Thursday 6 October 2011

"Beauty and the Bike" besucht Bremen am 11. Oktober 2011

Am Dienstag, den 11. Oktober um 19:00 Uhr zeigen wir unseren Film im Haus des BUND Bremen, Am Dobben 44, 28203 Bremen. Einlass ab 18:30 Uhr.

Da die Plätze begrenzt sind, bitten wir um telefonische Anmeldung unter:
0421 79 00 20

Nähere Informationen bietet der BUND

Wednesday 28 September 2011

Beauty and the Bike at International Cycling Film Festival in Herne 8. October 2011

Beauty and the Bike will run in the competition at the International Cycling Film Festival in Herne, Flottmann Hallen, Germany, Saturday 8th October 2011.

We are entered for the Goldene Kurbel award, but really we are happy to just attend and discuss our film with the audience.

You can find the Program here:

International Film Festival Herne

Beauty and the Bike will be screened before 21:00!!

There is also a Critical Mass Ride during the afternoon!!!
15:00 Uhr Critical Mass Bochum goes Flottmann
Start at Bochum Rathaus – Town hall/Rathaus

20:00 Uhr
6th International Cycling Film Festival 2011
20 films from 10 countries

Beauty and the Bike between 20:00 und 21:00

23:00 Uhr
Award ceremony

Beauty and the Bike in Braunschweig am 7. Oktober 2011

Im Rahmen einer Tagung junger MobilitätsforscherInnen wird unser Film am Freitag, den 7. Oktober 2011 im Abendprogramm gezeigt werden.
Ort: TU Braunschweig, Institut für Sozialwissenschaften, ab 19:30 Uhr.

Mehr Informationen

Anmeldung unter

Tuesday 19 July 2011

The cycle paths to happy cycling - digging deeper

With the launch of our new website, our work now turns to exploring the political, social and economic constraints on cycling. We recently published an article in the new magazine Cycling Mobility, which explored the influence of habitus on cycling policies in the UK and Germany. This set us thinking about the many hours of material that were never used in the final production, and how there are many other stories that could be told by these young women. We featured short portraits of Darlington girls Sofija, Kate and Lauren during their visit to Bremen in 2009, but the Bremen girls, and their perspectives on cycling, are just as interesting. They reveal how there is much more to what David Hembrow calls "subjective safety" than has so far been written. And how our understanding of cycling can be so different.

Ricarda, one of the Beauty and the Bike girls from Bremen, spoke of "cycling" in the UK not being what she understood as "cycling" at all. We later queried her about this, and she talked a lot about cycling on roads with motorised traffic, whether in a lane or without, as being completely alien to her. There was an interesting aside about this when we were filming the two groups of girls in Bremen. Ricarda asks Harri what she thought of cycling along a mandatory cycle lane that had recently been developed on Hamburger Strasse. Harri responds by saying how safe she felt. But Ricarda later stated that she prefers to cycle "on the pavement" - this mandatory cycle lane just wasn't up to the standard that she wanted from cycling infrastructure.

Of course Ricarda didn't actually mean that she preferred to use the pedestrian space we call the pavement or sidewalk. What she was saying was that her idea of cycling was very much divorced from roads designed for motorised traffic. Living in Bremen, it was possible to get around most places without actually using a busy road. Yet here was a bit of new infrastructure that contradicted this vision. The road engineer who worked on this project also hinted that it was a "little bit different" for Bremen to be developing cycling infrastructure on the road - historically, Bremen's cycle paths have been built, as Ricarda says, on pavements.

From an infrastructure point of view, Hamburger Strasse is deemed an advance for cycling. Considerable space was taken away from motorised traffic to create the cycle lanes, and in fact they are often on the pavement as well. Bremen's older on-pavement cycle paths are often painfully narrow. But from a cycling culture point of view, it seems like a bit of a backward step to be putting cyclists on a road - albeit with some sense of safety provided by the nature of the mandatory lane.

Ricarda's vision of cycling as having nothing whatever to do with on-road activity has some pretty interesting cultural repercussions. If cycling is less like vehicular traffic and more like walking, well we can chat and take our time, can't we? We can use umbrellas, stop and window-gaze at every little shop,

play at look no hands as we cycle along, the possibilities are endless. And a long way away from the health and safety oriented vision of cycling in countries like the UK and the USA. Yet these contrasting ideas about cycling are shaping how cycling develops culturally. 

I would suggest this is a bit like pedestrians and pavements. In most countries with little or no infrastructure, roads/dirt tracks are shared by all. In most western societies, pavements have developed in urban areas for pedestrians. As pedestrians, we would find it alien to have to share all urban roads with motorised traffic.

