Cycling Mobility magazine

A new Global Journal Championing Cycling Mobility was launched yesterday: cyclingmobility. One of its articles was written by me: Where Less Is More, analysing highway design from a cyclist's point of view. I haven't read the final article as cyclingmobility is subscription only, aimed at governments, cities and councils, transport companies, consultants and industry. I am not permitted to reproduce it here either, as I sold the rights (for a modest fee) to the publisher. Fair enough. Its good to be part of "understanding the global picture of today's trends and tomorrow's innovation in cycling infrastructure and policies ... helping to shape the future of our cities and their sustainable transport infrastructure."

In summary, my article begins with a reference to the Buchanan Report 'Traffic in Towns' published in 1963 and which has helped to shape our transport system by segregating motor vehicles into the hierarchy of roads and street clutter that environmentalists (and cyclists) are now beginning to question. I quote the MP Eric Pickles, the UK's Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, who's worried that English towns have lost their character: "We are being overrun by scruffy signs, bossy bollards, patchwork paving and railed off roads wasting taxpayers' money that could be better spent on fixing potholes or keeping council tax down. We need to cut the clutter."

On the subject of cycle lanes I noted that it was the CTC in 1934 who raised objections to a Government initiative for cyclists to have their own segregated infrastructure. Imagine that! Had the CTC supported the idea perhaps the UK would now be enjoying cycling facilities more like the Dutch model advocated by many of today's cycling campaigners (clearly unaffordable now).

I go on to discusss ways of making roundabouts safer for cyclists by adopting the 'continental' design with different geometry and single-lane entry, but I question whether the separation of bicycles from motor vehicles is a viable aim in a country that is not flat, as the Netherlands is. In 1934, when cycling was a more common means of personal transport, the idea might have taken hold, at least in parts of the UK, but not today when the motor car is so well established and the costs of conversion are prohibitive and too risky for politicians.

The 'less is more' theme of the article comes out in a discussion of Shared Space, a concept championed by Hans Monderman, a traffic planner who worked in the Netherlands, and more recently Ben Hamilton-Baillie, an architect of public spaces. Incidentally, this is why I was invited to write the article: I am both an architect by profession and a cyclist by inclination (I no longer practice the former).

I contacted Ben Hamilton-Baillie, who gave me a description of Shared Space:

  • A street or space in which movement of all kinds is determined by negotiation and social protocols, rather than by state regulations or control
  • A street accessible to both pedestrians and vehicles, designed to enable pedestrians and cyclists to move more freely by removing design features that encourage motorists to assume priority

He also authorised me to use the following images of a Shared Space scheme he designed for Hereford:

widemarsh-base

Widemarsh Street, Hereford, as was

widemarsh-new

Widemarsh Street as Shared Space

Less is more, incidentally, is a phrase popularized some 50 years ago by the pioneering architect Mies van der Rohe. It represents the principle of extreme simplicity, enlisting all the elements of a design to serve multiple visual and functional purposes.

Shared Space is a concept mostly for urban areas and is not a panacea for the environment at large. But it seems a step in the right direction and might help inspire a new age in which the bicycle is a vital part of the transport mix. In the 'Big Society' these initiatives will presumably have to emerge at the local level. One lives in hope!

15 comments on “Cycling Mobility magazine”

  1. Alan wrote:

    I live on a narrow village street that has no footpath except for a short stretch outside the school, so it is shared by pedestrians, cyclists, horse-riders, cars, delivery vans, huge farm tractors and the rest. And kids play in the street. We mostly get on fine with each other, although school-run mums absolutely must park as close as they can get to the school, irrespective of various laws and Highway Code rules.

    I like the principle of shared space and home zones (http://www.homezones.org.uk/), and organising spaces for people instead of cars, subject to "safe routes" for blind people etc.

    Britain is a car-crazy society, and this creates many problems aside from discomfort or risk to cyclists. Street design can play a large part in the cure.

  2. Patrick wrote:

    The 'Dutch Question.' I don't know what I think. We really enjoyed cycling in the Netherlands – enough to go there again this May. Having your own car-free roads to cycle on is part of the attraction, no doubt. But bikes being able to go anywhere cars can go has something to be said for it as well. The segregated bike paths in Dutch towns create complex streets, and junctions even more so.

    I like the Shared Space idea, or Home Zones. They are actually do-able. The rest of it mostly seems academic unless there's some sort of revolution against the use of motorised transport.

  3. Chris wrote:

    Patrick wrote: The rest of it mostly seems academic unless there's some sort of revolution against the use of motorised transport.

    Diesel at £1.35 a litre today at the filling station would normally use. We went to Sainsbury's instead, where it was a bit cheaper. Outside the city centres and every now and again there's talk about opening the old railway lines, including the Beverley to York one that presumably passed through Pocklington (mistakenly referred to in an earlier post of mine) along the way. Can we ever see such lines opening again – and what about the canals? Hang on! Disused railway lines and canal paths? They're for cyclists now surely. Keep those lorries on the road!

