Cycling advocates sometimes seem to get themselves into a knot trying to distinguish subjective and objective cycling safety. How can it be safe to cycle, while at the same time improving safety is a key priority?
I see two things that are central to resolving this apparent inconsistency. The first is that there is no dichotomy between safe and unsafe, and that safety profiles vary between people: in particular there is a difference between the people currently cycling and the people who could potentially cycle. The second is that there are longer-term dangers that appear neither to immediate observation nor in accident statistics — in particular, it is critical to take stress into account.
It is quite safe for me to cycle into central Oxford, either by myself or with my seven year old on a tandem. But it would be unsafe (at most times) for me to cycle that same route accompanied by the same seven year old on their own bicycle, or for most twelve year olds to cycle it by themselves. And I can cycle that route without much stress. But for some people, even some fitter and more experienced at cycling than me, that identical route may be really stressful, to the point where repeated, long-term exposure to it would be detrimental to their health. more
Bicycles have featured a lot in my blog, but the other key to sustainable transport, in Oxford as in much of the world, is the bus. Buses are central to Oxford's existing transport and will need to play an even bigger role in any sustainable future. More generally, such a future requires the world to transition away from private motor vehicles, with perhaps an 80% reduction in car miles in the UK, and the bulk of that transport "hole" will have to be filled by bicycles and buses. more
Widespread take up of e-bikes requires broader measures to make cycling accessible. E-bikes are not, by themselves, going to do much to enable most people to cycle.
In the Netherlands, e-bikes help to increase the distances people will cycle and enable people to keep cycling as they get older, but this is dependent on the infrastructure enabling those people to cycle already. In most of the UK, e-bikes will enable people to not cycle 4 mile trips as well as not cycling 3 mile trips, and enable 70 year olds to not cycle at the same rates as 40 year olds don't cycle. more
Walking around Oxford's city centre can be pretty unpleasant, as I've written about before. But that pales in comparison with how awful it is for cycling. Yes, there are lots of people doing that, but there are even more people who simply will not cycle in central Oxford because it is too hostile and unpleasant. more
I cycle pretty much past Oxford's Covered Market (down Turl St) daily, on my way home from work, and often want to get fresh vegetables or meat. But I never go there, because there's no bike parking. more
There's an approach to cycling which my friend Scott Urban calls "urge and merge". The first part of this involves encouraging people to cycle, through providing information, training, and so forth. The second part involves then getting them to "merge" with the motor traffic, to share space with dense traffic flows, perhaps even to "take the lane" and cycle as if they were a vehicle — or in some cases to "merge" with people walking. This is an approach that has dominated thinking about cycling in the UK for decades, despite the fact that it clearly hasn't worked. Things are changing, but these ideas keep being used as an alternative to avoid more effective but harder changes.
Three lists illustrate how how this works, with a focus on Oxford, where decades of "urge and merge" have moved the cycling modal share nowhere. more
I suggest that 1981 was the absolute nadir of utility cycling in Britain. As evidence for that I present, courtesy of Graham Smith, this diagram from the December 5, 1981 issue of the The Economist.
I'm not trying to reform transport in Oxford for myself. Personally, I find Oxford remarkably easy to get around, and indeed one of its attractions for me has always been that, while it has the "cultural capital" of a city many times its size, it feels like a village because getting around it is so easy. more
One of the big advantages of cycling is that, like walking, it has predictable journey times. There are many trips where driving may be faster on average, but in Oxford at least driving times are highly unpredictable. This is a particular problem if one needs to be somewhere at a particular time - for a school drop-off, say, or for work, since one then has to leave earlier to allow for contingencies, obviating any speed advantage. more
The Gilligan report Running out of Road: Investing in cycling in Cambridge, Milton Keynes and Oxford offers an excellent analysis of the potential cycling has to help Oxford fix its transport problems. And its suggestions are on target. But it has some weaknesses, largely the result of considering cycling in isolation from other transport modes. more
In so far as there is any cycling infrastructure in Oxford it is substandard, but some of it is so bad it is actually dangerous and should be removed. more
On Saturday I went on a tour of the Waltham Forest "mini-Holland" project, organised by CyclOx and hosted by the WF branch of London Cycling Campaign (thanks Paul and Dan!). We caught a mini-bus into London, then used Urbo dockless hire bikes to do a 14km loop around the borough, looking at what they've done and are doing. more
A common problem when considering safety is confusing averages and "tail" (rare) events in evaluating risks. This helps explain why driver education is largely useless as a way of making cycling safer, and suggests an explanation for why safety is a bigger concern for women and why teenage boys cycle on the pavement. more
Like most urban primary schools, Larkrise has a reasonably small catchment area (and out-of-catchment children are selected largely based on distance), so walking or cycling to school, accompanied or independently for the older children, should be an option for almost all children. But there are some serious failings with the transport infrastructure around the school, and a little investment here could make active travel to it significantly more attractive. more
After a couple of months with the activity monitoring apps on my iThing, I've averaged about 4km a day of walking and 12km of cycling. more
I realise that ranting on this blog is a pretty ineffectual way of actually achieving change. But when I contemplated requesting a meeting with my local councillors (city and county), I had trouble working out what I was actually going to request from them. Two-way cycling on Howard St, or the removal of parking in cycle lanes on Donnington Bridge Rd, were asks too small to be worth the trouble. Requesting anything as abstract as "Dutch-style infrastructure" seemed too waffly, while if I was going to lobby for Broad St to be turned into a square, that was going to require more than me acting in isolation.
