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Sign up for the 1930s-era cycleways project

Between 1934 and 1940 Britain’s Ministry of Transport paid local authorities to install cycle tracks. As seen and heard on the BBC, ninety or so schemes were built, resulting in perhaps as many as 500 miles of cycle tracks, some of them protected with curbs. The great majority were built – 9-ft wide and both sides of the roads – next to the new bypasses of the era; a few were built on “trunk roads” through residential areas, such as in Sunderland, Manchester, Nottingham and Oxford. A successful Kickstarter campaign in May 2017 has enabled us to start researching some of these cycleways (later we’ll be aiming to rescue many of them). And even though the Kickstarter campaign has now ended it’s now possible to get the same emails and reports as backers. This extension to the campaign was created after people got in touch after the campaign ended asking how to get involved.

If you’d like to be involved please fill in the form below (it’s a form hosted on Wufoo, a secure database service). Once you press “submit” you will be taken, via Wufoo, to a secure, Stripe-powered payment page where you can choose which pledge level you’d like. Information on the pledge levels can be seen below.

(NOTE: Some people have had problems connecting Stripe after “Submit” – it’s possibly a browser issue. Nevertheless you will still get a auto-generated welcoming email – if you do not see the secure Stripe details an alternative is that we could generate a PayPal invoice that has the correct payment details, and which doesn’t require PayPal membership. Hit “reply” on the auto email and ask for this option, which we have to do manually.)

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BACKER LEVELS

Caffeine Level
Every penny of support will help us research the history of Britain’s long-lost cycleways and advocate for at least some of them to be revived. No products provided at this level, except basic email updates (no reports), but you’ll be buying us a coffee, and you’ll get a name-check in the final report.

Pizza Level
Every penny of support will help us research the history of Britain’s long-lost cycleways and advocate for at least some of them to be revived. No products provided at this level, except basic email updates (i.e. none of the exclusive reports other backers get), but your pizza level contribution will sustain us in our work, and you’ll get a name-check in the final report.

Report Level
At the Report level you’ll get a name-check in the final report, and you’ll get that report, too. It will be sent as a PDF. You will also get digital updates of the work in progress – these updates will include photos, maps and other materials that will go only to backers of the Report level and above.

Deluxe Report Level
At the Deluxe Report Level you’ll get a name-check in the final report, and you’ll get that report, too. It will be sent as a PDF. You will also get digital updates of the work in progress – these updates will include photos, maps and other materials that will go only to backers of the Report level and above. In addition, you will receive links to videos available only to backers of this level and above. You will also be able to choose the formats of the reports, including Kindle, ePub, and multi-media iPad bundles. You will also get an invite to a London launch event.

Belisha Level
At the Belisha Level you’ll get a name-check in the final report, and you’ll get that report, too. It will be sent as a PDF. You will also get digital updates of the work in progress – these updates will include photos, maps and other materials that will go only to backers of the Report level and above. In addition, you will receive links to videos available only to backers of this level and above. You will also be able to choose the formats of the reports, including Kindle, ePub, and multi-media iPad bundles. You will also get a personal invite to a 1930s cycleway ride with the project creators as well as a London launch event.

Go Dutch Level
At the Go Dutch Level you’ll get a name-check in the final report, and you’ll get that report, too. It will be sent as a PDF. You will also get digital updates of the work in progress – these updates will include photos, maps and other materials that will go only to backers of the Report level and above. In addition, you will receive links to videos available only to backers of this level and above. You will also be able to choose the formats of the reports, including Kindle, ePub, and multi-media iPad bundles. And you’ll also get to choose between a limited-edition project t-shirt or project mousemat AND you’ll get a high-resolution print of a plan or period photograph of any one stretch of cycleway. This can be signed by the project team and dedicated to you with a message of thanks. You will also get a personal invite to a 1930s cycleway ride with the project creators as well as a London launch event.

Note: all levels above Pizza Level also gain access to the premium level of a new podcast, CyclingHistory.Today. The site has been registered and a website will be connected to that URL soon. The podcast will feature cycling history from 1817 onwards.

DIGGING UP BRITAIN’S FORGOTTEN CYCLEWAYS

Many cycle advocates urge that the Department for Transport should create dense grids of protected cycling infrastructure – in other words, Britain should “Go Dutch”. It’s almost totally unknown that Britain once had the beginnings of such a Netherlands-inspired network, and with your help we could rediscover it and, in some cases, literally dig it up. This project could result in the (re)creation of many miles of protected cycleways – and as a backer you’ll be along for the ride.

