Monday, 11 July 2011

"London is a first category cycling city"

Did you know that "London is a first category cycling city" ? It's one of the things I've learn from spending a few minutes reading about Walking and Cycling in England (they deleted their page, so I deleted the link), according to the visitengland.nl website - the Official website in Dutch for tourism in England. It makes for very interesting reading.

visitlondon.com takes a slightly different line. According to them, "When you cycle through the busy traffic in London, it is of the highest importance that you wear a helmet. Some cyclists also use face masks. Make sure that you're seen by other road users: wear reflective clothing." That doesn't sound quite like a "first category cycling city" to me. For more views of London, check out earlier posts or bloggers from the city listed on the right.

You perhaps expect tourism websites to make positive claims for the places they're selling, but at what point does exaggeration become dishonesty ?

Several years ago, on one of our many ferry trips between Harwich and Hoek van Holland before we moved here, we fell into conversation with a Dutch couple who were heading for England. They'd got two children with them, both under ten, and the plan was that with all four on their own bikes they would ride from the ferry port at Harwich to Stonehenge. This is the sort of thing that Dutch families do within the Netherlands because it's supported by infrastructure which makes this type of thing into a relaxing family holiday. The British tourism websites give every impression that it's perfectly normal and supported by infrastructure in the UK as well. We tried not to be too negative about what they were attempting. After all, they were already on the ferry, half way across the North Sea before we got to speak to them. It was a bit too late for them to decide not to go. However, clearly they'd been taken in by the publications of the tourist information organisations of the UK, and thought this was as realistic a thing to do as it is in the Netherlands. We last saw them, all four on their own bikes, contemplating what to do at this huge roundabout just one kilometre from the port:


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Where they went next, we don't know. The most direct route south west is the A120. You can legally cycle here, but not many people would want to with cars legally driving at 60 mph / 100 km/h:


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I used to mainly take the B-road alternative routes. They are a little more civilised than the A roads, but make your journeys longer. However, would you ride here with children ?


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We don't know which route they took. If they were looking for a relaxing holiday they'd have been best off getting on the next ferry back to the Netherlands - we'd taken our bikes in the opposite direction for a reason.

And at their destination ? Stonehenge is wedged in a triangle between the A303, the A344 and an unrideable byway. No effort has been expended to make it accessible by bike. The visitor information says you can "find this site on the National Cycle Network". However, click through and you find that the National Cycle Network stops a couple of miles short, and that even that access is actually "on road". The approach from the west to Stonehenge itself is along the A303. The speed limit here is 70 mph (112 km/h):


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This is what doesn't happen in the Netherlands. You can go everywhere without having to "share the road" with motor vehicles travelling at 100 km/h. It is quite practical to set off with children and cycle to interesting places at a considerable distance. The destination will be reachable by bike, and the journey will be pleasant.

Many British cyclists have discovered that the experience of "sharing the road" with drivers is not always a pleasant one. When we lived there I had my share of unpleasant incidents including regularly being passed too fast and too close, cars overtaking in the opposite direction driving straight at me, drivers coming out of side-roads and expecting me to stop, being overtaken as I clearly indicated a right turn, projectiles being thrown from windows, being driven into on purpose by drivers trying to "educate" me that I should ride my bike illegally on the sidewalk, and even people actually getting out of their cars and punching me. Reporting such incidents to the Cambridgeshire police typically brought a verbal response along the lines of "cyclists cause a lot of problems". No action was ever taken against any drivers that I complained about and after a while I stopped wasting my time by complaining. Nothing has changed. Here's a video of an assault on a cyclist from a few days ago:


Unfortunately, the Metropolitan Police have found it to be completely impossible to work out who this driver is.

Compare and contrast with another Dutch language tourism website which says that the English behave as gentlemen on the roads. Actually, I've heard several Dutch people express such an opinion. It's similar to how British people express an opinion about Dutch or French drivers. The reason is simple: people get an inaccurate impression from short holidays. On holiday you stay in one place only for a short period, reducing your exposure to problems, tend to avoid rush-hour, mostly ride in places other than the centres of cities, don't have any memory of where previous incidents occurred and of course you wear the most rose-coloured of glasses.

