I just read an article on some great research on the effect of spending on cycling from a little country you may have heard of. Our very own New Zealand! This included work by Alistair Woodward, a regular contributor to the blog – take a bow Alistair (and please correct any errors on my part in this post).
The basic message is that in car dominated cities like Auckland, tentative, low level attempts at cycle infrastructure (i.e. sharrows, advance stop boxes, painted cycle lanes) may actually be more harmful than doing nothing. This is because the traffic environment is so toxic for cycling that anything less than top quality separated infrastructure on busy roads can actually make cycling more dangerous. Such low level infrastructure is likely to lead to only small incremental increases in the number of people cycling – which in turn misses the “safety in numbers” effect that is being experienced in cities like New York.
The secret to cycling success is to go all in and build great quality separated cycle infrastructure that starts to create the 8 to 80 cycle culture we all want. In particular, it brings out the group of people who are so essential to the normalisation of cycling – women.
I must say, to the credit of AT and NZTA, we can see that happening now. While juggling the backlash from the removal of roadspace and parking for cars, they are putting in place separated infrastructure where they can. My only criticism is that in Auckland it always seems to need to be permanent, very high quality infrastructure. We are yet to see the quick, potentially temporary separation that can be achieved with planter boxes or portable concrete barriers – even though these are common tools for roading projects.
People on bikes don’t need pretty, we need effective. Then we can start cycling in groups of 30, not 3 and start enjoying that sweet, sweet safety in numbers effect!