Lessons from Leicester… another UK imposter City for Cycling

Today November 26th, Carlton Reid took to the Guardian to push advertorial for a what he calls a “new poster city for cycling” — although with Reid, one never knows where his voice ends and some press release begins. In this most recent case he launders Leicester as the latest beacon of hope despite ample evidence to the contrary and in doing so he strips any pretense of journalist or historian leaving a pernicious ventriloquy. It’s hard to believe Reid is not fuly self-aware, this the latest in a career of pushing back the cycling horizon whilst claiming the good times are just around the corner. He’s currently working with motoring companies on “share the road” style videos and has explicitly tried to change the aim of space for cycling to that end.

Connecting Leicester is the new scheme and at face value has almost nothing to do with cycling — the word doesn’t even appear on the landing page. To summarise: a tourist attraction is being expanded, 9.2£ for a fancy market place, a 13m£ bus station refurb, and 3m£ is being spent on mostly expensive paving which includes a few hundred metres of marginalised cycleways. These are all facts Reid could have included if doing journalism and no historian would want to pollute the present with false witness. It really is shameful that a so-called cycle advocate is putting weight behind such obviously flawed and deliberately poor infrastructure.

Typical of both plans available is this 30m stretch of bidirectional cycle-lane that comes out of nowhere to dump riders first into an appropriately coloured grey-zone of mixed-use walkway then out again onto a four lane gyratory. They have even decided to remove trees yet only promise “potential future cycle infrastructure”. Reid promotes this as “reclaiming the city for people by nibbling away at the space dedicated to motorists” but these breadcrumb offerings wouldn’t even make for an amuse-bouche. The scheme includes heavily criticised discriminatory “shared space” junctions where car drivers will ultimately claim might-of-way, little to no priority for people cycling or walking who must giveway at sidestreets, and plenty more too-narrow dislocated cycle lanes that phase between walking areas with one even ending abruptly into a loading bay.

So the promise doesn’t meet the rhetoric of a “poster city” but what of the present? Reid struggled even contriving a photograph collection of Leicester’s fantasy cycling credentials. Fifteen cherry picked images could only capture 4 people riders yet 19 motorists, and a dangerously designed cycle lane vulnerable to opening doors and a street full of cars. These are not greenshoots.

One local was quick to comment:

And without a hint of irony…

What Leicester council have put together is a transport plan that entrenches motoring for another generation then drafted in Reid probably amongst others to bikewash the scheme. Those 75 years can’t come soon enough but I suggest early retirement so others can have a greater chance of realising safe streets before they reach that velodrome in the sky.


4 hours after being told by a local who cycles in Leicester that the mayor’s transport policy to date is dangerous and has “only increased resentment” Reid tweeted the following:

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