Thursday 11 March 2010

Cycle campaigning as a collaborationist activity

This cycle lane gets the tick of approval from the Waltham Forest Cycling Campaign (WFCC).

It is what the campaign perceives as best practice.

The kind of infrastructure we need more of in order to get people cycling.

What excites WFCC is the cross hatching:

“The hatching to the left of the cycle lane on this section of Lea Bridge Road prevents car doors being opened into cyclists – a major cause of cyclist injuries. Yet this treatment remains rare, even on the borough’s wider roads.”

Now in the first place the hatching isn’t wide enough to guarantee a cyclist won’t be ‘doored’. Car doors on many models are wider than that strip of hatching.

In the second place, parked vehicles can intrude into the hatched area, or even the cycle lane, without committing an offence. Ironically, the car parked in the foreground is doing just that – intruding on the hatching.

I went to look at the site shown in the WFCC photograph (you can find the original here). A cyclist came by and I took a photo. As you’ll see, the cyclist is in the left of the lane, to try and keep some distance from the proximity of overtaking traffic. There is no guarantee at all that this cyclist won’t get doored:

WFCC’s desire is that the council introduces more hatching of this sort. This is an absurd aspiration because the fundamental problem here is expecting cyclists to pass between parked vehicles and overtaking traffic. WFCC doesn’t see that, so limited is its vision. You are never going to get non-cyclists to take up cycling if this is the infrastructure you offer them.

When I went to the exact spot shown in the WFCC photo I stopped, took out my camera, and within sixty seconds heard a thunderous rumble approaching. I snapped the vehicle as it passed by:

You can’t blame the lorry driver for coming so close to the cycle lane, because he doesn’t have a choice. There’s a central reservation the driver can’t cross and the carriageway is relatively narrow for a major A road which takes traffic between Hackney and the North Circular and M11 motorway. Lea Bridge Road carries huge numbers of lorries.

The problem are those parking bays. They should all be ripped out and replaced by a safe, segregated cycle lane on the Dutch model. But when even cycling campaigners aren’t asking for that, what hope is there? This is why I call cycle campaigning of this sort collaborationist. It doesn't challenge car-centric streets, it simply accepts them and tries to make the best of a bad world.

In its policy document One in Five by 2025, London Cycling Campaign Five-Year Strategy 2008-2013, the London Cycling Campaign states

local groups are very much part of LCC. This has implications for accountability, alignment to a collective strategy and objectives, and systems necessary to reduce reputational risk (amongst other things).

What intrigues me is whether WFCC’s notions of best practice really are aligned to a wider collective strategy on the part of the LCC. Does the LCC even have a policy on cycle lanes next to parking bays? Trawling through the LCC website and policy statements it’s very hard to discover what the LCC really stands for at all, in terms of specific cycling infrastructure. It’s all one big floppy, frothy gush of aspiration, with no concrete detail.

Over the next five years we wish to ensure that we are on track to getting one in five Londoners cycling regularly by 2025 - ‘One in Five by 2025’.

With crap infrastructure like this? In your dreams.

Meanwhile in Amsterdam... cycling is a relaxing activity enjoyed by normal people.

Above two photos nicked from the Amsterdamize website.