I guess that a lot of the submissions you have received talk about the need to develop high-quality, segregated infrastructure, and certainly if Parliament is sincere in its desire to get Britain cycling, they would do well to take this point on board. But oughtn't we to attend to the basics first? Oughtn't we to learn to walk before we try to run?
"The key word," Steffen Rasmussen from the City of Copenhagen told the GLA's Investigation into Cycling, "is an holistic approach and then a separation of functions." Say you were building a house from scratch, how would you set about it? Firstly you would determine where you would want it go. Then perhaps you would draw up your plans, and once you had confirmed that these plans were feasible, you would begin construction. The first thing you would do during the building phase would be to lay the foundations, all at once probably, and thereafter, from this solid base, you would build upwards. I hope that sounds reasonable. I am suggesting that the development of an amenable cycling environment should proceed along similar lines.
The two most important pieces of advice I would like to share with you are:
(i) Think in terms of a network
"We need an intelligent, systemic plan. This plan should connect the dots with a rational network of bike lanes that not only guide cyclists between the places they want to travel to, but also along the routes that are best-suited to absorbing large numbers of bikers and interfering the least with pedestrians and motorists. This plan cannot be developed piecemeal. Bike paths need to flow like bloodstreams: we need networks, not snippets." (New York Daily Times, 17 September 2012)
(ii) Introduce the network to a minimum level of functioning
You can't change everything at once, but you can do as much as possible at least bureaucracy first (as here, for example). As I explained above, you would lay the foundations all at once if you were building a house, so why would you do different if you were building a cycle network?
The following is adapted from an article that was first published on the Movement for Liveable London website:
Seven steps towards a network
(Unless otherwise stated, all quotes are from Cycling: the way ahead for towns and cities)
1. Appoint a cycling commissioner to push home reforms
“The essential tools are a person or a unit responsible for the pro-cycling policy and a committee.”
“In order to guarantee a certain consistency of approach, and to be able to ensure success—however qualified it may be—it must be possible to appoint a cycling coordinator, even if this only amounts to naming a person who will always be consulted for all works projects. An enormous amount of highly valid basic work can be achieved this way, with no special budget, by integrating the cycle dimension into the planning of even small work projects on every occasion, including:
§ treatment of roadways or crossroads where accidents have taken place;
§ taking cyclists into account when redesigning crossroads;
§ systematic installation of cycle parking areas in places of major confluence;
§ contraflow for cyclists in one-way streets;
§ interventions near schools as part of measures to make the approach to schools safer.”
“Even if a plan for a cycle network is adopted later, all of these measures will constitute practical elements which contribute to multiplying a network’s effectiveness once set up.”
“The setting up of a cycling committee (bringing politically-elected representatives together with representatives of the administration, public transport and cycling advocacy groups) can only give a boost to any pro-cycling policy in your town.”
2. Plan the network
Analyse journeys - headcounts, interviews, statistics.
Routes that are meaningful (i.e. they go from somewhere to somewhere), direct and, wherever possible, pleasant can only be identified during this phase.
3. Study the feasibility of the network
“Studying the feasibility of a network is of a similar importance to setting up a cycling unit or appointing a cycling coordinator."
4. Public relations
“It’s not just better for the environment, it’s better for our own health, it’s better for our children’s health, and it’s better for the movement of traffic generally in a city. It’s a long-term plan, and it’s not about being anti-car, it’s about having the right form of transport in the right place and at the right time. And we need to do it, and we can do it gently and purposefully, that’s the point. You know where you’re going to go, and you tell everybody this is why we’re doing it, and you bring them on board. If you make swingeing changes, no one likes that, it’s quite understandable. A change of ramping up petrol prices or blocking roads is not on. It’s got to be saying, ‘This is where we’re going in our cities, and we’re going to do it purposefully, and we’re telling you why we’re doing it.’ That’s the main thing.” (Andrew Davies)
5. Involve the private sector
“The private sector itself can contribute to a cycling policy. Compelling companies to provide a mobility plan for their employees, for example, is one way of inducing them to promote cycling among their staff. Some employers offer an entire panoply of incentives to encourage their employees to cycle (indemnification per kilometre, facilities for purchasing a bicycle, showers and changing rooms, free drinks, tombolas with special prizes for cyclists, etc).”
“The economic interest of cycling for firms must be stressed, as the savings made on car parking are considerable. A reduction in absenteeism (better health and better psychological state of cyclists) also represents a significant gain.”
“There is a company in Brussels which offers public authorities free parking for bicycles. The equipment and its maintenance are paid for by income generated by advertising. This means that the public authority is not having to incur any expenditure, which can otherwise prove to be a significant obstacle in the start-up phase of a pro-cycling policy.”
6. Introduce the network
“The network can be introduced on the basis of an overall plan (preliminary plan). Ideally, such a plan ought to be based specifically on cycle routes that have been studied [...]. If it is not possible to systematically remodel the entire network to better meet the needs of cyclists, specific action can be taken on each occasion that works need to be done. Most of the time, the additional expenditure needed to meet the requirements of cyclists is comparatively minimal.”
“Using a carefully drawn up plan as a basis, it should be possible to examine closing certain roads to car traffic, creating traffic loops or comparing various options to remove obstacles to cyclists’ mobility.”
“There are a number of places in towns where prohibitions to cycling could be lifted: foot bridges and pedestrian streets, alleyways, paths in parks, pontoons, parking areas and cul de sac roads, one-way streets, towpaths, small steps to be equipped with ramps, etc.”
7. Develop the network further on the basis of priority interventions and a timetable
The key here is sustained investment.
Routes that are smooth, seamless and safe can only be developed during this phase.
Best of luck putting everything together.