Cycling basics still not learnt

I am off to Australia on July 18th for two weeks to give three talks on how to increase cycling use for the New South Wales government. I have spent some time preparing the material and it still amazes me how basic lessons have not been learnt here.
Increasing the level of cycling is not too difficult. All the factors – such as better infrastructure, slowing traffic, providing facilities – which will boost cycling are well known. Yet, in the 25 years or so since cycling started to be revived by bodies like the GLC and more enlightened councils, progress has been fantastically slow. Examples of good infrastructure are still rare and bad cycling facilities abound. I have collected a rogues’ gallery of facilities for the presentation: a cycle lane that is 3metres long and then has a give way sign, another that feeds directly into a very busy highway and, best of all, in Harlow, Essex, there is a cycle lane that crosses seven little paths over the space of 400m and at each one the thoughtful council has put ‘cyclists dismount’ presumably with the notion of ensuring that the cyclists get some exercise on what otherwise would be a gentle descent (Search ‘cyclists dismount’ on Google Images and it pops up first).
This sort of stuff infuriates me. What sensible human being could design something like that, let alone spend thousands of pounds on making and installing the signs? As I have written before, ‘cyclists dismount’ is a sign that should be banned by the Department for Transport.
Unfortunately, even councils that are trying fall for this trap. Last night I was at the National Transport Awards giving a prize to the best cycling achievement and it went to Aylesbury District Council for their scheme creating seven cycle routes named after gemstones. The idea is great and it is very clever to brand the routes in that way, but, having cycled along a couple of them, they leave a lot to be desired. There are some places where cyclists are supposed to dismount to cross busy roads on Pelican crossings, because government rules do not allow cyclists to share them with pedestrians, and other places where cyclists are expected to take rather long ways round. Certainly, if Aylesbury’s commendable but flawed efforts are the best in the country, there is a long long long way to go.

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