Mystery free corner parking at cyclists’ expense

Edinburgh Council gives three lucky motorists unrestricted free city centre parking, right on a corner where the national cycle route comes on and off…

Double yellows burned off for three lucky drivers, screw national cycle route

My commute to work got marginally more interesting recently when Edinburgh Council burned off double yellows on a corner next to the national cycle route access on Russell Road.

This corner was already bad for oncoming traffic cutting the corner, but it’s become joke-like since the three lucky motorists got free unrestricted parking just a stone’s throw from the city centre. At least one report of a collision has popped up on the CityCyclingEdinburgh forum.

Only in Edinburgh, the model cycling city 🙂

Edinburgh’s castration of bus lanes leaves only questions

Edinburgh Council is proposing to slash bus lane operating hours by 66%. Nine out of ten bus lanes will be a free-for-all at weekends and during the afternoon school run; object now.

Inarticulate justification for massive downgrade of network

It’s no secret that the people of Scotland have big issues with their health, pollution and congestion.

Bus lanes aren’t sexy but they are important. Glasgow is busy boosting its bus lane network so that more of it operates all day. You can see the logic, as this makes it possible to travel around the city without worrying about a lane cutting in or out of action while you’re en-route.

Bus lanes massively reduce hazardous parking which is great for everyone – pedestrians, other drivers, public transport and cyclists alike. Having a lane set aside from breakneck traffic makes walking along the pavement much nicer, and is essential if we want people to get around by bike and refuse to build cycle facilities (using the bus lanes as justification).

Meanwhile, Edinburgh Council claims:

  • “The Council is pursuing a number of policies to get people out of the car and to walk, bike or take the bus.”
  • “[bus lanes’] predominant purpose is to ensure public transport flows throughout the city.”
  • “it was decided that standardisation of the lane times would help make them simpler for drivers”

So far, so good? Well, that’s until you discover that the council is slashing operating times. In fact:

90% of Edinburgh bus lanes will be a free-for-all for almost 20 hours a day

Against this background you may raise an eyebrow to learn that Edinburgh is planning to massively downgrade its bus lane network. If all goes according to plan, 90% of the bus lane network will be in action for a miserly four and a half hours a day, and switched off for the other ~20.

This means anyone relying on a bus lane to get around outside the peak rush hour is getting a good kick in the teeth. In particular, it means that 90% of Edinburgh’s bus lanes are going to be switched off all weekend and for school pick up journeys:

cyclespace
Cycling to school, huh? Well, not if you were planning to use a bus lane.

66% slash in bus lane times goes against all declared council policy

The worst thing about this proposal is that it has no clear justification – despite significant costs and the potential for long-term damage to the city’s bus network.

Some officials (and councillors) are claiming reduced driver confusion from simplified operating times – instead of having some all-day bus lanes and some rush hour ones, they will all be the same. But this sounds like great justification to turn all bus lanes into all-day lanes (in the style of Glasgow) – it’s actually being used to slash operating hours from sixty six per week down to just over twenty two.

Sounds like a major policy shift to me and one which is very poorly aligned with the council’s published goals and some of its legal responsibilities.

As a driver, I have to admit that I find it very easy to handle bus lane operating hours but if some of my fellow drivers aren’t quite so smart, surely the rest of us can be saved from their crippling confusion without neutering valuable transport infrastructure?

The report to the Transport Committee (which you can read here) is seriously compromised on several important points. Here are a couple of highlights:

[Ineffective bus lanes are] locations where buses, taxis and cyclists receive marginal or no advantage and which also cause localised congestion (solution – remove bus lane)

Seems to be a contradiction in terms, doesn’t it? A bus lane which is to be removed because there is a large demand from private vehicles to occupy it is, by definition, one which offers significant amenity to the buses, taxis and cyclists who are currently benefiting from their own space.

The surveys showed that, at most of these locations, there was little or no delay to buses during off-peak periods; that is between 9:30am and 4:00pm, Monday to Friday. This appears to indicate that all-day bus lanes, offer little additional operational benefit to buses, compared to peak periods lanes, under normal traffic conditions.

At face value this looks like a claim that because there is no delay to buses in all-day bus lanes in the middle of the day, all day bus lanes are of little benefit. Yes, I also find it hard to understand that logic – the only possible way to observe a delay is to look at roads where people are allowed to block the buses, not the ones where they aren’t.

