Families to the fore as thousands turn out for Scotland's Pedal on Parliament (+video)

But Scottish transport minister says "education" will make cycling safer for kids

by John Stevenson   April 28, 2014  

Thousands of riders turned out on Saturday as the third annual Pedal on Parliament once again saw cyclists take the case for safer facilities to the Scottish Parliament in Holyrood.

Even transport minister Keith Brown got on his bike for the ride, joining a throng of parents, children and riders of all types, with organisers estimating total numbers exceeded the 4,000 turnout of last year’s event.

At Holyrood, children played a key role, with the speeches opened by Kyle Thomas (11), Daniel Brennan (8) and Katharine Dorman (7). Kyle said: “I believe cycling is the future for Scotland. Cycling down the high street I thought to myself that this is how cycling should be, there wasn’t a single car on the road but lots of cyclists as it should be.”

Daniel said: “I’d love to be able to go for a bike ride without going in the car to cycle with my family. It would be great if Scotland was like Amsterdam where everyone can cycle with their friends.”

Katharine said “Let’s make Scotland a cycle friendly country!”

Lynne McNicoll, stepmother of Andrew McNicoll, killed cycling to work in Edinburgh in 2012, said: “I was at the first Pedal on Parliament and to see so many more people attending today is just fantastic. The children have said it all for us – but I’m here because I don’t want anyone else to feel the way we feel every day since Andrew was killed on his bike.” She urged everyone who attended to talk to their MSPs and get their support.

Replying for the government, Keith Brown said: “We have to educate our children if we’re to make the network safe for children and their parents. We’re unapologetic about investing in education but it’s not the only thing to be done – we’re investing in safer routes to schools. We are making progress on infrastructure with more than £32 million spent on infrastructure. It will take time for Scotland to become as safe as Amsterdam. We have to change driver behaviour as well. We need to have the same attitudes as Scandinavian countries aiming towards zero deaths.'

For the Greens, Alison Johnstone said, “This is a growing movement – and it strikes me every year that this is not a niche activity – everyone is here, young and old, fit and not so fit. Cycling will help us cut congestion, improve our woeful health record – it’s a solution to all the challenges we face. We shouldn’t have to pedal on parliament – investing in cycling is just common sense. I will come here every year until we see the situation in Scotland change for the better.”

Here's a short video of Ms Johnstone's speech:

Lib Dem Willie Rennie said: “As I was cycling up Queensferry Road on my bike I could not think of any more thrilling experiences – but it’s not an experience I’d like my son to share. We need to invest so much more in active transport this year and every year from now on.”

Labour's Claudia Beamish said: “I’m a rural cyclist who’s experienced how terrifying urban cycling can be. I have to keep getting off and walking – this situation needs to change. We need transformational change. I will push strict liability with my party. I want to emphasise that it’s about how the infrastructure is designed but segregated tracks along busy roads – it shouldn’t just be lines on the roads. It’s about a good quality of life for the whole of Scotland urban and and rural.”

Edinburgh councillor Cameron Rose, Conservative, said: “There is a lot to be done, but we need to celebrate what has already been done, but London’s investment is more than double Scotland’s per head. We need to move on, step by step until Scotland is a good place for cycling.”

Chris Oliver from Road Share said: “Presumed liability is a big ask but we need to protect the vulnerable road users, not just cyclists but pedestrians. Please look at what we’re asking for and support our campaign.”

26 user comments

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to be fair, he said 'education and infrastructure'. I don't think there's a need for a 'but' in the byline - otherwise it's misleading

posted by 700c [556 posts]
28th April 2014 - 12:32

12 Likes

Keith Brown said: “We have to educate our children if we’re to make the network safe for children and their parents."

Well, we already do by creating a terrifying environment so they stop cycling. That'll cut down cycling deaths in children soon enough.

How about you fund the police to increase road patrols? And instruct them to pull over and fine/prosecute every infraction seen?

Contrast that with another politician at least making amenable statements:

Labour's Claudia Beamish said: “I’m a rural cyclist who’s experienced how terrifying urban cycling can be. I have to keep getting off and walking – this situation needs to change. We need transformational change. I will push strict liability with my party. I want to emphasise that it’s about how the infrastructure is designed but segregated tracks along busy roads – it shouldn’t just be lines on the roads. It’s about a good quality of life for the whole of Scotland urban and and rural.”

posted by jacknorell [373 posts]
28th April 2014 - 12:34

22 Likes

700c wrote:
to be fair, he said 'education and infrastructure'. I don't think there's a need for a 'but' in the byline - otherwise it's misleading

£32 million is... the cost of a single round-about. It's peanuts.

posted by jacknorell [373 posts]
28th April 2014 - 12:35

15 Likes

Oooh, I'm famous! (that's me in the top pic about half way up the right hand edge in the pink cycle cap, chatting with my daughter).

The announcement just before PoP was in large part Bikeability funding, and as a Bikeability instructor, one or two cheers for that. Bikeability will make things "safer", but that's only in terms of "safer than they'd be without it", which isn't your actual safe.

