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.

UK government 1946: “Segregation should be the key-note of modern road design”


Long before Buchanan’s Traffic in Towns of 1963 (which dismissed cycling as a transport mode in decline and therefore unworthy of design considerations) there was an official Government style-guide: Design & Layout of Roads in Built-up Areas. This was issued by the Ministry of War Transport in 1946, and coloured transport thinking for a number of years.

This document recommended segregated provision for the growing number of cyclists, worrying that “conditions obtaining in early post-war years will tend still further to popularize the cycling habit.” The team led by Sir Frederick C. Cook believed there was a strong case for the “necessity of making ample road provision for pedal cyclists.” This ample, segregated road provision for cyclists never got built (and it wasn’t the fault of cycling organisations).

“Objections to cycle tracks have been stimulated by the indifferent surfaces with which some of the early tracks were laid,” admitted Cook’s report, and this didn’t allow for an uninterrupted ride, a design flaw that had to be remedied. “The profile of tracks should be unbroken across intersecting vehicular entrances, and they should approach side roads with an easy ramp,” advised the report, and – predicting the green cycle tracks still far off in the future – the report also suggested that “the surface is best formed by materials of pleasingly distinctive colour.”

The report said that: “Segregation … should be the key-note of modern road design … Police supervision would be necessary to ensure that … cycle ways are not used by other classes of traffic or otherwise abused” and such “segregated tracks for cyclists” should be provided “as a matter of course on arterial, through- and local-through routes …”


In 1946 the UK government knew that the Netherlands had been building separated cycleways for half a century, and had even built this giant two-level roundabout in Utrecht from 1941 to 1944, above. The “Berekuil” – or bear pit – junction had been designed in 1936, and is still in use today, although it has been modified over the years. This is the sort of infrastructure that, in the same period, the British government said would be too difficult and too expensive to build for cyclists in England.


However, a grade-separated roundabout to aid motorists, and supposedly protect pedestrians, was built in 1939 on the A22 Caterham by-pass – the Wapses Lodge roundabout was way ahead of its time, and quite the eyesore today so it must have looked incredibly alien in 1939. Pedestrians rarely use the underpasses. (At the beginnings of the 1960s a number of similar grade-separated roundabouts for pedestrians and cyclists were built in Stevenage – they were modelled on the Berekuil.)


Design & Layout of Roads in Built-up Areas proposed that this arterial to be built in Birmingham should have separated cycleways running alongside it. The arterial got built; the cycleways didn’t. Again, I have to stress it was not the opposition of CTC and the forerunner to the British Cycling Federation which scuppered these cycleway plans. Separation by mode was also the desired wish of all of the UK’s motoring organisations, a number of parliamentary committees and the fifty or so members of the British Road Federation.


Design & Layout of Roads in Built-up Areas also included technical drawings showing how cycleways should be carried around roundabouts, offering protection all the way around. Such roundabouts are only now being installed in the US and the UK, but have been common in the Netherlands for many years.

Design & Layout of Roads in Built-up Areas was a fleshed-out version of various Memorandums issued by the Ministry of Transport; the first had been issued in 1930 followed by a revised edition in 1937 and the further revised Memorandum No. 575 of 1943. This called for “Cycle tracks, footpaths, and suitable crossings for pedestrians” beside and on the new “arterial” roads and bypasses then being constructed. Subsequent official memoranda recommended that “dual carriageways” should be 120 feet wide, allowing for three 10-foot motor traffic lanes, as well as 9-foot cycle tracks.

The illustration below is of a model from the Road Architecture Exhibition organised by the Royal Institute of British Architects at its 66 Portland Place HQ in London. Note the mention of cycle tracks.

