Posted by Keziah Underhill on 28th September 2020 in News
Temporary to Permanent: A cycling revolution?
Figure 1 Image: Living Streets
Since the Government’s announcement of their Gear Change initiative I have seen many local authorities, road users and cycling organisations comment on this bold new initiative with statistics around the amount of money needed to deliver a sustainable cycling infrastructure and how to best go about it.
As a keen cyclist I am pro this new Government intervention, if it delivers what it promises.
There’s too much to discuss here but the 4 key themes of Gear Change are:
1 – Better streets for cycling and people
2 – Cycling at the heart of decision-making
3 – Empowering and encouraging Local Authorities
4 – Enabling people to cycle and protecting them when they do
Plans to improve the National Cycle Network, introducing mini-Holland schemes into 12 willing non-London authorities (one in Cambridgeshire recently opened), safe school streets, improved bike storage and clearer planning requirements are some of the areas the policy aims to achieve.
All laudable aims and whilst £2billion pounds is not an insignificant sum, general consensus is that it is not enough (it never is). But well-thought-out planning and delivery will ensure there is a good case to demonstrate the benefits to health, well-being, economic impacts, and social interaction. There are a lot of statistics in the policy which I’m normally wary of as these can be used to promote specific viewpoints.
For example, Gear Change states that over 58% of all vehicle journeys in towns/cities are under 5 miles and in urban areas 40% are under 2 miles. So, opportunities to encourage more cycling, something we have seen in abundance during this pandemic. However, to balance this, deaths involving cyclists during April and May this year are over double that for previous years. With less vehicles on the road this seems contradictory, perhaps those on the roads were the less law abiding or perhaps less experienced cyclists were out in more numbers?
This context brings into sharp focus the need for segregation of cyclists (and pedestrians) from road vehicles, where possible, to reduce risks to all users and so planning becomes a vital cog (sorry!) of what Gear Change aims to deliver. The creation of a commissioning body and Inspectorate as part of Active Travel England will oversee projects submitted to integrate new cycling infrastructure and this must provide a level of consistency and moderation if it is to be effective. They have been compared to the role Ofsted provide to schools.
However, those plans need to be well considered, using available data and analysis of current and proposed impacts on traffic flows, speed and impacts on peoples’ ability to access new proposed cycle routes to meet social and economic needs.
Local Authorities have a key role to play in the delivery of new schemes (along with cycling organisations and users), using tools such as TRACC for travel and accessibility analysis and the use of speed datasets to assess the impacts on wider road use and adoption will be crucial to a sustainable long term change in people’s travel behaviours.
We’ve seen temporary cycle lanes pop up all over the UK, some have proved successful, others not so much and have ended up being removed so it’s clear that data and analysis of the merits of each scheme differ greatly and require a more consistent approach in deciding where best to place new lanes/paths, consulting with actual road users who see the problems day in day out.
If Active Travel England deliver their remit, we should have a suite of user cases that all local authorities can call upon when considering changes to their towns and cities, as each is as individual as the next and we all want the same, safe streets where cars, lorries, buses, bikes and pedestrians can co-exist in harmony.
We have a great opportunity here, and it starts with data and analysis of the problem, understanding the potential risks and devising the best solution once these are understood. Please get in touch with Basemap if you want to discuss this in more detail, we are passionate about active and sustainable transport solutions.
Business Development Manager
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About Keziah Underhill
Keziah is the Digital Marketing Executive at Basemap Ltd. She has almost 2 years experience in the digital realm after graduating from the University of Plymouth with a BA in Illustration and a MA in Publishing.