War of the Roads: Mini Holland
by Neil Webster, posted 11 March 2017
Contact on twitter @cyclonw
Neil Webster argues that to talk of cyclist is to encourage polarized thinking. Instead, lets start talking about choice, health and community.
This piece is a response, or an opinion, provoked by this in the Guardian by Dave Hill https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/davehillblog/2017/jan/17/the-long-war-of-mini-holland-in-enfield
I write this as a Londoner who uses many forms of transport – train, tube, car, bike, bus etc. I am neither exclusively a cyclist nor driver. I value my health but I also value choice.
Much has been written about the “Mini Holland” programme: £30 million pounds to each of three London boroughs (Kingston, Enfield and Waltham Forest) to rebalance the transport infrastructure. Given that the current Mayor has just appointed a Walking AND Cycling Commissioner it is important to note this investment isn’t exclusively to produce segregated cycling lanes for (existing) cyclists. It is also about creating choice for those who might wish to make a modal change from car to bicycle for certain (not all) journeys.
Clare Rogers, a big supporter of street play, is a case in point. She used to drive her kids to school but had a eureka moment and decided that a bike would be better in the short and long term for herself and her family. Logically its better for all of us as the more people who make this decision the lower the levels of pollution. After all you are not in traffic, you are traffic. Similarly, mother A, I didn’t get her name, told of her delight that Superhighway CS5 runs from her house to her kids’ school so she can take the three of them in her cargo bike, not her 4X4.
Carlton Reid’s book title “Roads Weren’t Built for Cars” helps reinforce this subtle difference between exclusivity and inclusion. The initial investment in roads many moons ago was for pedestrians, horses and bicycles. Since then the rise in car use has changed the balance. I used to cycle to school when I was 10 but few 10 year olds do so now. It may be due to real or perceived safety, pollution or general parental concerns. Whatever, it appears few are choosing to do so.
So it could be argued that Mini Hollands are a part of the TfL’s Healthy Streets’ agenda- allowing temporary closure of certain streets for children to play; re-designing streets to allow for slower traffic speed; creating opportunities for lingering at cafes and shops. Subtly, Waltham Forest changed its Mini Holland brand to Enjoy Waltham Forest and seems to be getting wider engagement. Putting the word “cycle” front and centre does tend to polarise thinking.
So trying not to bring the word extremism into transport let’s talk about health, choice and community not cyclists, drivers and roadworks. The Minis got off to a bad start as they were cycling centric programmes designed by engineers. Rightly they are now part of a physical activity and health agenda rooted in the community. The wider stakeholders - residents, shop owners and road users - which aren't mutually exclusive groups, seem now to acknowledge the holistic benefits of this investment in our community. If we are at the tipping point, now is the time for more people to share their eureka moments.
Neil Webster is a management consultant in the property sector and owner of Cyclo Consulting and author of Cycling and the Modern Wokplace
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