Because cycle paths tend to be terrible and, if you haven't ever ridden any, here's why. Let's imagine a car journey designed by a British cycle path designer. Motorways would become minor roads and then back again before ending at brick walls. At every traffic light you would have to exit your car to press a button then hop back in to wait for a flashing car symbol. Bollards would be smack-bang in the middle of travel lanes. Broken glass - from the smack-bangs - would remain on the road, unswept. "Motorists dismount" signs would be everywhere. And forget speedy A to B access, with roads designed by a cycle path designer you would have to travel ten miles to get somewhere two miles away. Oh, and you'd also have to share the road with cows.
Faced with these niggles driving your car would be horrendous. Cycle paths tend to be indirect, narrow, strewn with glass and littered with obstacles such as lamp posts. "Cyclists dismount" signs are commonplace. Cycle paths are often blocked with barriers making them difficult to use. Despite quite large differentials in speed, cyclists usually have to share space with pedestrians. Council "cycling budgets" are often blown on pots of white paint due to the widespread belief that magically marked-out cycle lanes have protective properties.
Things are very different in the Netherlands. Dutch motorists have direct, well-surfaced, fast roads all to themselves, and cyclists are provided with similar. The two transport modes have extensive, separate networks; everybody's safe, everybody's happy.
A tiny number of British cycle paths have been built to Dutch-standards. They are crowd-pleasingly wide, protected and direct and, importantly, they get used! The provision of a dense, high-quality network of cycle paths across Britain would be good for cyclists and motorists, and much safer for pedestrians. Getting more people on bikes will lead to more room on the roads for motorists, help with the environment and create more road harmony, too.
Carlton Reid is the executive editor of BikeBiz.com. He drives a Nissan Note "but not very often." He's writing a history book on motoring's cycling beginnings, Roads Were Not Built For Cars. www.roadswerenotbuiltforcars.com
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