Why I've put a motion to the London Cycling Campaign AGM setting out our policy on dedicated space for cycling

As Chair of the London Cycling Campaign Policy Forum, I’m proposing a motion outlining when we need protected space for cycling.

The motion is based on a longer document that’s been developed by the Policy Forum, which can be downloaded here

Motor traffic is the key issue preventing more people from cycling because most people (particularly under-represented groups like children and older people) will only cycle if they have access to a dense network of routes that are either motor-traffic-free, or contain only low numbers of relatively slow-moving motor vehicles.

At the moment, Londoners don’t have access to this kind of network, so only a minority have the freedom to cycle.

We at the London Cycling Campaign have already made our support for dedicated space for cycling on main roads clear, through our Love London, Go Dutch and Space for Cycling campaigns.

In the former campaign we called for "streets that are safe and inviting for everyone to cycle".

Now it's important to set out under what circumstances we demand dedicated space - or segregation or separation, as it's also known - and when it's acceptable to mix cycling and motor traffic.

We must be clear about this because too often planning for cycling involves slightly tweaking the status quo: we’re expected to be grateful for occasional cycle signs on a scary rat-run, or for a painted line in the gutter that puts us at risk of left hooks.

At present, cycling is rarely prioritised even on supposedly key cycle routes, so we end up with whatever space is left over after the needs of ‘other modes’ (usually, this means driving and car parking) are met.

This is an entrenched problem in the UK, and even though many planners and policy-makers want to do better, they’re up against decades of institutional motorism, and as individuals most don’t have much power.

Campaigning in this type of political culture, it’s vital to have a clear and ambitious statement of what really is "safe and inviting for everyone to cycle".

Of course, we might not always get the ideal result, but defining what our ideal is helps us (and the planners who want to do the right thing) to always aim high.

For example, I expect Quietways (or other key cycle routes) to be proposed that run along busy although supposedly ‘minor’ roads.

We need to be able to say, "Actually, no! It’s not acceptable to have that level of motor traffic on a main cycle route. This route either needs to be segregated, or you need to take away most of the motor vehicles - for example, by closing the road to through motor traffic."

This motion helps us to do that: it suggests that wherever we’re assessing plans to ‘provide for cycling’, we first examine motor traffic volumes and speeds.

We don’t allow Transport for London or the borough councils to get away with specifying cycle routes that leave in place the kind of environments that'll never allow mass cycling.

Our response will be: "The motor traffic here is too busy, and/or too fast, for most people to be able to cycle here. What you are proposing is inadequate and you must rethink your proposals."

It’s important to stress this motion is not about detailed design guidance.

Whatever solution is chosen – motor traffic reduction or dedicated space – we want the best, and the Go Dutch principles and GD Matrix, among other documents, have more on our views on design standards.

Traffic-calming and traffic-reduction measures and protected space must all be as good for cycling as possible – all can be bad for cycling if designed badly - for example: road closures that don’t allow cycle passage, chicanes that bring riders into conflict with motor vehicles, narrow pavement cycle tracks – we’ve seen them all, and we don’t want more.

Increasingly, it’s accepted that 20mph should be the norm for London streets where people live, work, play and cycle, and this motion supports that.

However, the motion also highlights that people can be too scared to cycle even on 20mph streets when there’s lots of motor traffic – even when motorists obey the speed limit (which is not always the case, of course) cycling might not be pleasant or safe (HGVs can kill at 20mph or less), and it can often be slow and frustrating.

Non-cyclists are not going to be persuaded to cycle, en masse, by the prospect of mixing it with a steady stream of 20mph motor traffic.

This is why this motion sets out our vision of what a safe and inviting cycling environment looks like in terms of motor traffic volumes, as well as speeds.

The Dutch CROW bicycle design manual says (p81): "Main cycle routes are preferably not combined with motorised traffic. If it cannot be helped, the intensity of the motorised traffic is restricted to a maximum of 2,000 motorised vehicles (PCU – ie, passenger car equivalents) a day and the speed is reduced to 30kph."

These are the standards that are set in this motion to the AGM, and to which we should be holding all proposed cycle routes and any proposed ‘improvements for cyclists’ on other routes.

This motion states that sharing space on these routes will only be acceptable below 20mph and 2,000 PCUs, and if schemes don’t adhere to this, then they are not good enough, and we will say so clearly, demanding either a reduction in motor traffic volume and speeds, or high-quality protected space for cycling.

Dr Rachel Aldred
Chair of the Policy Forum
LCC trustee