, and would probably have done two, one wide one for pedestrians and one for bikes). I have no doubt it is feasable in pure engineering terms, and could be done while the railway continues to operate above, but it would cost many millions of pounds. And that's not the kind of money that is associated with these kinds of schemes. So what's going to happen? Well, there might be a rethink, and Sustrans and the boroughs might find a better route with the aid of local campaigners. Or the route might prove just another largely cosmetic waste of money, in a long tradition. But any real solution in this area, even if it avoids this passage, is going to require much bigger engineering than the planners of this route seem to have been imagining.

If a bike is a vehicle or carriage, the barriers that would have to be overcome, or opened up, to create a route for a vehicle or carriage, must be opened up for bikes. So, in a rather more tractable case, the gates of Downing Street need to be opened for those visiting on bikes. If not, then we should have consistency, and those arriving for meetings there in in cars shold have to park ouside the gates in Whitehall, get out, and walk through the side gate. A dismounted cyclist is a pedestrian pushing a useless lump of metal on wheels. Dismounting means changing modes. Why should the cyclist, but not the car passenger, be forced to change modes?

It's all about convenience, and making the bike actually a practical mode of transport. A bike can be wheeled, unlike a car. But that's not an excuse for ignoring its true nature. If we continue to do that, in dealing with both small and large, easy and difficult, cheap and expensive barriers, we will fail to generate a cycling culture.

Friday, 21 September 2012

CTC in a policy muddle

There's been a certain amount of CTC-bashing here of late, and also in other places. But I think CTC have a very difficult job to do. I really do. They have to be an "inclusive church". They have to reflect a very broad spectrum of views from within their ranks as to what cycling policy should be. This is in contrast to the position of the Cycling Embassy of Great Britain, which started as a movement of bloggers and cycle campaigners dissatisfied with the policies and performance records (in terms of improving cycling conditions and getting more cyclists on the roads) of existing organisations, like CTC, LCC and Cyclenation, and thus started from an ideological (in the best sense), not an inclusive standpoint. The Embassy doesn't have to reflect the views of those who disagree with it. They can just not support it, as they wish.

And some UK cyclists, quite a lot in fact, do not support the Embassy's, and this blog's, pro-cycling infrastructure stance. Some take a spectacularly different view. In response, I think, to my post yesterday, where I called on the new Road Safety Minister, Stephen Hammond, to
achieve far more emphasis on the provision of safe, high-quality, separated cycling infrastructure for cyclists in the UK
I had a Tweet from Andy Kewell (@VexedVeloist), who had this to say:
Sorry, but I want to ride where I want when I want by whatever route I want. I totally disagree with CEGB's segregation policy.
 I responded with:
Have you actually seen what it's like in the Netherlands Andy? How you have a great choice of routes, and they're all safe.
To which he responded:
Segregating cyclists off the roads is victim blaming, restricts choice of route and panders to drivers 'owning the road'.
After I retweeted his original tweet to my follwers, there developed an enormously long Twitter argument between Andy and others of the "Embassy persuasion". It would be too cumbersome to try to reproduce this here, and inappropriate, but I mention this for several reasons. One reason is that I know that this blog has quite a few Dutch readers. It is often very hard for the Dutch to understand quite what the "problem" is in UK cycling circles – to understand where the argument around separated infrastructure comes from in this country – and why cyclists here (and perhaps even more in the USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand) can't seem to speak with one voice to government to demand clearly what they want.

I would like them to be able to appreciate it, for the more they do, the more, perhaps, they will be able to help us.

For Andy's views, which are not that unusual amongst UK cyclists, of course, embody a total, profound misunderstanding of the nature of the Dutch cycling solution, or paradigm, and a complete misunderstanding of what the Cycling Embassy and allied groups are campaigning for. Nobody holding these views can possibly have read thoroughly, and understood, the arguments advanced in this blog, or on the Embassy website, or on the Dutch-based English-Language cycling blogs A View From The Cycle Path (David Hembrow) or BicycleDutch (Mark Wagenbuur).

Moreover, they clearly can't have experienced cycling in the modern Netherlands themselves. Well I happen to know that Andy lives in Southend, Essex, which is just a shot train journey, or a 60 mile bike ride, from the port of Harwich (the ride would be partly on very dangerous and almost unavoidable trunk roads, of course, like the A120, for this is the UK). From Harwich one gets in one sea hop to the Hook of Holland, and from there, on wide, convenient, safe, fun, cycle paths, of course, to the rest of the Netherlands. I hope Andy makes that journey some time.

It can be quite difficult, because of the culture differences, not because of the reality, to deal with this "big issue" some British, North American and Australasian cyclists have about the "choice of route" and "being banned from roads", if they have not seen and experienced the reality of cycling in the Netherlands for themselves. David Hembrow has a good stab at getting over this mental block of theirs in his post on unravelling of modes:
Should our intrepid cyclist defy the sign and cycle with this bus and van [behind the noise barriers], he/she would simply find another set of traffic lights four hundred metres from this one.
Fighting for the "right to ride" on roads such as this one would be a meaningless gesture. No-one is interested in doing so, because it makes no sense at all to prefer to ride in those conditions. This is a road which exists to deal with the consequences of cars.
Another way of putting it was stated by a Dutch person on a blog comment I read somewhere, sometime, which I recall as something like:
For a British cyclist to come to the Netherlands and say to a Dutch cyclist "How do you cope with being banned from so many roads?" is a bit like an American coming to the UK and saying: "You know that socialised national health system you have over here? Does it actually prevent you from doing open heart surgery on your grandfather in your garden shed if you want to?" 
Laugh Out Loud: the point being that both questions prove to be comically irrelevant to the person to whom they are addressed, who understands the national infrastructural and cultural background.

Sorry, "right to the road" freaks, but cycling is banned on this road in Assen because it makes sense to ban cycling here. The road is going into a tunnel under a railway, but the excellent two-way cycle tracks on both sides of the road make the ban completely irrelevant. But such examples, away from the motorway network, are rare.
Though I don't know if he is member of not, the CTC clearly feels it has to accommodate the under-informed views of people like Andy. Hence, I suspect, their problems and contortions around policy. These have been extremely-well illustrated by the correspondence recently on a post of The Alternative Department for Transport blog, in which I and the two senior policy-makers at CTC, Roger Geffen and Chris Juden, have had their say.