In the 1930s, Britain’s Ministry of Transport commissioned the building of 500-miles of protected cycleways. Between 1934 and 1940 more than 300 miles of these innovative cycleways were actually built, usually both sides of the new “arterial roads” springing up all over the country.

(The video above says it was 280 miles – but, thanks to the publicity generated by this project, more mileage has come to light.)

Some of these cycleways still exist, but they are not today understood to be cycle infrastructure: they should be rededicated. Others are buried under a couple of inches of soil: they could be excavated.

We are seeking your support to make all of this happen. Cash is needed to carry out further research and then work out how the historic cycleways can be meshed into modern networks.

With your help we’ll be able to demonstrate that the space for cycling is there, and in many cases it has been there for a long time!

Those who back this project will be supporting something of potentially national importance, and will gain behind-the-scenes access to our work as it progresses. You will receive timely backer-only reports that won’t be published anywhere else. Whether you’re interested in the historical side of the project, or the modern, practical side backers will receive regular updates and will be the first to be told of what could be important and, in some cases, genuinely ground-breaking developments.

Take a look at the backer options above. You could buy us a cup of coffee to keep our spirits up or go the whole hog and get us to give you an up close and personal presentation to your club, company or organisation. We’ll also be taking some backers on a guided cycle tour of one or more of these innovative-for-the-time cycleways.

“… if Britain managed to find money to produce state of the art bike lanes during the Great Depression, it can definitely do so again.” Feargus O’Sullivan, CityLab

1930s-era concrete cycle tracks both sides of the Great North Road, Nevilles Cross, Co. Durham

WHO’S “WE”?

We are author and editor Carlton Reid (the project’s historian) and Urban Movement’s John Dales (the project’s urban planner, and with a team behind him).

1930s-era cycle track beside Chertsey Road, Twickenham

HISTORICAL BACKGROUND

Between 1937 and 1940 the Ministry of Transport only gave grants to local authorities for arterial road schemes if they included 9-ft-wide cycleways both sides of the road, writes Carlton Reid. Some of these cycleways still exist (but are believed, wrongly, to be “service roads”); others have been grassed over (but their concrete surfaces probably remain). Many are not marked on maps as cycleways (or considered to be such by local authorities.)

That Britain once had a great number of protected cycleways is now almost totally unknown. I started researching these Dutch-inspired cycleways for my forthcoming book Bike Boom (Island Press, June 2017) and when I started to dig deeper (sometimes literally) I came to realise there were far more of these 1930s cycleways than I, or anybody else, knew existed. By poring through ministerial minutes I discovered that, amazingly, the Ministry of Transport was working to plans submitted by its Dutch equivalent: Go Dutch, 1930s-style.

Kerb-protected cycle tracks both sides of Chester Road in Birmingham, 1946. (Here are the same cycle tracks today.)

To date, I have identified more than 90 separate protected cycleway schemes around Britain, some of which can be found on the map below.

I believe there are more cycleways to be found.

These innovative, concrete cycleways – many with granite kerbing – went out of use so rapidly that they were forgotten about soon after being built. A few were later grubbed up to make extra room for cars, but plenty can still be seen today – if you know what to look for.

This wide cycleway beside the Mickleham bypass still exists, but it’s much narrower today

By using long-neglected plans and maps I’ve been able to trace many of the buried ones; some appear to be tantalisingly close to the surface.

It’s important to map, record and then rescue these cycleways. Many have lasted this long only out of sheer luck, and need to be “listed” so that they can’t be destroyed in the future to, say, widen roads for motor traffic.

Slivers of the buried long-distance concrete cycleway on the Thanet Way can be glimpsed via Google Street View

This is partly a historical – and even an archeological – project but, as John Dales says in the video above, it’s also highly relevant today because the space for cycling that many planners and politicians say isn’t there is there!

We are combining to form a small team that will research and evaluate the schemes found to date, and then approach local and national authorities with plans for meshing the 1930s cycleways with their modern equivalents. The success of the Kickstarter campaign enabled us to start work on researching and evaluating some of the schemes identified so far. The more money we raise the more cycleways we will be able to research. We shall use this research – and the modern urban planning work – to push for grants and other monies to enable rescue work to take place.

Official opening of Britain’s first cycleway, Greenford, Middlesex, 1934

GO DUTCH?
In 1934, the Ministry of Transport consulted with its Dutch equivalent before starting work on its cycleway programme. The MoT’s chief engineer was provided with cycleway plans and advice by the director of the Rijkswaterstaat.

