Meanwhile in Montreal..

Boris Johnson: “If there were more cyclists we would have made the cycle superhighways separate lanes”

Gerald Tremblay, Mayor of Montreal: “We’ll build the dedicated cycle lanes and then they’ll come”

One of these two mayors has the right idea. There’s no prizes for guessing which one.

It’s a well-understood fact that fear of cycling is the main reason people don’t cycle. In a DFT survey 6 out of 10 people stated “it’s too dangerous for me to cycle on the roads”. There’s no greater reason. It’s not because it ruffle up your hair or you’ll arrive sweaty.

The problem is, with cycling organisations unable to back a consistent strategy (See: is LCC for or against cycle lanes), there’s been very little progress in terms of dedicated cycling infrastructure. When fellow cycling bloggers visit London I’m left “showing off” London’s tiny stretch of confusing cycle lane on Tavistock Pl or the start of CS3 on Royal Mint Street.

“These kinds of statistics are music to this administration’s ears”


The Montreal Gazzette reported a 40% increase in cycling in areas where bike lanes have been added according to a study conducted between April 2008 and July 2010 by McGill University.

The city is investing heavily in its cycling infrastructure with a plan to expand the network from 535 km to 800 km by 2013. Not bad for a city of just over one and a half million residents. Unlike London the city also makes sure it clears its cycle lanes from the snow.

Ask users of the cycle superhighways if it makes them feel safer cycling into work and the majority (60%) will say no. With a planned increase in cycling of 400% by 2025 it looks like a few lessons could be learned from Montreal. Oh well, another 14 years to go..

Special thanks to Richard for forwarding me the article.

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As seen on The Guardian, BBC and The Independent.

22 Responses to Meanwhile in Montreal..

  1. Angi 29/12/2010 at 10:52 pm #

    I’m not convinced that dedicated cycling infrastructure would ever be possible in London, just purely based on the layout of our roads and how we use them.

    You will always end up with yellow or double yellow lines going through narrow cycling lanes (small strip of painted bit in the gutter) which cars will then park in, or overlapping with busy bus lanes and so on.

    I think the emphasis should be more on ‘sharing the roads’ perhaps?

    • Ciarán 30/12/2010 at 9:12 am #


      The fact that a road in London needs to provide parking for cars is nonsense.

      London is a city that needs to significantly reduce car usage. Making the public choose alternatives to cars can be promoted by making it less appealing to drive, this includes parking.

      I don’t expect to be able to park my bike outside of my destination. Neither should a car driver.

      A segregated cycle lane would not allow a car to park in it, as it would expect a small barrier/kerb to prevent this. The double/single yellow lines would then be part of the cars allocation of road space, and they can decide if they want to use it.

      • Andreas 30/12/2010 at 11:42 am #

        I’m leaning towards agreeing with Ciaran on this. I know it seems unlikely to see road space being re-allocated but ultimately this is what the evidence points towards being needed for encouraging people out of the cars and onto bicycles. I’m not sure how bad the congestion and pollution situation needs to get before this starts to happen. It’s easy to point the finger and say “cycling doesn’t work in this city” but then you have to look at the uptake of cycling in hilly places such as Bristol. I know London was never built like Paris but by re-allocating parking and lanes to cycling you’ll start to see it becoming a far more popular option. It’s just a painful transition to make..

    • christhebull 30/12/2010 at 5:35 pm #

      “just purely based on the layout of our roads”

      as we all know, major roads like Victoria Embankment are far too narrow for cycle paths, because it’s much more important to squeeze in as many vehicle lanes as possible, and then add coach parking.

      “and how we use them”

      this is it. We use Portland Place as a car park. There are no cycle lanes, but there is somehow room for FOUR lanes of car parking (one on either side and two in the middle). It would certainly have room for a fully segregated cycle path if some (not even all) the parking was removed. You could even extend it further south along Regent Street and onwards, and fiddle with the traffic lights so you had a green wave from Regent’s Park to Millbank! The road space is there, it would just need to be redesigned somewhat.

      Likewise, Haymarket is just too narrow for 2 way cycling, isn’t it?

      Oh, and for those who think cycle paths will slow them down, have you ever got stuck while filtering? Really, never?

      “You will always end up with yellow or double yellow lines going through narrow cycling lanes (small strip of painted bit in the gutter)”

      This is why standards for cycle infrastructure should be legally enforceable. Imagine if the Highways Agency decided to ignore recommended lane widths on motorways and they were too narrow for HGVs to use safely? Likewise, why are nearly all cycle lanes less than 1.5 metres wide, even when there is more than one traffic lane in each direction? I think you should do a contest to find London’s narrowest cycle lane.

  2. ian... 30/12/2010 at 3:41 am #

    You will always end up with yellow or double yellow lines going through narrow cycling lanes (small strip of painted bit in the gutter) which cars will then park in, or overlapping with busy bus lanes and so on.

