Tuesday, 27 August 2013

The only (real) obstacle to Dutch style cycling in the UK

I was prompted to write this by an interesting article on the BBC. The article compares cycling in Reading and The Hague. Its a foregone conclusion that Reading isn't going to come off very well. Many people continue to debate exactly why UK towns and cities consistently fail to achieve anything like continental levels of cycling. Well, look no further, the BBC article offers a glimpse;


Reading has a population of 225,000 in the wider urban area. The article states that one of Reading's objectives is `aiming for 2,300 daily cycle trips across the town`, so their target is 1% of the population to cycle daily? This is less than the current national average and its an objective? Is Reading's objective is to reduce cycling?* Hmm, not sure if I believe the BBC's stats here; looks like they got something wrong.


Cycling is pretty popular, and wherever you go there are always people who are passionate about campaigning and promoting cycling. Reading is no exception with the Reading Cycle Campaign. The BBC article has a quote from the RCC's Adrian Lawson;

"We had a 'workshop' with Reading Borough Council officers, their consultants, and members of the cycle campaign. We identified a lot of simple things that would make it immeasurably better for cyclists. This was over a year ago. Not a single thing has happened. In fact we have had five workshops to look at different parts of Reading in the last two years, and there hasn't been any action arising from any of them".

Hmm, that's telling isn't it, and reminiscent of my own attempts to get Wokingham council to engage with actual people who actually cycle. Then we get a gem from Tony Page who is deputy council leader and lead councillor for strategic environment, planning and transport. Tony said he found it "irritating" that "we have historically developed a system that results in some cycle lanes just ending abruptly". Tony has served on Reading Council as a Labour councillor since 1973, without break. Well Tony, at least you acknowledge your own mistakes, maybe it might be better to actually do something about it.

Then we get to the the real reason why we'll never be cycling Dutch style in Reading. Tony says,

"Our road system is very constrained and we'd look at any suggestions, but we also have to balance the needs of all other road users - public transport as well as cars, lorries and pedestrians. There is only so much space."
Aha, the cat's out of the bag! Tony isn't prepared to put cycling at the forefront of council planning. As for "we'd look at any suggestions", what about those of the RCC? Did you look at those, seems not.

In conclusion, it seems that in the UK, "balancing the needs of other road users" means prioritising motor vehicles and until that changes we're never going to go Dutch.

* The 2008 Reading Council Local Transport Plan already puts journeys at 2100 in 2001 and 3000 in 2005/6 - see section l.3.2

1 comment:

  1. Can we "vote of no confidence" this guy?

    Get Reading are quoting 25% of accidents involve bikes which have a sub 3% modal share - this is surely public outcry stuff!?