We set out the key principles for our Go Dutch campaign for best-practice street design

Earlier this week, in the Guardian Bike Blog, journalist Matthew Wright made several incorrect assumptions about our 'Go Dutch' campaign.

We're pleased the media are so interested in our campaign (it doesn't launch officially until January), but they haven't quite got it yet.

With a certain degree of irony, this Guardian article was published on the very day we posted our Go Dutch core principles on our website.

If only Mr Wright had called us for a comment on his piece, then we could have pointed him to this information...

In reponse to his article we wrote the following:

Mr Wright is wrong to assert that our Go Dutch campaign is solely about cycle paths, or that we're "misrepresenting" the Dutch approach.

Our campaigns team has recently visited the Netherlands, where we met leading planners, engineers and cycle campaigners.

Among others, we spoke with the Dutch Cycling Embassy and several leaders of the social and political action groups that brought about the changes in transport policy in the 1970s.

One of the fundamental differences between Dutch and British practice is that in the Netherlands they begin by considering the needs of pedestrians and cyclist whenever they design or renew street infrastructure.

As a result they make pleasant and calmed streets where possible, yet choose to provide separated facilities for cyclists where necessary on main roads.

Another difference is that street layouts and traffic law usually give priority to cyclists over motor traffic in urban areas.

Our emphasis on main roads addresses the areas of greatest failure by Transport for London, which is why our members voted overwhelmingly for this 'Go Dutch' campaign.

Eight of the fifteen cyclist fatalities this year happened on the TfL main road network, and six of these occurred in places where there have been serious questions about the lack of safe road design.

These are the reasons why it is imperative we start applying Dutch design principles at these main road locations as a first step towards transforming London into the type of cyclised city common in continental Europe.

January launch for Go Dutch campaign

The Go Dutch campaign doesn't launch officially until the New Year, but we'll be fleshing out our ideas further in the Xmas issue of London Cyclist magazine, due out in the first week of December.


Why is a motorcyclist in the bicycle lane?

I am the author of the piece criticised in this post. I would like to make a couple of points about it, then invite readers to judge for themselves. 

I fully support most of LCC's campaigns. I am a regular cyclist in London, and have been for many years. I would like cycling facilities to be improved substantially, and cyclists to be taken more seriously as road users. However:

The slogan for the Go Dutch campaign is 'clear space on London's main roads', and the introductory page, is almost entirely about lanes. This is a misrepresentation of the Dutch approach, which is about lower speed limits (19mph in many urban areas), better driver awareness, a strict liability law, and integrated planning, as much as separate lanes. 

There is no evidence which demonstrates objectively and conclusively that cycling in a separate lane is in itself safer. (Many studies have concluded the opposite.) There is evidence to suggest lanes make people feel safer, which is a different issue, and can be achieved much more quickly and cheaply than by building lanes. This GB Cycling Embassy page presents a summary of some of the arguments, quibbling with the studies which suggest segregated lanes are more dangerous, then changing the argument (as I describe) to point out that people feel safer (even if, objectively, they are not) in lanes. 

It is unhelpful to create the impression that riding on the road (as most of us have to do) in inherently less safe than on lanes, becuase it is likely to discourage cycling.

The main achievement of lanes (making people feel safer) can be better accomplished in other ways.

I believe LCC is wrong to focus on cycling on main roads, which are polluted and often very unpleasant, even with bike lanes. In a city as large las London, with as many quiet residential streets, parks etc, there are much quicker are simpler options for creating a network of safe routes. 

LCC should give more coverage to the other aspects of the Dutch system which make it very safe and successful.

I admire the Dutch system, but if we are to have it, we need legal changes, and changes in attitude. Obviously we need segregated lanes in some busy places, but it would, realistically, take decades and many millions of pounds to create a cross-London network of integrated bike paths, when they are not, in many parts of London, the best resource. A lower speed limit, better traffic calming, and intelligently designed routes on quiet roads could make cycling safer more attractive, much more quickly and cheaply than building bike lanes.  

It's a scooter...

In the Netherlands there are two classes of scooter: more powerful ones that wear a yellow number plate and must ride on the carriageway, and those with blue plates, which ride either on cycle tracks or the carriageway, depending on the signage.

