Tuesday 8 July 2014

Five steps, eight reasons

In the Foreword to Cycling: the way ahead for towns and cities, Ritt Bjerregaard suggests that the worst enemies of the bicycle in urban areas are not cars, but longheld prejudices. She continues:

“The handbook therefore corrects some of the prejudices connected with the use of the bicycle as a regular mode of transport in the urban environment. It also suggests some simple, inexpensive and popular measures which could be implemented immediately. Certainly the task is ambitious, but the essential thing is to take the first step, because whilst the use of the bicycle is a choice for the individual, it is essential to launch the process by which your city builds on the initiatives and habits of some of your fellow citizens.”

This process can be summed up as follows:

1. Think in terms of a network.

"Isolated cycle paths are almost useless if they're not connected, making a network from the beginning." (Ricardo Marques Sillero, Seville)

“Once there is a connected network, the attractiveness of biking goes up a lot.” (Matthias Doepke, Chicago)

"The key word is an holistic approach and then a separation of functions." (Steffen Rasmussen, Copenhagen)

2. Plan the network.

"We need an intelligent, systemic plan. This plan should connect the dots with a rational network of bike lanes. This plan cannot be developed piecemeal. Bike paths need to flow like bloodstreams: we need networks, not snippets." (Daily Times (New York), 17 September 2012)

“In planning for cycling, the critical thing is to design your network correctly: everything else is trivial." (Johan Diepens, Dutch Cycling Embassy)

"The key place to start is for everyone reading this article to take two minutes to ask themselves: ‘What does the place I want to live in look like? What kind of place do I want my kids to live in?’ I doubt anyone’s vision involves more cars or more parking. For me, I want my kids to be able to ride to school and the park, I’d like to be able to pedal to the station or shops. This can only happen if there are less cars, and people will only use cars less if they are not the easiest solution. So, the key is local governments having a clear and detailed holistic view of what they want their cities to look like in 10 years. Only then can you measure actions and ask: ‘Does this get me closer to the vision or further away?’ (Chris Boardman)

Analyse journeys — origin/destination (headcounts, statistics, interviews). (p.56, Cycling: the way ahead)

Design from patterns to details. (Permaculture Design, principle 7)

3. Study the feasibility of the network.

Only by studying a cycle route network will it be possible to truly grasp the situation. (p.40, Cycling: the way ahead)

Studying the feasibility of a network is of a similar importance to setting up a cycling unit or appointing a cycling coordinator. (p.57, Cycling: the way ahead)

4. 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 [all in one go], 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.” (p.56, Cycling: the way ahead)

"The level of minimum functioning is a prudent course to follow." (p.56, Cycling: the way ahead)

"All the installation measures which call for little planning may be applied without major risk of error or loss [...] Given their low cost, the small amount of extra work which they entail, and the possibilities of corrections in the case of error, such measures may be adopted automatically. Even if their impact is not massive, it will be real (improvement of cyclists’ comfort, raising the awareness of motorists, encouraging the mass of non-cyclists who are most likely to take up cycling again.” (p.56, Cycling: the way ahead)

5. Develop the network.

Develop the network further on the basis of priority interventions and a timetable. (p.56, Cycling: the way ahead)

* * *

In my view, even if cycle networks don't function at a very high level to begin with, there is still some considerable value in getting the network to work. 

Indeed, the main feature of a 'network first' approach is "the improvement of cyclists' safety, based on the implementation of 'soft' measures in the short-term, and 'hard' measures in the medium-term." Other points of interest are as follows: 

1. Cyclists are enabled to get from A to B efficiently, by being aware of, and being able to make use of, an information set to optimise their journey.
2. The network is established and made to work, serving the needs of the Enthused and Confident cyclist, and providing a solid foundation from which to build up.
3. Cyclists are provided with regular physical cues, thereby reducing confusion and the possibility of error (see Susan's comment).
4. Cycling is legitimised, particularly on one-way streets, or in parks, or even when riding in the primary position, thereby moderating the prejudice that many people have against cyclists.
5. "The existence of a plan increases the effectiveness of each intervention made in favour of cycling by the mutual consolidation of the various measures taken or features installed" (page 58, Cycling: the way ahead).
6. As Dave Horton, author of the hugely-influential Understanding Cycling and Walking, writes: "The more people can see the bigger picture, the more supportive they will be." 
7. It generates momentum. (The eastern philosophers talk about the hardest step being from zero to one.)
8. It enables the authorities to act in a targeted way.

In my blog on  Portland, I wrote:

"In the spring of 1994, members of the City’s Bicycle Advisory Committee and staff from the Bicycle Program hosted a series of 12 two-hour public forums which were attended by over 600 people. At each of these forums, participants discussed the good and the not-so-good features of bicycling in  Portland. The most prevalent view was that isolated cycle facilities may get all the kudos, but it was the lack of connections between these facilities that was the cause of the greatest frustration."

The point being, of course, that if there is no network plan in place, then it becomes extremely difficult to ensure that the lack of connections between facilities is properly addressed.

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