A good thing about Bikeability Scotland is it costs peanuts and you get a national programme that does some tangible good for your peanuts (after all, mugs like me do a lot of the work on the ground as volunteers, I'll be training up 6 new volunteer CTAs on Wednesday). But when it comes down to it all we're really achieving with it is a leg up for the next generation of out-group cycling enthusiasts, but nothing much for the majority. The enthusiasts will be there anyway, as we saw at PoP with a sea of day-glo and crash helmets, but the day-glo and crash helmets shows that for the most part even the enthusiasts don't believe they're safe, even though they are educated.

Infrastructure that's worth having costs Real Money(TM), (not only does it have to be well engineered at any point, it has to be properly connected to every other piece) so political types are rather un-keen to go on too much about it if they're actually in charge of purse-strings. But championing Bikeability lets you tick the Cycling Box and pay hardly anything for doing it.

Pete Clinch
often seen riding a bike around Dundee...

posted by pjclinch [61 posts]
28th April 2014 - 14:33

14 Likes

jacknorell wrote:

Contrast that with another politician at least making amenable statements:

Labour's Claudia Beamish said: “I’m a rural cyclist who’s experienced how terrifying urban cycling can be. I have to keep getting off and walking – this situation needs to change. We need transformational change. I will push strict liability with my party. I want to emphasise that it’s about how the infrastructure is designed but segregated tracks along busy roads – it shouldn’t just be lines on the roads. It’s about a good quality of life for the whole of Scotland urban and and rural.”

She seems quite confused though. Strict liability is to do with incidents/collisions on the road. But then she wants to segregate motorised traffic from bikes.

To be honest it just sounds like a politician using buzz words and putting together all the different policy and infrastructure approaches that she's ever heard of into one soundbite. Does she even realise that there is a debate to be had about whether segregating cyclists from traffic is the best approach?

To summarise the arguments
Segregation is a solution that appeals to motorists and people that don't ever cycle and some novice cyclists. It has benefits for some short commuting routes. The type of paths and speeds provided are suited to novice and slower cyclists. It generally doesn't require a change of behaviour amongst motorists.

One of the possible outcomes of segregation is that cyclists are seen even less as legitimate road users and afforded even less toleration when they are on the road. ie ..."they should be segregated why are they on my road". And that's if after building such infrastructure they are actually legally allowed on the roads again.

In order for the generally narrower segregated paths to be safe for all cyclists, it requires that speeds are kept much lower than the normal cruising speed of experienced cyclists travelling properly on a road. The roads are also generally already built in the best geometry to get places. Cycle paths generally want to take a circuitous or indirect route so more experienced cyclists trying to commute or travel properly at sensible speeds over longer distances are still not catered for and suffer the added problem of being seen as interlopers into the motorists segregated territory.

There are arguments on both sides but segregation is not necessarily an unalloyed good.

As a lifelong student of American politics having studied it formerly as a student in the early eighties I should say that the philosophical parallels with the debate in the African American community and with the wider society over approaches to civil rights seem very apt.

Claudia Beamish and other segregationists are (unconsciously) adopting the same philosophy associated with Booker T Washington and the Tuskegee Institute/university. Outlined in the "Atlanta Compromise" address. In this speech, he called on white America to provide jobs and industrial-agricultural education for "Negroes". In exchange, blacks would give up demands for social equality and civil rights. Enthusiastically received by most white politicians as unthreatening to the staus quo.

Some of us however still have our eyes on the prize of real equality of all road users. We are slightly more given to the philosophy evantually adopted by WEB DuBois once he realised that the Atlanta Compromise merely resulted in the tacit acceptance that provision for black Americans was by necessity inferior. It was the rejection of the Atlanta Compromise by the NAACP that eventually led to equal civil rights in America. We don't want to live in our little cyclist only ghettoes or be excluded from the real roads.

What we want is be able to use the roads safely. We need many motorists to change their minds about whether we are acceptable. We insist that we have a right to be on the road. We insist that they should respect that right. There will always be a few rednecks around that will want to treat us badly but we will refuse to accept that.

Even the campaigns to get the justice system to take seriously the deaths of cyclists killed by motorists has it's parallels. "Here is a strange and bitter crop".

The comparisons are worth thinking about for all cyclists interested in change. Do you want your own separate but second class provision (cyclists only) at the mere cost that you aren't welcome on the roads or when you are metaphorically consigned to the back of the bus or do you want to be a road user with equal rights and responsibilities before the law.

I wonder if Claudia Beamish realises that her politics are so compromised on this issue of equal provision? In this case Claudia Beamish is playing James F. Blake and I'm with Rosa Parks.

Cycling is like a church - many attend, but few understand.

posted by oozaveared [604 posts]
28th April 2014 - 16:11

12 Likes

I've got mixed views on segregation; I do think that it has its place though.

In urban/suburban environments I simply don't see the point. Segregation results in complex junctions which either slow down everyone, turn cyclists into pedestrians or increase the liklihood of collisions. Urban roads need to be designed for use by all types of vehicles/people with peds and cyclists given the greatest priority.