RoadArchitecExhibitionRIofBritArch66PortlandPlIllustrated Sporting and Dramatic News10March1939

In 1948, the Ministry of Transport produced large models of how it proposed the roads of the future would look, and displayed them for lawmakers in the Houses of Parliament. One of these models featured an “all-purpose road” with a roundabout junction with three flyover bridges – two were to carry motor traffic; the third – in the middle – was for pedestrians and cyclists to enable “the free and safe passage of motor traffic.” When such roads were built in the 1950s the model was ignored for reasons of cost, with the infrastructure for the cyclists and the pedestrians omitted.


At a meeting of the Town Planning Institute on 5th May 1949 at the Institution of Civil Engineers in London, E.B. Hugh-Jones, who soon thereafter became the Chief Road Engineer at the Ministry of Transport, “described the most recent designs approved by the Ministry for future road construction.” This included providing a “track 10 feet wide for pedestrians … and cyclists. It would be highly advantageous to segregate these forms of traffic from fast motor traffic but the surface of such a track should be equal to that of the carriageway in surface.”

How the Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute was formed from a 1970s-era cycle advocacy organization


It is often assumed that the main cycle-helmet information source must have been started by a cabal of money-grubbing helmet manufacturers in cahoots with automobile interests aiming to make cycling look dangerous.[1] In fact, the Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute of America was born from a cycle-advocacy organization that, from its foundation in 1972, lobbied for separated cycleways. Today, those in favor of cycleways are often opposed to cycle helmets, citing that in countries where cycling is common helmets are not.[2]

The BHSI was founded in December 1988, but its roots go back to 1974 when the then two-year old Washington Area Bicyclist Association collected bicycle helmets from nine brands, and set out to test them.[3] Randy Swart, a former State Department economist, approached the Snell Memorial Foundation to arrange a comparative test, but the helmet-testing organization declined (at the time it tested only motorsports helmets).[4] WABA’s helmet committee approached Snell again in 1979, and the outcome was WABA’s Bicycle Helmet Wearability Study which tested and rated eleven helmets. “Without one, you are always in danger,” wrote Swart in the helmet committee’s first communication, “with one, you stand a good chance of surviving even a bad crash.”[5]

In June 1980, 22-year-old Washington bicycle messenger Mary Gaffney was killed by a truck.[6] While the BHSI website acknowledges that cycle helmets offer little protection in a crash with a truck, Swart echoed the DC Coroner’s belief that Gaffney’s death “might have been prevented by a safe helmet.”[7] The WABA’s board created the Mary Gaffney Memorial Fund “which would solicit donations to be used to promote helmet use.” The Fund paid for the helmets used in a 1981 helmet comparison carried out by Swart and WABA’s Tom Balderston, a cyclist and motorcyclist. Balderston convinced Snell that the quality of cycle helmets had advanced enough for them to warrant cycle-helmet-specific tests.

Helmet manufacturers were not keen on WABA’s helmet committee efforts. “Some of the manufacturers got worried when they heard what Swart and Balderston were doing, and tried to scare them off,” claims a WABA history.[8] Swart recalls: “Skid Lid sent us a page and a half of obscure references thinking they could bury us. But Tom went to the Library of Congress and looked up everything, while I called a professor in Sweden, and we found out they were just blowing smoke.”[9]

Balderston wrote up the results of the study for Bicycling magazine but, according to the WABA history, the “publication date for the article kept slipping, possibly because some of the manufacturers threatened to sue.” Swart informed Bicycling that WABA’s lawyers wanted to see the communications from the manufacturers. The study was eventually published in 1983, and thanks to a PR push by WABA the Bicycling article “generated a great deal of interest in the media,” said Swart. “It was reviewed in *USA Today* … and on several television and radio programs.”[10]

Snell urged WABA to join the helmets committee of the American National Standards Institute. According to Swart this had “already drafted a bicycle helmet standard, but it was bottled up by members who were manufacturers of helmets that did not meet the standard.” A bicycle helmet standard was adopted in 1984, and Swart started to travel the country telling “bicycle rallies about the importance of bicycle helmets …” He figured that if he “could convince the serious bicyclists who attended these rallies, others would follow their lead.” WABA also paid for the production and dissemination of brochures promoting helmet use.[11]

