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Segment to focus on 'The Cycle Network That Time Forgot' uncovered by Carlton Reid for his forthcoming book...

Carlton Reid, author of Roads Were Not Built By Cars, has issued an appeal for cyclists in and around Stevenage to take part in a filming session for BBC’s The One Show in the Hertfrodshire town tomorrow afternoon - given the reason for the call they are also partiucarly keen to have plenty of riders who aren't wearing Lycra or hi-viz .

The segment will focus on the story Reid uncovered during his research for the book – funded through a highly successful Kickstarter campaign – on what he has dubbed ‘The Cycle Network That Time Forgot,’ developed by Eric Claxton in the 1950s and 1960s but which is little used today.

Reid will be appearing as the historian who uncovered the story, and cyclists interested in appearing in the segment, which will be hosted by Paralympic wheelchair basketball player Ade Adepitan, are asked to arrive at Grace Way, Martins Way, Stevenage, for 4.30pm.

The period when Claxton developed the network, based on the high levels of cycle usage he had observed on segregated networks in the Netherlands, coincided with the rise of mass car ownership.

On the Roads Were Not Build For Cars website, Reid explains that “to Claxton’s puzzlement, and eventual horror, residents of Stevenage chose to drive, not cycle, even for journeys of two miles or less.”

The infrastructure remains largely intact, albeit much underused, and certainly not at the levels envisaged by the producers of the 1966 promotional film for town planners and developers called The Design of Space, part of which deals with Stevenage’s cycleways and has been uploaded to YouTube by Reid.

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.

11 comments

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mrmo [2070 posts] 3 years ago
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I think that this is a crucial lesson for those calling for money to be put into new cycle paths. Spend the money by all means, but you need to understand why this did not work.

No point repeating the mistakes of the past.

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clayfit [79 posts] 3 years ago
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I lived in Stevenage until I was 11, and remember using the cycle paths to cycle the 2 miles to school from age 6 or 7, unaccompanied, safely and without car traffic, from about 1970 to 1975. I used the cycle paths to visit friends and family quite autonomously. I remember an amazing parallel system of roads and underpasses just for bikes.
I have the enduring feeling that all towns should be like this, and of astonishment and disappointment that they are still not.

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thelimopit [139 posts] 3 years ago
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I was rather skeptical of Reid's book to begin with, but he seems to be unearthing some really interesting bits of cycle infrastructure history.

I'm also wondering how long it's going to be before one of the One Show presenters mentions "road tax" though...

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ribena [179 posts] 3 years ago
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Perhaps we should flip this on its head, and view Milton Keynes and Stevenage as good examples of how much space you really need for roads (unachievable in most old towns and cities) to make the road system work for private cars without the constant traffic jams and gridlock in every other city.

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STATO [497 posts] 3 years ago
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I rode through Stevenage last Friday (part of a charity bike ride from London to Newcastle, http://bigladsbigone.blogspot.co.uk/). It was rather quiet on the cyclepaths, apart from a woman on a moped!

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jova54 [651 posts] 3 years ago
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I lived in Milton Keynes for about 15 years and brought up two kids there. The red-paths were ideal for encouraging children to learn to ride bikes, as my two girls and my wife did, and not to rely on cars or even public transport to get around. Unfortunately, by the time we left, they were becoming less attractive places to ride and walk due to the inconsiderate attitude of a few who used them as race tracks and littered them with domestic rubbish, glass, dog crap and the rest of the stuff you find on most urban pathways.
They also produced a generation of kids who had no idea how to ride on a road.
While segregated facilities appear a great idea, Stevenage and MK are good examples of the worst problems.

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Edgeley [338 posts] 3 years ago
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I think just about the only conclusion from the under-use of the off road network in Stevenage is that most people are lazy, and if given the chance to drive on a road without long traffic jams, they will opt for the car and not the bike.

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davids [5 posts] 3 years ago
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Isn't the Stevenage network one of (if not the only) cycle network systems that also allows mopeds to use it?

I live down the road from Stevenage and have often found it easy to get lost on it. As it's below "normal" street level visual reference is often difficult and before I know it I've taken a wrong turn and am on the wrong side of a roundabout / junction.

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djpalmer32 [80 posts] 3 years ago
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I'm a regular use of the Redway system in Milton Keynes and find it to be a safe way to cycle around the city. The Redways are now kept relatively clean and repaired as can be expected, given the present finanical crisis councils are facing.

Cycling in MK is made even better by the fact we have two National Cycle Routes running through the city and the Grand Union Canal makes a great cycle route also.  16

You still have to contend with the ignorant idiots who cycle on the wrong side or ignorant pedestrians who seem to think that the routes are not for bikes, despite signs everywhere clearly indicating bike routes.  14

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jollygoodvelo [1410 posts] 3 years ago
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All the 'new towns' have these networks I think: Harlow is the same. Although they're great for local bimbling and kids, they're no use for 'proper' ( >15mph ) cycling.

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mad_scot_rider [581 posts] 3 years ago
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I live in East Kilbride - one of the new towns from the 50's

There are some few paths like this there - but nothing on the order of Stevenage

EK is also the location of some of the worst facilities around, including a classic that was all over the web showing a telegraph pole right in the middle of a cycle lane