Over 60 councillors, officers and key decision-makers packed into County Hall North to hear how cycle networks are the key to health and independence throughout life.
Opening the Summit, Rosemary French told delegates that as Chief Executive of the Gatwick Diamond she hears businesses in Manor Royal asking for safer cycle routes. Car parking is an expensive headache for them and they recognise that healthy employees are happier and more productive.
Good local cycle links help attract highly skilled workers who want a healthy lifestyle, and that includes being able to cycle to work. The greatest benefit of improving cycle networks is to our health.
Our residents tell us they want to cycle and they want their children to be safe to cycle. The biggest reason they don’t cycle is because the roads are too scary and dangerous.
“In West Sussex cycling has often fallen down a gap between districts and county and they need to work together to deliver change.”
Rosemary explained that wherever good cycle networks have been achieved, this has been due to political will, as in London where there are hordes of cyclists of all types: commuters, shoppers, families and tourists.
“The key factor is political leadership” – Andrew Gilligan, former London Cycling Commissioner
Kate Bailey: “We’re facing a health and social care crisis – cycling can be part of the solution”
Dr Bailey, the West Sussex lead for wellbeing and healthy lifestyles, told delegates that the county is facing a public health crisis, with 4 out of 10 people not doing enough exercise. This is leading to increasing problems and costs with obesity.
Kate emphasised that the most effective way of tackling this health crisis is for people to be able to make exercise a part of their everyday life. Cycling to work, for example, is so effective that, if it was a medicine, it would be a “miracle pill”. She quoted the blogger Peter Walker:
“Imagine if a team of scientists devised a drug which massively reduced people’s chances of developing cancer or heart disease, cutting their overall likelihood of dying early by 40%. This would be front page news worldwide, a Nobel prize as good as in the post.
That drug is already here, albeit administered in a slightly different way: it’s called cycling to work.”
You can see Kate’s presentation here.
Rachel Aldred: “Infrastructure is the key to enabling cycling for all ages and abilities”
Dr Aldred is the UK’s leading academic specialising in research on everyday transport. Last year she won the prestigious ESRC prize for Outstanding Impact in Public Policy for her work on identifying and overcoming the barriers to the wide uptake of cycling.
Rachel began by explaining that cycling levels in the UK are very low by European standards and she highlighted that our poor cycling infrastructure is the key reason for this.
Cycling in the UK is also very unequal: her research shows that women, the disabled and minorities are only about half as likely to cycle as men. These are the very people who are least likely to have access to a car.
Astonishingly, more than 50% of commutes are less than 5km by car and less than 5% of them are cycled.
Everyone can do it, they do it elsewhere but good infrastructure is the foundation and these are the three types of infrastructure that are needed to achieve this:
- Direct routes away from motor traffic
- Physically protected infrastructure (tracks) on busier roads
- Very lightly trafficked smaller streets
“It’s about providing the right conditions.”
Women and older people have a particularly strong preference for segregation from motor traffic, due to their lower risk tolerance. They are also less prepared to make long or hilly detours. The audience was surprised to hear that in the Netherlands – which provides high quality segregated routes – people actually cycle more as they get older.
Research in the UK has shown that even cyclists who are confident to ride on the roads as they are now are not prepared to cycle with their 8 year-old, or let their 12 year-old ride unaccompanied.
Rachel presented a wealth of research, such as a study which showed that where there are parallel segregated and unsegregated routes, more women and younger and older people will choose the segregated route.
Running the Propensity to Cycle Tool (PCT) computer modelling tool for the route between Crawley and Horsham shows that cycle flows of 1000-2000 per day could be achieved with infrastructure to Dutch standards. 21% of commutes in West Sussex could be cycled if we provided Dutch levels of safety and convenience.
Cycling can enable older people to continue to be mobile after they have stopped driving. Manchester’s Oxford Road segregated cycleway now carries up to 5000 people a day, with many older people using e-bikes.
“The prize is independence throughout life. Children are imprisoned, and older people suffer from social isolation when they have to stop driving.”
You can see Rachel’s presentation here.
