Monday, 31 January 2011

Waterloo to Vauxhall - the South Bank route. Can you help make it a better place to cycle?

Guess where this sign is? The mystery solved
a few paragraphs down this article

Back in November, Kate Hoey, the MP for Vauxhall joined forces with the NHS (in the form of  St Thomas's hospital) and local councillors to implement a ban on cycling along parts of the south bank, alongside the Thames.

At 7 in the morning or at midnight, this is a glorious alternative to the rather nasty bicycle route along the main roads.

I first profiled this back in November when I wrote to Kate Hoey and got a rather succinct response.

A colleague recently sent another note to Kate Hoey and got a response saying that cyclists were 'upsetting walkers' and pointing to the very organised lobby that cyclists have. If that's the case, I'm not sure I've noticed cycling getting more lobby time than, say, the motor industry.

Anyhow, the correspondence is included below for further reading.

But what really strikes me is that the real issue is that total lack of an alternative road route for mothers, children, fathers, older people, people who are scared of the cars (who make up many millions, I would hazard to suggest) and others to cycle along.

And it's a point that Kennington People on Bikes bangs home again and again with his recent articles.

I think there are two strands emerging in reaction to the banning of cycling on the South Bank.

Firstly, that a large number of people think cycling should be allowed but that people on bicycles should give priority to people on foot. That seems only fair enough, especially where the space is constricted. And the irony is that the sign at the top of this article is actually on the South Bank greenway itself. It's just slightly further along from the stretch that is now banned to cycling at Vauxhall Bridge. Imagine a motorway where cars are allowed between junctions 1 and 3 but half way between junction 3 and 4, they're banned from using the route. This greenway needs a consistent approach, not something that is permitted here and there and banned here and there.

And secondly, that people who use bicycles need to write to Lambeth councillors and to Kate Hoey and push for a better on-road solution. If you look at this article here, the road alternative can be a complete and utter joke. Personally, I find the approaches to Lambeth Bridge roundabout absolutely useless for cycling. If you're lucky enough to actually be able to get to the roundabout itself have to swing into the middle lane if you're intending to travel straight along the south bank and cars don't understand why you're in that road position. I've been variously honked, passed to closely, undertaken at speed and just the once actually driven into by a taxi from behind who wanted to push me out of the way on this junction. The problem is that the councillors and our MP don't use bicycles. They have no idea just how dreadful parts of this 'excellent route for cycling' are, how intimidating it can be or in fact what they can do to sort it out. I think we need as many people as possible to help them realise how they can make it a better place to bicycle.

If you've ever cycled the stretch from Waterloo to Vauxhall on the South Bank, perhaps you should consider penning a brief note to Kate Hoey yourself. Hoeyk@parliament.uk is a good place to start and you might also want to copy local councillor Peter Truesdale CllrPeterTruesdale@LambethLibDems.org.uk And if you're a Lambeth resident or worker, how about your local councillor too, listed here


Correspondence about the South Bank
From: HOEY, Kate [mailto:HoeyK@parliament.uk]
Sent: 28 January 2011 13:05
To:
Subject: RE: Jubilee Greenway - Lambeth Bridge to Tate Modern

Thanks for this -  I did not personally take the decision- this has been an ongoing discussion topic for a few years with pedestrians increasingly angry about their rights of way too. The notices going up  was a collective decision with the local community,Councillors and the Council. Obviously we will see how it works but one problem is that pedestrians do not have the 'organised' lobby that cyclists have in London and tend to get ignored. By the way the walkway below the hospital which you  refer to is one which the hospital feel strongly is where the cycling was really upsetting walkers.  The part in front of County Hall is very very busy especially in summer and is just not suitable for cycling as it is designed at present. Anyway this is a topic which will no doubt continue and to which there is no easy answer but thanks for your views. best wishes Kate



