Thursday 17 October 2013

Cyclists are your side?

I'm still hobbling about after my fall the other week, but thankfully I don't need a cast on my wrist. I'm struggling to walk as well as I usually do, but its a sprained ankle, it'll get better.

This has hilighted for me just how important a bike can be as a mobility tool, as I talked about last week. And a series of discussions with a range of folk has got me thinking about what it is we cyclists really want, and whether we've any allies we're not tapping. Or, indeed, whether we've got any allies who might currently assume we're their enemies.

I want to ride on a wide enough route to allow me to be side by side with another cyclist, to safely overtake or be overtaken, with the same priority over side roads as the road I'm going alongside, with a good quality surface, and I'd like it to be devoted to folk on wheels. I don't really want it to be a shared pedestrian route, as said routes create needless conflict. I don't want nasty shared pavement routes that are uneven, give way every fifty yards, etc. 

And you know what? I think pedestrians want that too. They don't want shared use pavements. They don't want cycle routes that are badly thought out such that cyclists feel the need to get off the road and on the pavement to survive. They'd like cars not to be blocking pavements. I suspect that most pedestrians, like me, get fed up waiting at traffic lights that wait for a gap before letting us cross, and, like me, resent the paucity of time given to allow us to cross. And a lot could be done to improve crossing design for pedestrians.

Folk in wheelchairs want good routes to use too. They want it well surfaced enough to use without being shaken about too much, they want good width access without chicanes to keep them out. They don't want to get to nearly where they're going and then find an absurd railing in the way.

People who can't see so well don't really want to be in shared use space with cyclists, and they don't want cyclists whizzing past them on pavements. Neither do old folk for whom a tumble with a cyclist could be life changing.

So... Don't we all want the same thing? Safe facilities to use without conflict? 

I think the most natural allies of cyclists are wheelchair users (who in Holland routinely share cycle facilities), the elderly and visually impaired (who all benefit from taming motorised vehicles, and many of whom can find bicycles invaluable mobility tools if facilities are good) and other pedestrians (who, frankly, don't want pavements turned into official or unofficial shared use paths). And yet, politically, at least at a local level, cyclists seem to be pitted against such people. 

Time to reflect on this I think - are there local groups representing the elderly or those with a range of disabilities who can come on board and start yelling alongside us for the same things that we all want? We don't want the pavements, they don't want us on the pavements, we'd all benefit from the same things... Right, who do we talk to?

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