Neither of these two are big fans of Critical Mass, and I’ve got to agree. I’ve never seen a critical mass demo here, but what I have seen online doesn’t fill me with a sense of “Yeah, this is the way to change the world!”. It’s too confrontational, too much “You’re either with us or against us”. And the lesson I’ve taken from the last 7 years is that that sort of absolutism just creates more enemies than it eradicates.
David makes the point that it’s infrastructure that makes the biggest difference to the uptake of cycling as a serious mode of transport - not the near-mob mentality of Critical Mass.
As I’ve already mentioned, I went to a cycling / transport conference in That London last week. One of the speakers was Patrick Joyce from Cambridgeshire County Council. He’s the County’s Cycling Officer, and responsible for much of the infrastructure in and around Cambridge - one of the most pro-cycling places in the UK. Algernond lives there, and whenever we visit, I’m always astonished at the number of bikes. Patrick’s message was clear for anyone who wants to increase cycling:
- Cut vehicle speed & the number of vehicles allowed to enter an area
- Skew infrastructure design towards cyclists
- Make it REALLY hard to drive. Really hard.
On this last point, he spoke about how they’ve progressively cut the routes across Cambridge that cars can take. Cyclists can still use these roads (which are closed with bollards, and hence “cycle permeable”), while cars have to take the long way round.
To demonstrate the fact, he showed this short film from Houten in the Netherlands. It’s a town that’s been designed for bikes and people. If you live there, you’re still welcome to have a car, but using it within the town boundaries is frankly a pain in the butt. To make a trip of a few hundred yards, you’re forced out of town and onto it’s ring road to go right around the perimeter. If you want to ride or walk, you can just take the direct route:
It looks to me like just the kind of bold design that requires real political leadership to turn into reality. It’s also probably one sure way to create a genuine critical mass of cyclists.