Quotes from “Cycling Cities: The European Experience” the new book on how some European cities have high cycle usage, and others do not, (published in the Netherlands)
The authors conclude: “Bicycle lanes and highways are expensive to build, but cost politically less because bicycle lanes do not question automobility. Traffic calming measures are cheaper – as Amsterdam discovered. They demand political courage …”
…They heap praise on separated cycling infrastructure but add that
“without restrictions on automobility … it is a moot question whether [cycle use can be boosted].”
“Despite a rapid and steep decline [in cycling] in the 1960s, cities [such as Amsterdam, Malmo, Utrecht and Copenhagen] recovered because policymakers liaised with activists to create pro-cycling and car-curbing policies.
” Amsterdam has high cycle usage, says the book, because motoring was discouraged by traffic calming and “reducing automobility” by making car parking expensive or fiendishly difficult.
Unless cities become explicitly anti-car, say the academics,
the provision of kerb-protected cycle lanes in cities where cycle use is low will not lead to the modal share revolutions that some advocates believe will come once protected cycleways have been built.
The authors of “Cycling Cities” describe the “fine meshed” cycle networks of the Netherlands in towns such as Houten but it may surprise many “Go Dutch” advocates that central Amsterdam has fewer cycle lanes than often perceived
Utrecht built separate lanes after 1994 and also heavily restricted car use.
“Discouraging car traffic was the key to policymakers’ efforts to ensure that Utrecht once again became a cycling city” say the authors.
The Swedish city of Malmo proposed a separate cycling network in 1966 and built it the 1970s but “policy makers never seriously considered taking space away from car drivers.”
However, Malmo has now recognised it needs to reign back motoring and its transport Master Plan is now an “explicit anti-car policy.”
The only British city featured in the book, except for mentions of London’s recent surge in cycling numbers, is the car-besotted Manchester. It currently has a cycling modal share of less than four percent. In 1911 the modal share for cycling in Manchester was just 10 percent higher. “Cycling Cities” praises Manchester’s recent efforts to “Go Dutch” with the £20m Cycle City Ambition Grant of 2013 but asks “will this policy commitment to bicycle-friendly infrastructure deliver higher levels of cycling?”
This will be a steep challenge warn the authors because to “revive cycling … cultural change is also needed.” And that cultural change will have to include taking space away from cars.
“The new town of Stevenage,” write the authors, was “built with a comprehensive system of separate cycle lanes modelled on the best Dutch practices” but it “does not have higher than average cycling rates.” Why is this? Because it’s still easy to drive in Stevenage. “Providing adequate infrastructure may not be sufficient to nurture a genuine cycling practice,” say the authors.
Five factors to describe “why cycling thrived in some [cities] and languished in others.”
• The city’s “physical landscape has an impact on whether urban cycling thrives”. For cycling to wither there have to be good urban alternatives to cycle use, such as public transport and unrestricted access for cars.
• Political will is also key, either by being favourable to cycling or preferring automcobility
• Historically, were cyclists considered as “pests who hindered the pace of motorists and annoyed pedestrians, or were they first-class citizens, who belonged on the streets and had equal rights?”
• For cycle use to grow cycling also has to have a high cultural status.
• Infrastructure is important to get more people cycling but sometimes cheaper measures are even more productive: “In some contexts, creating separate bicycle lanes has increased and encouraged urban cycling; in others, traffic calming schemes have boosted cycling spectacularly.”