    Yes but Angi, what you describe are the problems associated with the ****-poor UK standard of infrastructure that we all know and don’t love. Design the infrastructure properly like the Dutch seem to have done and who knows?

    • Andreas 30/12/2010 at 11:43 am #

      Language Ian! But agreed on your point that our cycling infrastructure leaves a lot to be desired.

      • ian... 30/12/2010 at 5:23 pm #

        Wwwwhoops! Apologies Andreas ;>)

  3. idavid 30/12/2010 at 12:11 pm #

    Cyclists – don’t get pushed into a narrow track – you’ve already helped pay for the roads, get out there and use them!

    Yes, fear of traffic does indeed deter millions from saddling up. Why? 90% of drivers have scant experience of riding a bike. How on earth can we drive safely without being able to think like a cyclist?

    New drivers.should have to pass a cycle awareness test before being granted a driving licence. If you can’t ride, you shouldn’t drive.

    • AJ 05/01/2011 at 1:57 pm #

      I have no desire to ride on the road, and I want alternatives not the right to be hemmed in between a bus and a lorry.

      Training is not the answer. Training motorists could certainly help, but doesn’t remove buses and taxis from being where I want to be. Encouraging cycle training for adults makes it seem like a high-risk activity or an extreme sport. People need to be able to jump on and ride without getting scared witless and we’re nowhere near that in the UK and not even heading in that direction.

      Give me a direct route off the road please. I’ll pay for those with my taxes too. The cars can keep their nasty busy roads. Quiet residential roads excepted, obviously.

  4. Dave Escandell 30/12/2010 at 12:23 pm #

    Agree with idavid on this one.

    While segregation may be a utopian ideal, I simply can not see it happening. Furthermore, budget cuts are reducing the department for transports budget by up to 28%.

    If as a nation we can’t afford to fill in pot holes correctly or at all, how on earth are we going to build safe and effective segregated cycle infrastructure, and pay for it?

    It’s a really difficult position to be in.

    Also, many of us may work in London, but live a bit further out. As such I love cycling on our roads and I have a right to do so. Our countryside is beautiful so we should be encouraged to use roads.

    I’m all for aiming high and hoping for something between what we have and full segregation, but I do fear that if we get segregation, we’ll then be told that we MUST use the cycle facility. I would be fully against that.

    The start has to be education.

    Educate those that perceive cycling in urban areas to be dangerous, that it’s not, and educate those motor vehicle drivers who have not cycled since they were children how to cycle, how to enjoy cycling and how to drive near cyclists.

    • ian... 30/12/2010 at 5:29 pm #

      and educate those motor vehicle drivers who have not cycled since they were children how to cycle
      Earlier this year I finally managed to get my eldest Daughter to learn to cycle, and found out pretty quickly how awkward it is for her to get around on her bike. Ok, she can use the pavement along busy roads should it be free of parked cars, but what about getting from A to B as a family?

      I have no problem with confidence as an adult cycling in traffic, but I’m sorry, we have it badly wrong over here. Other more enlightened countries have higher rates of cycling for a good reason.

  5. MarkS 30/12/2010 at 2:18 pm #

    Having been a London cycle commuter for the past 4 years I actually get slightly “bored” when I’m not riding on the busier streets! Maybe it’s the dare-devil in me that likes the excitement of mixing it with the traffic but even so once you get into the middle of town during the rush hour you are invariably either matching or going faster then most of the other vehicles on the road.

    I’ve had numerous colleagues look at me as if I’m bit mad when I say where I ride in from and some of the routes I use. Yes segregated cycle lanes would be a good idea to encourage people in to cycling, sort of like stabilisers! Once they build up some confidence they can move onto cycling on the roads and that’s then one less user on public transport or in a car which will ease congestion for everyone!

  6. thereverent 30/12/2010 at 4:59 pm #

    More segregated lanes would be good, but as long as they are wide enough for the amount of cyclist that will use them. Some planners think that cycle lanes/paths only need to be one cyclist wide.
    Bayliss Road near Waterloo is an example where the dividing barrier needs to be narrower and the cycle lane wider.

    I have reservation about drivers thinking as there are more cycle paths cyclist should not be on the road at all. The attitude of plenty of drivers needs changing, and this easier if they cycled themselves.

    I have had drivers cut me up because I wasn’t on the blue strip of CS7 in London (even though its not manitory and the junction makes the line of the lane not the one you want to take).

  7. Tim 30/12/2010 at 7:17 pm #

    Being what I regard as an experienced cyclist I have no problem cycling in traffic (especially when I can race my colleagues in their cars after we have finished work – when I can generally keep up with them).

    However, after recently buying my wife a bike and encouraging her to ride to work I found it extremely difficult to teach her to cycle around Reading as she was extremely scared of the traffic. I like the idea of segregated cycle lanes to encourage new cyclist but would feel restricted if I couldn’t use road to quickly get me around town.