On the other hand I would love to see segregated cycle routes running paralel to big, fast A-roads and motorways to provide cyclists with safe and efficient means to cover the distance between our towns and cities.

posted by Matt eaton [395 posts]
28th April 2014 - 16:44

12 Likes

Matt eaton wrote:
I've got mixed views on segregation; I do think that it has its place though.

In urban/suburban environments I simply don't see the point. Segregation results in complex junctions which either slow down everyone, turn cyclists into pedestrians or increase the liklihood of collisions. Urban roads need to be designed for use by all types of vehicles/people with peds and cyclists given the greatest priority.

On the other hand I would love to see segregated cycle routes running paralel to big, fast A-roads and motorways to provide cyclists with safe and efficient means to cover the distance between our towns and cities.

I tend to share those views. I would also say that although the big A roads can be busy and it would be nice to have something a bit more solid between cyclists and very fast moving cars and lorries there is usually more room and a often a metre or so inside the white line that could easily be utilised by adding a solid post every so often.

However, the roads where cyclists are most vulnerable and which alsdo scare the most people out of cycling are the smaller winding older but busy rural A and B roads where the edge of the road is a hedge or a wall and there's barely two lanes worth of road. That's where vehicles are approaching rapidly from behind may have limited time to see you and very little room for error is granted to anyone.

A real improvement would be to see more SALT (single alternate lines of traffic) on particular stretches of that kind of road. Oh and very stiff enforcement of lower speed limits. (thereby reducing the speed of approach and the advanced driver's mantra TTR = Time to React)

As I say I am not against some segregated provision. One wouldn't want to be stupid about it if it made sense in some places. But it should not be the norm.

Cycling is like a church - many attend, but few understand.

posted by oozaveared [604 posts]
28th April 2014 - 17:02

7 Likes

oozaveared wrote:
Matt eaton wrote:
I've got mixed views on segregation; I do think that it has its place though.

In urban/suburban environments I simply don't see the point. Segregation results in complex junctions which either slow down everyone, turn cyclists into pedestrians or increase the liklihood of collisions. Urban roads need to be designed for use by all types of vehicles/people with peds and cyclists given the greatest priority.

On the other hand I would love to see segregated cycle routes running paralel to big, fast A-roads and motorways to provide cyclists with safe and efficient means to cover the distance between our towns and cities.

I tend to share those views. I would also say that although the big A roads can be busy and it would be nice to have something a bit more solid between cyclists and very fast moving cars and lorries there is usually more room and a often a metre or so inside the white line that could easily be utilised by adding a solid post every so often.

However, the roads where cyclists are most vulnerable and which alsdo scare the most people out of cycling are the smaller winding older but busy rural A and B roads where the edge of the road is a hedge or a wall and there's barely two lanes worth of road. That's where vehicles are approaching rapidly from behind may have limited time to see you and very little room for error is granted to anyone.

A real improvement would be to see more SALT (single alternate lines of traffic) on particular stretches of that kind of road. Oh and very stiff enforcement of lower speed limits. (thereby reducing the speed of approach and the advanced driver's mantra TTR = Time to React)

As I say I am not against some segregated provision. One wouldn't want to be stupid about it if it made sense in some places. But it should not be the norm.

Agreed on the older rural A and B roads being the most dangerous/scary for cyclists. Wide, modern A roads are generally quite safe, although the outright speed of traffic can be intimidating for many.

Around town its the shear volume of traffic and impatience of road user that poses the danger/indimidation. Many of my friends and family would not consider driving in London for this reason let alone cycling.

posted by Matt eaton [395 posts]
28th April 2014 - 17:11

9 Likes

Segregation is a solution that appeals to motorists and people that don't ever cycle and some novice cyclists. It has benefits for some short commuting routes. The type of paths and speeds provided are suited to novice and slower cyclists. It generally doesn't require a change of behaviour amongst motorists.

Oh dear.
You've not spent much time in NL have you?

Go over and spend some time and you'll see that segregation appeals to lots of folk there who have decades of experience. It appeals to Chain Gangs operating at high speed. You'll find that where there are inevitable conflicts at junctions that the driver behaviour is remarkably different (and deferential to cyclists) to that found in the UK. So your summary is, in summary, wrong.

Calls for segregation (where it's appropriate) are calls to do it properly, as it typically is in NL. Not as you may have experienced it in the UK. (And yes, I'm quite happy with "vehicular cycling", to the point that I actually teach it to people as a Cycling Scotland CT+). Cycling in NL is a fundamentally better experience at practically every level aside from getting away from it all in remote wilderness or getting your hills in, and neither are connected with the road model.

Pete Clinch
often seen riding a bike around Dundee...

posted by pjclinch [61 posts]
28th April 2014 - 21:59

9 Likes

pjclinch wrote:
Segregation is a solution that appeals to motorists and people that don't ever cycle and some novice cyclists. It has benefits for some short commuting routes. The type of paths and speeds provided are suited to novice and slower cyclists. It generally doesn't require a change of behaviour amongst motorists.

Oh dear.
You've not spent much time in NL have you?

Go over and spend some time and you'll see that segregation appeals to lots of folk there who have decades of experience. It appeals to Chain Gangs operating at high speed. You'll find that where there are inevitable conflicts at junctions that the driver behaviour is remarkably different (and deferential to cyclists) to that found in the UK. So your summary is, in summary, wrong.

