Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Dutch dreams lie at the heart of Delaware's Advocacy dissidence

The Guardian pens a masterpiece, with this brilliant follow-up to our original post Why bicycle mode share is (and will remain) less than 1%. Excerpts:

"Squint at Stevenage’s extensive 1960s protected cycleway network and you could be in the Netherlands – except for the lack of people on bikes. So why did the New Town’s residents choose the motor car over the bicycle?

The town, 30 miles north of London, had wide, smooth cycleways next to its main roads which were separated from cars and pedestrians. There were well-lit, airy underpasses beneath roundabouts, and schools, workplaces and shops were all linked by protected cycleways.

Eric Claxton, the lead designer of post-war Stevenage, had believed that use of cycleways would be high if they were well built – originally thinking that Britain’s hostile road environment discouraged people from cycling.

Stevenage was compact, and Claxton assumed the provision of 12 ft-wide cycleways and 7 ft-wide pavements would encourage residents to walk and cycle. He had witnessed the high usage of Dutch cycleways, and he believed the same could be achieved in the UK.

But to Claxton’s puzzlement and eventual horror, residents of Stevenage chose to drive – even for journeys of two miles or less. Stevenage’s 1949 masterplan projected that 40% of the town’s residents would cycle each day, and just 16% would drive. The opposite happened.

Stevenage’s 2010 master plan complained that just 2.9% of the Stevenage population cycled to work, which was “much lower than might be expected given the level of infrastructure provision”.

The borough council’s cycle strategy – not updated since 2002 – conveys no doubt as to why cycle usage is so low: “Stevenage has a fast, high-capacity road system, which makes it easy to make journeys by car."

There are safe cycle routes from homes to schools, but today only a tiny proportion of Stevenage’s children cycle each day. Many are ferried to school by car, a situation that Claxton abhorred.

Despite all the best efforts of a chief designer with empathy for would-be cyclists, “build it and they will come” failed for people on bikes in Stevenage but worked for people in cars."

As long as driving remains cheap and easy, bicycling as a significant mode share will forever stay in the realm of fantasy. And even then, pump prices are exponentially higher in England than the U.S., where this lovely pathway network has been all but abandoned. Our case has been, and always will be that Advocates whose sole focus is on costly separated facilities -- as opposed to pragmatism -- are driving the divide that prevents a united bicycling advocacy front in Delaware. Read the full article.

Check out the Facebook page "Pragmatic Bicycle Drivers", where pragmatism in bicycling advocacy lives.

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