It’s hard to believe it’s less than one month away from Christmas again. And while we might all ponder what presents we want to give each other this year, an interesting ongoing related question is what “gifts” our local and central Govt organisations might like to bestow upon us. Back in Nov 2012, before the current Major Cycle Routes were a thing, guest writer Jim Slim pondered what kind of cycling network might Christchurch like as a present…
It’s that time of year, Christmas shopping time and I’m looking for the best possible present for an old friend, the city of Christchurch. Yes, she’s had a hard time lately so she deserves the very best present I can think of. Maybe a really good cycling network. One with separated tracks and really safe junctions. One that lots of people will use Yes, that’s it, I need to shop around to see what’s available.
First I need to be sure that nobody else is planning to give her the same present. She’s got a really good friend in Wellington who I know has plenty of cash to spend. Luckily (or otherwise) it looks like that friend has other “things of national significance” in mind.
I know she hasn’t already got a good cycling network. She did buy one a decade or two ago but it’s in dire need of replacement. For one thing it’s an old model which hasn’t proved to be popular. On top of that the instructions when she bought it said “some self assembly required”. When she went to put it together there were pieces missing. You might expect the odd bolt or washer missing when putting these things together but it turned out that about three quarters of the pieces were missing and they never did turn up. It proved a devil of a job to make any use of it with so few parts.
I’m surprised that nobody else has thought to help her buy one, especially her rich friend in Wellington, especially when you consider how good it will be for her:
- Guaranteed to clear blocked arteries
- Ugly spots replaced with beauty spots
- A severe tendency to sprawl turned into a neat and tidy body
- Bad odours replaced with nice fresh air
- Raucous noise replaced with peace and quiet
- Obesity epidemic? Not here
- Cash to spare for the important things in life
Yes, and so much more. I need to look around and see what’s available on the market. That would be a lot more sensible than designing something from scratch myself. There may need to be some tweaks to the base product for local conditions but there are so many options out there I’m bound to find one that fits her needs.
The Internet should be a good place to search these days so let’s have a look. The main contenders available in the market seem to be:
- The Anglo Model. Common in English speaking countries. Involves the use of a lot of stripes and often mixes cyclists in with the rest of the traffic. Keen on mixing bicycles with buses.
- The Danish Model. Very easy to understand, separates cyclists from traffic along main roads and uses a lot of blue paint to attempt the same at junctions.
- The Dutch Model. Very sophisticated with good separation of cyclists along main roads and at junctions and widespread use of red tarmac. Lots of measures to slow traffic down and reduce through traffic on local streets.
The Anglo model comes with a health warning – “Only suitable for boys between the ages of 18 and 35”. We really need to select something suitable for all ages, eight to 80 so that looks like it rules out the Anglo model straight away.
Both The Dutch and Danish models do a very good job but when it comes to junctions the Dutch model wins hands down.
So, it looks like the Dutch model is the one to plump for but can we be sure? Is it safe? We’d better check online. If children can cycle safely to school by themselves then it’s pretty safe to say that they could do the same here with the same product.
Well, I think that proves pretty conclusively that there is no age restriction on the Dutch model. And what’s so good about Dutch intersections? Would cyclists of all ages feel comfortable taking a right turn at a busy intersection?
So, the Dutch model seem to have it all sewn up. But what has been customer reaction to the various products? In Holland 25% of all trips are by bike, in Denmark it’s 18% while countries using the Anglo model struggle to get above two or three percentage points. And safety? The UK has cycling accident rates three to four times those of Holland and Denmark and the situation in the US is even worse. Cyclists in London are thoroughly fed up with their Anglo model to the extent that 10,000 of them turned out in the rain to demand it be returned to the manufacturer and replaced with the Dutch model.
So, if we want to give Christchurch a Christmas present that will be used regularly and be safe for all ages the Dutch model is the one that gets the five star rating. And why not just borrow the slogan from the London campaign and call it Go Dutch? After all, if the rich friend in Wellington stumps up with half the cost then we really will have gone Dutch.
Have we ended up with the cycling “gift” that we wanted?