Category Archives: Cycle advocacy

Hate Media Inc.’s 45-point Style Guide for writing nasty pieces about cyclists

Got a quick column to write about evil cyclists? Need some pointers for a radio script poking fun at those misguided people who ride bicycles when they ought to drive cars? We’ve got your back here at Hate Media Inc.* In our definitive, 45-point Style Guide we show you the correct and proper way to blame cyclists for everything, including air pollution, traffic congestion and wasteful spending on boondoggle cycleways.

As an outgroup – “them,” not “us” – cyclists are fair game and they are easily triggered (which is good for your web traffic). But be aware that cyclists have no sense of humour, see #13, especially when you joke about killing them.

In your columns and scripts it is critical to mention that ALL cyclists are guilty of the transgressions listed below. When writing about motorists it is acceptable to write some drivers.


1. ALL cyclists run red lights.

Some motorists may also be guilty of such rare transgressions but they are rogue and unrepresentative.


2. Cyclists always ride on the pavement.

Cyclists should get off roads designed for motorists and ride on the pavement instead.


3. Cyclists that ride in cities at 20mph are clearly riding too fast for the conditions and will almost certainly kill pedestrians.

It’s crazy talk to expect motorists to travel as cripplingly slow as 20mph.


4. Cyclists ride two abreast, blocking the road.

Don’t mention the fact that motorists, even when driving solo, ride two abreast all of the time.


5. Cyclists no longer tinkle little bells to warn pedestrians.

Cyclists expect pedestrians to jump out of the way when they rudely ring their stupid bells.


6. Cyclists are paupers that cannot afford cars.

Cyclists are wealthy elites that own expensive carbon bikes which get in the way of poor people in cars just trying to earn a crust.

7. Not enough cyclists wear helmets.

Cyclists wear mushrooms on their heads, haha!


8. Cyclists don’t ride with lights.

Cyclists dazzle motorists with their flashing lights.


9. Cyclists who ride with earbuds deserve it when they get run over and killed.

Motorists should be able to listen to loud music in their cars if they want to. It is not as though it is a distraction.


10. Cyclists are smug treehuggers.

Cyclists emit CO2, endangering the planet.


11. Cyclists cause pollution because of all the motorists stuck behind them forced to drive slowly.

Ergo, no cyclists, no pollution.


12. Cycling is something you grow out of, it’s only for children not adults.

Children should stick to parks and should not be allowed to cycle on roads.


13. Too few cyclists are killed.

Jeez, cyclists can’t take a joke.


14. Cycling is leisure.

A motorist driving to the gym (to ride on a stationary bike) is a legitimate road user.


15. Spending half a million on a cycleway is a subsidy too far, an incredible waste of taxpayers’ hard-earned cash.

Spending billions on new roads for more motoring is an investment.


16. Society should pay for roads for motorists.

Cyclists should pay for cycleways.

17. Cyclists use the roads as a gym; they should ride on a velodrome instead.

Motorists have places to get to, you know.


18. A cyclist going near a motorist’s sacrosanct car is a “jerk.”

Motorists should not give cyclists lots of space when overtaking them because that would waste, what, two seconds?


19. Cyclists should wear yellow hi-viz jackets at all times for their own safety.

Motorists can choose whatever colour car they like: stealth grey is currently the most popular. Car? What car?


20. Cycleways are an incredible waste of space.

Motorists should be provided with masses of free parking.


21. Roads are dangerous so taking children to school by bicycle is criminally irresponsible.

It’s perfectly acceptable for motorists to rush their children to school in oversized SUVs and then to park right next to school gates. Kids not in cars are fair game.


22. Dockless bikes and scooters clutter the streets.

Cars parked everywhere is totes okay.


23. Cyclists don’t have to cycle, it’s a hairshirty, eco-loopy personal choice.

I HAVE to drive everywhere.


24. Cycleways take up too much road space.

Roads should be widened for motorists, and especially today’s wider cars.

25. Cycle parking corrals are a waste of valuable space and, if they are to exist at all, should be hidden away.

A parking spot right outside the cafe/my house/local shop is a God-given right.


26. Cyclists exhibit devious entitlement by demanding safety on the roads.

Motorists never exhibit any form of entitlement ever.


27. Cycling on the sidewalk is a heinous crime.

It’s necessary for motorists to half-wheel sidewalks, where else is there to park?


28. Cyclists should always use the cycleways provided for them at great expense, no matter how badly surfaced or stupidly routed the cycleway might be.

Motorists should have access to every road everywhere, and these roads should be butter smooth.


29. Cyclists should be happy with cycleways that don’t go direct to destinations because they are riding for recreation not transport.

Motorists should be provided with the most direct routes possible because motoring is transport.


30. Cyclists dress funny, they are all Lycra Louts.

Motorists are normal members of society and don’t wear silly clothes.


31. Plans for a short stretch of cycleway should be put out to public consultation and should be blocked if it requires the loss of any car parking spaces whatsoever.

Hugely expensive road projects will cure congestion so should always be nodded through.


32. It’s “accident.”

Never “crash.”


33. Remember, it’s “the cyclist collided with” not “the cyclist was hit by” a car.


34. Driverless cars roam the streets, so it’s “Four injured as car smashes into house” not “Four injured as motorist crashes car into house.”