Calls for segregation (where it's appropriate) are calls to do it properly, as it typically is in NL. Not as you may have experienced it in the UK. (And yes, I'm quite happy with "vehicular cycling", to the point that I actually teach it to people as a Cycling Scotland CT+). Cycling in NL is a fundamentally better experience at practically every level aside from getting away from it all in remote wilderness or getting your hills in, and neither are connected with the road model.

Yes I have ridden and driven extensively in the Netherlands. NL has a population of just under 17m it's densely populated. It's cycling infrastructure is an urban /suburban one.
In that regard it resembles a series of medium sized towns. So some parts of the uk might benefit from some of the type of infrastructure it has. But most of the UK isn't like that.

Just be careful applying solutions from some countries to others. They don't always translate so well. The uk needs its own various solutions based on our own road heritage and geography, culture, demographics and economics.

Lessons can always be learned of course but just being lazy an thinking you can crib wholesale from someone else's homework is unlikely to work.

Cycling is like a church - many attend, but few understand.

posted by oozaveared [604 posts]
28th April 2014 - 23:06

7 Likes

I missed a train tonight, so I cycled 70 km to get home. Mostly on roads. I was really, really happy with those roads - very little traffic, white line at the edge, dotted centre line, reflective posts every 20 metres or so, reflective markers on bends, decent surfaces, warning signs on the stretches where encounters with wildlife were especially likely. And priority over most side roads, so I could just pedal thoughtlessly for a very long stretch.

Everytime I crested a little rise and started accelerating down the other side I seemed to drop straight into yet another patch of thick fog. Visibility was limited.

It was also pretty important, because this is a road with a lot of wildlife crossing. The last time I used that road at night, I had a fairly close encounter with a deer. This time, it was a big hare that hopped out in front of my bike.

If I'd been on a cycle path, that hare could have come out of a hedge and been under my wheels, causing me to tumble, with just a single hop. On the road, nothing could come from nowhere, not even in thick fog, because I was able to stay several metres out from the edge of the road and several metres in from the centre line and control enough space to ensure I would have enough time for any evasive action required. Even on downhills, even in the dark, even in thick fog. There was a ditch at the edge of the road (for clearing snow into in winter) and a verge between the road and the ditch, so I was pretty much guaranteed to see any rabbits, deer, wild boar family groups etc. before they came closer than within 5 or 6 metres of my position.

Now, this was in Germany, not the UK or the Netherlands. It was an area with a very low population density, and the road I was on was also very lightly travelled because there is a parallel stretch of motorway which takes up most of the traffic, and because a lot of traffic stays down the river valleys anyway, rather than taking the shorter route up, across and down the other side of a plateau.

But I can imagine that there are similar roads in Scotland and in many places in the North of England. And if I were cycling on one of them, I wouldn't wish myself on a cycle path. That's not an argument against cycle paths in areas where cyclists have problems they might solve - but it is an argument against cycle paths everywhere.

posted by bambergbike [84 posts]
29th April 2014 - 4:33

8 Likes

That's a lovely story but you're clearly a fit, confident and experienced cyclist. The argument for cycle paths is to make cycling accessible to those who aren't so well equipped.

joemmo's picture

posted by joemmo [811 posts]
29th April 2014 - 6:36

15 Likes

Oozaveared: There are parts of Scotland with large conurbations as densely populated as the major ones of the Netherlands. E.g. the greater area around Glasgow bounded by Paisley, Johnstone, Barrhead, East Kilbride, Hamilton, Airdrie, Kirkintilloch, Milngavie and Clydebank. A significant proportion of Scotland's population live within that area too. Many of the roads in and around the towns and cities there are wide, multi-lane roads - plenty of space.

Further, there are parts of the Netherlands that are far less densely populated than the Randstad of Den Haag, Rotterdam, Utrecht and Amsterdam in Holland (which the Glasgow conurbation has a relatively similar density to). E.g. Drenthe, Flevoland and Friesland. These have population densities comparable to East Lothian, South Lanarkshire, North Ayrshire (112 to 182 people/km² versus 150 to 176), yet still manage to find good cycling infrastructure worthwhile.

I just don't buy this "We don't have the same high density". It's plain wrong for good chunks of the Scottish population that live in high-density conurbations, and similarly plain wrong for those dutch who live in smaller towns in low-density provinces. Which makes it sound like a defeatist excuse.

posted by Paul J [615 posts]
29th April 2014 - 8:19

15 Likes

Have I just been warped back into the 1970s? Can we put the lid back on this ancient "debate" about vehicular cycling? It has done little to #GetBritainCycling. No one is stopping people from choosing to cycle on the roads; and installing Dutch-style segregated paths won't either, as others here have commented. Let's all work together this time - decades on - to make cycling better for everyone 8-80, as the saying goes.

In other but related news, expect an announcement at this week's Cycle City event in Leeds from the DfT about a consultation on what the DfT called a 'radical overhaul' of the signage legislation...

