MP: 2-speed cycle lanes would get more women riding – and let them avoid “Lycra clad mad cyclists”

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

by Simon_MacMichael   July 31, 2014  

Cyclists at traffic lights (©Toby Jacobs)

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.

57 user comments

Latest 30 commentsNewest firstBest ratedAll

Feminazis, eh? Their own worst enemy.

'Whoever said the pen is mightier than the sword obviously never encountered automatic weapons' (Douglas MacArthur)

cyclingDMlondon's picture

posted by cyclingDMlondon [267 posts]
31st July 2014 - 18:09

2 Likes

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?

'Whoever said the pen is mightier than the sword obviously never encountered automatic weapons' (Douglas MacArthur)

cyclingDMlondon's picture

posted by cyclingDMlondon [267 posts]
31st July 2014 - 18:17

5 Likes

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"?

posted by earth [115 posts]
31st July 2014 - 18:38

63 Likes

People may scoff at MPs like this idiot Hillier and their daft student union level identity politics but there should certainly be seperate lanes for MTBers so roadies don't get left over mud on their bikes, and then you have to keep the Cycling Weekly brigade away from the Rouleur crew or things are sure to kick off big time, and nobody would seriously suggest it was a good idea for Froome and Wiggins fans to even be on the same side of town as each other never mind the same lane of a bike route. I hope all the Lib Dems will sign a pledge to adopt this policy so we know they really mean it...

Northernbike's picture

posted by Northernbike [173 posts]
31st July 2014 - 19:11

79 Likes

"I want the fantasy, imaginary facilities that are not going to be built to be a much higher standard of fantasy, imaginary facility than the ones we currently fantasise about" is basically what she is saying.

And the higher standard she is imagining is based on how cars drive on main roads.

This isn't helping.

On the other hand, she almost, nearly understands that cycle facilities should be built so that everyone (ie including women, because they are part of everyone) should be able to ride without resorting to "special bicycle gear" (which she characterises as louts' lycra). Sadly she then proposes an alternative style of "special bicycle gear" designed specifically for women, instead of pushing for road layouts where ordinary clothes get worn for the simple reason that ordinary people can ride ordinary bikes to ordinary places.

posted by severs1966 [112 posts]
31st July 2014 - 19:40

67 Likes

The comments aren't completely idiotic, but Meg Hillier is jumping a step. First, give us safe cycle lanes; then, we can worry about whether they are wide enough to allow comfortable overtaking.

(By the way, I suspect her comments are London-specific).

posted by HarrogateSpa [133 posts]
31st July 2014 - 21:52

59 Likes

Assuming that these comments are London specific, let's not forget that London is generally a very busy place and intimidating for the uninitiated. I know many people who would not feel confident to drive a car in central London either, which is probably a good thing.

To some extent it is neccesary to toughen up a bit to get by when travelling at rush hour in London, whatever mode of transport you choose, and I suspect that this will be the case for a long time to come.

Cycling should be a much biger part of London travel and anything that encourages more people onto bikes is a good thing (such as wider cycle lanes, although I'm still not sold on the merits of segregation for most UK towns and cities) but I think that slower cyclists are always going to have to cope with faster riders whizzing past.

posted by Matt eaton [490 posts]
31st July 2014 - 22:44

55 Likes

As soon as anyone, be they pro- or anti- cycling, pulls out the "lycra-clad" moniker, I switch off.

It's the same mentality that thinks "look how she's dressed, she is asking for it".

posted by RPK [42 posts]
1st August 2014 - 0:12

40 Likes

How about placing a 12/15mph speed limit on the bike lanes, and anyone riding faster (including me mostly) being asked to ride in traffic lanes?
To add to it, reduce speed limit on all non trunk roads to 20mph for everyone.
And enforce it.

middlering's picture

posted by middlering [43 posts]
1st August 2014 - 3:59

50 Likes

I'm a woman, and I often to commute to work by bike. I'm not your typical road cyclist - for a start, I ride a mountain bike (been pondering getting a road bike though), so that, combined with not wanting to get too sweaty means I normally do about 10mph on the flat.

