Bike Commissioners

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From our Swindon Correspondent:

From The Guardian

Amid the confusion that followed Boris Johnson’s televised announcement easing the lockdown, Will Norman was clear about one thing – the way people move around cities would never be the same again.

“We are going to have a new normal coming out of this,” said London’s walking and cycling commissioner the morning after Johnson’s address to the nation. “Things are going to change whether we like it or not.”

One of my suspicions about bike commissioners is that they’re people who really like riding bikes and their personal lifestyle suits riding bikes. And when you’re like that, you might not be agnostic about the various benefits of each choice. You’re more likely to tip your choices towards bike over other choices.
They always seem to talk about things like journey times or health benefits and never look at the other problems. Are you likely to get knocked off your bike and put into hospital? Do you have somewhere safe to store it at the destination? Can you change clothes if you get wet and dirty? How much time do you have available? Do you need to carry things? If you get a puncture, how long are you going to be in the rain? Can you take your bike on the train?
Susan Kenyon, an academic who specialises in travel and behaviour change, said it was simplistic to assume that building more cycle lanes and closing off roads to traffic would, on its own, lead to long lasting changes in behaviour.

“For 100 years governments and industry have put cars and car use at the centre of our life and policy [decisions] and it will take a huge effort to unpick that.”

Spot on. Raising the level of cycling might well be a laudable aim, but it isn’t as simple as expecting everyone to start cycling. The reason so many people in the Netherlands cycle is mostly that it’s flat and that they started building cycle paths in the late 19th century.
The biggest single problem is existing infrastructure. Go to Central Milton Keynes or the newer parts of Swindon and we’re building this.If all you have is fields, you can put in cycle paths. How do you put a cycle path on The Strand? Make it single carriageway and everyone waits while a bus stops? Knock down a bit of The Waldorf and the Old Bailey?
People point to the Netherlands, but the Netherlands was building cycle paths in the late 19th century, probably because the bike was so much more useful in a very flat country back then. To undo existing Britain would take dramatic changes to places like London or Bristol.

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Addolff
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Addolff

I used to cycle 4 1/2 miles to work in Ilford because I was a man (well, I had no choice), but showers were available, so ride in, freshen up, put on clean clothes from locker, great.
How many workplaces have those facilities? I wouldn’t be happy spending all day in my own sweat and BO.

Bloke on M4
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Bloke on M4

Ah, sounds like a factory, where you generally change anyway, have showers because people can get dirty.

I know some large businesses that have racking for about 2% of their employees and a few showers. If half of their 3000 employees started biking, they’d have to build lots of shower blocks.

Addolff
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Addolff

BOM4, Railway maintenance depot. I wasn’t involved in the dirty stuff at work but took advantage of the facilities.
The people that come up with these ideas live in some sort of fantasy world and there are loads of them, usually fresh from Uni with a degree.
When you suggest that there might be a flaw in their ideas they call you a ‘blocker’ (also, old, stale, male…).

Bloke on M4
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Bloke on M4

“The people that come up with these ideas live in some sort of fantasy world and there are loads of them, usually fresh from Uni with a degree. When you suggest that there might be a flaw in their ideas they call you a ‘blocker’ (also, old, stale, male…).” Pragmatic utopianism. No point throwing money at things to fix problems that really don’t work or barely make a dent in it. And sometimes it’s lateral thinking that works: don’t build more trains to reduce pollution, use laptops and don’t travel at all (and I really think that this is going… Read more »

Quentin Vole
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Quentin Vole

When I went on the consulting game, a lot of trendy new startups would look at my long, grey (and entirely metaphorical) beard and tell me: ‘We never hire anyone over 40, because all they do is say “We tried that at my last company and it didn’t work”‘. I used to explain to them this was exactly the reason they needed to hire some people over 40.

Bloke on M4
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Bloke on M4

thankfully I’m in a boring area of software and avoid the hipsters.

