Who are these people hating cycleways?

Who are the anti-cycleway people? Here is a superquick run through some ideas.

It’s a minority, but a noisy and rather entitled one

Janette Sadik-Khan says “When you disrupt the status quo, you need a boss who is willing to take the heat when the critiques come. […] Judged by the [public] polls, what had sounded like a chorus of opposition in the media was actually a small but determined section of the population. … When you push the status quo, it pushes back, hard.”

Source http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2016/03/bike-wars-are-over-and-the-bikes-won.html

Many of us are reluctant car users

Jillian Anable segmented the population into two groups (car owning, non-car owning) with six sub-groups. It is the Die Hard Drivers (19%) that are most likely to be the cycleway haters, and just for the heck of it too. The Complacent Car Addicts (26%) can, if done well, be informed by providing better context, reasoning and details about a cycleway scheme. Unlike the Die Hard Drivers, the Complacent Car Addicts are not evidence-proof. In any case, the remaining 55% are thinking more rationally when ‘confronted’ with building cycleways.


Source Anable, J. (2005). ‘Complacent Car Addicts’ or ‘Aspiring Environmentalists’? Identifying travel behaviour segments using attitude theory. Transport Policy, 12(1), 65-78. doi: 10.1016/j.tranpol.2004.11.004

It depends on the questions you ask

Lynn Sloman looks at the phrasing of the debate. She writes “The context in which a question is asked is important. If asked ‘Would you like to pay more to use your car?’ or ‘Would tighter parking restrictions help solve traffic problems?’ most people will answers ‘No’. Questions framed in this narrow way will almost always get a negative result. But the same people will answer differently if the question is framed in a wider context. ‘Would you support higher parking charges if we use the money to improve public transport?’ and ‘Would you support closing the town centre to traffic so we can make it more attractive for pedestrians and cyclists?’ are much more likely to get a positive reaction. The issue of how a question is framed is crucial … ‘What kind of city do you want to live in?'” (my emphases)

Source Sloman, L. (2006). Car sick: Green Books. p.149.

We all have our own stories to tell

Personally speaking, I have been attacked by a supposed community leader who wanted to sue me for libel (if only it were possible) when calling them out to their illogical approach and reactions. I suppose we all have our stories to tell. I am struggling to understand the attitude and behaviour of people opposing the construction of cycleways. To me, it can only be a very selfish person who argues against a good quality cycle network in the face of climate change, urgent need for longterm solutions and sustainable approaches, our obesity epidemic, air and noise pollution, community severance, spatial and access injustices. Fear perhaps plays a big role too for the antis.

Fear of the unknown, fear of the new… but I, again, struggle to reconcile that with the aggression and viciousness that can be put up when cycleways and car restraint are proposed. A wider understanding of the transport transition process or mode shift seems to be lacking intellectually as yet. Perhaps this is because the debate, shrouded in fear and loaded emotionally, turns irrationally too easily. As yet.

It seems that when you understand the above and get it right, there can be tremendous support for protected cycleways, see Independent 2 March 2016 “There’s strong public support for building more segregated cycle tracks” subtitled “Motorists were equally keen on the new [cycle] infrastructure”. So we come full circle, it’s up to our politicians to (listen, learn then) lead, put the right processes and people in place and seek out and work with supportive groups for a better healthier future in our cities.

Corrected 9 April 2016: Die-hards to 19% (from 26%) and complacent car addicts (vice versa) – thanks for beady eyed @AlternativeDFT

8 thoughts on “Who are these people hating cycleways?

  1. Ultimately it all comes down to persuading the politicians to use their power for the good. However that won’t happen while they can get away with paying lip service towards cycling issues, as they have done for decades. The hatred is coming to the boil now, and while shocking, I see it as a good thing as it exposes the anti-cyclists, or muckabytes as I call them, for the selfish, misguided and uncivilised problem that they are. In the short term the politicians will side with the muckabytes, as is happening in NSW in Australia, but in the end we will win if we are prepared to fight, because we are right.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. A really good post

    A lot of the issue in the UK does come down to convincing local politicians, who are usually car users not cycle users, that a fairly substantial change and disruption is good.

    The extremist car lobby (and it is car drivers) is a very vocal lobby who always predict carnage and the total collapse of society. Rational and sensible arguments are almost silenced by this rabid and often insane yelling. The Mini Holland and CS schemes in London are a perfect example of this bikelash. The fact that we as a society have grown to accept the issues caused by motorists such as obstructing footways or bus stops, speeding etc, and don’t complain about them masks how disruptive and harmful these issues are.

    It takes a brave (non-cycling) councillor to face up to these torrents of abuse and ignore them in favour of the greater and longer term good.

    It’s sad that the only places in the UK where cycling is slowly being enabled are generally the places where someone with political clout not only cycles but understands the concept behind utility cycling as a valid form of urban transport


    1. I witnessed the closure of the roads around Loughborough Junction and personally enjoyed it, but it’s a shame it has been reverted. Was always meant to be a trial I believe but finished early because of pro-cars kicking up a fuss. Didn’t help road works on Coldharbour Lane at the time exasperated issues.

      I recall seeing a group against the closure with the very level-headed Twitter handle ‘ljroadmadness’ or something like that. One of them said reducing the amount of cars would increase the risk of accidents which to this day is something I still can’t figure out…


    2. ” The fact that we as a society have grown to accept the issues caused by motorists such as obstructing footways or bus stops, speeding etc, and don’t complain about them”

      I complain on a weekly, sometimes daily, basis about all these issues.
      Polite letters to the local bus operators about close passing, leaving engines idling for ten minutes plus and so on.
      Emails to senior police officers, with images, of police vehicles parked on pavements (when they could park fully on the road at the same location), leaving engines running for 30mins plus, driving above speed limit without using emergency equipment, etc.
      Emails or calls to parking partnership, with images, of parking (on pavements, across dropped kerbs, on school and road crossing zigzags, on double yellow lines)
      They all get results. Some of us are not “fighting” but chipping away at the dam with persistent determination.


  3. Some of the hardest opposition I see to cycle paths is from dedicated cyclists.

    A lot of this in the UK comes from the lamentable track record of implementing bad rubbish, as shown in Warrington CC’s “Facility of the Month”, and you can hardly blame people for fearing more of that.
    But even where things appear to be a bit more clueful we still get folk against potentially good infrastructure, often simultaneously moaning it won’t be wide enough for all the people who’ll use it so it won’t move, and it’ll be populated only by tumbleweed because it will surely be terrible.

    There is the selfish angle that a busy cycle path will slow down the new-PB-every-day commuter/racer type, but this comes from a dysfunctional cycling “culture” based on young to middle aged males in a hurry, a bit like the set-your-own-speed-limit driving brigade. While I’m happy on the roads and capable of mixing it with heavy traffic on them, my ability to do that is less important than having normal schoolchildren able to get about by bike. But I’m certainly against the sorts of dreck we see in Warrington’s examples, so I think we need a better framework in place to ensure we get Clueful stuff. Substandard really can be much worse than useless.


  4. I’m from Germany. I can tell you, it’s not only selfish cardrivers or cycle racers fighting infrastructure.

    The monopole of transport-infrastructure forces people into cars and is well worth fighting for.

    As there is a climate change denier industry with a business volume of some hundred millions $ there is an urban transport change denier industry.
    You can’t tell them apart from selfish sportive cyclists but car-industry would be stupid not campaigning against cycle-infrasructure.
    And they may be everything – but they aren’t stupid.


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