Cycling City and Towns qualitative research

I flicked through the Cycling Cities and Towns evaluation report that the DfT released yesterday. Not all that interesting, entirely unsurprising, little if anything that hasn't been said before. Indeed, I think bits and pieces were probably already published in the individual end of project reports. Most of it's taken up with an extremely detailed exploration of the mundane fact that whether one uses a bicycle for transport often changes with transitions in life circumstances like moving house and progression in eduction and employment, filled with case studies of people who cycle more or less often after the transition, most of them noting that those who cycled more had better cycle routes in their new circumstances, and those who cycled less had worse routes.

Accompanied by some stuff about whether cycle lanes, paths, parking and hire; mass participation and cyclesport events; and training were important, largely based on whether people were "aware" that such things existed and whether they were "perceived positively".

Still, a few more quotable lines to add to the stack.

Cycling infrastructure and facilities: residents tended to have noticed new cycling infrastructure in their town (both on- and off-road) and valued the improved cycling experience that resulted. Although improved infrastructure was generally viewed positively, there remained negative perceptions of discontinuous routes, narrow lanes and lack of routes segregated from traffic. Overall, infrastructure appeared to be highly salient to residents??? attitudes towards and experiences of cycling, with different views expressed amongst different groups (notably regular and non-regular cyclists). It also had an impact on social/cultural and journey perception issues (with visible investment in cycling presenting an image of cycling as a supported, feasible and popular option).

Negative Attitudes towards Cycle Lanes
– New Regular Cyclists and Non Regular Cyclists had little knowledge of continuous cycle lanes to/from specific destinations and often cited this as a reason for not cycling for utility and leisure journeys as they were reluctant to cycle on the road during any part of their journey.
– Both Continuing Regular Cyclists and New Regular Cyclists reported cycle lanes ???finishing abruptly??? or ???starting and stopping??? with little or no reason for them to do so. This was a barrier to cycling, particularly at junctions where participants reported safety concerns. Experiences of discontinuous cycle lanes were linked to negative attitudes amongst many regular cyclists, such as a perception that CCTs were providing cycle lanes to ???fill council quotas??? or acts of ???tokenism???.

???There???s certainly sections where you just suddenly go, oh what do I do now. And it???s interesting you know, ???cause I come from the engineering side, ???cause I know we???ve shoved in cycle ways [???] but there???s not the joined up thinking of putting them in??? Male, 25-44, New Regular Cyclist, Bristol

– In most CCTs the cycle lanes were described as ???too narrow??? and many participants had experienced car drivers encroaching into the cycle lanes. Vehicles parking in cycle lanes were also a source of frustration for many regular cyclists and there was some confusion as to whether this should or could be enforced.
Issues with cycle lanes were cited as a key barrier to cycling amongst females, and Non Regular Cyclists … this often led to cycling on pavements (for the whole journey or intermittently), an activity that was noted by many (including those that undertake the activity) as either illegal or morally wrong.

???I try and avoid the pavement because they???re not very wide and people get angry which is kind of right but I???m obviously not gonna cycle really fast and run old ladies over, but I???d rather not use the pavement if needs be??? Female, 16-24, New Regular Cyclist, Chester
???Road safety, ride on the designated cycle lanes that the councillors spent money putting in for them yet they are cycling on the pavements and cycling on the wrong side of the road??? Male, 45-64, Continuing Regular Cyclist, York

Off Road Cycling Facilities

As discussed previously, concerns regarding cycling with traffic were identified as a key barrier to cycling. Off-road cycling facilities were therefore preferred to on-road cycle lanes and were generally highly valued by residents.
In addition to providing safe, traffic free routes, many cyclists found dedicated cycle routes:
– Enjoyable, and
– Provided opportunities for sociable cycling with friends and family.

???That???s the good thing about it, I mean you could chat, not so much when we???re on the small roads but when we???re on the cycle path we can chat, gee each other on to go a little bit faster or??? come on??? my daughter cause she???s not the sporting one so you gotta gee her on a bit and say, she enjoys it??? Male, 25-44, New Regular Cyclist, Bristol

For several families, greenways enabled their children to have a sense of independence and freedom in a safe environment.

???there is a fairly good set of cycle paths and we are lucky having Cherry Hinton Hall just over the road, that???s parkland, it???s not huge but they do have cycle paths through it where (young son) likes practicing riding his bike.??? Male, 25-44, New Regular Cyclist, Cambridge

Awareness of the investment in off-road cycling facilities was low in some CCTs. For example in Stoke and Woking, where investment focused on improving canal tow paths, non-cyclists tended to be unaware of the improvements as they were not visible to drivers. Knowledge of off-road cycling facilities was often gained by word of mouth when friends, families and/or colleagues had discussed their experiences of using the facility as a cyclist or pedestrian.

???I just heard the cycle paths were getting better, or there was more of them. That???s one thing that keeps me cycling cause I don???t hardly have to touch a road, just stay on the cycle paths??? Male, 25-44, New Regular Cyclist, Bristol

In many cases participants linked investment in off-road cycling facilities to a programme aimed at encouraging cycling; whereas others shared a view that the investment was part of a wider regeneration package aimed at improving leisure facilities for residents and to encourage tourism.

Whilst off-road cycling facilities were popular, many participants thought that there were not enough off-road facilities in their local area. However it is important to note that most acknowledged that off-road facilities were bound by physical constraints.
Across all CCTs there were only a few examples of negative attitudes and experiences towards off-road cycling facilities and these included:
– Sharing space: In a small number of cases, it was often not clear to pedestrians where pathways were split into designated lanes for cyclists and pedestrians.

???Half of it (pavement) is a designated cycle path, so you could be on that bit of pavement and you might get a walking stick shaken at you. I think they don???t understand that actually that???s a bit of pavement for the cyclist??? Female, 25-44, New Regular Cyclist, Bristol

– Access: Off-road cycling facilities tended to be used more frequently by those living near the facility. Many Non Regular Cyclists were reluctant to cycle on the road (even when a cycle lane was provided) but often overcame this by transporting their bicycles by car.


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