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Former minister Meg Hillier also calls for more cycle-friendly female fashion

A Labour MP who represents a constituency with one of the highest levels of cycling to work in London has called for two-speed cycle lanes to encourage more women onto bikes by allowing them to avoid “Lycra clad mad cyclists.”

Meg Hillier, Labour MP for Hackney South & Shoreditch and vice-chair of the All Party Parliamentary Cycling Group, says that having separate lanes would cater both to those who want to “pootle” along, as well as cyclists aiming to get to their destination as quickly as they can pedal.

The former Home Office minister also called for more cycle-friendly clothing for women, who she said can also be deterred from riding because of commitments such as childcare, reports Telegraph.co.uk.

She was speaking after the publication this week of the Department for Transport’s annual National Travel Survey, which revealed that in England, men on average are likely to make three times as many trips by bike in a year than women, at 21 and 7, respectively.

Ms Hillier said: “One of the big things is… that women don’t want the “muck sweat” of cycling. There are some fashion designers around Hackney and east London now which are designing cycling friendly fashion, but not enough yet.

“Men arrive at work in flat shoes and a suit if you are going to an office job and so it is easier to turn up on a bike – for a women there is the worry of wearing a skirt, or a dress, maybe high heels, then you have to think about something else to wear on your bike, how to carry your work clothes. Although there are plenty of women who hop on and go.

She continued: “I think the cycle planners have something to answer for – we need to think about cycling being just a normal thing, and I think Hackney has tried to pioneer that where you can cycle down a normal road, and you are not forced down rat runs and with the Lycra clad mad cyclists.

"It can be quite scary with all these people whizzing past you and you are afraid you are going to fall over. When cycling is planned ideally, you have a fast and a slow lane, so those that want to pootle along at a normal pace can do so," she added.

Figures released last year from the 2011 Census showed that Hackney has the highest proportion of people travelling to work by bike out of all of the capital’s boroughs.

Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.

57 comments

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pauldavies83 [16 posts] 1 year ago
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Maybe we can concentrate on getting more general fit-for-purpose cycle lanes before we start on specialist 2 lane arrangements, eh? Surely that will have a greater impact for everyone - men, women and children?

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dp24 [201 posts] 1 year ago
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Given the present state of infrastructure, she's ambitious, i'll give her that much.

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step-hent [718 posts] 1 year ago
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I don't know whether to cheer or cry.  41 20

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graham_f [166 posts] 1 year ago
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Agree with both the comments above. I'd also take exception to the phrase "Lycra clad mad cyclists". Why does someone who wants to use their bike to get somewhere as fast as they can, and wears appropriate clothing to do so, need to be described as "mad" as if they're doing something wrong? It's only a short step away from "lycra louts" and I'd expect better from the vice-chair of APPCG.

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Shades [285 posts] 1 year ago
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MP to Advisor, "I want to make a cycle friendly statement, but avoiding some of the 'thorny' and controversial areas that get other people into trouble"  17

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alexb [111 posts] 1 year ago
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I'd always assume that the faster riders would just be on the road. I use a couple of stetches of road where the cycle path is fine for pootling along (and indeed I sometimes do just that), but not to go fast. I'm usually on the road with the rest of the traffic.

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pmanc [194 posts] 1 year ago
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I don't know if Hillier appreciates this, but a "two-speed" cycle lane doesn't have to mean a two lanes (in one direction).

Basically I would suggest this just means a cycle lane wide enough for some overtaking to take place - ie NOT the laughably thin strips we get in the UK.

Cyclists don't require strict lane discipline like cars do, any more than pedestrians need a fast lane for brisk walkers and joggers. Just take a look at any of Wagenbuur's videos - the latest is here - to see cyclists riding two abreast and overtaking with no problems.

Similarly cyclists don't require traffic lights - it's just the motor traffic which make them necessary.

So whether she realises it or not, I think Hillier just wants wider facilities dedicated solely to cycling, which I imagine many of us would agree with.

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Zermattjohn [192 posts] 1 year ago
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UK cycling strategy - design roads which require fast, assertive cycling. Then claim that fast, assertive cyclists put others off.

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pmanc [194 posts] 1 year ago
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alexb wrote:

I'd always assume that the faster riders would just be on the road. I use a couple of stetches of road where the cycle path is fine for pootling along (and indeed I sometimes do just that), but not to go fast. I'm usually on the road with the rest of the traffic.

