Saturday, 6 September 2014

Case Study: Barnstaple: How to make a town cycling-friendly

With the Department for Transport not committing to expenditure on cycling infrastructure beyond 2016 (when it is already doing so for rail and roads) and the 18 recommendations by the All Party Parliamentary Cycling Group published early 2013 still waiting for official Government’s response, I thought it was time for taking action myself to speed things up in Barnstaple, the town where I live.

Together with some other local cycling enthusiasts I set up the North Devon Cycling Forum in association with the Cycling Embassy of Great Britain in 2013. We embarked on a journey to get in touch with as many local cyclists as possible and also touched based with some local Councillors who showed an interest in our mission, because...

Where is that long-term vision on a local level on where we want to be with our cycling infrastructure by 2020? What about 2025 and 2030? Politicians and policy makers all say the support cycling, but where is that “commitment” translating into clear action plans

The local Draft North Devon and Torridge Local Plan features many upcoming new building projects, but only proposes the bare minimum proposals for cycling. These proposals will only marginally provide a choice between driving and cycling for some, but for most people, it will still be driving, causing more congestion and more health problems as a result of inactivity and obesity. Where is that real choice between cycling and driving for all?

The majority of car journeys in build-up areas are about three miles or less. If we were serious about proving good, attractive cycle routes, up to 35% of all our journeys in build-up areas could take place by bicycle. Less cars on the road, so less congestionless emissionshealthier lifestyles and happier people; and it won't cost the earth.  

In the detailed study, which I compiled with help of other local cyclists, we show how it is possible to connect Barnstaple town centre with its surrounding areas for a total cost of £806.500. If this cost was spread over five years, costs per year would be £ 161.300. On a population of 30.000 people, this works out to about £ 5 per citizen per year!

The recommendation by the All Party Parliamentary Cycling Group is to raise the expenditure for cycling of the current £ 1 per citizen per year to £ 10 per citizen per year, so this project would be half of the recommended expense. To put things further in perspective, a high-profile local multi-lane roundabout extension scheme (with only short-term relieve to congestion and without giving the public a real choice between modes of transport) costed £ 2 million. So, for just 40% of the expense to upgrade one roundabout it is possible to make an entire town accessible by bike for all. Where is the political will to make it happen?

There is no excuse. And it is all in there. Whether you are that local councillor in North Devon, a keen cyclist in the Cotswolds or an opinion maker in London. Read for yourself the tools to create good cycle routes. Learn where 20 mph zones should be implemented and why. Find out about shared space concepts and what the specifications are for a real cycle path. See also how a good signage system is such a simple and low-cost-tool to make cycle routes visible in the eye of the public.  

The Barnstaple case study shows what can be done on a local level to make towns more cycling-friendly. You'll find clear action lists in this document, rather than just well-intended, but hollow phrases. 

Our Small Schemes BIG Changes listings show how many easy fixes can be made on the existing network. Overgrowing bushes, hostile barriers, confusing signage and, in one case, just a hole in a hedge could improve things massively already. View the study now by one of the following links:

Barnstaple Plan North Devon CyclingForum – Low Resolution (10 MB)

Barnstaple Plan North Devon CyclingForum – High Resolution (27 MB)

For us, now the next job starts. Convincing local councillors, council officers and the public. Making it happen. But we have done our homework and have clear plans in our hands.

How often have I heard this line now from parents in my role as Bikeability instructor?

"I would love it if my child could cycle to school, but it is just not safe".

Come on Britain! To become a true cycling nation, you have to stop talking. Map your desires, visualise where you want your cycle paths and why. Put a budget to it and put those routes into place! Force the reigning Highway Departments to change their ways. Their designs from the 1950s and 1960s are truly out of date! The Cycling Dutchman is at hand to help!

What about going for a traffic-calmed cycling holiday with one of my "Cycling Dutchman" guidebooks?

Cycling in  Amsterdam and The Netherlands - The very best routes in the cyclist's paradise makes you travel beyond Dutch cliches like clogs, windmills and the Amsterdam red light district, allowing you to truly explore the lowlands. The book features 1064 kms of routes and has special chapters explaining the unique Dutch cycling-minded traffic rules and its cycle route signage systems; 164 pages, colour, wiro bound, fits in standard handlebar bag, see also

The London - Land's End Cycle Route Book is designed for those who LOVE cycling, but don't like traffic. The book takes you onto the most beautiful cycle routes of southern England, including the Camel Trail, Devon Coast to Coast Route, Bristol and Bath Railway path, Thames Valley route and many more! What makes the book unique is that the route is completely continuous, including detailed directions and local knowledge all the way. Get inspired; choose your favourite route sections or go for a full summer holiday adventure; 164 pages, colour, wiro bound, fits in standard handlebar bag, see

Other popular Cycling Dutchman blog articles:

Explaining Dutch cycling infrastructure:

Dutch bike rides and Dutch cycling culture:

The 12 best bike rides of The Netherlands

Dutch style bike rides in the United Kingdom:

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