The blog

When CTC championed separation, 1975

All Change to Bikes, 1975 - click to enlarge

All Change to Bikes, 1975 – click to enlarge

The oil crisis of 1973 sent shockwaves around the world. Use of cars dropped; use of bicycles rose. Bicycle sales almost doubled, with adult bicycles being the biggest sellers, despite all the hype over the Raleigh Chopper. In the Netherlands, recognition that reliance on Middle Eastern oil was not sustainable resulted in a metric ton of cycleways to make an already bike-mad nation into an even bikier one. In the UK there was the same desire for change, the same desire to seize the moment and reign back the car. As we all know, not a lot changed.

But it wasn’t for the want of trying. All Change to Bikes was an umbrella initiative aimed at getting UK planners and politicians to see what their counterparts in the Netherlands had seen. The organisations signed up to the joint aims of All Change to Bikes included CTC, the Council for the Protection of Rural England, the Civic Trust, Friends of the Earth, the trade and industry’s British Cycling Bureau, and the British Cycling Federation, and others.

The aims included the desire to “reallocate existing road space to create priority routes by local authorities for cyclists and pedestrians” and there should be a “network of priority routes linking all destinations (e.g. schools, shops, offices, factories and places of entertainment) and access to the countryside.”

Some people may be surprised to find CTC on that list of subscribing bodies. There’s a belief in some quarters that CTC has always opposed any form of “segregation” of bicycles from motor traffic. This is not wholly the case and CTC’s policy documents demonstrate the actual official views. As I’ve shown here, in the 1930s CTC officials said they would be in favour of segregated routes if the routes so to be provided were of high enough quality (they never were, and even the designers agreed on that score). In the 1940s and 1950s, with little provision of cycle infrastructure mooted, CTC didn’t have to offer up much resistance although by 1955 the organisation had softened its stance on separation. In the 1960s and 1970s, Stevenage’s Dutch-style cycleways system – discussed at great length here – changed the CTC’s mind on segregation. Policy document after policy document show that the CTC actively welcomed and applauded the cycleways work done by Eric Claxton, chief designer of this New Town.

CTC urged other towns and cities to follow suit. Peterborough, Cambridge, Nottingham and Portsmouth trialled some Claxton-style cycleways, but not enough were put in place to make much difference. While CTC was very much in favour of cycleways it remained opposed to ‘cycle tracks’: these are the same “crap” facilities campaigners call foul on today.

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