Submission to the ‘Safer Journeys for People who Cycle’ draft report.

SaferJourneysReport_01

 

Back in 2014 I made a submission to the ‘Safer Journeys for People who Cycle’ consultation. This blog post reflects what I tried to convey in my submission. It still represents my view on how I think we need to approach the task of getting more people using bicycles as a form of transport – equal measures of infrastructure, policy and marketing. How are we doing since then, I wonder?

I support the draft recommendations proposed by the Cycling Safety Panel and its desire to achieve a transport landscape that allows for the safe movement of people on bicycles. I am encouraged by the panel’s acknowledgement and understanding of the benefits that cycling brings and the barriers to making that happen, as detailed below:-

1. Participation in cycling and cycling safety are inextricably linked.
2. Increases in cycling participation will bring safety benefits to individuals and to the wider community alike.
3. Economic and societal benefits of investing in cycling are irrefutable.
4. Riding a bicycle is inherently safe and the prevention of crashes with motor vehicles is the issue that needs to be addressed.

However, I am concerned that the panel’s recommendations lack the necessary clarity and boldness. Without any clearly stated cycling mode share targets set, there is a risk that the reports recommendations will not achieve its stated goals.

Infrastructure

In New Zealand’s current transport landscape, cyclists are catered for as though they are two-wheeled motor vehicles. This is problematic because cycling is more akin to walking than driving. If we are to be successful in encouraging more people to cycle, this reality needs to be addressed. In New Zealand we rely on campaigns such as ‘Share the road’ which suggest that all road users have equal responsibility to stay safe. Whereas the Dutch have set the standard for best practice in this area. It is called ‘Sustainable Safety‘. As the draft report acknowledges, riding a bicycle is inherently safe. It is being hit by a fast moving vehicle that makes it unsafe. The current environment is far from equal.

Quality infrastructure is the critical factor in creating a transport environment that encourages people to choose to ride a bicycle on a daily basis for transport purposes. This infrastructure comes in a variety of forms. The creation of  ‘mobility environments‘ has changed the way road transport is approached. Infrastructure is designed to cater for all road users. Safety is designed into the infrastructure.

A well designed transport/mobility environment:-

  • makes cycling irresistible,
  • is built for the 99% who aren’t cycling now but who could be cycling,
  • follows ‘desire lines’ and goes where people want to go,
  • recognises cyclists are just fast-moving pedestrians and does not try to treat them as cars,
  • has infrastructure that will take cyclists to common destinations such as jobs, shops, businesses and schools.

Policy

Creating a cyclised city will not happen in isolation. Transport policies that promote cars ahead of other forms of transport will make it less likely for people to choose to switch to riding a bicycle. The way a city is designed will impact on the rate of cycling uptake. Instead of encouraging sprawl, housing needs to be built around transport hubs and multi-modal transport needs to be encouraged and supported.

A well designed city is one in which people live in an environment that allows them to work and play in close proximity. It’s about reducing travel demand and creating opportunities for short journeys to be achieved by bicycle. Minimum car parking requirements need to be removed from city planning laws to enable this transition to alternative transport to happen.

Cities that have high rates of everyday cycling also have the following features in common:-

  • reduced speed limits,
  • well developed road behaviour social contracts,
  • freedom to choose to wear a bicycle helmet,
  • bike share programmes.

Marketing 

The ‘normalised’ culture of cycling that we need does not come about by accident. It comes about as a result of a range of deliberate strategic interventions. The need for quality infrastructure and supportive transport policies have already been mentioned. But there is also a role for high quality marketing that promotes the value of everyday cycling. The value of cycling needs to be ‘sold’ to the public in order to build the political will that is essential to encourage a shift away from our present car-centric transport policies towards socially and economically sustainable transport options.

The word ‘cycling’ needs to become synonymous with meaning ‘short trips in normal clothes on a comfortable bike for people between the age of 8-80, male or female.

The dominant perception of cycling at the moment is that it is for sports and recreational purposes; for the fit, brave or foolhardy. That’s a massive barrier to overcome, if we are to get the 99% of people who aren’t cycling now, to consider giving cycling a go. Like issues of real safety are dealt with by building quality infrastructure, issues of perceived safety need to be taken seriously too and addressed by implementing quality marketing.

Currently, cycling promotion focuses on safety by making it look dangerous. It focuses on the wearing of helmets and hi-viz. This kind of scare mongering plays into the fears of non-cyclists by reinforcing their current misplaced beliefs. Even the word ‘cycling’ creates misconceptions. That is why you will see the phrase ‘wheeled pedestrian cycling’ or ‘riding a bicycle’ now being used instead.

The full implementation of the above key strategies of infrastructure, policy and marketing will be needed to bring about the success that the ‘Safer Journeys for People who Cycle’ report says that it desires. Underpinning this success will be a sufficient level of funding. A level of funding that reflects the value and contribution a city full of people on bicycles brings.

‘Cycling’ is sport and recreation. ‘Riding a bicycle’ is everyday activity. No sweat. As easy as walking, but faster.

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4 comments

  1. Excellent post, thanks. Like you I thought the report was a bit confused in its approach. You are spot on when you say that it could have set more specific goals. Overall I see it as a good starting point but we need to keep the pressure on for implementation.