On the other hand, always mention the mode of transport when it involves a miscreant who happens to have been riding a bicycle. So, it’s “Cyclist strangled cat,” but never “Motorist strangled cat.”


35. Cyclists dangerously weave in and out of traffic.

It’s okay for motorists to switch lanes if there’s a gap in traffic.

36. Cyclists should not ride up the inside of trucks, putting themselves in danger.

It’s okay for truck drivers to overtake cyclists, putting these cyclists on the inside.


37. Cycleways can start and end in the middle of nowhere.

Roads for motorists should be hyper-connected.


38. Cyclists who ride fast are scofflaws.

Motorists may break the speed limit from time to time, but these are arbitrary war-on-the-motorist rules and, anyway, we are just trying to get somewhere in a reasonable length of time, the police should be out there catching real criminals.


39. Cyclists who kill pedestrians deserve jail-time.

Motorists who kill pedestrians didn’t mean to so shouldn’t even be charged, never mind jailed.


40. Any bicyclist in front of a motorist is “in the way” and has to be overtaken swiftly and aggressively.

Any car in front of a motorist is just how it is and it’s fine to wait patiently behind because it’s not like you’re going to get anywhere any faster.


41. Electric cars should be subsidised.

Electric bikes are a luxury, middle class items and should never be subsidised.


42. A motorist’s time is more important than a cyclist’s life.


43. Roads were not built for bicyclists.


44. Cyclists are very angry people, always shaking their fists.

Why do cyclists get so defensive about being nudged from behind by my bumper, cut up on corners or nearly being sideswiped when I shot out of that junction without looking for anything other than other motor vehicles? It’s a total mystery.


45. Cycling is weird. Driving is normal.


* Naturally, Hate Media Inc. doesn’t exist, it’s a fictional representation of those mainstream media outlets that allow columnists and shock jocks to write or say things about cyclists that would never be said about other groups in society. This post was inspired by an earlier “Bingo card” and a Twitter thread.

What can an 80-year-old MoT Report on Accidents to Cyclists tell us about the DfT’s Cycle Safety Review?

Some time soon the government will announce the results of its cycle safety review.  One part of it was unveiled at the weekend – a death by dangerous cycling law may be introduced, even though the risk to pedestrians from cyclists is extremely low, as I discussed on Sky News on Sunday.  This law was called for by Matt Briggs, widower of Kim Briggs who was killed by a cyclist when she stepped across a busy road in London in 2016. (I spoke at length with Matt on Sunday for the Spokesmen podcast.) The cyclist, riding a fixie without brakes, was Charlie Alliston, and he was jailed for 18 months. (His name is now well-known – motorists who kill pedestrians, of which there are more than 400 per year, remain incognito.)

Transport minister Jesse Norman

The “death by dangerous cycling” law generated a great deal of heat and light in the mainstream media, with journalists assuming the law will be brought in soon. However, might it suffer the same fate as a similar proposal made in 1938? Just as today’s transport minister Jesse Norman appointed “independent” legal experts to review the case for a “death by dangerous cycling” law, the 1930s Ministry of Transport tasked outside experts to evaluate similar ideas.

These ideas also generated heat and light at the time, but were not enacted, mainly because preparations for the Second World War took precedence. While Norman has put the “Briggs Law” out for public consultation it may not ever reach the statute books, mostly because of oxygen-stealing Brexit. The law may also be stalled in order to wait for a general road safety review, first promised in 2014.

What follows is speculation, but examining previous efforts can be illuminating. Let’s take a look at the 1930s cycling-specific road safety review. It was started in 1936, just two years after the building of the first Dutch-style protected cycleway, then known as a “cycle track”. The Ministry of Transport published the review’s report two years later. The Report on Accidents to Cyclists has eery parallels to the current cycle safety review – for a start, it suggested the creation of a “careless cycling” law. It also called for the fitting of at least one brake on fixed-wheel cycles.

However, the main recommendation of the Transport Advisory Council’s safety review was that Britain’s cyclists should be provided with continuous, wide, well-surfaced cycle tracks. And use of these tracks, where provided, should be made compulsory. (Up to 500 miles of such Dutch-style cycle tracks were built in the UK between 1934 and 1943 – see below for more details of these, many of which still exist but are hidden-in-plain-sight.)

The Transport Advisory Council was an expert body, founded in 1934, and charged with exploring how to reduce road deaths. The “accidents to cyclists” sub-committee was made up of thirteen members, including five Sirs, three Justices of the Peace, but only one cyclist. This cyclist – Frank Urry of the Cyclists’ Touring Club – lodged a dissenting voice over the provision of cycle tracks.

In the report, he wrote: “I cannot subscribe to the recommendation of extending the building of cycle tracks, or the compulsory use of them by cyclists if and when laid down. The danger of right-hand crossings discounts any presupposed safety obtained by partial traffic segregation; and it has been admitted that where cycle tracks are in being, motoring speeds on the carriageway will increase, to the consequent danger of the cyclists when the cycle track ceases, as it must do on over 95 percent of our highways. Cycle tracks are a palliative at best, and in my opinion a dangerous one.”