The discussion there got on to the CTC and DfT-approved formula for cycle provision in the UK known as the Hierarchy of Provision. I, and the Embassy, are opposed to the Hierarchy of Provision. We think it makes no sense at all as a policy. For a clearly-argued dissection of why this is, see At War With the Motorist (Joe Dunckley). Here is the Hierarchy, lifted from the CTC website:

Consider first
Traffic reduction

Speed reduction

Junction treatment, hazard site treatment, traffic management

Reallocation of carriageway space (e.g. bus lanes, widened nearside lanes, cycle lanes)

Cycle tracks away from roads
Consider last
Conversion of footways/footpaths to shared use cycle tracks for pedestrians and cyclists

A correspondent on the Alternative DfT blog questioned why Dutch-style high-quality segregated cycle tracks on main roads, which seem to to be, to so many people, the critical "missing ingredient" that the UK needs to adopt to begin to properly accommodate cycling, appear to be discouraged by CTC by being either placed near the bottom of the Hierarchy, or not mentioned at all, depending on your interpretation of what the unclear terms in the last two rows of the Hierarchy actually mean. (If they are cycle tracks, they are not away from roads, those are cycle paths, and if they are shared use, they are not proper Dutch-style dedicated cycle tracks.)

This is the kind of thing for which the CTC/DfT Hierarchy of Provision seems to find no place, the segregated but not shared-use cycle track alongside a road, in this case, Royal College Street, Camden, London.

Chris Juden then came up with this reply, which I quote in full:

The Hierarchy of Provision is lifted straight out of DUTCH planning advice. THEIR top priority is to create calm neighbourhoods where people can live, play, walk and ride bikes in safety and only drive motor vehicles with great caution. They call it a Woonerf. Outside the Woonerf, if the traffic speeds and volumes are low, they still don’t separate bikes from cars on quiet country lanes for example. Slightly busier low-speed roads get on-highway cycle lanes (a whole lot wider than UK ever provides of course), but Dutch PRIORITY is to make those roads less busy: interrupt them (not for bikes though) and send through traffic another way. 
Separate sidepaths are a last resort for the Dutch too. They are provided where the road simply must carry significant traffic at a much higher than cycling speed. 
All this is in Hembrow and Wagenbuur, but they concentrate on the separate sidepaths because that’s the most concrete difference between what they have and what we don’t have. 
No actually it isn’t. There’s something else, involving a whole lot more concrete that Hembrow and Wagenbuur completely ignore. The Dutch motorway network. The Dutch can close roads to through motor traffic to create Woonerfen and reduce capacity on other roads to make room for high quality off carriageway cycle tracks because they have not been shy about building ring roads and motorways for the displaced traffic. Go onto Google maps and check out any Dutch city. I challenge you to find any part of any city that is more than 10km from a motorway or does not have a complete ring road. Now go look at London on the same scale. Or any British City. They all still depend upon general purpose roads to get traffic around through and out of the city, roads on ancient alignments that provide the line of least cycling resistance but intersect in maelstroms like Bow and cannot be equipped with good quality cycle infrastructure so long as so much motor traffic has to go that way too. It’s a problem for anyone who wants cyclepaths but opposes new road schemes, which is probably most cycle campaigners.

It's hard for me to know where to begin in trying to answer Chris here. I can live (as I have to) with the odd correspondent on Twitter, like Andy Kewell, completely misunderstanding the Dutch paradigm, but when an almost equal incomprehension is displayed by a senior policy person at the UK's largerst cycling organisation, it is deeply disappointing, and it shows all too clearly why the Embassy had to be founded.

So let's start at the beginning, and take this apart bit by bit. It's going to be a long process.
Juden: 
The Hierarchy of Provision is lifted straight out of DUTCH planning advice.
Words may have been copied, but nationally-specific understandings and assumptions often underlie simple words, and mislead. Clearly a massive misinterpretation has taken place in translation from whatever the "Dutch planning advice" was to its interpretation in CTC/DfT policy, as the Dutch do not "consider last" segregated cycle tracks as a solution for busy main roads which cyclists need to use. Such tracks are near-universal in the Netherlands now on such roads.
Juden: 
THEIR top priority is to create calm neighbourhoods where people can live, play, walk and ride bikes in safety and only drive motor vehicles with great caution. They call it a Woonerf.
Complete nonsense. The Netherlands is not some fairy-land dedicarted to "calm neighbourhoods where people can live, play, walk and ride bikes in safety and only drive motor vehicles with great caution". The Netherlands is a modern industrialised nation with everything any other similar nation has: high-speed roads, railways, tram and busways, industrial waterways and docks, and huge-scale industry, retail, and industrial agriculture. This is all accomodated by Dutch planning. It ain't a fairyland. It's a working and very economically successful country, surprise, surprise! But the overriding principle, where cycling is concerned, is separation from motor traffic. Anyone who spends any time cycling there can see that, and feel and experience it – whatever the CTC, or even contextually misunderstood Dutch planning guidance, say.

Amusing cartoon, CTC, but let's have a bit less of the fairyland, and a bit more understanding of how it actually works in a real country only 127 miles away.
True Woonerven cover a tiny percentage of the area of Dutch towns and cities. They are areas where the streets are dedicated to walking and play, the top speed is "walking pace", and they have nothing whatever to do with the facilitation of fast, efficient bike journeys on the high-quality, backbone cycling infrastructure, which will be elsewhere (though small cycle paths will always connect housing in the Woonerf to that infrastructure). They are not the normal or default treatment for residential areas either. There is a total misunderstanding here of the nature, scale, and role of Woonerven evidenced in Chris Juden's statement.