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  2. And for comparison here is my submission:

    My name is Terry Baucher. I am a resident of Devonport, Auckland and I have been riding in New Zealand ever since I migrated here in 1993.

    By way of background, although I would primarily be regarded as a sporting cyclist because I mainly ride a road racing bike, I have a more traditional bike which I use for commuter cycling and touring around. When I first arrived in New Zealand I did a number of significant tours through parts of Northland, the East Cape and the West Coast of the South Island. My wife and I plan on undertaking a number of cycle tours once she fully recovers from recent surgery.

    I would like to thank all the members of the Cycling Safety Panel (“the Panel”) for their obvious hard work in preparing their draft report and recommendations.

    My comments on the report and recommendations are as follows:

    1. I am encouraged by the overall approach of the recommendations which set out a good starting point for what will be a long-term approach to improving cycling safety.

    2. I consider the report’s recommendations could have gone further in promoting the idea of cycling for all or what can be termed the “wheeled pedestrian” approach .

    3. I define the wheeled pedestrian approach to be one where riding a bike is a “normal” activity done in “ordinary” clothes on “regular” bikes at speeds of maybe 10-15 kph. The rider is going somewhere but in no apparent rush. This is what cyclists can be seen doing every day in most of Europe and parts of North America. In these areas the lycra clad rider with helmet and hi-viz vest moving at higher speeds is the rarity not the norm. I believe it is fair to say the opposite would be the norm in New Zealand. We should be aiming to mirror what is happening in Europe.

    4. Underlying much of the report and its recommendations is what I would call a “utilitarian” view of cycling which views it as primarily a commuter mode. This approach recognises the benefits for all road users of more cyclists as a means of reducing congestion. Whilst I accept this is an important aspect, and one which because of its obvious benefits for other road users, will be widely accepted by the general public, I do not consider it should be the main driver for improving cycling safety and infrastructure. There are greater benefits in quality of life and general health by promoting the wheeled pedestrian approach.

    5. Regardless of the overall objective, the biggest single factor in making cycle journeys safer and promoting cycling in general would be separated cycleways. I fully support the Panel’s recommendations in this area.

    6. In support of more separated cycleways I note a recent report’s conclusion that “using best practice physical separation on main roads and bicycle-friendly speed reduction on local streets, would yield benefits 10-25 greater than costs” The long-standing example of the cycle path on Tamaki Drive, Auckland and the more recent Beach Road separated pathway also in Auckland, are good examples of popular cycling infrastructure. (The great range of cyclists to be seen on the Tamaki Drive cycleway is an example of the “Wheeled pedestrian” approach mentioned above).

    7. With these examples in mind I support much greater investment in separated cycleways as a means of breaking down the culture of fear which surrounds cycling. Demonstrating cycling is an inherently safe activity will encourage more cyclists and help achieve the wider goals of a healthy society and less congestion.

    8. In conjunction with better infrastructure I support a universal reduction of the urban speed limit to 40 kph together with a reduction of the speed tolerance from 10 kph to 5 kph in urban areas. This should assist in reducing serious injuries and ensuring greater survivability for pedestrians and cyclists involved in accidents with motor vehicles.

    9. I support proposals for legislative changes to protect cyclists such as minimum passing distances. I would like to see legislative changes removing the requirement to stop at Stop signs. This is on the basis that cyclists are most vulnerable at junctions and when starting and restarting. (Based on personal observation motorists regularly ignore Stop signs). Allowing cyclists to ride through on a pedestrian crossing signal but only at walking speed and NOT when three or more are cycling together would also be helpful.

    10. I believe the report’s recommendations on page 29 about school travel planning initiatives should be upgraded to a high priority action. Encouraging more children to cycle to school is possibly one of the quickest and cost effective means of reducing congestion.

    11. I fully support the comments in section 9 of the report’s recommendations about improving road user behaviour and awareness. As part of this I would like to see the NZTA and other central and local Government agencies be much more vocal in promoting cycling. This initiative should include a policy of publicly refuting newspaper and other media repetitions of the myths about cyclists noted on page 42 of the report.

    12. As part of this I support the high priority actions noted on page 31 of the report. I would like to see TV ad campaigns asking drivers to watch out for bikes and making drivers aware of the speeds some cyclists can achieve.

    13. I support the Panel’s comments on page 34 about not supporting mandatory wearing of high visibility clothing. One of the hindrances to a greater acceptance of cycling is the perception of risk. A requirement to wear high visibility clothing as well as a helmet could reinforce the idea that cycling is an inherently “dangerous” activity. This would be counterproductive.

    14. In conclusion I believe the report provides an excellent framework for building a long-term strategy of making our roads safer for everyone and encouraging cycling.

    My thanks again to all the members of the Panel for their hard work.

    Terry Baucher
    Devonport, Auckland

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  3. Terry, Thanks for your input. It makes me happy to see that the quality of the conversation is improving.
    I have put the link to the Radio NZ interview with Brent Toderian here. http://t.co/c3U5OqARzX More and more I realise that it is not just about cycling. It’s about how we create a better urban environment that reduces our reliance on cars. In those circumstances, walking and cycling will flourish.

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