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

Nevertheless, the report was accepted by the then Minister of Transport, Leslie Burgin. “The Transport Advisory Council … have now reported and made a number of recommendations,” Burgin told parliament in June 1938.

“Perhaps the most important of these are the building of cycle tracks of a particular type, and, where such tracks are built and are satisfactory, the making of the use of them compulsory.”

Despite the huge effort in compiling the report by the Transport Advisory Council its main recommendations were put on hold until the publication of a report on general road safety carried out by a House of Lords committee led by Lord Alness. The March 1939 Report of the Select Committee of the House of Lords on the Prevention of Road Accidents, generally known as the Alness Report, was heavily biased towards motorists.

“There is much thoughtless conduct amongst cyclists which is responsible for many accidents,” sniffed the report, making 231 recommendations, including that children of ten and under should be banned from public cycling (“children under seven cause 23.9 per cent of the accidents to pedestrians,” claimed the report) and that segregation on the roads should be carried out with utmost urgency.

Cyclists, said the report, should get high-quality wide cycle tracks and that, once built, cyclists should be forced to use them. Pedestrians were also to be corralled and fined for daring to cross the road at points other than designated crossing points. Motorists, decided the pro-motoring Lords, should be treated with a light touch by the law and should be provided with motorways and many more trunk roads. “Courtesy cops”, they suggested, would make sure motorists acted like gentlemen rather than cads.

Then war intervened. The Alness Report – derided by one Labour MP as a “tale of deaths and manglings … and extraordinary conclusions” – was moth-balled. After the war a House of Commons select committee dusted it down and many of the report’s recommendations were taken forward, especially the pro-motoring bits, but, for a while at least, there would be no new “motoring roads” and certainly no provision for cyclists. Post-war austerity killed off putative plans for a national network of cycle tracks.

When, and if, the current government finally releases its road safety review – remember, it was first promised in 2014 – it’s entirely possible that it will contain little to promote cycling, and will almost certainly not truly constrain dangerous motoring. Plus ça change.

If I am wrong, and the “death by dangerous cycling” law is enacted, and sooner than I have predicted here, that would say a lot about the government’s true priorities when it comes to road safety.



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.)



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.


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


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


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

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


CARLTON REID is the Newcastle-based executive editor of, 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.



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.”


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


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.

Go Danish to save lives, urge motoring and cycling organisations

British Cycling, the AA and the RAC Foundation have joined forces to call for the next edition of the Highway Code to have a Danish-style priority rule with motorists giving priority to cyclists at junctions. This “Universal Duty to Give Way” rule has been operational in Nordic countries since the 1930s. In the UK the need for drivers to give priority to pedestrians and cyclists at junctions is currently spread over several rules, often with slightly different wording and emphasis. The cycling and motoring organisations want to see a universal rule implemented in the next edition of the Highway Code followed up later with a change to primary legislation. The rule would be: “When turning at a junction give way to people walking, cycling or driving who are going straight ahead.”

A “Universal Duty to Give Way” rule in the UK would save lives because drivers would be obliged to slow down and check for cyclists and pedestrians prior to turning at almost every priority and signalised junction. (And cyclists would have to follow the same rule, giving pedestrians priority.)

As in Denmark, it would become habitual to always check for pedestrians and cyclists before turning. This would involve a cultural change, but such changes have taken place before. For instance, when pelican crossings were introduced in the UK in the 1970s, pedestrians and motorists didn’t know what to do when they saw them so the Central Office of Information had to run an extensive information campaign, including this funny film starring the Dad’s Army characters.

Research by transport consultancy Phil Jones Associates suggests that implementing the new rule could create an estimated 15 percent to 40 percent increase in signalised junction efficiency, reduce congestion and – thanks to the encouragement of more walking and cycling – improve air quality.

AA president Edmund King endorsed the idea: “It would be beneficial for all road users if the Highway Code simplified the rules at junctions where a disproportionate amount of injury crashes occur.”

The AA has been urging motorists to “think bikes” for some time …

The suggestion of a new universal rule was also welcomed by RAC Foundation director Steve Gooding: “As pedestrians, cyclists, motorcyclists and motorists we all need to recognise that the road is a shared space which works best when we all respect each other. The clearer we can make the rules of the road the easier it is for us all to see what’s expected of us and to comply. The rules also need to be complemented with the right streetscape engineering, with markings, surfaces and road geometry all telling us the same story.”

Gooding’s endorsement is doubly significant because he was previously the Director General for Roads-Traffic-Local at the Department for Transport.

However, not all motoring organisations are in favour of the rule change. Duncan Buchanan, deputy policy director of the Road Haulage Association, told the BBC that the rule change would introduce confusion: “This rule, while superficially appearing simple, in fact makes it much more complicated – it means that you become responsible as the motorist for someone overtaking you on the inside when they have full visibility of what you’re doing.”

Former cycling champion and British Cycling’s policy adviser Chris Boardman said the change would “reinforce good behaviour.” The idea for the rule change came after Boardman and British Cycling officials took the then transport minister Robert Goodwill cycling in Copenhagen.

Boardman added: ”It would create a duty of care for everybody. At the moment no-one’s quite sure what the rules are. This change would compel people to treat others as human beings and not obstacles.”