In 1987, WABA president Bill Silverman embarked on a campaign to compel advertisers who used bicycling themes to show riders wearing helmets. He wrote to advertising associations, syndicated newspaper columnists, national magazines, and Fortune 500 firms such as Chrysler, Stanley Tools, Sears, and MCI.[12]

WABA’s helmet committee became the Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute in 1988. Swart is still the BHSI’s lead volunteer. The BHSI’s much-visited web site – helmets.org – went online in 1995, and despite its antediluvian design is still the main go-to source for cycle-helmet information or, as some opposing advocates would have it, cycle-helmet propaganda. The helmet issue is one that can divide cyclists almost like no other. Pro-helmet campaigners say the wearing of cycle helmets saves lives.[13] Opponents say the promotion of helmets makes cycling – which is statistically safe – look dangerous, and therefore less appealing, especially to would-be cyclists.

The BHSI is still part of the cycleways-lobbying Washington Area Bicyclist Association, although it is not supported by members’ subscriptions (BHSI is run on a shoestring budget funded by consumer donations). In a 2013 blog-posting WABA president Jim Titus appeared to diverge from some of BHSI’s positions.[14] In particular Titus wanted the federal government to withdraw its long-standing claim that bicycle helmets prevent 85 percent of head injuries.[15] This statistic – pointedly called “bad information” by Titus – is from a 1989 Seattle study, and is frequently wheeled out by pro-helmet campaigners.[16] Titus said:

Efforts to replicate … results during the 1990s confirmed that helmets reduce injuries, but not nearly as much as the Seattle study suggested. Yet public health advocates, government web sites, and the news media have continued to repeat the 85% factoid to the point that it has become a mantra. Bad information can cause problems … If people think that helmets stop almost all head injuries, consumers will not demand better helmets, and legislators may think it makes sense to require everyone to wear one.

In response to WABA’s petition the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Centers for Disease Control dropped the eighty-five percent claim. Swart continues to claim that the 1989 study was a “landmark” one, and despite its many critics, he believes it and another from the same researchers with a lower estimate to be “still valid” and “based on field experience.”[17]



[1] The main “anti-helmet” source is the Bicycle Helmet Research Foundation.
[2] The “helmet issue” is a charged one. Many pro-helmet cycle advocates – such as those in WABA – lobby for safer helmets, but argue against compulsion.
[3] The cycle helmet brands were American Safety, MSR, Bell, Cooper, Nestor, Johnson, Protec, Safetec, and Shoei.
[4] Swart went headfirst through a taxi’s front windscreen while cycling in Washington, D.C. He was wearing a helmet at the time, and this crash convinced him that even further than helmets were necessary when cycling.
[5] The WABA Helmet Update, WABA Helmet Committee, Vol. 1, No. 1 – May, 1983.
[6] http://www.ahalenia.com/memorial/mgaffney.html
[7] “While we would all like to believe that a helmet could save a cyclist run over squarely by the wheel of a car, truck or bus, that is not the case.”⁠
[8] WABA History (1972-1992)
[9] From WABA history plus email communication with the author, 28th September 2016.
[10] Bicycling, March 1983.
[11] WABA History (1972-1992)
[12] WABA History (1972-1992)
[13] Nobody advocates for wearing helmets while in bed, not even the sleep-walking woman who fell from a balcony. Instead of pushing for bed-helmets she advocates that people on bikes should wear helmets. “Brain injury mum’s plea over cyclists,” Glasgow Evening Times, 11th August 2014.
[14] http://www.waba.org/blog/2013/06/feds-withdraw-claim-that-bike-helmets-are-85-percent-effective/
[15] Jim Titus provided this statement by email:

“WABA and most cycling organizations in the United States support efforts to improve helmet quality and encourage the voluntary use of helmets, and they oppose laws that require adult cyclists to wear helmets. In 2013, an influential legislator introduced a bill to require cyclists in Maryland to wear helmets, relying in part on a longstanding claim by the federal government that helmets prevent 85 percent of potential head injuries.

