|Cycle-paths in red. The truck has to travel a considerable|
distance along cycle-path to reach the club and then
must drive the same way back again to leave.
The photo shows where cyclists have gained a great cycling facility due to pragmatism. I'll explain, with help from the map on the right:
The club building was built on a strip of land between the large and wide ring-road (in effect an urban motorway) and part of the existing cycle-path network. There is no way to access this sports club except via the cycle-path. No other route exists and there is nowhere to build another route. Therefore there is no choice but for deliveries to the sport club to use the cycle-path. Football players and audience members also cycle. There's a car park nearby which can be used but it's a fair walk between there and the club.
The junction between two cycle-paths from where I took the photo. The speed bumps are designed to have no effect at normal cycling speeds. They are an effective measure to slow mopeds, permitted on this cycle-path, at the junction.
Trucks using the cycle-path leave in the same direction as they entered. They don't continue and use the cycle-path as a through route because there's a busy cycle-path junction in the way. The cycle-path isn't abused as a through route by drivers.
As part of redevelopment of this area, cycle-paths were widened and gained a smoother and more robust surface. This is a big plus for cyclists. The small cost is that a truck has to come along here perhaps once or twice a week to make deliveries. The alternative in this situation would have been to convert the cycle-path into a road or to not have built the sport club at all.
In this case, pragmatism means an obvious and large win for cyclists. It also serves footballers who cycle to the pitch and like to drink beer afterwards.
Examples in residential areas
There are many other examples of this way of thinking all across the Netherlands. Two of them within a few hundred metres of our home are shown here:
|Two homes in this location in Assen have garages next to each other which open onto the cycle-path. The cycle-path is therefore used very occasionally by car by those two families. A very minor inconvenience for cyclists in comparison with the major gain of being able to use this cycle-path and its associated tunnel to avoid a large and very nasty traffic light junction. Cyclists never have to stop at those traffic lights because this facility exists. A major gain for cyclists due to a little pragmatism.|
|The house was built long before the cycle-path. The residents of the house need access by car to their garage. It's no problem at all that they are given this access. Cyclists gain a marvellous wide and efficient cycle-path. Most cyclists won't realise that part of this "cycle-path" is actually a road.|
|Part of a bicycle road in Assen. This very popular very high quality route for cycling provides the shortest possible way into the centre of the city for people who live in a new suburb. It was only possible to provide this by being pragmatic. There is no through traffic here so the only motor vehicles along this short stretch of road are for access to ten homes situated along here. Most of the time, this works as a de-facto cycle-path which is 5.5 m wide. A huge improvement over this being a route into the city by car, as it was until 2007.|
There are many ways in which cyclists can be segregated from motor vehicles without building cycle-paths.
Nearly car free streets in the centres of Dutch cities provide excellent cycling conditions while also allowing access by car. Pedestrianized zones in the Netherlands usually allow access by bike. These situations are almost opposites of one another, in that motor vehicles mustn't create problems for cyclists in the first while cyclists must not create problems for pedestrians in the second. We have examples of both which work extremely well.
It's a rare person who complains that maintenance vehicles will occasionally drive along cycle-paths, but of course they must do so.
|Good maintenance of cycle-paths as well as such things as cutting grass or dredging canals next to cycle-paths will always require access by some maintenance vehicles. This cycle-path in Assen belongs to the local water board. It's an essential part of our flood defences but also forms a very useful cycle route. The slight downside is that we very occasionally have to share it with a maintenance vehicle.|
In the countryside there are many cycle-paths used mainly for recreational use which were once farmers' tracks or which go through natural areas by following a similar line to vehicles used for maintenance within those areas.
|Signage on another ex farm track|
Cycles only - tractors excepted
In practice, places which don't provide good infrastructure for cycling simply have fewer cyclists. Compromises on quality lead to fewer people cycling, so quality should never be compromised. Progress is not made by adopting low aspirations reflected in inadequate design guidelines as these in themselves come to stand between potential cyclists and cycling. Cycling expands in popularity only by winning a popularity contest, by being the most attractive contestant. To encourage people to cycle, cycling needs to become the most pleasant and convenient way to make a journey.
There will always be places where cyclists must come first but where access by motor vehicle is sometimes also required. We shouldn't be afraid of this, but instead make sure that it is something which is planned correctly so that 'sometimes' really does mean 'sometimes'.
Occasional use by a resident's car or by a tractor or maintenance vehicle, as shown above, is not a problem for cyclists using cycle-paths any more than it is if a cycle-path is occasionally used by an equestrian or pedestrian. This is where real pragmatism comes in. Near 100% segregation of cyclists from motor vehicles can be achieved so long as we accept that there will be very small compromises. There should never be wholesale compromises on quality. Nothing should be compromised easily which will diminish the overall experience of cycling.
|Equestrians have their own paths|
and are not normally expected
to be found on Dutch cycle-path.
This surface is better for horses
than the asphalt or concrete
required for a proper cycle-path
While they are sometimes thought of as synonyms, pragmatism and compromise have quite different definitions. Pragmatism demands that dogma be put aside so that we can make a rational choice and take a practical point of view. As an example, while we don't normally want trucks to be driven along cycle-paths, I've yet to hear anyone argue against snow-ploughs driving along cycle-paths in winter. The examples above fall into similar categories.
On the other hand, to compromise is to make a concession. We should do this only as little as possible and if a good outcome can still be guaranteed. Of course, in real life there will always be compromises, but they should come as late as possible in the process of campaigning
Campaigners should always be pragmatic but compromises should be rare.
Problems for cyclists arise when other modes come to dominate what should be cycling infrastructure or if accommodating these other modes changes the design of what should be cycling infrastructure so that it in fact becomes more suited for another mode. This principle applies even if it affects only part of the day.
There's no point in suggesting that usually "empty" roads which fill with motor vehicles at rush hour or at school times are suitable for cycling because at those times of the day, which will also be busy times for cycling, they won't be suitable.
Designs encouraging cyclists and pedestrians to share cause conflict because these two modes are not compatible. Similarly, shared spaces for cars and bikes have proven to be dangerous. These also are not truly a cycling measure but readily demonstrate exactly the problems caused by allowing other modes to dominate.
Sometimes suggestions of compromise comes not due to another mode, but because of specious reasons such as false environmentalism. This also needs to be resisted. Any problem that can be caused by a cycle-path and cyclists using it is minute next to the problem which would be caused by building a road and people making their journeys by car instead of by bike. This comes up remarkably frequently.
|Cycling declined quickly in the UK as planners|
concentrated only on motor vehicles and cars took
over the roads
Any of the situations described in the last few paragraphs are a compromise too far because such compromises damage cycling.
Where motor vehicles dominate it's important that there should not be "sharing". In those locations it's essential to provide proper cycle-paths and well designed junctions to prevent clashes between cyclists and motor vehicles and it's essential that these are conflict free. This is the only way to make cycling pleasant and convenient for the entire population.