Various points I’d make about the thread on Milton Keynes segregation (and broader issues):


1.     Peterborough is an interesting case. Whilst at TRL in the mid-1990s, doing analysis for the DfT (then Department of Transport), I remember seeing analyses of different UK towns and cities and the impact of new cycling infrastructure on both cycling levels and levels of accidents. It was the era of “if we build them, they will use them” in UK transport & cycling policy. As I remember, and can’t think of anything that has been published with this in, many of the towns and cities examined did not see any improvements in cycling numbers / accidents, Peterborough was one of the few that had seen improvements, but at a small level and overall across all towns/cities there were not statistically significant results (probably why nothing was published…).

2.     Back to Milton Keynes… having grown up near there, to cycle around them was a disappointing experience (I haven’t cycled there recently), partly due the poor sign-posting but also due to poor design (I particularly remember sharp turns with poor visibility). I think that the planners did have good intentions about cycling, as well as walking, but the fact that the city was a car-based development, as stated by others is the key fact. Basically, people can drive freely (much of the city is dual carriageway with roundabouts to ease movement) and with free/cheap parking. In most UK towns/cities, congestion often means that for many trips cycling is a quicker alternative, but Milton Keynes has lower levels of congestion.

3.     Some of the issues are cultural / social. A student of mine did examine transport in Milton Keynes a few years ago, and implied that some of the cycling deterrent was due to some of the neighbourhoods near to the city centre being the type of places that people would not want to cycle through (his opinion though, can’t provide evidence for this). He also showed that Milton Keynes was trying to implement more of a sustainable transport policy – one policy was to put in bus-only lanes for one of the dual carriageway lanes in many places – although it is the case of too little too late, and not sure whether these policies have been followed through.


Apologies it has taken me a while to respond, and for bringing this up again when most of you probably want to move on, although I do feel that this might prove useful for some of you…


Kind regards


Dr Tim Ryley, Senior Lecturer in Transport Studies

Department of Civil & Building Engineering, Loughborough University


From: Cycling and Society Research Group discussion list [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of john meudell
Sent: 08 July 2011 10:26
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: Milton Keynes Segregation




The comments about Peterborough in your thesis are interesting, primarily as the name of that town rarely crops up in any commentary about cycling in British towns and cities….what happened there, or is it a well kept and best kept secret?




John Meudell




From: Cycling and Society Research Group discussion list [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Tim Jones
Sent: 08 July 2011 10:15
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: Milton Keynes Segregation



All comments so far seem fair. Milton Keynes is definitely NOT a good (proper) example of city wide high quality segregated cycle provision and has been disingenuously used as a case against segregation as Richard Mann has indicated. It is an after-thought on a planned car-based development.

Please see snip (minus figures) from a chapter from my PhD where I discuss the New Towns and cycle provision:

Jones, T. (2008) 'The Role of National Cycle Network Traffic-Free Paths in Creating a Cycling Culture'. Oxford Brookes University, Unpublished Thesis.


The original garden cities of Letchworth and Welwyn contained no special provision for cycling and only some of the post war new towns incorporated any kind of special facility. The case for segregation from motor traffic by providing segregated tracks was not universally accepted when plans for Mark 1 New Towns were prepared and designated between 1946 and 1950 (Dupree, 1987; p181). The cost of providing segregated facilities when resources were scarce was seen as prohibitive and it was probably inconceivable to planners at that time that car ownership would rise to levels that would cause congestion on what was perceived at that time as a liberal supply of road space.

Amongst the first wave of new towns, Hatfield and Hemel Hempsted ignored cycling, whilst Bracknell, Crawley and Harlow incorporated some modest cycling measures into their designs. Hudson (1978; p60) treats the later three cases with a degree of scepticism, however, describing the infrastructure provided as incoherent, inconsistent and incomplete. One town, however, was widely regarded as exceptional because of its positive approach to cycle planning. Stevenage in Hertfordshire was the first town to be designated under the New Towns Act (1946) and was developed during a period when petrol rationing was still in force and cycling to work still prevalent. When Stevenage was commissioned in 1946 Eric Claxton was Chief Engineer. Claxton had spent time visiting the Netherlands in the 1930s to witness the Dutch approach to cycle planning and was a cyclist himself. Cleary (1993; p13) argues that it was his critical appreciation of the needs of cyclists and professional commitment to cycling which resulted in the town's segregated cycle-ways. Claxton was unappreciative of the 1930s approach to segregating cycling but believed that good quality segregated cycle tracks were achievable within the British planning context:

There has been little consideration given to cyclists since the cycle tracks of the mid 1930s when cycle casualties were highest. Such facilities were inadequate, providing no convenience or protection at side or major road junctions. They were uni-directional so that the return route was on the opposite side of the main road. Many were too narrow, ill-surfaced and ill-illuminated. Organised cycling rejected them. They were little used and have deteriorated over the years.  However, organised cycling changed its opinion when the Stevenage New Town system had reached a sufficiently advanced stage to be assessed.

[Claxton, 1975; p140]

The comprehensive cycle track system developed in Stevenage comprised over 40km of segregated cycle tracks separated from adjacent footpaths by a centre strip of grass. The cycle tracks were built alongside major roads where access from side roads was restricted. Primary routes linked residential areas and employment and shopping areas with branches to provide access to the countryside and places of recreation (See Figure 2.3).

