The Return of the Bikelash
Over the past few months we have highlighted the great steps that have been made toward realising the 'Golden Age of Cycling', the gradual transformation of inner urban areas to being less car-oriented and more bike-friendly.
The unprecedented spike in bike sales, especially those for eBikes, has been a critical part of this, alongside political momentum for supporting subsidies for the purchase of new bicycles and the opening of new cycle lanes.
Unfortunately, such a change has not been without its problems, including the previously-mentioned 'bike lash': complaints from local residents who are against the opening of cycle lanes in their area. This has not gone away and has intensified over the summer, continuing to be a significant obstacle to achieving the Government's stated goals for alternative mobility.
The latest furore comes from a bike lane in Dorset, in the riverside market town of Wimbourne, where the local council has opened an 11’ 2” cycle lane, leaving cars with just 9’ 5”.
With less space available to motor vehicles than the 12' usually stipulated by the Highway Code, and because the changes have seemingly proceeded without any prior consultation with nearby residents, criticism has been widespread. Harry Fone, for example, campaign manager for the Taxpayers’ Alliance has proclaimed that “taxpayers will be spitting feathers at this incredibly poor use of money.” Jack Cousins of the AA likewise pointed out the failure of the council to design a solution that “made equal room for both cyclists and drivers and built some kind of barrier or raised curb to separate the cycle lane.”
Certainly, it is true that this particular cycle lane could have been implemented better, and its apparent invalidation of the Highway Code is interesting given that's recent update now prioritises cyclists, but it is worth remembering that the lane's opening is essentially in line with Government’s proposals, in getting more cyclists and less cars on the road - as a Dorset council spokesman has stated, “this programme is looking to promote change in the way people travel by providing safe infrastructure for alternative, green forms of transport and encouraging people to leave the car at home, particularly for shorter journeys.”
With the number of miles cycled in the UK up by 45.7% in the last year alone, reaching 5 billion miles, cycle lanes having to become larger and more accessible is seemingly inevitable. As Shapps suggests, “millions of us have found over the past year how cycling and walking are great ways to stay fit [and] ease congestion,” and this package will hopefully “keep that trend going by making active travel easier and safer for everyone.” Although this does rely on the Government keeping their word.
While there have been misfires over the past year, we hope that Government continues on this path, and if their recent intervention against local governments tearing up bike lanes is any indicator, then there are grounds to be optimistic. The cycling community must continue to lobby, however, and ensure that the 'Golden Age of Cycling' does not remain a pipe-dream.