    It's a pity we can't read your article, though I understand why. I expect it will have been made to conform to cyclingmobility's housestyle: "popularized" v "popularised" and all that, but presumably you'll eventually get to read it?

    Samuel Johnson wrote: No man but a blockhead ever wrote, except for money.

    Well done for getting paid for your troubles, sir.

  4. Patrick wrote:

    LOL – we're all blockheads then. No, I don't think I'll ever get to read it. I have the copy I sent but it may have been edited here and there. Nice chap, Ross Ringham (the editor of Cycling Mobility).

    Guy Martin's bike boat has been on TV again. The canal lobby will be limbering up.

    [edit in response to your comment below] I had to prove Pickles said it, or at least to show a BBC page that quoted him. Each fact in the article had to be verified.

  5. Chris wrote:

    "...scruffy signs, bossy bollards, patchwork paving and railed off roads... We need to cut the clutter."

    Splendid alliteration, but do we imagine Pickles wrote that himself?

  6. Patrick wrote:

    I wrote: I don't think I'll ever get to read it.

    Correction. My complimentary copy has come in the post. Cycling Mobility is a superb magazine, and beautifully produced.

  7. Malcolm Lyon wrote:

    All that glitters is not gold. The Widemarsh Street Hereford update is a disgrace. It is really dangerous for pedestrians. Because it is unusual it is disorienting – It confuses everybody by having a silly 'half kerb' that it easy to trip over – possibly into the path of a bike or delivery vehicle. I've tripped (without damage) but see what happened to Judy Collings (she has been in wheelchair for ages since) See http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PtjIUjkNQq4 or Google 'Widemarsh street trip'

    Similarly a small wheeled bike rider would be thrown flying by an angled approach on such silly little kerbs.

  8. Patrick wrote:

    'Disgrace' seems rather harsh. I watched the video and saw the fall. Regrettable obviously, but she seemed to fall walking off the kerb, not on to it. The new kerbs don't seem much different to the old kerbs. I haven't found any reports of cyclists actually being thrown off either.

    Correspondence here.

  9. Malcolm wrote:

    The 'disgrace' really is that so many people are reporting falls and the council have merely said people will get used to it. (A bit difficult for tourists!). My concern is that a lot of our population wear bifocal or varifocal glasses and do not have the instinctive clear periferal vision of younger people. The scheme in Hereford is almost too clever in that its patterned layout gives the impression of being completely flat (especially for older eyes).
    The council, in response to complaints, has stuck black duck tape on some of the kerb edges to demark them – but of course that does not solve the problem of the uneven surface.
    Judy did fall off the kerb just as she entered the zone. Had the sheme being completely flat with mock kerbs fully inset (like many Dutch schemes) it would be safe and have no potential dangers for pedestrials or cyclists.

  10. Patrick wrote:

    An issue with shared space schemes (so I've heard) is a need for raised kerbs for guide dogs to stop at, and as tactile guidance for partially sighted or blind people. Here is a Dutch street – in Deventer Dordrecht – an interesting comparison with Widemarsh Street. It seems to have the same type of low, wide kerb.

    Dordrecht

  11. Malcolm wrote:

    Thanks for the Deventer pic. I think it illustrates the right way to do this sort of thing. The kerbs, though small, are clearly demarked and follow the familiar pattern we are all so familiar with. Result – no confusion. On the other hand, Widemarsh Street has a fussy illogical layout with a simulated double kerb at the road edge and then another unexpected half kerb in the wide pavement where they have the simulated lay-by. It is the lack of 'definition' and the 'unfamiliar' that causes the confusion and the tripping.

    I realise it is wrong to criticise without suggesting a solution. Widemarsh Street could be economically fixed by removing the secondary 'kerb-like' gutter and replacing it with pavers in the same material as the 'road' section. Result – instant familiarity restored!

  12. Patrick wrote:

    Points taken Malcolm. I've never been to Widemarsh Street so can't say much else, except that I hope it is resolved to the satisfaction of all.

  13. Hans wrote:

    I don't think the picture from Deventer is taken in Deventer. I live in Deventer but I don't recognize this street, it must be somewhere else.

  14. Patrick wrote:

    Hans, thanks. You are quite right. My mistake. I think it is Dordrecht.

  15. Patrick wrote:

    I've noticed only recently that Cycling Mobility ceased publication after only four issues because not enough people paid the £79 annual subscription fee to enable the German publishing house to meet expenses. "Meanwhile, the car industry continues to spend billions on advertising." Ross Ringham, the magazine's Editor in Chief.

    The article I wrote is here. I suppose it must be okay to reproduce it now.

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