Sunday, 19 February 2012

Cycle access to two sporting facilities

In its proposals for the Olympic Park in London, the London Cycling Campaign has produced some very nice glossy looking computer mock-ups of their vision for this enormous new sports facility.

On behalf of the cyclists of London, The LCC is asking for three metre wide bidirectional cycle-paths for routes past and through the facility.

Assen reality. A 3.3 m wide
cycle-path leads to a small
sports centre in a new suburb
In the second picture, the bidirectional cycle path looks barely two metres wide. It is also not clear how the guy in black is supposed to make a safe right turn at this junction to head towards the stadium.

Last year, the LCC was pushed by its membership into asking for Dutch style infrastructure. Unfortunately, they still don't really understand what they are asking for and are still not asking for anywhere near enough. This has not stood in the way of making demands which are often rather inadequate or of producing glossy pictures to illustrate those demands.

I think it's instructive to compare with a typical small sports facility here in Assen, which is itself a fairly typical small Dutch town. Other sports facilities in this city and across the country are served in much the same way.
Cycle-path past the same new suburb's sports centre. 4 metres wide and well separated from the road. No problems here with making turns. Note that the road, with a single lane in each direction, is one of just two entrances by car for a development of 9000 homes. There are many routes by bicycle.
Comparison table:
Population8 M67000
Pop served by facility7 billion. The Olympics is an international event.9000 homes eventually in this housing development
Path width past facility3 m, subject to negotiation4 m
Path width inside facility3 m, subject to negotiation3.3 m

It's not just in new developments in the Netherlands or in Assen that cycling is a normal way to reach sport facilities. I took this in 2007 outside a local swimming pool in Roermond, a town in the south of the country. Britain is still planning for lower a lower cycling modal share in new developments than the Netherlands was planning for thirty years ago. To achieve change, campaigners in the UK need to have higher aspirations.
More later on how the LCC still doesn't really understand what "Going Dutch" should have meant.

A year later...
The Olympics has been and gone in London, and the mess left behind in the Olympic park area doesn't even slightly resemble anything the Dutch would build or what was shown in the promotional video. See Hackney Cyclist's blog about it.

Having low aspirations like the LCC and other British campaign groups, does not result in progress. Rather, it helps to keep the UK "40 years behind".

Yes, there's someone walking their dog by bike in the second photo. This is not unusual in the Netherlands. Will "Love London, Go Dutch" result in the same happening all across London ?

Want to know more about the differences between the UK and the Netherlands ? We've lived in and ridden many tens of thousands of km in both countries. This gives us a unique insight which we condense into three days of study tour.


Anonymous said...

Your point is well-taken that a massive global city should build to at least the same capacity standards as a small Dutch town. However, I might remind you that Rome wasn't built in a day, and while cycling benefits from broad political support in Assen (and nearly all Dutch towns), that is simply not the case elsewhere. In many places, there is broad opposition to taking space from cars, and yes, it is the right thing to do, but that doesn't always fly politically.

I would favor a 3m 2-way cycle track over no cycle track any day of the week. No cycle track builds no cycling constituency, and builds no political support, while a slightly narrower cycle track still does these things. I was going to say, that I would generally take no cycle track over a very poorly designed cycle track. However, Montreal (where I live) has some pretty poorly designed cycle tracks (in my opinion), but I still think that the cycling rates would be much much lower without them (making cycling much less visible and more dangerous), and I, for one, still seek refuge in them from aggressive drivers.

My point is that it's easy to look out from a lofty perch at what the Netherlands has done right over many decades and forget about the pitched battles that were fought to get there.

David Hembrow said...

Anonymous: You're right of course that everything won't happen at once in London, or anywhere else. I also agree that a slightly too narrow but otherwise well-designed cycle-path is better than none at all (though we must always look very closely at junction design).

However, the pictures above show not what has been built in London, nor what is planned to be built, but what the main campaigning group in London sees as aspirational.

While mindful of what is possible to achieve, campaigning groups should not lack ambition in what they ask for. The less you ask for, the less you get.

If this is all that is asked for then the reality after negotiation will almost certainly be even less useful that what is shown in their designs.