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.