I HAVE cycled since I was a child, and used my bike for transport consistently since then. In the last few years I have developed a keen interest in the benefits to individuals, society and environment of cycling for transport. With good reason, much is made of how the Netherlands and Denmark have enabled mass cycling.

The images of relaxed people wearing normal clothes riding utility cycles seem such a long way from our reality in much of the UK. However, there is a glimpse of this reality emerging much closer to home through the Mini Holland schemes in London. The Cyclox Champions went to visit Waltham Forest in February.

Borrowing Urbo dockless bikes we were treated to a 14km tour of the borough. They are half way through a multi-million-pound programme of investment designed to reclaim space for people and enable a modal shift to active travel. Seeing the programme half built helped us to understand the process of transformation as well as the final product.

That transformation was only possible because of strong leadership from the council; effective partnering with the local cycling, and other, campaigns; and strict quality control from Transport for London.

Two aspects of the infrastructure were particularly striking. Firstly, the bollards. Plastic, metal, wooden, plant pots, barriers – you name it, we saw it. Why so many bollards? Well the technical term is ‘area wide filtering’ and the basic principle is that traffic should not be able to cross residential areas.

You can get in, and out, but not through. There are two effects of this; there is less traffic, and the traffic is local and therefore speeds are slower. What seems to have been particularly successful here is that this was applied on an area basis thus avoiding the problem of pushing traffic on to other residential streets.

The second highlight for me was the tight corners and cyclist priority. When putting in segregated cycle tracks the issue of what to do at the side roads seems to be beyond most transport planners.

Look at Oxford – most side roads have priority over the cycle path forcing cyclists to slow or stop and look three directions at once, at very regular intervals. Even in Access to Headington we don’t have consistent treatment of side roads. We saw some of this in older infrastructure in Waltham Forest, then we saw more recent infrastructure where the side road was a sort of no man’s land where everyone had to slow and look. Finally, we got to the real deal.

Tight corners into the side road slows the speed of vehicles turning in. Large dashed lines painted on the track (elephants feet) and cycle symbols clearly indicate that the cyclist has priority. The height of the cycle track is maintained which adds to the message that the cyclist continues and the other road users give way.

The acid test of a cycling project is could your 80-year-old mother or eight-year-old child cycle these routes alone? Well with tight corners, elephants feet, and cycle symbols I thought that I would.

What was interesting was that I sort of knew all of this anyway. However seeing it, cycling on it, and most importantly experiencing how safe it felt was so much more powerful.

This is why we urge the Oxford transport planners and political leaders to take up the invitation for a tour of their own. Seeing really is believing.