"Britons unmoved by pro-cycling campaigns"

"Most regard bicycles not as legitimate form of transport but as children's toys or preserve of hobbyists, research finds"

"Years of government efforts to promote cycling have had almost no impact on a sceptical population who largely view bikes as either children's toys or the preserve of Lycra-clad hobbyists, a university study has found."

...

"The study, which investigates in depth why people in four towns or cities around England cycle – or, in the main, don't cycle – is still being completed. The academics behind them will gather in Leicester this weekend to present their preliminary findings, which make depressing reading for anyone hopeful the UK could one day have a Dutch-style mass cycling culture."

""Many people barely recognise the bicycle as a legitimate mode of transport; it is either a toy for children or a vehicle fit only for the poor and/or strange," Dave Horton, of Lancaster University, wrote in an interim assessment of the Understanding Walking and Cycling study."

...

"The three-year project, which also involved Oxford Brookes and Leeds universities, used questionnaires sent to a large numbers of households as well as more in-depth studies about the everyday transport decisions made by dozens of families, during which researchers spent three months each in Lancaster, Leeds, Leicester and Worcester."

"A key finding was that the small numbers of people who do try cycling tend to be intimidated by overwhelmingly car-oriented urban layouts."

...

"While some towns and cities, notably London, have seen increases in cyclist numbers over recent years the overall figure for the national percentage of journeys made by bike has remained at about 2%. The equivalent for the Netherlands is more than 25%."

...

"The cycle campaign group CTC said it agreed that many roads were "thoroughly off-putting" for cyclists but that a mass programme of high-quality bike lanes – which some estimates put at £800,000 per kilometre – remained unlikely given the cycling lobby's lack of political clout."

...


"The transport minister, Norman Baker, said the government was committed to encouraging more people to cycle though Bikeability and the £560m sustainable transport fund. "Like another Norman before me I am keen to see more people get on their bikes," he said."

 

Full article here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2011/jun/03/britons-unmoved-cycling-campaigns

Replies

Not a very helpful quote from CTC there. The fundamental issue here is that most of the road network built around the UK in the last 50 years has been designed to eliminate cycling, and cyclists.
  • By idavid at 04:13pm 05 Jun 2011
Must be careful here. First it's an interim report and second, it's national. Nevertheless it seems odd to conclude that investment in cycling has made no difference, then recommend spending gazillions on segregation. You can imagine the tut tutting in Whitehall about chucking good money after bad. And not a word about driver behaviour. It seems pretty obvious that if fear of traffic is #1 deterrent, we should be persuading drivers to treat cyclists as fully paid up members of the human race.. Making evidence of cycling proficiency a condition of being granted a driving licence would create a generation of bike aware drivers, encourage new cyclists and reduce accidents, all funded by a modest increase in the driving test fee. And it would be just as effective in Maidstone or Macclesfield as in Merton. Time for LCC to get behind it?

The full quote from CTC, on the Guardian site, written by Roger Geffen, is more explanatory, but still tinged with that characteristic CTC pessimism. I don't think it is really such a "Catch 22" as he believes. If CTC started campaigning vigourously for high-quality infrastructure Dutch-style (and associated necessary legal changes) with LCC and other organisations (which it has never done), I think our combined lobbying power could start to turn things around. The thing we have in our favour is that most people really want to try cycling, and given the right conditions many more of them would take it up.

One thing we do have to abandon is the notion that training (or publicity, or encouragement) is the answer, treating the problem as a personal behavioural one, when it is an environmental and infrastructural one. The important message of this study is to confirm this. LCC and CTC need to lobby to get proper effective facilities built, not find reasons why "it will never happen".

I have just read idavid's comment, above. He says "Nevertheless it seems odd to conclude that investment in cycling has made no difference, then recommend spending gazillions on segregation." It's not odd at all. If the money has been spent very badly in the past, which it generally has, on poor facilities that show little understanding of cycling, then it's not odd to conclude that that spending has been ineffective. It's not odd to think that spending on high-quality, well-designed facilities would, by contrast, be highly effective. It would cost, but the costs would be tiny in comparison to those of motorway schemes, High Speed 2, etc.

As for changing driver behaviour, yes, of course that is necessary as well, but not likely to come about while cycling is so marginalised. To have a chance of achieving it you have to de-marginalise cycling first. To do that, you have to change the environment first. Attempts to change behaviour before the environment is changed always fail, because the behaviour is a response to the environment.

This post was edited by darditti at 04:50pm 05 Jun 2011.

This content was deleted by darditti at 04:48pm 05 Jun 2011.

  • By Irena at 02:08pm 10 Jun 2011
I think we probably need to approach it from all angles at once, and fight equally for better road planning and for better public awareness. If we wait for infra-structure changes we could wait for ever, and vice-versa. The two need to go hand in hand - it's impossible to predict which will have the most influence in the end. And who knows, something completely out of our control - such as petrol price hikes, or public transport strikes - may in the end effect the changes we want, as people get on their bikes because there is no alternative. And hopefully then they'll discover that the world seems a better place, seen from a bike!
  • By paul at 09:27pm 26 Jul 2011

The examples of Stevenage and Milton Keynes would suggest that the carrot of a segregated cycle network is not sufficient to generate a shift to cycling. The stick of making car journeys more difficult / expensive seems also to be needed. That is politically "challenging".

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