Use muscles, not a motor, urges UK Government

Departments for Transport and Health jointly release an Active Travel strategy. Next ten years will be the 'Decade of Cycling'. via

Sadly this is yet another total waste of time. A small amount6 of money to be spent on cycle training and on personal travel plans will do almost nothing to increase active travel.

This is so ridiculous, the world knows how you increase active travel. There are plenty of examples of how to do it and none of them have happened through initiatives like this.

If we want active travel (which has huge benefits for the public in health and happier lifestyles, for business with healthier employees who take less time off, for schools with more awake and alert kids who are healthier, for the environment and for the economy as a whole) then the way of getting it is straightforward:

1. Change the Infrastructure

    1.1 Pavements that are safe to use for pedestrians. That means

    • wide enough for pushchairs, wheelchairs and mobility scooters
    • dropped kerbs at every junction
    • smooth enough for safe walking for those unsteady on their feet
    • strictly enforced no parking on the pavement anywhere
    • strictly enforced no blocking of the pavement by signs, deliveries, road works etc

    1.2 Living areas that are safe for people to come out of their homes

    • Car free areas
    • Home zones
    • 20mph speed limits on all roads that are not thru routes
    • blocking one end of roads to motorised vehicles (with clear and simple routes through for cyclists with proper junctions for them) so that they cannot be used for short cuts
    • one way streets for cars (not cycles) that remove direct routes through residential areas
    • strict parking controls so that kids playing and people walking and cycling are given priority
    • No planning approval for any new housing or road changes that do not provide safe and convenient access for pedestrians and cycles, keep cars separate and connect into a wider network of routes for pedestrians and cyclists.

    1.3 Towns for humans not cars

    • Reduce car access to town and city centres by cutting through routes, making streets narrower for cars, increasing car free areas, providing more and better park and ride services
    • Congestion charging for all cities
    • Reduce on street parking (through charging, restricting quantity and enforcement)
    • Every town and city to provide clear plans for reducing car dependency and increasing active travel. No changes to the transport infrastructure to be permitted that do not provide excellent access for pedestrians and cyclists. That means you cannot resurface any road without showing that in the process you improve safety and convenience for pedestrians and cyclists (and the rules to be tight enough so that simply painting a narrow cycle lane will not be enough).

    1.4 Provide a full cycling infrastructure

    • separated cycle facilities that are high quality, direct, safe, have prioity over motorised vehicles No new roads or junctions that do not provide this. If a bypass is built then high speed Dutch model separated cycle route must be provided with conflict free junctions. Plus the route being bypassed must also have proper cycle facilities added.
    • cycle parking to always be nearer to the destination than any car parking. It must be plentiful, secure and where possible covered
    • All shoppping centres (both in and out of town) to have safe cycle routes and parking. The test should be simple: All shopping centres must demonstrate that it is safe, quick, convenient and obvious to get to the shops and park by bike for everyone within a 2 mile radius. No planning approval for any other changes to be granted until this is in place.
    • Cycle commuter routes and parking must be provided for every rail, bus, tram and coach station.
    • Every school to have a strict and enforced ban on ALL roadside parking within 1/2 a mile.
    • Every school to provide plentiful and secure cycle parking with safe routes to them
    • Every school to be provided with safe routes for pedestrians with convenient and fast acting pedestrian crossings on all roads with a 30 mph or higher speed limit within 1 mile
    • A 20mph speed limit to be in place and enforced by cameras or other technology for a 1/2 mile radius of every school entrance (with the exception of motorways only).
    • The NHS must ensure that there are safe routes for pedestrians and cyclists throughout all their sites with clear priorities over motorised vehicles at junctions and for parking. Cycle parking to be free.
    • Every commercial premises to be able to demonstrate that they have sufficient cycle parking and that it is more convenient and secure than any car parking they provide.
    • HGV access to city and town centres to be very restricted by both size and time of day.

