There’s plenty of people who misunderstood what providing for cycling is all about. Unfortunately, some are a very strong voice in different media and sway opinion unfavourably towards cycling through inaccuracies and myths. The latest one is from Janet Street-Porter where multiple questions raised are proven not to be an issue among people living in the Netherlands.
Additionally, Sima Kotecha has done a very poor piece of journalism at Radio 4 (02:49:00 onwards), by cultivating the idea that there is some sort of fight between cycling and lorry/cars. This is seen in other programs in BBC, as the presenter of Daily Politics Jo Coburn, at 6:28 minutes, asks ‘Who’s side are you on?’ to one of the guests.
This is not unique to London, as in Belfast the current piece of infrastructure that is being targeted are the bus lanes. Belfast Telegraph run a piece just on how terrible this infrastructure is based on anecdotes instead of facts. The target is different, but the idea is similar.
So, what all these voices have in common?
There is generally no statistical evidence to sustain the claims made. Lack of helmets is one of the most common and lack of people using cycle paths is gaining momentum now some protected cycle paths are becoming available in London.
The real hard evidence shows that helmets inhibits the increase of cycling modal share and that London and Belfast have seen an increase in cycling usage in the last ten years.
It is always the subjective experience of some person (sometimes the one doing the journalism piece). Possible evidence is not provided as it would not sustain the anecdotes told in the journalism piece.
Idea of Fight
It’s either you are with me or against me world. Or at least it’s what we are sold. In reality, most people use multiple modes of transport, each of them when it suits people’s movement.
Hostility to drivers
Following the idea of fight, anti cycling campaigners suggest the myth that the planners and councils are choosing a side of imaginary war.
However, the reality is that by providing protected cycle infrastructure it is evening out the discrepancy between cycling and driving infrastructure, by providing better protection for the most vulnerable users. So, by installing protected infrastructure for cycling it is actually removing hostility towards cycling and not the other way round.
What about pedestrians and people with disabilities who can’t cycle?
As a pedestrian I feel safer with people cycling near me than driving, as statistics show that it is more likely to be injured by a car on a pavement than by a bicycle.
‘It rains a lot in the UK. People will avoid bicycles if it rains.’ – it is said. But, reality depicts a different image. Raining in London and a new cycle path is full.
What is really trying to be achieved by support cycling (and active travel)?
Cycling modal shares are very low, because the space for it is not safe and convenient. Creating protected cycle paths in strategic points in the city will enable cycling and people will be more likely to choose it as a mode of transportation.
The best success story is Belfast Bikes project that managed 191,000 journeys within the first year, even in an environment that is not bicycle friendly.
We all hear how there is no money to support the current state of NHS. We all read how the obesity levels are super high in the UK. In the Netherlands, it is invested € 500 million per year with a € 19 billion return of investment just in health. This means people who cycle live longer, people working take less sick days per year among other benefits.
Air pollution is a reality in our cities and councils are intervening with plans to help reduce it. Cycling is part of this plan and with good reason as it is an emission free vehicle.
Increase Local Retail Revenue
There are plenty of successful stories that demonstrate that the existence of protected cycle paths increase retail sales in those streets. Studies have found that most times sales are boosted by the existence of protected cycle paths. Studies also found misconceptions from shop owners about how their clients travel to their shops.
The addition of cycle paths can provide additional benefits that are not so easy to measure and, as such, are not so tangible. Reducing traffic delay can happen and has been documented. Wealth and well-being (namely children’s) are other positive outcomes from a better cycling infrastructure, as it provides healthier lifestyle and less dependence from parents to travel among other reasons.
Providing safe and convenient space for cycling is about providing choice for people to travel around and not a fight or war against any other mode of transportation. Most likely, the people who can and will take cycling will still be moving in different vehicles or walking. This means that the mode of transport does not define a person and it is just a way that anyone can choose to get from A to B.
As long as cycling is safe and convenient people will adopt it, mostly for small journeys, with all the personal and health benefits for themselves and the social and economic benefits for society.