Wednesday, 6 March 2013

My journey as cycling infrastructure consultant


I have come a long way since I moved to the United Kingdom back in 2007 for family reasons. Just an "infrastructure consumer" during my first year living in the UK, I quickly learned the enormous shortcomings of the country's worn-out road network when it comes to day-to-day cycling.

With poorly signposted and poorly maintained cycle routes at its best, I found there is simply no easy way to get from a to b by bike. I also quickly learned that cycling on a main road in the UK has nothing to do with what I call "happy cycling" Dutch style. 

Through the years, I have come to a level that I can call myself a professional cycling infrastructure consultant, able to draw up independent reports and long-term visions, complete with artwork (such as shown on the map above) and general costings.  

This journey started back in 2007, when I learnt about GIS (Geographic Information Systems) at Ordnance Survey in Southampton, where I briefly worked as map editor. It didn't take long before I was involved with Cycle City Guides (now an integrated part of the Sustrans charity). 

Between 2008 and 2011, I explored many urban areas by bicycle on their behalf, collecting data for an on-line cycle route plannerurban cycle maps and Sustrans Cycling Maps. I analysed traffic flows, searched and developed back-road routes and often created traffic-calmed cycle routes from scratch. I did this work in cities like Manchester, Birmingham and Plymouth and in urban areas like South Staffordshire, Hertfordshire and Torbay. 


Frustrated that all this surveying work and its massive data collection was not resulting in actually improving the local cycling conditions, I started to offer my services as consultant to the local authorities where I was working, highlighting where investments in new infrastructure should go. I produced my first small report on the Shrewsbury cycling network for Shropshire County Council in 2010. Inspired by the St Albans Cycling Campaign, an area where I also did surveying, I started to publish articles about cycling infrastructure through this Blog from 2011.

Using my background as a "Cycling Dutchman" (having experienced the change in Dutch road layouts in favour of cycling first hand through the 1980s and the 1990s) and with lots of experience regarding cycling and surveying in the UK, I am probably one of the few who is truly able to translate "Dutch designs" into the UK world.

A Dutch cycling infrastructure consultant based in The Netherlands simply doesn't understand the implications of typical UK factors, such as serious budget constraints, the power of UK landowners in relation to the limited power of councils to do compulsory purchase orders, the extensive power of the car lobby, the misconceptions about cycling among the public and the inflexibility of Highway Management bodies that have been designing their network with only motorised traffic in mind for over 60 years. It is all light-years away from the situation and prevailing "hands on" culture in The Netherlands.  
  
In 2012 I produced an Integrated Cycle Plan for Totnes on the Move and Devon County Council. This 200 page study included a complete signage plan, full infrastructure recommendations and a long term strategy, with five stages of implementation. After setting up the North Devon Cycling Forum together with some other local cyclists in 2013, I produced my next report in 2014, taking on infrastructure issues in Barnstaple. This time, the report also included an overview of costings and I took my artwork  and design to a next level. You can browse the Barnstaple study here 

Unfortunately, I have noticed that interest and enthusiasm for improving conditions for cycling has started to wane. Away from cycling hubs, such as Central London, Bristol or Manchester, cycling is last on the political agenda once again. I see lots of beautiful plans never to be realised. My last presentation for Barnstaple Town Council in 2016 saw aggressive reactions from the councillors present, dwelling on old cycling myths (such as that cyclists shoud pay road tax, etc). With the Brexit referendum already in the air, they probably would have preferred not sitting through my presentation in the first place. The current political climate is all against constructive atmospheres and discussions I would personally like to be part of. Nevertheless, if you are still interested in driving things forward rather than backwards and you are interested in my consultancy work, please contact me via the EOS Cycling contact form.

Meanwhile, the Cycling Dutchman keeps guiding you onto the best cycling infrastructure available:


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.

Buy it now and also receive GPS-tracks of all routes!

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.

Buy it now and also receive GPS-tracks of all routes!

The Devon Coast to Coast is southern England's best developed cycle route. Traffic-free paths on former railway lines, such as the Tarka TrailGranite WayDrake's Trail and Plym Valley Way, allow you to explore Devon's stunning countryside at an easy pace. Whether you are young or old, fast or slow, the limited mileage and stunning countryside makes the Devon Coast to Coast an adventure suitable for all! If you love sightseeing from your bike, you can't go wrong with my latest guidebook; 40 pages, colour, wiro bound, fits in standard handlebar bag.