Wendy Davis on the pitfalls of pushbikes
I read with interest Paul Salveson’s article on the rise of cycling in the July/August Chartist.
Of course it is wonderful for those who are able to cycle to do so, and safe, segregated cycle routes should be constructed to facilitate this. However this is not the whole story.
I live in the London Borough of Waltham Forest whose Mini-Holland scheme is being promoted as a great model. The £30 million council-commissioned works have caused great problems to some of the most vulnerable residents.
This is what Mini-Holland has delivered:
- The programme of 70 road closures makes for longer journeys, more pollution and congestion on main roads (where poorer people live), problems for small businesses and deliveries, dangerous reversing of large vehicles such as refuse lorries and delays to emergency vehicles. There seem to be NO benefits and certainly no way these road closures help people walking or people cycling.
- Copenhagen crossings. Another element of this ideology is the creation of “blended crossings”. This is where all distinction is erased between the pavement and the road. Again, what is the benefit? There appears to be none and government bodies and disability organisations have found against them.
- Shared space. There appears to be a completely mistaken conflation of walking and cycling. Across the borough, pedestrian space – much of it designed to standards set when I was Access Officer in LBWF – is being taken away to create cycle lanes, or shared paths. This leaves very narrow space for people walking, which is especially problematic in times of social distance requirements.
- The removal of bus lanes in order to create cycle paths has caused a lot of distress to many residents. Where buses still run they are frequently delayed by the extra traffic created by narrowed roads and closed side streets. Many local buses have reduced their timetables. In normal times far more people depend on buses than use bicycles.
- Floating bus stops. Cyclists are never required to stop, so when cycle paths go past bus stops this poses real dangers for alighting passengers.
Cycling infrastructure must not be constructed in total disregard of other transport modes. Cycling can never be a majority method of travel, although of course there is scope for more cyclists than we have at present. Some people may cycle some of the time, but not when the weather is unsuitable, when they have heavy objects or shopping to carry, or when they are transporting other people. Many people will never cycle at all, because of age, disability, distances involved or need to arrive in a groomed state at one’s destination. We must continue to cater for pedestrians, public transport users including taxis, and those who need or want to use other vehicles, preferably electric or hydrogen-fuelled.