Monday, 27 February 2012

A view from the cycle path

Unfortunately David Hembrow has deleted from the net his famous blog A view from the cycle path. This breaks many links within this blog, so I apologise for that, but it will probably not be possible to fix them. It would not make much sense to try, as I referenced his writings so often, so good were they, that trying to expunge the references would reduce the sense of past posts.

David's explanation for his action is here. It is, however, extremely hard to see what he expects to achieve with the deletion of a blog which was widely referenced by cycling websites worldwide. Far better would have been to simply end work on it, close it to comments and leave it on line – as was done to another famous cycling blog, Crap Cycling and Walking in Waltham Forest, when its author decided to give it up.

All on-line content runs a risk of plagiarism, mis-quoting and malicious distortion. This is a fact of the net with which we have to live. But it is a marginal fact of the net. Most re-use of material on blogs like this is done respectfully, with acknowledgement, and in a constructive spirit. It is particularly sad that A view was deleted just as the ideas in it were gaining a wide acceptance and understanding amongst cyclists, non-cycling opinion-formers, and even some policy-makers in the English-speaking world, as shown in The Times's Cities fit for cycling campaign, and last week's parliamentary debate – of which more anon – and also shown by many smaller snippets all the time, for example, this one from the Southern Daily Echo, where the editor of a provincial newspaper has picked up on A view and treated it as an authoritative source on cycling in the Netherlands – which is was. Few blogs attain this status. It attained this status because it was so well-written, so concise, and presented the issues so clearly and logically, and it was so well-researched and factually accurate.

The good news is that Mark Wagenbuur, who contributed quite a bit of material to A view in recent times, has set up an new blog, Bicycledutch, and reinstated some of his also excellent and enlightening material, originally published on A view, there. Unfortunately, though, Wagenbuur's contribution was only a small one, the vast bulk of the material on A view was David Hembrow's, which is now unavailable unless he decides to re-publish it in some other form.

I would still like to appeal to David publicly, here, for him to reconsider, and reinstate A view from the cycle path as a an open resource, even one that is never updated again.

If he does not, well, I will continue to campaign for Dutch-style, high-quality cycle infrastructure in the UK, as I, and others, did long before A view form the cycle path appeared, and made our job a bit easier. The Cycling Embassy of Great Britain, in particular, will continue with this work. It was in large part inspired by A view, and I am sure it will continue to grow as a campaign and gain more influence. The current London Cycling Campaign Go Dutch campaign for the mayoral election was also strongly influenced by A view, and though we can all argue until the (Friesian) cows come home about the details of exactly what cycle engineering we are promoting, and I will continue to discuss these details here, and criticise LCC where I think it sensible to do so, the fact is, this campaign is on the right lines, as are other, smaller local campaigns around the country, in a way that such campaigns were not a few years ago. Much of this is down to A view from the cycle path.

So we continue to work away at it.  I think it is not necessary for cycling campaigners, or those for more liveable cities, to constantly set their cause back by falling out amongst one another. It is not necessary for successful campaigns to self-destruct, and it is not necessary for the promoters of more and better cycling in the UK, or anywhere, just as they are winning the battle for public opinion, to seize defeat from the jaws of victory.


  1. This is deeply disappointing. Obviously it's horrible to have people plagiarize your hard work, but this is throwing the baby out with the bathwater. "A view from..." was incredibly valuable and a superb resource.

  2. I share your sense of fulsome admiration tinged with bewilderment.

    I'm currently putting together a presentation to go before the next Council Local Committee and had drawn fully from A View From The Cycle Path in producing it (fully credited of course!). It's nearing completion and I was just in the act of double-checking my facts.

    My task will now be all the more difficult.

  3. David could ask for contributions on his blog, as many websites do. This and an occasional fundraising campaign - who knows what he may receive. Many people are unable to make the trip to Assen, but would be happy to make a contribution. He could also ask friends to inquire of foundations, or ask himself.

  4. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    1. Mr. Hembrow appears to have blocked the Web Archive from indexing it, and it should fade out of Google's cache before long too. He has done a comprehensive job of removing it from the Web.

  5. Perhaps now we will have the opportunity to look at benchmarks from other places from which we might learn something. We might for example learn more about how it is done in Denmark, or even in Germany. Who knows, we might even find an example or two of good design somewhere in the greater UK!

    I don't know whether these examples are better or worse than the Dutch models - I am absolutely not technically qualified for that - but our political classes might be more moved by examples of the breadth of better cycle provision around the world, rather than merely its depth.

  6. I for one am saddened, dismayed and puzzled that David Hembrow has chosen this course of action. He evidently loves cycling, and his well researched blog was a force for good. In removing it he has done little but deprive the world of cycling of a magnificent and authoritative resource. I feel that in due course David will come to regret such hasty action.

  7. I've often thought that Portland, Seattle and San Francisco might be a good source of inspiration. They ride the same bikes for one... But we do need to solve our own problems rather than look for a panacea elsewhere. we need to include our own planners rather than exclude and vilify them. They have a difficult job and often made more difficult by negative actions from bike users.

  8. David Hembrow's blog is back! Yippee!

  9. Fans of Mr Hembrow can breath again: he's back.

  10. I can understand Mr Hembrow's actions. He is after all trying to make a living out of some of his cycle related activities so retaining control of how his work is used is part of maintaining his reputation and "brand value".

    This is in contrast to cycle campaigners who make a living in industries far removed from cycling and are purely seeking to influence people and spread ideas. If my photos gets copied, I get sometimes get pissy with people for being lazy and not going out and taking their own photos. However, when my Crap Cycle Lanes of Croydon blog inspired the launch of Crap Cycling and Walking in Waltham Forest I was well pleased.

    We have to understand that for people who make a living out of cycling and is bike riders the world looks rather different.

  11. Let's also be clear about the difference between sharing on the one hand and copyright infringement on the other. David's problem is that people were ripping off his work and using it to make a profit themselves.

    I'm glad the blog is back, and I note the IPR policy now in place. I hope he got advice on that from a good European IP lawyer.

    Rebecca Olds-Bartlett
    Rides Co-ordinator, Southwark Cyclists (volunteer) AND
    Trade Marks Assistant, Taylor Wessing LLP (paid legal job).