I don't believe that drivers behave very much differently in one country vs. another. However, our rose coloured spectacles about the Netherlands came off a very long time ago but it remains less stressful to cycle here. The reasons are simple: In the Netherlands, cyclists interact rarely with motorists. Where there are interactions it is obvious who has priority. That's what makes the experience here different. There's a reason why you regularly see school trips by bike here, but not in Britain.

The first website also says that "Northumbria has the most beautiful, well marked cycle paths" which "criss-cross through the area and take you to interesting places". I'd like to know where they are. It is a lovely area, but when we were on holiday there, all our cycling was on roads (a comment points to this cycle path in Northumberland). There's a lot of exaggeration about: Another British tourism website claims that Rutland Water is the largest artificial lake in western Europe, which is a bit weird given that it covers only one hundredth of the area of the IJsselmeer.

The video was also featured on crap walking and cycling in waltham forest and as easy as riding a bike.

There's more on London, Britain and exaggeration.



12th July update.


On Northumbria and Carlton:
If you've arrived here as a result of Carlton Reid's outbursts about me, please note that the above is the unedited (except for one spelling error corrected) version of my original post. This post was never about either Carlton Reid nor Northumbria, save for the couple of lines at the end of the post in small letters which discuss our personal experiences of the county, on a holiday which we very much enjoyed. Sadly, Carlton took this out of proportion and out of context and has been very busy both yesterday and today, not only commenting here but also writing a "Defending Northumbria" blog post as a response to this blog post. He also sent out several tweets to keep people informed of what he saw as new developments with this unchanged blog post, and repeatedly goaded me with more and more ludicrous blog responses until he wore my patience rather thin. That's the context. If you are interested and can be bothered, please read the responses below and make your own mind up any way you see fit. The responses are unedited and therefore may refer to Carlton's post as it was at the time they were written, rather than as you can read it now (he has edited his post's contents more than once and also changed its title).

I find this whole episode bizarre, but in one sense it is also positive. If there were real news to report, I don't suppose that a busy journalist could find quite so much time to inflate nothing at all into a "story", nor to say quite so much about both himself and about me.

On comment policy:
It's my blog, and I have my rules. In principle I prefer to let anyone who is not obviously spamming have their say in the comments beneath my blog posts. Unfortunately, purposely disruptive individuals, or "trolls", can ruin it for everyone. They make serious discussion impossible by wasting time and filling up the comment space with off-topic nonsense. This defeats the object of having comments, and I won't put up with it. At present there are two individuals whose comments I delete because they've proved themselves incapable of discussing things in a reasonable manner. Carlton Reid is not one of them. However, in my opinion Carlton has already made more than enough comments below this post. He is still welcome to comment on future blog posts, but after this experience I will read his comments with a little more suspicion than previously.

Two years later, sensible people still recognise that Northumbria has much the same problems for cycling as the rest of the UK. The number of cyclist deaths in the county rose by 35% between 2011 and 2012 and rather than bluffing about everything being OK, some people actually want to do something about it.

23 comments:

christhebull said...

You can see this with drivers who leave the UK and holiday in Africa. They think they're really good drivers (even though they're not) and they are used to big fancy motorways, but then they end up reading propaganda by Gadaffi and so they try and drive across the Sahara in a Ford Sierra. With their kids, because that's what they would do in England. Meanwhile the Libyan driver training organisations (who are the only significant type of motoring organisation) are campaigning not to have motorways in case people forget how to drive on sand (and that is an important skill, refined over decades by world class rally drivers, so it shouldn't be forgotten about in favour of Los Angeles style "car culture"). There is however, a new organisation that campaigns for motorways along the Dutch and German guidelines, that form useful connections and don't just get built as a labour project to use up aid budgets.