In fact, not only is it hard to find a single policy that this proposal is aligned with, it’s easy to find many different policies that it compromises.

For instance, it’s the council’s stated policy to reduce private car use (from 43% to 31% by 2020) – it’s unclear how switching off bus lanes during the day will help convert people to taking the bus, walking, or cycling – either in terms of the direct impact of the lanes on individual journeys or the wider message it sends to the people living here.

I could go on but there’s not much point.

I’ve written to object to the experimental traffic orders making this happen – you can still do this until February 18th, see here for instructions.

Manufactured conflict: postscript

Despite re-alignment, the natural line to take to enter this new path is still on the “wrong” side of the road…

When even stupid design goals aren’t met

I posted recently about the redesign of a cycleway in Edinburgh which has manufactured conflict between pedestrians and cyclists.

One prominent part of the discussion around this step back in bike/walking provision is the weird way that pedestrians have to walk out onto the “wrong” side of the road then walk across the road onto the pavement, where previously the path just led them naturally onto the pavement.

Apparently this re-alignment is because there “had been reports of conflicts arising with cyclists travelling on the wrong lane and vehicles manoeuvring at the end of Barnton Avenue.”

Ignoring the obvious issue that Edinburgh Council’s design team seem to have forgotten that legally, cyclists are vehicles, and ignoring the issue that vehicles manoeuvring at the end of a mile-long cul-de-sac are basically nowhere to be seen – the natural line to take to enter the new path is still on the “wrong” side of the road.

The chicane could potentially be reversed, but I think at that point a desire line would open up around the boulders on the right instead. I keep thinking the paved gutter there invites a cut-through.

So pedestrians have to dodge through a chicane and walk over the road to get to the pavement because… planners don’t understand how cycling works?

How ironic is that?

Incidentally, I have no idea who the silver fox on the bike in front is – hundreds and hundreds of people cycle on this route and I know about three of them personally. Someone elsewhere suggested I had a ready supply of actors to try and show up Edinburgh council, but that’s quite unnecessary!

ASA-compliant cycling: low life expectancy

If you want to live more than five minutes cycling in the UK you *absolutely cannot* afford to cycle as timidly as this!

If you want to live, get out of the gutter

The ASA kicked up a storm a while back with its ludicrous and widely-condemned verdict that cyclists must be shown cycling in the gutter in the mainstream media.

This week the ASA issued a humiliating climbdown, but too late for this pair of Edinburgh cyclists who I passed on a commute the other day.

Holy shit, if you want to live more than five minutes cycling in the UK you absolutely cannot afford to cycle as timidly as this:

I wouldn’t be at all surprised to hear that these people were killed under the nearside of an overtaking HGV. You can see how little hesitation the three motors in front of me in the queue have in taking up the invite to pass. The internet is littered with the names of cyclists killed by truck drivers in circumstances like this, including more than one in Edinburgh.

Safe responsible cycling means getting in the way of dangerous driving. It’s easier said than done, but I’d rather have a shouting match with a moron every six months than be six feet under.

Road without pavement?

…or pavement without road? A critical look at the contradictions in provisioning “space for cycling” and expecting it not to compete with pedestrian interests.

Or pavement without road?

As the debate about manufactured conflict on Edinburgh’s cycleways continues, there have been encouraging signs that I’m not alone in wondering why people are suddenly held to a much higher standard when they leave their car at home.

Less than chivalrous behaviour behind the wheel is seen as lamentable, perhaps, but certainly understandable, even inevitable. When the same person is persuaded to try cycling instead, any failing on their part becomes a moral panic, not just bringing down wrath on them but on all of the other 43% of UK citizens who own bikes!

I’ve already written about my scorn for collective responsibility (twice!). In this post I’d like to try and stir some thought on the other great question of our times: why is it seen as less than legitimate to use a shared cycleway for… cycling on?

I was prompted to write this post in particular by yet another CCE debate. The point has been made many times that people drive at similar (or greater) speeds on roads where peopler are walking, with or without pavements, so cycling behaviour is both expected and still a massive improvement. Someone replied:

A cyclist brushing by a pedestrian at 20mph on a shared space route doesn’t feel like a brush with a slow moving vehicle.

Make driving in town wholly unattractive … thus freeing up road space for safer cycling.