Bicycling is a different mode of transport, with its own needs, speed, age ranges, that logically does not tally with the very different needs of motorised traffic. Yet certain countries deem it acceptable to continue to insist on cyclists doing just that. Perhaps for consistency, we should begin to rip up our pavements and insist that pedestrians also share road space. After all, some American cities organise their streets in exactly this way.

How to best integrate different transport modes requires a clear understanding of the nature of each. To take an obvious example, speed. On urban roads with a 30mph (48km/h) speed limit, average free flowing traffic speeds are in fact just that - 30mph (2009).  The average free-flow urban cycling speed in cities with dedicated infrastructure lies between 6.2 mph (10 km/h) and 17.4mph (28 km/h) with a majority of the reported speeds in the literature being between 7.5mph (12 km/h) and 12.4 mph (20 km/h). Average walking speed is about 4mph (6.5km/h).

Clearly, any decision to combine two or three of these modes requires careful consideration about the impact one mode might have on others. Thus mixed cycling and walking space is typically designed primarily around the needs of (slower) walkers, with cyclists treated as invited guests.  Similarly, mixed walking, cycling and motoring space such as Home Zones are designed to make motorists feel that they are a guest in the street, and must make it difficult for them to travel at speeds of more than 10 mph. In both these cases, priority is given to slower, more vulnerable traffic member.

Applying the same principle to mixing cyclists and motorists also makes absolute sense. Thus in countries with a more developed planning approach to cycling, facilities like Cycle Streets are designed as cyclist-priority streets with access for motorised traffic.

Cycle Street in Bremen, Germany
Similarly, the aim of the 20's Plenty Campaign is to establish a speed limit norm of 20mph (30km/h) in residential areas, as a means of moving towards streets that again can be used by residents and their children. What is particularly interesting is what happens in residential streets when such speed limits are combined with a strong cycling culture - the subject of our next post. But undoubtedly the great exception to these principles is the mixing of cyclists and motorists on busy 30mph roads. The illogic of this is only sustained as long as the number of cyclists is kept to a minimum, or in  some cases legally eliminated altogether. In the vast majority of towns and cities where this is the norm, cycling numbers remain stubbornly low. Dutch style infrastructure, as currently being considered by London Cycling Campaign, and advocated by both Darlington and Newcastle Cycling Campaigns, as well as a host of other online commentators, means good quality cycle paths alongside busy arterial roads.

Without this key strategic understanding, all the well-funded work going on around 20mph speed limits, cycle training, the marketing of cycling as healthy, and so on will have little effect on the levels of cycling in countries like the UK. "Cycling", as understood by Ricarda in our film, will continue to be a pipe dream.

Monday 13 June 2011

New Research Confirms - It’s the Infrastructure

High quality, dedicated infrastructure will be required if Britain is to become a mass-cycling country, according to new research. Academics from Lancaster University, the University of Leeds and Oxford Brookes University have just released the results of a three year in-depth study of cycling in four English towns (Lancaster, Leeds, Leicester and Worcester). The work is funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC). Key findings are summarised on the Bike Hub blog.

The research found that, broadly, two cycling cultures existed. In more affluent communities where people largely understood the message that cycling is “a good idea”, there is none the less widespread reluctance to use the bicycle on an everyday basis. As Dr. David Horton, one of the researchers, wrote, “The idea of it is too hard, too strange, and far too dangerous. They do cycle though, predominantly for pleasure, and especially on sunny summer Sundays. Away from the roads.

In the second cycling culture, predominantly amongst less affluent working class communities, the bicycle is simply seen as irrelevant to transport, a child’s toy. Here, the bicycle is used more as a second-rate substitute for a car due to lack of affordability of the latter. As Dr. Horton writes, “although people from these communities tend not to rate cycling very highly, some do nontheless ride, through necessity, and on the footway. They ride on footways for two main reasons: first, because they feel safer there; and second, in order to stay out of the way of cars, which they don’t want to delay”.

The research concludes that our towns and cities have, over the past 50 years, been successfully developed for car use. Now we need to re-develop them for bicycle use. And the clear and well-tested policy of slow-speed residential streets combined with high quality separated cycle infrastructure on busy urban roads is confirmed as the way forward:

“We need radically to restructure our urban mobility systems in ways which will get people out of their cars and make them cycle. Half of the infrastructural change required is underway – the push for a maximum speed limit of 20 mph on residential streets is gaining momentum. But the other half of the key infrastructural change required needs a similar push, and this push should be for very high quality and continuous segregated cycling infrastructure on our biggest and busiest urban roads, the kind of roads on which almost everyone today refuses to cycle”.

