Rachel began by saying that we are now “starting to see the momentum building”. It’s about cycling not cyclists, about cycling being for everyone, a normal activity across all age ranges: “People enjoy cycling if the environment is right, especially if we create spaces where people want to be. It’s about quality of life.”
She spoke about the value of cycling to the economy. Her work on Tonbridge in Kent shows that journey times are similar to those for cars at peak times. Cycling also offers lower costs and improved journey quality. In the past the benefits of cycling have been difficult to cost but there is now guidance on how to monetise the benefits of cycling to create benefit-cost ratios – although not all the benefits can be monetised.
For example, when people cycle to the shops they buy less for any one trip (compared to by car) but they shop more often and more locally, and this creates places where people want to go: “Town centres can’t compete [with out of town shopping] on parking, but they can compete on that.”
Recent evidence is also now showing that noise pollution causes similar levels of harm as air pollution.
She spoke about the commonly-heard claim that cycling only works in the Netherlands because it’s flat: ”England is hilly and whilst it is a deterrent, it’s not an absolute deterrent”. Cycle-to-work rates are only 1-3% “and it’s not because of the hills”. Her work using the PCT has shown that in West Sussex there is a potential for a 20-21% cycle-to-work rate.
Rachel used the front cover of LTN2/08 to explain why our cycle-to-work rates are so low. With hostile cycling conditions like that she said: “We’ve been designing for the person on the cover [rather than for older people, women and children], and actually that person’s not very happy either!”
In the UK, three-quarters of cyclists are male and cycling levels “drop off a cliff as people get older – and that’s not normal”.
She said there is now good evidence that there is “a really substantial impact when you put in place a really high quality bit of infrastructure that links hospitals, places people live and work”, a good example being the Cambridge guided busway.
Her own experience is an example of the way conditions in the UK are stopping women and other groups from cycling: “I used to walk 50 minutes to university – and I could have just jumped on a bike but I didn’t because of the road conditions.”
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