I am back from the Cycling Embassy AGM in Leicester, a weekend of deep cycling deliberations and, of course, the traditional infrastructure safari of the good, the bad and the ugly bits of our host city’s cycling facilities.
Unusually for a UK city, Leicester has a fair few places where the cycling provision is, if not entirely Dutch in its execution, is at least something we could show our cousins across the North Sea without them laughing openly at it. The city centre, for instance, is almost entirely car free, they’ve taken a whole lane out of the inner ring road to create a cycle track instead, they’ve taken out a whole flyover and replaced it with a walking and cycling path instead, and there’s a nice greenway that ties up the city centre with the suburbs to the north and south, meaning that (if you pick your host carefully – staying with cycle campaigners helps) you can cycle from your accommodation to your meeting place and barely have to tangle with any traffic at all. The details are pretty nice too – like road crossings that allow you to cross the road all in one go, rather than spend what feels like the rest of your life penned up on a traffic island, and forgiving kerbs on the edge of the cycle paths which slope gently upwards so that you aren’t likely to catch your pedal on them as you ride along side by side earnestly discussing the finer points of cycling policy. It is attention to such details as kerb angles that gets us dubbed “kerb nerds” by the rougher elements of the cycle campaigning world, a label we wear with pride, for we are largely at peace with our inner infrastructure geekery
That said, my favourite bit of the trip wasn’t really intended to be cycling infrastructure at all, dated from a few decades back, and was definitely not good practice in many ways.
Yes, the bollards here are too close together, and not reflective (they may need some colourful knitwear), and later on we came across some kerbs which were sadly vertical, but how wonderful to see such mature trees taking up space where cars had once roamed free. An entire neighbourhood had been turned into a series of cul de sacs and we saw plenty of kids playing out on scooters, which is in many ways even better (and rarer) than loads of cycling.
It wasn’t until I’d tweeted it that I heard the story behind why such a scheme had been put in in the first place – nothing to do with cycling at all, but to stop kerb crawling.
At least until we came along …