“As part of WABA’s efforts to persuade Maryland legislators to not enact a mandatory helmet bill, WABA board member Jim Titus petitioned two federal agencies to stop claiming that helmets prevent 85% of head injuries, under the Information Quality Act, which allows citizens to challenge the publication of bad information by government agencies.”

4th October, 2016.

[16] A case control study of the effectiveness of bicycle safety helmets.” Thompson RS, Rivara FP, Thompson DC, New England Journal of Medicine, 1989.

A debunking of this study and others can be found on cyclehelmets.org.
[17] http://www.helmets.org/negativs.htm and email communication with the author, 28th September 2016.

Pic via Retrogrouch.

Final Bike Boom cover can be revealed

Here’s the final cover:

Bike Boom cover

Four cover designs were submitted to Kickstarter backers of the book, and the above was the runaway winner.

The photograph is from a 1972 fashion shoot in America’s Mademoiselle magazine. The main protester is a model, but I have discovered the San Francisco demo she hijacked – along with another model and the photographer – was a real one. The background story to this tale will be in the book, available in Spring 2017 from Island Press. (Kickstarter backers get earlier copies, of course.)

If you want to be kept informed of the book’s progress, drop your email into the box on the right.



Australian city releases cycling masterplan to go fully Dutch

Screenshot 2016-07-29 12.01.44

Perth in Australia has ambitious plans to create a dense cycling network suitable for 8 to 80 year olds.

While many Australian cities and States are now bywords for backwards thinking when it comes to people on bicycles Perth is taking a radically different approach. What amounts to a Dutch-style bicycling masterplan has just been produced by the State government, and it appears to be seriously ambitious.

The “Perth 3.5m (2050) Transport Plan” was launched yesterday by Colin Barnett, the Premier of Western Australia, and his Transport Minister Dean Nalder.

The plan is “probably the strongest political support we have ever seen from a State Government state about the desirability of long term planning for bikes,” said Stephen Hodge, director of Australia’s industry-funded Cycling Promotion Fund.

Screenshot 2016-07-29 12.02.00

Such masterplans can inform thinking for many years. The famous Dutch Bicycle Master Plan of 1999 was used to consolidate and boost the growing cycling infrastructure and promotions in the Netherlands.

The Perth plan might have an unDutch cover – a photograph of Lycra-clad MAMILs cycling to work – but inside there are some key messages, some of which I include below. Interestingly, the plan talks about “fine-grained cycle networks” as well as featuring visualisations of what could be a world-class cycling bridge. Will the plan be implemented? That remains to be seen – the plan is strong on details, but does not reveal where the money to pay for it all is coming from.

Screenshot 2016-07-29 10.53.11


“With its warm Mediterranean climate, flat topography and outstanding natural beauty, the Perth metropolitan region certainly has the right ingredients to become one of the world’s great cycling cities. Cities with high levels of cycling enjoy various economic, environmental and social benefits. Not only can cycling play a pivotal role in reducing road congestion and improving air quality, it can also help facilitate new forms of industry (such as cycle-tourism) and encourage people to live more healthy and active lifestyles. Key to increasing cycling’s mode share is providing routes that are not only safe and direct, but also offer an advantage over private vehicle usage in terms of convenience and travel times.”

Screenshot 2016-07-29 10.57.08

“A series of interconnected local routes, strategic routes, Principal Shared Paths (PSPs) and Recreational Shared Paths (RSPs) have been identified with the aim of providing high quality, ubiquitous links between Perth’s various universities, schools, train stations, activity centres and tourist destinations. It is critical that such infrastructure provides a level of safety that makes it attractive to cyclists of all ages and experience levels, not just Lycra-clad fitness enthusiasts and CBD-commuters.”