‘Radical overhaul’ coming ‘very soon’ for the UK’s traffic signs legislation

~Andrew~

AndrewRH's picture

posted by AndrewRH [46 posts]
29th April 2014 - 10:06

9 Likes

AndrewRH wrote:
Have I just been warped back into the 1970s? Can we put the lid back on this ancient "debate" about vehicular cycling? It has done little to #GetBritainCycling. No one is stopping people from choosing to cycle on the roads; and installing Dutch-style segregated paths won't either, as others here have commented. Let's all work together this time - decades on - to make cycling better for everyone 8-80, as the saying goes.

In other but related news, expect an announcement at this week's Cycle City event in Leeds from the DfT about a consultation on what the DfT called a 'radical overhaul' of the signage legislation...

‘Radical overhaul’ coming ‘very soon’ for the UK’s traffic signs legislation

~Andrew~

I respect the others in the debate arguing for more segreation and yes a lot of it has to do with which particular sub group of cyclists you have in your mind and where they are what they are doing when we make our various arguments.

I am less convinced about segregation but it has its place. I see that place as being mainly for kids and novices. If like our German friend bambergbike you want to travel a reasonable distance on a bike the bike paths are not much use. Horses for courses.

I agree that both are needed but I do think that those arguing for more segreation should recognise the implicit danger in their argument especially if it ends up without the nuances we all seem to understand as experienced cyclists.

I refer you back to that cicil rights argument. I has a paralell. It is attractive to politicians to provide segregated cycle paths. It is easier to do that in many places than the more complex task of educating cyclists and motorists how to share the road safely and good naturedly. The danger for us cyclists is that in arguing too one dimensionally for segregation we fall into the trap that we tacitly accept that we are not equally entitled to use the roads.

Put it like this once the Atlanta Compromise was reached and Negro colleges set up you had a devil of a job arguing that negroes were entitled to any other colleges.

The implicit danger of providing separate segregated routes for cyclists is that they are then not seen as legitimately entitled to use the road.

There are already motorists out there and a goodly number that believe that if a cycle path is provided you shouldn't be on "their" road you should be on "your" path. Why wouldn't they. Two separate spaces have been provided. Ok so yours is sub standard and not appropriate for your speed and where you want to go. A bit like those Negro colleges.

Cycling is like a church - many attend, but few understand.

posted by oozaveared [604 posts]
29th April 2014 - 10:32

6 Likes

Yes I have ridden and driven extensively in the Netherlands. NL has a population of just under 17m it's densely populated. It's cycling infrastructure is an urban /suburban one.

Not that extensively, by the sounds of it.

The high density manifests itself outside the cities and towns by you never being out of sight of the next small village, not by being extensively built up everywhere. Where do you think they grow all those tulips and have square km of glasshouses for quite a bit of the contents of the veg. aisle at your local Tesco?

In that regard it resembles a series of medium sized towns.

Yet my wife had to cycle several km to high school in Alkmaar because her home village (and not only that one) was too small to support a high school. Said village is also where my sister-in-law's dairy farm is too, and they have a farm machinery hire business that rents stuff out to many nearby farms. None of that really chimes with "a series of medium sized towns" with an implication of little else.

There is plenty of rural cycling in NL, and that's where the Chain Gangs like to go. Just like back here, it would be a bit crap going out for your weekend hack if you had to stop every few hundred meters.

There are plenty of medium sized towns as well, but there's no shortage of space between and around them. Polders are not heavily built on because, not too surprisingly, they're a bit aware of flooding risk.

And both in the towns and out of them you get experienced cyclists who are happy with fietspads, and you get different driver behaviour, and you get cyclists going places to get there in reasonable time.

Pete Clinch
often seen riding a bike around Dundee...

posted by pjclinch [61 posts]
29th April 2014 - 11:31

4 Likes

pjclinch wrote:
Yes I have ridden and driven extensively in the Netherlands. NL has a population of just under 17m it's densely populated. It's cycling infrastructure is an urban /suburban one.

Not that extensively, by the sounds of it.

The high density manifests itself outside the cities and towns by you never being out of sight of the next small village, not by being extensively built up everywhere. Where do you think they grow all those tulips and have square km of glasshouses for quite a bit of the contents of the veg. aisle at your local Tesco?

In that regard it resembles a series of medium sized towns.

Yet my wife had to cycle several km to high school in Alkmaar because her home village (and not only that one) was too small to support a high school. Said village is also where my sister-in-law's dairy farm is too, and they have a farm machinery hire business that rents stuff out to many nearby farms. None of that really chimes with "a series of medium sized towns" with an implication of little else.

There is plenty of rural cycling in NL, and that's where the Chain Gangs like to go. Just like back here, it would be a bit crap going out for your weekend hack if you had to stop every few hundred meters.

There are plenty of medium sized towns as well, but there's no shortage of space between and around them. Polders are not heavily built on because, not too surprisingly, they're a bit aware of flooding risk.

And both in the towns and out of them you get experienced cyclists who are happy with fietspads, and you get different driver behaviour, and you get cyclists going places to get there in reasonable time.

