Matthew Butt

How Wiggins’s Crash Puts a Lie to Tribal Cycle Infrastructure

Posted in cycling by bnathyuw on 8 November 2012

Two stories came into my inbox this morning:

First is the news that Bradley Wiggins has been hit by a van while on a training ride.

Second is a blog post criticising the crap new shared-use paths on Shepherd’s Bush Green.

A sentence in this article is very telling:

Do the transport bods have any idea of the danger that would pose to people on foot, particularly those not nimble or agile enough to dart out of the way of the idiots that whizz through the Bush on bikes when they should be on the road?

My initial reaction to this is to protest that cyclists should be on these paths: they’ve been designated as routes for cyclists, so it’s pretty unfair to criticise cyclists for using them. Of course, the author’s commends do highlight the absurdity of expecting cyclists and pedestrians to ‘share’ space.

But perhaps the author is highlighting the problem presence of fast cyclists on these paths, and this may go some way towards explaining why this was seen as acceptable infrastructure.

There’s a tendency [I’ll find citations for this] for planners to divide cyclists into tribes: the Fast Confident Cyclists, versus the Timid Unconfident Cyclists, and to assume they have different infrastructure needs. If it’s assumed that Fast Confident Cylists are happy, or even keen, to Share the Road with white vans, tipper trucks and juggernauts, then we can ignore them in any infrastructure provision. This then means that we can provide ‘shared’ paths for the Timid Unconfident Cylists, who will be grateful for the crumbs of crap, disconnected infrastructure that keep them out of the way of fast-moving traffic, but who don’t move fast enough to be a problem for pedestrians.

Wiggins’s crash shows that this is wrong: even Fast Confident Cylists, accustomed to riding in the most challenging of situations, are still put at risk on our roads. We need to stop throwing crumbs to the Wobblies and start putting decent infrastructure in place before more people—Fast Confidents or Timid Unconfidents—get hurt and killed.

***

Edits:

  • Changed reference to Wiggins riding in a group: subsequent reports make it clear he was riding to meet a group.

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