Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Urban Cycling Best Practice - UK leaders find out more

MPs and Lords from the All Party Parliamentary Cycling Group visited the Netherlands with officials from British cycling organisations to look at the Dutch cycling culture and integrated transport solutions. Carlton Reid of Quickrelease tv produced an excellent 12 minute document of this trip.

Bike and Trains Study Tour, Netherlands from Quickrelease.tv on Vimeo.

It should be mandatory viewing for every council department that is resposible for urban transport. Too often in Britain we say we are different and conclude that cycling in Holland is so popular because their country is flat. This video looks beyond that and highlights all the compelling reasons why urban centres benefit from swapping car usage with bicycle usage. The big message appears to be that people want to do it because it is easier than the hassle of taking the car and finding parking.

The sooner councils realise their car centric view of urban planning can be very different, the better. If they can encourage cycle use, people will cycle more, given the right environment to feel safe, links with public transport and secure places to park a bike. It can be the catalyst to urban regeneration. Our towns are emtpy shells with little or no life and increasingly with fewer shops. People have no reason to visit towns any more. Part of this is the car centric mindset and that means drivers look for somewhere that's easy to get to and free to park, hence the large out of town shopping centres. Despite a 'commitment' to cycle facilities we only see random implementations such as short cycle lanes, cycle lanes only on one side of the street, cycle stands at one new development but not another. I understand there is policy governing this but there must be so many get out clauses such as 'If the road is only so wide you can leave out the cycle lane'.

Councils have had their heads in the sand too long and now preside over ghost towns with no restaurants, few arts facilities, empty and closed pubs but plenty of parking meters. It's time to wake up. I hope the MPs and Lords can spread the word and create the self powered culture we so desperately need. It won't happen overnight but a fresh approach will help it happen sooner. First step: send the relevent responsible local government officer from each council to the Velo-city conference in Brussels 12-15 May and make them all travel there with a bicycle.

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