Thursday, November 6, 2008

Boris Publishes Transport Paper

The London Mayor Boris Johnston has published what he calls a transport vision, which has some passing comments on cycling. Apart from an annoying pre-amble about aggressive cyclists on pavements, the main elements are:

• Launching a full-scale cycle hire scheme by 2010 in nine London boroughs
• Creating dedicated routes that give nervous cyclists the confidence they need
• A big increase in cycle stands and secure parking for cyclists
• Helping to create cycle hubs and hire schemes in the outer boroughs
• Considering the possibility of allowing cyclists to turn left on red

There are no details about the dedicated routes, although he does say, 'It is an utter disgrace that there is no decent cycle lane on the Victoria Embankment or on the north side of the Park – and I cannot understand the ban on cycling virtually everywhere in the Royal Parks.'

This vision document is a precursor to a strategy and consultation paper due next year with a final publication next winter. So there is a while to wait.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Does Boris Actually Care About Cycling?

Boris’ first three months as mayor are up and what do we have?

1. The proposal for a £25 congestion charge for Chelsea tractors is scrapped and £400,000 in legal fees are paid to Porsche.

2. Plans to transform Parliament Square into a pedestrianised piazza are shelved over concerns that it might cause more jams.

3. He is considering allowing motorbikes in bus lanes.

We are still waiting for details of the Velib bike hire scheme - and that is about it.

Boris says that he wants to treble cycling in London and create more secure bike parking, but he sees his role as coaxing action out of the boroughs. There is no sign that he is actually doing this. Sure TfL’s cycling budget of £55m will have an incremental effect in the boroughs, but where is the grand plan?

Do you remember the excitement over Ken’s proposal for 12 cycle motorways in London? That generated headlines all over the world. Of course it was headlining and showmanship, but it help create a mood.

Despite his flamboyance, maybe Boris doesn’t have the vision to be a natural leader.

- cycling numbers continue to rise, no doubt driven by the price of petrol;
- police, especially in the City, crack down on cyclists jumping red lights or mounting pavements while ignoring drivers using their mobiles and stopping in the Advance Stop boxes.

Is everyone getting the politics wrong? 25% of Londoners say they would cycle if it were safer, yet the politicians still treat cyclists as a fringe underclass. We are a big lobby, yet somehow we are not heard.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Quirky Statistics from World Watch

Here are some quirky statistics from the World Watch website. The passenger density and the calories per mile are good.

Bicycles per 1,000 people:
United States 385
Germany 588
Netherlands 1,000

Percent of urban travel accounted for by cycling:
United States 1
Germany 12
Netherlands 28

Percent of adults that are obese
United States 30.6
Germany 12.9
Netherlands 10.0

Total spending on health as percent of GDP
United States 14.6
Germany 10.9
Netherlands 8.8

Persons per hour that one meter-width-equivalent right-of-way can carry, by mode:
Auto in mixed traffic 170
Bicycle 1,500
Bus in mixed traffic 2,700
Pedestrian 3,600
Suburban railway 4,000

Energy used per passenger-mile (calories):
Auto 1,860
Bus 920
Rail 885
Foot 100
Bicycle 35

Monday, March 3, 2008

Boris Backs Bikes (a bit)

Boris has launched his transport manifesto and has made some more commitments to cycling. In summary:

- a London cycle hire scheme
- 20 mph zones where appropriate (whatever that means)
- 10,000 cycle stands (with some options on secure cages)

That is about it. I can’t help feeling somewhat underwhelmed.

We’ve all read about Ken’s promise of 12 major cycle routes into London and £500 of investment. Despite the lack of detail and the lack of consultation with the boroughs, the scheme has attracted headlines from all over the world. I suspect it will generate momentum that will override the refuseniks in the boroughs.

There is little else for cyclists. There is nothing on Brian Paddick’s website but he is quoted in the press as promising “an extra £50m on cycle lanes for all Red Routes.”

Monday, February 11, 2008

Ken Pledges Dedicated Cycle Routes

The headlines are good – 12 bicycle motorways through London – but we’ll have to wait for the detail. Routes ‘around’ Croydon are all very well but the main pressure in London has to be for a West-East route across London and there is no mention of that yet.

I recently wrote to Sustrans asking about this and they replied, “But you're absolutely right, it would excellent to have high profile direct commuter routes on the main transport corridors with dedicated space for cyclists. Unfortunately, at the moment, this probably is a bit too ambitious though. It is extremely difficult to get TfL and the boroughs to reduce road capacity for cars. And one of the reasons that they cite is the current relatively low levels of cycling compared with other modes. This is obviously a frustrating chicken and egg situation.”

Edmund King, of the AA, is quoted as saying, "I think separating out cyclists can only be good for everyone.” No – we need to reduce provision for cars and have lower speed limits, not separate them all out.

Geoff Dossetter, from the Freight Transport Association, says, "The other concern we have had in the past is the behaviour of cyclists.” How about some cycle awareness training for lorry drivers?

Monday, February 4, 2008

Cycling Ignored in London Mayoral Election Campaign

According to the Evening Standard a quarter of Londoners would cycle to work if the roads were safer. If that were true one would expect the candidates to include safe cycle routes in their manifestos. Sadly not.

There is only one line in Boris’ manifesto that refers to cycling. He writes, “Cycling must be made easier and safer.” Hurrah for that, but it seems a little short on detail.

