mardi 14 avril 2015

Going Dutch? A note of caution for cycle activists


It's almost certainly unwise of me to publish my original compositions in French: the inevitable clunkiness of my style in that language probably frightens off potential clients, and it is unlikely to be the most useful contribution to debate further afield. Nevertheless, such was my burning desire to express myself during this discussion of the effect of the implementation of cycle lanes on traffic more generally (on the CarFree France site) that I broke the rule. And now, no less a personage than Carlton Reid, author of the excellent (and beautifully illustrated) book 'Roads Were Not Built For Cars,' has asked me to translate my comment there. Happy to oblige! Here it is:


 Like Benchaouche Yassin, I live in Nantes, and I agree with him that the arrival of cycle paths does not necessarily mean there has been an improvement in life for the cyclist. There have certainly been good intentions to make policy that encourages cycling here. And the town hall spends a fair amount of cash on the streetscape dedicated to cyclists. Unfortunately, a "gymkhana effect" has been created: an obstacle course of kerbs, bollards, deviations, unnecessary curves, contradictory traffic signals two metres apart etc—which may make the keen mountain biker happy, but hardly seems the right thing for a humble worker who just wants to get to work with a minimum of effort. And what's more, the sensible cyclist who avoids this traffic engineering bullshit by riding on the road alongside now gets given a lesson—by the medium of the car horn—by drivers. It must remain an absolute principle that the cyclist must always retain his or her right to ride on the road. The new lanes are for the new cyclists, the old, the disabled, and children. Of course, it's always good to have a choice. But often, that choice will be direct and quick, on a smooth road.
"Mummy, why is the cycle lane compulsory?"
"Because it's rubbish."

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