Saturday, 13 April 2013

In praise of Eric Claxton

No, not him. Eric Claxton (with an X)

The Little Green Ride regularly takes to the cycle lanes of Stevenage to head out of or back to the station. Sometimes they can offer a useful shortcut (once you have got the hang of them) but they do tend to be a bit of a maze with limited signing and lots of opportunities to take the worng turn especially when they pass underneath the big roundabouts. In fact there is a long standing Little Green Ride joke that we need to stick together on the cycle lanes otherwise any of us could easily get lost and join the other Little Green Riders who found themselves off the back of the ride and cycling around in circles until they drop with exhaustion and many months their whitened bones are discovered next to the rusty remains of their bikes.

The other striking feature of the bike lanes of Stevenage is that, apart from us, no-one else regularly uses them to cycle on. There is the odd dog walker and a moped and maybe someone using the space to teach their child to cycle but that's about it. Stevenage's traffic is mostly carbound.

So who came up with this ludicrous scheme of under-used segregated cycle lanes?

The person we need to thank is a man called Eric Claxton and, like many things, his vision was greater than the reality.  His hope had been to build something akin to cycling insfrastructure in parts of mainland Europe. Unfortunately he was only able to complete half the equation to get more people cycling. For whilst he had created a continuous and relatively safe cycle routes he was not able to fulfill the second half of his plan which was to make it harder for people to make short trips in their car. To get people cycling not only do you need to put in the place the carrots but you also need to wield the stick a little.

All this information is coming from a wonderful new book that is coming out shortly, "Roads were not built for cars" by Carlton Reid of Bikebiz, which tells the story of our roads really came into being and the crucial part cycling had in making them what we have today - nothing to do with drivers or so called road tax. Anyway you can read more on Eric's tragic story at

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