Friday, 5 November 2010

Cycling poll priorities - give us more space to cycle in. And take it away from motor vehicles.

A few weeks ago I popped up the poll on what people felt were the biggest priorities to improve conditions for cycling in the City of London. Over 140 of you responded and more than 60 of you sent some pretty detailed comments as well. It's really amazing to have such a wealth of reponses and thank you to everyone who participated.

Over the next couple of weeks I plan to review the responses to the poll here and try to give them some shape.

Some people were critical of the struture of the poll and I admit it could have been better. But it has thrown up some interesting results and it's the general nature of the responses that I hope to get across.

City of London. Welcomes cyclists with a giant gate.
So here goes. For the first set of results, let's just look at the top three things that people think need to change to make the City of London a safer and better place to cycle. This is looking specifically at what attracted most votes for change. The poll yields some very different results when you start looking at averages in particular as some initiatives drew a lot of negative vote as well as positive.

So I am going to split the poll results up. For now, this article talks about what people selected as their top three requests. In later articles, I am going to pull together a more detailed review that shows what initiatives would get broad overall support.

But for now, here's some headline grabbers.

In first place

Create a proper east-west route through the City on main roads that gives cyclists more priority.

In other words, give space to cyclists on routes like Holborn Viaduct where we are currently squeezed between two lanes of buses and taxis. If you think Holborn Viaduct is cycle-friendly, have a look at Vivian's video here.Or make space for us on Cheapside. Stop squeezing bicycle traffic into ever narrowing road space like this example here and thinking that makes it a sensible cycle route.

This comment was about Bishopsgate and travelling from Hackney and on westwards through the City: "Bishopsgate is horrible, filled with potholes , ironworks, pinchpoints, heavy traffic". What people mean by a "proper" route varies. But this response is interesting because it throws up just how many different sorts of obstacles you face cycling down Bishopsgate. They are partly down to traffic but a lot of it is down to bad road design and poor road maintenance.

In second place

Install more Boris bike docks.

Actually, this could be equally well re-stated as have more availability of cycle hire bikes.

And in third place, something highly contentious:

Create properly segregated cycle tracks through the City.

This one really split people. And a subject that's clearly up for much debate in the cycling world, if you look at Mark's bikelondon site here and the sorts of comments his article elicits.

When I look at the results of the poll, almost as many people believe segregated lanes would be a complete waste of time as voted for it as a top priority. And I think that represents the split in the different communities that responded to the poll. I can tell that a large number of people entered the poll from the borisbikes forum here but these responses were more than balanced out by participants from the London fixed-gear and single-speed forum here and from the bikeradar commuting forum here.

What seems to be happening in the results is a general convergence on a need for better routes to cycle through the City. And broadly-speaking the split is really simple. Those people who commute to work want to continue to cycle on the road but have more priority at junctions and safer routes across bridges and some main roads. Those who are a bit newer to cycling tended to identify themselves by not wanting to wear cycling clothes or not wanting to travel particularly fast. But they uniformly don't want to cycle in traffic.

And I actually do think there's overlap on these two views. And that's in the area of creating dedicated space for cyclists kept apart from motor vehicles. And that's visible in responses like this:

"The intersection at Monument coming from London Bridge is often very congested with busses completely blocking the left turning lane which is narrow and segregated with the police box on its right side. Better, or some safe, filtering options would make it much better."

or

"The cycle lane on the north end of Bishopsgate is downright dangerous for a start! It would be better to simply have a wider bit of road to allow bikes to get past cars."

Whether you believe in segregation or not, what's clear is that almost everyone wants space to be taken away from motor vehicles and given to prioritise cycling. They articulate that either by asking for segregation or by asking for filtering. The two concepts aren't all that dissimilar in some ways. All we're talking about is a space that is dedicated to allowing people to cycle without either getting caught up in motor traffic queues (for the more confident commuter cyclist) or to cycle without being scared by motor vehicles encroaching on the space you're cycling in (for the perhaps less confident Boris biker). Either way, the poll suggests to me we want to be given space dedicated to us and not dedicated to motor vehicles. Controversial? Probably.