Obviously that stuff about Libya was made up, but I was just taking a dig at John Franklin for saying that Dutch cyclists who come off the ferry don't know what they're doing. Presumably we shouldn't build pavements, in case I go to some slum in India which doesn't have them and I get run over.

Joe D said...

There are a few OK Sustrans rail trails out of Newcastle. Usual NCN fare, of course -- you get on a lovely straight flat well surfaced rail trail for a dozen miles, then you're dumped on a gravel path or a maze of random hilly lanes somewhere.

I suppose NCN 76 in Kielder Forest (http://wp.me/pXuZW-hS) is at least well marked, and perhaps there is a certain melancholic beauty of isolation about the plantations.

Interesting what you say about Dutch driving. I may have to quote you when I finally work out what to do with my draft responding to those who think that taming the motorist without separation is the path to mass cycling.

Richard Grassick said...

"I don't believe that drivers behave very much differently in one country vs. another."

" In the Netherlands, cyclists interact rarely with motorists. Where there are interactions it is obvious who has priority."

I would contend that drivers, over time, respond to infrastructure in much the same way from country to country. But their behaviour clearly changes depending on the infrastructure. As you say, in the Netherlands it is obvious who has priority. Road markings etc reinforce this. in the UK it is not obvious (check the Highway Code). But police and road authority attitudes reinforce the infrastructure's clear design that prioritises motorised traffic over all else. Not surprisingly, drivers then behave as if they rule the roads.

This is the real crime that is UK transport policy. It deliberately encourages bad behaviour in people who are otherwise perfectly pleasant and reasonable.

Carlton Reid said...

David, I was with you until your Northumbria comments. We live in Newcastle so we regularly take family cycle trips in Northumberland.

Out in the sticks you're riding on roads, but you will see maybe just a couple of cars per day. In the College valley, motorists have to get permits to drive through, and there's a limit of 12 per day.

To get from Tynemouth out into the depths of the countryside, follow the Sustrans Reivers Route. Much of it is traffic-free in Tyneside because of the many former mineral line cycle paths. Once past hot-spots such as Ponteland the motorised traffic drops off massively and Northumberland becomes wonderful cycling country, on or off road. Tourist literature doesn't do this part of the world justice, and is definitely not exaggerating.

Now, Stonehenge and environs is different, and truly awful, but don't put 'Northumbria' into the same category.

My kids have been cycling quite happily and safely in Northumberland since the age of 6.

Northumberland would be a great destination for Dutch families and their bikes.

There's separated infrastructure from the ferry to the mineral lines. Some of it is not up to Dutch standards but so long as the cyclists don't try to reach Newcastle, they'll be alright.

I've written about family cycling in Northumberland for National Geographic Traveller. Extract here: http://issuu.com/carltonreid/docs/nationalgeographictravellerextract

I've also written about the Netherlands for NGT, and waxed lyrical about family cycling there, but you don't have to go to the Netherlands to experience the perfect cycling holiday: Northumberland is stunning, and very lightly travelled.

David Hembrow said...

Richard: You're right of course. Road design does affect how drivers behave. The whole basis of sustainable safety is to make roads self-explanatory, and reduce the number of incidents which occur. It's been very successful.

Carlton: As it happens, I think Northumbria is very nice place. Within the UK it's certainly better than average for cycling because if you pick your route you can avoid too many cars. However, thank you for proving my point both with your words: "Much of it is traffic-free", "Once past hot-spots", "so long as the cyclists don't try to reach Newcastle"... and with the pictures on your link which show helmeted cyclists on gravelly paths. You and I have both ridden there with our children (ours wore helmets too). However, the majority of people don't do this. Cycling remains a minority mode of transport in Northumbria just as it is everywhere else in the UK, and if you're trying to actually go somewhere, such as to Newcastle and other hot-spots, the conditions are a good part of the reason why.

We were on holiday there in 1999 when there was a rather nasty incident. As a large group of us were riding along the causeway to Lindisfarne, a motorist took such an exception to the excellent "Bo the clown" that he assaulted him much as in the video above.

Sadly, violence is never far away from cyclists in Britain.

Pjotr320 said...