The emphasis on infrastructure is made because of successive government and local authority decisions to support some of the easier requirements for a mass cycling culture - improved cycle parking, cycle training, bicycle coops and shops, promotional events and activities, bike hire. And 20’s Plenty campaigns around the country (including in our own Darlington) are gradually succeeding in moving local authorities to accept 20mph as the default speed limit in residential streets.

But the key need to address the quality of the cycling experience on busy main roads is consistently avoided, for fear of offending “the motorist”. With endless technical examples of best practice available from countries like the Netherlands, the problem is clearly political. Yet even in this sphere, inspiring examples of successful political action to radically transform cities, such as Seville in Spain, can be found.

But in the end, it may well be down to who our politicians listen to, rather than any technical expertise or ideas of best practice. One positive sign is that cycling’s national organisations appear to be slowly coming round to the same conclusions of Beauty and the Bike, the EPSRC, and an increasing number of cycling campaigns around the country. Whether UK politicians take any notice, though, is another matter.

Wednesday 2 March 2011

Motorist Behaviour - From Darlington to Porto Alegre

Two problems stood out when the Beauty and the Bike group from Bremen visited Darlington - the lack of good quality infrastructure, and the aggressive behaviour of motorists towards cyclists.
This is a world-wide phenomenon in car-centric societies. First, roads are designed for the motorist. Second, cyclists are “invited” to share them. Third, motorists get frustrated with non-motorised traffic getting in the way on “their” road. Usually, these manifest themselves as isolated incidents between individuals. But a more serious event hit the headlines last week.
Twenty cyclists were violently struck on Friday February 25 while participating in a Critical Mass ride in Porto Alegre, Brazil. An angry motorist attacked a section of the ride, hitting dozens of vulnerable cyclists. After being arrested, the driver Ricardo Neis, claims that he did this in self defence.
Tonight, a ride will be organised entitled SACA LA BICI. RUTA POR LA PAZ (Use the Bike, the Path to Peace), in Querétaro, Mexico, is one of a number of international protests seeking justice for cyclists, and the freeing of public spaces currently overrun by the irresponsible culture of the car.

Tuesday 18 January 2011

Learning from Copenhagen (and elsewhere)

More evidence that informed thinking about successful cycling policies is coalescing around a move towards high quality and safe infrastructure on our arterial routes, couple with traffic calming on all residential streets. An interesting exchange of letters between Richard Lewis, a principal town and transport planner at the London Borough of Newham, and Dave Horton from Lancaster University, asks how much we can learn from the "Copenhagen model", a somewhat PR-influenced shorthand for "best European practice" as spelt out lucidly and repeatedly by our friend from Assen, David Hembrow

Dave Horton visited Copenhagen at the beginning of December as part of a wider piece of research called On Our Own Two Wheels, documenting the experience of riding a bicycle in cities around the world. The exchange of letters followed that visit.

As David Horton concludes:

“I think increased provision of specific and segregated cycling infrastructure might be key to getting the velorution rolling. The current and massive problem with otherwise wonderful initiatives such as Bikeability (a UK cycle training scheme, not to be confused with the Danish research project of the same name!) is that, given the existing cycling environment, we’re destined to lose the vast majority of those we train. However well we train them, only the hardy minority will stay on their bikes for long. We have strategically to crack, and then mine, the current dominance of car-based urban automobility, and the establishment of cycling corridors – a la Copenhagen and (in a fashion) London – on key, highly visible arterial routes seems one way of doing so.”

This echoes our conclusion which we published a year ago on this website. What is becoming clear is that such policies cannot be delivered at a purely local level, whatever the new government rhetoric about localism. Local cycling policies are dominated by the DfT's and CTC's hierarchy of provision, which ironically puts infrastructure at the bottom of the list in a table of "considerations" for local authorities to follow. Unlike the fate of Cycling England, this particular policy is likely to survive for some time

Dave Horton concludes his post with notice of a gathering of like minds at The Phoenix Digital Arts Centre in Leicester on Saturday 4th and Sunday 5th June 2011. Perhaps this will come up with strategies for making national in the UK, cycling policies that clearly are "best practice" elsewhere.

Thursday 13 January 2011

A Sense of Safety

This great little video has just been posted on YouTube by Leigh Andrews. It explores how young women in London take on crap infrastructure and the need to share road space with motorised traffic by building their self-confidence and taking road space.