Boardman’s mother was killed while cycling in July after she was hit by pick-up vehicle in north Wales.

British Cycling has started a petition supporting the rule change and the organisation’s “Turning the Corner” report is also online.

Cycleways will have “adverse effect on a charity which supports endangered wildlife”

Actor Tom Conti isn’t a happy bunny. He’s also about as knowledgeable as a cute and furry woodland creature on who and what actually pays for roads but let’s hop over that and take a look at his other claims. He believes – like many others on this new petition to stop a Super Cyclehighway in London – that cycleways cause pollution. Getting people on bikes and out of cars will somehow lead to more noxious fumes? OK, he and they mean because of idling engines but that rather ignores the fact that London, like many cities, has long had roads filled with motor vehicles going nowhere fast.

This plan is imbecilic! It will cause frustration and a massive increase in pollution. Cyclists will not stay in the lanes; they never do. They also all travel at different speeds so trying to contain them in lanes will cause huge danger to them … This is a plan to be paid for with money largely from drivers of motor vehicles for the use of those who contribute nothing. The increase of cyclists, because they slow down traffic, causes greater pollution and danger to their own lives … Has the financial loss in parking and congestion charges been calculated, not to mention Londoners abandoning cars altogether thus depriving the chancellor of road tax, insurance tax and huge fuel taxes?
Tom Conti

The petition throws up (in perhaps more ways than one) a whole load of other common “bikelash” themes, although the comment from Roberta Perlman is a new one on me – she said it’s best not to have cycling infrastructure because cycleways upset motorists: “Happy motorists mean safer cycling”, she claimed.

But what’s especially interesting about this particular and perhaps peculiar petition is the fact people seem to be using their real names. These aren’t anonymous rants by online trolls – even the high and mighty are putting their names to the thing. Sir Maurice and Lady Irene Hatter certainly love their exclamation marks.

It is just too ridiculous for words!!!! And nobody thought this through!!!!!!
Sir Maurice & Lady Irene Hatter, London

“I am fed up with these nonsensical proposals; where does Andrew Gilligan live? Why don’t these interfering people leave well alone and consider the needs of the elderly, the infirm and, in general, the population who are not interested in being part of some bicycle ‘utopia’.”
Maxine Libson, London

“This entire scheme is a disgrace environmentely and will be a terrible hazard, health wise, to both young and old. – gas fumes, gas fumes and more gas fumes. I would also like to remind Boris Johnson that we live in London and not Amsterdam and that we have roads, broken down ones but still roads and not canals.”
Wendy Lipton, London.

“This scheme will force motorists onto alternative routes creating snarl-ups in areas poorly equipped to deal with them. Cyclists need to SHARE the road not steal it from motorists.”
Cynthia Kapelus, London

I am livid that these plans do not take into consideration the realities for local people who cannot use cycle routes and rely on automobile transport.
Debra Blair, London

“The plans are total nonsense … The area concerned is a community – this will break it up. Air pollution will worsen as cars ait in tradfic queues and this will badly affect walkers, cyclists and particularly babies in children in buggies, where they sit or lie low down, close to the vehicles as they sit in long queues.”
Vivien Lewis, London

Whoever is authorising and rubber stamping these schemes sure,y has no idea, or has their head in the clouds, to the total carnage they are causing to our roads.
Brad Taylor, South Ockendon

“The air on Prince Albert road is already polluted above legal limit and we cannot open our windows. This scheme would grid-lock the traffic and create a toxic environment.”
Giulia Filippelli, London

My children live in north London – my husband has a disabled badge and I feel that far too much of London is being given over to cyclists. The idea that an ageing population is going to take to their Bikes is ludicrous. Many cycle lanes are quite sparsely used. There are other groups of people who’s needs are being bulldozed by these crazy schemes. The face of London has been much changed in the last 10 years by cycle lanes. The traffic is Far, Far Worse.
Lorraine Esdaile

“This is a punishment for children and old people who live in the area and brithe this very polluted air.”
Victor Loewy, London

London is an amazing city – why try to ruin it with thoughtless, wasteful, selfish schemes that punish the many and benefit very few. I hope that, for once, common sense prevails.
Georgina Isaacs, London

“Too many cyclists already causing congestion on the roads.”
Grace Frankel, London

Who is paying vehicle excise duty to go on a road – drivers or cyclists ? If cyclists wish to use the same roads then they should pay duty as well.
Julian Jakobi, London

“… Cyclists should not be treated preferentially but fairly with other road users.This is not fair as cyclists do not pay vehicle excise tax and so car drivers pay to drive but are banned from driving on roads which cyclists who have paid nothing can ride on for free.That is inequitable.”
Julian Jakobi, London (again!)

I believe that cyclists, who have a right to safe and pleasurable cycling, will not benefit from a scheme that causes motorists to be frustrated and delayed. On the contrary: they could be at greater risk. Happy motorists mean safer cycling.
Roberta Perlman, London

“I think the congestion caused … will be detrimental to my children’s health.”
Tamara Craig, London

It is totally ridiculous … I will be unable to get any where … we will become prisoners in our own homes
Tracy Grabiner, London

“This would appear completely unfit for purpose causing harm to residents, tourists, visitors, elderly & young witout any thought whatsoever.”
John Libson, London

why do cyclists seem to have a divine right what about the tax paying motorist which clever local councillor/politician thought this one up.
John Lawson, London

“My sons school is around there and it’s a lovely leafy part of London and should not be changed.”
Paula Morris, London

I am totally opposed to this proposal
Zilda Collins, Boca Raton, FL. Yes, Florida!