London is a first category cycling city? Just like the Tioga ComPool is a first class commuter tire....

Carlton Reid said...

David

I've defended Northumbria here: http://quickrelease.tv/?p=1600

There are pix on there that show some superlative cycle routes on North Tyneside. Perfectly flat, smooth, away from motorised traffic and wonderfully sited between commuterville housing estates.

Despite such conditions, you don't see many cyclists on these urban bike paths. Even if the UK government built a Dutch-style cycle network overnight, Brits wouldn't flock to it. Infrastructure is not a panacea; infrastructure is only part of any solution.

I have pix from family cycling hols in the Netherlands which show us on mile after mile of "gravelly paths": this isn't something limited to the UK.

And, on the comments of the story above, I also recount the only time I've ever been hit by a motorist while on a family cycling tour. It was in a Dutch town. A driver rammed my very bright trailer, and did so deliberately.

Motorists are impatient in the Netherlands too. And cyclists sometimes have to mix with motorised traffic. Intelligently, it's with slow motorised traffic but still it's mixing with cars and collisions do happen.

I don't think I was proving your point when I said "so long as the cyclists don't try to reach Newcastle": you were maligning not Newcastle but Northumbria and I was countering that.

The bike route from the ferry to Newcastle is awful in parts and I feel sorry for any Dutch cyclists who get off the boat and expect great cycling from the off.

My point is, and will remain, that Northumbria is a great cycling destination for families; to lump it in with the awful, busy roads around Stonehenge is unfair.

There's little need for dedicated cycling infrastructure in the depths of Northumberland because there are so few cars to be protected from.

David Hembrow said...

Carlton, you really are a strange one. You pick a tiny comment out of context where I say that all our cycling was on roads in Northumbria and somehow inflate that into my "attacking" or "maligning" the county. You then write repeatedly both here and on your blog, including what seems like a bit of an attempt at an ad hominem attack against me. Sorry, but all this is a bit too weird for me.

Luckily for you, I actual post your replies here. You haven't always given me the same courtesy on your blog when attacking what I've said in the past so I won't waste my time trying reply there this time.

You have an awful lot to learn about cycling in the Netherlands. I would help a lot if you would stop making straw-man arguments against Dutch provision. For instance, there is no-one here who says that cycle paths alone are the only thing that matters.

However, infrastructure in the more general sense certainly does matter.

That you can't cycle the short distance from a home in Newcastle into Northumbria without encountering roads which are unpleasant to cycle on is exactly the point. The same journey would be easy in the Netherlands, but cycling infrastructure in Britain doesn't ever join up. There are always what you refer to as "hot spots". That's as true in and around Northumbria as it is everywhere else in the country and while you may see this as a minor nuisance, it's a major problem for people who are not already dedicated cyclists.

You are willing to take risks with your children that other people don't see as acceptable to take with theirs. This doesn't happen in the Netherlands. No-one sees cycling as a risk, and that's why, for instance, schools take entire classes cycling in a way that they never could do in the UK because the parents simply wouldn't agree with it.

And yes, of course the Netherlands has gravelly paths. However, these are recreational paths through pretty areas provided in addition to the proper network that you might use if you actually want to go somewhere at speed. They're not counted as part of the 29000 km of proper cycle paths in this country. You don't have to ride on them unless you want to make a recreational journey through those areas.

If you read the post which you responded to, you'll see that I don't think there is a difference between Dutch and British drivers either. I've said the same often in the past.

The difference is that cyclists are kept away from cars - something which you seem to have very split opinions about: You think is a very bad idea if separation is due to "infrastructure" while at the same time applauding it if it means meandering around little used lanes in Northumbria. The effect is similar, except that you can never really know what is around the next corner on little used lanes in the UK.

timooohz said...

First class usually means good quality, but "first category" could be anything:

The categories:
1) terrible
2) average
3) good.

How does Northumbria do in the "drive to the park to ride" test? Do people have to do that, because the only way to get to the pretty bike paths safely is by car?

Tom B said...

