Category Archives: 1930s

Formby By-pass Opened 1938 Had Green Cycleways, Pink Footpaths And Concrete Carriageways

[This blog posting is extracted from a project backer email sent on April 18, 2021, and is being published here as an example of the kind of content you can expect if you back this project. Via new support from Sustrans and the Department for Transport we aim to bring back to life 100s of miles of 1930s-era cycleways.]

Formby’s cycleways, OpenCycleMap

Three parallel cycleways run through or beyond the Lancashire town of Formby. There’s NCN 810, a wiggly on-road route through the centre of town. And there’s NCN 62, an off-road route on the former trackbed of the Cheshire Lines railway to the east of Formby. Smack bang through the middle of these two is the cycleway on the Formby bypass. This is not part of the National Cycle Network, so it is not on the NCN layer of the Ordnance Survey map of the area.

Today’s Formby bypass has cycleways on both sides of the road only on some short sections. However, when the four-mile dual carriageway was opened in 1938, the bypass had wide, well-surfaced, and fully adjacent cycleways. The missing sections are now probably buried under grass.

The A565 Formby bypass is one of the 1930-era cycleways on our long-list for possible renovation. One of the upgrades needed would be to dig up and rededicate the missing sections.

Back in the 1930s, the bypass had 6-ft-wide footways adjacent to 9-ft-wide cycleways. A period document reveals that the footway had a pink asphalt surface, and the cycleways — known at the time as cycle tracks — had a non-skid green asphalt surface. The road surface was concrete, laid in 46-feet-long bays. Today, the cycleway — like the road — has a black asphalt surface; the footpaths remain buried.

Formby bypass brochure, 1938

Many of the 1930s cycle tracks I’ve been researching were surfaced with rippled concrete, so it’s interesting to discover the period surface smoothness of the Formby tracks; to learn that they were green adds to the surprise.

There doesn’t seem to have been any prescribed colour for cycle tracks in the 1930s and 1940s — for instance, the concrete cycle tracks on Lostock Road in Manchester were red, but many others were uncoloured.

Brochure
The Formby bypass was considered such a technological innovation at the time that Lancashire County Council produced a 16-page commemorative brochure for the opening of the road, packing it with the kind of detail I’d usually kill for.

The bypass was opened with great civic pride at midday on Saturday, December 17th, 1938, and a map included in the brochure even pinpointed the exact location of the dais from which the Earl of Derby, Lord Lieutenant of Lancashire, gave a ribbon-cutting speech to a “large assembly.”

“On the covered stand erected for the occasion,” stated a December 17th report in Formby Times, “was grouped a representative company of county and local notabilities.”

Alderman P. Macdonald, the vice-chairman of the county council’s highways committee, said the bypass was “laid out on the most modern lines and constructed according to the requirements of the Ministry of Transport.”

It was the MoT that stipulated that the road should be equipped with cycle tracks. It had been initially planned in 1928 as a narrower road without cycle tracks. For the ten years from 1934 to 1944, the MoT tended to only give road-building grants to those local authorities which incorporated cycle tracks into their arterial widenings and new-builds.

“Whilst it cannot be claimed that this road is an industrial road, it does carry a very considerable weight of through commercial traffic between the great city of Liverpool and the beautiful town of Southport,” continued Macdonald.

Traffic census, A565, prior to building of bypass. Contained in Formby bypass brochure

That commercial traffic included cyclists, of course, of which there were an increasing number in the ten years before the building of the bypass. A traffic census conducted on the old road — the findings of which were included in the brochure — counted 530 cyclists in 1928, and 2,291 in 1938, a four-fold increase. In the same period, motor car use merely doubled. There were just under a thousand more motor cars than bicycles on the road before the bypass was built. And cyclists were far more numerous than the combined number of trucks, buses, motorcyclists and horse-drawn vehicles.

Given the explosive growth in the use of bicycles — the growth was national — you would think more would have been done to cater to cyclists during the 1930s. Instead, most national and local resources were splashed on motorists. As I wrote in Bike Boom, “Two million rich motorists were deemed to be worthier than twelve million proletarian cyclists.”

Today, because by design motoring was encouraged to grow, it’s a surprise that the pre-war MoT did anything at all for cyclists.

Very fine road
The bypass, said Macdonald, reported in Formby Times, was “divided, as you see, by two carriageways with a central reservation and a cycle track on either side, along with a good footpath.”

The newspaper said he hoped that “by this segregation of traffic that accidents will be reduced, that the flow of traffic will be facilitated, and the comfort of users will be added to.”

The highways committee vice-chairman thanked those “who had contributed to the making of that very fine road,” stated the Formby Times. He praised the county surveyor Mr. Schofield, his chief assistant, Mr. Wordsworth, Mr. Haywood, resident engineer, and building supervisor Mr. Gore working for W. Turner (Ardwick), Ltd., of Manchester.

