24 January 2011

It's Segregation, Stupid

As a newcomer to the world of cycling, I am intrigued by the arguments and ideological camps that have become established over the years. Whilst I don’t necessarily understand the history, I do understand the motivation of many cycling campaigners who long for the promised revolution in mass cycling that seems to be always around the corner in this country. The benefits are clear and have been ably described in detail in many other places. However, the revolution seems to be a long time coming.

Theories seem to abound about how the revolution will finally be realised – strict liability, cycle hire schemes, training, personalised travel planning…but they all seem to be tinkering at the edges and not addressing the fundamental issues;

  • Cycling is not perceived as safe;
  • A needs to be joined to B in the most direct way.
There seems to me to be only one way of achieving this; by segregating cycle traffic from motorised vehicles. For me, this is the clear lesson from looking at the places where the cycling revolution is a reality; Denmark and Holland.

This fundamental conceptual shift would automatically require a wholesale re-thinking of the balance of power on the road. See what Enrique PeƱalosa of Bogota says, as reported on:

"Under our - and most - constitutions, all people are equal under the law.  Therefore, a bus with 100 passengers has 100 x the right to access and space as a single occupancy car.  Likewise, a child on a tricycle has the same rights as a motorist.  This is not about being anti-car, this is about equality for all."

There are many blogs and websites which make the case far more eloquently than I ever could for segregation:

But two recent posts on Copenhagenize:

are the “killer apps” as far as I can see. The city of Gaungzhou which already has a modal share around 10% (something only dreamt of here). A city with excellent separated infrastructure already in place. A city in a country with a natural affinity and recent history of mass bicycle use. And yet even they see the urgent need to upgrade, reinforce and re-design the infrastructure they already have just to maintain the level of cycle use, before exploring all possible ways of increasing it. They are not proposing to train people or provide them with personalised travel planning – they are building safe, separated routes for bikes so people can move from A to B without fuss. Simple really.

In Copenhagen, Copenhagenize reports that “Whenever the City builds new bicycle infrastructure on a stretch of road there is an increase of 20% in the number of cyclists and 10% fewer cars.

The Mayor in charge of the Traffic Dept., Bo Asmus Kjeldgaard says, "It's great to learn that the new bicycle lanes on Stormgade live up to the intentions. Stormgade has for too long been a black mark on our bicycle net. It isn't anymore and cyclists appreciate it because it makes them feel safer. I look forward to the next bicycle counts from the street because I'm sure they will show an increase in cyclists."

If you build it, they will come.


  1. If you'd like to enjoy another eloquent statement of the same points, try Beauty and the Bike Funnily enough, our conclusion was "It's the Infrastructure, Stupid!"

  2. Thanks for the link Inconvenient Truth, and I did enjoy the video. Isn't it amazing to see how people smile when they get on a bike - it's like we never get tired of the trick that it actually stays upright when we move! I was doing a site assesment and walking access routes nr Bristol last week, in a town which has suprisingly good cycling infrastructure. Saw an elderly gentleman head off cycling with his mates - nothing unusual about that, except he started off by pulling a wheelie. Great.