Amsterdam is one of the most popular city-breaks at the moment, and visitors quickly remark on the number of bikes, and how easy it is to use them to get around the busy city.
Yet in Jersey, our addiction to the car, even for the shortest of journeys, remains a major stumbling block to aspirations of becoming carbon-neurtral in the next decade. Express columnist Andy Jehan is a former competitive cyclist, and was in charge of transport and logistics at Jersey2015.
The current MD of freight company PDFS, argues it's time to change.
"I recently spent five days in Amsterdam and during that time did a lot of cycling. The first thing you notice is that very few people wear helmets. When asking our guide why this was, he explained that the bike is No1. Whilst not always given priority, cyclists are treated with respect and have dedicated areas to cycle in. I know respect has to be earned, but it seems the Dutch have a system that encourages this, rather than our system where it seems it’s every person for themselves.
Another thing to note is the style of bicycle that is used: generally, a much more relaxed style, with bikes that are designed for comfort rather than speed being the norm in and around the city.
At junctions, cycles are often given priority over other vehicles, being allowed to move off ahead of motorised traffic, making it safer to operate. The other thing of note is that pedestrians and cyclists don’t generally share space. Each have their own area to operate in safely.
Pictured: Amsterdam is one of the most 'bike-friendly' cities in the world.
Here in Jersey one of the busiest cycle areas is the track from St. Aubin to St. Helier, enjoyed by many, but it's not without its dangers. Often you can see pedestrians and cyclists tangle, as there is no clear demarcation between the two activities.
St Peters valley has a great new facility for walkers and cyclists, but in an ideal world this would be two separate paths. This would allow walkers to enjoy the path and cyclists to be able to negotiate their own path without fear of knocking over a pedestrian, or being knocked off their bike by a dog on its walk with their owners.
Both the Valley path and the Victoria avenue paths are better than nothing. However, I believe we could still do better in terms of getting people to town safely. Again cycle paths created in gravel are not the answer. Whilst well intended, people are still choosing to cycle on the road in fear of getting a puncture. Of course, it’s in town that’s when the real challenges begin for cyclists.
Pictured: Is St. Helier a safe place to cycle?
We must be able to make it easier for cyclists to cross St Helier safely. Be that with the introduction of more dedicated cycle lanes, and/or with changes to traffic signals that enable cyclists to cross roads before cars. Another area we could gain quick wins is with the provision of more parking for cycles.
Looking at the Government Plan on both the Environment and Wellbeing there should be additional support for cycling. This should encourage people to choose to get out of their cars and use bicycles. Perhaps if Government is serious about its commitment, then it’s not too late to incorporate cycle parking at Green Street? Also before considering an increase in parking charges/hours in St. Helier, Government should look at the provision of real safe alternatives, thus providing Islanders real choice about their daily commute.
I look forward to seeing major improvements in this area in the near future, we need to be bold and deliver real change that will make a difference."
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