I said is a roundabout way that the Netherlands is not like the UK. Not culturally, not politically, not socially, not in demographic or geographic terms either.

Instead of engaging with the point as to whether solutions adopted in the Netherlands gradually over the last 40 years and the educational journey of both cyclista and motorists (a much more overlapping group than in the UK) can be transported wholesale into the UK right now, whether they would have the cultural support translated to political support to lever the public finance support and legislation to realise them? Whether the geography, land rights, council powers, more varied topography would enable them to work as well? Whether the historic land use and zoning that economically overheats certain regions and concentrates work in larger urban areas supported by infrastructure from an industrial age but locates many residential areas in suburban and semi rural locations stemming from the lack of planning prior to the Ribbon Development Act of 1935 would allow such solutions to prosper? These questions, that you seem barely to have considered, were not engaged with.

To summarize your argument:

hoo-ahh the Netherlands!!

Cycling is like a church - many attend, but few understand.

posted by oozaveared [604 posts]
29th April 2014 - 15:07

6 Likes

I see that place as being mainly for kids and novices. If like our German friend bambergbike you want to travel a reasonable distance on a bike the bike paths are not much use.

Again, this assumption just doesn't stack up. I am not a novice. Is IJmuiden to Zeebrugge a "reasonable distance"? If it is, how come I found the fietspads a real asset on the journey, and one that speeded me up rather than slowing me down?

The real trick is, my 10 year-old can ride on them too, with or without me to look after her, and an even bigger trick is any of her friends who don't have a vehicular cycling instructor as a dad can as well! That they can use it doesn't make it harder for me.

On crap bike paths (like many in the UK) you may have a point, but PoP isn't asking for crap bike paths.

I've been in the "cycle tracks are needless crutches for any experienced cyclist" brigade before now, but having been faced with a dose of reality the other side of the North Sea I just have to admit I was wrong. Cycling provision as provided in NL is between as good and fundamentally better than what we have in Scotland on all levels, especially when you realise that on those nice wee backroads with no traffic we all like you'd be on the same roads anyway.

Pete Clinch
often seen riding a bike around Dundee...

posted by pjclinch [61 posts]
29th April 2014 - 15:15

6 Likes

This is what Wikipedia says about the physical geography of the Netherlands:

Elevation extremes:
lowest point: Zuidplaspolder (Nieuwerkerk aan den IJssel) −7 m (−23 ft), below sea level.

highest point on European mainland: Vaalserberg 322.7 m (1,059 ft) above sea level.

highest point (including the Caribbean islands): Mount Scenery on Saba 887 m (2,910 ft) above sea level.

When I look at those figures, I think: well, not exactly like Scotland, then. I'm sure huge swathes of Scotland are very, very comparable to the Netherlands in terms of topography, population density and so on. I was at a fantastic lecture given by a very good Dutch planner at a cycle infrastructure congress in April, and I am sure that Germany, my native Ireland and all parts of the UK including (still?) Scotland all have a HUGE amount to learn from the Netherlands about good cycle infrastructure. Including segregated cycle infrastructure. I am NOT anti-segregation at all, where it's helpful. And I certainly not a "pure" vehicular cyclist who considers that it's never possible to make good progress on a segregated path - I often make excellent progress on segregated cycle paths. I would never dismiss them as useful only to novices, or useless to chain gangs.

But it's hardly unreasonable to suggest that there are also huge swathes of Scotland which are really not much like the Netherlands. I don't think it should be taboo to say that certain topographical challenges completely unlike those thrown up by the Netherlands need to be addressed in Scotland (as well as many other challenges where Dutch best practice guidance should simply be followed to the letter.) The relevance of the example of the Netherlands is questionable if you are a cyclist looking for a way off a fairly remote Scottish, Irish or German mountain pass that is quite a bit higher than anything in the Netherlands in the dark on a foggy night.

I wasn't doing it entirely voluntarily, just for kicks - I was cycling for transport because I don't have a car. My meeting with colleagues was in an obscure location which is convenient for most people because it's close to the motorway, and it didn't finish until after the last train had left. I could have cycled away early like Cinderalla to catch a train home, but I don't really want my colleagues to start thinking of me as a Cinderalla figure ("poor thing, musn't be able to afford a car, obviously a luckless freelancer, stay away from working with her.")

I had a (more) "segregated" option for the cycle, but it was no good to me - the road down off the plateau that is only for bikes and local traffic, mostly agricultural, is half as wide, twice as steep, and not well marked with reflectors and edge/centre lines. I fail to see how it could have been any use to a cyclist with less experience than me, or with a worse headlamp than my "committed cyclist" piece of kit. Of course it is a delightful, scenic leisure route for a Sunday afternoon tour, suitable for both chain gangs and pootlers (although the pootlers might need electric bikes for the steep gradient; the main road I came down on last night has had the gradient smoothed out with industrial quantities of dynamite.) So I completely agree with the point that segregated infrastructure can be perfectly adequate for chain gangs. But it is not always good enough for transport cyclists who need to get from A to B at specific times dictated by their schedules.