Most of the 1930s cycleways were built alongside new arterial roads and bypasses. However, some were built in residential areas, such as the separated cycleway in Manchester seen at the top of this page. This cycleway still exists but, today, not all of it is marked or used as a cycleway – motorists park their cars on it, assuming it’s a private road built for such use. The challenge is to find and research the history of this cycleway, and the 80 or so others, then link them into today’s networks.

Transport secretary Leslie Hore-Belisha cutting the ribbon on the Western Avenue “cycle track”, Britain’s first cycleway, 1934

It’s reasonably well known – in certain cycle advocacy circles at least – that there was a 2-mile protected cycleway on Western Avenue in London, opened by transport minister Leslie Hore-Belisha in 1934 (I wrote about it in Roads Were Not Built for Cars). What’s very much not known is that this was just the first scheme, and that the Ministry of Transport majority paid-for at least 70 other schemes across the country, many of them kerb-protected and separated from carriageways.

After 1949, cycle use in the UK dropped dramatically and less use was made of the innovative-for-the-time cycleways.

In time, it was forgotten that there had once been these many cycle infrastructure schemes around the UK. This project aims to bring many of them back to life both by rededication and by demonstrating how they can be linked in to wider networks. A great deal of further archival research is required, especially in city, county and national archives. Period newspaper reports describe when the cycleways were given the go-ahead and when they were opened, but it will require more digging to find grant-aid documents, further maps and plans, and period photographs of the cycle tracks in use.

Most of the 1930s cycleways (at the time they were called “cycle tracks”) were, on average, four miles long, but the 9-ft and 6-ft cycle tracks on both sides of the Southend Arterial Road (which are not marked on modern maps) extended for more than 18 miles.

If we could bring back to life even half of the built cycleways that’s perhaps 140+ miles of cycleway that we don’t currently know about, or treasure.

This is an ambitious and potentially very practical project, but it cannot happen without your help.

Thank you.

Carlton Reid & John Dales

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CARLTON REID is the Newcastle-based executive editor of BikeBiz.com, and author of Roads Were Not Built for Cars and Bike Boom (both of these books were successfully funded on Kickstarter, and later picked up by Island Press of Washington, DC.)

JOHN DALES is a transport planner and traffic engineer, and director of Urban Movement of London (“our job is making better streets”). He is the ex-chair of the Transport Planning Society, and a columnist for TransportXtra.

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WHAT DO OTHERS THINK?

CHRIS BOARDMAN: “This is a marvelous proposal. It could recover some of our lost past and give normal people the opportunity to change the way they travel, in safety.

“As a bonus, in these austere times, it would have a meaningful impact for a very modest price.”

THE RANTY HIGHWAYMAN: “This exciting delve into history seeks to rediscover the space which was found for cycling eighty years ago, and it just goes to prove that most innovations in highway engineering have already been built.

“My predecessors made their foray into enabling cycling by looking across the North Sea for inspiration and so this project is sure to provide modern highway engineers with some valuable lessons and inspiration for rediscovering cycle track design in the UK.”

MARK TREASURE, CHAIR OF CYCLING EMBASSY OF GREAT BRITAIN: “It’s fantastic (and also more than a little depressing) that, eighty years ago, this country was capable of building cycling infrastructure alongside main roads of precisely the kind we need today – cycling infrastructure that has now fallen into disrepair.

“It would be wonderful to see this legacy updated, restored and protected, not only because these cycleways would be useful in their own right, but also because they would serve as an inspiration for developing a comprehensive cycle network, using the space we already have.”

ROGER GEFFEN, CYCLING UK’s POLICY DIRECTOR: “What an inspired idea, to unearth and revive the lost history of Britain’s abortive ‘cycling revolution’! The Dutch have since taught us so much about importance of high-quality design and surfacing, and priority at junctions, for ensuring that protected cycle facilities really do ‘facilitate’ cycling. It’s now high time we acted on these lessons. High-quality reinstatements of our lost cycle tracks would be an excellent starting point.”

PHILLIP DARNTON OF THE BICYCLE ASSOCIATION & FORMER CHAIR OF CYCLING ENGLAND: “A fascinating piece of research, which just shows how little progress we’ve made in building proper cycling infrastructure in the last 80 years.”

