The Garden Guide

Book: Landscape Planning and Environmental Impact Design: from EIA to EID
Chapter: Chapter 10 Sustainable green transport

Cycleways and bike tracks

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Cycling should be delightful

The bicycle is the Great Green Machine. Good design for cycling is significantly more difficult than good design for motor vehicles. This is because the bicycle is a delicate instrument requiring muscular exertion. In favourable conditions, cycling is a sublime pleasure: one can bowl with a silent grace unattainable by any other means. Even in bad conditions, it can be as enjoyable as swimming or sailing in a rough sea. But this only applies if one's struggle is against the forces of nature. A cyclist's joy is too easily destroyed by motor vehicles. Not only are they noisy and smelly, they cause severe turbulence and threaten to crush the unlucky peddler. If one is being deafened by internal combustion engines, bored by a featureless landscape, poisoned by diesel fumes or forced to take diversions through back streets, one's enthusiasm for cycling can dim. Personal recollection provides the following examples of good cycle routes: beside a river, canal or lake along a quiet residential street in a group of fellow-cyclists fast, down a steep hill slowly, down a busy shopping street under shady trees on a hot day on a 'foot-wide' ribbon of smooth macadam in a dark wood on a farm track across heathland on a sheep track along a high ridge on a narrow high bridge through an (empty) roofed pedestrian overpass on a track with a panoramic view of a town There are significant differences between the cycling policies adopted at a national countries. In many countries, and in the minds of traffic engineers, the bicycle is seen as obsolete symbol of poverty, ready for the dustbin of history. In Southern Europe, cycling is regarded as a pleasant sporting pursuit for young people, but not a means of commuting. In much of Norther Europe, the bicycle is seen as a serious component of any urban transport policy. In the UK, cyclists are regarded as rebellious troublemakers whose activities should be restricted. In India, cycling is an activity for those who cannot afford cars. In China, the world's greatest cycling country, cycling is a means of commuting, not a leisure pursuit. In Japan, cycling is an integral component of urban transport, but only for short local journeys. In America, most journeys are too long for cycle commuting.