“There are two possibilities – either to change the way we build our cities, which is a very far-reaching kind of project, or else we make up for their deficiencies by looking at them in a different way.”
August Endell was a painter and architect, who wrote “The Beauty of the Big City”, about Berlin in the 1920s. And here we are, Colchester awarded "Cycle Town" status and funding by the Department for Transport from 2008. And what are we doing? We're planning for Colchester in 2020.
Cycle Colchester project is a partnership between the local authorities (Essex and Colchester Councils) and the voluntary sector (such as the local Cycle Campaign, Sustrans, CTC). The Colchester project continues, even though the current government decided not to continue their financial support for the cycle town concept. Maybe this is because the govenment thinks the idea doesn't work, maybe because the idea is associated with the labour government, or maybe it's just a money saver.
There have recently been some observations in the local paper, that, following all this investment, we have not yet created Dutch infrastructure in Colchester. Ah yes, Holland, that heaven on earth where people can cycle from everywhere to everywhere else, in complete safety, happy and smiling all the time. Here’s an inspirational link from Copenhagen http://youtu.be/RCDV-7QWt6Q showing it is entirely possible to create places where many people choose to cycle.
There are some people in Colchester who will say that Colchester is too hilly, too wet, too hot or too cold for cycling, despite there being plenty of places that have much more adverse conditions, and much more cycling. There are others who say “it’s too dangerous, and I won’t cycle until I can get from my home to —– (insert your destination here), until there is a dedicated off-road cyclepath from door to door”. Well the path ain’t going to happen sometime soon, and probably never will.
It’s back to Wendell, and how we respond to our city as it is; lovely but imperfect. I suggest that very many journeys in Colchester (and many other UK towns) can NOW be made by bike, with relatively good ease and safety, if we are prepared to give it a go. If people want to make that change from HABITUAL car use, and use their bike for SOME of the journeys, for many of us, we CAN do it. There is plenty of information out there about equipment and training, and lots of information about cycle routes.
When we look at the Danes in the video link, remember that the Danes have HIGHER car ownership than we do, it’s just that they don’t choose to use the car for ALL trips. (I have cycled in their smaller, Colchester scale, cities – Aarhus, Aalborg and Odense – and it’s not just a Copenhagen thing.)
OK, we don’t have a full network in Colchester of dedicated cycle routes for all possible trips, but we do have hundreds of miles of quiet roads that are safe to use by bike, and some very useful links through green spaces. We can wait until the perfect path is provided, but I suggest we, as a community, should be getting the benefits of cycling now.
We need more people, using bikes for more kinds of journeys, more of the time. Cycle Colchester isn’t just about “them”, the authorities; it’s also about “us”, the members of our community, and what WE do.
So will we be wagging our fingers at the authorities for not providing heaven on earth? Or will we look at ourselves, and what we can do to help increase cycling levels?