Lycra clad cyclists don't concern me. You know what concerns me? Cars that try to overtake where there's no space. Cars that try to overtake me and turn left at mini-islands, even though I've taken primary position and I'm going straight on. Drivers swerving around erratically whilst they hold a phone under their chin. Bike thieves. Cycle lanes filled with broken glass.

I'm thinking she might be looking in the wrong direction as to why more women (and people in general) don't cycle.

posted by Mrs Toast [6 posts]
1st August 2014 - 7:55

50 Likes

middlering wrote:
How about placing a 12/15mph speed limit on the bike lanes, and anyone riding faster (including me mostly) being asked to ride in traffic lanes?
To add to it, reduce speed limit on all non trunk roads to 20mph for everyone.
And enforce it.

I see where you are coming from but there are a few problems with am approach such as this. Firsty, who's going to enforce these limits? The police? That seems unlikely. Secondly, with no compulsion for speedos on bikes how would riders know that they should move over to the roads. Thirdly, why are we assuming that just because a rider is capable of speeds in excess of 15mph that they are happy to mix with heavy traffic? Finally, many slower riders will exceed 15mph downhill quite easily. Should they move over to the road for descents?

What you describe is not actually too far from the way that cycle lanes/roads are supposed to work anyway, only the present advice is that cyclists should switch to the road at 18mph. This also causes conflict with drivers who think that because a cycle lane exists all cyclists should use it regardless.

If we are going to have segregated lanes they need to work for all cyclists of all abilities and allow space for safe overtaking.

posted by Matt eaton [490 posts]
1st August 2014 - 8:22

47 Likes

Frannybobs wrote:
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.

This. I cycle to work and get over taken by the odd female rider. To me we're all cyclists rather than male cyclists or female cyclists. The issue is safer riding for all, whether that's different lanes for different speeds or separating the cycle paths completely, cycle bridges / underpasses, maybe. Riding through Central London every day, I'm on the road a lot of it along with plenty of other cyclists, fast and slow and I overtake when I need too and get overtaken as well. For me it's less about different speeds of cyclists and more about making cycling safer in general so more cyclists get out there and it becomes more normal for all regardless of what speed you ride.

posted by MarcMyWords [72 posts]
1st August 2014 - 8:49

53 Likes

Matt eaton wrote:
middlering wrote:
How about placing a 12/15mph speed limit on the bike lanes, and anyone riding faster (including me mostly) being asked to ride in traffic lanes?
To add to it, reduce speed limit on all non trunk roads to 20mph for everyone.
And enforce it.

I see where you are coming from but there are a few problems with am approach such as this. Firsty, who's going to enforce these limits? The police? That seems unlikely. Secondly, with no compulsion for speedos on bikes how would riders know that they should move over to the roads. Thirdly, why are we assuming that just because a rider is capable of speeds in excess of 15mph that they are happy to mix with heavy traffic? Finally, many slower riders will exceed 15mph downhill quite easily. Should they move over to the road for descents?

What you describe is not actually too far from the way that cycle lanes/roads are supposed to work anyway, only the present advice is that cyclists should switch to the road at 18mph. This also causes conflict with drivers who think that because a cycle lane exists all cyclists should use it regardless.

If we are going to have segregated lanes they need to work for all cyclists of all abilities and allow space for safe overtaking.

That's interesting, I didn't realise the cycle lane speed was as high as 18mph. Although I very rarely use a cycle lane when it's on the path because you so often just get peds walking along them without really paying attention. I'd rather be on the road where you can build up some speed. So true though, I've been told before now to use a cycle lane by a car driver just because it's there and they've had to wait two seconds to get past...

posted by MarcMyWords [72 posts]
1st August 2014 - 8:54

43 Likes

Rather than a slightly awkward 'two-tier', multi-laned approach to the contruction of urban cycling infrastructure, perhaps it would be better to consider a 'green wave' style traffic light system. Such a system enables a commuting cyclist to get a green light at traffic lights every time, provided that they cycle at the 'goldilocks' speed of 20kph. The theory is that this has the positive effect of slowing down the fastest riders and speeding up the dawdlers, so that overall everyone gets to their destination smoothly and efficiently (and quite possibly more quickly too!). Plus, it incentivises bike use over motorised traffic.