Screenshot 2016-07-29 12.01.44

“A key objective of the Western Australian Planning Commission’s Perth and Peel @ 3.5 Million planning framework is to increase Perth’s sub-regional employment self-sufficiency … It is expected that better integrating land use and transport around activity centres will minimise the need for people to commute long distances to school or work – ultimately relieving pressure on the transport network … Planning and development has resulted in five PSP routes that lead to the outskirts of the CBD but few dedicated cycle paths through or within the city. DoT and respondents to our survey identified the CBD as a significant safety risk for cyclists as they must cycle on the road. The minimal infrastructure and high vehicle and pedestrian traffic make the environment unsafe and inconvenient for cycling … Local cycling routes to connect with the PSP network, community facilities and employment centres have historically not been well planned, and vary in design and construction. The result is an inconsistent and unconnected local cycle network which lacks integration into the broader transport system.”

Screenshot 2016-07-29 10.45.34

“The GPS mapping tool, Strava Labs, was employed to better understand which parts of Perth’s cycling network are most heavily utilised. The following trends/generalisations were noted: Separated and/or protected cycling facilities receive significantly higher patronage compared to unprotected cycle lanes or sealed shoulders.”

Screenshot 2016-07-29 10.57.30

“Up until recently, cycling has relied solely on human power. This has limited the distance and type of terrain most people are happy to make on bicycle. The emergence of electric bicycles (e-bikes) and the harmonisation of e-bike power ratios across Australia in 2015 is a game changer that will result in significant increases in cycling for transport and recreation in the future years. The average person would view the achievable maximum cycling distance for a standard bike being in the region of 10km to 15km. With e-bikes an average power assisted speed of 25km/h is easily achievable, which extends the maximum achievable riding distance to around 25km. With this distance in mind, an e-bike priced at $2,000 to $4,000 becomes a real option to replace the second car for many people, with the bike essentially paying for itself within one year when taking in the car purchase and running costs … Highlighting the potential for e-bikes in Perth are the results of a trial run by the RAC in late 2015. The trial involved 40 employees from 4 workplaces being provided with an e-bike for a 10 week period. Before the trial, 83% of the participants owned a bike, but less than half used it at least once a week. Before the trial, 61% of participants travelled to work by car, but during the trial this was reduced to 32%, with 55% of commuting trips being made solely by e-bike.”

Screenshot 2016-07-29 10.48.36


“Although the proposed network will officially consist of Principal Shared Paths (PSPs), Recreational Shared Paths (RSPs), strategic routes and local routes, it is recognised that all roads (excluding controlled access highways) will continue to play a critical role in Perth and Peel’s cycling network.”

Screenshot 2016-07-29 12.02.50

“The “8 to 80 rule” should be applied when identifying the alignment and built form of local routes (i.e. the route should be safe enough for use by an 8 year old or an 80 year old) … The evolution of Perth’s cycling network has generally followed a “lowest hanging fruit” philosophy. Separated bike paths of considerable length have been constructed parallel to many of Perth’s freeways and railway lines, as well as at a range of river and beachfront locations. Although this has been useful for people commuting to and from the CBD, or for the recreational purposes, many trips that people make on a daily basis remain difficult by bike. As Perth’s population grows, it is imperative that activity centres such as shopping centres, universities and industrial areas become serviced by safe, direct and legible cycling facilities.”

Screenshot 2016-07-29 10.51.39

“In order for Perth to realise its potential as great cycling city, significant investment is required to make the CBD’s streets both safe and attractive for cyclists. Despite having a number of excellent shared paths leading to and from the city’s fringes, the Perth CBD’s roads are not considered safe by most cyclists as they are typically shared with relatively high volumes of motorised vehicles … Over time, the inner core of the Perth CBD will evolve to one that is less reliant on car-based transport. With a reduced number of high volume private and public car parks, and business changing to ones that are more reliant on walking and cycling, customers will assist in facilitating more cycle-friendly streets and a more vibrant city centre.”

