Monday, 14 February 2011
It's quicker by bike
A few days ago, a campaigner from the UK sent me a document to review. Amongst other things, it said: "Many existing cyclists want to continue to cycle on road because of speed and convenience. They see a segregated system as slow – although modern cycle routes in Europe can be as fast-moving as cycling on the road."
This is yet another of those myths about cycle infrastructure - that it must always be secondary to roads, leading to slower journeys than a cyclist could make on the road, and only at it's best being "as fast-moving" as cycling on the road.
This is not actually true. Cycling infrastructure at its best can lead to quicker journeys than using the road. And that's what we have here: traffic lights which default to green for bikes, others which allow only cyclists to make a right turn on red, which give cyclists green lights twice as often as drivers, a growing network of intercity bicycle superhighways for long distance commuters, routes for cyclists which avoid the traffic lights so that you don't have to slow down or stop, and many other things which make cycling more convenient than driving. If cyclists had to use the roads, then they'd not be able to take advantage of this and cycling would be neither so efficient nor so attractive as it is.
The graph shows relative speeds by bike or by car for distances. Note that these are not cherry picked, but are an average for the whole country, and an average for all cyclists. In the Netherlands, that means the whole population. The average speed for all is slowed down somewhat by the very much wider demographic of cyclists here vs. other countries. Primary school children, meandering teenagers and pensioners are slower than enthusiastic cyclists of working age. Faster cyclists have an advantage over a considerably longer distance.
Nevertheless, "In the city, cyclists on average reach their destinations 5% quicker than drivers, and in the bigger cities (>100000 residents) usually more than 10% quicker. For distances of up to 3 km, the bike always wins. From 4 km, mostly not.".
In the Netherlands, there are many ways in which cycling has been made faster than driving. The extensive unravelling of cycling routes from driving routes makes this possible to a far greater extent than if cyclists are restricted to the routes of drivers.
The graph comes from The Fietsersbond.