There are several myths around active travel that are often repeated as if gospel. Here we highlight some of the ways to counter these myths…

Bikelash! by Aaron Naparstek and Doug Gordon

How to prevent ‘bikelash’ in your community:

  • Build and support and healthy advocacy eco-system (both online through social media and offline through attending council/community meetings)
  • Develop your own media channels (for example, Doug Gordon set up Brooklyn Spoke; we have the WRGM blog)
  • Change the conversation through agreement – “Stop arguing with the people who disagree with you – they don’t disagree with you… they love their neighbourhoods too. They just are afraid of seeing it change…” We can bridge gaps to address people’s fears (don’t respond with ‘no, but…’; instead, respond with ‘yes, and…’)

View the full video here:

Pedestrianisation/Cycling is proven to be great for business

Transport for London (TfL) has undertaken detailed research that shows walking and cycling improvements can increase retail spend by up to 30%.

TfL walking and cycling spending data

Living Streets’ Pedestrian Pound study (2018) found similarly positive results.

The Healthy Streets: A Business View report, developed by the University of Westminster on our behalf, surveys London’s Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) to understand the importance of the Healthy Streets Approach to business performance.

The research found that 85% of BIDs see cycling as important to business performance, and 95% of BIDs see walking as important to business performance.

Cycle lanes attract more business than car parking bays in a number of ways, as shown by multiple examples in this article.

In fact, research by Sustrans shows that retailers tend to significantly overestimate how many of their customers travel by car.

Furthermore, if you run a business, you should encourage your employees to cycle to work if you’d like them to be happier, healthier and more productive. As this study by Hendriksen et al (2010) shows, “Cycling to work is associated with less sickness absence. The more often people cycle to work and the longer the distance travelled, the less they report sick.”

There are lots of imaginative ways to do the shopping without a car

Many people manage to do their grocery shopping without use of a private car, whether that’s by using public transport, walking or cycling.

There are several ways to carry your groceries on a bicycle, using a pannier rack, basket, or trailer if you prefer.

There is also evidence that people who travel to shops by walking or cycling visit more frequently and by smaller amounts more often, so it’s better for businesses as well.

Emergency services support active travel

Emergency services are statutory consultees, so the local highways authority’s team always consults with them before installing a cycle lane or modal filter (or any road scheme). They are generally quite supportive for several reasons, including:

1. Safer conditions on a street mean that there are fewer road traffic crashes requiring a response.

2. The reduction in motor traffic on filtered roads means that they are much emptier when the emergency vehicle arrives, making it easy to drive through.

Pop-up bicycle lanes have also proved helpful for ambulances to use to bypass vehicular traffic:

A hospital trust in Southwark Council area helped to fund a Low Traffic Neighbourhood by paying the Council £250,000, and NHS Trusts have confirmed that COVID Emergency Active Travel schemes do not hinder ambulances.

Low Traffic Neighbourhoods help many disabled people to get around without using a car

Local authorities have a duty under the Equality Act (2010) to make reasonable accommodation to ensure that people with disabilities do not experience any disadvantage compared to non-disabled persons, and that will continue to be the case.

It’s very important that these schemes also enable more people to walk or cycle, especially people who use hand-cycles, tricycles, various types of cycles adapted for disability, or mobility scooters, and that people with partial sight can safely navigate the temporary changes. Modal filters improve safety for all road users. People will find it much easier to walk, wheel or scoot along a road after a modal filter has been installed because of the greatly reduced amount of motor traffic.

Wheels for Wellbeing provide some great solutions for non-standard bicycles and evidence shows that 78% of disabled people are able to cycle, and for 2 our of 3 of disabled cyclists, riding a bike is easier than walking:

Low Traffic Neighbourhoods are for everyone

A wide range of people benefit from low traffic neighbourhoods, including disabled people, shop owners, emergency services – and even drivers. This is described further in these Twitter threads:

Low Traffic Neighbourhoods reduce traffic both inside and outside the scheme area

Reallocating roadspace from general traffic, to improve conditions for pedestrians or cyclists or buses or on-street light rail or other high-occupancy vehicles, is often predicted to cause major traffic problems on neighbouring streets. This paper reports on two phases of research, resulting in the examination of over 70 case studies of roadspace reallocation from eleven countries, and the collation of opinions from over 200 transport professionals worldwide.

The findings suggest that predictions of traffic problems are often unnecessarily alarmist, and that, given appropriate local circumstances, significant reductions in overall traffic levels can occur, with people making a far wider range of behavioural responses than has traditionally been assumed. Follow-up work has also highlighted the importance of managing how schemes are perceived by the public and reported in the media, with various lessons for avoiding problems.

Finally, the findings highlight that well-designed schemes to reallocate roadspace can often contribute to a multiplicity of different policy aims and objectives.

For a more recent example, this study of the well-publicised prevention of through traffic across Hammersmith Bridge shows that around 9,500 car journeys per day across the Thames have ‘evaporated‘, as people take fewer car journeys and instead make alternative travel choices.

The evidence suggests that drivers begin to find new routes over time, and that navigation is a learning curve.

Infrastructure means people will still cycle in the rain/winter/hot sun/snow/etc…

If the infrastructure enables cycling, people will continue to use it in all weathers, as demonstrated by this example from Copenhagen:

Low Traffic Neighbourhoods benefits all people, irrespective of wealth or social class

Academic research published in November 2020 by Dr Rachel Aldred and Dr Ersilia Verlinghieri (University of Westminster) found “no clear social equity problem related to low-traffic neighbourhoods”. Indeed the authors “recommend that boroughs without LTNs introduce them.”

A study on the original plans set out for the Levenshulme Low Traffic Neighbourhood found that, with regards to Indices of Multiple Deprivation data, “there is no clear split between filtered and unfiltered roads. In fact the least deprived roads are the ones that would still be receiving through traffic.”.

Built it and they will come

A regular stalling tactic used by opponents to cycling infrastructure is to request assessment after assessment as proof that change is required. But the phenomenon of induced demand means that, without the safe infrastructure in place, uptake of dangerous, congested roads will not be appealing for those new to cycling. People use the modes that are made convenient through the available infrastructure: if you build new roads, they will fill up; if you build new cycle lane, they will be used; if you build a pedestrianised area near to shops and bars, there will be more footfall.

For examples, Paris has reported that 60% of the people of people using the pop-up cycle lanes in the city are new to cycling.

Bridge over ravine cycle lane analogy

Another tactic is to take a photograph of an empty cycle lane, but this study shows how that snapshot approach is flawed:

Cycling has no uniform – wear whatever you like!

The Cycle Chic blogs are great resources for showing people from across broad demographics cycling in a wide range of clothing, from high heels to hiking boots; from anoraks to aviators; and from loafers to leather jackets. Initially set up as Copenhagen Cycle Chic by the Copenhagenize Design Studio founder Mikael Colville-Anderson, there are now Cycle Chic blogs based on the two-wheeled wardrobes of cities from Edinburgh to Vienna. To start a blog for your area, just follow the manifesto here.