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MEDIA COVERAGE

BBC.co.uk
Road.cc
Bikeradar.com
BikeBiz (natch)
The Guardian
Engineering and Technology
Curbed, USA
Cambridge News
BT.com
Mail Online
BBC Radio 4 You & Yours (12m35s)
Atlas Obscura
Mother Nature Network
ETA
Fast Co. Design
City Lab

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Why did the Dutch get cycleways but the Brits and Americans didn’t? And why didn’t British cyclists use the 1930s cycle tracks? I discuss the reasons at length in Bike Boom (Island Press, June 2017). Order on Amazon.

Win a copy of “Bike Boom” signed by me, Joe Breeze and Charlie Kelly

Yesterday I was visited by MTB royalty. Joe Breeze and Charlie Kelly are in the UK for a talking tour and they drove up from Scunthorpe to pop in for a coffee (I also took them for a walk on Hadrian’s Wall). Joe built the first bespoke MTB, and Charlie Kelly – along with then business partner Gary Fisher – coined the term “Mountain Bike”.

Joe is also custodian of the Marin Museum of Bicycling and was into bike history even before he joined with others to create mountain biking as we know it. He kindly wrote the foreword to “Bike Boom”. Why Joe? He was a “baby boomer” road cyclist who was active during the 1970s bike boom in America, had a pivotal role in creating the mountain-bike boom of the 1980s, and in the 1990s he morphed into a transportation cycling evangelist with his influential Breezer brand.

Joe and Charlie kindly signed a copy of “Bike Boom” and this unique copy could be yours. To be in with a chance you have to correctly answer a question: “Which page of the book did Charlie sign?” You can guess if you like (you have more than 250 numbers to choose from) or you could listen to this podcast interview with Joe and Charlie – we discuss which page number he should sign. [NOTE: the competition is now closed. It was won by Dave Canter. Thanks to all those who entered. The answer, by the way, was page one.)

Fill out my online form.

Bike Boom is now available

Bike Boom was published in June 2017 by Island Press of Washington, DC.

The 800+ footnotes for the book are free to read online.

Buy the print book from Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk, Barnes&Noble, or indie book sellers. Digital versions of the book are available on Amazon and Apple’s Book Store. The iPad version of the book (with additional illustrations and videos and audio files) will be available from Apple’s Book Store soon.

Got the book? Submit a review to Amazon and to Goodreads.com.

PRESS RELEASE: Historian uses Google Streetview to find Britain’s “lost” 1930s-era cycleways

Monday, 8th May 2017

PRESS RELEASE

For immediate publication.

A historian has used the spin-off from an American military mapping project to discover nearly 300 miles of “lost” British cycleways. These cycleways were installed beside British roads between 1934 and 1940, but were abandoned after the Second World War. Many were surfaced with red concrete, protected cyclists with kerbs and extended for many miles. They were commissioned by the Ministry of Transport and were built on both sides of the arterial roads constructed in the 1930s.

Author and historian Carlton Reid used archive sources to identify the likely locations for the cycleways, and then confirmed their existence not with field walks or even bike rides, but with Google Streetview.

“From the comfort of my desk I’ve been able to back-up my hunches by zooming in to the images provided by the Streetview cameras,” said Reid, who is funding further researches with a crowd-funding campaign.

“Some of the 1930s-era cycleways I’ve identified are either fully or partially buried, but most are above ground, in full view but they are not recognised for what they are, which is innovative-for-the-time cycle-specific infrastructure that’s more than 80-years-old,” said Reid.

“The cycleways have been wide and often kerb-protected since they were built, but it was quickly forgotten when and who they were built for,” he added.

“I’ve visited some of these cycleways in-the-flesh but the advent of open-access online imagery has meant it’s quicker and cheaper to discover them from my desk.”

Google Streetview is an off-shoot from Google Earth, the descendant of EarthViewer, a CIA-funded project that was used by the US military in war zones from the late 1990s onwards. Google acquired EarthViewer in 2004 and rebranded it as Google Earth in 2005. Archeologists often use Google Earth – and other open-access satellite-imagery services – to find hidden hill-forts and even buried treasure, but this is the first time the satellite and street-level imagery has been used to discover hidden-in-plain-sight 1930s-era cycleways.

Reid has partnered with an urban planner to bring back to life perhaps hundreds of miles of these forgotten cycleways. John Dales of Urban Movement will take Reid’s historical research and use it to show local and national authorities that there’s often plenty of space for cycling – because the space was allocated many years ago.

