Cycling column with Becky Cox of Swindon Cycle Campaign
Would you be confident making a journey by bike with your eight-year-old child or your 80-year-old granny? Possibly not. However, all-new planning guidance could help change that.
In July last year, following the 2020 lockdown ‘Cycle Boom’, the government released an important document which could really help us move towards the goal of becoming a cycling nation. It means that transport planners must now view cyclists as vehicles, and not as pedestrians.
Swindon’s cycle network is predominately formed of ‘shared paths’ which are effectively just wide pavements. These paths work well in quieter areas for leisure cycling, but they’re not pleasant for anyone when they get busy - particularly for vulnerable pedestrians. You wouldn’t drive a car on a busy pedestrian walkway so, if we consider bikes as vehicles, why would you put a bike on there?
The focus now is on everyone having a quality journey, whichever way you travel. So, in busy areas we should start seeing cycle paths which are separate from both pedestrians and vehicles, making everyone feel safer.
Cycling is moving away from a focus on ‘bi-cycles’ with everything from paths to cycle parking being designed for a much wider range of users – think bikes with trailers, trikes, electric bikes, cargo cycles, tandems, recumbents, mobility scooters and more. So that means fewer chicanes, pedestrian guardrails, and signs like ‘cyclist dismount’ and ‘end of route’.
Have you ever felt that a cycle route just seems illogical? Often, those paths have been designed by engineers who haven’t been on a bike for years and certainly never test out their own creations. The new guidance means that those engineers will now need to ‘walk the walk’ and directly experience the area they are planning for by bike.
Furthermore, new cycle schemes must now be built for life, with funding and planning for life-long maintenance. So that means cracked and potholed cycle paths may become a thing of the past!
In practice, local authorities can no longer gain access to funds for cycle schemes unless they comply with the much more stringent new standards. Forward-thinking councils and planners now have concrete design standards for developers to adhere to, so any future housing developments should be more cycle-friendly.
Will it work? I’m cautiously optimistic. As a member of Swindon Cycle Campaign working with the borough to improve infrastructure, I believe that we certainly now have a much stronger platform to work from.
If you’re interested in volunteering with Swindon Cycle Campaign to help us make it easier to cycle in your local area, please get in touch via our Facebook page or website. We’d love to hear from you!