Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Learning from Copenhagen (and elsewhere)

More evidence that informed thinking about successful cycling policies is coalescing around the Cycling Campaign's call for a move towards high quality and safe infrastructure on our arterial routes, couple with traffic calming on all residential streets. An interesting exchange of letters between Richard Lewis, a principal town and transport planner at the London Borough of Newham, and Dave Horton from Lancaster University, asks how much we can learn from the "Copenhagen model", a somewhat PR-influenced shorthand for "best European practice" as spelt out lucidly and repeatedly by our friend from Assen, David Hembrow.

Dave Horton visited Copenhagen at the beginning of December as part of a wider piece of research called On Our Own Two Wheels, documenting the experience of riding a bicycle in cities around the world. The exchange of letters followed that visit.

As David Horton concludes:
I think increased provision of specific and segregated cycling infrastructure might be key to getting the velorution rolling. The current and massive problem with otherwise wonderful initiatives such as Bikeability (a UK cycle training scheme, not to be confused with the Danish research project of the same name!) is that, given the existing cycling environment, we’re destined to lose the vast majority of those we train. However well we train them, only the hardy minority will stay on their bikes for long. We have strategically to crack, and then mine, the current dominance of car-based urban automobility, and the establishment of cycling corridors – a la Copenhagen and (in a fashion) London – on key, highly visible arterial routes seems one way of doing so.

This echoes the conclusion of Darlington Cycling Campaign following the completion in our town of the Beauty and the Bike project, which we published a year ago. What is becoming clear is that such policies cannot be delivered at a purely local level, whatever the new government rhetoric about localism. Local cycling policies are dominated by the DfT's and CTC's hierarchy of provision, which ironically puts infrastructure at the bottom of the list in a table of "considerations" for local authorities to follow. Unlike the fate of Cycling England, this particular policy is likely to survive for some time.

Dave Horton concludes his post with notice of a gathering of like minds at The Phoenix Digital Arts Centre in Leicester on Saturday 4th and Sunday 5th June 2011. Perhaps this will come up with strategies for making national in the UK, cycling policies that clearly are "best practice" elsewhere.


wuppidoc said...

In Denmark there is strong political will to develop cycling further. Infrastructure is a key point for them. And they are now starting to show how much a society can gain if it switches its investments from infrastructure for motorised vehicles to supporting cycling infrastructure.

Another thread of their activity is bringing people together, an example is the Cycling Embassy of Denmark:


David Hembrow said...

I think I have to be clear that there are quite a few reasons why I don't believe that Copenhagen represents "best European practice".

You have to look to the Netherlands to find the most successful cycling policy.