I'd say that David and Carlton Reid are probably both right on this one. You can genuinely get from the ferry out on route 10 to the Northumberland lanes with a family on bikes. Its not insane to suggest this as an idea for Dutch families wanting to cycle tour in England (in fact its probably one of the few options for them). Once you are out in the countryside the roads are such that you'd not have any cycle paths / lanes on them were they in the Netherlands. But, as David says, try and go into any market town or city and the situation is very different. North Tyneside's wagonway network can't get you to work or to High Street shops, getting to this network (without bikes on the back of a car) can be very difficult with kids unless you are lucky enough to live right on a route. Getting on to the Wagonway Network from my kids school would involve transiting junctions which are difficult enough with one or two kids with you let alone 30.

Carlton Reid said...

David

If any of your comments have been eaten by the Disqus commenting system, I apologise. I never, ever, ever, knowingly block a genuine comment.

No need for us to go round in circles here but you asked where are the paths in Northumbria in a snarky fashion. I said I could show you them. You also said the bike-friendliness of Northumberland was an "exaggeration". I totally and wholly disagree with you, and have said so. This is not an ad hominem attack it's a simple defence of my locality.

Discouraging potential cycle tourists from visiting Northumberland is good in that it keeps the numbers low (I'm joking) but it's unfair on what is perhaps the best county in England for peaceful cycle touring.

On what basis do you say I "take risks with my children?" That's a rather horrible thing to say.

David Hembrow said...

Carlton: Actually, I barely said anything at all about Northumbria, save that we found only roads. This is in a tiny note in extra small text at the bottom of a long post which mostly is about other places. There's nothing in my post about Northumbria particularly being an exaggeration, though the way it was worded on the Dutch language tourism site certainly was not lacking in superlatives. I stand by what I said.

Ad Hominem ? Indeed. Why did you describe me as "the basket-maker who so hated the conditions for cycling in Cambridge he moved his family to the Netherlands" ?

I've never said I hated Cambridge, and I resent that you portray me as having made such a statement. I have friends in the city, and I'd prefer them not to read that I have opinions that I don't have. I have lots of good memories of living there. Would I have stayed there for nearly 20 years if I disliked it so strongly ?

Your choice of "introduction" for me was a deliberate act. You could have said that I was "the software engineer who lived and worked in Cambridge for nearly 20 years" or "the cycling campaigner who worked to improve conditions in Cambridge for 10 years".

Then you wrote "He loves taking potshots at the UK’s dire cycling infrastructure". This is even more bizarre. Who would "love" doing any such thing ? What to you is the true nature of patriotism ? A blind belief that whatever you have must be best ("my country, right or wrong"), or a desire to see your country genuinely be best ?

It actually rather pains me to have to point out that the UK has dire cycling infrastructure. I also find it frustrating that there are many people who will not face that this is the truth, as by doing so they stand in the way of cycling being something for more than a small minority. It's a tragedy on many levels. Britain is no longer as it was in the 1950s, but some cyclists seem not to have noticed yet.

You then ask about what I meant about relative "risks" a few comments back, again taking half a sentence out of context to make your point. Please go and read it again, including the rest of the sentence and paragraph. If you genuinely don't recognize that your use of bicycles is not "normal" in the British context then I'm not sure I have anything else to say to you at all.

This whole exchange is ludicrous. I wrote a perfectly reasonable post about how tourism boards across the UK write rather glowing, and exaggerated, descriptions of themselves in order to sell to the Dutch. Within the post I mentioned your county quite positively in a tiny note at the bottom. From this you've somehow managed to construct an attack on where you live and even on yourself.

This post was not about you, Carlton. Well, at least it wasn't until you decided to try to make it so in the comments and on your own blog.

As well as in Cambridge, I also have friends in Northumbria, and no desire to fall out with any of them. Please stop twisting my words.

Carlton Reid said...

I didn't say you hated Cambridge. I said you hated the cycling conditions in Cambridge, and in the rest of the UK. Your blog is all about how the Netherlands trumps the UK on provision for cyclists.

