Monday, 14 June 2010
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The image above is from a cycle path which I use for a good part of my commute. I've written before about how this path is great for commuting at a decent pace, and shown how this cycle path has priority over side roads. The cycle paths here are 2.5 m ( 8 feet ) wide, that's the minimum allowed for a unidirectional cycle path. Such paths should also be separated from the road by a minimum of 1.5 m (just short of five feet), however, in this case, the separation is actually about 4.5 m ( 14 and a half feet ).
Back in Britain there is currently a campaign called "3 feet please", which is asking merely for motorists to give cyclists 3 feet ( 0.9 m ) of clearance as they pass cyclists. The campaigners behind this correctly notice that "Fear of traffic" (i.e. a lack of Subjective Safety) prevents people from cycling in Britain, but their suggested fix is woefully inadequate.
"3 feet please" didn't originate in Britain. It is actually an idea that the British have imported from the USA. The problem is that while this passing distance requirement is law in some American states, the cycling rate in the USA is just as low as it is in the UK. Britain copying America or America copying Britain is never going to result in a high rate of cycling (and you can add any of the other English speaking countries to this. Australia, New Zealand etc. They all have about the lowest rate of cycling it is possible to have).
It's no good looking to where people don't cycle to find ways to encourage people. You need to look to where people cycle a lot. The Netherlands leads the world by a wide margin. 3 feet is not enough. Complete segregation of cyclists from motorists is what is actually required to make the masses feel that cycling is safe. It's also required to make cycling efficient and safe.
This can be achieved by a combination of two means: high quality cycle-paths with proper traffic light and roundabout design, and by treatment of roads to achieve segregation without cycle-paths. The concepts of Sustainable Safety lie behind the Dutch success.
This infrastructure isn't only for high speed adult commuters. I also made a video showing how school children use this same cycle path to get into the city from a village. Note also that in this instance the cycle paths have a concrete surface which is smoother, and faster to ride on than the asphalt of the road. This type of surface is increasingly common in the Netherlands.