“The transformation of the Outer Circle into a ‘cycle superhighway’ is an appalling idea which will forever change the benign and bucolic atmosphere of Regents Park. In recent years, there has been a marked increase in the numbers of faux-Chris Hoys and faux-Bradley Wiggins using that stretch of roadway as a race track, some reaching speeds of 30mph and beyond, overtaking cars, while giving no leeway to pedestrians and dog walkers attempting to cross the road. Many shoot the traffic lights on red. There is absolutely no doubt that if the Outer Circle is designated as a cycle superhighway, it will be a magnet for aggressive, speeding cyclists and the pedestrian will be at far greater risk than from motorists, who generally appear to be law abiding and keeping within the speed limit. The ‘cycle superhighway’ will, as TFL knows, create huge traffic congestion in the heart of the West End of London — already virtually at a standstill — and is indicative of a politically-driven agenda by TFL, the Mayor of London and the London Assembly, to rid London of the car and force its citizens onto public transport and the bicycle.”
Miles Tim, London

cyclists can be dangerous to car drivers
Zara Ruth Glatman, London

“… The proposal will make it impossible for people to visit London Zoo with families as it is awkward to get to by public transport anyway. This will have an adverse effect on an excellent charity which supports endangered wildlife throughout the world … I urge you to reconsider the proposal which is an unreasonable preference for cycle users who make no contribution to road maintenance as they pay no road tax and do not purchase petrol.”
Tamara Rabin, London

Roads are not just about movement says London’s Transport Commissioner

London’s transport commissioner Mike Brown said last night that roads were not just for cars but for people, too. Roads have “place” and “movement” functions, he said. Pointedly, and in his first major pronouncement on cycling since becoming commissioner last year, he also had a strong message for those individuals and groups who wish to see fewer people on bikes, not more.

“I am a huge defender of our Cycle Superhighways,” he told an assembled audience of the great and good in transport and design. Prominent developers were in the audience as were leading architects and important people from the City. And just so none of those present could be in any doubt about his strength of commitment to “our” cycling infrastructure he stressed that those opposed to providing more protection for cyclists in London were “wrong”.

“Although [the Cycle Superhighways] may reduce some road space for motorised vehicles I have to tell you, to avoid a single death or serious injury for cyclists makes all that investment worthwhile,” said commissioner Brown.

“Those who are critical of it, I have to tell you, I think you’re wrong.”

A long stretch of Cycle Superhighway at Blackfriars  is already open for business
A long stretch of Cycle Superhighway at Blackfriars is already open for business

To perhaps the consternation of some, he added: “Cycling will continue to grow.”

Brown was giving the keynote speech at the opening of Streets Ahead, a month-long exhibition on the future of London’s roads staged by New London Architecture, an influential think-forum and research organisation. The exhibition is being held in NLA’s posh London HQ. Last night was the preview evening; Brown joked that nobody should mention anything about the exhibition until it was officially opened by Boris Johnson this weekend. At least I hope it was a joke because I tweeted madly from the event, spurning the Italian wine and beer.


I tweeted some pix, and below I’ve embedded a whole load more. As you can see, cycling plays a prominent role in the exhibition which comes as no surprise really as the chair of New London Architecture is architectural writer Peter Murray, a not-at-all-secret cyclist. (At a meeting we both attended at the Department for Transport the day before the Streets Ahead opening I learned that Murray had done what I did at the Velocity conference in Nantes last year, and that’s count the number of active-travel proponents riding on the expo’s escalators rather than bounding up.)

Peter Murray (left), Mike Brown and Ashok Sinha.
Peter Murray (left), Mike Brown and Ashok Sinha.

Ashok Sinha, chief executive of the London Cycling Campaign, told me it was “massively heartening” to hear commissioner Brown be so positive about the future of cycling in London.

“We have a crunch coming,” said Sinha. “There’s predicted to be a huge growth London’s population, and cycling is one of the ways we’ll be able to keep this city moving. The new infrastructure isn’t just about safety, it’s about planning our city for the future.”

Cycling is prominently featured at Streets Ahead
Cycling is prominently featured at Streets Ahead
The NLA's HQ has a permanent 1:2000 scale model of London. The model is 12.5 metres-long and represents 85 square kilometres of London
The NLA’s HQ has a permanent 1:2000 scale model of London. The model is 12.5 metres-long and represents 85 square kilometres of London
The 1960s Buchanan Report warned of the dangers of mass motorisation ...
The 1960s Buchanan Report warned of the dangers of mass motorisation …
Bridges to somewhere
Bridges to somewhere
Infra innovation
Infra innovation
Walthamstow's "mini Holland" is featured in Streets Ahead
Walthamstow’s “mini Holland” is featured in Streets Ahead
Minority? What minority?
Minority? What minority?
London is expanding fast
London is expanding fast
Road definitions
“Street types”
Street types matrix
Street types matrix


Thanks to Peter Murray for introducing me to Mike Brown – I was introduced as the author of Roads Were Not Built For Cars, the predecessor to Bike Boom. When Brown said he was interested in the history of London’s roads (which also features as part of Streets Ahead) I gave him a copy of the book which he asked me to sign. I have no idea whether commissioner Brown is a cyclist so instead of writing “Keep pedalling” as I often do when signing books, I wrote “Keep rolling”, which covers most transport modes.


