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:
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!