This is serious transport infrastructure in the Netherlands, this kind of thing is a "top priority" there (to mimic Juden's language of claimed priorities) and it has absolutely nothing to do with woonerven. If you think this is not Dutch "top priority", consider, why was the canal on the right moved two metres sideways at vast expense to accommodate this cycle track?
Juden: 
Outside the Woonerf, if the traffic speeds and volumes are low, they still don’t separate bikes from cars on quiet country lanes for example.
Actually, they do if they need to! Go and look. It depends what you mean by "quiet", of course, but, if there is demand, if it is an important road for cycling (especially for children to cycle to school on) and there is, by UK standards, any significant motor traffic on it at all, they separate. Everywhere.

There's only a few cars a minute on this country road near Assen, but that's enough to warrant separation with cycle paths.
Juden: 
Slightly busier low-speed roads get on-highway cycle lanes (a whole lot wider than UK ever provides of course), but Dutch PRIORITY is to make those roads less busy: interrupt them (not for bikes though) and send through traffic another way.
No it's not. Dutch priority is to separate cars and bikes. Go and look and experience. Juden is confusing several classes of solution here: cycle lanes on roads that have significant traffic (usually in suburbs, where the roads have not yet been rebuilt to the latest fully-segregated standards), cycle lanes on roads that have nothing except a small amount of essential access traffic on them (usually in town centres), and cycle lanes on "bicycle roads" that have to provide access to a few residential properties as well, and are there to emphasise the "cycle priority" aspect of the road. In all cases it's not about "making roads less busy" in the sense in which that phrase would be understood in the UK context. It's about reliable, full separation.

Here's a "bicycle road" with cycle lanes that turns into a totally car-free cycle path. It is only not totally car-free for the section in the foreground because it provides access to some houses, but it's virtually as good as if it were, and the advisory cycle lanes indicate cycle priority.
Juden: 
Separate sidepaths are a last resort for the Dutch too. They are provided where the road simply must carry significant traffic at a much higher than cycling speed.
I've already dealt with this one. (But I am not sure why Juden adopts the American terminology, from Forester, of "sidepaths". We call them "cycle tracks" in the UK.) It makes no sense to call something a "last resort" where it is the automatic, univeral solution for a certain type of road. To put it like this, in English, and in the British context, is simply misleading. The whole concept of a hierarchy of provision makers no sense, from this perspective. Decisions on appropriate solutions for any road have to start from a decision on the function of a road, not from a universal template hierarchy. The Netherlands is a modern industrial nation, as I have said. It needs big, fast roads for transport. Sometimes, as in the UK, these have to coincide with the only available cycle route, for reasons of geography or history. The difference is that the Dutch always provide the high-quality cycle track, the British almost never do.

A cycle track like this on a major through-road like this (between Assen and Groningen) is not a "last resort" in the Netherlands, it is the only solution that is used in these circumstances.
Juden: 
All this is in Hembrow and Wagenbuur, but they concentrate on the separate sidepaths because that’s the most concrete difference between what they have and what we don’t have.
Well, no they don't, and no it's not. Read them and make your own mind up. If you search A view from the cycle path under "segregation without cycle paths" (one of the options offered in the right-hand menu) you get article after article explaining most carefully the other options in the Dutch cycle planning armoury. The differences in the way minor roads are organised in towns and cities is at least as profound a difference between Dutch and British practice as is the provision of cycle tracks. As Hembrow explains:
Over the last few decades, the Netherlands has unwoven the networks of car and bicycle routes. If you compare routes for the same journey by bicycle and by car, then in very many cases you will find that the two routes are very different to one another.
Again, the over-riding policy is the separation of bikes from motor traffic, whether its through cycle paths, cycle lanes, cycle tracks, cycle roads, or separated routes that use a whole battery of measures in their completion.
Juden: 
No actually it isn’t. There’s something else, involving a whole lot more concrete that Hembrow and Wagenbuur completely ignore. The Dutch motorway network. The Dutch can close roads to through motor traffic to create Woonerfen and reduce capacity on other roads to make room for high quality off carriageway cycle tracks because they have not been shy about building ring roads and motorways for the displaced traffic. Go onto Google maps and check out any Dutch city. I challenge you to find any part of any city that is more than 10km from a motorway or does not have a complete ring road. Now go look at London on the same scale. Or any British City. They all still depend upon general purpose roads to get traffic around through and out of the city, roads on ancient alignments that provide the line of least cycling resistance but intersect in maelstroms like Bow and cannot be equipped with good quality cycle infrastructure so long as so much motor traffic has to go that way too. It’s a problem for anyone who wants cyclepaths but opposes new road schemes, which is probably most cycle campaigners.
No, Hembrow and Wagenbuur don't ignore motorways. You can search A view from the cycle path again for references to motorways, and a huge number of illuminating articles come up, often on topics most British cyclists would never have thought about, such as how noise from motorways is kept away from cyclists (and residents). And you can read BicycleDutch's explanations of how cyclists are guided through, over and under motorway junctions and networks.

But once again, here, there are errors and misinterpretations in terminology leading us astray. For while the Dutch do have the huge roads that we in the UK call "motorways", of course, most of their "motorways" are not this. They are the equivalent of a certain type of British A-class road. The Dutch do not have an equivalent category of road to the UK "A" road, because the UK's category would be too broad for them, covering, as it does, such a vast range of road-types, from six-lane, "motorway-in-all-but-name"-type trunk roads, through densely-active shopping streets in towns, down to heavily-trafficked two-lane country lanes and little-used single track roads in remote areas such as the Scottish Highlands.

The Dutch have built the bypasses and ring-roads as the British have. But they did something crucially different at the same time. They made motor traffic take those new roads, and didn't leave the old roads open, without altertation, in the fatally-flawed way that the UK did, so just adding motor capacity. At the same time, Dutch planning, over many decades, separated roads by their function, so those roads defined as "motorways" (which need not be very wide roads) were specialised only to take through motor traffic, not to provide direct access to shops and schools and workplaces. The category of "access roads" was developed to do just that, provide that access, but not to transfer traffic at the same time between districts.

The doctrine of the mono-functional road became part of the framework of sustainable safety, and cycle networks were enabled in large part by the removal of much traffic from roads defined as outside the motorway network by this ongoing programmne of the separation of functions of the diffrerent classes of road. The process is not complete of course, and is not perfect. But it has created "main roads" strikingly different from their UK equivalents, where so many functions are attempted to be accommodated on such roads simultaneously: through-traffic movement, access to shops, schools and businesses, bus routes, cycle and pedestrian routes.