Streets Ahead: The future of London’s roads
Thursday 28 January – Wednesday 24 February 2016

As part of Streets Ahead NLA is staging lunchtime soapbox talks every Friday in February. The discussion on 12th February is on the future of cycling.

Who was campaigning for separated cycleways in the 1970s?

Dutch people, of course, but also plenty of Brits. In fact, the British bicycle industry had a ten year long PR campaign that had separation-from-motor-traffic right at the top of its shopping list. Most folks have forgotten about this now, and it’s assumed – and too often written – that there was no real push for separated cycling infrastructure in Britain until sometime after 2006.

Below are some newspaper cuttings and extracts from a couple of mid-1970s leaflets from the British Cycling Bureau, a PR outfit paid for by the Bicycle Association of Great Britain, and which successfully plugged cycling in the mass media of the day.

What the BCB didn’t get were the separated cycleways it pushed for most of all. Why? Motor-centrism. The only successful insertion of cycling in the 1978 Transport Bill was a lonely mention of bicycle parking. I’ll be discussing this and much more at a talk for the Oxford cycle campaign tonight. I’m digging up lots of these nuggets, many of which will make it into my Bike Boom book, due out next year.

Cycling and the Environment, British Cycling Bureau, 1977

Cycling and Traffic, British Cycling Bureau, 1977

Special byways for cyclists to segregate them from motor vehicles, Daily Telegraph, 1974

National Plan For Cycling, British Cycling Bureau, mid-1970s

I’ve been pushing for protected cycleways since at least 1993

Bike Boom is a history book about cycling, and I’m a bit of an antique myself. I’ve been a bike journalist since 1986. My first article appeared in Bicycle Times, a nationally-available British magazine – it was an article on cycle touring in Turkey (I had just returned to the UK from a two-year tour of the Middle East). I was gobsmacked at getting paid to write about what I loved. I remain gobsmacked. The Turkey piece was followed by a monthly column on mountain biking, billed by editor/publisher Peter Lumley as “Off-Road Reid”. I used this column as a publicity platform to create the British Mountain Bike Team, which took part in the first ever MTB world championships.

MTB history

As I was the co-manager of this team (the other manager was Peter Darke who still runs his eponymously-named bike shop in Sunderland) I naturally picked myself as a team rider. I was relatively fast in those days (in the race I DNF’ed because of a puncture) and that was because I was riding thirty miles a day on the roads of Tyneside, to and from my studies at Newcastle University. I might have been a cycle tourist and then a mountain bike racer but first and foremost I was a transportation cyclist.

After university – where I read religious studies – I started a publishing business. By 1992 I was employing five people and gained the contract to produce Cycle Industry, an upstart trade magazine from the then publishers of Mountain Biking UK. As well as writing I was also dabbling in TV presenting at this time. I was terrible but I somehow managed to front Chain Gang, a six-episode magazine programme for TyneTees-Yorkshire – this is a publicity still from the series:

skeleton, 1994

This was some seven years before my business was jettisoned from Cycle Industry and I was forced to create Bicycle Business, which I later sold and is now the very successful BikeBiz. Cycle Industry is no more but it’s interesting – for me, at least – to see what I was writing about cycling infrastructure back in the early 1990s. I was very much in favour, as can be seen by these clippings – although I now prefer the word cycleways to cycle paths.

Cycle Industry November 1993

Cycle Industry November 1993

Cycle Industry November 1993

Cycle Industry November 1993

indie1997bAs well as having the contract to produce Cycle Industry I also created, in 1997, a consumer magazine, On Your Bike. This was a short-lived family cycling magazine. Within seven issues it had grown too big for me and my small team to handle, so I sold it. I sold it to EMAP of Peterborough, the publisher of Country Walking and a load of fishing titles. They turned into a mountain bike magazine. Dumb.

Anyway, to promote the mag I also wrote articles for newspapers and sometimes also sent in letters. Here’s one that was published in The Independent in 1997.

I wrote that “enthusiast cyclists are happy to mix with motorised traffic” but that “non-enthusiasts don’t want to be anywhere near cars, lorries and buses. Many thousands of new cyclists will be created when Sustrans and their local authority partners lay down the kind of segregated cycle routes – through car-free city centres, for instance – common on the Continent. This is not ghettoisation, it is a realisation that cycle use will not grow unless truly safe routes for cyclists are provided.”

On Your Bike magazine, issue 2, Spring 1998

It’s apparent that I continued writing about cycling infrastructure, and I also commissioned articles about it. I even employed an in-house Dutch journalist, Kirsten Oosterhof.

Going Dutch p1 OYB3

Going Dutch p2 OYB3

I’ve been banging on about the benefits of “going Dutch” for an awfully long time.

