Learn how to Hackneyise, 6th June 2013

Image courtesy Hackney CyclistsHackney is now the cycling heart of London, as was shown by the 2011 census figures.  15% of Hackney residents now cycle to work, and car ownership is falling.  As always with demographic changes, there are myriad causes, as I suggested here.

But the fact that the Hackney borough group of the LCC has been so active in transport planning with the borough over the last 15 years is not just a correlation, it is causation.  As Danny Williams  (Cyclists in the City blog) says, it’s the bike-friendly policies, stupid.  Despite the Kerb Nerds insistence that the only way to increase numbers of people cycling is total segregation, and that all other policies are a waste of time, this increase in levels of cycling to around about where the Dutch and Danish were in the 70s has been achieved without great lengths of separated bike paths.

If you think I’m overstating the Kerb Nerds fervour, David Arditti came back from a trip to Copenhagen tweeting that: got to understand this: you need all to stick your Hierarchies of Provision, Quietways, Graeenways [sic], 20mph etc in the bin….Cause the solution is segregated cycle tracks on *all* main roads. That’s the only thing that gives you fun cycling for all.  UK politicians, don’t waste time, don’t bother with cycling at all if you are not interested in doing this. Over and out.

I think this is an extraordinarily blinkered view, especially the dismissal of 20 mph zones.  20 mph zones are important not just because they might encourage cyclists, but because, along with other policies like ‘Safe Routes to School’, they are accepted to have helped drive down child pedestrian fatalities in London.  So-called Vehicular Cyclists such as myself are often dismissed by the Kerb Nerds as ‘advocating only for themselves’.  I don’t how considered David’s dismissal of 20 mph zones was, but it looks an awful lot like advocacy only for himself.

As Danny says in his piece for the Standard, Hackney’s policies have focused on making sure that every scheme – whether it’s a new building or an upgrade of an existing road – improves the public realm and sense of place, not just focussing on providing separated cycle paths along all main roads.  And before we go any further, I agree that there remains a lot to do in Hackney.  I live right by the A10 Kingsland Road, on which 3 cyclists have been killed in the last 10 years.  This road desperately needs some redesigning, but not just for cyclists, for pedestrians as well.

But despite all that remains to be done, no-one can deny that Hackney Cyclists have achieved great things, and are way ahead of every other London borough.  Should you wish to Hackneyise your own borough or town, you could do worse than attend the 2nd Annual Hackney Cycling Conference, June 6th.

The following is from the Hackney Cycling Campaign:

2013 is set to be a landmark year in the UK for cycling.

High-profile media attention and campaigns, ambitious policy statements and proposed funding for London and the recent All Party Parliamentary Cycling Group report from the Get Britain Cycling inquiry have created political momentum that suggests now is the time for ambitious improvements and initiatives to encourage an increase in the number of people riding bikes.

But big questions remain about how best to achieve these changes. For example, how to translate public support for cycling as an abstract idea into support for local schemes, how to design for cycling and other kerb-side needs, and how to deal with emerging problems as the number of cyclists goes up, like conflict with pedestrians in areas of high cycle traffic.

The Hackney Cycling Conference seeks to further the debate on these issues and more by bringing together politicians, professionals, academics and campaigners from across the many disciplines and sectors that are involved in influencing an increase in cycling in the UK.

Confirmed speakers include

Andrew Gilligan, London Cycling Commissioner; Prof. Phil Goodwin, University of the West of England and author of the APPCG report ‘Get Britain Cycling’; Dr Adrian Davis, Public Health and Transport consultant at Bristol City Council

The conference is on 6th June.  Tickets etc can be found here.

  1. Don said:

    I agree with your general gist that there’s more to it than segregated infrastructure, but I disagree totally with your comments about David Arditti et al being blinkered. Twitter isn’t a great way of making a nuanced point!