So my suggestion as to what we (CyclOx and others) could request as part of a concerted lobbying campaign is first-rate cycling infrastructure along Botley Rd. more
Last night I went to a talk by Eva Heinen titled "Why, where and how people travel" and that got me thinking about the balance between walking and cycling more
Four years ago I posted here looking at moving-child-by-bike options, but I never followed that up. I ended up with a Wee-Ride centre-mounted seat, which I've been really happy with over the last three and a half years. more
The recently redesigned Pembroke St is attractive, but also seems a lost opportunity.
Previously it was a fairly traditional lane, with a carriageway and pavements. The new design keeps essentially the same layout, only replacing the kerbs with gentle "gutters" or brick edging, on as far as I can tell exactly the same line, and changing the (still too narrow) footpaths to a "brick" surface. The other substantive change is that the street is now two-way for cycling (motor traffic is still allowed to enter only from St Ebbes). more
My cycle to work is about 3.6km and takes maybe 15 minutes, which I think is about the perfect length. It's enough that I'm getting at least a small amount of regular exercise, but not so long that it ever feels tedious, and even on the rare occasions when there's serious rain (or it's dark on the way home in winter) it's not too daunting. It's also an attractive route, much of it quite pleasant cycling. I begin with a description, which I follow with some commentary on Oxford cycling infrastructure, on which it doesn't shed such a flattering light. more
It's true that every Oxford Mail article about cycling gets the usual complaints about red light jumping, people cycling without lights, and suchlike, but I've seen no sign of any kind of backlash against cycling infrastructure. And this is easy to explain. There is no cycling infrastructure in Oxford. That is to say, nothing that gives people on bicycles any real space of their own, nothing that substantially inconveniences cars, buses, trucks or taxis. more
A dual network strategy for cycling only makes sense if we have a bimodal population of cyclists. To illustrate this, consider Frideswide Square, where the planners are clearly picturing something like this. more
I was an active civil liberties campaigner in Australia: I led two protest marches through the streets of Sydney in the 1990s and was a board member of Electronic Frontiers Australia for twelve years. Here in Oxford I've become involved with cycling advocacy instead. more
The term is amorphous and vague, but Oxford's forthcoming redevelopments at the Plain roundabout and Frideswide Square continue to follow some kind of "shared space" ideology. So it's interesting to look at how previous incarnations of that have worked for cyclists. So Cowley Rd more
I have three friends who I use as a litmus test for cycling. They don't cycle in Oxford, even though it would often be convenient for them if they did — one of them walks two miles to work instead — largely because they find the environment too hostile and unpleasant. more
In the UK, the averages suggest that you are slightly less likely to be killed cycling two miles to the shops than you are making the same trip on foot, but slightly more likely to be seriously injured. more
Oxford is pretty good for cycling, at least compared to most cities in the English-speaking world, but there's huge room for improvement, those improvements aren't happening fast if at all, and I feel we need a change of focus to advance further.
In particular, I feel we need to ditch a "dual network" approach which is incapable of growing cycling much beyond its current share of transport and making it an option for everyone. Education and training, encouragement and so forth are important, but to make cycling significantly more popular than it is already we need to give people the option to cycle with minimal interaction with fast or dense motor traffic. more
The Plain is being rebuilt and ambitious plans to redesign St Giles have been floated, but for me the most obvious redevelopment for central Oxford, the one that will cost the least and deliver the most, is Broad St. All that is basically needed is to remove the car parking, remove the kerbs and resurface the entire area, drop the speed limit to 5mph and time-restrict loading access, and Oxford could have a showpiece central square. more
I've been cycling for four years now in Oxford, so I thought I'd look at the costs involved. more
A few weekends ago I went on a short cycle trip, with someone I had met on an earlier cycle tour, to two sights I hadn't known about: Wheatley windmill and Bishop Edward King chapel. more
What is it? It's a Kettler Spirit, the product of a respected German company which sells online into the UK (though they do have a showroom in Redditch as well). Basically an upright city bicycle: what one might call a "Dutch bike" or a European city bike, though it's fundamentally pretty similar to my other bike, a thirty year old English three-speed roadster. more
I've been very happy with my old three-speed over the last three years and it's still a fine bike for getting around Oxford, but I'm thinking about buying a new bike. more
It's early days yet, but I'm starting to look at the options for moving Helen around by bicycle. The basic choices seem to be a front-mounted child seat, a rear-mounted child seat, a trailer, or some kind of front-load cargo bicycle or tricycle (bakfiets-style or modern variants on that). more
Some photos from the cold snap last week. more
Oxford is a vastly nicer environment for cycling than any part of Sydney I know about, or pretty much any town or city I have visited. This is not because of its cycling infrastructure, which is actually pretty pathetic, but because of its low speed limits. more
When it comes to "green" personal (rather than public) transport solutions, the only real options seem to be bicycles and electric cars, but I think the continuum in between those deserves more attention. more
I'm not sure where I stand on legally mandated helmets for bike riders. more
Camilla and I have just done a bicycle maintenance course with Oxford Cycle Workshop Training (a member-owned cooperative). more
I bought myself a bicycle to replace the one that was stolen, and have been cycling around for a couple of weeks now. more
Yesterday, after waiting for them to get something the right size in, I bought a refurbished bike from the Oxford Cycle Workshop around the corner. I was very happy with the purchase, and put it next to C's bike at the back of the house. This morning when I got up it had been stolen. more