How Cycle Lifestyle would spend the money...

Transport minister Norman Baker has announced that an extra £62m is to be pumped into cycling in the UK. Cities will be able to bid for a new £30m fund to improve cycle safety.

If magazines could bid, here's what Cycle Lifestyle would promise:

1. Trails of coloured dots and route codes painted on the network of streets corresponding to Simon Parker's London Cycle Map (with a few temporary diversions around the most dangerous junctions and roads, until such time as they have been overhauled).

2. Signs at each junction on the network, showing people how to change from one route to another. There would be no more than three such changes on a typical journey using the London Cycle Map – just as easy as catching the Tube.

3. A ‘totem’ at each junction. Each totem would be topped by an illuminated sphere which would be as salient as a ‘roundel’ sign on a Tube Station. This would make it easy for cyclists to orient themselves on the network, easy for people to meet at junctions (“meet me at G1R2”), and easy for local pedestrians to direct cyclists to the network (“there’s one of those glowing spheres at the end of this road!”).

4. A London Cycle Map at each junction, showing the entire network.

5. A local cycle map at each junction, showing local routes at an individual-street level of detail, and showing how the routes of the London Cycle Map connect with these local routes.

There you have it. No verbiage. No sweeping ideological statements. No vague aspirations. This is how Cycle Lifestyle would spend £30m to improve cyclists' safety in London. If we couldn't have all the money, we'd generate the rest through sponsorship (and we've already had plenty of expressions of interest).

Our spending proposal would enable Londoners to cycle from anywhere to anywhere on a network of 2000+ kilometers of cycle routes, the vast majority of which have already been provisioned with cycle lanes and infrastructure improvements.

This, we argue, would improve safety, because it would keep cyclists away from some of the busiest main roads in London, boost safety in numbers (by inspiring more people to cycle), send a message to drivers on the network to look out for cyclists, and stop cyclists from being distracted by satnavs or lists of directions.

Anyone got any better ideas?


You normally do such a good

You normally do such a good job in bringing my proposal to a wider audience, Ben, that it is very rarely necessary for me to comment; but in this instance I think it helps to be clear that the changes you are proposing (above) have emanated with you, and not with me. The "trails of coloured dots" along each route, and the signs, totems and maps at each junction, are all your interpretation; and whilst they are very interesting to consider, they do not accurately reflect how I would set about doing things.

Perhaps this much is obvious to other people - you have very clearly said that this is a Cycle Lifestyle proposal, after all - but I didn't want there to be any misunderstandings about this, that's all.

Now that the Mayor has appointed a Cycling Commissioner, the next thing to be done is to plan and then study the network. It is true that I have spent a long time working on a design for a revitalised London Cycling Network, and it is also true that this design is largely based on officially sanctioned routes, but nobody asked me to do this work, and it is important to me that my proposed layout is not simply accepted as a fait accompli. Let it be scrutinised, therefore!

The 'look' of the network, when the time comes for it to be introduced, is something which would greatly benefit by considering all sorts of different ideas. However, this takes nothing away from the basic premise, which is to pursue a holistic approach.

To speak of this matter practically, the authorities should begin by doing as much as possible at least bureaucracy first (within the structure provided by a coherent, planned network), and thereafter, working to a timetable, they should move towards a separation of functions.

Hi Simon. Yes, I was

Hi Simon. Yes, I was conscious I was going out on a limb here, and I'm glad you've written this explicit clarification as to who is supporting what. Thanks!

I agree entirely, as you know, about the importance of a holistic approach. But I also think that flesh needs to be put on the bones, not only because 'holism' (although you and I know exactly what it means: a network approach) is too vague a demand to hold the athorities accountable to (with a bit of chicanery, it is all too easy for ANY approach to to be described as 'holistic'), but also because it won't exactly fire the imaginations of the general public.

I want to get people thinking about how amazing it would be to follow coloured trails to cycle from anywhere to anywhere in London.

I'd be interested whether you agree with that pared-down ambition, if not with the whole apparatus of totems, maps at junctions, etc etc.

Best wishes - Ben

Yeah, I think on the whole I

Yeah, I think on the whole I would. One of the things about compass colours is that, if you know your direction of travel, you shouldn't really need to look at a map at all. So maps and so forth at every junction I regard as a bit unnecessary. But that aside, I regard your campaign as one that is useful today, in the world as it is, and with the limited resources that are available.