The DfT website has this picture as a banner on their "roads" pages as I suspect illustrating something they think well-designed, but it's  a typical British multi-functional road (The Cut, London SE1), attempting to do too many jobs ineffectively.
So nearly everything now seems to be different in the Dutch road and street fabric from how it is in the UK's. It is hard to adequately summarise the differences in a short essay, and, again, I urge everybody to go and see it for themselves. The huge contrast, with so many things being different at once, poses a challenge of interpretation and explanation to UK audiences, and it becomes remarkable to reflect that these nations are only separated by 130 miles of sea. People like Juden are confused because so much is different, and they pick out certain things which they think are critical differences, when they need to better interpret the whole.

Where Juden says:
I challenge you to find any part of any city that is more than 10km from a motorway or does not have a complete ring road. Now go look at London on the same scale.
I do so, and I find that because of the separation of functions on Dutch roads, large and small, and the differences of road definition, this is not a meaningful challenge. There are places in London more than 10km from a motorway (but not my house, which is 2km from the M1). But they are not more than 10km away from a road that Dutch planners, in all probability, would have re-interpreted and planned as a "distributor road", gradually removing its direct access functions, over time, had they been in charge here since 1950. So we've got a long-term planning challenge here, of that there is no doubt.

I am certain that we will never make the UK's roads quite like Dutch roads. It's a different country, and differences, including some major differences, are certain to always remain, for reasons cultural, topographic, geographic, economic and political. But we could start to take parts of their best practice and interpret them as best we can into what we have. As I have seen done in some of the very different cities of Italy, Switzerland, and Germany, and has no doubt been done in many places that I haven't visited. To start with, we need to stop so strenuously finding reasons "why it can't be done here". Come on, CTC, let's have some vision!

Segregated cycle track on main road, near Geneva, Switzerland. It's not flat here. And it's not Cycletopia, but it's much better than the UK.

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Response to new Road Safety Minister's THINK! CYCLIST press release

Dear Sarah,

Thank you very much for the email and press release.

I appreciate your sending this to me, and the offer of an interview with Stephen Hammond. I would be very interested in having an interview with Stephen Hammond, on behalf of the Cycling Embassy of Great Britain, of which I am a Board Member.

I would particularly like to find out if the new Road Safety Minister considers it a priority for the government to achieve far more emphasis on the provision of safe, high-quality, separated cycling infrastructure for cyclists in the UK.

In the Cycling Embassy of Great Britain we consider that this will be the only effective way of reducing the distressingly high casualty rate of cyclists on our roads. Eighty-seven have been killed so far this year, and four in one day, the 5th September. We consider this is not a problem that can be addressed merely with publicity campaigns calling for better behaviour from road users. Most of our road designs are highly outdated and constantly force cyclists and motor vehicles into conflict, in sharp contrast to the road designs of many of our continental neighbours, particularly those of the Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden and Germany, where the issues around accommodating much larger numbers of cyclists than we have here, more safely, have been effectively solved.

We would therefore be very interested to find out how the minister regards this issue, and what plans he might have for addressing it. The Cycling Embassy of Great Britain, which is dedicated to identifying and sharing best practice on cycling infrastructure, would very much like to work with him on practical solutions.

Yours,

David Arditti

On 20 Sep 2012, at 13:03, Sarah Clark <sarah@forster.co.uk> wrote:

Dear David,
 
The first ever cycling road safety campaign from THINK! was launched this morning by the new Road Safety Minister, Stephen Hammond.
 
‘THINK CYCLIST’ is calling on drivers and cyclists to stay safe this autumn by looking out for each other – and pointing out that drivers and cyclists have more in common than is often realised. With 80% of cyclists holding a driving licence, and 1 in 5 drivers cycling at least once a month, they’re often the same people.
 
With the ‘Wiggins Effect’ putting more people on the road, staying safe is a priority. This is the Road Safety Minister’s first opportunity to speak to cyclists and drivers about road safety. If you would like an interview with Stephen Hammond please let me know.
 
I look forward to hearing from you.
 
Sarah
 
Press Release
 
DRIVERS AND CYCLISTS AGREE “LET’S LOOK OUT FOR EACH OTHER”
 
A new poll[1] for the Department for Transport’s THINK! campaign has found that 25% of UK adults are noticing more cyclists on the road after our cycling summer of success. With the ‘Wiggins Effect’ putting more people on the road, staying safe is a priority.
 
A new THINK! Campaign, ‘THINK CYCLIST’, calls on drivers and cyclists to stay safe this autumn by looking out for each other – pointing out that drivers and cyclists have more in common than is often realised. With 80% of cyclists holding a driving licence, and 1 in 5 drivers cycling at least once a month[2], they are often the same people.
 
The THINK CYCLIST poll has also showed that cyclists and drivers agree on how to stay safe on the road.
·         Looking twice for each other when turning or at junctions came out top for both as the precaution that would avoid the most collisions (41% of regular cyclists, and 35% of regular car drivers).
·         Both also agree on how to make things better, with 67% of cyclists and 59% of drivers saying that giving each other space on the road was in their top three ways of making cyclists and drivers more visible to road users[3].
 
Road Safety Minister Stephen Hammond said:
 
“We take the issue of cycle safety extremely seriously so we are launching ‘THINK CYCLIST’, a campaign aimed at both cyclists and drivers.
 
“With interest in cycling heightened by Bradley Wiggins winning the Tour de France and our cyclists’ extraordinary success at the Olympics and Paralympics too, we want to remind cyclists and drivers of the importance of looking out for each other to avoid accidents. 
 
“Many people cycle and drive and a new THINK! poll shows both road user groups agree that looking twice at junctions, as well as giving each other space on the road, are practical things that we can all do to help reduce the numbers of cyclists killed and seriously injured on our roads each year.”
 
The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson said: "The safety of London's road users is an absolute priority for me and improved cycle safety in particular is at the heart of all our work. So with ever more Londoners taking to the streets on two wheels, many inspired by our amazing summer of sport, the THINK CYCLIST campaign is a timely reminder of the need for road users to respect each other and make the city a safer place."
 