Then remove the shared space routes; it doesn’t work, and will never work, while people see them as a belt along as fast as you can pedal, (motorised)traffic-free cycle route.

They’re not; they’re for pedestrians and more vulnerable, less road-confident, or just those out for a meander, cyclists.

If you want a “hard-going” route into town at maximum pace, use a road. Not a shared space. It doesn’t work, and causes unnecessary animosity.

A question of expectations

Edinburgh’s West Approach Road was built onto the North British rail line which ran into Princes Street Station (demolished in the late 60s). It’s an unfriendly tarmac canyon which speeds traffic for a little over a mile, saving drivers a few minutes at either end of the day:

edinburgh-west-approach-road

Let’s suppose for a moment that the Council decided to seize the forum’s advice boldly and re-allocate the West Approach Road for cycling. They’d probably want to let some greenery grow at either side and have a narrower strip of tarmac, but everything about the route is otherwise spot on – good gradients, well lit, etc etc.

At last we’d have a route which re-allocated space to cycling, one which wasn’t contentious with pedestrian lobby groups, a virtual paradise!

But wait… Edinburgh Council have done *exactly this* with another stretch of the same railway line. Just a few hundred feet from the paving of the West Approach Road, the same railbed has been (slightly more sympathetically) tarmacked and presented to the city as a key commuter route which is not accessible to cars:

nepn-busy

Naturally it’s wildly popular with people cycling between the West End, Leith, and anywhere else in the northern half of the city. And what do we say about it?

“remove the shared space routes; it doesn’t work, and will never work … use a road”

Crikey.

Cycle routes for cycling on

I’m sure I’m not the only person who thinks this process of self-hatred is weird. I don’t want to condone nasty cycling any more than I would condone nasty driving, but if we have any realistic aspirations for cycling as an everyday (continental style) activity, we have to understand that people must ride somewhere.

Some of them will go faster than others, and if the West Approach Road ever is converted to a shared cycleway, we *will* see this exact debate play out again. It is not realistic to imagine that we can create separate cycle space free of pedestrian conflict, because almost by definition, cyclists and pedestrians will compete for anywhere that fear of violence at motorists’ hands is removed.

Shouldn’t we be honest about the fact that creating cycle space competes directly with other modes (pedestrian as well as motorised) but that it’s still eminently worth doing?

Shouldn’t we be up front about the fact that not every driver is perfect, and so taking people out of their cars in the process of making a more liveable city inevitably results in less-than-heavenly cycling, but that this is still a huge leap forward?

Because if even cyclists don’t believe this, what hope anyone else?

Manufactured conflict

Two way traffic (and pedestrians) are forced into head on conflict which just didn’t exist before, and has been completely manufactured by the redesign of the path…

Public funds squandered making vital cycle route less safe?

In the north-west of Edinburgh a short stretch of tarmac links the city centre with West Lothian and Fife, converting tens of thousands of car journeys from the gridlocked A90 to virtually car-free bike commutes.

Just twenty minutes hard riding will take you from the edge of Edinburgh at Cramond Brig Toll to Haymarket, or down to Leith – without ever suffering from the city’s dodgy drivers.

Recently the city decided to spend a sackload of cash giving this path a facelift, the primary benefit being path lighting to improve personal safety. (Unfortunately an unlit wooded path doesn’t convert all that many car commutes to cycle ones in the winter months, especially – if you can forgive an anecdote – amongst the women I know who would otherwise use this route.)

In short order the contractors came in, repaved the path and added in the handy stud lighting that has proven so popular on the Union canal. So far, so good…

barnton-feat

Then the rot started to set in. Within days, trenches were dug across the path and half-buried bricks put in, to prevent cyclists getting too comfortable. Giant slow signs have been painted everywhere for the benefit of occasional dog walkers, putting them in a strong bargaining position when Fenton is allowed to hospitalise a hapless commuter.

Finally, a chicane has been put in at the top of the path along with the city’s favourite “tramline” tactile paving (naturally no space has been allowed for cyclists to negotiate the paving before the chicane, they’re right next to each other).

Incredibly, the city actually paid to *remove* the existing path entrance and even put giant boulders across it. Now two way traffic (and pedestrians) are forced into head on conflict which just didn’t exist before, and has been completely manufactured by the redesign of the path:

Apparently this has been done because “we are under a lot of pressure from residents there to tackle excess speeding from cyclists”, according to a council source. (Strava reveals that the 85th percentile cycling speed is under 20mph and the official Stats19 data shows there were no injuries, even slight ones, to any pedestrian or cyclist in the ten years from 2000-2010, but hey ho).

