"The bike industry speaking up for cycle infrastructure could be very important," Rachel Aldred said in a podcast interview conducted yesterday.
"[Dockless bike-share firm] Ofo has recently been making statements that there needs to be more bike infrastructure in London. It would be great to see more people from the bike industry speaking out, saying that we need this better infrastructure, this better cycling environment. Primarily [we need] protected tracks on main roads but also quiet, healthy neighbourhoods that people can walk or cycle through."
The University of Westminister’s Dr Aldred is one of cycling’s leading academics and has published many papers over the last ten years, and led research campaigns such as the Near Miss Project, which was sponsored by the Blaze light company. She is also one of the academics working on the DfT-sponsored Propensity to Cycle Tool, which models how infrastructure and other changes interact with environmental factors to get more people cycling.
"The bike industry could learn from the history of the roads lobby, and how that was supported by the car industry," said Aldred, on the 11-year-old Spokesmen podcast, which is connected to BikeBiz.
"The roads lobby was active long before the 1950s when we didn’t have a motorway system. [The roads lobby] was forward-looking, and that’s what we need to be doing now, although we’re looking forward to a somewhat different future to that [demanded] by the car industry in the 1950s."
Aldred added: "The bike industry needs to have a big-picture view – the bike can be part of transforming society to build healthier cities, towns and rural areas."
It took 60 years of campaigning before the building of the Preston by-pass, Britain’s first motorway, so how long will it take to get to this transformed society, turning Britain into the Netherlands?
“We are seeing international-standard cycling infrastructure going in – that’s our Preston by-pass," said Aldred.
"And we’re seeing that behaviour change is happening, and in some places it’s really quite substantial, albeit from a low base.
"We are at a moment of change, and we are seeing substantial mode shift away from the car in London, primarily towards the bus and towards walking. The cultural shift started in the 1990s in terms of changing behavaviour towards the car.
"It’s clearly a long game. In London we are a long way off having cycle infrastructure for everyone. But change can happen very quickly, and suddenly it becomes normal that your mum might jump on a bike, and that can lead to rapid social change.
"It’s hard to say how long it’ll take [to change] – and whether it’ll happen at all – but certainly what the bike industry does, along with other stakeholders, will make a difference."