We’ve all been idiot kids, but as a rule, the management weren’t.

dodgy geezer
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dodgy geezer

Pedal cycles are simply an outdated Victorian travel invention which should be relegated to sporting activity only, like the horse. It is simply not safe to ride unsecured on top of an open frame vehicle at modern speeds and in modern conditions. Attempts to separate bicycles from other vehicles just place pedestrians at greater risk.

Mark in Mayenne
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Mark in Mayenne

There is a specific set of things that are simply impossible to combine: a bike, a smart business suit, and rain.

john77
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john77

So you wear waterproof overtrousers and/or change when you get to the office.

Esteban
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Esteban

Hmm…

“For 100 years governments and industry have put cars and car use at the centre of our life and policy [decisions] and it will take a huge effort to unpick that.”

Let’s try “For 100 years governments and industry have recognized that people really, really like using cars to get around.” FTFY

Bloke on M4
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Bloke on M4

Maybe. But it’s also the case that people like me, who quite like pootling on a bike don’t go to town on it because I’m in with the cars and the trucks. I’d much rather spend £1000 on an e-bike and ride around than £10K+ on a car.

And even if you don’t want to do that, I’m a cost to you in terms of congestion if I drive.

Esteban
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Esteban

In many cases bicyclists cause more disruption and congestion than more cars would, especially if the streets weren’t designed to accommodate them.

Bloke on M4
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Bloke on M4

Yeah. And most of them don’t. you’d have to do some dramatic changes to make cycling work in London.

john77
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john77

@ Esteban Er, streets in the UK were designed to accommodate, in addition to pedestrians, horses *or* horses and bicycles *or* bicycles and cars. None were designed to accommodate cars but not bicycles so when they started building motorways they had to pass new laws covering *only* motorways that did not permit pedestrians or cyclists. Bicycles do *not* cause *as much* congestion or disruption as cars carrying the same number of people – except to unfortunate pedestrians when they take over the pavement (“sidewalk”) in parts of central London. For avoidance of doubt I am no longer a cyclist and… Read more »

jgh
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jgh

The Netherlands also benefitted from many of those pesky buildings being removed by their neighbours 70 years ago.

Bloke on M4
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Bloke on M4

I thought this, but they had been becoming more of a car society after WW2. It was child deaths on roads and a huge campaign around it in the 1970s that changed everything.

TD
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TD

When I worked in San Francisco I would sometimes commute in on the train with my bike and ride along the waterfront to the office. It was a good way to start a day when the weather was nice. SF is invariably cool so I wouldn’t work up a sweat, and most days I didn’t need to wear a coat and tie. So some days it worked well. What was awkward was that I was still dependent upon the train to get home, which forced me to leave the office at a particular time and that was often inconvenient. In… Read more »

p123
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p123

I find if you have to use transit for part of a journey bikes become tricky in terms of if you are allowed to take them on or somewhere to safely store them

Quentin Vole
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Quentin Vole

Large parts of Milton Keynes have completely separate cycle paths, but they’re meant to be footpaths, too. And the underpasses (needed as they traverse each of the infinity of roundabouts) are a haunt of undesirables.

Bongo
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Bongo

Segregated cycling infrastructure in Stevenage and Hartlepool just ain’t that popular. There’s even a Tyne Cycling Tunnel which has users less than 1/20th what it was in the early 1950s. Cambridge and London excepted, cyclists should oppose the modal segregationists and embrace shared use. Imv, of course.

David
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David

Sadly the cycle paths in Stevenage are quite out of sight – and so make cyclists vulnerable to muggings etcs – a great shame.

David
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David

If you cycle shortish distances showering is not a problem, you really don’t get that hot.
The big problem with cycling to work or the station is the real risk that your bike will not be there when you get back or rather it will be vandalized.

Mr Womby
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Mr Womby

While we’re admiring the Netherlands for its cycling-friendly infrastructure let’s recognise that all bikes there carry registration plates and have compulsory third-party insurance. (Same applies to mobility scooters.)