Take a look at the video. Is that really what residents wanted? Couldn’t they have enjoyed walking along a path that’s twice as wide where cyclists start off on the opposite side?

kaputnik_pathimage
Image pinched from the discussion on the CCE forum, by Kaputnik

Ironically the far side of the path (I didn’t bother uploading the whole video) is considerably narrower as houses have been built hard up to the tarmac, with typical lack of foresight. There the council has installed speed tables because residents’ driveways preclude chicanes.

The moral would appear to be that it’s OK to drive at 20mph but cycling at that speed is reckless, optimistically ignoring the fact that 95% of the people cycling through *are* drivers who’ve given up the cut-and-thrust of Edinburgh’s roads. (While you wouldn’t drive on such a path, after you remove oncoming traffic and parked cars from the width of Edinburgh’s actual roads the space you’re left with to drive in is not dissimilar).

I don’t pretend to offer any kind of solution to the odd nutter on a bike, other than pointing out that we should be using the available space to make wide paths when it’s so easy to do so. Unfortunately so long as the only alternative route is a multi-lane road where traffic is either completely stationary or belting along at 40-50mph, a lot of commuters are going to switch to an attractive empty cycle path, and every so often one of them will annoy a pedestrian.

It’s still better than putting them back in their car.

The Recumbent Attribution Error

It’s easy to blame the bike, but really, bad driving is universal and we shouldn’t be fooled into having a safety debate over superficial differences…

Don’t be lazy when trying to find something to blame

As spring gets into full swing, I’ve dusted off the recumbent to put some miles in ahead of Saturday’s 400km Southern Uplands brevet.

After getting used to the usual antics of drivers between Balerno and the city centre – close passes, cutting in and out of lanes, aggressive driving and horn use – it’s been pretty refreshing to enjoy bags of passing room, no cutting up and no aggression.

I don’t believe this comes from some mystical power of the recumbent to soothe the angry beast behind the wheel, but simply because it jars people out of the well-worn groove that “it’s only a bike, I don’t need to give him much room”, or “it’s only a bike, how dare he hold me up from speeding to the next red light”, or whatever.

Something interesting did happen the other day though, as I was motoring along Slateford Road at over 25mph in the morning peak. See if you can spot the driver who apparently failed to see my recumbent?

It’s not close, I merely chose this as an illustration of the principle – hands up if your default response to this sort of situation would be “well, what does he expect riding around on an invisible bike?” or maybe “he got lucky, he could have been taken out if the distance had been a bit less”?

For my part, I was mildly vexed that the driver had pulled out on me when I was going so fast – only by flooring it was he able to keep the car in front until I rocketed past at the next set of lights. However, after countless thousands of urban miles, I know better than to take the lazy option of thinking that a bike which is at any distance just a few fractions of a degree lower than another bike is actually going to be hard to see.

Instead, my experience tells me that while there’s no meaning difference in visibility (or conspicuousness?) you’re never going to eliminate that proportion of bad driving that comes from not looking at all, or more likely – being seen perfectly but the driver ultimately doesn’t care.

This was illustrated nicely immediately afterwards… take a look at the full clip:

Nobody would ever suggest that the driver who pulls across multiple lanes of rush-hour traffic didn’t see the white car – that would be ridiculous. We find it easy to attribute this kind of driving to a total failure to look or (more likely) a high risk threshold / unhealthy disregard for the safety of others.

Throw a recumbent into the mix though, and even fellow cyclists are worryingly prone to tacking the blame for any mishap on the height of the vehicle (am I that much lower than the car in the video? Really?)

This “recumbent attribution error” is so common that I can’t even be bothered to find any examples (if you like, try googling for Councillor Michael Stanton, who infamously told a registered disabled constituent that he should have gone to Dignitas, the Swiss euthanasia clinic, rather than ride a recumbent, and you should find some robust discussion).

In my experience of riding a recumbent in rush hour Edinburgh, the only safety disadvantages are found in a few niche, easily avoided circumstances. They’re massively outweighed by the huge safety benefits of removing almost all the wilfully terrible driving that a cyclist normally receives.