Cyclists created the European Union, sort of

British cycle tourists in Norway, c. 1887.
British cycle tourists in Norway, c. 1887.

Who was the first to lobby for – and get – a European agreement for the cross-border free movement of people? Winston Churchill in 1946? The European Coal and Steel Community of 1951? The European Economic Community of 1957? Nope, a bunch of middle-class cyclists in 1897.

Just as cyclists have been written out of motoring’s history (when, in fact, it was cyclists who created and popularised automobiling) so the efforts of fin de siècle cyclists to create a more equitable Europe have also been largely ignored.

While Britain and Germany were steadily preparing to go to war at the end of the 19th Century cycling organisations across Europe were forging friendships, agreeing international treaties and creating a system of international governance.

Well-organised national cycling clubs across Europe – aided and abetted by the League of American Wheelmen – formed bonds to ease the travelling woes of touring cyclists. These clubs included Britain’s Cyclists’ Touring Club, founded in 1878, as well as the Union Vélocipédique de France (1881), the Dansk Cyklisk Forbund (1881), Royale Ligue Vélocipédique de Belge (1882), and the two German clubs, the Dutch Algemene Nederlandse Wielrijders Bond (1883), and the Deutsche Radfahrer Bund (1884). There were also influential national clubs in Italy, Switzerland, Austria, and Russia.

These clubs issued border permits and permits de circulation for bicycle touring but hated such bureaucratic restrictions on travel. Cycling clubs from Britain, Belgium, France, Luxembourg, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Italy and Russia met in Amsterdam in July 1897 at the invitation of the ANWB, the Dutch cycling organisation. (Today the ANWB is the main motoring and road rescue organisation in the Netherlands but was established in 1883 as a cycling club, the Algemene Nederlandse Wielrijders-bond, or the General Dutch Cyclist Union.) Later the same year the national cycling clubs met in Brussels, and agreed to start an international tourism organisation. This would go on to lobby for the removal of Europe’s borders.

AITThe Ligue Internationale des Associations Touristes, or LIAT, was formally created at the Casino Bourgeois in Luxembourg City in August 1898. This was very much a cycling organisation to begin with but was later swamped by motoring interests. LIAT changed its name to the Alliance Internationale de Tourisme (AIT) in 1919, and is now an international federation of motoring organisations created to “represent the interests of national automobile associations and touring clubs.”

The AIT’s website makes no mention of its cycling beginnings.

One of the key campaign goals of the early Ligue Internationale des Associations Touristes was the removal of border tariffs on bicycles. Cycle tourists had to pay customs duties to “import” their machines into each European country they travelled through. This was both expensive and bothersome.

The ANWB pushed for LIAT to embrace two key principles, the “most favoured nation”, an economic trade agreement, and the “principle of reciprocity”, the concept that any favours granted by one state should be also granted to others, the bedrock of international treaties.

In pushing for such pan-European principles the ANWB and the other national cycling organisations were years ahead of nation states. Naturally, there were points of difference between the cycling organisations. The Austrian club used its veto to prevent the Czech cycling organisation from joining LIAT (the Austro-Hungarian Empire was fractured, the “sick man of Europe”), and the Union Vélocipédique de France didn’t want to end the tariff system because, as France was Europe’s most popular destination for cycle tourists, the UVF made a pretty penny from memberships sold to foreign cycle tourists.

Despite these differences, at a LIAT meeting in London in 1899, twelve national clubs (apart from the French one) signed a “principle of reciprocity” agreement.

This agreement isn’t an exact precursor to the European Union but cosmopolitan cyclists were certainly discussing the free international exchange of goods, people, and ideas long before the concepts solidified during the Cold War. At the height of the First World War, the president of the Italian Touring Club remembered the “fruitful international collaboration” between pre-war cycle and motor tourists, and wrote that “touring is a powerful expression of national unity and of solid social concord.”

