Cities around the world are waking up to the fact that cycling has a role to play in the tackling of the coronavirus pandemic. Research reveals that air pollution exacerbates the symptoms of covid-19, so space is being taken from cars overnight and given over to walking and cycling. As a result, key workers can continue to travel in safety.
Tactical Urbanism describes any dynamic, interim measure to promote active travel. And New Zealand is cutting red tape by making it official policy. Cities there can now apply for 90% funding to widen pavements and create temporary cycleways quickly. This means infrastructure can be installed over the course of days as opposed to months. Inspired by the policy, councils in London, Manchester and Brighton are now drawing up proposals to ban motorised traffic to convert roads into temporary cycle lanes.
For as long as there have been cars, folk have protested against them. English philosopher C. E. M. Joad captured the public mood of the early twentieth century when he described driving as “one of the most contemptible soul-destroying and devitalising pursuits that the ill-fortune of misguided humanity has ever imposed upon its credulity.”
Over the last century, groups both large and small have been forced to take matters into their own hands to fight against the domination of car culture.
Perhaps most famously, the Stop de Kindermoord movement sparked radical change in the Netherlands. And as a result, the Dutch now have a transport system that is the envy of the world. However, over the years, smaller smaller examples of guerilla urbanism has flourished: Community groups in America place tethered helium-filled balloons in the middle of streets to calm traffic where children play; Villages in England have built fake speed cameras to slow approaching cars; New Yorkers created their own concrete curb extensions to slow traffic speeds on corners and a resident in Northern California painted their own zebra crossing when the local authority refused to install one.
Pop-up zebra crossing
We were involved in a little guerilla urbanism ourselves when we designed our own pop-up zebra crossing – a project made possible by all those who have bought insurance from us. We were established in 1990 as an ethical provider of green, reliable travel services. Thirty years later, we continue to offer cycle insurance, travel insurance breakdown cover and home insurance while putting concern for the environment at the heart of all we do.
Reclaiming road space in favour of people
In the 1970s, San Francisco became the birthplace of the parklet – a way of reclaiming road space in favour of people. The first one-day parklet was created in 2005 when a group fed a parking meter with coins, rolled out a length of turf and installed a potted tree.
We know all about creative reclaiming of road space. We created guerrilla on-street cycle parking when we built a pretend skip. The angry reaction to the launch of our so-called Biskiple offered a glimpse of how some motorists are under the misapprehension that they own the roads.
The problem is perennial and one that Winston Churchill attempted to tackle in the 1920s when he abolished Road Tax for fear it was giving drivers a false sense of entitlement. Fearing motorists would lay claim to roads by dint of paying for a small portion of their repair costs, he wrote: “It will be only a step from this for [motorists] to claim in a few years the moral ownership of the roads their contributions have created.”
However, the Dutch are less beholden to the car. The concept of the parklet has evolved into permanent extensions to their pavements. Temporary bicycle platforms are being introduced to see whether there is support to replace an increasing number of car parking spaces with cycle parking.
The bicycle platforms feature space for 8 bicycles. If there are no serious objections from residents after 3 months, the platform is removed and replaced by a wider pavement with permanent bicycle brackets. The temporary bicycle platform then moves to another street where a request has been made. The Hague has 10 ready.
Our own vision of the parklet is pedal powered. It can be towed into place using an electric cargo trike and once installed, provides visitors with a place to sit, free WiFi and birdsong played through a small wooden bird box.
Ethical cycle insurance
On the face of it, one cycle insurance policy is much like another, but the devil is the detail. Check your small print for so-called ‘new-for-old’ replacement – many insurers use the term, but if your bicycle is more than a few years old, devalue it severely. This means you are left out of pocket when you come to replace it.
With ETA cycle insurance, however old the bike, if it’s stolen you get enough to buy a new model. Furthermore, every cycle insurance policy you buy from us helps support the work of the ETA Trust, our charity campaigning for a cleaner, safer transport future. Little wonder The Good Shopping Guide has voted us most ethical provider in Britain. Get an instant quote