Sunday, 22 April 2018

You Get Who You Design For

It is a simple enough concept "you get who you design for", but it is utterly lost on many designers and the public alike.

The media and especially social media is adept at moaning about cyclists not using cycle lanes which immediately explains how the discussion is framed. The term "cyclists" in my view is all to often used when presenting "people cycling" in a bad light and it is often used as a shorthand for a stereotypical person in lycra (or whatever their clothes are made of) blasting along on a road bike.

The Cyclists. Monkey Dust, BBC.

"Cycle lanes" is another catch-all term and variously means anything which vaguely has some sort of sign or paint on the road which demands The Cyclists stick to it. Even if we are talking about some paint on the road which sets aside space in the gutter; a bumpy footway which can be cycled on because some signs have been added to it; or a world-class cycle track; the outraged demand that they be used.

Why aren't people using this cycle lane which
has been provided at huge tax-payer's cost?

Shared-use cycle tracks are interesting. If they have even a moderate use by people walking, then they will end up being slow for cycling (people people walking are in the way) and they will be intimidating to walk on (because of The Cyclists). We sometimes get a bit for cycling and a bit for walking, although a white line up the middle is the usual treatment. We'll get rage from people driving who expect The Cyclists to get off the road and onto the cycle tracks. Even if they end up making people give way at every side road.

Give way to drivers at every side road.
(Don't forget to keep looking behind you)

Once we start treating people cycling as *people* who we wish to move in comfort and safety, rather than The Cyclists, then things start to change. For a start, the demographic starts to change from the young, white male;

We see a shift from people wearing PPE to people travelling in ordinary clothes;

We see the types of cycle change. Road bikes are no longer the most popular as riders don't have to keep up with traffic to be safe;

We start to see deliveries being made by cycles;

And where people feel really safe, comfortable and welcome, we'll see people using all sorts of cycles to get around;

Families will start to cycle because they are not exposed to traffic;

Hell, we'll even see people who are not cycling!

This really isn't a difficult concept to grasp. If you treat people cycling properly, then they won't be in the way of people who want to drive which makes life easier for everyone concerned. Even the roadies will prefer the decent infrastructure;


  1. I need to mention how some drivers will say that cyclists having to dodge pedestrians on shared paths is the same as drivers having to overtake cyclists on normal roads. The difference is that on the vast majority of shared paths, two pedestrians abreast with normal social spacing leaves absolutely zero room for cyclists to go through. Nevermind runners with headphones on or dogs. Dogs! In a path designated for people who are trying to reach a steady 30kmh, you're making them slow to a crawl lest the dog that's 2m from the path darts in, leaving them with doggy funeral costs.

    And I get why they'd walk their dogs and run there, those paths are often far away from traffic and right next to rivers or forests. But there's something very wrong when things like the National Cycle Network actively promote shared paths and bits of pavement with a couple signs slapped on and a few bits of paint.

    I'm not even talking about inner city infrastructure, I'm talking about rural paths made for excursionists and roadies. Those paths can always be expanded with some gravel-less asphalt only for cyclists, there's always space.

  2. You are right that a certain sector of society wants to create the impression that all cyclists are weird freaks who zoom around terrorising children and the elderly and slowing down normal people who are just keeping the country running. Note that these freaks can easily both be too fast and too slow at the same time. They can both be a plague on the roads causing constant problems for normal people (in cars) and also far too few to make it worth providing any factilities for.

    However when faced with evidence that cyclists are just people on bikes like in your pictures they will scream blue murder about cyclists not even taking basic responsibility for their own safety by wearing helmets and a full suit of reflective and high visibility gear at all times.