In fact, it’s easy to argue that it’s probably a lot safer because it forces the rider away from the temptation to, say, skim the side of parked cars on the approach to a side street, so you just don’t do it. Combined with the mirror, taking a much more positive road position is probably half the advantage, with the rest coming from drivers’ apparent fear to be aggressive towards you.

I’ve been meaning to write something on recumbent safety for years but just can’t get into it as a topic – probably because whenever I ride mine, it feels so safe that I can’t understand why I keep going back to a normal bike for the rat race.

Hoy on cyclists’ collective responsibility

Maybe if you want respect you do have to earn it, but here’s the thing: cyclists aren’t really interested in “respect”. What we want is not to be killed or maimed.

Why do celeb cyclists keep getting it wrong on group punishment?

“Even Chris Hoy hates you!”, a BMW driver shrieks at a bemused middle manager who’s just trying to get to work by bike. After swerving at him a few times and maybe throwing a half-empty Starbucks out of the window, said BMW driver roars off in search of a fresh vulnerable road user, leaving our hero to try and pick up the wreckage of his day.

Confused much?

There was a feature in the Torygraph last week titled “Chris Hoy: my anger at dangerous road cyclists” in which Hoy seems to have done his level best (whatever his intentions) to perpetuate the myth of collective responsibility.

This is the nasty idea that your physical safety outside your home depends on some kind of group reputation, aka “respect”, which has to be preserved by everyone who ever buys a bike. Hoy’s message to Scotland’s cyclists? “If you want respect you have to earn it”.

Hmm. I want my colleagues at the office to respect me, but even if they don’t, they sure as hell aren’t allowed to hit me with deadly force in the car park.

You’d think it would be straightforward to stick to condemning dangerous, aggressive, or outright violent driving without getting into the murky waters of victim blaming and whether or not “she deserved it”, but apparently not.

Exactly why your health should be hostage to any of the millions of Britons who can easily buy a bike and piss all over the highway code is not an idea that is fully developed. Anyone who’s been involved in a similar article knows how it goes, and we could just chalk this up to the media agenda, but perhaps because it’s a bit close to home, I feel the need to stick my boot in.

phone-driver1

phone-driver3

phone-driver2

I just pulled this driver up at random from public video footage – no particular connection with the article, other than the broad daylight offending. Where’s Jensen Button or Lewis Hamilton to tell us motorists need to earn respect if they want to avoid getting points and killing people?

Extrajudicial violence

In Scotland we have built an incredibly hostile road environment, where extrajudicial punishment of cyclists for real or perceived failings is routine and the response of the police and judicial system is timorous and ineffective.

For better or for worse, so long as Scotland’s motorists are able to run rampant with impunity a significant number of those who choose to get about by bike will choose to opt out of the niceties of the Highway Code.

Just a couple of minutes from my house, drivers park fully on the pavement outside a new block of flats, forcing pedestrians to walk on the busy A70 at all hours of the day and night.

I won’t try and develop a moral hierarchy in the space of one article, but we should be able to agree that if you were one of the people who had to dodge traffic walking past that block of flats every day and you went on to buy a bike, you’d probably find it pretty easy to justify hopping onto the pavement for a few seconds yourself. What’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander, right?

I’ve written before about my lack of success with Police Scotland even when a motorist committed a blatant offence in High Definition video (then proceeded to wave his mobile under my nose while explaining why it wasn’t his fault), although others have had more luck than me.

The right to life doesn’t need to be earned

Maybe if you want respect you do have to earn it, but here’s the thing: cyclists aren’t really interested in “respect”. What we want is not to be killed or maimed.

Imagine if the civil rights movement had been referred to every misdemeanour committed by a coloured person and told “if you want respect, you have to earn it”.

Imagine if people complaining about poor rape conviction rates were pointed to (random) crimes committed by women and told “if you want respect, you have to earn it”.

I could go on, but hopefully the point is clear. The right to life is not something that you can forfeit because a stranger on the other side of the country who happens to own a pedal-powered vehicle once pissed your assailant off. For some reason pavement cycling and red light jumping annoys motorists more than driving on the pavement and jumping red lights committed by other people in cars. So be it.

Chris Hoy is just the latest celeb to shoot his mouth (and foot) on this subject, following hot on the heels of luminaries including Bradley Wiggins (who with majestic irony was smashed off his bike moments after explaining that cyclists just needed to obey the law and everything would be OK).