THINK CYCLIST is calling on drivers and cyclists to
o   Look out for each other, especially when turning
o   Signal intentions so that the other road user can react
o   Give cyclists space and remember that cyclists are advised to ride well clear of the kerb to be visible and avoid collisions
 
This is the first time that THINK! has targeted cyclists and drivers together, and the campaign has the support of organisations such as the RAC, AA and IAM The campaign will be working with motoring and cycling organisations nationally and locally to help to get safety messages to their members.
 
RAC technical director David Bizley said: “RAC welcomes any measure which helps improve safety for all road users and clearly with the growing interest in cycling there is a need for greater prominence of cycle safety. Many of our members are cyclists as well as drivers and we are keen to see greater awareness of the needs and risks presented by modern road use to, potentially, vulnerable cyclists.”
 
AA President Edmund King said: "There are too many accidents between cars and cyclists.  We need to look for each other whether opening a car door or changing lanes.  As fuel prices rise and fitness moves higher up the agenda there will be more cyclists. Drivers need to think more about cyclists on the road."
 
Chief executive of the IAM Simon Best said:  “Whether you’re on two wheels or four, you are responsible for the safety of others.  All accidents are preventable. By being considerate and eradicating bad habits we can significantly reduce accidents.”
ENDS
 
For further information please call Ella Sunyer or Cheryl Campsie on 020 7403 2230 or 07961 145 953 or Ella on 07859 078 932 or email ella@forster.co.uk /Cheryl@forster.co.uk
 
Notes to editors
 
1.  THINK! is the Department for Transport’s road safety campaign. Find out more at www.direct.gov.uk/think
 
2.  THINK CYCLIST is THINK!’s new cycling safety campaign.  Find out more at
 
3.  THINK CYCLIST advice:
 
When you’re driving
 
  1. Look out for cyclists, especially when turning - make eye contact if possible so they know you’ve seen them
 
  1. Use your indicators - signal your intentions so that cyclists can react
 
  1. Give cyclists space – at least half a car’s width.  If there isn’t sufficient space to pass, hold back. Remember that cyclists may need to manoeuvre suddenly if the road is poor, it’s windy or if a car door is opened. 
 
  1. Always check for cyclists when you open your car door
 
  1. Avoid driving over advance stop lines – these allow cyclists to get to the front and increase their visibility
 
  1. Follow the Highway Code including ‘stop’ and ‘give way’ signs and traffic lights
 
When you’re cycling
 
  1. Ride positively, decisively and well clear of the kerb – look and signal to show drivers what you plan to do and make eye contact where possible so you know drivers have seen you. 
 
  1. Avoid riding up the inside of large vehicles, like lorries or buses, where you might not be seen
 
  1. Always use lights after dark or when visibility is poor
 
  1. Wearing light coloured or reflective clothing during the day and reflective clothing and/or accessories in the dark increases your visibility
 
  1. Follow the Highway Code including observing ‘stop’ and ‘give way’ signs and traffic lights
 
  1. THINK! recommends wearing a correctly fitted cycle helmet, which is securely fastened and conforms to current regulations
 
4.  All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc.  Total sample size was 2117 adults.  Fieldwork was undertaken between 21st - 23th August 2012. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all UK adults (aged 18+).
 
5.  DfT Reported Road Casualties in Great Britain 2011 states that :
  • The number of pedal cyclists killed fell by 4 per cent from 111 in 2010 to 107 in 2011.
  • The number of seriously injured casualties increased by 16 per cent to 3,085.
  • The total number of killed and seriously injured cyclists in creased by 15% to 3,192
  • Pedal cyclist traffic levels are estimated to have risen by 2.2 per cent over the same period
 
Sarah Clark
 
T: 020 7403 2230
 
49 Southwark Street, London SE1 1RU      
www.forster.co.uk   @Forster_Comms   @ForsterAGEncy
Registered name Forster Lamond Ltd. Registered in England No. 3200688


[1] You Gov poll of 2117 adults, 21-23 August 2012
[2] National Travel Survey statistics, 2010
[3] Giving each other space on the road makes it easier for road users to see cyclists/ drivers

Sunday, 16 September 2012

The London Assembly and Safety in Numbers

Last Tuesday's meeting of the London Assembly's Transport Committee, which included its second session examining cycling safety, was quite fascinating. The previous session had allowed a considerable number of people to have their say, including representitives of the LCC, CTC, British Cycling, and the Cycling Embassy of Great Britain (including me). In this second session the speaking guests were restricted to a few "experts": Dr Rachel Aldred, Director of the Sustainable Mobilities Research Group at the University of East London; Karen Dee, Director of Policy at the Freight Transport Association; Ben Plowden, Director of Planning for Surface Transport at TfL; Steffen Rasmussen, Head of Traffic Design, Municipality of Copenhagen; and Roelof Wittink, Director of the Dutch Cycling Embassy. 

To have had these two last mentioned addressing the Aseembly Members was I think particularly remarkable. For people like me have been saying to London local government for decades that we need to get some experts from those European countries where very high cycling rates have been achieved to explain to us what is actually needed (if not to put them actually in charge of making the necessary changes, which would be even better). This was the first time, to my knowledge, that something like this has actually happened: that any level of UK Government has sought advice on cycling from experts from the continent. This is a very welcome and long overdue development.

The exchanges can be heard on a (very long) webcast available on this page*. Another blogger has already commented on the contribution to the debate of Richard Tracey, Conservative AM. I'm not going to give a full account of the session here, but I've transcribed, in a very approximate style, missing a lot out, but keeping, I hope, a fair essence of what was said, a few points that I felt were highly significant from around the 1 hour 50 minutes mark to the 2 hours 10 minutes mark.

