Tables and graphs from Transport Statistics Great Britain: 2016 by the Department for Transport, published 8th December 2016.
Tables and graphs from Transport Statistics Great Britain: 2016 by the Department for Transport, published 8th December 2016.
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.
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.
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.”
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. 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.
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. 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). 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.”
In June 1980, 22-year-old Washington bicycle messenger Mary Gaffney was killed by a truck. 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.” 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. 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.”
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.”
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.
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.
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. 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. In particular Titus wanted the federal government to withdraw its long-standing claim that bicycle helmets prevent 85 percent of head injuries. This statistic – pointedly called “bad information” by Titus – is from a 1989 Seattle study, and is frequently wheeled out by pro-helmet campaigners. 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.”
BIKE BOOM WILL BE PUBLISHED IN SPRING 2017 by ISLAND PRESS, WASHINGTON, D.C.
 The main “anti-helmet” source is the Bicycle Helmet Research Foundation.
 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.
 The cycle helmet brands were American Safety, MSR, Bell, Cooper, Nestor, Johnson, Protec, Safetec, and Shoei.
 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.
 The WABA Helmet Update, WABA Helmet Committee, Vol. 1, No. 1 – May, 1983.
 “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.”
 WABA History (1972-1992)
 From WABA history plus email communication with the author, 28th September 2016.
 Bicycling, March 1983.
 WABA History (1972-1992)
 WABA History (1972-1992)
 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.
 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.
 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.
 http://www.helmets.org/negativs.htm and email communication with the author, 28th September 2016.
Pic via Retrogrouch.
Here’s the final 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.
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.
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.
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”