Maybe next time Sir Chris could just say “pavement cyclists? Whatever. Ask me when 85% of drivers* don’t admit to speeding and using a mobile phone”.

Failing that, perhaps he could follow the example of Usain Bolt, who conspicuously doesn’t give safety advice to pedestrians at all…

* your mileage may vary

“Stravandals”: the Strava safety police and their “hazardous” own goal

The 85th percentile speed for the Roseburn Path on Strava is only a hair over 20mph – the design speed for modern shared cycle facilities

How self-appointed safety police are doing much more harm than good

Over on CCE, someone posted a link to a fascinating Strava heatmap showing to-the-second recorded rides for a huge number of UK cyclists.

It’s worth emphasising that this kind of information is virtually unprecedented. For the first time planners, policymakers (and everyone else) potentially has access to aggregate and individual cycling behaviour on a second-by-second basis.

heatmap

Just as a taste, you can actually see that nobody (who uses Strava) cycled along the Quality Bike Corridor at the same time that the much bigger (parallel) Minto St / Gilmerton Rd was seeing heavy traffic. You can see that large numbers of cyclists are using the nasty 40mph A702 to enter Edinburgh but you can also see that they don’t like it (because a significant majority divert onto Braid Rd at the first opportunity).

It’s taken years for Edinburgh Council not to fit bike counters that, once rolled out, will still not really tell us much about cycling patterns, let alone give us the ability to examine the rest of their route.

Enter the Stravandals

Unfortunately, Strava is becoming increasingly compromised by “stravandalising” – the vexatious flagging of stretches of road or path as “hazardous” by self-appointed internet policemen (or women, in fairness, etc. etc.).

While I’m not unsympathetic to the views of people who think comparing speeds on any public thoroughfare is intrinsically wrong, they seem to fail to appreciate that there’s no objective assessment to make. By this I mean that while speeding or drink driving are nice and objective, the “hazard” flag is a purely moral judgement, and as I see it, one that is rarely being made wisely.

Strava’s apparent fear of bad press has led inexorably to the point where my own commute now has fewer sections which are apparently safe to cycle than those which are not, and I suspect things are only this “good” because other users are re-creating segments as fast as they can be deleted.

Why anyone would pay a monthly fee for something which anybody with a free account can delete in moments is quite beyond me – I made the decision long ago that I wouldn’t pay for Strava under those conditions.

15mph_hazardous
A “hazardous” 15mph… 5mph below modern path design speed.

In terms of the market, the issue of “stravandalising” segments promises to be quite interesting. Strava users who feel they’re paying for a service which they don’t receive are easy pickings for rival services that offer a better proposition.

You’d think Strava would be desperately concerned that someone’s going to do a Facebook on their MySpace – it’s not that hard to imagine.

Strava: a priceless safety resource?

Few people will see it this way, but let me make the argument:

I find it pleasingly ironic that people who claim to be motivated by safety seem hell-bent on destroying pretty much the only centralised record of realtime cycling behaviour that’s ever been gathered. Talk about taking the short view.

When you look at “hazard” segments in detail the picture that is painted is often not one of road rash, mangled kittens and dead toddlers at all, but this demands the wisdom to look beyond any distaste at the headline element, something Stravandals clearly lack.

Researching this piece, I looked up the leaderboards of two classic Edinburgh “hazard” routes that have long since been expunged from Strava: the Union Canal and the Roseburn Path.

I hear you gasp in horror. But what does Strava’s leaderboard actually reveal?

The maximum segment speed reached by any cyclist on the Union Canal this month is 16mph, while the maximum reached by any cyclist descending the Roseburn Path is 21mph. (As you’d hope, these speeds reflect that while both are very quiet during most hours of the day, the canal is only wide enough for two cyclists to ride abreast, while the Roseburn is the width of a road).

I’m not interested in arguing about whether 16mph is too fast on a deserted towpath.

I don’t even feel like pointing out that the original Strava segments both time-shifted cyclists to quieter hours of the day (last summer I left an hour early and avoided almost all pedestrians, but with no segment, I may as well ride the same way in rush hour) and discouraged rapid progress across the Slateford viaduct (because the segments were at either side of it, it wasn’t timed).

I *agree* that there’s a moral argument that says this is all wrong, but based on the actual casualty stats, I also believe that any objective assessment of the risk would find that it’s relatively trivial.

