Thoughts on Cycle City Active City Conference

I was invited to speak at the Cycle City Active City conference on the work I have done with Bath Hacked with the Strava Metro data set and the interactive tool that has been built.

It neatly dove-tailed into a Space For Cycling workshop on the Saturday. Lot’s of deep discussions but I really just wanted to summarise what I took away from both events.


You need champions. You particularly need a champion within the council. You need people within different sectors of your community (education, health, council, business) who believe investing in cycling is something we should do and will push for it, not only within their sector, but also, and primarily, with the council.

You’re not getting any money for cycling, deal with it.

Unless you are London (or Leicester) you have a real problem, in that your council probably has spending priorities where cycling is not even on the radar. If you are a rural county it’s going to be even worse.

The government now creates pots of money and councils have to bid for pots of money. They have used “gamification” to weed out the weaker bids. One of the presentations in the “Marketing Cycling” stream was so scary. Greater Manchester put together a bid using hardcore marketing approaches, then have the council’s marketing team analyse the bid for weaknesses and tweak as necessary. It’s scary stuff and shows the level of professionalism they bring to the table and why they keep winning big.

However there is something that people from other countries, and even Leicester, are doing which can make a huge difference. The idea of space-reallocation as part of road maintenance programmes. Also known as road diets.

A road diet, also called a lane reduction or road rechannelisation, is a technique in transportation planning whereby the number of travel lanes and/or effective width of the road is reduced in order to achieve systemic improvements.

I had a deep conversation with one of Leicester’s Officers about their approach to road diets. He said that one of the big things to consider with road diets is the principle of value engineering.

Value engineering can be defined as an organised effort directed at analysing designed building features, systems, equipment, and material selections for the purpose of achieving essential functions at the lowest life cycle cost consistent with required performance, quality, reliability, and safety.

Lanes at most need to be 3m wide to accommodate traffic (less if not on a bus route). On quiet rural roads, you can even remove a lane and create a cycling/walking advisory lane either side of the lane.

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By re-allocating space to cycling/walking/other activities through paint you are reducing the long term maintenance costs of a road. Leicester are doing more with their Highways maintenance budget through applying road diets combined with value engineering to their road system. This saves your council a lot of money.

The other benefit is that narrower lanes slow down traffic. Road diets save money and tame traffic, while providing space for cycling, walking, or even a cafe. They are a powerful place making tool.

One final point on funding, cycling isn’t just a transport solution. It’s also a health solution. Look to those areas for money and support.

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Stop talking about cyclists

The term “cyclist” immediately brings out the Daily Mail in some people. Cycle infrastructure is about place making, about movement of people, it’s a tool to solve congestion.

When Ken Livingstone became mayor of London, he got his team to look at predicted volumes of populations and how they could keep the city moving. They needed to get 5% of London cycling by 2023. Now some sections of the Cycle Super Highways are almost at capacity.

New York used road diets to literally just use paint and planters to create cycle infrastructure. They left the roads structure in place. Pedestrian deaths dropped by 60% on those streets.

Stop talking about what cyclists want.

Start putting it in terms of movement of people, reduction in congestion, making our streets safer and more liveable, and place making.

Talk about communities and connecting schools to them. About children cycling to school to make them healthier.

Cycle infrastructure is about place making.

Filtered Permeability

Filtered permeability is enabling some modes of transport to continue through a street while keeping others out. In practice it is principally used to “filter out” car traffic while still letting pedestrians and those on bikes through.


This was mentioned time and time again. This changes neighbourhoods. This makes a horrible rat run into a community that talks to each other again. They even showed studies looking at the way people interact with each other based on the type of streets they lived on. How rat runs kill the community. That filtered permeability gives the street back to the people that live there. Where people feel safe again. Where kids can play.

The one piece of advice given was to not do too many in one go in one area. People fear change. Test the waters by temporarily putting in road block using planters. These are really cheap changes.

See how I didn’t mention cyclists when talking about this?

Shared space is dead in the Netherlands.

Shared space is an urban design approach which seeks to minimize the segregation of pedestrians and vehicles. This is done by removing features such as curbs, road surface markings, traffic signs, and traffic lights.

The guy that came up with shared space in the past stated that 15% of drivers will not behave correctly no matter what. The Netherlands are now ripping out the schemes as they cause too many accidents. Maybe LTN 1/11 needs removing from the DfT note list.

Technology is your friend.

There’s the new Propensity to Cycle tool which I will be using to create the future route map for Bath and councils are already using.

Learn and use cyclescape. It’s really useful to get notifications of planning applications and hopefully soon, TROs in your area. By commenting on planning applications, you may be able to direct section 106 money towards cycling.

CycleStreets has a photomap I was unaware of!

People are amazing!

It was great putting twitter handles to faces. Council officers and campaigners all in the same room, all understanding the health and societal benefits of cycling. However I think there is probably a lot of churn as people get tired and frustrated. Conventions like this are needed to re-invigorate people or at least work out where you want to be living.


I’d never come across these. Discussing the impact of Self-drive cars over beers and a filled dosa was amazing. Seriously good. My new favourite indian food.

One comment

  1. I used to attend the cycle forum meetings with enthusiasm, but decided not to bother anymore, saw it was very difficult trying to get simple things done with which might show the city cares about commuter cycling.

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