In November of last year, Glasgow City Council finally got round to responding to David Brennan’s Cycle Friendly Glasgow petition. The response is a wildly boastful bit of fluff – many of the points it makes have already been subjected to my criticism here and here and here and here. I also gave my view of the council’s claim that “widths are almost double those recommended by Cycling by Design” on the Cathkin Braes cycle route, in a comment on David’s blog post:
The use of Cycling by Design as some kind of benchmark is absurd, because that document recommends nothing but the same old rubbish
Recently, I have felt moved to expand on this point, and will do so today.
Cycling by Design is Transport Scotland’s guide to (alleged) best practice in the design of cycling infrastructure. It’s a very typical piece of UK cycling policy – it starts out with all the usual warm words and fine intentions, but it all falls apart when you look at the detail. It was first launched all the way back in 1999 by none other than then-Transport Minister Sarah Boyack, who claims to support Pedal on Parliament. What we have today is the 2010 edition, which was itself updated in 2011. I haven’t read the 1999 edition – I daresay it was far worse – but the reality is that the current edition is not fit for purpose and needs to be rewritten.
Cycling by Design is fundamentally flawed in that it recommends such failed concepts as the Hierarchy of Provision and the Dual Network:
In order to accommodate the sometimes conflicting needs of different skill levels and trip purposes, different types of facilities may be required.
For example, a cycleway may be appropriate where it provides a short link for primary school children while cycle lanes on the adjacent roadway may be more suitable for adult commuter cyclists. Having a cycleway next to a cycle lane may be a good dual network solution in such circumstances. (p10)
I’m sick to death of drivel like this, I really am. Every street in this country needs to be divided into 2 categories: those where there are high-quality segregated cycleways suitable for everyone, and those where the speed and volume of motor traffic is low enough (or can be made low enough) for everyone to find cycling on the carriageway acceptable. This is the only way forward. Transport Scotland’s notion of cycle network planning, by comparison, is inept. The last thing we need is cycle lanes, which are a joke. We don’t need two types of cycling infrastructure on the same street, either – that’s a waste of space and inevitably results in both types being substandard. The term “cycleway” (as used by Transport Scotland) also lacks precision and could easily mean shared pavements, which are another joke.
Cycling by Design also jam-packed with specific examples of crappy infrastructure, like this ASL with a nearside feeder lane and a central feeder lane (p91):
I happen to recognise this street – it’s Bristo Place in Edinburgh, part of the route from Waverley station to the Meadows, where Pedal on Parliament begins – and I remember what happened the first time I cycled along it only too well. I realised quite late on that I’d end up being taken off in completely the wrong direction unless I swerved across a lane of motor traffic from the nearside cycle lane to the central cycle lane. I did not enjoy this experience – stressful, you see, with all those cars and buses around me – but Transport Scotland actually perceives arrangements like this as “beneficial”.
Then there’s this (p92):
Expecting cyclists to use the road when the lights are green and go up onto the pavement when the lights are red is just the kind of nonsense that results in people ignoring the designer’s intentions and doing whatever they like. Note also how it’s seen as acceptable to cut the pavement back to almost nothing at a signal-controlled junction, where it’s likely lots of pedestrians will congregate waiting to cross, to make way for the bypass cycle lane. Transport Scotland is anti-pedestrian to its core and will stop at nothing to suppress walking.
On the subject of segregated cycleways, Cycling by Design has this to say:
They are most effective on high speed rural roads
No. We need segregated cycleways on roads in built-up areas every bit as much as we need them in rural areas. If anything the need is greater in towns, because that’s where people live. This is so obvious and I cannot believe I’m having to point it out.
There is so much more nonsense in there, and I could go on and on about it, but I just can’t be bothered.
The people at Transport Scotland need to face up to their ignorance. They need to acknowledge that everything they think they know about cycling is wrong. They need to throw out Cycling by Design and start again. They need to ditch the ludicrous Dual Network concept and plan one network for everyone. They need to abandon all their wacky ideas about ASLs and start endorsing simultaneous green junctions. They need to go all-out for segregation and forget about all the other crap. And they need to adopt the best Dutch practice wholesale, instead of wasting years repeating research already done by competent people and coming up with their own dodgy conclusions.
But they won’t do any of this. Instead they’ll blunder on, doing what they’ve always done, even though it’s never worked and never will. Transport Scotland is an amateurish organisation, oblivious to best practice and devoted to failure.
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