Search for 'green wave' on youtube or Google to see what I mean.

Just another example of how British politicians or town planners have yet to realise that there are a number of workable solutions already in place just across the North Sea/Channel...

posted by inmanrp [1 posts]
1st August 2014 - 13:45

37 Likes

Matt eaton wrote:
middlering wrote:
How about placing a 12/15mph speed limit on the bike lanes, and anyone riding faster (including me mostly) being asked to ride in traffic lanes?
To add to it, reduce speed limit on all non trunk roads to 20mph for everyone.
And enforce it.

I see where you are coming from but there are a few problems with am approach such as this. ...

Quite...

You'd have a situation where your ability (compulsion?) to use a cycle lane will change from moment to moment - halfway up a hill your speed drops below 15mph... do you stop, lift your bike over the kerb and continue on the cycle lane until you reach the top, reversing the procedure as soon as you hit 15mph again?

We already have enough trouble (horns blaring, side-swiping, swearing and other abuse) from a sub-section of the driving fraternity for riding on 'their' road when there's a 20 metre section of overgrown, narrow cycle way we 'ought' to be on. If a speed limit were imposed then that would be seen by many as compulsion when under that limit to be off the road.

Also, 20mph everywhere? Seriously? So on every country ride along the lanes cyclists would be banned from trying too hard? Or going downhill? That's as bad an idea from a cycling perspective as it is from a motor vehicle perspective! Of course, with no compulsion for a speedometer (as Matt mentioned), such a limit could not apply to cyclists anyway - don't you think the lunatic fringe drivers hate us enough already? - what would they think when cyclists can do any speed they like and drivers can only do 20mph, almost everywhere?!?! Surprise

I would think the only sensible solution (bearing in mind we're not going to get any infrastructure change) is education. Most of the trouble appears to be ignorance-related. Cyclists getting themselves in trouble, and drivers thinking cyclists have no right on the road. Raise the standards of both and a lot of the issues disappear. Thinking

posted by PurpleDog [37 posts]
1st August 2014 - 13:46

42 Likes

It's both irritating and frightning that supposedly well educted people in charge of policy making can come out with such utter nonesense on a regular basis..

posted by darren13366 [56 posts]
1st August 2014 - 15:58

34 Likes

I think this is well-intentioned, but just didn't come across very well and/or was lost in translation. I believe there are a good many more people who would cycle to work if it were a little more 'normalised'.

Right now we're in the foothills of cycling becoming a mainstream transport option as it is in the continental countries we aspire to - I think a lot of people still see it as a minority niche interest which needs 'special equipment' and 'expertise' & there's definitely a very visible hard-core of committed commuters (especially in London) who are indistinguishable from cycle couriers to a passing civilian & could be seen as off-putting to a potential new starter.

I don't see it as any different from the gulf between full-on motorcyclists in race leathers, boots and black visors and the regular folks you see on scooters in office clothes (with an open face helmet).

Still, by definition the crowd here are enthusiasts! Like the Velominati - "we are cyclists, the rest merely ride bicycles"!

Laughing

posted by hirsthirst [17 posts]
1st August 2014 - 16:44

22 Likes

Cyclists - one tribe!
Cyclists generally look after each other.
Race or pootle (warming down)... seize the road, or bike lane if you prefer (if it is fit for purpose).
Got to finish now before my sweaty, mucky, lycra-clad girlfriend gets home.

glynr36's picture

posted by glynr36 [503 posts]
1st August 2014 - 17:52

24 Likes

jacknorell wrote:

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.

She's welcome to have a go on mine, she can even borrow my rain cape so she doesn't have to get changed.

posted by drfabulous0 [403 posts]
2nd August 2014 - 10:14

14 Likes

To be honest, it feels like someone had to meet the minimum word count for a press release and the padding gave them enough rope.

All this really needs to say is "Cycle paths would be better if there was plenty of room to overtake safely", and we'd all be nodding and saying yes, except it never would have made the press. As it is, instead of saying "ooh yes, wider lanes would be nice", the MP that suggested it is being called an idiot and folks are recommending she get slapped about a bit. Really? She cocked up a bit, but it's so obviously well-intentioned.

