Monday, 31 March 2008

Cycle Training doesn't increase cycling

There is a continual push from people who do not understand the issues towards measures like cycle buddies and adult cycle training.

I've seen this kind of thing come and go over the past 20 years and they have never made a significant difference to the level of cycling on our roads.

Training benefits a small number of individuals. For them it can be very effective, but the number of people who want cycle training is very small.

The major increases in the levels of cycling are all caused by external factors which make cycling more attractive than the car or bus or train. The major examples in London over the past few years are the congestion charge and the bus and tube bombs.

The best way of increasing the levels of cycling in Croydon would be to bring in a congestion charge for the major access routes and the A23.



Anonymous said...

I rather like the approach that John Ball Cycling in Lewisham take, which is to incorporate the fun aspects of cycling into their cycle training for school children as well as learning to signal etc. So they take them on a long bike ride and have a picnic at the end, or smthg like that. See:

I think the one-to-one cycle training for adults is useful for those who have never learnt to ride a bike and need someone who can teach them without too much embarassment - free adult cycling training courtesy of Lewisham Council certainly helped someone I know recently. Can also be useful to have someone to plan/cycle your route into work with you if you are not v confident and new to commuting.

I agree that slower speed limits and safer streets would encourage the bigger modal shift though.

eugenie said...

Good to see you in the Croydon Advertiser today Mike. Heard a radio advert the other day with a hotline suggesting you report people if they are just hanging about' (paraphrased) As a keen photographer, I am often just hanging about, seems a bit weird that i might be stopped and searched for it though!

Tom Revay said...

I offer my qualified endorsement of your opinion that "Cycle Training doesn't increase cycling."

Cycle training probably doesn't increase the numbers of butts-on-bikes, but people who learn to cycle well tend to enjoy cycling more. Thus, they ride more, because we humans tend to engage in what we enjoy, more than what we don't. Cycle training can therefore produce more kilometers cycled, even though it might not increase the number of cyclists.

However, since the advent of the automobile, real increases in bicycling have consistently occurred more by attraction (by people who enjoy it, and who then encourage friends and novices to take it up), rather than promotion (by building flashy-yet-crappy facilities whose problems aren't readily visible to the novice). This attraction-through-enjoyment strategy is the basis of the CTC's membership campaigns, as well as those by other cycling organisations.

Trained cyclists also ride more safely, on all roads, whether or not they have cycle lanes -- and isn't safety what the public believe they're buying when they pay for the installation of cycle lanes? That they might not be getting their money's worth is your blog's primary thesis, of course -- and that point further endorses bicyclist education.

But ultimately, you are quite right about the most effective method for creating cyclists where there were none: make all other forms of transport too expensive, too slow, or too degrading for people to accept. When bicycling is the only affordable, efficient, or personally acceptable means of transport in a given area, large numbers of people will take to it.

I'm not sure I like that method. I'd rather get people bicycling because they like to do it. And as stated, those who cycle better tend to cycle more.

Inconvenient Truth said...

Thanks for this clear and focused blog. There are so many initiative that have been introduced in the UK to "increase cycling", cycle training included. But I would argue the measure of their worth should be considered against a simple standard - do they make cycling any more attractive than the current alternatives?

The unspoken fear of UK politicians of the car lobby, and the "motorist vote", means that they are typically unwilling to do what is required to make cycling more attractive than motoring the 500 metres to the corner shop - take space away from urban roads, and use it to build quality cycle lanes.

The rule is very simple in cycling friendly cities around Europe. If an urban road has high levels of traffic, it is too dangerous for cyclists, so a cycle path must be provided. And to reduce the levels of motorised traffic, space needs to be reduced for cars. This makes car driving less attractive, and cycling more attractive.

So simple, but this thinking appears Martian to the average UK brain.

Helmets, cycle training, fun days, PR leaflets about health benefits, they are all cheap-skate excuses for avoiding what really needs to be done.

We spent a year in Darlington encouraging young women to try out cycling on Dutch bikes ( We even took them to a cycling-friendly city, Bremen, to meet young women there. Their conclusion is clear - busy roads need cycle paths.