An interview with John Franklin: The Great Facilities Debate

John Franklin is the author of Cyclecraft, the book on which much of the recently developed National Standards for cycle training is based. He is also employed as a witness in court cases in which a cycling expert is required, including in the Daniel Cadden case that LCC reported on last year.

Franklin is a key figure and recognised authority in cycling safety issues. The use of cycling facilities is a key campaigning issue for LCC: while we support well-designed cycle routes, we do not support any measure to force cyclists to use cycle lanes. Many routes are ill thought-out and increase the risk of collision at some junctions.

London Cyclist co-editor Rebecca Lack recently attended a talk by Cyclecraft author John Franklin, and had the opportunity to ask him a few questions about cycle facilities.

Question 1:
What crumbs - if any - of comfort can you offer cyclists as it seems we are 'damned if we do use facilities of any kind and damned if we don't’?

I think we all need to recognise that cycle 'facilities' may sometimes be a useful way of adding to the places where you can cycle, but they must never be a substitute for cycling on the ordinary roads. Maintaining our right to cycle on any road (other than motorways) must always be a top priority, for if we lose that right we can have no expectation of being treated any better elsewhere.

I'm pleased that most of the cycling community is united on this, but there have been exceptions and I think that this has fuelled the 'cycling is dangerous' myth that invariably leads to calls for cycling to be restricted. I also think that in the UK there remains a general recognition by the public at large that cyclists ought to be on the roads and we need to reinforce that perception and not weaken it.

In general I think the courts have been very supportive of cyclists' rights and the case of Daniel Cadden is very much an exception, albeit one we must overturn.

Question 2:
What arguments can campaigners use when trying to secure that our rights to use the road - regardless of the existence of facilities of any kind - are assured.

It depends upon the audience. At a (local) government/technical level we should challenge the assumption that it is safer or better to use facilities and ask for the evidence. Central government certainly doesn't have any. It's quite easy to show that road routes are usually faster with fewer points of conflict. Why should cyclists have a slower or less direct  journey? If road routes do have problems for cycling, they should be addressed at source not by the removal of the victim. There is also now the argument that the use of many facilities clashes with the principles of best practice being taught through the National Cycle Training Standard. The Standard in effect gives official support to the advice of Cyclecraft (from which it was derived).

At a public level we need to tackle the perception that has grown up over the past 20 years that cycling is inherently 'dangerous'. It isn't and it's easy to prove, but too much emphasis on road danger has given the impresson that this is particularly a cycling problem. I hope that the rollout of the National Cycle Training Standard is going to help change the climate of opinion by enhancing recognition that cyclists can cope with typical road conditions, even if conditions could be better. It can be a fine balance between trying to improve conditions for cycling and maintaining the image of cycling as a safe and pleasant activity that most people can enjoy.

Question 3:
Where do you live and what are your terms and conditions for talking to voluntary groups such as cycling campaigns?

I live in Cheltenham. I'm happy to be invited to talk to cycling and other groups without charge, although a contribution towards travelling expenses is appreciated. If I can't get back to Cheltenham the same day, a bed for the night is also useful.

Question 4:
When is the new edition of Cyclecraft available?

The new edition is scheduled to be published next spring. I hope it will be ready in time for the national Bikeability launch in April.  The publisher will again be The Stationery Office, 51 Nine Elms Lane, London, SW8 5DR.

LCC supports well-designed cycle routes. It does not however support any measures to force cyclists to use cycle lanes. It believes the city’s roads should be made safer and shared by motorists and cyclists.

LCC also wants to see more enforcement actions against cars and lorries which routinely block cycling lanes. It also believes that there should be enforcement action against motorists who use enter the zones created for cyclists at traffic lights, known as Advanced Stop Lines.

The best way to stay in touch and support this campaign is to join LCC. As well as funding our work, members campaign with us locally and across the capital. Join us today. Together we can make London a world class cycling city.