"Cyclists generally look after each other." - yup. The ones that call themselves cyclists and acknowledge other people on bikes as cyclists, anyway. The sort that join clubs & forums & communities.
Not so much the ones on a creaking third-hand Apollo they only bought because they're on a drink-driving ban, or the ones on carbon-everything that sneer at baggy shorts Tongue (and yes, I realise I'm indulging an element of hypocrisy in drawing those two examples!). Having wider lanes (not necessarily delineated for fast and slow) would allow one to pass the other with minimal fuss and muttering.

posted by Toast [10 posts]
2nd August 2014 - 12:17

24 Likes

[[[[[ Look, I've had enough of this "Lycra-clod" nonsense. I shall now appear in brown corduroy trousers, a Greenspot Nomad touring jacket, flatcap and plimsoles, with a huge overstuffed bonk-bag on me back, and shall change my name to "Mr Pootler". Will all that confuse Meg Hillier, or make Meg Happier? I rarely pootle, but don't spend as long on the rivet as I used to....am I falling between two stools?

PhilRuss

posted by PhilRuss [306 posts]
3rd August 2014 - 18:34

6 Likes

Jolly good show, old chap!

http://www.tweedrun.com/

It seems that there isn't a Tweed Run planned for some time, unless you apply to organise one. There's also one here in Manchester on 24th August, and it's a Bank Holiday weekend as well. Perhaps we'll see you there?

posted by Argos74 [301 posts]
3rd August 2014 - 19:11

6 Likes

[[[[[ Argos74---ta very much. Yes, I've seen those Tweedrun riders, and they do look very nifty, but I'm not sure the look is for me....and I've not been back to Rusholme, Manchester since "pootling" on me little blue bike there, at the age of four. Lycra Lout? I was a Romper Lout!

PhilRuss

posted by PhilRuss [306 posts]
4th August 2014 - 15:11

3 Likes

stupid idea. just make cycle lanes wide enough to allow overtaking.
i also think this article is trying to take our attention away from the real danger which are lorries and cars, not other cyclists

Feel the fear and do it anyway

hood's picture

posted by hood [117 posts]
5th August 2014 - 12:09

3 Likes

I had a ride yesterday morning and thought it would be interesting to try to get to the next town along and back using as many cycle lanes and quiet roads as possible instead of the main roads that I usually use (it was a recovery ride so a slow pace was in order anyway). This is a bit off-topic but skip to 14 minutes for an example of the narrow-lane problem. I should add that only the section on the left is for cyclists going in both directions (the other part is for pedestrians)and I am positioned as far to the left of the lane as possible. Going by recent reports from London the bloke coming towards me is due a FPN for crossing the line Silly

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UT1qr78TdUw&feature=youtu.be

I put my critical head on when I added the notes to the vid. I'd advise against watching the whole thing (boring) but I'm not as much of a whinger as it might appear!

posted by Matt eaton [490 posts]
5th August 2014 - 12:38

1 Like

Well this MP is definitely an idiot. Not to mention sexist. Imagine asking for women only lanes on a motorway???

However it does raise the thorny old issue of cycle paths and their use. In my opinion cycle paths and lanes are for "pootling". By which I mean travelling. If you need to ride everywhere with your hair on fire then just slow down when you get slower riders in front of you, pass them safely when you can. You know a bit like what we tell motorists to do when they come across cyclists or other slower moving traffic. And how most people behave on a footpath when walking. And if you just can't get bring yourself down to the level of behaving like someone travelling normally rather than racing everywhere then get in the lane with the traffic.

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

posted by oozaveared [745 posts]
5th August 2014 - 13:06

1 Like

oozaveared wrote:
Well this MP is definitely an idiot. Not to mention sexist. Imagine asking for women only lanes on a motorway???