In this section of the debate, Assembly Members were asking the experts about trends in cycling levels and cycling safety in London and elsewhere, and about the concepts of "Critical Mass" and "Safety in Numbers". Ben Plowden, questioned at length on the London statistics, had held to the the view that safety for cyclists in London was getting better over time, taking into account the increasing number of cyclists, with the particularly large number of deaths last year (16) being possibly only a statistical "blip".
Darren Johnson AM, to Roelhoff Wittink: 
In the Netherlands there's been a growth in cycling, but there hasn't been a comparable growth in casualties as there has been in London. Could you say something about that? 
Wittink: 
Cycling grew in the 70s and 80s because of our policies, and safety increased along with it. It has to do with the level of cycling but also with the measures that you take. 
Johnson: 
Do you put it down to a critical mass of cyclists on the road? 
Wittink:
That's a very important  explanation, but, also, if you move people from driving to cycling, you have fewer people causing the troubles for cyclists on the roads. Segregation where you have more than 30km/h is very important. We also disconnect the main routes for cyclists from the main routes for cars, so you have less intersections where you have both high volumes of cyclists and high volumes of cars. I had a look at some your roundabouts, some kilometres from here. The roundabouts we have in the Netherlands slow drivers down but your roundabouts allow drivers still to have a speed of 40km an hour – that's really impossible for cyclists. 
[Steffen Rasmussen is asked to comment] 
Rasmussen: 
There might be something about a critical mass of cyclists, we need more reasearch on the issue of critical mass, I don't know of any research specific to Europe. Infrastructure is extremely important, and we have a lot of work still to do in the City of Copenhagen. 
[Comments are invited from others, and Racheal Aldred speaks] 
Aldred: 
You expect trends in deaths to get better year on year because health care gets better, but when you compare modes, you see it's becoming safer year on year for those in cars, but for cyclists the improvement is much less. I think it's important to compare casualty rates for different modes of travel. The casualty rates for London per kilometre is 30 times greater for cyclists than for car drivers. That's a very big disparity. Comparable figures from the Netherlands (from SWOV) gives you a figure of 4 to 1. It's around 25 to 1 for the UK as a whole. There's an issue there, as we are trying to get people to switch from cars to cycling. In the Netherlands last year there were 4 right-hook deaths in the whole of the country, with their much higher cycling rate. They are doing something much better.  
I want to say something about "Safety in Numbers". This idea has been much discussed. A paper by Jacobsen in 2003 was the original use of the term "Safety in Numbers". He used five data sets, but three of them are cross-sectional, so there is a methodological issue; you can't tell whether you are getting the number of cyclists from safety or the safety from the number of cyclists, because it's at the same time. He used two other data sets that are longitudinal that give you a better insight into that. One of them was from the Netherlands, where he found as you got more cyclists, you did indeed get safer cycling, if you look at at a time series. Interestingly, the other data set was from the UK. He found but data for the UK was very different. It was all over the place; it wasn't showing a consitent improvement in safety related to the number of cyclists. I could talk about this at much greater length than I think you want to hear. There are many mechanisms likely to be going on. I don't think you can say more cyclists always leads to safer cycling. There are different mechanisms going on. It depends on the culture, the infrastructure, the legal context. 
Johnson: 
Could it be that the cycling rate is still too small in London to make a difference, we haven't reached that critical mass where the risk becomes acceptable? 
Aldred: 
What is an acceptable risk level is decided socially. Do we say that at 1%, 2% 5% cycling it gets acceptably safe? It's confounded because as you get more cycling you get more pressure for better cycling conditions, so that will feed into safety. There's a lot of things going on. 
Ben Plowden: 
I've been cycling in London for many years. You used to see hardly any other cyclists on the road, but it's very different now. I think you can get a "virtuous circle" where you get more cyclists, and improved behaviour by road users, leading to a "tipping point" where things change significantly. Now I see in some places 40 cyclists at every cycle of the lights. That must be having an effect on people's perception. 
Aldred: 
I think it is worth noting that Jacobsen's original idea of "Safety in Numbers" was in terms of presence on the roads, not in terms of a log-term cultural shift. In Grays Inn Road, when you've got 40 cyclists around you during rush-hour, it might be relatively pleasant, but late at night, when there are no other cyclists on the road and the traffic is flowing freely, it's a very different experience. You need continuity and consistency.

So, to sum up, it seems that the Director of Planning responsible for cycling in London, and perhaps the Green Assembly Member, expect cycling to automatically become safer as more people do it. On the other hand, those who have studied the subject in detail, and have real experience, know that cycling has to be made safe though the provision of infrastructure that separates cyclists physically from dangerous and intimidating motor traffic.

Personally, having studied the Netherlands, I think there is such a thing as a "critical mass" of cyclists. But it is something quite different to what all these people are thinking of. It is a phenomenon that occurs far further down the line of cycle growth than the regime they are considering. It's not at 2% modal share, or 5%, or 10%. And it's not a physical, "presence on the road" thing, it's the political phenomenon that Rachael Aldred alluded to. It's the "Dutch Effect": what happens when you have, probably, more than 51% of the entire population cycling regularly: a point that was passed in the Netherlands long ago (it is possible participation has never been below this level in the last century).

When you are in this happy situation, absolutely anything is possible for cycling. No expense is too great, no rearrangement of the urban or rural fabric too extreme to be worth doing for the comfort and convenience of cyclists, because virtually everybody wants it, there is little controversy about it, it is accepted, rather like massive state funding of health, railways, and roads for cars are accepted and non-controversial in the UK. I think that until we reach that happy state, politicians who wish for more cycling are going to have to be very pro-active and visionary. It will be vain for them to hope for a magical "tipping point" at some far lower level of cycling uptake, where it will all become easy and semi-automatic. It won't be like that. It will always be a struggle.

