Never mind the bollards, cyclists need love

9313969-PastedGraphic-2Heard Troels Anderson, Chair of the Danish Cycling Embassy speaking at the Climate Change Fund Gathering on Saturday.

What’s happening in Odense, the cycling demonstration city, is enough to make UK cyclists weep with envy:

  • Along some routes little green bollards light up in sequence, creating a green wave. Cycle along next to the green wave and you’ll find you’ll go straight through every traffic light.
  • A Smart Car equipped with lasers drives along cycle lanes to ensure they are smooth enough, and repairs to cycle lanes are prioritised over roads – because cars can cope with bumps better than bikes.
  • When it snows, cycle lanes are prioritised and kept clear 24 hours a day – because people on night shift need to cycle home safely too.
  • 24 hr cycle parking areas with security, music, drinking fountains and electric pumps. There are also electric pumps along some bike routes.
  • On some commuter cycling routes, bikes always have right of way.
  • And many more exciting developments.

But what really struck me was the underlying principle – putting cyclists first and making them feel wanted and welcome.

How different from my experience of cycling in Edinburgh. I know there are some good people in the council working on cycling, and I do appreciate the facilities that do exist.

But I always feel that cyclists are not really welcomed in Edinburgh:

  • Those great forward stop lines are often ignored by drivers, and many of them are badly in need of repainting.
  • On-road cycle paths stop just when you need them most.
    • When roads are closed the diversions make sense for cars, but often better diversions are available, but unsigned, for cyclists.
    • There’s a real shortage of bike parking, and railings are too often covered in signs forbidding it!
    • I could keep going but it’s too depressing…

I know some of the Danish-style bike facilities, like bike lanes separated from cars and pedestrians by curbs, wont fit in many of Edinburgh’s narrow streets, but this is not (just) about technology and hard landscaping – fundamentally it’s about whether Edinburgh will love cyclists, or just tolerate them.

And by the way, the rates of return on investment in cycling that Troels quoted from Odense are incredible.