However it does raise the thorny old issue of cycle paths and their use. In my opinion cycle paths and lanes are for "pootling". By which I mean travelling. If you need to ride everywhere with your hair on fire then just slow down when you get slower riders in front of you, pass them safely when you can. You know a bit like what we tell motorists to do when they come across cyclists or other slower moving traffic. And how most people behave on a footpath when walking. And if you just can't get bring yourself down to the level of behaving like someone travelling normally rather than racing everywhere then get in the lane with the traffic.

It's probably a matter of semantics but I'd disagree that cycle lanes are for pootling. They should certainly be for travel but on a practical level I would certainly not pootle if I had somewhere to be. On the other hand it's quite enjoyable to have a pootle when I'm out on the bike for fun. I also think that most cyclists do overtake safely but the origonal point was about perception. Novice cyclists can feel intimidated by the generally higher pace of those around them and by the prevelance of specialist equipment and clothing.

posted by Matt eaton [490 posts]
5th August 2014 - 13:51

1 Like

Matt eaton wrote:
oozaveared wrote:
Well this MP is definitely an idiot. Not to mention sexist. Imagine asking for women only lanes on a motorway???

However it does raise the thorny old issue of cycle paths and their use. In my opinion cycle paths and lanes are for "pootling". By which I mean travelling. If you need to ride everywhere with your hair on fire then just slow down when you get slower riders in front of you, pass them safely when you can. You know a bit like what we tell motorists to do when they come across cyclists or other slower moving traffic. And how most people behave on a footpath when walking. And if you just can't get bring yourself down to the level of behaving like someone travelling normally rather than racing everywhere then get in the lane with the traffic.

It's probably a matter of semantics but I'd disagree that cycle lanes are for pootling. They should certainly be for travel but on a practical level I would certainly not pootle if I had somewhere to be. On the other hand it's quite enjoyable to have a pootle when I'm out on the bike for fun. I also think that most cyclists do overtake safely but the origonal point was about perception. Novice cyclists can feel intimidated by the generally higher pace of those around them and by the prevelance of specialist equipment and clothing.

It is probably semantics. Pootling to me means not racing. It means riding within yourself and being courteous. That's how I drive as well. I used to live in Germany. They used to have an excellent road safety sign for drivers. The poster was split in half. On the left of the poster a motorist tightly gripping the wheel, all red in the face beads of sweat flicking off him. On the right was a smiling motorist calm and relaxed. The caption was "Reisen nicht Rasen". or roughly "travel don't race".

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

posted by oozaveared [745 posts]
5th August 2014 - 15:14

1 Like

I'd settle for a separate lane for people on bikes without mudguards.

drmatthewhardy's picture

posted by drmatthewhardy [414 posts]
6th August 2014 - 11:14

1 Like

I'm a woman.
I cycle to and from work every day, dropping my son off at and picking him up from out-of-school-hours / holiday club (he has ridden his own bike since he was 5). I did the same when I returned to work after maternity leave when he was 6 months old - walking to nursery, holding my bike in one hand and pushing him in his buggy or on his trike with the other hand (mtbs don't like child seats and a carriage was too large to store at nursery).
I have always, out of choice, worn lycra and trainers. They're more comfy, practical, safe and sensible than a blouse, skirt and heels. And if I really wanted to wear a skirt, all I'd need would be a penny and a rubber band. I usually pass work when I'm out and about doing the shopping in the car at the weekend, so drop off clean clothes for the coming week then. If I don't, I can always pop things in my tardis-like rucksack (which leaves a space between it and my back to help reduce sweating).
It takes me less than 10 minutes when I get into work in the morning to wash away any road muck, freshen up and get dressed for work.
I ride fast. I pass slower cyclists on their right, giving them plenty of wobble room, as I'd like the occasional even faster cyclist to do to me. Because I ride fast, I'm often further out in the lane anyway, like most fast cyclists. Riding assertively makes you more visible to other road users and enforces the fact that you have as much right to be there as they do.
I've been doing it for nigh on 20 years, enjoy it, and hope to still be doing it in another 20 years time.
So no problems at all whatsoever with room to cycle, clothing, childcare commitments, or 'muck sweat'. You crazy lady.

Here endeth today's sermon. Thank-you for listening. Wink

posted by purplemadwoman [20 posts]
3rd September 2014 - 14:04

1 Like