Andy Ekinsmyth: “You need a plan to get access to money”
Andy has been leading the team behind the new West Sussex Walking and Cycling Strategy.
Andy stressed that although people talk about there not being enough money, there are various pots of money available – but to access the money you need an adopted plan and a business case.
Andy explained the policy framework that councillors need to work within, comprising a number of documents such as the Cycling Strategy, the Rights of Way Improvement Plan and Road Space Audits (there is one started in Chichester and one is about to start in Crawley).
There has been an increase in KSIs on bikes since 2012, from 50 to around 80 per year.
The 300 routes put forward in the Cycling Strategy demonstrate the scale of the demand: “We want to build some stuff.”
Andy announced that West Sussex has won Government support for developing Local Cycling and Walking Infrastructure Plans (LCWIPs) to the tune of 60 days specialist support.
In summary, we have big challenges but the key is to work together and have an adopted plan for your network.
You can see Andy’s presentation here.
Roger Geffen: “The money is there – plan for a network”
Roger, as Cycling UK’s Policy Director, has in-depth experience of national-level cycling policy.
Roger agreed with Andy that the money is there, but noted that it has not been earmarked for cycling so local councils will need to have a plan to get it – and LCWIPs are the way to do this. Roger emphasized that the new Govt. LCWIP guidance is very good.
Roger emphasised the importance of Network Planning: “We’ve not been doing this in the UK.”
Roger talked about the Space for Cycling guidance for councils (which everyone was given a copy of). The key points are:
- Plan – Plan a full network of cycle-friendly routes
- Invest – Actively seek the funding to implement the network
- Build – Build the network using the most up-to-date high quality design standards
The guidance also encourages councils and campaigners to work together: “Let’s get that dialogue working.”
Roger gave examples of successfully working with councils. Some local groups have produced “tube-style” cycle network maps that are a powerful tool to show where the routes are needed.
Cycle routes need to take people from their home to their destination. Off-road routes are a complement to the main network – but they are not enough by themselves.
Roger re-iterated Rachel’s point that the cycle network should be suitable for an accompanied 8 year-old or an unaccompanied 12 year-old. Routes should be wide, well-surfaced, avoid conflict with pedestrians and be barrier-free. A review of design standards is needed to ensure high quality.
New developments and planned maintenance can be a source of funding for cycle improvements: “Look for synergies, get two for the price of one.”
If you have a plan you can get funding: ”If you don’t have a plan you’re shooting yourself in the foot.”
Asked about dealing with places where space was tight, he said: “Don’t be afraid to be bold, get it on the plan anyway.”
You can see Roger’s presentation here.
In the Q&A session that followed, Pru Moore (Leader of Burgees Hill Town Council) said: “1000 new houses are going up. Why on earth aren’t the cycle routes being put in automatically? We’re missing a huge opportunity.”
Bob Bayley from Cranleigh said the Surrey section of the Downs Link was being improved and wanted to know what West Sussex was going to do about improving the Downs Link in their section.
Mark Strong: “You need a vision at the highest level”
Mark specialises in work on walking and cycling for councils and larger consultancies.
Mark said that to get meaningful improvements the most important thing is having a vision at the highest level. You need to plan for a network. Community engagement and buy-in is not an add-on:
”You need supporters so that when there is opposition to plans there are people there ready to support you.”
When building sections of your network “either do it properly or don’t do it at all.”
We’re building routes for “ordinary people who happen to be cycling – not lycra-clad head-down long distance routes: There’s nothing wrong with that but it’s not what we’re doing here.”
Although not all councils will get direct DfT support, Mark emphasised that councils can do their own LCWIPs anyway but – crucially – “you do need someone who is in charge.”
If something is important don’t rule it out just because it’s expensive: “Get it in the plan anyway and then seek the funding.”
LCWIPs need to be integrated into the local plan, for example they can be adopted as a Supplementary Planning Document (SPD).