“He then asked Lord Derby,” reported the paper, “to step down into the roadway and formally declare the road open as the King’s Highway for all time.”

According to the commemorative brochure, the four-mile-long road was 120 feet wide “between fences” with dual carriageways 22 feet wide. There was also a central reservation of 22 feet (which, it appears from Google StreetView, has been much nibbled away over time) and “cycle tracks nine feet wide and footpaths six feet wide, with grass margins.”

The bypass cost £195,483, “towards which the Ministry of Transport indicated a grant of 60% on 17th April, 1936,” stated the brochure.

Grass grows over cycle track on the Formby bypass, and there’s no footway visible either side of the road

“Work was commenced on April 9th, 1937 [and] the bulk of the general contract work was completed by September 1938,” said the brochure, adding that 75 men had been employed on the scheme.

“The carriageways have been constructed of concrete, 12 inches thick (which forms the running surface), laid on a consolidated bed of clinker ballast 9 inches thick,” stated the brochure.

To delight today’s kerb-nerds, the brochure continued: “Splayed kerbs are provided on each side of the central reserve as a safety measure. The near side kerbs joining the cycle tracks are 10 inches by four inches and are laid directly on the extremity of the concrete carriageway slabs.”

Map of the bypass in Formby bypass brochure, 1938

The cycle tracks were constructed with “6 inches consolidated foundation of clinker ballast covered with a binder course of tarmacadam [one and a half] inches thick over which is laid a [three-eighths-inch] layer of sand carpeting, squeegeed with bituminous compound and covered with [three-sixteenths of an inch] gauge green chippings evenly distributed and lightly rolled to produce a matt, non-skid surface finish.”

Extract from bypass map, showing road, cycleway and footway widths

Furthermore, the “near-side concrete kerb of the cycle tracks is set sufficiently low to prevent cycle pedals from coming into contact with it. And the offside timber kerb is fixed flush with the surfaces of the cycle track and adjacent grass margin so that it can be overrun in the case of an emergency.”

Timber kerbs? That’s new information to me. Perhaps other period cycleways had similar demarcation? If so, any non-replacement of rotted wooden kerbs would clearly hasten track decay.

“The footpaths are constructed in a similar manner to the cycle tracks,” continued the brochure, “except that the foundation of clinker ballast is three inches thick and the squeegeed surface of the sand carpeting is covered with half inch gauge pink chippings.”

Period kerbs? As seen on Google Street View

The surfacing of the carriageways, cycle tracks, and footways was carried out by Cawood, Wharton & Co., Ltd., of Leeds, stated the brochure. The surfacing materials for the cycle tracks and footways were supplied by the Penmaenmawr and Trinidad Lake Asphalt Co. Ltd. of Caernarfon, Wales.

Pedestrians walking on the footway at Maghull on the A59. The cycle track is on the left before the two tracks of the dual carriageway

As can be seen on the Google Map for this project, the Formby bypass is one of several 1930s-era new-builds nearby with adjacent cycle tracks. To the north, there was the Coastal Road to Southport, and to the south east, there were cycle tracks on Dunnings Bridge Road in Litherland, and on the A59 at Aintree, Maghull and Aughton. Perhaps more remain to be discovered?

Should the Formby bypass make it on to our shortlist, and then on to recommendation for an upgrade, any renovations would create a helpful route linking to housing on the east side of Formby; housing that didn’t exist in 1938.


If you liked what you read on this sample email please consider backing this project. Details below:

Between 1934 and 1942, Britain’s Ministry of Transport paid local authorities to install cycle tracks. As seen and heard on the BBC, more than 100 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 next to the new bypasses of the era; some more were built on trunk roads through residential areas. A successful Kickstarter campaign in May 2017 enabled us to start researching some of these cycleways, and now in 2021, thanks to support from the Department for Transport and Sustrans, we’re in the process of rescuing some of them.

SUPPORT THIS PROJECT

Even though the Kickstarter campaign is no longer live you’re still able in 2021 to get the same emails and reports and other benefits as the original backers. This extension was created after people got in touch after the campaign ended asking how to get involved.

Check out the levels below, and then email me with your preferred level.  Thanks.

Carlton

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BACKER LEVELS

Pizza Level — £8
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 — £21
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 — £28
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 — £30
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 — £105
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.

DIGGING UP BRITAIN’S FORGOTTEN CYCLEWAYS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WHO’S “WE”?

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

1930s-era cycle track beside Chertsey Road, Twickenham

HISTORICAL BACKGROUND

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

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

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

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

I believe there are more cycleways to be found.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you.

Carlton Reid & John Dales

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

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

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WHAT DO OTHERS THINK?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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MEDIA COVERAGE

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

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

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.