2. Key law change

    See 42: The law we need

  • The UK is only one of four Western European countries that doesnt have 'strict liability' to protect cyclists and pedestrians.
  • Strict liability entitles a crash victim to compensation unless the driver can prove the cyclist or pedestrian was at fault.
  • Strict liability encourages more careful driving (and cycling, because a cyclist would be deemed to be at fault for crashing into a pedestrian).
  • Strict liability would be a matter of civil rather than criminal law so would not affect criminal prosecutions.

3. Policing and the Courts

  • The Police need to have procedures which give a higher priority to supporting vulnerable users of transport, particularly pedestrians and cyclists. Thus driving a car into a cycle facility or using a mobile phone while driving are considered more important than cycling through a red light for example.
  • The Courts need much harsher sentences for driving offences. Anyone killing anyone else through careless, dangerous or drunken driving to lose their driving license for life.
  • Speeding past a school should result in an automatic lose of license for say 12 months
  • Parking offences that block pavements or cycle routes or put vulnerable road users at risk need to be strictly enforced.

4. Public Transport

  • There needs to be significant investment in public transport to ensure it is cheap, convenient, attractive and environmentally friendly.

5. Incentives

  • The Inland Revenue to set the mileage rate for expenses to be the same for cyclists and pedestrians as it is for cars.
  • All road going cycles to be VAT free as well as transportation orientated accessories such as mudguards, chainguards, racks, baskets
  • Progressive increases in fuel tax to be re-introduced. To be set via targets to reduce total fuel consumption by a set % each year. So if consumption of petrol and diesel does not drop by say 10% in a year then the tax rises by an amount designed to encourage consumers to achieve that reduction in use.

I think that would be enough to get us started on a transport system that would be significantly better for us all.

7 thoughts on “Use muscles, not a motor, urges UK Government

  1. Rachel

    Under 4 you could add my personal bugbear: All train companies to increase the number of cycle spaces on their trains (from the present miserly 2) and to introduce a means of pre-booking these spaces that is fast and efficient.
    Could you also find a way of flattening out some of the countryside? :o) (In my defence I’ve cycled 9 work miles today and driven only 2)

  2. Dave

    You will love this:
    It was announced today [ed 12th Jan 2010] that Danish State Railways [DSB] will allow bicycles to travel free on the red S-trains that serve Greater Copenhagen and suburbs. It is a test period that starts this Friday and that will last for the rest of the year. DSB hope to make everyday journeys easier for Copenhageners and encourage more people to use their bicycle.
    DSB is not concerned about the increase in bicycles in the specially designed bike/pram/wheelchair compartments.
    “We have personnel on board to help people move around and rearrange so there is space for everyone. We are very confident that there will be room for all”, said Niklas Marschall from DSB S-train.

    See Copenhagenize

  3. Sally

    Some good thinking here Dave, if only! I am constantly surprised that folk are shocked by my choice to walk or cycle to meetings as much as possible.
    Sadly the current ice and snow will prohibit my cycling to a lunchtime meeting today :-)

  4. Matt Wardman

    I’m seriously concerned by your emphasis here, Dave, and I hope you don’t mind a vigorous response.
    To me, your list reads as a shopping list of demands by certain cycling lobby groups, rather than as a list reflecting what actions will actually save lives and reduce injuries.
    I don’t have time for a fully detailed critique, and I’d agree with a number of points, so a few questions:
    1 – What is the evidenced basis for adopting strict liability when the heavy majority of countries who have done so have road safety records far worse than our own stretching back a generation or more?
    2 – Also on strict liability, how is it ethical or rational to set up a law which automatically punishes people for things for which they were not responsible, never mind that it also drives a coach and fours through “innocent until proven guilty”?
    3 – What is the rationale for setting the cycling mileage rate at the same rate as the motorist rate, when a lower rate is likely to achieve the same objective? Set it too high and you will tempt people not able to cycle to try to do so for financial reasons.
    4 – Why are motorists appropriate targets of demands for heavier punishments, when elsewhere a philosophy of rehabilitation and support is considered appropriate? What is different? Why come over all Michael Howard all of a sudden? Is there even any evidence that it *works* in all these cases?
    5 – Do you really believe that comparing a means of transport with devices – guns – designed specifically for killing is valid? I’d suggest it is emotional manipulation at best.
    The data shows that the vastly most significant causes of accidents are human error – i.e., non-deliberate actions, and that cannot be usefully addressed by heavier punishments.
    Rather it needs to be addressed by better training if the concern is to improve safety, rather than emphasising heavier punishment.
    I’d say exactly the same for cyclists, especially as we are currently inundated with newbies.
    Why you don’t seem to want them to take responsibility for themselves. You want to strictly enforce “no parking on pavements”, but what about “no cycling on pavements” and all the rest?
    There are significant numbers of pedestrian casualties caused by this, as you know.
    Yes – possibly lower numbers (and I can’t find comparative figures for the causes of pedestrian injury on pavements) – but that’s no reason not to address them.