Originally, the blue-plated scooters were all low-powered 'mopeds' - ie, pedal bikes with little engines attached – but over time the low-powered scooters have got larger and faster, so now some are indistiguishable from high-power scooters. 

Many cyclists and cycle campaigners we spoke to were worried about the steady increase in numbers and power of these scooters.

Personally, I didn't like them. My hearing isn't that great, so it was sometimes a shock to have one overtake me at close proximity and relatively high speed.

Though one can sympathise that scooter riders and motorcyclists are often as vulnerable as cyclists in among cars and lorries, watching them mix with bikes in fairly confined spaces wasn't exactly convincing.

Mike Cavenett
Communications officer 

  • By hmb at 12:32am 29 October 2011

lyricalcyclist is not wrong to question whether the Go Dutch campaign should focus on main roads, as it does. There is, however, a question of what constiitutes a 'main' road.

Undoubtedly the A11 from Stratford to Aldgate is a main road. As lyricalcyclist suggests, measures that help cyclists run parallel to this road, along quiet residential streets, through parks and cemetries, are probably better value for money than segregated cycle paths (or indeed, painted cycle lanes, whatever their colour).

At the other extreme, residential roads, that go nowhere much, are clearly not main roads. There should be a blanket 20mph or lower speed limit (why go nowhere fast) and road user vulnerability should govern their priority over other traffic. No need for painted lanes, but good permeability and safety at major intersections are essential (and inexpensive).

But there are roads in between these categories, for example the A118 London Road from Romford to Ilford. This is a busy road, but also full of shops that the cyclist might want to visit. (Indeed, increasing footfall in local shops is a motivation for improving cycling facilities.) Segregated cycling facilities are, in my view, the right option for this category of road.

The optimal solution will vary with circumstances and will evolve as cycling increases. For example, this street in The Netherlands was a road carrying substantial traffic. Now it has a 20mph limit and wide (painted) cycle lanes, leaving just a single carriageway for cars, which, consequently, have to give way to each other where cyclists occupy the cycle lanes.

A nearby town found it needed more space for cars approaching a major junction, so one of the cycle lanes becomes segregated (at the cost of the pedestrian pavement). Note also how residential streets are reached: the pedestrian pavement forms a dam, physically signalling who has priority.

Oh, and the pavements you can actually walk on, and use you wheelchair, baby buggy and mobility scooter on, without being tipped into the traffic at every private driveway, as is the custom in the UK.

So let's make this Go Dutch campaign a bit wider and bit more flexible and recognise that almost every aspect of current UK practice is in dire need of improvement.

  • By NIS at 3:19pm 3 November 2011

As the Go Dutch campaign promotes harmonising with pedestrians, has the LCC attempted to attract support from other organisations like Living Streets ?

Similarly, I would imagine that cyclists are also patrons shops they pass en route and that the Go Dutch campaign could also team up with local high street shop and community associations that want to see improvements to the local area. Surely, cycling facilities (locking spaces & paths) go a little way toward improving the local economy by making streets safer for all non-motorised traffic ?

Could these be ways of widening support and making it an issue for everyone?

It seems to me that sentiments expressed in Lyricalcyclist's blog and his subsequent post are the same sentiments that are holding London back.
For years the LCC and its regional membership organisations have been divided over arguments over whether to segregate or not to segregate. How much I would ask has this really helped in practical terms? How far, for example, has London come since the 80 or even the 90s? You are talking about a largely flat city (accept for when you get to the outer-parts) that does for the most part have space for cyclists but yet only 2% of the population chooses to make journeys by bike. Instead the car, and the congestion it bring continues to reign supreme. All to the detriment, I would argue, to the Londoners who have to live and work here.  This is not an adequate system, and people need to think bigger, so to get bogged down in arguments about whether to have lanes seems to me to be missing the point.  Lyricalcyclist correctly identifies that a change in attitude is needed and if he admires the Dutch system as much as he says he does he should come out an unequivocally support the campaign.

This post was edited by Londoncyclist at 5:47pm 3 December 2011.

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