Cutting out urban design


Photo credit @allpartycycling

I do not for one minute doubt the APPCG’s concerns for cycling. However I am worried about the direction that is seemingly taken. I recently spoke at the APPCG “women and cycling” meeting, in November 2016. And I am grateful to the invite. Nonetheless I was left wondering where the APPCG was going with this. The list of contributors was drawn from an incredibly wide range, and other than having the opportunity to have a say, I do not know what the APPCG intends to do next. I made clear political points in my presentation, when others talked about the importance of supporting the cycling community as it is. I was left wondering. Since then a justice inquiry entitled “cycling and the justice system” has been announced and held.

appcg02aThis is laudable. But – and in order to move cycling’s lot up a notch – I must be critical with this event too, forgive me. To reiterate from my presentation, we know what the problem is. There are huge injustices in the police and legal systems, yes. But there are also huge injustices in the spatial system for cycling. It is the latter that we must address in order to make the cycling option real for people. Embankment and Blackfriar’s cycleways in London demonstrate what can be achieved in spatial quality and resultant public participation. You build a cycle culture, you do not just nicely ask for it to happen. The spatial redress will also, over time, cure a few police/legal deflections: social norms will be rethought, remodelled and redone once cycleways have been installed. Not to mention the better clarity that an urban space with cycleways provides. Police investigations will be made much easier, and perhaps fewer too as sustainable road safety comes “into force”. Court proceedings will also follow a shift in social norm, they reflect society and culture.

Photo credit @yorkbikebelles

I suppose we all want to increase the number of people cycling, and safely so. So why then are we treading over old ground and investigate the police/legal complex?  Where have we lost the knowledge that these are not up to scratch? Or is it confidence? In any case, evidence is abounding in support of “build it well and they will come and cycle safely”.

Maybe controversially but I do find it cruel to invite people who have been bereaved, suffered the loss of a loved one or had to experience deeply life-changing circumstances due to the inadequacy of our systems, and please note I include urban design here too as well as police/legal aspects. I think this is cruel as these brave contributors have now been left with yet another hole. I ask again, as I did with the “women and cycling” meeting, what is the inquiry’s purpose other than giving relief to the participants by providing an official outlet for their grievances? Where does this inquiry now go? What political action will follow?

Why is the spatial injustice of cycling not addressed? The layout of a city’s streets and road can make and can break cycling.


2 thoughts on “Cutting out urban design

  1. In answer to your first question, I suspect it is a distraction tactic. Lots of waffle about vaguely related topics in order to avoid addressing the elephant in the room, announce ‘we have considered the issue’ and then go back to business-as-usual.

    Likewise the Street Talks in London, everyone is supposed to accept the conceit that politicians and policy-WONKs are the be-all-and-end-all and keep the conversation away from the inadequacy of the whole governance arrangement—i.e. all actual decisions made by anti-cycling permanent civil service to further their agenda. That also touches on the last two questions in the body of the post.

    Cynical, moi? 😮


  2. To be honest I think we need both a complete rethink about how we design our urban environment much better for walking and cycling, and also around the justice and policing which benefits vulnerable users.

    We need the second as even if the will and money suddenly materialised it would take time to retrofit.
    My concern is that any justice review seems to revolve around fairly pointless headlines like increasing max sentences, when the reality is that much driving is not at a level which would attract max sentencing.

    What should be focussed on is rollout of initiatives to target the low level (trivial as media calls them) driving offences like West Midlands close passing operations, and their willingness to tackle based on 3rd party cam footage. Along with the publicity, this does present an opportunity to make a good percentage of drivers play more nicely around people on bikes. Yea, it won’t stop the terminally illegal & reckless, but cops on bikes can target them as well. IIt may be confirmation bias, but I’m sure that I am getting more better passes after all the national news coverage of these initiatives as they rollout in places.

    In the short to medium term this is helpful, but it no way replaces the desire for separated and protected space for cycling. That’s what really helps.


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