Time to fight back against the bike lane backlash

Picture: Ride Leicester
Pop-up cycle lanes have been popping up across the country
Pop-up cycle lanes have been popping up across the country
Adrian Wills's picture

Time to fight back against the bike lane backlash

As a growing number of newspaper headlines proclaim pop-up cycle lanes are being ripped out, accused of causing traffic mayhem, it's time to start fighting back

Up and down the country, councils are tearing up pop-up cycle lanes in fits of fury fuelled by the anger of local residents and motorists who say they’ve had enough of the inconvenience and chaos they’re causing.

At least that’s the impression you might have formed if you’ve read some of the news headlines in recent weeks.

“Council scraps low-traffic scheme due to ‘chaos’ on roads” proclaimed one online publication this week after Wandsworth Council suspended its trial of a Low Traffic Neighbourhood (LTN).

“Fury as FIRE ENGINE gets stuck in new cycle lane put in as part of Covid-friendly traffic measures,’ raged the ever-cyclist-friendly Mail Online.

Even the Guardian reported: “English councils backpedal on cycling schemes after Tory backlash.”

Social media is awash with the debate, with some claiming the new infrastructure is causing traffic chaos, others that it’s affecting shops and businesses and some even arguing that schemes have been imposed without consultation.

But is it simply the case of a vocal minority making the most noise?

It’s time to fight back. Let your local council know how much you appreciate what they’ve done, even if it’s not perfect

Matt Mallinder, Cycling UK director

While some – and it is predominantly those whose preferred mode of transport has four wheels – have been kicking up a fuss, the rest of us have been keeping our counsel while enjoying cycling around safely through pop-up lanes, low-traffic neighbourhoods and new 20mph zones.

We’ve not needed to make a fuss.

Finally, after years of shouting for it, many local authorities across the UK are taking active travel seriously.

At least for the moment.

Of course, some schemes have been better than others. Some councils have had to reconfigure their initial designs and others, it’s true, have scrapped their schemes.

The point is they’re trying and we need to let them know that it’s appreciated and making a real difference to people’s lives and livelihoods.

Better, permanent infrastructure is on its way, with the government in England expected to announce a second round of funding for councils to implement their plans soon.


Pop-up cycle lanes have been popping up across the country
Picture: Ride Leicester

The danger is that the vocal minority are already frightening councils into backtracking before they get a chance.

After all, no politician in their right mind with local elections looming wants to pursue an unpopular policy.

It’s up to us all to make sure they know they have widespread support.

Too many journalists looking for a cheap story have taken the complaints of a few and blown them out of proportion

Matt Mallinder, Cycling UK director

Matt Mallinder, Cycling UK director, said: “If you believe what you read in the papers, the whole country is up in arms at the proliferation of pop-up bike lanes which have been the sole cause of traffic gridlock.

“That’s patently untrue, but too many journalists looking for a cheap story have taken the complaints of a few and blown them out of proportion.

“It’s time to fight back. We can all play a role. It's not too late. We can turn the tide by simply speaking up and letting our councils know.

"And we can use social media, write to the local paper to tell them we applaud the schemes or leave positive comments on negative online news stories. You can also provide us with evidence of where the schemes are working well and give us the knowledge so we can continue fighting the battle.

“That’s the only way we’re going to get our voices heard above the cacophony of complaints and ensure cyclists and pedestrians get the infrastructure they deserve. And the more people who take the time to contact their councils, the bigger impact it's going to have.”

The more information you can provide us, the stronger the case we will have to fight the nay-sayers.

Please share your story of how your town or city is benefiting from pop-up cycle lanes, a low-traffic neighbourhood or other measure designed to promote active travel as part of the emergency active travel fund.

Are you seeing more cyclists now pop-up cycle lanes are in place? Do you know of a high street that’s seeing a resurgence because your town is becoming more cycle-friendly?

We've also prepared a helpful fact file with some useful background and statistics for your use. You can download the PDF below. 

 

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