This runs the risk of turning into a two-tier system where brave road warriors get to take the fast direct route but be exposed to busy motor traffic, while the "pootlers" take a less direct poorly maintained shared use route, stopping at every side turn.

Much better to have one decently wide good-quality subjectively safe cycleway which allows overtaking and is wide enough and good enough for everyone cycling.

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Beatnik69 [286 posts] 1 year ago
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Who decides what a 'normal pace' is? On my commute it's probably around 15-20mph. I'll be faster on downhills and slower on uphills. That also is normal for me.

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pdw [49 posts] 1 year ago
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Not sure about the need to divide the cycling world in two. Unlike motor vehicles, pretty much all of which are capable of easily exceeding all speed limits and therefore all travel at the speed limit, cyclists travel at a wide range of different speeds. As such, any decent cycle provision should cater for the need for cyclists to overtake other cyclists.

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congokid [252 posts] 1 year ago
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A two-tier system (anyone know of anywhere that has tried this kind of solution and, if they have, whether it's effective?) somehow lends itself to the the notion of first and second class users (customers) and possibly a pay barrier before one or both could be used.

In reality it's just more wishful thinking from someone for whom the current state of cycling - and cycling infrastructure - in the UK is unappealing and doesn't work, and who clearly hasn't looked to where good infrastructure has not only been built, but also works quite well in attracting users of all ages, genders and needs.

I can't see this idea doing anything to encourage mass cycling so I'm out.

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Leodis [398 posts] 1 year ago
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It’s a fact, women are too lazy too cycle…  3

God help us if people like ever get their way, its the same old Danish dream which will never work or happen within the UK.

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adrianoconnor [83 posts] 1 year ago
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alexb wrote:

I'd always assume that the faster riders would just be on the road. I use a couple of stetches of road where the cycle path is fine for pootling along (and indeed I sometimes do just that), but not to go fast. I'm usually on the road with the rest of the traffic.

This. Maybe it's different in some parts of the country (esp. London) if the roads are more dangerous, but where I live and ride daily (in and around Nottingham), I wouldn't dream of riding on the cycle paths at any kind of speed. It just wouldn't be safe.

The DFT consultation that recommended cycle paths are suitable up to about 18mph, and cyclists going over that speed should be on the road (http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/+/http://www.dft.gov.uk/consul...) sounds about right to me, and I'd say that's decent advice.

As for lycra clad 'mad' cyclists, that is a very poor choice of phrase. I like to think that when I'm on my bike, especially if I'm going for it, I am the exact opposite of 'mad'. You can rest assured that I'm doing everything in my power to not scare other cyclists or pedestrians, and that I'm doing my very best to read the road ahead and be prepared for anything that might happen. The last thing I want is a near miss or an actual collision.

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Joeinpoole [439 posts] 1 year ago
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Why doesn't Hillier just visit the Netherlands or Denmark? Then she will properly understand what it takes to get PEOPLE cycling.

There is no need to split the needs of cyclists into either genders or speeds. We don't do that for pedestrians or motorists so why cyclists?

Why do so many MPs express their views on cycling when it is quite clear that they haven't got a clue what they are talking about?

Did Hillier *really* say this?

“One of the big things is… that women don’t want the “muck sweat” of cycling. There are some fashion designers around Hackney and east London now which are designing cycling friendly fashion, but not enough yet."

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jacknorell [942 posts] 1 year ago
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MP Meg Hillier is one of the best allies we have in Parliament. Actually cares, and actually works at getting improvements rather than certain members who blow a lot of hot air.

She may need a trip to Holland to check out the bakfiets to transport kids, shopping, whatever, and that everyone just uses whatever clothes they own to cycle in.

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Frannybobs [11 posts] 1 year ago
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No issue with discussing 2 speed cycle lanes but to differentiate by sex is wrong. I am a female cyclist, cycle to work in lycra and get changed and showered at work. I do NOT pootle and in fact pass several male cyclists on my journey. This is not 1935 and Call The Midwife with all women on sit up & beg bikes in tweed skirts wearing high heels. Ridiculous.

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FluffyKittenofT... [1110 posts] 1 year ago
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Slightly puzzling comments. At first hearing it sounds like someone who doesn't really know what they are talking about, but does have good intentions in relation to cyclists.