And it was cyclists who were among the earliest to push for change in Europe because, according to German writer Eduard Bertz in his Philosophy of Bicycles of 1900, cyclists were members of a “great, world-encompassing party of reform.” Cyclists, in short, were agitators. They pushed to change the world – women’s emancipation was partly pedal-powered, for instance – but such agitation is now largely forgotten.

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

Walk on a road? You’re a jaywalker and deserve to die

George and Vera Maskell were killed in 2014 when they were struck by a 7.5-tonne recycling-truck driven by Darren Sanders. The elderly couple were walking across a service road in Sunbury when they were struck. This road has a 5mph speed limit and has a give-way triangle at the end of it. 44-year-old Sanders, who is blind in one eye, was driving at up to 12mph and failed to stop at the give-way sign. Newspaper reports say that George, 81, and Vera, 80, froze as the truck was driven into them.


Sanders was prosecuted for dangerous driving, and acquitted by a jury. Last week the judge gave him a suspended sentence for “careless driving”, and banned him from driving for 18-months. So far so normal – such cases are all too common, with killer-motorists routinely walking free from court, often because of the there-but-for-the-grace-of-God-go-I reluctance of judges and juries to punish fellow motorists for so-called “accidents”.

What makes this particular case unusual is the public intervention of the 44-year-old driver, and his 23-year-old daughter. Both have recently contributed to the comments section of a news report of the trial. If these are genuine comments, and there’s no way to prove this, they shine a sickening spotlight on how some motorists believe they have greater rights than other road-users. Roads, these drivers feel, belong to motorists; pedestrians – and cyclists – shouldn’t be on them, and when they get hit they share the blame with any motorists who hit them. It also highlights why the media and judges are deeply wrong to call such collisions “accidents”.

“EKSanders”, posting on the Standard website saying she’s the daughter of Darren Sanders, wrote this about Mr and Mrs Maskell being killed by her father:

“Accidents happen. It’s why they’re called accidents.”

She added:

“If they had used the path that was created for pedestrians rather than jaywalking then this wouldn’t have happened. My dad and the couple were both in the wrong.”

This is amazing, frightening and gut-wrenching. Were the fatal injuries inflicted on Mr and Mrs Maskell to have been done with a blunt instrument it’s unlikely the killer’s daughter would feel able to defend her father on an online forum. Furthermore, were the couple to have been bludgeoned to death on this service road with a club wielded “accidentally” it’s unlikely the punishment would have been so light.

Mr and Mrs Maskell were crossing a service road, pulling a shopping trolley, after shopping in a Tesco store. They were heading for their own car, left in a multi-storey car-park.

Rule 170 in the Highway Code states: “Watch out for pedestrians crossing a road into which you are turning. If they have started to cross they have priority, so give way.” Few motorists (or cyclists) know this rule exists, and pedestrians have to meekly scuttle out of the way, or risk being flattened, as happened with Mr and Mrs Maskell.

Sanders – if it really is him on the Standard’s website – clearly doesn’t know Rule 170 of the Highway Code. He wrote:

“im not trying to say im [sic] a victim and never will, but read the highway code and then go and sit near where it happen and watch.”

I haven’t sat near the spot in question but with Google Streetview I can go there virtually. From photographs on other news reports it’s possible to work out the exact place where the elderly couple were so brutally killed. They were crossing a road, and Sanders should have stopped at the give-way sign.

Sanders did not give this elderly couple priority because he says he did not see them. If he was paying attention he would not have hit Mr and Mrs Maskell – by not paying attention he was clearly driving dangerously but courts seemingly find it hard to convict motorists of “driving dangerously” which is why prosecutors often prefer to charge killer motorists with the lesser offence of “driving carelessly”.

