Trouble with terminology

It is about delivering a cohesive network and the terminology you use to describe network sections pre-supposes the type of user you expect to be using it. The reality is that you need to define the base user. I would suggest an 8 year old on a bike. If you deliver a network useable by an 8 year old, you deliver a network useable by all. In a recent interchange about a new network scheme I am coming up with, it was suggested that I remove “child-safe”. It took me sometime to realise, that removing “child-safe” would allow a poorer standard of network delivery. Delivering a “child-safe” network is much much much harder to do, than one suitable for a 23-50 year old fit male in lycra.

As Easy As Riding A Bike

This is a piece about the unhelpful problems Transport for London have (partly) created for themselves by developing separate ‘Superhighway’ and ‘Quietway’ concepts, but it’s more broadly about terminology, and how we should think not in terms of separate classes of provision for cycling, but in terms of a uniform network, suitable for all potential users, even if it is composed of a variety of types of treatment.

Some of these problems originate with the Mayor’s Vision for Cycling, which contains some curious distinctions.

We will offer two clear kinds of branded route: high capacity Superhighways, mostly on main roads, for fast commuters, and slightly slower but still direct Quietways on pleasant, low-traffic side streets for those wanting a more relaxed journey.

Here we see a puzzling split – that Superhighways are for ‘fast commuters’, while Quietways are for those ‘wanting a more relaxed journey’. This distinction is reiterated, in different…

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One comment

  1. “Delivering a “child-safe” network is much much much harder to do, than one suitable for a 23-50 year old fit male in lycra.”

    23-50 year-old males in lycra are identified as the Strong and Fearless. According to Roger Geller’s Four Types of Cyclist, these guys “are generally undeterred by roadway conditions”. Riding a bike is a strong part of their identity. They make up about 1-2% of the population.

    A “child-safe” network would be suitable for that group of cyclists known as the Interested but Concerned. These are the people who in survey after survey identify fear for their safety as their primary reason for not riding a bike for utility purposes. They make up about 60% of the population.

    This still leaves a large number of people unaccounted for. Most of these are categorised as the No Way No How (about 30% of the population). The remainder are the most interesting group of them all. They are termed the Enthused and Confident cyclists. This group, says Geller, is “a subset that requires only minimal facilities.” They are the “primary reason” why the cycling modal share in Portland is over 7%.

    In 2000, Portland’s cycling modal share was just 1.8%. Portland’s Bicycle Advisory Committee had previously established that isolated cycle facilities may get all the kudos, but it was the lack of connections between these facilities that was the cause of the greatest frustration.

    And so Portland began developing what they called a “bare bones” network. They started in 1996 with 67 miles of cycle lanes; now there are 319 miles of cycle lanes. According to The Guardian (here), the cost of developing these cycle lanes was just $60m (£39.7m).

    The authorities in Portland are now in a position to push on and make the network more attractive to cyclists of all ages and abilities, and this they have started to do. The key to their success was to deliver what you call “a cohesive network”. They understood that no matter how great the talents or the efforts, some things just take time. As you say, delivering a “child-safe” network (from a standing start) is much much much harder to do; so obviously they decided not to do that straightaway. After all, why would they make things unduly difficult for themselves? What purpose would that serve?

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