As a  post-script to this discussion, I quote from a recent post on the CTC blog written by Roger Geffen, the CTC's Campaigns and Policy Director. He writes about a report on cycling safety in various European countries by the European Traffic Safety Council (ETSC):

ETSC rightly recognises though that you cannot measure cycle safety simply by looking at casualty numbers. Comparisons should be based on the risk of a casualty per mile cycled (or per trip, or per hour – but at any rate, it should be relative to some measure of cycle use). Otherwise you fall into the trap of claiming that Dudley and St Helens are far safer for cycling than Cambridge(!), or, even more absurdly, that Britain is far safer than the Netherlands (as Road Safety Minister Mike Penning claimed in Parliament), simply because places with low cycle use obviously have fewer cyclist casualties. That doesn't mean they are "safer" - indeed, CTC's "Safety in numbers" evidence shows the exact opposite. 
ETSC then shows that Britain is one of only 3 EU countries to measure cycle use at the national level on an annual basis – the others being (you guessed it!) Denmark and the Netherlands. Two others, Sweden and Norway, also measure it reasonably frequently. ETSC compares cycle use and cycle safety in these five countries and, once again, finds clear evidence of the “safety in numbers” effect: cycling is safest in the places with highest cycle use. 
CTC has documented this relationship in the past, based both on a comparison of EU-wide data from a wider range of dates, and of figures from within Britain. However, until now our only source of comparable data on local cycle use within Britain was the national census, which only comes out every 10 years and covers cycle commuting only. It was good enough to show the “safety in numbers” relationship exists, but not to compare how local authorities are actually performing. 
Unsurprisingly, ETSC’s report shows that Britain is performing worst of the 5 countries in their comparison, in terms of both cycle use and cyclists’ safety. But hey, at least we are measuring this!
Here's my question: I've pointed out before how the Director of the Dutch state road safety organisation, SWOV, has said that the simple interpretation of "Safety in Numbers" – that simply having more cyclists automatically gives you safer cycling – is wrong. You have read the exchanges above. You may even have read this essay on the As Easy As Riding A Bike blog on the subject. And you may have read Freewheeler's biting satire Minutes of the Crapborough Cycling Campaign:

Also in Holland they have safety in numbers. Sam said if we could just get more people cycling in Britain then everyone would become as safe as in Holland.

Sam then showed a very interesting diagram showing how safety in numbers works in Holland. Here we see a typical Dutch street scene where a lorry driver pauses before turning. Dutch lorry drivers are used to being surrounded by lots of cyclists, which is why they take extra care at junctions.

My question is:

Is Roger Geffen of the CTC the only person in UK cycle campaigning who still believes in the simplistic nonsense of "Safety in Numbers"?

*Unfortunately the GLA website uses a Windows Media format for its videos that doesn't normally play correctly on Macs (it may be silent). The solution I have found is the free, open-source program VLC, which does play these videos correctly on the Mac.

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Musical chairs are no way to run a railroad

So Justine Greening was Transport Secretary for about five minutes before being replaced with Patrick McLoughlin. I am sure she just about got to understand her brief before being turfed out, aparrently because as a West London MP she was likely to represent the veiws of her constituents, who of course do not want more runways at Heathrow, and it seems to be becoming creeping, unofficial government policy to have more runways at Heathrow.

Much was made, in London cycing circles, when Greening was appointed, of the fact that a photo existed of her on a bike, taken when she was a subject of Wandsworth LCC's Movers and Shakers project to get leading community members on bikes.* Well, much good that did. But I suppose they had to try. As the Cycling Embassy of Great Britain had to try, when it sent her a letter welcoming her to her new portfolio last October, and suggesting, of course, she look at the untapped potenial of cycling in the UK. Now they will have to send a letter to the new man, but I'm sure it won't need to be adjusted much, as little has changed.

It is this kind of administrative insanity, as well as the kind of smaller-scale administrative insanity that I described in my last post, that tends gradually to sap the determination of those who campaign for saner transport policies in the UK. The "churn" of cyclists on the roads is often discussed, but it is linked to another "churn", that of people willing to campaign on the issue, when they see this game of mad musical chairs, when all the effort they had put into trying to convince one policitican of their case is largely thrown away as that politician is propelled elsewhere, or into obscurity, before they have had time to even attempt to change anything in the status quo.

Continually changing the peronnel at the top of government sounds like a recipe for radicalism, for continual shaking-up, but in reality it is quite the reverse. It is a recipe for nothing ever changing, a recipe for mainntaining the status quo in a very conservative country, because nobody who has the power to change anything ever understands properly the things they might change and what the consequences might be while they are in a position to make change, so basically very little does get changed, apart from administrative structures (for the NHS, local government, watchdogs, regulators, the railways etc.) which get changed with wearying frequency. But changing these does not change fundamentals.

Politicians respond to the mood of the media and what they perceive as the populatr zeitgeist, but beyond that, beyond progressing towards any more rational, evidence-based policy making, there is little hope in a system as short-term as ours. For as soon as they realise things might not be as simple as they first thought, hey presto, a new man or woman is in with all the popular prejudices and misunderstandings that have to be corrected once more. I quote a Tweet from railway journalist Keith Barrow:
Germany has had three transport ministers since 2002, so has France. Britain now on No. 8. No wonder transport policy is a mess.
I have no idea what former Chief Whip Patrick McLoughlin's views on transport are. He could be very enlightened for all I know, so I can't criticise him personally. But I can find nothing to say that he has ever taken much interest in the subject, though he was a junior minister for aviation and shipping under Margaret Thatcher for three years 20 years ago.

The last Transport Secretary we had who actually did anything much was Andrew Adonis, who decided to build a high-speed rail line at least as far as Birmingham (welcome to the Europe of the 1970s, Britain), and, to his credit, actually cycled round London trying out the cycle parking at all the mainline stations, condemning it as inadequate, which did lead to some improvements.

Justine Greening made no impact at all. I recall reading an interview with her in The Standard when she was appointed, and people on the greenish side of politics were being quite enthusiastic about her, because she had once been photographed on a bike. But it was obvious from this article that she had no vision for her new post. Her big idea seemed to be flexible use of the M4 Olympic Lane. She joined in the popular campaign against Westminster Council extending parking charges to weekends and evenings, not condemning it outright, but in a mealy-mouthed, coded way (Westminster subsequently dropped the plan). She never condemned nor contradicted the rhetoric of her predecessor, Philip Hammond, on the War on the Motorist. I considered blogging about her, but never bothered. On her watch, plans for large-scale road building revived (though it seems likely that the Chancellor was the main one behind that).

I'm not sure that any Conservative Transport Secretary is likely to do much differently. Most people consider that the big transport issues are Heathrow (or other airports near London), high-speed rail, and motorways, not how our children get to school and housewives (or husbands) get to the shops, and ministers absorb that popular concept. That priority needs to be inverted if we are to get joined-up transport policy making for the long-term social, economic and environmental good. The millions of unnecessary sub-two-mile car journeys should be the top priority for any new Transport Secretary to address.