I'm with you on that one. Obviously.

You stand by your comments. I wouldn't expect anything different.

Apparently you even stand by this one "You are willing to take risks with your children".

And I stand by my comment that that is an awful thing to say about somebody. In fact, I'm staggered you didn't retract that one immediately.

David Hembrow said...

Carlton: I didn't say I hated anything. You used that word on my behalf and I wish you had not. I write enough - why do you invent words for me ?

Once again you have quoted back to me half of one of my sentences out of context in order to try to continue a pointless argument. My full sentence was "You are willing to take risks with your children that other people don't see as acceptable to take with theirs."

It's very simple. Riding in traffic is associated with a particular risk. You are unusual in riding with your children in traffic. Most other parents in the UK do not ride with their children in large part because they are fearful of this risk. Therefore you are taking a risk that they are not.

Life is full of risks. I could say just the same thing about parents who let their children ride horses, do gymnastics, go swimming, or lead a wholly sedentary life in front of a TV while eating burgers. These activities are also all associated with risk.

There's no opinion here, just statements of fact. I'm more going to "retract" this than I am to retract that the grass is green.

When we lived in the UK, I rode with my children too, much as you do. As such, I exposed my children to a risk which other parents did not expose their children to. That's also a statement of fact and I'm not going to "retract" that one either.

This is boring. Keep going and I'll stop publishing your repetitive posts due to boredom, as well of course that they're purposely argumentative and wildly off topic.

Carlton Reid said...

In context, your statement about my children was contained in a comment re cycling in Northumberland.

Cycling on lonely roads where there are precious few cars is not risky. Clearly.

But it now turns out what you were referring to is cycling with my children in the UK, in general. I didn't raise this subject so it must be coloured by what you've read about me and my cycling family.

Either way, I'm not happy with your unwarranted pronouncements on my parenting skills.

But as the original posting was not about me (I never said it was) no doubt the following is not about me either:

"I also find it frustrating that there are many people who will not face that this is the truth [ie UK's dire cycling infrastructure], as by doing so they stand in the way of cycling being something for more than a small minority."

As somebody who has been writing about the UK's dire cycling infrastructure - professionally - for 30 years, you clearly can't mean me.

And as the majority of my paid work in cycling is very much about expanding the market away from just the "small minority", you must be aiming your barbs at somebody else.

If this debate hasn't yet bored you into deleting my comments, please let me know who you have in mind with those statements.

David Hembrow said...

Carlton, please stop the bullshit. I'm bored of your arguing, bored of your pretense, bored of your paranoia and simply don't believe that you can really be this stupid.

At the very least, please at least try to think slightly logically. Getting out of bed in the morning carries a risk. So does not getting out of bed in the morning.

Just like everything else, cycling on "lonely roads" also carries a risk. A large proportion of the total crashes that cyclists have are single party crashes. If you were to have such a crash, or if you were to have a medical emergency in a sufficiently remote place it is possible that you would never be found. I wrote about this in the past (in a different context).

As for the rest of it, where you worry about whether I'm writing about you: Yes of course I write about you. Every word I've ever written, on my blog, in comments and elsewhere, in the past and in the future. All of it is/was/will be about you. There is even a song about you, though some other people think it's about them.

lofidelitybicycleclub said...

Well, I understood what you meant!

Now my son is 14 months old. I love taking him for rides along Worthing Promenade (now open for cycling). I have a Bobike front seat and windshield and he clearly loves it. People love watching us pootle by and I often hear them saying 'isn't that sweet!' or 'what a good idea' (even to the point where I've been stopped by parents and grandparents wanting to know where I got these curious Bobike inventions).

However, I wonder what the reaction of the Great British public would be if i didn't put a helmet on my son. Many probably already regard me as a bad, irresponsible parent for using roads (already regarded as 'dangerous' by non-cyclists) to get to the prom and not wearing a helmet myself. The reason I put a helmet on my son is to oppease my wife who doesn't think cycling is a dangerous activity but knows how clumsy I can be.

