Twenty questions to light the way to improving cycling in Bristol

How can we tell how Bristol is doing in becoming a real cycling city?

There are many sources of information including lovely census statistics, the Bristol Quality of Life surveys (see transport extract Quality of Life in Bristol 2012 – Transport) and the Big Commuter Counts. We’ve been working with Bristol Council and Sustrans on one way to answer this question through Bike Life reports for six UK cities based on the biannual Copenhagen Bicycle Account.

We think there may be a role for a subjective but quick audit that will help with campaigning. We like the work being done by World Streets on Citizen Cycling Audit as part of their work for Car Free Days. They’ve identified about 20 questions that can be asked of citizens to show how well a city is doing. This would be citizens version of the Copenhagenize Index for Bicycle Friendly Cities.

Might be a useful contribution to Green Capital year. 

These first twelve areas if properly assessed will already give an excellent idea of the state of cycling in the city. Let’s start with them.

  1. Advocacy: How is the city’s (or region/country) advocacy NGO(s) regarded and what level of influence does it have when it comes to policy, investment and enforcement decisions?

    • Rated from no organized advocacy to strong advocacy with political influence

  2. Bicycle Culture: Has the bicycle (re)established itself as transport among regular citizens or only sub-cultures?

    • Rated from no bicycles on the urban landscape/only sport/leisure cyclists to mainstream acceptance of the bicycle for daily transport use

  3. Bicycle Infrastructure: How does the city’s safe, efficient  bicycle infrastructure rate?

    • Rated from no infrastructure/cyclists relegated to using car lanes to high level of safe, separated cycle tracks.

  4. Bicycle Facilities: Are there readily accessible bike racks, ramps on stairs, space allocated on trains and buses and well-designed wayfinding, etc.?

    • Rated from no bicycle facilities available to widespread and innovative facilities.

  5. Modal Share for Bicycles: What percentage of modal share is made up by cyclists?

    • Rated from under 1% to over 25%.

  6. Gender Split What percentage of the city’s cyclists are male and female?

    • Rated from: overwhelming male to an even gender split or more women than men cycling.

  7. City Planning: How much emphasis do the city’s planners place on bicycle infrastructure – and are they well-informed about international best practices?

    • Rated from car-centric urban planners to planners who think bicycle – and pedestrian – first.

  8. Traffic Calming: What efforts have been made to lower speed limits – for example 30 km/h zones – and generally calm traffic in order to provide greater safety to pedestrians and cyclists?  Area access limitations for cars. Also strategic parking reductions?

    • Rated from none at all to extensive traffic-calming measures prioritising cyclists and pedestrians.

  9. Public transport collaboration: Bikes in buses, subways, streetcars  Sharing of bus lanes. Joint monthly subscriptions. Driver training for awareness of cyclists. Last km collaboration

    Rated from no collaboration, to full and enthusiastic partnership

  10. Perception of Safety: Is the perception of safety of the cyclists in the city, reflected in helmet-wearing rates, positive or are cyclists riding scared due to helmet promotion and scare campaigns?

    • Rated from mandatory helmet laws to low helmet-usage rate.

  11. Enforcement: Is cycling system being supported consistently by the law with active participation of local government, the police and other community organizations?

    • Rated from no support to strong active support including heavy fines, tow-away programs for mis-parked vehicles, laws and ordinances protecting cyclists. (In event of no/poor support we recommend deducting 5 points from final overall city total.)

  12. Sustainable development strategy: Is cycling seen and treated as a strategic component of the city’s overall sustainable development strategy?

    • Rated from no strategy, to one of announcements with little real content and broken promises,  inconsistent policies, all the way to a carefully articulated global sustainability policy I which cycling has its full place.

Further thought, detail and fine-tuning

  1. Political Climate: What is the political climate regarding urban cycling? Does the city enforce bike friendly amendments to the traffic laws? (e.g., two way streets for bikes)

    • Rated from bicycle being non-existent on a political level, to active and passionate political involvement.

  2. Social Acceptance: How do drivers and the community at large regard urban cyclists?

    • Rated from aggressive annoyance, to no social acceptance, to widespread social acceptance.

  3. Casualty statistics: Is up to date information publicly available on accident and casualty rates?

    • Rated from no stats, no strategy, to one of hard to get at announcements with little real content, all the way to a carefully articulated global sustainability policy

  4. School/university cycling programs: Active support of cycling to school. Provisions and awareness of needs of young cyclists.  Safe infrastructure for school trip. Cycle parking. Training courses, bicycle maintenance and repair. Low speeds zones.

    • Rated from none to active partnership.

  5. Employer cycling programs: Active employer support of cycling to work. Cycle parking. Lockers and showers. Training courses, bicycle maintenance and repair. Other incentives.

    • Rated from none to active partnership.

  6. Bike Share: Does the city have a comprehensive and well-used bike-sharing programme?

    • Rated from no bike share to comprehensive, high-usage program. (Also full score for (those rare) cities that have so much quality cycling they have decided they do not need a public shared system.)

  7. Accuracy of modal split data: how accurate is the official data on mobile split and the role of city cycling?

    • Rated from nonexistent, through inaccurate, all the way up to accurate and current.

  8. Media support: Is cycling program and city cycling generally fairly treated by the media?

    • Rated from anti-cycle bias, no support, to thoughtful independent investigative coverage in print and electronic media

  9. Financial/tax incentives: Do cyclists received financial incentives or tax advantages if they regularly cycle to work?

    • Rated from none, to direct payments by employers or local government with tax advantages to commuting cyclists (with payments per km. travelled)

  10. Modal Share Increase What has the increase in modal share been since 20xx?? – target year that urban cycling started to kick in?

    • Rated from under 1% to 5%+.(Each city to make own decision for year of comparison. Cities with more than 20% modal share get era five points here as well. )

  11. Street Code: Has the city passed a “Street Code” ordinance (Code de la rue) which clearly assigns responsibility to drivers of motor vehicles to prove their innocence in event of an incident with cyclist or pedestrian (“stricter liability”)?

    • Rated from no discussion, some public discussion, to full street code in the law.