Tuesday 25 February 2014

1000 Words

They say a picture can paint a thousand words. I think that is a major understatement. In fact, I  think a picture can capture an entire story. I think, it can covey very clearly the raison d'etre behind Pedal on Parliament.


This is why we need Pedal on Parliament.

This particular picture has been doing the rounds on Twitter recently......

Apologies, if the picture doesn't quite fit on my blog theme. I've made it quite big intentionally because the story is in the detail, but I'll try and summarise it for you.

Here we have a road in Edinburgh. It's a road that, I suspect, Edinburgh city council would tell us has cycle friendly infrastructure on it. Well, I suppose it does to some extent.

  • It has a sign in the distance with a bike symbol on it telling us that cyclists are welcome and expected here.
  • It has some bike symbols painted quite clearly on the road.
  • It has some road surface with a slightly different colour suggesting that this bit of the road has a different use, i.e. for cyclists specifically to use.
  • It has some dashed lines that again tell us that this bit of road serves a particular purpose, i.e. a place for cyclists to be.
All good as far as it goes. I suppose it provides us with a message of intent......We would quite like to accommodate cyclists here..... Unfortunately though, the good news ends there. It ends with good intentions and begins again with....well....I don't like swearing on my blog..... 

  • The blue sign means diddly squat.
  • The bike symbols mean diddly squat.
  • The road colouring means diddly squat.
  • The dashed lines means diddly squat.
I'm being generous here.

For a start, the bike lane is not mandatory, that is, it is not protected from the intrusion of cars. In fact parking is actively encouraged by the fact that this cycle lane also acts as a Taxi rank, and it allows parking and loading at certain times (see here). So this is a cycle lane for cyclists....except when cars or taxis are parked in it, which is probably most of the time, I suspect.

Fantastic. Well done Edinburgh.

You can bet though that when councillors give talks on the progress that Edinburgh is making towards cycle friendliness, that this lane is included in the calculations for the 'number of Kilometres of quality cycle infrastructure in Edinburgh' statistics. To be fair to Edinburgh though, it's probably the best city for cycling in Scotland.

It's far worse everywhere else.

However, it's time I stopped talking about the infrastructure and actually started talking about what this picture tells us.

What? You're not talking about the infrastructure? No I'm not. I'm talking about people.

Look closer into the picture and you see some cyclists, the closest of which is a mother and a daughter. Look at at what is actually happening to them. They were cycling along the 'protected' cycle path which ends under the car ahead. They had a choice at that point, give up and get off their bikes and walk along the pavement, or pull out (with care of course), into the traffic. The mother has decided to pull out, with the little girl to her left.

What!?!? What is that mother thinking?! Will someone please think of the poor child!?!? Not only that, but the child is not even able to go a bike properly yet. She is on a balance bike and could at any minute fall over! Call in social services!!!

Wait a minute! How did I know that the child was on a balance bike? How did I know that that bike was in fact an Islabike balance bike? And how did I know that the mother (and yes I know that is the mother) is riding a Ridgeback Cyclone known by its owner as, 'The Tank'?

That's because the little girl is my youngest daughter and the mother is my wife. Yes, if you look beyond the parked car you can see me cycling (in my kilt) with my two sons by my side.

This particular picture was taken by Andy as my family and I cycled to a nearby pub/cafe for the POP2 debrief. We had the kids on their bikes, so we tried to cycle. Carefully of course. However, just after that photo, we gave up. It just wasn't worth the stress and the hassle and we got the kids on the pavement.

It was a complete cycle infrastructure fail.

At POP we often talk about making cycling safe for 8-80. In fact that is just a set of convenient numbers. There is no reason why we couldn't make infrastructure safe from 3 to 103, so that my daughter (who is now 4 and would like you all to know that she uses a pedal bike now, thank you very much) could ride without fear.

Cycle infrastructure for a 3 year old?!

Yes. I've seen it, and I have ridden on it, in Amsterdam. I'd happily take my daughter cycling through the heart of Amsterdam, I can't say the same for any other city in the UK.

So, if you are happy that our cities are the domain of only those with cars or those with the gumption to mix with the cars, then go with the status quo. If however, you think that our cities should be for everyone, even 3 year olds, then help us call on our government to make Scotland a cycle friendly nation.

You don't even need a bike.


  1. There's so much of this crap in Edinburgh (better for cycling than Glasgow I agree, but that's one hell of a low bar).

    Incidentally the sign in blue indicates a mandatory cycling lane (notice the white vertical line). Either the lane becomes mandatory there, or Edinburgh CC have used the wrong sign.

  2. I think I'll be walking at POP this year. Getting back to the meadows after POP has been a bone of contention in our family. I'm not happy taking my wife and kids back long Edinburgh's busy roads. Walking also means I can bring the guitar and serenade passing cyclists with "Get on Your Bike" and other cycling songs I have ready.

  3. It would be accurate to say that motorists have priority in most 'cycle' lanes in Edinburgh, because any one motorist wanting to park in the lane can prevent all cyclists from using it, but no number of cyclists wanting to use the lane can stop motorists parking in it.

  4. This could be anywhere in the UK. There is still such a long way to go, and a huge amount to fight for. But alas, that is what it is. A fight. Somehow we have reached a bizarre situation in which endless reports, consultations, findings, committees and documents say the UK needs more people riding bikes. And yet despite knowing that, politicians and transport planners seem unable to move away from a car dominated landscape. So, onwards we campaign knowing there is another way, and it is Orange!

  5. I posted a similar pic on my facebook page, one of the phoo shopped images of a little dutch girl on her bike in heavy london traffic.

    It caused outrage among my friends, it should't be allowed, her paerents should be reported to social service etc. No one wondered how we've come to a situation where the only safe cycling situation for children in britain is leisure cycling, that more often than not, you have to drive your bike to get to.

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  7. great article, but a sorry state of affairs.

    I live in Edinburgh and my 2 mile ride to Uni everyday should be about 95% in bike lanes. As it is, what with all the cars parked in them, I end up spending about 95% of the journey mixing it with the motorists.

    Paint on the road is a pathetic excuse for infrastructure and it doesn't protect anyone. The only time I ever feel safe and free on the roads is during Edinburgh's monthly Critical Mass rides

  8. We need to campaign for non-mandatory cycle lanes not to count in the target-reaching statistics. If parking's not allowed for (say) 2 hours in the morning rush hour they can count it as 2/24ths of the 500 metres (or however long the stretch is).

    If you're going to manage it, you have to measure it. Properly.

  9. I liked a comment I saw about the recent "cyclist on the motorway" story.

    If a cyclist is seen on car-specific infrastructure it's considered dangerous and crazy to the point where it's national news. But cars on bike-specific facilities? Despite the danger it's legal and socially acceptable - an everyday occurrence.

    That's the real craziness.

    I feel your frustration that day (in the photo) as it's something I experience regularly. Of course if we all give up and no-one cycles there will never be any pressure for better facilities, but when it's this grim, no-one cycles. That's the catch-22, and then I feel bad because I wonder if I'm taking risks with my family to make a point... Actually I more often just (courteously) ride on the pavement. I know pedestrians should be free to walk along staring at their phones without worrying about cyclists, but cyclists shouldn't have to worry about lorries either.