    Things like 20mph limits are great (if they are properly enforced) and its really encouraging that Hackney has got to 15% mode share with their current policies. However, as you say, that only brings us to the level that the Dutch/Danes had in the 1970s. Do you think those nations would have reached the much higher mode shares thay have now without segregated infrastructure (on main roads like David mentions)? If so, why would they have bothered investing in it?

    I felt it necessary to comment because, although I am a complete lay person in this regard, I’ve been reading David Arditti’s blog (and others) for some time and I don’t think they ever stated that segregation was the ONLY way to go. Just that is has to form the core of a larger range of policies of traffic redution and calming. Otherwise you give the planners the excuse not to invest; just to be happy with what is still a very low mode share compared to the Dutch etc.

    I really respect your blog but I think you have the wrong view about the ‘kerb-nerds’ as you call them. It would be really interesting to see a dialogue opened with David Arditti and ‘Aseasyasridingabike’ on your blog. I suspect you have common ground to explore. Just my humble opinion as a fan of your blog.


  2. I think we’ll have to disagree about David Arditti et al. I do totally get that subjective safety and comfort are important. Even as a so-called ‘vehicular cyclist’, I prefer to ride away from the motor traffic, which is why I like riding in Hackney because there are a lot of traffic-free routes that cyclists can take. I also would like to see bike lanes and safer junctions on Kingsland Road, which remains very cyclist unfriendly, as well as being pedestrian unfriendly.

    I do take the point that twitter is a little unwieldy, but if tweeting that 20 mph should be put in the bin is easily misinterpreted I think that is the fault of the tweeter, not the medium or the reader. I do accept that I may have been a little unfair to David.

    However, when you see the CTC compared to Hitler, as As Easy Riding As A Bike did in one post, and another tweeter saying that VCs are sh5t at campaigning for cycling for all, then you do begin to wonder about how pluralistic the kerb nerds really are.

    Elsewhere, there is a very interesting blog post by Geography Jim (http://drawingrings.blogspot.co.uk/2013/05/history-and-cyclings-mode-share-in.html), showing how the relative place of the bus, bicycle and car in Amsterdam and London, and Jim says something which is I wholeheartedly agree with: “Cities can’t choose their history, and that can make a huge difference to their future.”


    • Don said:

      Thanks for that link – I don’t visit that blog very often but it is useful. I’m not sure Amsterdam and London make a very good comparison, as the two places are very different. Does it not make more sense to compare with places like Copenhagen & New York etc? Albeit New York’s infrastructure changes are only fairly recent?

      I agree there have probably been a few poorly thought out comments made – nothing new on t’internet eh! However I’m fairly convinced that the bloggers we are talking about have a more holistic view than you might think. However, I admit I’m only saying that from a position of reading their blogs. I’ve not met any of them.

      One of the comments on the ‘drawingrings’ post struck a chord with me. If its OK I’ll copy it here, but the last paragraph is the key one for me:

      Angus h – “The difference in cycling share between London & A’dam is greatest for 1-2.5km journeys.

      As a reasonably fit adult cyclist, I probably wouldn’t bother cycling that distance unless I’m in a real hurry. Little time saved vs a brisk walk, by the time I’ve gotten the bike out of the garage & locked it at the other end.. plus being an enthusiast, I ride decent-ish bikes & don’t like to leave them locked outside more than I have to.

      The people most likely to cycle 1-2.5km are those for whom walking that distance is a slow and maybe unappealing prospect – and people traveling along with them. My 4 year old son, say, or his 70 year old grandmother. 2km for either would be ten minutes on a bike, or half an hour on foot. Perfectly practical, just the right amount of healthy exercise & a useful chunk of time saved.. of course, with London’s awful roads & dismal driving culture, it’s not an option, but you probably knew that already (sadface)”

      Safe riding mate.


      • That’s an interesting comment. My girlfriend says the only place I walk to is across the road to buy beer or milk, I ride everywhere else, so I’m not a typical ‘cyclist’, I guess.