Thanks Simon. I think it

Thanks Simon. I think it would be really helpful to have maps at junctions precisely because most regular people, unlike regular cyclists, struggle with knowing things like their 'direction of travel'. But, as you say, route markers are the first step.

An interesting idea but I can

An interesting idea but I can imagine my Urban Environment friends objecting to the colour scheme. I would agree with having maps at route junctions if only to interest non-cyclists. Some of the money needs to be used to provide safe crossings of and connections along major roads.

Thanks Ben. It's good to talk

Thanks Ben. It's good to talk about this actually.

Route markers laid on the road surface would do a number of things:

(i) they would identify the route;
(ii) they would raise the awareness of other road users; and
(iii) they would help to establish the network.

The thing about route markers is that they can be installed quickly and cheaply. It is intended that, on the major roads, they would serve as an interim measure, until such time as more highly engineered solutions can be delivered.

On the major roads, the awareness-raising role takes on a greater significance, and therefore a good case can be made for placing these route markers fairly close together. However, on the quiet back streets, these markers could be positioned every couple of hundred metres, say, or even just at the junctions (at every decision point, in other words), without necessarily reducing their effectiveness.

It's a question of balance, ultimately. Too many markers and the quality of the streetscape is needlessly diminished; not enough and the needs of cyclists are not properly met.

On the whole, I think I am with Paul and his Urban Environment friends. This initiative will hopefully go into places like Westminster and Kensington and Richmond, and I am very mindful about the wishes of residents in these sorts of places.

I need to be clear, as well, that introducing a network so that it functions at just the minimum level probably would not make it available to "most regular people". Sorry, but that's just how I see it. I imagine that in a city the size of London, it's going to be at least ten-twelve-fifteen years before the cycling environment is of sufficient quality such that the invitation to ride a bike would be strong enough to appeal to these guys.

If you are fairly new to cycling, I certainly wouldn't want to give you the idea that you can just jump on a bike, without even properly planning your route. However, once you have planned your route, if you are engaged on a strategic journey, 90% of the time you should only need to remember one, two or three routes. Even if you haven't got a sense of direction, surely you can remember three different routes? So I can't quite see why a map at every junction is necessary. Besides, I have gone to enormous lengths to ensure that the map would fit into your pocket!

By all means, have the maps at every bike hire station, and so on, but at every junction? That seems a little bit over the top to me.

Urban Environment officers

Urban Environment officers are clearly not doing a very good job. The urban environment is pretty horrible in many parts of London. And in the 'posher' parts of the capital, I am sure the local residents wouldn't be complaining if there were fewer cars on the roads. Cars whizzing past and creating fumes and a hazard to pedestrians is surely a higher price to pay than the markings, signs, maps and totems I have described in my five points above.

In any case, it seems to me that Urban Environment officers are perfectly happy to clutter the streetscape with parking bays, and parking warning signs every 10 metres, and to block the pavements with ticketing machines. The apparatus I have proposed would be far less obstructive (both physically and psychologically).

And, Simon, you talk about highly engineered solutions further down the line. I agree with this, of course, and I appreciate that many stretches of the network would not be suitable in the first instance for regular Londoners to cycle on (as opposed to regular cyclists). That's why I talked about diversions, above. But if you are talking about highly engineered solutions it seems odd in the same breath to worry about putting up a few signs and maps at junctions.

It seems to me that if it is worth putting London Underground maps up on the Tube, it is worth putting London Cycle Maps on the London Cycle Network. It is, indeed, precisely because the map is small enough to fit into a pocket that it is small enough to fit onto a lamppost at a junction. I have seen roadside signs for all manner of shops, services, events, and so forth, that are much larger than any London Cycle Map would be.

As for local maps at junctions - well, the cycle hire scheme is accompanied by local cycle maps, so why not the London Cycle network? The roadside maps supplied at the cycle hire scheme docking stations are of course useless. It would be much more helpful to install maps showing how local streets and cycle routes connect with the London Cycle Map routes.

In the end, there is a rather large hypocrisy involved when Councils play the 'streetscape clutter' card. They are perfectly happy to clutter the streetscape when there is a revenue generating opportunity - parking bays, etc. But when there is an opportunity to truly represent the needs of the population, with an asset as wonderful as a London Cycle Map and network, the authorities cite the very clutter problem that they are responsible for bringing about.

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