Biketown – Davis, California

Davis California 82

Last week I visited Davis, California, a small campus town famous for its high cycle usage. Flat, warm, and with oodles of cycle infrastructure, much of it more than 40 years old, Davis sticks out like a sore thumb when compared to nearby towns and cities which tend to be car-dependent. In Bike Boom I’ll discuss the reasons for the high cycling modal share in Davis (the US census says it’s 20 percent and is falling, but the census doesn’t include journeys done by students …), but here, for now, are a few photos from my research trip. The one above shows that drivers have to be very aware of cyclists even away from campus, because they’re everywhere.

I drove to Davis and then hired a bike. It was very noticeable that motorists in town drove slowly and carefully. The town has some wonderful separated cycle infrastructure – including the Davis Bike Loop – but most of those dotting around on bicycles seemed perfectly fine with mixing it with the slow, careful motorists (many of whom may also dot around on bicycles once they’re parked up). Most, that is, except this helmet-clad BMXer who rode for some distance on the sidewalk while a woman on a town bike, without a helmet, stuck to the road.

Davis California 22

Riding without a helmet seems to be the norm in Davis, as is the case in the Netherlands. Where cycling is normal and ordinary – and perceived to be safe – few choose to wear personal protective equipment. Skateboarders getting propelled don’t wear helmets, either.

Davis California 8

Davis California 11

Davis California 10

Some of the cycle infrastructure dates to the 1960s. This particular tunnel beside a busy road out of town was constructed in 1978:

Davis California 34

The Putah Creek underpass was constructed in 2000:

Davis California 48

Well-constructed cycle infrastructure isn’t just great for cyclists:

Davis California 45

In Davis, even the drive-in fast-food joints warn about the presence of cyclists:

Davis California 38

The last shot reminds me of the famous Lewis Mumford quote: “Forget the damned motor car and build the cities for lovers and friends.”

Davis California 71

Women have been at the cutting edge of cycle advocacy since 1971

In Roads Were Not Built For Cars I had to sheepishly admit that the major characters in my book were all men – women played little part in the cycle advocacy movements of the 1890s. In the sequel (Bike Boom is on Kickstarter until mid-March) I can happily report there will be many women featured. In fact, women are now at the forefront of cycle advocacy; women such as Claire Prospert and Katja Leyendecker of Newcycling in Newcastle, Lizzie Reather, former chair of Leeds Cycling Campaign, Rosie Downes, campaigns manager for London Cycling Campaign, Dr. Rachel Aldred, the go-to academic on cycling, and Sally Hinchcliffe of Cycling Dumfries and the Cycling Embassy of GB.

And heading up Delivery Planning at Transport for London is Lilli Matson. She is responsible for the strategic planning and development of surface modes of transport including cycling. Formerly a member of the Government’s Commission for Integrated Transport she has also run her own transport consultancy and prior to that was in charge of transport policy at the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England. Also at Transport for London is Sarah Burr, the senior strategy and planning manager for Surface Transport – she’s in charge of TfL’s Cycling Strategy and worked on the £914 million Mayor’s Cycling Vision for London.

However, in this posting I’d like to focus on five cycle advocates from North America, two well-known, three far less well-known. I’ll be fleshing out their biographies in Bike Boom but here’s some bare bones to be getting on with.

Portland, Oregon, didn’t become one of America’s top cycling cities by accident. Much of Portland’s bicycle culture grew up thanks to the inspiration, hard work and cajoling of Mia Birk. She was Portland’s Bicycle Program Manager from 1993 to 1999. She is now President of bicycle-friendly Alta Planning + Design of Portland, leading a huge team of planners and engineers.

“I fell in love with bicycling in 1990 while attending graduate school in Washington DC. Having grown up in suburban Dallas Texas, I was used to driving everywhere. Informed that there was no parking available near school, I borrowed my brother’s 10-speed Schwinn. Within a few weeks, I was in the best shape of my life. At the same time, I began researching transportation issues around the world and quickly saw that most successful cities plan well and invest in smart growth, complete streets, transit, and bicycling and walking infrastructure and incentives. I decided to focus my career on transforming communities into ones in which walking and bicycling are safe, normal, healthy and fun daily activities.”

Writers Eugene Sloan and Richard Ballantine famously plugged into the popularity of bicycling that erupted seemingly out of nowhere in 1970, and they helped cycling in the US and the UK to become even more popular. Less credit is usually given to women bicycle advocates yet figures such as Claire Morissette of Montreal were highly influential. Morissette was also influential globally, and her “cyclodrama” ideas – such as die-ins and other stunts to goad transportation officials and grab media attention, first used in Montreal in the 1970s – are still popular today.

Morissette was one of the co-founders of La Monde à Bicyclette. Bicycle access to the metro and the cycling link between Île Notre-Dame and the South Shore were campaign aims of MAB, campaign aims which were achieved. Montreal now has 600kms of cycle lanes, another achievement of Morissette and MAB.

Morissette wanted people out of cars, but also wanted fewer cars on the road, something she aimed to achieve by founding Montreal’s car-sharing program Communauto. This was formed decades before other cities went down the same route. The Claire-Morissette bike path in Montreal was named for her in 2008 – this is a protected cycle lane in the CBD.