        I strongly agree that we probably should be looking at cities of the same size as LDN for lessons (New York, Tokyo, Paris), as well as much smaller cities which have successfully integrated the bicycle, such as Amsterdam, CPH, but the general point that we are looking to ‘reclaim’ modal share from the public transport network is still valid.


      • Don said:

        I’m going to stick my neck out here, as I said I am no traffic expert. I think the main goal of the ‘kerb-nerd’ movement (I’m thinking of the ‘Cycling Embassy of GB’ here) is to try and ‘reclaim’ that modal share primarily from the car, especially for journeys under 5km, which form a huge number of car trips in the UK. I think the conclusion that the CEoGB have come to is that you can’t achieve this without a subjectively safe network of separated cycle routes. That must be based on the experiences of other cities/countries that have a much higher modal share for cycling than us.

        I’ve also read plenty of comments (I can’t recall all the sources, apart from David Hembrow’s ‘A view from the cycle path’) about using such networks to integrate cycling and public transport much more closely. Wouldn’t it be great if we could take bikes on the train/tube as easily as the Dutch seem to manage?



      • Yeah, the non-permeability of most rail (incl London tube) and virtually all bus services to bikes is a real hindrance. Changing that is likely to be a much more inert object that the opposition to losing road space to separated bike paths.


    • “However, when you see the CTC compared to Hitler, as As Easy Riding As A Bike did in one post”

      I suspect you know that’s absolutely ridiculous.


      • You’re right, when I read the following sentence:

        “the Cyclists’ Touring Club was strongly in favour of motorway building; they sent a member on a delegation to Hitler’s Germany to look at autobahns.”

        I did find it ridiculous, yes.


      • Having met you, I know you’re not stupid enough to think that the passage you’ve just quoted compares the CTC to Hitler.


      • So what am I? Stupid or ridiculous or both?

        I may have been stretching a point to say that you compared the CTC to Hitler, but at the very least, you associated the CTC with Nazi policies, in this case, motorway building, which is why I said that you were flirting with reductio ad hitlerum.

        I maybe both obtuse and quixotic, but I found this cheap rhetorical device quite obnoxious. If you used it unintentionally, well, you should be more careful, unless you mind little whether your words are misinterpreted.


  3. Hi Bill.

    Thought I would come here rather than try to squeeze a respond into 140 characters, twitter can be rather a blunt instrument at times.

    I think my sense of frustration is that in Hackney and in that Islington tweet that sparked the discussion is an attitude of “anything but separation”. I know that Hackney has the highest modal share for bicycles in London and recognise that a lot has been done thus far, but as I do regularly cycle through Hackney I know that it is no nirvana. The quiet routes you mention have to be learned – I have got lost in De Beauvoir town many times now and gave up on following the signed routes once I had found Queensbridge Road to be quiet enough.

    But to return to the original tweet: “The antidote to ‘Go Dutch’ ! The Hackney Cycling Conference, Jun 6”

    To me, ‘Go Dutch’ does not equate only to segregation, it means a lot of things – separation in time (through decent signalisation), filtered permeability (which I know Hackney already does – e.g. Goldsmiths Row) and other measures.

    All of these things work together – physical segregation (where appropriate) is part of the solution that has driven modal share in NL and DK higher than anything achieved with VC over here.

    On another point – I think you may over-estimate the permeability of the rail and bus services in NL. The main difference from my experience is parking – all rail stations have plenty of parking for bikes, though I’ll admit I did see someone with a bike on the metro… (http://piepowered.tumblr.com/post/32515141544/big-yellow-taxi-on-flickr-on-the-amsterdam)




  4. I wasn’t thinking only of NL when talking about permeability, although taking bikes on Dutch trains is a lot easier than UK, I was also thinking of somewhere like Berlin, where bikes are taken on sub-surface and overground train without too much fuss. However, Berlin’s trains are a *lot* less busy than LDN’s, and I’m pretty sure that bikes will never be permitted on the deep sections of LDN underground.


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