It used to be the case that blathering online about cycling was mainly the domain of chaps who used Usenet, and they were all set in their ways in a manner that makes todays Youtube trolls come across as wimps.
These guys liked things how they were - they were adherents of Franklins 'Cyclecraft' mantra, taking the practical attitude of survival by being assertive on hostile roads and transforming that somehow into dogmatic opposition to cycle infrastructure. And they had good reason too - for the most part the infrastructure on offer then was, as now, completely shit. They argued (at great, tedious length, if memory serves) that we need more education; both of motorists (they bought big time into the fallacy of mutual respect) and of cyclists, who must simply be more assertive and more dominant, only yielding primary position (that means being in the way of the traffic) if they absolutely must. The cyclist must learn to ride fast and assertively. Asserting himself in an assertive way the way an assertive chap should. And the damned motorists would all be asserted upon.
Over the years that has rather softened, and while there are still many who hold to the old ways. After a fashion I'm one of them, I'll ride according to Cyclecraft because its the right way to survive on a hostile road network. But we started seeing anti-infrastructure people turn into fans of segregation - for example Freewheeler while apparently fixing a puncture on the road to Damascus. Don't you know that the Dutch have got great infrastructure, its Nirvana over there. Just listen to David Hembrow. He'll set you straight.
And thus the phoney war started.
There are actually cyclists who fell out to the point of not talking to each other, spreading rumours about each other online over this crap. It got personal. It got nasty. It got destructive. In short, it got real dull.
In the ascendancy have been the actually splendidly sane groups such as Cycling Embassy of Great Britain, who are pro-good infrastructure. And even local campaigning groups like Cambridge Cycling Campaign have begun to understand what Go Dutch is all about. Even the CTC have made the occasional good noises in this direction (but frankly they could be wafted down spreading free kevlar tyres on the wings of angels and folk would still have problems with the CTC). And for the most part the argument in favour of good infrastructure is compelling - who the hell wants to ride in traffic? Stop telling old fogeys and children that they can cycle, sure, but they've got to go and play in the traffic, that'll never get mass cycling! Give us INFRASTRUCTURE. It has to be WIDE. It has to be SEGREGATED...
You're getting the picture aren't you? We've got two basic philosophies of cycling at play here - integrationist and segregationist. And I don't understate things when I point out that the two sides don't get on. Montagues and Capulets. Jets and Sharks. Green and Purple.
Now there is a time and a place for nailing your colours to a mast, but I for one can't be arsed to do so right now. What Stevenage does, however, is it shows us that the 'build it and they will come' attitude isn't enough; you can't dump cycle facilities in a town and then continue planning solely around motoring and then come back half a century and say 'what happened?' To do so is simply naive - you clearly need more than just infrastructure. It has to be the right infrastructure, in the right place, integrated in to the local transport network in a reasonable and usable way.
I WILL however say that this is precisely the kind of counter-example that the likes of Franklin have quite reasonably been putting forward as examples of why cycle lanes aren't the whole answer for years. And the lack of connectivity between cycle lanes and where people want to go, hostile junctions between said lanes and the main roads hiligted by Franklin and others are exactly what Hembrow and his side have been saying is part of the problem for years.
Previously, I've sat on the fence on this issue because I don't see any real disjoin between advocating assertive riding to survive on hostile roads and campaigning for high quality cycle infrastructure as a better goal. And I've been shot at by both sides, I've even been called a traitor (it isn't clear what or who to though).
The point is, its perfectly reasonable to assert that confidence to ride on the roads is a useful tool for us, but we're fools if we think we'll get mass cycling if thats the only way one can ride in the UK. Thats a reasonable, rational conclusion to draw from places like Cambridge, London and Stevenage. These examples are not contradictory; they form a perfectly consistent UK picture.
I'm hoping now that cycle campaigners (and bloggers, whingers, and everyone else) can just be a bit more adult this time round - are we going to have yet more internal debate about this? Really? Must we? Because if we really must then I promise you, no one other than a few other cyclists is listening.