From

Sent: 28 January 2011 11:48
To: HOEY, Kate
Subject: RE: Jubilee Greenway - Lambeth Bridge to Tate Modern
Further to my email below, to illustrate the point, this morning I was cycling along Upper Ground en route between Waterloo and Blackfriars when I had to pull out to pass a parked van.  A Silver BMW estate following behind decided that he was not going to bother waiting for me to pass through and back to the road-side:  he continued to overtake me in the half-width of road remaining, and brushed me with his wing mirror he was so close.  I was lucky to retain my balance and not fall off.
That is not the fault of the road, but it certainly didn’t help.  I would not have net the BMW on the embankment path, and as a cyclist I represent a  negligible threat to pedestrians, compared with  that of motor vehicles – see Hansard here.

From
Sent: 27 January 2011 12:22
To: hoeyk@parliament.uk
Subject: Jubilee Greenway - Lambeth Bridge to Tate Modern
Dear Ms Hoey
I find myself writing to you again on the subject of cycle access to the south embankment path, this time in the context of the planned “Jubilee Greenway” which is supposed to connect up the various 2012 Olympic sites.
I understand that, despite the Mayor’s bold assurances in answers to assembly members such as John Biggs and Jenny Jones, there is nothing very “green” about the route planned for the cycle section between Lambeth Bridge and the Tate Modern/Millennium Bridge – unless, that is, it refers to paint used to mark the on-road cycle path in this area.
The route disclosed on the map on the “WalkLondon” website shows this following Lambeth Palace Road, around what used to be the Westminster Bridge Roundabout, and along York Road.  This is one of the most hostile environments in London for cyclists.  It then continues along Belvedere Road and Upper Ground which, while somewhat better, are hardly ideal – the relative narrowness of the road and extensive use of speed tables creates opportunities for taxis and commercial vehicles in particular to overtake cyclists (despite the fact that the whole area is a 20mph zone anyway), only to slam on the anchors at the next speed table and thus force the overtaken cyclist to brake hard too.  Add to this the pinch points created by unloading vans, and the persistent parking offender with a blue Nissan X-Trail 4x4 on the double yellow lines outside the Mulberry Bush pub, and at times this stretch can be pretty unpleasant as well – indeed, I only use that road now because Stamford street, a much busier but also much wider road, is currently closed for water mains works.  Overall, it jigs around like a thing possessed, left and right and left again, all the way along.
I repeat my view that the entire embankment walkway could perfectly well accommodate cyclists as well as pedestrians.  A similar set-up pertains on the Promenade des Anglais in Nice and that manages the potential conflicts between the two just fine.  It would encourage far more nervous people – women, young families – to cycle who will simply not contemplate the road route.  The great majority of cyclists, and especially those women/families, behave responsibly around pedestrians on a shared path.  Any enforcement should be confined to inconsiderate cyclists who persist in riding at excessive speed – a small minority who seem to capture all the attention.
At the very least, the route could be directed away from Lambeth Palace Road along the hospital service road which runs parallel to the embankment path from Lambeth Bridge to Westminster Bridge, and the across Westminster Bridge Road and along the section of Belvedere Road which runs past County Hall.
I know you have a keen interest in sport, and are the Mayor’s Sports Commissioner, so can I please appeal to you not to envisage cycling as just something done around a velodrome or in other purely sporting contexts.  The bicycle is also a mode of transport, described by Enrique Peñalosa, former mayor of Bogotá, as “merely a more efficient way of walking”.  It needs to play a much larger role in the future of transport.  It is good to see that the Boroughs of Lambeth and Southwark are generally quite supportive of this objective (compared for example with the City, Westminster or Merton), so please can we reflect this into the route of the Greenway in these boroughs?
Kind regards

Thursday, 27 January 2011

Herding cats: Why we need to shout with a single voice and why no one else is going to do it for us

I posted earlier this week about Moor Lane, a road in the City of London that is going to be redesigned to slow traffic and make it a generally nicer place to be. I'm dubious about whether or not the redesign will make life any nicer for cycling.