  5. Dave

    Vigorous responses are fine :-)
    But this is not just about saving lives in terms of road deaths from crashes. It is also about
    a) the desperate need to reduce dependency on resources that are running out (so a response to peak oil)
    b) the need to respond to obesity which is much increased by our chosen modes of transport (figures this week were an expectation of 40% obesity in Scotland)
    c) the need to improve our community life which is damaged so much by people feeling unsafe in the streets around home, by communities divided by busy roads and by our greatly reduced time in the community caused by driving ever further for work and leisure.
    d) the need to improve our economy through healthier workers (and students) who take much less sick time
    e) the need to reduce our carbon footprint as a response to global warming
    In that light to take your questions:
    1. Strict Liability is not just about reducing deaths on the roads but about changing the culture of roads to be about protecting vulnerable people. Which countries are you referring to on safety records? Remember that much of our present safety has come from scaring pedestrians and cyclists into steel boxes.
    2. If you hit someone with a two ton metal object then why would you not need to prove that you are not responsible? At present too many vehicle drivers think it is funny or clever to drive at cyclists and pedestrians or to ignore them. Various people keep trying to drive a coach and horses through innocent until proven guilty by blaming cyclists for dying when hit by a speeding car because they were not wearing a but of polystyrene on their head.
    3. Why not set the mileage rate the same? It is quite normal to use the tax system to alter behaviour. Who are all these people who are driving for work and can’t cycle. There are plenty of options with low step thru bikes, trikes, pedal assist etc to enable many people to cycle.
    4. Currently the length of time that driving licenses are taken away when someone is found guilty even of manslaughter are derisory, just a few months after coming out of prison and they can drive again. If I am found guilty of child abuse I am not allowed to look after children ever again. If I shoot someone then presumably I won’t be allowed a gun license ever again. Why should driving be different. If I am found to have killed someone by driving (manslaughter, dangerous or careless driving) then don’t let me drive again, ever. Maybe I was not clear that this does not relate to a pure accident but after a convicted offence.
    5. I don’t think I have compared cars to guns (in fact in other discussions on gun laws I have made a clear distinction in that guns are designed to kill whereas cars are designed to transport and it is only mis-use [most typically speeding] that causes them to kill).
    I accept that driver error is a big problem but our priorities mean that the vulnerable die when there is human error. A Dutch style infrastructure and legal system protects vulnerable users from human error of drivers. The result is that it is safe for kids in their 1,000′s to cycle to school and to their friends even in large cities.
    The UK stats show that cyclists are not to blame in most cases. Training the cyclists will not help them when a driver goes too fast or when there is no safe route for them to take. It will not help pedestrians who are forced to walk in the road due to no dropped kerbs, no gritting of pavements, pavements blocked by parked cars.
    When there is somewhere safe for a cyclist to ride then by all means enforce all the rules for them. But always consider the stats – far more pedestrians are killed on pavements each year by cars than are by cyclists (I think we frequently go whole years with no pedestrians killed by a cyclist). Anyway strict liability protects pedestrians from cyclists just as it does from cars.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>