    Another downside with present cycle path policy in Reading is that the majority of the paths are pavement based. This is fine for people who are happy to pootle along but as I usually hit 20mph on the way home I feel my rightful place is on the road rather than on the pavement. A colleague did once tell me that she gets extremely annoyed when she sees cyclist on the road if their is an available cycle path – she didn’t seem to understand that down the particular bit of road she was talking about I would probably be quicker than her in her car.

  8. Jim 30/12/2010 at 9:13 pm #

    Hi Andreas,

    Completely agree with the points you make but I’m just curious – when did Boris say that about needing more cyclists to provide segregated lanes? Thanks,


    • Andreas 31/12/2010 at 4:38 pm #

      It’s the official stance of TfL regarding the cycle superhighways. They told me that one of the main reasons for not making them separate from the traffic is that they are not used throughout the whole day just during rush hour.

  9. Kim 30/12/2010 at 11:06 pm #

    What is about London that makes it think that it is so unique?? There are cities all across Europe with narrow streets that make cycling work, London is nothing special in that respect, get real! Get out and see something of the world!! The real problem for London (and much of the UK) is political. Now, is it because our politicians are utterly spineless and particularly useless, or is it our warped electoral system, which gives us an elected oligarchy only interested in serving their own interest and not the peoples??

    • Ciaran 31/12/2010 at 9:29 am #

      It is political. It always will be. What I want is an MP or Minister to have the spine to admit we have a problem and try and solve it, rather than pandering to the whims of the electorate.

      If a MP/Minister/Councillor thinks he has a good idea to change things for the better then they should do it. However if their idea is contrary to their fickle electorate want they should have the spine to follow through.

      It is our job to convince our representatives that all the electorate is better off if we make cycling preferable in local areas to driving.

  10. Kevin Campbell's Blog 31/12/2010 at 7:52 am #

    i wonder if a new mayor would fix the troubles, but i keep thinking a new mayor would be worse than boris, but boris is real bad, so a new mayor could possibly change this all for the better, lets hope thats how it works out

    • Andreas 31/12/2010 at 4:40 pm #

      Kevin – I think Ken was very pro-cycling back in his day but I’m guessing that lost him a few votes and he has since reversed his position from what I’ve been following. All things considered Boris hasn’t done too badly, he’s made a lot of small steps in the right direction, but I don’t see a long term strong enough commitment to reach the kind of cycling levels that would make a true difference. Switching mayors is unlikely to change this.

      • idavid 31/12/2010 at 5:44 pm #

        Agree Boris is well intentioned, trouble is he has no control over the big things that could make a difference – driver behaviour, cycling as part of the driving test etc.

        With his eye on 2012 we can be sure he’ll bask in the glory of Cycle Hire and roll out a bit more blue paint. The rest is now up to the boroughs and only the LCC has the representation in each one to lobby for a bigger slice of a smaller cake.

        If you’re already one of LCC’s 11,000 members you can help bring this about by supporting their Double our Voice campaign and persuading a buddy to join. If not, make it your own new year’s resolution to join the revolution at Have a happy one!

  11. Andreas 01/01/2011 at 5:57 pm #

    With regards to segregated cycling infrastructure this Mayor’s question was very recently asked:

    Help us Get on our Bikes

    Question No: 4070 / 2010

    John Biggs

    I have been contacted by a constituent who believes that there is a growing body of support amongst moderate cycle users for measures which would encourage more people like themselves out of their cars and on to two sedate wheels (as opposed to the more “vehicular cyclists”). He believes that this can be achieved by the provision of well designed, off-road or at least enforced, cycle paths and says there is evidence from other European Cities such as Copenhagen, Frankfurt and Amsterdam that his argument is well founded. How could such a scheme be rolled out in London beyond the flagship Superhighway schemes and what are your proposals to achieve this?

    Answer from the Mayor

    The attractiveness of off-carriageway segregated cycle routes is widely recognised. Such provision is considered where possible, and in appropriate locations, during the design of new cycle schemes. TfL has an ongoing programme to deliver ‘Greenways’ in London. Greenways provide attractive and traffic free environments for cyclists that make the most of London’s parks and open spaces. In 2010 alone, Greenway schemes were delivered at 54 locations resulting in improvements to 18km of existing infrastructure and the delivery of 7.5km of new infrastructure. Safety and access to the Greenways was also improved at 10 junctions and 30 access points, improving a further 5.5km of routes. Greenways will play an important role for spectators accessing the Olympic venues during the 2012 games with eight legacy Greenways funded by the Olympic Delivery Authority and delivered by boroughs and TfL, linking into the Olympic Park and River Zone venues.

    In addition, off-carriageway provision is considered on the Cycle Superhighway routes and Route 3 from City to Barking already has mainly segregated cycle tracks. Nevertheless, road space restrictions on London’s roads preclude the possibility of segregated provision for cyclists in many cases.

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