Council and motorist ‘mindset’ issues

This article was published in 2008, in Newsletter 76.


In September, we asked members of the Committee and the Crossings e-mail lists to suggest some ‘mindset’ issues which we as a Campaign face when dealing with the Councils. Here are some of the best suggestions. The full list is also online.

Traffic capacity

  • That maintaining and expanding the number of motor vehicles that can be accommodated on the roads takes precedence over the convenience, safety and comfort of pedestrians and cyclists using or crossing those roads.
  • That you cannot seriously expect people to go back to driving as little as they did say 10, 20 or more years ago. Nowadays we NEED to drive more and more, you can’t question it, we just DO.
  • That traffic lanes at junctions cannot be reduced in number wherever it would reduce junction capacity. (Thus space is not freed to make cycling safer and easier, at what are often difficult junctions.)
  • That most cyclists ride at 5-10mph and that thus cycling is properly seen as an alternative to walking. (Thus road design is inadequate for the majority of cyclists (10-15mph) who are using the bike as an alternative to driving.)
  • If you keep building more roads or expanding roadspace, all the problems will go away.


  • That speed, directness, comfort and convenience of use are not of any importance when considering cyclists.

Car parking and cycle parking

“Parking a car is a basic human right. Using a cycle lane to cycle in is not.”
Image as described adjacent
  • That on-street car parking cannot be removed (except for single-space spots on exceptionally rare occasions), particularly in residential areas, because car drivers would complain and because it would reduce the on-street revenue account. (Thus cycles are left leant against pavements or wherever space can be found, usually insecurely.)
  • That the need for cycle parking in major new developments is not upheld strongly enough if proper provision would mean even a relatively small reduction in floorspace. (Thus cycles are left leant against pavements or wherever space can be found, usually insecurely.)
  • That parking a car is a basic human right. Using a cycle lane to cycle in is not.
  • That it is acceptable to allow cars to park on pavements by creating official parking areas, to the detriment of pedestrians. (Thus areas like Romsey which ought to be ideal as low-car ownership areas, have little space left for people to walk or cycle, and cycles against houses (rather than the cars) are perceived to be the source of blocked pavements.)
  • “If you halve the spacing between cycle stands you get twice as many bikes in.”(No you don’t. Below the minimum 1.0m spacing it becomes awkward to get bikes in and out so only one side of the stand gets used, reducing the capacity of the facility, and increasing the amount of fly parking nearby.)


  • That helmets and safety gear should be touted as a key solution for increased road safety, rather than tackling the source of road danger. (Thus cyclists who end up in a collision through no fault of their own end up being blamed in some way, rather than the motorist at fault.)
  • Whoever is at risk, whoever is creating the risk, it is always the cyclist whose freedom of movement should be constrained by “safety” measures.
  • That cyclists are safer off the road than on it. (Thus off-road provision is one of the first things attempted by the powers that be.)
  • “Cyclists get injured on the road because they ride recklessly.” (In fact studies have shown that of all road users, cyclists are the least likely to be found at fault in the event of a collision. The injured cyclist is typically riding straight ahead when struck from behind or the side.)
  • “Cyclists get injured because they ride without lights.” In fact 85% of crashes involving injury to a cyclist happen in daylight, in clear visibility.
  • “Roads are dangerous.” (No they are not, the behaviour of some people USING the road is dangerous. Behaviour can be changed, and dangerous / threatening behaviour should not be tolerated.)

Law-breaking and rules

  • That the fact that some cyclists break the law is a good reason not to facilitate better cycling for the majority, e.g. opening contraflows in one-way streets, or removing ‘cyclists dismount’ signs on bridges. (Thus all cyclists are tarnished with the same brush or are encumbered by unreasonable restrictions.)
  • That signage at temporary closures forgets about cyclists, e.g. ‘road closed’ rather than ‘road closed, except for cyclists and pedestrians’, because they are somehow lesser road users or are assumed to ignore signage anyway. (Thus cyclists are not being treated like real road users, encouraging less responsible cyclists to consider that signage doesn’t apply to them.)
  • That aggression by motorists against cyclists is a mere “motoring offence”. (Thus it remains unprosecuted and becomes the norm.)
  • It is perfectly reasonable to expect 70 kg cyclists moving at 12 mph to be subject to the same rules designed to protect people from 1 tonne+ motor vehicles moving at speeds in excess of 30 mph.

Poor quality infrastructure

  • That compulsory purchase is too extreme a measure for cycling provision. Thus key areas remain too narrow for cyclists to use properly and key routes thus become ruined by an inadequate stretch or pinch-point.
  • That best practice is optional and only to be considered after all alternatives have been exhausted.
  • That cyclists who complain about poor-quality infrastructure are just troublemakers who have nothing better to do with their time.
  • That you can only inspect a cycle facility on foot or by car.
  • That traffic lanes must always have at least 3m minimum width once and if a cycle lane is to be added.
  • “Bicycles can go around 90 degree bends.” (No they can’t. The minimum bend radius is 4 m with a preferred radius no less than 15 m, with 30 m of forward visibility. TA 91/05.)
  • That the national minimum standard width for a cycle lane of 1.5 m is the maximum width of a cycle lane. (Where in Cambridge is there a cycle lane of the recommended 2.0 m width?)


  • That panniers, child seats, trailer bikes, child trailers, trikes, tandems etc are all unreasonable extensions of cycling and should not be accommodated on cycle infrastructure.
  • That it is acceptable to place bollards and obstructions in cycle routes because cyclists can’t be trusted to slow down; yet motorists do not face chicanes at sideroads but instead are trusted to stop at a white line. Thus cyclists are treated as second-class citizens and face slower journeys.

Crossings and junctions

“Little old ladies can sprint across the road at a Puffin crossing in 6 seconds.”
Image as described adjacent
  • “It is dangerous to allow cyclists and pedestrians to share a path, unless of course that path crosses a road at a toucan crossing in which case it is dangerous to segregate them”.
  • “Little old ladies can sprint across the road at a Puffin crossing in 6 seconds.”
  • “It is reasonable to only allocate 5% of the crossing cycle time to cyclists and pedestrians” (6 seconds out of a 2 minute cycle).
  • “It is not necessary for cyclists to be able to see crossing signals as they approach.” So what are they for then?
  • “If crossings detect the presence of cyclists approaching and change the lights for them, there is a danger that the cyclists will just ride out without stopping”. Well, yes, just like road traffic does at a crossing then.
  • “You have to have barriers to stop cyclists just riding out into the traffic without looking”. Yes, thank you for your concern Nanny, but after 35 years on a bike I think I can be trusted now.
  • The car is king, and road junctions and crossings must be designed to maximise the flow of motor traffic.
  • Pedestrians and cyclists must be corralled behind “safety” barriers and made to cross the road in two stages (or more at complex junctions).
  • It is unacceptable for cars to block other cars at crossroads so cameras and cross-hatching are needed to deter them. It is acceptable for cars to block pedestrians and cyclists on crossings so coloured crossings are a waste of money.

‘Us’ and ‘them’

  • That cyclists do not understand what it is like to walk on a pavement or drive a car.
  • That cyclists are a “them” not an “us”.
  • That you can only make an important journey by car.
  • “Cyclists don’t pay road tax so why should we build facilities for them?” (The most recent CTC membership survey found that 85% of members are also drivers and therefore pay ‘road tax’ (properly known as vehicle excise duty). This is higher than the national average for car ownership. You do not get any rebate on road tax for using a bike and leaving the car at home.)