Thursday 6 November 2014

Fighting against the greater good.

There is a recurring theme from a small but vocal minority of cyclists. They tend to speak with great authority on their subject (for they *are* the cyclists), yet despite providing very little evidence for their cause, appear to have a disproportionate influence in the public mindset. This is business as usual for the politics of fear:
Hold on tightly to your nurse, for fear of finding something worse.
These are the anti-infrastructure cyclists, the I'm all right, Jack cyclists, the vehicular cyclists. Here is the latest crass example that seems to pass for journalism.

These are the cyclists who appear to have no real interest in increasing the safety or modal share of transport cycling. They participate in a predominately male niche activity, an exclusive club. And they'd like to keep it that way. All this nonsense about 'don't need more cycle lanes', 'Britain is not Holland' [sic] or 'we have a different culture' appears to be just a method to distract from the unfounded fear of losing their 'right to the road' or the very real fear their 'club' may not remain exclusive.

Segregation has formed the basis of every safety improvement we have made to almost every mode of transport. We segregate people from motor vehicles using pavements, bridges and underpasses, yet people have not lost the right to walk on the roads, except for motorways. Even on motorways we partially segregate HGVs from light vehicles - all in the name of safety.

We almost entirely segregate rail traffic from road traffic. Why? Well, 100+ tons of express train does not mix well with vehicles. There were seven fatalities at level crossings last year. When a tragedy occurs there are calls to remove these dangerous points of conflict. I do not hear any vehicle or train passengers calling for them to be retained. As a nation, we have invested heavily in making air, sea and rail safe.

Yet we are expected to accept that people on bicycles will mix well with fast moving 2-40 ton vehicles? We have a selfish few, claiming to represent the vulnerable, fighting against investment in safety. How absurd is that?

Let me put this very simply: 
  • I can find no evidence that significant increases in safety and modal share occurs without segregated cycle provision.
  • I can find plenty of evidence (from Netherlands to New York City) that segregated cycle provision significantly increases safety and modal share. 
So, if you think segregation should not be front and centre then increases in safety and modal share are clearly not your priorities. 

Footnote: Whilst we're talking about absurd arguments, I suggest anyone berating others for not wearing a helmet whilst riding a bicycle on the road should consider how effective a seat belt would be on a level crossing. Similar physics.

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