Mark outlined the six stages of an LCWIP:
- Scoping – There needs to be a delivery model and a person responsible
- Information Gathering – There are lots of suggested data sources
- Network Planning for Cycling – Should incorporate trip origins, destinations and desire lines
- Network Planning for Walking – Should include core walking zones, e.g. town centres
- Prioritising Improvements
- Integrations and Application – Use the LCWIP to prepare bids, strategies and delivery plans
If there are significant changes in the area the plan may need to be updated (e.g. sooner than every 4-5 years). If you have a major development coming along there’s a case for getting the developer to update the LCWIP.
You can see Mark’s presentation here.
Phil Jones: “Most countries don’t do shared-use”
Phil has over 30 years’ experience in infrastructure planning and design, with particular emphasis in traffic analysis, transport planning and highway design.
Phil presented images from the UK and around the world of successful cycle facilities and routes.
There should be three types of cycle route:
- Routes entirely free of motor traffic
- Quiet streets with max 20mph speeds
- Separated infrastructure on busy roads
And – equally important – all linked by safe and continuous junctions and crossings.
In the UK we still design a lot of shared-use, but Phil said that successful cycling countries avoid shared-use and treat pedestrians and cyclists as different modes, hence separate cycle tracks.
Cycling is different to walking. You need to avoid making people stop unnecessarily:
“Every time you have to restart on a bike it takes the same energy as riding 100 metres.”
Cycle contraflows on one-way streets have been successfully used in many places, for example Waltham Forest: “These haven’t been a problem, even on very narrow streets.”
Stepped one-way cycle tracks can give cyclists priority at junctions, such as those used in Cambridge.
Under regulations introduced in March 2016 there are new parallel (pedestrian/cycle) zebra crossings (sometimes known as “tiger crossings”). Good examples can be seen in Norwich and elsewhere. Despite a lack of publicity and promotion, they are “better than toucans: they keep cyclists separate from pedestrians.”
Floating bus stops use cycle by-passes to take cycle tracks behind the bus stop and thus avoid conflict with bus passengers.
Developers often build shared-use footways because they’re easy and cheap but they are not the way to do new developments. There should instead be with-flow segregated cycle tracks along spine roads, and this has now started to happen in places like Cambridge.
For new developments, cycle and pedestrian routes should not only be considered within the development boundaries, but also within a 4 mile radius (for cycling) and 1 mile for walking.
You can see further examples of successful cycle infrastructure in Phil’s presentation here.
In the Q &A that followed, Roger Geffen stressed that newer standards such as LCDS are way ahead of LTN 2/08. Rachel Aldred said “If councils are still relying on LTN 2/08 that’s no good.”
A member of the audience asked: “Are we learning from our mistakes? There are some appallingly dangerous roundabouts, for example Hop Oast and Redkiln Way.”
Phil Jones: “Anyone who designs to DRMB [the standards the roundabouts were designed to] should now be designing to IAN 195/16.”
Cllr Peter Smith asked: “Now that Crawley has Local Growth Fund money from the LEP do you have any advice on how to improve working relationships to deliver good quality infrastructure? I’m worried, I want to deliver good quality.”
Phil Jones: “You don’t have to wait for the Government to write your own standards. You can use other people’s.”
Mark Strong: “We used LCDS [London Cycling Design Standards] in preparing the Crawley bid, but County doesn’t recognise LCDS.”
On the question of a Cycling Champion/Cycling Commissioner there was general support within the room for having a named person responsible for delivering cycle infrastructure, potentially both at District as well as County level.
Cllr Bob Lanzer announced that Cllr Sean McDonald (Northbrook, Adur & Worthing) has just been appointed as Senior Advisor to the Cabinet Member on walking and cycling.
Phil Jones, in summing up, drew from his experience of the successful London schemes where there is public demand for better cycling conditions which in turn drives politicians to provide the investment and decision-making that enables those conditions to be professionally delivered.
Delegates heard how enabling cycling as a natural part of everyday activity can have a huge and long-term impact on health and independence for young and old.
This is not really about “cyclists”: it’s about the whole community – including the many who don’t yet cycle. Delegates heard that the new LCWIPs – coupled with improved design guidance – are powerful tools to improve health and independence.
“The key factor is political leadership.”
All of the speakers’ presentations can be viewed here.