It’s probably fair to say that news of some new investment in cycle infrastructure is a divisive subject. News of the Cardiff Cycling Strategy and the integrated network maps has brought both positive and negative attention from cyclists and non-cyclists alike.
Whilst it is true that the plans raise a few questions, some would argue that money would be better spent maintaining the status quo, simply because those who are already cycling are not using the often ill-designed and ill-implemented offerings we’ve already got. Caution! There may be ranting ahead…
Sometimes nothing is better than absolute rubbish
We’ve already written a post about why we often don’t use the infrastructure we have. It’s worth reading that before we continue, but to quickly summarise, much of what we have now is sub-standard; poorly maintained & lethal in winter; poorly designed; doesn’t go where we want it to and doesn’t link up with other routes. It also invariably gives way to traffic at side streets.
Many of you, particularly if you use the Taff Trail, will be familiar with Ty Mawr Road between Hailey Park and Forest Farm. There’s a segregated cycle lane running parallel to the road, but many of us just stick to the road. Why? It gives way to every side street, but the road does not. The one thing about cycling is that momentum is everything. Frequent starting and stopping saps your energy, so we often avoid it.
However, many of us who are cycling now would likely continue cycling whether the council intervened or not. We love it. We love the freedom and the endorphin rush that it provides, but we’ve become hardened to the mostly perceived but often real dangers of impatient and thoughtless motorists.
We’re not the target audience…
It appears that we are often seen as one homogenous group –clones if you will. Apparently we’re all just cyclists, we’re not doctors, nurses, teachers, scientists, artists, students, mothers or fathers. If someone commits a crime and uses a bicycle to facilitate it, they’re cyclists. If someone goes out on their bike without lights, or rides through a red light at a junction, that’s all of us too, apparently. Perversely, if a motorists runs someone down, it’s often THE CAR that gets the blame, not the person driving it. Go on, try figuring that one out.
No, we’re not clones, we’re not even a group. Yes, some of us do meet up socially; go riding together and enjoy sharing stories of rides that we’ve done, but we really are a very diverse group of people with very little to connect one another besides our chosen mode of transport. We are certainly not like The Borg. Whilst we can say hello to each other as we pass, we cannot hear each others thoughts and we do not aim to assimilate everyone, at least not yet anyway…
We also have different needs, but often those of us already cycling are doing so despite the infrastructure available. However, many of us see what cycling can do for a city and for a population facing rising levels of air pollution and the far-reaching consequences of inactivity, so we would like to encourage others to join us.
In an ideal world we would have cycling infrastructure that met the needs of the inexperienced and the experienced in equal measure, but therein lies the challenge. As an interim goal, infrastructure that encourages the inexperienced to at least try getting around by bike and to experience the joy and satisfaction that cycling can bring, is what we need to aim for.
The council’s plans, as we discussed in the deep dive series is a step in the right direction. Time will tell whether or not it achieves its goal of doubling the number of journeys made by bike in Cardiff, but the key statistic we would like to see rise is those commuting by bike for the very first time.
It’s those first-timers we need to help, but undoubtedly it is those in need of the most help. Therefore it is vitally important that we get them involved in any consultations that come our way, particularly the one on the integrated network maps, because if the infrastructure doesn’t work for them, it isn’t going to work for anyone.