*Update: I have been informed that that photo was not in fact taken as part of the "Movers and Shakers" project, but on an earlier occasion during a Bike Week treasure hunt on Putney Embankment. This does not alter the thrust of the post though.

Sunday, 2 September 2012

The red tape that strangles cycling provision

I wish to draw your attention to an excellent piece on the Chester Cycling blog, entitled Partition is a panacea. There, the author argues that the provision of safe and attractive cycling infrastructure would not only be a boon for personal mobility in the UK, and good for the environment and public health, but that it fits in exactly with the widely-perceived, in many political circles, need to actually spend public money to generate growth in the economy: the Keynsian theory, which suddenly (over the last few months, as the sustained nature of the recession has become evident to all) has become popular from left to right on the political spectrum. Those on the right tend to emphasise the "investment" aspect of such expenditure, in terms of its proposed future benefits to economic efficiency, rather than the Keynsian "stimulus" aspect. Nevertheless, the agreement over the kind of thing that needs to be done, in practice, seems widespred.

But there is, it seems from statements by government ministers, a problem with this investment, aside from whether we can afford it or not: "red tape". It suddenly seems to be the idea of the moment that "red tape" needs to be swept away to allow government, in collaboration with the private sector, to build the infrastructure that we need. According to George Osborne today, the planning system is too cumbersome and it is getting in the way.

In fact, I agree with this, but on, I suspect, completely different grounds to the ministers who have been talking about it, and the kinds of projects I am thinking about are quite different. I am thinking not about a new runway for Heathrow, but about modest changes to the streets of London. But these things are all related. Let's face it, if we can't get kerbs and signs right, what chance have we with airports and high speed rail?

So, on Friday I was looking at a little street in Brent, just north of Harrow Road, called Hazel Road, with a consultant and some council officers. This street has been closed-off to through-traffic for some years. There is a pedestrainised area by a small playground. We noted that many cyclists were using this street as a bypass to a congested junction on Harrow Road. Good on them, why shouldn't they? This is what "filtered permeability" is all about: giving cyclists easier journeys than other road traffic by letting them use routes that are blocked to motor traffic, in the process, separating them from motor traffic, for the good of all. But unfortunately, cyclists are not officially allowed to pass through the pedestrainised section of Hazel Road. The meeting was convened to consider how to change the street to make it better and regularise the cycle route through here.

Hazel Road, Kensal Green
A few minutes study of Hazel Road and all could agree that esssentially nothing needed to be done to this street apart from a bollard needing renewing, signs at either end bearing cycle-pedestrian shared space symbols needing to be put up, and dropped kerbs needing to be put in. It should cost only a few hundred pounds. A couple of workmen could do it in an afternoon.

But in reality, in UK town planning, things are never as simple, or as cheap, as this. For this road has has a "traffic order" put on it that excluded all wheeled traffic from the pedestrianised section, and it will need another traffic order to create an exception for bikes. That means that Brent has to go through an expensive legal procedure. Public notices need to be issued, adverts need to be placed in obscure papers that nobody reads (and that exist only for the purpose of having these public notices that nobody reads placed in them), consultation documents need to be sent out to all and sundry, lawyers need to be paid, and officers must get bogged down in masses of paperwork, all, in effect, to allow a couple of workmen to come out for a morning with a pick and shovel to relay about eight kerbstones. It's a situation that the Charles Dickens of Bleak House would have revelled in grimly satirising.

As a result, the cost of this tiny, modest change to the road network, and to the cycling infrastructure in London, will be thousands of pounds. Multiply this by the many other small changes that are needed all over London to create even the most rudimentary cycling network, and you can readily see why such a project seems unaffordable. And the great worry of council officers is that if the proposals are slightly ambitious, involving changes to parking or motor traffic flow patterns, then there could be quite a few objections in a public consultation, and councillors may take heed of these, and block the scheme. Then all the money spent on it will have been wasted.

So we have a crazy situation. Leading politicians are saying we need to spend money on new infrastructure, not merely for the reason of actually having the infrastructure, but for the reason of actually spending the money to revive the economy. Yet when we ask for small changes to create better cycling connections in London, and improve the streetscapes for everybody, we are told that there is no money because we are in a recession, and money is tight. But in fact, there was no money for these changes when the economy was booming either (or they would have been done by now).

The money to change Hazel Road comes from the "Biking Borough" grant awarded to Brent by Boris Johnson. It is around £300,000 to be spent over three years. But at least half this cash is being spend on promotional measures to encourage cycling, because that is what should happen in Biking Borough schemes, according to TfL. That leaves about £50,000 per year to be spent on infrastructure, for three years. That means two or three very small-scale schemes like Hazel Road per year, plus maybe a few more cycle stands. This is a minuscule rate of progress, even if all goes according to plan, and nothing gets objected to.

A mad system of red tape, legalism, and excessive emphasis on expensive public consultation over small matters currently strangles attempts to provide for cycling in our cities.

Some of the consultation thing comes from legal judgements that stem from legislation put in during the Thatcher era. The "Primrose Hill Judgement" of 1995 against Camden Council, where Camden attempted to introduce controlled parking in that well-heeled (and well-wheeled) district, without, according to a judge, adequate consultation, along with other developments and emphases by local government ministers in successive governments, has fostered an idea that residential roads "belong" to the people who live on them. It has become very difficult for councils to put in schemes on such roads with which a majority of residents disagree. And this makes strategic planning for cycling extremely difficult, because cycle networks will be, in part, on minor roads, but if each section of network can potentially be blocked by a vociferous group of nimby residents who see only their own short-term interests, and don't understand the strategic reasoning, then it is no wonder that council officers are very loth to propose anything remotely ambitions, beyond painting some cycle symbols on a road.

So I agree with George Osborne. The infrastructure we need for both growth and environmental benefit is being strangled by foolish bureaucratic rules imposed by government. But at this level, the level of kerbstones on tiny residential streets, I don't think this problem is on the radar of ministers. It needs to be, if councils are to deliver any sort of cycling infrastructure, and deliver it within sensible budgets.