Meanwhile I can’t find much from the LibDem’s Brian Paddick other than, “We need to encourage cycling in London and do whatever we can to make it safer.”

Ken’s website is similarly short on detail.

Even the London paper lacks commitment. The Evening Standard recently ran a poll on the “issues” for Londoners. The poll showed that transport, at 36% was the most important issue for Londoners but when it got into the detail cycling was lumped under “other”. So much for their commitment to Safer Cycling.

You might expect the London Cycling Campaign to be more ambitious. There is nothing wrong with their manifesto but it just seems so unambitious - 20mph speed limit, more training, more parking and more PR.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Newsnight: Shared Space: getting rid of traffic lights

Newsnight ran a report last night on improving safety for cyclists and pedestrians by getting rid of traffic lights and other street furniture. You can see it again - about 30 minutes in.

The campaign against lights is championed by Martin Cassini, and built on the shared space ideas of Hans Monderman, who died recently.

A case study is shown in the Swedish town of Skvallertorget. It probably only works because there are so few cars: pedestrians and cyclists take priority. Maybe it could work here in London with a more draconian congestion charge.

Why are taxis given such priority in London?

The London Traffic Report 2007 shows that taxi carry just 2.9% of commuters on the roads in the morning peak and just 0.6% of all commuters in central London. Yet taxis are allowed to take up a huge and disproportionate amount of the road space, including being given access to the bus lanes. Why is this?

I posted this question on the excellent Another Cycling Forum and despite 30 or so comments am none the wise. The closest to a consensus is that the The Licensed Taxi Drivers Association (LTDA) has a lot of political clout, though it is not clear why that should be. Someone suggested that it is because the great and the good use taxis a lot.

We all need to use taxis occasionally and I wouldn’t want to price them out of the market. Perhaps this is a red herring: it is the cars we need to get off the road, create safer road space for cyclists and then all will be well.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Road Rage: The Battle for Britain's Roads

There was an excellent programme on BBC One last night (Monday 7th January, 9pm). To quote the blurb, “Britain is in the grip of an escalating road rage crisis. Filming on some of the UK's most traffic-choked streets, this special investigation exposes just how bad the situation has become; as violence and abuse in the war between motorists, cyclists, wardens and police escalates without any solution in sight. For decades, the UK's ever-growing number of motorists have been kings of the road; paying tax and fuel duty, they believe the streets belong to them. But now the balance of power is shifting. Increasing numbers of cyclists and pedestrians are demanding, and exercising, equal rights to the road and the anger on each side is mounting. Strong language.”

It was produced by Steadfast Productions Ltd and narrated by Jamie Theakston. It would be great if they could make it available for repeat viewing. It might be available on the BBC iPlayer.

Overall it was fairly balanced and there was some great footage showing the problems cyclists face in London. Having said that it is somewhat spoilt by a section on an excessive City of London police crackdown on cyclists while they continue to ignore drivers breaking the rules. The Evening Standard wrote about this last night. 'Mike Bowron, City of London police commissioner, says there is "a significant minority, known as Lycra louts, who are literally trying to dominate the road and they are a sort of clan". Police dismiss a recent report claiming cyclists can be safer if they jump red lights.'

More Tfl Cycling Data

I wrote to Tfl asking for clarification on some of the data in the London Travel Report ( or

They write, “Chart 3.5.5 in the London Travel Report (LTR) shows that the areas with higher percentages of journey to work by cycling coincide with the Thames in west and central London, which may indicate why the Thames crossings show a higher percentage than the average. Conversely, figure 3.5.5 shows areas of outer London with very low levels which is in agreement with the cycle flows we observe in outer London. However, the percentages obtained from the total cycle flows observed on screenlines, including the Thames, may be different to the percentages of commuting cyclists.

“Further information on the numbers of cyclists crossing all screenlines and cordons is available at the following link. In summary, this shows that in 2005 cycle percentages were 0.35% for the boundary cordon, 1.7% for the inner London cordon and 6.7% for the central London cordon. Again this is in broad agreement with figure 3.5.5.”

The latest Tfl data shows 18,000 cyclists entering central London in the morning peak against 78,000 people by car in 2006. There was also a slight reduction in the number of cyclists crossing the Thames screenline, in 2007, at 39,000 down from 43,000 in 2006. It is not clear what caused this.

Another way of looking at the data is to ignore rail and tube and focus on the totals for road users. Not only do cars take up a disproportionate amount of road space for the number of people carried (in addition to the accidents and pollution) but also taxis seem extraordinarily wasteful. Why are taxis given such priority?

Buses: 116,000 (47.9%)
Cars: 78,000 (32.2%)
Cycles: 18,000 (7.4%)
Motorcycles: 15,000 (6.2%)
Coaches/Minibuses: 8,000 (3.3%)
Taxis: 7,000 (2.9%)
Total: 242,000 (100.0%)

(Table 1.3.1: People entering central London in the morning peak, 2007)

Overall it is very hard to deduce a lot from the cycling data as different sources with different definitions are used for each of the tables. The one thing we can say with certainty is that more comprehensive and consistent data is needed.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Matthew Parris Apologises

From January 3, 2008 Matthew Parris writes, "I offended many with my Christmas attack on cyclists. It was meant humorously but so many cyclists have taken it seriously that I plainly misjudged. I am sorry."

It is not exactly a fulsome apology but it is good to see the cycling community making its voice heard.