A View From The Cycle Path)
David Hembrow Friday, 1 May 2015
The Grid. The most important enabler of mass cycling, but a cycling concept which is often misunderstood.
The need for a very fine grid of high quality, safe and efficient cycling routes is something I’ve been writing about for many years. Since 2008 on this blog, for instance. It may seem simple and obvious, but this concept is often misinterpreted and very often watered down.
Campaign for #maximumgrid!
There is no low minimum standard which is worth campaigning for. We know this because city scale Dutch research in the 1970s already demonstrated what is required to encourage cycling. Very high quality but sparsely built cycle-paths did not lead to significantly more cycling. For a grid of routes to enable cycling it must be high density and go everywhere. This has been known for 40 years so why are people still fighting for less ?
Forget the “minimum grid” and campaign for a “maximum grid”. i.e. a grid which goes everywhere, for everyone. This is proven to work.
Less is never more for cycling. Cycling never suffers from infrastructure which is too well designed, nor does it suffer from a grid of routes which offers people too many safe choices, or from people being able to make all of their journey in safety instead of just some of it. There is only a problem where infrastructure is poor or non-existent and when people are given attractive places to cycle.
Plan a little and you’ll only build a little, build a little and you’ll achieve only a little. To achieve great things you need great plans. The more infrastructure that you have and the better the quality of that infrastructure, the better the result will be.
There is no tipping point
There is no minimum level of cycling infrastructure above which cycling will definitely grow. There is no tipping point, no avalanche effect where by reaching a particular level of cycling, growth becomes inevitable. There is simply no evidence at all to support these ideas. However, there is plenty of historical evidence from all countries in the world that a decline is possible from any level if cycling conditions decline.
There was more cycling almost everywhere worldwide 60 years ago than there is now. That includes the Netherlands. The Netherlands has more cycling now than any other country in the world but has been hard to achieve this position. The Dutch are no more tolerant of unpleasant cycling conditions than people of any other nation. The high modal share here relies on there being very good conditions for cycling. Cycling declined precipitously in the Netherlands between 1950 and 1975 when planners were most interested in motor vehicles and though there have been steady increases since the 1970s, cycling is still less popular here now than it was in the 1950s. This country now has the best infrastructure in the world and this makes it possible for anyone in the Netherlands to cycle as much as they wish to with a fewer problems than occur elsewhere. But it’s still not perfect, still not at a level which causes no problems at all to anyone.