We need to grow out of this silly pro-vehicular versus pro-segregation debate. I am not on one side of the other, I simply want to enjoy my leisure cycling and to survive my transport cycling. And I want the same for others - I accept that a transport cycling route which strikes me as "survivable" might not meet the transport cycling needs of my three-year old niece.

The bottom line is that we need lots and lots of high-quality options. A cyclist planning to get from A to B needs to be able to look at a map (or at signs en route, or at an app) and pick out a few different options and choose the one best suited to any particular journey. "Dual use" comes in for a bad rap in the UK and Ireland because it has often been very badly implemented (crap on-road solution flanked by another crap off-road solution) but it is widely recognized in the Netherlands and in Germany that cyclists need choices, different ways to make the same journeys in different conditions.

posted by bambergbike [84 posts]
29th April 2014 - 16:47

3 Likes

The relevance of the example of the Netherlands is questionable if you are a cyclist looking for a way off a fairly remote Scottish, Irish or German mountain pass that is quite a bit higher than anything in the Netherlands in the dark on a foggy night.

My experience of (relatively) remote Dutch roads is they have no segregated track as there is no need for one. What little traffic there is is limited by the road itself, and would be far more limited on a typical Scottish mountain road. And where they feed in to a bigger road you have a fietspad which keeps you away from the fast folk.
And since rural A roads have roughly 8 times the national average for fatalities per billion km for cycles in the UK that'd be rather nice on something like the A93.

So the example holds up very well. Where there's no real point you don't bother, and when there is you do, and you do it so as to serve the cyclists who would want to use it.

I don't really see that altitude is particularly relevant on its own. It's a little colder up high, but the national sport of NL is ice-skating so it's not like they've never heard of it. I know for a fact it does get dark there at times too, and fog is not unknown.

Pete Clinch
often seen riding a bike around Dundee...

posted by pjclinch [61 posts]
29th April 2014 - 17:17

6 Likes

oozaveared,

The dutch cycling path network wasn't introduced gradually over 40 years. When I was very young towards the end of the 70s, they had just started to build cycle paths, after having gotten as "car sick" over the course of the 60s and early 70s as the UK is today. Look at photos of dutch towns in that period, and they look quite a lot like UK towns and cities still do today with regard to the road engineering - i.e. completely for cars, and over-run by cars.

I can remember them building the cycle path that allowed me to later cycle to school - on my own from 6. They had to expand a bridge near me to do it, to add space for the path. I remember I was fascinated by the pile-driver. The Netherlands built out a fairly decent network of cycling paths in less than 10 years. A good chunk of it in a little over 5 years. The committed to it, and did it.

The UK could do the exact same. Density is not the problem: as above, large parts of the UK and Scottish populations live in urban conurbations of similar densities to the Randstad. Similarly, the Netherlands still has low density rural areas, if you get away from Holland, and they still manage just fine to have high-quality, well-maintained cycling path networks there.

What is lacking in the UK is *political will*. Defeatist attitudes don't help building this.

Something the dutch have in spades is an almost ingrained inability to settle for crap, and an amazing ability to complain and complain about anything that isn't quite perfect (this can be very annoying in other contexts though Wink ). Admittedly, they also still had a much larger percentage of the population still cycling in the 60s, 70s than the UK does today (something like circa 30% regularly cycling vs circa 5% in the UK today, are the rough figures I seem to remember from Hembrow's blog). However... that just means those in the UK have to try a bit harder, and accept they may need to keep fighting for longer, to get the sane, safe road infrastructure for *all* that they deserve. Smile

posted by Paul J [615 posts]
29th April 2014 - 17:35

7 Likes

bambergbike: Large swathes of Scotland are pretty much uninhabited. Comparing the highlands and islands of Scotland to Netherlands is a red herring - it's irrelevant to the large proportion of the Scottish population who live in much more dense urban conurbations in and around the central belt. Urban conurbations which are very comparable to those in the Netherlands.

It's just a complete red herring.

Next, hills: The Netherlands has hills in the south, particularly in Limburg. And Belgian Limburg also has hills, as does the rest of Vlaanderen, yet cycling is still popular there! I've also cycled in the Appenine alps in Italy, with their long, steep roads, and seen the locals cycling in ordinary clothes, with their shopping, on town-style bikes!

The rest of the Netherlands may not be hilly and Holland is particularly flat, however that can lead to unrelenting winds. The flat terrain allows Atlantic and North Sea winds to blow without interruption across the land - no local variation in topography to make the wind swirl and give you the odd break. I can promise you that 5 kilometres into a *constant* hard head-wind is way *more* difficult than a hill.

All these excuses about how the Netherlands is denser, flatter, etc. are just poor excuses that ignore the real problem: a lack of will.

posted by Paul J [615 posts]
29th April 2014 - 17:51

3 Likes

To summarize your argument:

hoo-ahh the Netherlands!!

Close, but not close enough and certainly no cigar.

Hoo-ahh! is given for the clear decision that cycling is important and consequently to implement pragmatic, working measures with proper funding and leadership so that cycling is a safe, desirable and important travel modality across the country.