New York may not be Amsterdam yet but it’s the poster child for how a major world city can instal people-friendly infrastructure at low cost, quickly and radically. Sadik-Khan was the commissioner of the New York City Department of Transportation from 2007 to 2013. A decade before her appointment she had worked on New York City’s Bicycle Master Plan. In her first year as commissioner NYC’s bike lanes tripled in length to 63 miles and in the following five years an additional 254 miles of bike lanes were painted. She was also in charge of installing a parking-protected bike lane on 9th Avenue, the first since Mayor Koch had ripped out his short-lived kerb-protected lanes in the 1980s.

Sadik-Kahn is now Chair of the Strategic Advisory Board of the National Association of City Transportation Officials.

“We brought [a] quick-acting approach to our cycling program, and in six years turned cycling into a real transportation option in New York. I think it’s fair to say it used to be a fairly scary place to ride a bike, and now New York has become one of the cycling capitals in the United States.

“We protected bikers by floating parking lanes, and it’s been great. Bike volumes have spiked. Injuries to all users, pedestrians, cyclists, drivers, are all down 50 percent. And we’ve built 30 miles of these protected bike lanes, and now you’re seeing them pop up all over the country.

“Not everybody liked the new bike lanes … One Brooklyn paper called [a] bike lane that we have on Prospect Park West ‘the most contested piece of land outside of the Gaza Strip.’

[But] if you dig below the headlines, though, you’ll see that the people were far ahead of the press, far ahead of the politicians.

“Nothing gets 100 percent support in any city. You’re not looking for unanimous approval, otherwise you wouldn’t build a thing—8.4 million New Yorkers, 8.4 million points of view, and everybody considers himself a traffic engineer. It is a matter of negotiation and we do tailor our projects to meet the local needs of the communities, but there’s never going to be 100 percent buy-in.

“If you want a street that’s safer to walk on, safer to drive on, safer to live with and play on, build a bike lane. And I think that cities across the country are getting that, and I think the city of New York got it long ago. I really do think the people are ahead of the politicians when it comes to their streets.”

The American Complete Streets movement was suggested in 2003 by Barbara McCann, then working for America Bikes, a coalition of bicycle advocacy groups, including the League of American Bicyclists. Complete Streets quickly became about much more than bicycles. The National Complete Streets Coalition, founded in 2005, was led by America Bikes and roped in a number of influential and mainstream non-cycling organisations.⁠ McCann became Executive Director, before moving in January 2014 to become a Director at the US Department of Transportation.⁠

Ellen Fletcher

Born in Germany to Jewish parents and evacuated to England on Kindertransport in 1938 Ellen Fletcher emigrated to America in 1946 and settled in what would become Silicon Valley, California. In Palo Alto in 1971 she became a vocal bicycle advocate after seeing the danger her son faced when travelling to school. She died in 2013, ten years after a Palo Alto road had been named in her honour – the Bryant Street Bicycle Boulevard became the Ellen Fletcher Bicycle Boulevard. Between 1977 and 1989 Fletcher was a Palo Alto City Council member, and rode to all meetings.

Ellen Fletcher's bike

“I was born in Berlin, Germany, in 1928 and was sent to England 10 years later. I don’t remember seeing anyone ride a bicycle in Berlin, but almost everyone, or so it seemed, rode a bicycle in England.

“So I started riding, too. As I grew up I enjoyed riding my bike so much I took many pleasure rides, as well as the regular rides for various errands.

“I moved to New York City in 1946 at the age of 17. The extreme crowding on public transit soon enticed me back on a bike, a rarity in the City in those days. I was the only one using the bike racks at Hunter College “uptown” in the Bronx all year round.

“Moving to the California suburbs in 1958 with a baby, I thought my biking days were over. But it wasn’t long before I was again back on the bike, at least for short trips. But those short trips expanded greatly, partly for ideological reasons during the Arab oil boycott.

“When my son entered elementary school here in Palo Alto I volunteered to be “Safety Chair” for the PTA. That got me started in bicycle advocacy. Bike lanes, under and over crossings at major obstacles, bikes on trains and buses and the Nation’s first bicycle boulevard.

“At one point when the City Council balked at adopting some bike improvement policies in its General Plan, I decided to run for a seat on the City Council myself and served on the Council for twelve years, from 1977 to 1989.”


There will be many more women cycle advocates featured in the book.

Photo credits: Richard Masoner


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DfT poster: “You can never give a bike too much room”

In 1985, the Department of Transport (when it was still “of” and not “for”, and long after it had been the Ministry of Transport) erected a poster in London with a real elongated bicycle, telling passing motorists that “You can never give a bike too much room.”

But as is clear from this piece on BBC1’s John Craven’s Newsround, the rest of the campaign was filled with standard fare, much of it victim blaming: “If you’re going to use the road, use your eyes” and “Dead. Obvious.”

Try and ignore the fact reporter Roger Finn said 100 cyclists were killed each day (he should have said about 100+ were killed each year) and listen to what Tim [Feeby?] of London Cycling Campaign said:

“We need cycle lanes on main roads, crossing of the major roads, and [the Department of Transport] has to stop building massive motorways in urban areas which will make conditions worse for everybody, not just cyclists.”


Hat-tip. @nuttyalexander


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