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WANT TO LEARN MORE ABOUT THE 1930s-ERA CYCLE TRACKS? READ ON …

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

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

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

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BACKER LEVELS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DIGGING UP BRITAIN’S FORGOTTEN CYCLEWAYS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WHO’S “WE”?

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

1930s-era cycle track beside Chertsey Road, Twickenham

HISTORICAL BACKGROUND

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

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

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

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

I believe there are more cycleways to be found.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you.

Carlton Reid & John Dales

+++

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

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

+++

WHAT DO OTHERS THINK?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

+++

MEDIA COVERAGE

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

+++

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.

Help save 100s of miles of forgotten 1930s cycleways

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.

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 check out the levels below and then email me with your preferred level. Thanks.

+++

BACKER LEVELS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DIGGING UP BRITAIN’S FORGOTTEN CYCLEWAYS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WHO’S “WE”?

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

1930s-era cycle track beside Chertsey Road, Twickenham

HISTORICAL BACKGROUND

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

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

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

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

I believe there are more cycleways to be found.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you.

Carlton Reid & John Dales

+++

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

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

+++

WHAT DO OTHERS THINK?


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

+++

MEDIA COVERAGE

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

+++

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.

West End Road protected double-sided cycle track, 1934

There were a great many protected cycle tracks built in the 1930s – but I am not yet sure of how many. I keep finding new candidates to add to my map of 104 definites and probables, including a doozy of a cycle track that I discovered the other day, and which I’ll describe below.

It’s entirely possible that I know more about the number and the extent of the 1930s-era cycle tracks than anybody alive at the time of their building. Local authorities appear to have constructed more tracks than are noted in the official record, and national government estimates of the length of built cycle tracks (including stats given as parliamentary answers by transport ministers of the day) came up short.

Even those who were bitterly opposed to the tracks – such many of the leading officials of the Cyclists’ Touring Club – didn’t seem to know the full extent of the cycle tracks that they despised. They complained about a few of the high-profile cycle tracks – such as the first one in Ealing and a later one on the outskirts of York – but there’s nothing in the club journal to show that they knew hundreds of miles of such tracks had been built by 1945. No one seemed to be keeping national tabs on what was being built, and that includes the Ministry of Transport.


West End Road cycle track links to Western Avenue

Each time I think I’ve got a definitive total, another candidate comes along. Take this, a separated double-track cycleway beside West End Road in Northolt, West London.


The cycle track on West End Road north of Western Avenue looks period from above, but not so much down at street level (see below) because of modern refurbishments.

The A1480 becomes Ruislip Road at its southern end. It’s joined to the Western Avenue, or A40, at its northern end. The cycle track also exists further north – beyond Western Avenue – but, even though it looks period, I have yet to confirm whether that was 1930s in origin.


Northern end of West End Road

What I do know is that the West End Road cycle track was planned in 1934, and definitely existed by 1945. I have found period plans for the 1934 date, and the cycle track shines bright white on aerial photography from 1945.


Engineering plan for Western Avenue, including cycle tracks, April 1934

As I recount in the book-of-this-blog the Minister of Transport and his chief engineer gave the go-ahead for the building of Britain’s first cycle track in February 1934. When I wrote Bike Boom I had assumed just one two-mile stretch was planned and then built – from Hangar Lane to Greenford Road in Ealing, along the new Western Avenue arterial.

However, by digging around in archives I discovered that plans were drawn up to line almost ten miles of Western Avenue with cycle tracks on each side. (Most of these cycle tracks are long gone, grubbed up and built over in the 1970s when the A40 was widened into what is, in effect, an urban motorway.) And these plans – drawn up by the county engineer – were passed by county council planning boards in April 1934, just two months after they were requested by the Transport Secretary.

The first experimental stretch (which was built rapidly and shoddily) was in use by May 1934. Transport Secretary Leslie Hore-Belisha officially opened it in December of that year.


Aerial view of West End Road junction, 1945 (Google Earth)

I need to do more archival research to pin down exactly when the cycle track on West End Road was built, but it had to be between May 1934 and 1945. I know from period newspapers that extensions to Western Avenue were finished in 1935 and 1936 so my working assumption is that the semi-protected roundabout at the junction between Western Avenue and West End Road was built in one of these two years.


Looks modern, but it’s not

The 1934 engineering plan for this junction doesn’t show the full length of the West End Road cycle track, but one side of it is still being used as a cycleway (because of asphalt and markings it looks modern) and, at the northern end, the track is made from scuffed-up concrete which, from my knowledge of confirmed 1930s cycle tracks, means this is probably the original surface.


West End Road has two 1930s-era cycle tracks, but just the left one is used as a modern cycleway

What’s very interesting about this particular 1930s-era cycle track – it’s about a mile long – is that both sides are extant, but only one side is marked as a cycleway.