It's the basic attitude of "something must be done, we'll find the best something, we'll pay for it and we'll do it (and we'll actually save money in the long term as well as having a nicer place to live in better health)" that makes the Dutch situation relevant to us, not the exact way they've decided to connect up things on their patch. Compare and contrast not the particulars of roundabout design, but more the above with "something must be done, here's some paint, let's get some volunteers to give riding lessons, errrr, have we said we think cycling's really good yet?"

The primary difference that matters is not the topography but the attitude, and behind the attitude the degree of tangible effort spent on actually doing something. And when you look at that attitude and effort, hoo-ahh indeed!

Pete Clinch
often seen riding a bike around Dundee...

posted by pjclinch [61 posts]
29th April 2014 - 18:29

2 Likes

bambergbike wrote:
This is what Wikipedia says about the physical geography of the Netherlands:

Elevation extremes:
lowest point: Zuidplaspolder (Nieuwerkerk aan den IJssel) −7 m (−23 ft), below sea level.

highest point on European mainland: Vaalserberg 322.7 m (1,059 ft) above sea level...
When I look at those figures, I think: well, not exactly like Scotland, then...


Switzerland has more cycling than the UK... just mentioning that.
bambergbike wrote:
We need to grow out of this silly pro-vehicular versus pro-segregation debate.

Amen. A thoughtful piece, Bambergbike. I sometimes think that a proportion of cyclists want to keep cycling an elite activity for the 2% and are trying to discourage levels of everyday cycling like we see in the Netherlands. I agree with other posters that we should resist any attempts to reduce our right to use the roads as legitimate vehicles and to have the choice, but if every time someone argues for proper, NL quality provision where ordinary people, including the elderly and kids, feel safe, a group pipes up that segregation might lead to that choice being reduced, politicians will only hear the message that suits them, i.e. the cheap, do-nothing one. We have been here before and lost the battle through in-fighting. Let us learn from the past and stay constructive.
Yes, this is not an all-or-nothing debate: there are many different environments, from dense urban to long distance rural routes and each needs a different approach. The Dutch started by building cycling networks within their urban areas and communities to make the shorter, bread and butter journeys possible and safe by bike, and are only recently starting to build out long distance routes to connect communities. Rome wasn't built in a day.

posted by arowland [84 posts]
30th April 2014 - 11:04

0 Likes

arowland wrote:
bambergbike wrote:
This is what Wikipedia says about the physical geography of the Netherlands:

Elevation extremes:
lowest point: Zuidplaspolder (Nieuwerkerk aan den IJssel) −7 m (−23 ft), below sea level.

highest point on European mainland: Vaalserberg 322.7 m (1,059 ft) above sea level...
When I look at those figures, I think: well, not exactly like Scotland, then...


Switzerland has more cycling than the UK... just mentioning that.
bambergbike wrote:
We need to grow out of this silly pro-vehicular versus pro-segregation debate.

Amen. A thoughtful piece, Bambergbike. I sometimes think that a proportion of cyclists want to keep cycling an elite activity for the 2% and are trying to discourage levels of everyday cycling like we see in the Netherlands. I agree with other posters that we should resist any attempts to reduce our right to use the roads as legitimate vehicles and to have the choice, but if every time someone argues for proper, NL quality provision where ordinary people, including the elderly and kids, feel safe, a group pipes up that segregation might lead to that choice being reduced, politicians will only hear the message that suits them, i.e. the cheap, do-nothing one. We have been here before and lost the battle through in-fighting. Let us learn from the past and stay constructive.
Yes, this is not an all-or-nothing debate: there are many different environments, from dense urban to long distance rural routes and each needs a different approach. The Dutch started by building cycling networks within their urban areas and communities to make the shorter, bread and butter journeys possible and safe by bike, and are only recently starting to build out long distance routes to connect communities. Rome wasn't built in a day.

I don't think we are that far away. I am certainly not arguing that there should not be cycle paths and we should always and everywhere have to ride on the road. That's not my point at all.

I confess to having been pushed into making what I think is a nuanced point slightly more stridently than was intended by the stridency I encountered in making it.

As for politicians taking the easy/cheasp way out. That's exactly my fear. It would be very easy for politicians to provide a few crumbs from the transport budget to create what "they" deem to be a cycling infrastructure and at the same time placate and sell that to a motoring lobby that wants cyclists off the roads by creating the quid pro quo that all cyclists would be forced off the roads onto the paths.

The hardest longest route for them is to change road use culture. That takes decades even a generation to do.

To summarize I am against the concept that the "whole" answer is segregated cycling. I am wary of evangelists for such.

Cycling is like a church - many attend, but few understand.

posted by oozaveared [604 posts]
30th April 2014 - 11:45

0 Likes

I think oozaveared and I are in agreement. But I would just say, don't let fear of what might happen stop us demanding what should happen.
I have just seen this excellent quote on Hembrow's site:
Rather than designing for the 8-80 age range, so that all Londoners could cycle just as all types of Dutch people cycle, the LCC is still designing for the 18-38 age range who are least concerned about subjective safety.
(http://www.aviewfromthecyclepath.com/search/label/advanced%20stop%20lines)
An admonition to us all!

posted by arowland [84 posts]
1st May 2014 - 15:56

2 Likes