Cycling: from the Margins to the Mainstream

That’s the desire of Richard Ambler newly appointed Lambeth Borough Council Cycle Projects Officer.

Originally from ‘the cycling city’ of York he has lived in London for four years. Here he explains his role –

My new job at Lambeth Transport has been given the title of ‘Cycle Projects Manager’ to reflect the status that cycling deserves – a crucial part of an integrated transport strategy. I want to promote cycling by making it a normal activity, and to push the message that an environment which is safe and pleasant to cycle in is an environment which is safe and pleasant to live in. Increasing cycling is directly related to improving the quality of life for everybody. I believe that the best way of improving safety for cyclists is simply to have more cyclists around. My goal therefore is to focus on schemes which will get more people cycling, more often. Out of this growing mass of cyclists, acceptance of cycling will grow, and conditions will improve. 

Off road cycle tracks might be a desirable utopia, but if we wait for that we’ll wait forever. People will only travel by bike if they feel confident cycling in London’s traffic. Cycle training is therefore essential in the form of confidence building training for adults, and on road training in schools. The benefit of training children is that you create a whole new generation of cycle enthusiasts who may never buy a car. I will soon be launchinq a one-to-one cycle training scheme for Lambeth residents. Cycle training in schools is being run by ‘Safe Routes to Schools’ for the next twelve months, but I am looking into piloting a ‘Bike Train’ scheme, whereby children are picked up from their homes by qualified instructors, and taken in a ‘snake’ to school.

People need to be made aware of the great benefits of cycling over other forms of transport, and I.will be lookinq into publicity campaigns, particularly on the backs of buses. This will dispel some of the myths surrounding cycling such as the belief that you are more exposed to pollution on a bike than in a car. This can be complemented with awareness campaigns aimed at car drivers, informing them of the needs of cyclists. I have a plan to compile a training course to be integrated into bus driver training, instructing them on how to deal intelligently with cyclists in bus lanes.

Engineering still has an important role to play and most of my funding has to be spent on engineering works. In general order of importance, I would like them to see the following: .
• Secure parking at all transport hubs
• A continuation of measures to encourage novice cyclists such as the LCN routes,
• Redesign of hazardous junctions,
• Lobbying against one way systems, and where one way systems are to remain, making them two way for cyclists – my vision would be for Lambeth to be a ‘Two way for cyclists’ borough, with all one way systems two way by default for cyclists.
• Provision of cycle routes that are beneficial to the cyclists and not a way of getting cyclists ‘out of the way’,
• Segregated dedicated cycle tracks on roads where traffic speeds remain high.

Any special features for cyclists should take road space away from cars, not pedestrians.

I am an exponent of the view that there need not be anything special for cyclists in Highway Infrastructure. What this means is that there should be nothing special for car drivers either, which is the case at present. We need to remove these inequalities so that in every piece of road engineering and transport policy, consideration is given to cyclists and pedestrians, with regard to cost, parking and safety. We shouldn’t have to be looking at special facilities for cyclists.

If Lambeth’s road user hierarchy is to be taken seriously, we should be aiming to make the highway environment safe for cyclists and pedestrians to use, and efficient for buses, and then think about setting aside some space for cars. Safety for cyclists must be taken in the general context of road danger reduction, rather than isolated cycling projects. This is much harder to achieve than simply bunging in a few bits of green paint, but I think it is worth the effort. One of the most important aspects of my role, then, will be to infiltrate the engineers at Lambeth, and try to influence
everything they do.

As I said at the beginning, I want cycling to be normal. That’s why we have to be careful that special provision is not counter-productive. Obsessive segregation sends out the message that the roads. are for cars and their drivers to drive as fast as they want, and if anyone should stray in their path then it is the victim’s fault for straying there. However, special highway engineering for cyclists is justifiable if it achieves the objective of getting new people cycling who might otherwise not have cycled.

Little by little I hope we can take road space away from people in cars, and give it back to people walking, on bikes, and on buses.”

Lambeth Cyclists welcomes Richard’s appointment and we look forward to working with him to ensure that Lambeth is a better place to live and cycle. 

Richard can be contacted at the Transport Department, Blue Star House, 234-244 Stockwell Road, SW9 9SP. Tel 020 7926 1240 or email

(This was originally published in Lambeth Cyclists newsletter 48 Aug/ Sep 2002)

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