I commuted to work in Docklands and hackney by bicycle from Brixton and Finsbury park. One day just after I had joined the LDDC Surrey Docks Team, a Planner approached me and asked if I could talk to a lady who had come in to the office and asked to see the Docklands Cycling Strategy. The Planners did not have one as it was not a priority, and many Engineers saw cyclists as a hazard to be kept out of the way. I agreed to see her.
“Can I see your cycling strategy?” she asked.
“We don’t have one,” I said, taking a large plan of the entire area. I handed her some pens and asked her to show me what was required. We spent a happy couple of hours as she showed me where the problems were, where right turns were needed, where signs were needed, or protection at pinch points and so on. After we had finished i assured her I would draw it up and after she had checked it, get it adopted by the LDDC. When I showed the final version to the Director at our regular Team meetings, he was enthusiastic, and it became Planning tool. All the proposals would be implemented through Section 106 agreements, or as part of forthcoming developments. It was heralded as a success by the LDDC Executive Committee and the three other areas were instructed to prepare similar plans.
I used this approach again in Berkhamsted when a group of cyclists asked if we could do anything to improve cycling in the area. I met them and gave them all plans of the area and then we came together and they marked up the plans with what they would like to see. We used red for “essential”, blue for “desirable” and green for “would be nice if money is available”.
This is one of the plans we produced. I took the plans which were marked up with felt tip pens and made AutoCAD maps of them, and also shape files which could be used in ArcView. The planners adopted them straightaway, and they became another aspect of Planning approval. Where a development tok place nearby, a few improvements would be done.
This approach empowers local people. it harnesses their local knowledge instead of wasting money on employing someone who does not know the area or the problems. It is team work. It is inclusive.
Most Highway Engineers at this time were opposed to cycle lanes and spent their time keeping cyclists off the main roads. It was an uphill struggle to get them to embrace cycling as another form of commuting and provide for cyclists in their strategies and plans.