Thursday, 10 February 2011
A few days ago Judy showed me this film of Bradford at the start of the 20th century. Shortly afterwards, I saw the one below showing Amsterdam at a similar date.
I was struck by the similarity of the two films. In both cases, the roads have trams, horses pull carts, dogs run freely, and there are bicycles and pedestrians.
What neither film shows, compared with the present day, is motor cars. As a result, human beings are free to walk, talk and relax in the street.
Cities around the world looked similar for most of the 20th century. It is only later, particularly from the 1970s onwards, that the bicycle was once again prioritized in the Netherlands, and from then onwards the similarities have faded as development took a very different path.
A survey last year found Bradford to be the 'worst city in Britain for cycling'. However, on looking for information on Bradford I found an amazingly long list of websites about cycling in Bradford, with hard working people involved in campaigning, training, and quite a lot of sport cycling.
Unfortunately, the problem is the infrastructure. If Bradford still looked like Amsterdam it would have a higher cycling rate than it does. But sadly, while the Netherlands moved on in road design since the 1970s, the UK did not, and Bradford is quite typical. So far as we've been able to tell, this is what the street shown in the Bradford video above now looks like. This may well also be the route of the local bike bus:
View Larger Map
For real change to occur, Bradford, like all towns in the UK, needs to do what works.
Update 11 March David Domestique made a comment, which made me look at the website again, and that's where I saw this video of the bike bus in action:
It's a nice example of good people getting on with doing things in a positive manner. However, they still need government support if cycling is truly to grow.
This second video shows the conditions faced by cyclists who take part in the bike bus:
I'm not criticising the riders one bit. If I was there, I'd hope to find such agreeable people to ride with. But feeling a need to do so is one of the problems which the UK faces. Cycling is not nearly as subjectively safe as it needs to be for the masses to want to ride. There's a reason why rush hour looks somewhat different here.
The films come from BFIfilms and Mark Wagenbuur.