Which, I suppose, is a step up on what we often get - someone who doesn't know what they are talking about and doesn't like cyclists.

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bikebot [1629 posts] 1 year ago
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graham_f wrote:

Agree with both the comments above. I'd also take exception to the phrase "Lycra clad mad cyclists". Why does someone who wants to use their bike to get somewhere as fast as they can, and wears appropriate clothing to do so, need to be described as "mad" as if they're doing something wrong? It's only a short step away from "lycra louts" and I'd expect better from the vice-chair of APPCG.

Agreed. I also have no idea why some on this site are now using "pootlers" as a derogatory name for those slower than themselves.

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FluffyKittenofT... [1110 posts] 1 year ago
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pmanc wrote:

This runs the risk of turning into a two-tier system where brave road warriors get to take the fast direct route but be exposed to busy motor traffic, while the "pootlers" take a less direct poorly maintained shared use route, stopping at every side turn.

Is that not pretty much the prevailing approach at the moment? (And it is, indeed, pretty crap as a means of making cycling appealing)

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Quince [382 posts] 1 year ago
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I'm generally more afraid of the giant metal automobiles 'whizzing past' than the squishy shiny lycra people - can we properly sort that out first? So little of London comes with any sort of safe, usable cycle lane as it is... With some sharper elbows (with regards to road allocation) and proper financial commitment, we could get pretty much EVERYONE cycling more, of any age, gender, whatever. That would be a real achievement.

At least she's actually THINKING about cycling and not just making reactionary, inflammatory comments in response to external pressure.

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fancynancy [78 posts] 1 year ago
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Being a lycra clad lady I actually find that many women (the kind with baskets) couldn't give a dam about anyone on the road but themselves  102

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horizontal dropout [258 posts] 1 year ago
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It's not derogatory as you can see from a bit of context: "those that want to pootle along at a normal pace ". Pootle - normal.

I agree modifying her suggestion to mean cycle routes wide enough to allow safe overtaking makes it more realistic.

Regarding categorising types of cyclist, it's very important. Different categories have different sets of barriers. If you concentrate on a few barriers that are common to many people you leave all categories with some barriers. If you concentrate on one category and get rid of all the barriers for people in that category you may increase cycling in that category even if other categories don't increase. Read Lynn Sloman's book Car Sick, she talks about plenty of successful projects and how they achieved their success.

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levermonkey [642 posts] 1 year ago
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So women don't wear lycra or ride quickly.
Modern offices don't have gyms or showers.

And of course I've never seen a woman travel to work either by cycle or public transport in business suit and trainers, and I've never seen that woman on arrival at work take out of her hand-bag a trainer bag and a pair of court shoes. Of course I haven't, women aren't that bright. They should stay at home and raise children shouldn't they and not worry their pretty little heads about complex things like bicycles. After all doesn't strenuous exercise damage a woman's fertility.  3

I hope that every woman in the country is lining up in an orderly queue to slap this idiot.

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bikebot [1629 posts] 1 year ago
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horizontal dropout wrote:

It's not derogatory as you can see from a bit of context: "those that want to pootle along at a normal pace ". Pootle - normal.

Quite correct, pootling is absolutely fine. However, it has been adopted by a few commenters on this site as a pejorative term.

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Leodis [398 posts] 1 year ago
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I often pootle behind a lycra clad lady  19

Come on I love a good pootle as much as the next lycra lout but isolating cyclists in groups is wrong with the exception of chavs on BSO's.

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Paul_C [393 posts] 1 year ago
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"Ms Hillier said: “One of the big things is… that women don’t want the “muck sweat” of cycling. "

just go over to the Netherlands to see how it SHOULD be done...

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cyclingDMlondon [481 posts] 1 year ago
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Feminazis, eh? Their own worst enemy.

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cyclingDMlondon [481 posts] 1 year ago
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Next up : separate cycle lanes for black cyclists, for Asian cyclists, for gay cyclists, a separate lane for Tory and Labour cyclists, one for cyclists who prefer singlespeeds, another for tourers...

How did this imbecile ever get to be an MP?

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earth [254 posts] 1 year ago
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The comments are worth discussion and I'm sure there is a section of the populous that they apply to but there is a bit of generalisation here. I am frequently passed on the cycle lane on the way to work by a women who is doing 25+ to my 20+.

And what is "muck sweat"?

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