“dsanders” wrote on the Standard website: “i see in the paper that they didnt put i only had 2.5 seconds to see them and i wasnt speeding , you should get your facts right before judging anyone and are you saying you never done anything wrong whilst driving, i bet you have answered your phone, or pulled out without looking.”

This is not a driver who appears to be showing remorse for the result of his actions. His daughter is looking forward to the ending of his driving ban.

“After his ban is up I will feel safe in the car with him again because I know he is a careful driver. He would NEVER hurt anyone intentionally.”

Darren Sanders won’t even have to do community service as per his sentence. Why? Because his ophthalmologist said his vision would not be good enough. Good enough to drive, apparently, but not good enough to do community service.

“My dad was happy to do community service,” wrote EKSanders. “He’d take his punishment because he’s a decent man. It was his eye doctor who advised not to. She never advised him not to drive.”

At Sanders’ sentencing hearing, the Common Sergeant of London, Richard Marks QC, told him: “The real cause of this accident was not in reality speed, nor indeed your failure to observe the ‘Give Way’ sign, but the fact that you simply didn’t see them in front of you.

“Had you been looking ahead of you and paying proper attention as you should have been, then you would have seen them.

“This incident was wholly out of character and can properly be described as having been a tragic accident.”

Despite what the judge said, this was not an accident.

During his trial Sanders said that “It’s narrow and it’s a service road, as I approached I slowed down until I could see the road – when I knew nothing was coming I looked to the right then I started to accelerate.”

By his own admission Sanders was looking for other motor vehicles, not pedestrians, and was accelerating when he should not have been accelerating . According to his daughter pedestrians who walk across this road are “jaywalkers”.

George and Vera Maskell were not “jaywalkers”, they were crossing a service road where there are very few motor vehicles. To apportion any blame whatsoever for their deaths is sick.

As Peter Norton has shown in his book about the erosion of pedestrians’ rights in the early 20th century*, motorists didn’t monopolise the streets overnight, but had to fight to suppress the road rights of slower users, and this fight proved to be essential for the success of motoring. “The street,” said Norton, “was a place to walk, a place to play. In this traditional construction of the city street, motorists could never escape suspicion as dangerous intruders. While this perception prevailed, the motor age could not come to the … city.”

Pedestrians – and cyclists – can be forced aside, unthinkingly, by nurses, nuns and White Van Man alike. Motor vehicles are deemed, by many, to have priority on roads. Might, it seems, is right. On a bicycle, or when crossing a road as a pedestrian, you often don’t register on retinas. This results in SMIDSY – “sorry, mate I didn’t see you” – a phrase commonly heard by upended cyclists (and motorcyclists).

When motorists do notice cyclists and pedestrians it’s often because they are perceived to be “getting in the way.”** Motorists sometimes articulate that cyclists “slow down” what they consider to be the only legitimate road users. More normally, what slows down motorists is fellow motorists but it’s human nature to scapegoat the “other”.

A small minority of motorists believe they should inform the non-motorised what modern roads are for – the use of cars as weapons is well documented***. Far more motorists blithely accept that roads are for motor vehicles alone, which is why the family of Mr and Mrs Maskell – like millions of other bereaved families down the years – did not get justice.


*Fighting Traffic: The Dawn of the Motor Age in the American City, Peter D. Norton, MIT Press, 2008.

** Dr. Miles Elsden, the deputy chief scientific advisor at the UK’s Department for Transport, told horrified delegates at an active travel conference in July 2013 that cyclists were guilty of a number of sins including “getting in the way.” Shifting Gears, University of the West of England, July 2nd, 2013.

***Driven to Kill: Vehicles as Weapons, J. Peter Rothem University of Alberta Press, 2008. “Violence and the car”, Helmut Holzapfel, World Transport Policy & Practice, Vol. 1 No. 1, 1995.

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.

A Book about the Global Growth in Cycling 1905–1980