I people watch well over a hundred miles a week and the fast riders are almost never the bad ones. Want to see near misses? It’s the two-tings-and-a-prayer brigade that are doing the damage, and they’re hardly the Strava stereotype…

What I think is much more interesting is the argument that brushing this under the carpet, hiding the data in the hopes that cyclists will all start dragging their brakes, is both a failure in terms of safety and actually a retrograde step – if people are dispersed from Strava to rival services who take a stronger line for their users this resource, which really seems to exonorate cyclists more than it condemns them, could be lost.

Strava speed = not necessarily that fast

The 85th percentile speed for the Roseburn Path this year is only a hair over 20mph – the design speed for modern shared cycle facilities. And that’s counting each individual’s *fastest effort* with the prevailing wind behind them – for a true picture you then need to drill down further: I show on the leaderboard at 18mph but my average is 15mph…

Isn’t this actually rather reassuring? Worrying about the KOM alone is like making road safety decisions based on the fastest speed any single car has ever travelled at, ignoring the question of how fast people drive from day to day.

It would require more data gathering than can be managed in retrospect to see whether the removal of segments has actually led to a reduction in speeds (I wouldn’t expect so, but I’m only guessing).

Let me finish with this question: if motorists were voluntarily publishing personally identifiable GPS records of their speed and route, can anyone seriously argue that we should hide that data, bury our heads in the sand – or would we be falling over ourselves to access the lessons that data contains, and reassure ourselves that people just aren’t driving all that fast (or are they?)

The sad thing is – there are objectively hazardous locations and the most popular Strava segments invariably grew to be the ones which didn’t include them. What we have now is the old school “how fast can I do my entire route, traffic lights and all” – is that actually safer?

Whew. If you stayed with me through that, you deserve a badge…

A rational premium for bike-friendly housing?

Rationally, if we intended to live in a house for just ten years it would be worth spending up to an extra £24,000…

In “how I saved a house deposit cycling to work” I showed that being able to keep a second car off the road has saved us £9500 over the last four years, or £2375pa. (That’s based on our real bank account balance).

Let’s imagine that there’s no difference in terms of health or enjoyment and stick with the financial figures. Rationally, if we intended to live in a house for just ten years it would be worth spending up to an extra £24,000 to secure one which allowed us to ride to work.

That would have to include the costs of borrowing extra money and ignores the opportunity cost of investing the money in the house (after all, we could use it to become loan sharks instead) but it’s still a hefty amount of cash when Scotland’s average home costs less than £200,000.

houseprice
Image courtesy Andrew_Writer

Say you want to settle down and have kids which means you’re going to be around for the next twenty years- it would make sense to spend up to £50,000 more on a house which is bike-friendly than one which isn’t.

Being rational, it’s safe to say that many people are making such decisions – although of course you could look at it as a way of getting more house for the same money rather than a requirement to physically spend more. I have no doubt people do both.

Of course, rational cyclists being willing to pay significantly more money to live on a good cycle route can be used as an easy justification for the construction of more cycle routes too. Let’s imagine the £600,000 cost of the Quality Bike Corridor had delivered an excellent commuter route instead of a shocking waste of effort painting lanes under parked cars. That £600k would potentially have benefited local residents to the tune of £2,000 per annum, per household. (Even giving up a bus pass is worth £6000 per decade on your house value).

If just 300 households were able to give up a car as a result of the provision of a Dutch-class segregated cycle route at that price, it would deliver a return on investment *in the first year*.

Even better, the money people stop spending on cars when the council builds a segregated cycle facility feeds directly into the economy – perhaps largely the local economy. Is this why cities that do build world-class facilities see such a dramatic rise in the turnover of local business?

You may find talk of inflated house prices improbable, but there’s good evidence from the school catchment system that parents have been paying up to £200,000 more for comparable properties with better schools (the average is apparently around a 20% premium, although that article is a few years old).

Because there’s no firm line separating “people close enough to use this cycle facility” from “people not allowed to use this cycle facility”, you wouldn’t expect a sharp, easily detectable price jump in the same way that catchments have. However, there must be a good masters or PhD. thesis in measuring the effect.

Houses identical to ours (with bigger gardens) go for six figures less in Fife than they do here. We’re also buying into a good school catchment, but our budget definitely included a “cycling premium”.

Doesn’t yours?