The New Town had embraced the engineering principle of providing roundabouts instead of signalised intersections to aid the flow of motor traffic. Cyclists and pedestrians were provided with their own segregated junction by elevating the road by 2.0 metres and lowering the cycleway 1.0 metre to obtain a compromise in achieving the 3.0 metre difference in level (see Figure 2.4 and Figure 2.5 below). This design was crucial in recognising that cyclists could be deterred by difficult gradients and also allowed good forward visibility to improve perceptions of personal safety. Routes were lit with overspill light from road lighting. The ten approach possibilities into the town centre were colour coded on a signpost system and facilities for the storage of cycles were considered at end destinations such as the town centre and railway station. The rule in planning the cycleways had been to produce maximum attraction, comfort and safety so that the system would be used accordingly but had to be integrated in the road network in order to obtain the necessary financial assistance from the Minister of Transport (Claxton, 1981; p224).

Harlow was the other Mark 1 New Town to take on board provision for cycling but the length of cycleway provided was much less than Stevenage (around 16km) and none of the tracks followed the main roads. Instead they were located along local roads which offered the cyclists a shorter route than would have otherwise been made along the same alignment as motor traffic using primary routes. The case had been made for not siting cycle tracks along main roads but to locate them through the heart of housing areas connecting with industrial areas and town centres because of the bicycle’s manoeuvrability compared to motor vehicles.

The second and third generation of new towns (or Mark 2 & Mark 3 New Towns), mostly developed during the 1960s, were developed during a period of rising prosperity and all typically featured car-oriented layouts with zoned land uses and high speed main roads without frontages and linked by series of roundabouts. Milton Keynes (designated 1967) was unusual in that it was designed on a grid-based road system typical of road planning in the New World. A system of shared paths for pedestrians and cyclists was grafted on to the Master Plan after the basic 1km grid road layout had been fixed and development had already started (McClintock, 1992; p55). The initial assumption was that cyclists would use quieter residential streets and pedestrian underpasses (which they were not legally permitted to traverse) to bypass main roads. However, it was later realized that it was unrealistic for cyclists to take less direct routes to reach their destination and the authorities decided to allow cyclists shared use of the pedestrian paths. Work was undertaken to upgrade them into what became known as the 'Redways' because of the red tarmac used for their demarcation (Cleary, 1993; p17). The aim was 'to show for the first time, on a city-wide scale, how travel for pedestrians and cyclists can be made convenient, safe and pleasant. Above all, accidents involving pedestrians and cyclists - particularly children - should be greatly reduced' (Milton Keynes Development Corporation, 1980).

The resulting cycle network inevitably meant that the design was compromised resulting in cyclists having to endure gradients that were actually greater than on the road network (unlike the Stevenage approach). This was coupled with criticism of inadequate lighting, signing and poor sight lines because of overgrown vegetation and the need to give way where cyclists met motor traffic at side junctions. Ironically, what became one of the most extensive planned cycle networks in Britain also became one of its most criticised (see for example Franklin, 1999).

Dupree (1987; p188) describes how Peterborough (designated in 1967) adopted a policy for cycleways from the outset in a geographical area where cycling was a popular activity, and which in 1966, accounted for one third of journeys to work. The Development Corporation had included in its report of 1974 the case for expenditure on cycleways (Peterborough Development Corporation, 1974). The network generally followed the most direct routes alongside bus routes and it was not uncommon to see a bus route, cycle track and footway side by side though with physical separation between. Where cycle tracks met secondary roads they generally passed under via an underpass. By 1983 around 80km of cycleways had been approved out of a planned total of 115km.

References cited:

Claxton, E.C. (1975) ‘Design for pedestrians and cyclists’, Paper 12. Transport for
Institution of Civil Engineers, pp137–145.

Claxton, E.C. (1981) Cycleways of Stevenage & Cycleways of Portsmouth. Urban Traffic Research Report Special Edition Volume 9: report on the 1980 Velo City Conference, Bremen Federal German Traffic Ministry.

Cleary, J. (1993) Cycle Facilities and Cyclists’ Safety in Greater Nottingham. PhD Thesis. University of Nottingham: School of the Built Environment.

Dupree, H. W. (1987) Urban Transportation: The New Town Solution. Aldershot: Gower Publishing Company Limited.

Hudson, M. (1978) The Bicycle Planning Book. London: Open Books Publishing Ltd.

Hudson, M. (1982) Bicycle Planning: Policy and Practice. London: Nichols Publishing Company.

McClintock, H. (ed) (1992) The Bicycle and City Traffic. London: Belhaven Press.

Milton Keynes Development Corporation (1980) Redway. MKDC.

Best wishes


On 7 July 2011 14:55, Peter R.H. Wood <[log in to unmask]> wrote:


Does anyone know any papers studying cycling in the segregated cycling systems of the British New Towns (or similar)? I'm thinking especially of Milton Keynes, which has a completely segregated and safe-seeming walking and cycling system (redways) but these seem rather empty during my commute to work. Stevenage supposedly has similar



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Stea D (1969) Positions, purposes, pragmatics: A journal of radical geography. Antipode 1(1):1–2