Wiltshire council asked residents to give their opinion on how cycling can be encouraged in the county. This is my response.
What would a more cycle friendly Wiltshire look like?
The majority of people will use a bicycle regularly for at least some of their local journeys. Not simply cycling enthusiasts like myself, but those going to work, to the shops, to school. People of all ages and abilities will cycle regularly because it is convenient, safe and healthy. They won't call themselves cyclists any more than a person walking to the shops would call themselves a walker. They're simply people trying to get somewhere.
How can we make this come about?
The period of lockdown earlier this year saw a large increase in the numbers of people cycling. Some of these may be because they had more free time or wanted to avoid buses and trains, but I believe a substantial proportion took to the roads by bike because of reduced motor traffic. Motor traffic makes cycling noisy, stressful, polluted and causes real and subjective danger. I believe it is the main factor in preventing more people from cycling.
To change this I propose:
- Anything to reduce motor vehicle use, especially for short journeys is to be encouraged. Solutions can be as diverse as better walking routes to the shops, congestion charging, alternating days when different people are allowed to drive, improving the bus services so people don't need to drive, partially closing some roads to prevent through traffic but still allow deliveries, etc.
- A total ban on expanding motor vehicle facilities. No new roads, no new car parks. Work should be limited to maintenance of existing facilities only.
- Provide cycle lanes physically separated from motor traffic with barriers or an entirely different route. They must be continuous, not forcing cyclists to stop every few meters to give way. They must be smooth enough and well-maintained. They must take people all the way to places they need to go - work, shops, school, railway station. If they don't meet all those criteria then few cyclists will use them and the money will be wasted.
- Where separated cycle lanes are not possible, speed limits for motor traffic should be reduced. The narrower the road, the more the speed limit should be reduced. It can be done with signage and cameras or with traffic calming measures such as speed bumps with gaps for bicycles. This improves safety for all and reduces pollution. It may also encourage motor traffic to prefer other, larger roads or motorways.
What are the cycling initiatives in Wiltshire / UK / Europe that we should be aware of?
Besides the opinion of myself and other local cyclists, any new cycling infrastructure should take into account the advice of those with more experience in this area, for example:
- Sustrans can provide detailed guidance on how to design infrastructure.
- Cycling UK (formerly CTC) have sensible policies regarding planning to encourage uptake of cycling.
- This well-researched blog discusses and describes the best of Dutch cycling infrastructure and why it works.
What is holding back the take up of cycling across the county?
A proper survey would give better answers, but, in order of importance, my best guesses are:
- Lack of safety and subjective safety, mainly due to motor traffic.
- Perceived lack of fitness/skills or embarrassment about not looking the part
- Inconvenience of bike storage/security and the need to arrive looking smart
How would we break down those barriers?
- As above, reduce motor traffic or physically separate cyclist from it. Failing that, widen roads and reduce speed limit.
- Publicity, education (e.g.: https://bikeability.org.uk/) and encouragement for electric bikes.
- Better parking and washing facilities, improving understanding culture of people being at work slightly dishevelled.
How do we better connect our communities with cycle routes?
Think about the ordinary journeys people make every day from end to end.
With limited resources, it is better to provide a few safe, useful, complete routes with facilities at each destination than to create a multitude of new routes which are not safe or useful.
It is about quality rather than quantity.