Cycle advocacy organisations often campaign for Dutch-style cycleways and what Reid’s project is showing is that the British Ministry of Transport worked with its Dutch equivalent in the 1930s to create just such a Dutch-style system. Reid discovered the extent of the 1930s-era cycleway network during the research for a cycle history book to be published next month. “Bike Boom” (Island Press, Washington, DC, June 2017) contains information on the 1930s-era cycleways with the Kickstarter campaign enabling him to continue his research work.

Environmental geographer Robin Lovelace said the project was a “fantastic fusion of historical knowledge with digital tech.” Lovelace, a Leeds University academic who works for the Institute for Transport Studies, added that reviving the 1930s cycleways could lead to a “more sustainable transport future.”

Gold-medal-winning Olympian Chris Boardman of British Cycling has described Reid’s Kickstarter campaign as a “marvelous proposal” adding that it “could recover some of our lost past and give normal people the opportunity to change the way they travel, in safety.”

Some of the cycleways Reid has digitally uncovered extend for a few miles either side of the suburban arterial roads built in the 1930s, but he has also identified residential cycleways (they are often now treated as “private roads” with cars parked on them). Archive maps show that the 18-mile Southend Arterial Road from Gallows Corner in Romford to Southend once had cycleways along its full length (they were known as “cycle tracks” at the time) and this cycleway linked in to others in the area.

“Let’s rescue Britain’s forgotten 1930s protected cycleways” was launched on Kickstarter on 25th April and exceeded its £7,000 target within three days. 356 backers have so far pledged £10,227. The campaign ends on 25th May. Backers get behind-the-scenes access to reports that will be provided to local authorities, Highways England and the Department for Transport.

Reid is the Newcastle-based executive editor of trade magazine BikeBiz.com and author of “Roads Were Not Built for Cars” (Island Press, Washington, DC, 2015).

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KICKSTARTER CAMPAIGN

PRESS MATERIALS (photos, videos, maps and more info)

CONTACT: Carlton Reid

Email: carltonreid@mac.com
Landline: 0191 265 2062
Mobile Tel: 07795 633 571

Blurbs

The front cover of Bike Boom can be seen above, but here’s the back cover, too. It contains the all-important blurbs. Text too small to read? Click for a larger version or read the full text is below.

The book majors on the bike booms of the 1930s in the UK and the 1970s in the USA. Between 1934 and 1939 Britain’s Ministry of Transport paid local authorities to install cycle tracks. Seventy or so schemes were built, resulting in perhaps as many as 280 miles of cycle tracks, some of them protected with curbs. The great majority were built – 9-ft wide and both sides of the roads – next to the new bypasses of the era; a few were built on “trunk roads” through residential areas, such as in Sunderland and Oxford. The Kickstarter for this project is now LIVE.

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Journalist Carlton Reid sets out to discover what we can learn from the history of bike “booms” in this entertaining and thought-provoking book.

Advance Praise for Bike Boom

“Bike Boom is full of heroes fighting for safe places for bikes, up against the goliath of mass motorization. Carlton deftly tells the stories of the major battles over bikes in Europe and the U.S. from the 30s through the 70s. Not much has changed: we are still facing the same forces today, with the same arguments for and against. The book is a loving testament to yesterday’s scrappy champions with lessons for all who persist today.” —Martha Roskowski, Vice President of Local Innovation, PeopleForBikes

“Carlton Reid brings an essential—and often forgotten—historical depth to ongoing debates about cycling and cycling infrastructure. In Bike Boom, he maps the deeply political struggles that are hidden behind seemingly technical, or even banal, issues. Indispensable reading for those trying to grasp cycling, but even more so for those who are fighting the continuous fight for its place in contemporary cities and societies.” —Marco te Brömmelstroet, Academic Director, Urban Cycling Institute; Associate Professor in Urban Planning, University of Amsterdam

“Carlton Reid is one of the most well respected authors in the cycling world today, and with good reason. He is renowned for his political insight and meticulous research. Building on his earlier works—which delve into the history of this multi-purpose machine—Bike Boom is a beautifully fluid account of contemporary cycling and raises Carlton’s reputation as a leading cycling aficionado to new heights.” —Chris Boardman, Senior Policy Advisor at British Cycling and Co-founder of Boardman Bikes

CARLTON REID is the executive editor of BikeBiz magazine, a publication for the bicycle trade based in the UK. He is author of Roads Were Not Built for Cars.

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Bike Boom will be available in June from Island Press, Washington, DC. The index and 800+ footnotes for the book are already online.

Testimonials

Contact

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Newcastle upon Tyne
United Kingdom
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