Some people ask why cycling advocates don’t campaign for better walking facilities, when the simple answer is that they almost certainly do! Nearly everyone is a pedestrian for some component of their trip, and very few cyclists use their bicycles to go absolutely everywhere, 100% of the time.
Cities which are good for cycling are nearly always good for walking – in fact, if anybody is challenged on this, and asked to name a city that has a very high cycling rate but that is genuinely a “nightmare” for walking in, very few suggestions if any at all actually stand up to scrutiny of any kind. Take Amsterdam for example – it’s often claimed that the city is difficult to walk in because there are so many cyclists, but this doesn’t really make any kind of sense as an argument. If this is really the case, then streets would be impossible to cross, and it would be impossible to walk along the pavements, because absolutely everything would be bunged up by parked bicycles.
The reality is of course completely different – yes of course, anyone can take a picture of bicycles bunched up in a particular location, especially because Dutch bicycles tend to incorporate rear wheel locks and kickstand, which means that they can indeed be parked anywhere. Meanwhile, the very nature of how bicycle lanes actually work means that there is very rarely much bunching, even during peak times.
Walking is really fundamental to any transport network for three key reasons:
- Walking is an entirely valid form of transport in its own right – and it’s inherently space saving.
- Every public transport journey requires walking at each end, and often to make the interchange.
- Passing trade at walking pace is the most valuable to retailers, pubs and cafes.
We have a problem with cars – not bikes or cyclists!
Just remember how people complain that cycle lanes are always empty, yet suddenly they seem to miraculously fill up when they talk about Amsterdam? No, of course this is just another case of “Schrodinger’s Cycle Lane” (it’s empty and full at the same time). Anyone who’s actually been to Amsterdam and observed traffic knows this. Does this mean that loads of bikes aren’t really there at all? Of course not – but just try imagining even half of those bikes being replaced with cars!
Walking is absolutely a low energy former transport insomuch as it has almost zero carbon footprint, and walking is also extremely good exercise, yet walking also has a simplicity that it doesn’t need any equipment at all. Some people are quite used to walking vast distances across cities, which might take less time and exert less energy if they cycled the same. But why would anyone need to say they should do this?