Wednesday, 8 June 2016

In which chatting is a good measure of cycling

There are various ways of measuring how suitable a road is for cycling. For example, Transport for London has the Cycling Levels of Service (CLoS) score, and Wales has the Cycling Route Audit Tool. These are useful tools for engineers and planners to check that the specific details of new schemes are beneficial to cyclists, and won't lead to injuries or deaths.

But useful though it would be to apply them to every road in the city, the process would take a while. And whilst it is very good to have an objective measure of safety, these complex descriptions don't make it easy to convince residents that a road is genuinely not suitable for everyone to cycle.

Enter: the chatting index. This is my simple 3-step scale for ranking roads for cycling.

Can you chat whilst travelling?

Level 3: Cycling side-by-side, chatting away.
Level 2: Mostly chatting, but with interruptions.
Level 1: No chatting possible, interruptions too frequent.
(Level 0: Not sure the other person is even still alive, but can't spare the attention to check.)

This is a remarkably easy scale to judge roads on. Simply get 2 people to cycle together, and ask them where they could and couldn't talk. If you can't do that, it's fairly easy to just imagine!

Everywhere that there are high volumes of motor vehicles or pedestrians sharing the same space, they will have to keep separating to get through or let others pass.
Everywhere that the path is muddy or potholed or overgrown, they need to concentrate on weaving a safe path.
Everywhere that it is too narrow, or there are barriers to negotiate, they will have to go single file and shout back over their shoulders to talk.
Everywhere that they have to dismount, they will have to concentrate on not whacking their shins or anyone else.
Every time a route is not obvious, they must switch to discussing where to turn next.
Everywhere that they feel nervous, late at night in an unlit alleyway, they won't feel comfortable slowly chatting along.
Everywhere cobbled, they will be jolted too much to talk.
Everywhere that it's too steep, they'll need to save their breath!

So, how sociable is cycling near you?

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