Probable original concrete surface

Refurbished and properly signed this double-sided cycle track could be brought back to life, and it’s probably one of those that I’ll flag to my partner in this project, urban designer John Dales.


Both sides of the West End Road cycle track could be used

The weakest part of the chain is the roundabout over the A40, but if this was a semi-protected roundabout as far back as 1935 (when Western Avenue was narrower and at ground level) there’s hopefully no reason, apart from expense, why cyclists couldn’t once again benefit from some protection here.

There’s much more of this sort of research to be done in the months ahead. And if you didn’t back the project when it was live on Kickstarter it’s still possible to be part of the journey by subscribing to one of the project’s update levels.

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

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

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BACKER LEVELS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DIGGING UP BRITAIN’S FORGOTTEN CYCLEWAYS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WHO’S “WE”?

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

1930s-era cycle track beside Chertsey Road, Twickenham

HISTORICAL BACKGROUND

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

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

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

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

I believe there are more cycleways to be found.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you.

Carlton Reid & John Dales

+++

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

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

+++

WHAT DO OTHERS THINK?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

+++

MEDIA COVERAGE

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

+++

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.

Help rescue 100s of miles of 1930s-era protected cycleways

Between 1934 and 1942, Britain’s Ministry of Transport paid local authorities to install cycle tracks. As seen and heard on the BBC, more than 100 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 next to the new bypasses of the era; some more were built on trunk roads through residential areas. A successful Kickstarter campaign in May 2017 enabled us to start researching some of these cycleways, and now in 2021, thanks to support from the Department for Transport and Sustrans, we’re in the process of rescuing some of them.

SUPPORT THIS PROJECT

Even though the Kickstarter campaign is no longer live you’re still able in 2021 to get the same emails and reports and other benefits as the original backers. This extension was created after people got in touch after the campaign ended asking how to get involved.

Check out the levels below, and then email me with your preferred level.  Thanks.

Carlton

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BACKER LEVELS

Pizza Level — £8
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 — £21
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 — £28
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 — £30
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 — £105
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.

DIGGING UP BRITAIN’S FORGOTTEN CYCLEWAYS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WHO’S “WE”?

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

1930s-era cycle track beside Chertsey Road, Twickenham

HISTORICAL BACKGROUND

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

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

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

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

I believe there are more cycleways to be found.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you.

Carlton Reid & John Dales

+++

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

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

+++

WHAT DO OTHERS THINK?


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

+++

MEDIA COVERAGE

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

+++

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.

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

Monday, 8th May 2017

PRESS RELEASE

For immediate publication.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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KICKSTARTER CAMPAIGN

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

CONTACT: Carlton Reid

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

In 1935, cyclists accounted for 80 percent of the traffic in some English towns and cities

In May 1935, a Divisional Road Engineer in the Ministry of Transport wrote to the Chief Engineer in London giving the latest traffic counts:

“The cycle traffic on the Wolverton Road [near Stony Stratford in Buckinghamshire] represents in numbers 54 percent of the traffic on the road throughout the day. At rush hours it reaches 80 percent of the total traffic using the road … At Magdalen Bridge in Oxford, 12,500 cyclists pass in the sixteen hours of the normal census day. They represent in numbers 50 percent of the total traffic. At a point in Bedford cyclists represent in numbers 80 percent of the total daily traffic …”

And check out this pic of cycling to work in Chatham Docks, 1939.

More such info in Bike Boom, published in May. Sign up for updates on the right.

Let’s rescue Britain’s forgotten 1930s protected cycleways

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 check out the levels below and then email me with your preferred level. Thanks.

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BACKER LEVELS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DIGGING UP BRITAIN’S FORGOTTEN CYCLEWAYS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WHO’S “WE”?

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

1930s-era cycle track beside Chertsey Road, Twickenham

HISTORICAL BACKGROUND

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

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

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

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

I believe there are more cycleways to be found.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you.

Carlton Reid & John Dales

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

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

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WHAT DO OTHERS THINK?


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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MEDIA COVERAGE

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

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

Despite the car boom, cycle use doubled in the 1930s

From 1912 to 1934 the county surveyor for the County Council of Durham conducted traffic surveys on the increasingly busy Great North Road at Framwellgate Moor and Teams Crossing.

Screenshot 2017-01-20 13.10.04

“Generally, the statistics show an increase in lorry traffic and in motor cars, together with ordinary cycles. … This year ordinary cycles have more than doubled in number the figures recorded two years ago. In this mind the committee will have in mind the recent circular of the Ministry of Transport regarding the provision of cycle tracks along the main roads … There is no doubt whatever … that the question of handling the problems created in highway administration is of great importance in the life of the community.”

Pedestrian traffic was not recorded.

Source: Report of the County Surveyor to the Works Committee, January 21, 1935, County Council of Durham.