Monday, June 11, 2012

Going Dutch - Sunday Politics

The Sunday Politics show had a piece about 'Going Dutch' yesterday (10 June). It featured an interview with Jacques Wallage, the former mayor of Groningen, and a debate in the studio featuring LCC's Mustafa Arif and motor racing legend Sir Stirling Moss. So far, so predictable - the BBC rather lazily setting up a hackneyed cyclists-vs-motorists dogfight. It didn't work. Sir Stirling was rather ill-prepared - although clearly sceptical about the idea of segregated bike lanes, the most incisive comment he could offer was "I think it's a great idea but I don't think it's London the density of vehicles is higher than anywhere else." No-one pointed out that traffic density and congestion is a problem that can be solved by getting people out of cars and onto bikes, and one reason the problem exists is because people don't see cycling as a safe alternative to car travel.  As the reporter in Groningen put it, "because so many people have been put off driving, in the suburbs the traffic flows incredibly well...Groningen [is] easy to drive, beautiful to cycle." Mmmm. Traffic flow. Where have we heard that before? I wonder if TfL were watching?

Sir Stirling's second gambit was "they should start teaching children lane discipline, that sort of London, there are bicycles all over the place". At this point he gestured to illustrate a weaving bike. How about a lane discipline course for children, on the Vauxhall Gyratory perhaps?

A little more worrying for campaigners is the lack of commitment by the politicians in charge. Bob Neill, a Local Government minister, was also on the show, and when asked if there should be more segregation between bikes and motors, said "I think that's a question of horses for courses...different situations will apply in the centre of Westminster say, from in my patch in Bromley...I'm very keen to see more people cycling." He went on to enthuse about how much investment Boris has put into cycling, and how he's a regular cyclist himself. Neill was allowed to wriggle free of the debate about safety. Yeah yeah, everyone loves cycling. The point is that the investments in cycling that Boris has made in the past have done very little to improve safety, because he's put traffic flow as a higher priority. Has that actually changed?


  1. Agreed with all. Also very disappointing to hear Bob Neill describe the recent surgery to Bow roundabout as making it up to 'Dutch Standards' Rather wish Mustafa had put him straight with a very clear rebuke that it is nothing of the sort. It remains a terrible piece of urban road engineering!

  2. Of course Neill MIGHT have been right - if, that is, what he meant was that there are different solutions for different situations. Like, roads with motorised traffic exceeding either or both of a threshold speed and a threshold volume per hour/day get a graduated scale of segregation, while other roads get calming, changes to geometry eg sharpening corners and bends, and other engineering solutions, or in some cases filtered permeability (ie none at all for motor vehicles, or in some cases larger vehicles, which are permitted access only and no passage through).

    The warrens of streets in central Westminster and the City, and neighbouring areas to east and west eg hackney, Kensington, could all qualify for 20mph limits and access-only restrictions. A few already have one or both of these, eg Paul St/Wilson St in Hackney on the City boundary, Cursitor St, Breams Buildings, St Andrews Hill, and Gresham St in the City (although the last faces restoration to full two way through access if City councilmen get their way).

    No doubt Richard Caring would kick up a stink, and his mate Evgeny Lebedev would use his organ the Evening Standard to raise Cain about it, but rumour has it that the new Westminster council chair is showing a more sympathetic attitude to cycling interests. No doubt we shall see.....