In a way, a reason I set up the Cycling Embassy of Great Britain was not only to highlight the combinations of infrastructre techniques THAT HAVE PROVEN SUCCESS, but so that people on Worthing Promenade don't keep stopping me - because they also cycled there with children and grandchildren in inviting, safe conditions that made a simple run-of-the-mill mode of transport the simple run-of-the-mill mode of transport that it actually is.

At the moment, in the UK general public's eyes, I am an irresponsible parent as is (dare I say it) Carlton. We have to show that if we carry on along our current path (pardon the pun), it is more irresponsible to not create conditions for all ages to get about by bicycle without fear, intimidation or harassment.

And for the record, I also like Northumbria :-) However, I'll also happily go on record by saying that West Sussex is a dangerous shithouse for anyone wanting to ride a bicycle save a few trails.

Azor_rider said...

I don't understand why a respected writer like Carlton Reid chooses to confront a fellow blogger who has arguably done more than anyone in the English speaking world to explain the thinking behind the success of cycle provision in the Netherlands.

It's perfectly clear that Mr Reid has exercised the dark arts of the spin doctor by selectively quoting and demeaning Mr Hembrow.

aseasyasridingabike said...

Wow. I think this has got blown massively out of proportion.

Carlton, I don't think arguing that you take risks with your children that other people would not see as acceptable is "a horrible thing to say." Most people in the UK find the idea of cycling with their children on our roads - rightly or wrongly - as something that is very dangerous. Ergo, you do something that is seen as risky by many other people. This *is* a factual statement, and it is not a personal attack on you.

"I'll also happily go on record by saying that West Sussex is a dangerous shithouse for anyone wanting to ride a bicycle save a few trails."

Indeed - and our politicians agree - http://bit.ly/jn9QuW

Anonymous said...

I feel that the comments have drifted away from the original post, which was a very good and unexpected angle on cycling in England.
The message is surely that good quality cycling infrastructure is important to the tourist trade. I think that the tourist board can see this even if the department of transport can't (or won't).
I have taken holidays in the Netherlands because of the great facilities on offer to cyclists and I am sure that England could benefit in a similar way if it had similar cycle paths etc. That is not to underestimate the network of country lanes that we have, they do offer some great cycling although local knowledge is essential, there is no way to judge if the lines on the map are quiet and picturesque or busy with endless motorised traffic.
As to those aggressive drivers, sorry to say we do have them, I think the Dutch are liberal when it comes to soft drugs, we are liberal when it comes to road deaths.
Mark Garrett, Bristol UK

Freewheeler said...

Carlton Reid writes:

“Even if the UK government built a Dutch-style cycle network overnight, Brits wouldn't flock to it. Infrastructure is not a panacea; infrastructure is only part of any solution.”

I think he’s quite spectacularly wrong about this. And the longer the CTC, Cyclenation and prominent cycling advocates like Carlton Reid go on expressing these kinds of sentiments, the longer UK cycling will remain an activity which most people don’t wish to be involved in (at least not outside a CenterParc).

Fortunately the London Cycling Campaign seems finally to be breaking away from the traditional concensus.

Azor_rider said...

Freewheeler makes a good point.

Dr Dave Horton's research into cycling and walking identifies two aspects of cycling culture - the affluent who 'get' cycling but drive their cars to rural destinations (country parks, etc) and cycle off road and the less-affluent who don't 'get' cycling and only cycle out of necessity, usually on the footway.

If you step back and assess cycling in the UK today, the three cycling initiatives that inform public opinion are; Sustrans, which has built rural cycle paths which are indirect and of limited use to utility cyclists, Centreparcs (holiday destination for affluent families) where you can use a bike in the continental way but the roads are traffic free five days a week and London with the cycle super highways and Boris bikes - and the narrative that on-road cycling is dangerous.

No wonder we're in a mess!

Andy in Germany said...

Hang on, someone assaults someone in front of witnesses, is filmed, and then gets into a car with a clearly visible numberplate and the police can't trace them? What were the using, a tardis?