That aside, what really interested me was the way that the City of London went about securing public support for the scheme. It sent leaflets to residents and asked for representations from the developers and other property interests around the site. All fair and well. A total 248 people wrote back.

I suspect - and I can only suspect - that of those 248 responses, very few of them would mention cycling.

That's because very few people cycle.

Now, imagine that the same process is happening all over the country, every time a local council has money to spend on transport schemes. If you assume fewer than 2% of people are bicycle users, then you've got to assume that public support will very rarely think about how a scheme might impact on cycling. It's just basic numbers, really.

Now, let's combine that reality with another way that local government gets feedback from its local community. And that is in the form of some sort of local representative meeting. I've written about a typical local police priority meeting in the Barbican before . Once again, those are meetings that are dominated by people who don't use bicycles. In fact, at the meetings I've been to, I'd say most people attending were long since retired and had very trenchant views about people on bicyles.

Take a look at the sorts of minutes that are taken at local consultation meetings over in Westminster and you'll see that the issue of cycling, if it comes up, is an entirely negative issue:

"The key concerns you raised at the forum included: the behaviour of cyclists and their safety on the road; measures to control pedicabs; parking policy and management of roadworks"

or

"The key issues you raised included: the need for more effective residents' parking....; south bound traffic congestion on Baker Street...; Illegal riding of cycles on footways and through red traffic signals; poor air quality on Marylebone Road"

Our efforts to get the City of London to stop treating bicycle use as a catch-all for sustainability and start treating it with a proper strategy that makes it safer and more sensible to use a bicycle seem to be creating a stir. Which is great.

But the more I speak to people - whether they are people who use bicycles or local politicians or local transport officials - the more I realise that the UK needs a complete and utter overhaul of its discourse on things cycling-related.

Two of us stood on Blackfriars Bridge this morning handing out flyers to encourage people on bicycles to write into the City of London and put their views across. And we had some success. But a number of people on bicycles took issue with the fact that we are asking for space to be allocated from motor vehicles to bicycles. I posted this very issue on a web chat site and was laid into by a whole host of cyclists who complained about things like a) bike lanes mean I'll have to go slower b) bike lanes are dangerous c) why would I cycle to the pub, d) my bike will get nicked e) London's roads are 'too narrow' for bicycles and the list goes on.

Sometimes, you feel a bit hammered from both sides.

We need strong leadership to get things moving in a cycle-friendly direction.

The government isn't giving it. It has decided to push responsibility down to local authorities. Which is great if you live and work somewhere like Hackney. Hackney is quite happy to state things like "The Council provides strong political support for cycling" and to set sensible, achievable goals for cycling.

But if you live in Westminster, the council's transport plan is effectively saying (in my view), that cycling = cycle hire docking station and cycle parking. It doesn't feel like much of a strategy to allow people to feel they have the option of cycling. Just read the comments from Wesminster council surgeries, though, and it's hardly suprising that this particular local council might feel cycling is something it just doesn't want to support in any meaningful way.

The problem is no one else in government wants to support cycling in any meaningful way either.

So the question I mull when I jump on my bicycle to head home is how to help make things change. Our efforts with the City of London are definitely creating waves. Nearly 100 of you have written in to the City and expressed what you think is wrong with their strategy for cycling (namely, there isn't one). We've had vicars, bankers, lawyers, accountants and all sorts of people stand up for making the Square Mile somewhere they would actually like to cycle in. We have been invited to talk to people at the London Assembly (more on that next week I hope) and we have secured corporate support from two sizeable, well-known companies that will remain nameless for now. But we need to consolidate around a single loud and shouting voice.

For my part, I'm going to this at the weekend. And I hope some of you might feel inspired to as well. If you can't make that, then at least write to the City of London while we have a few more weeks left to note our concerns.

It's going to be a bit like herding cats, I suspect. But it's important.

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

And now Lambeth also out-cycles the Square Mile

How interesting.

A few weeks ago, I previewed how the City of London intends to spend its transport money over the next three years. 

A quick reminder of how that breaks down

0.45% goes on the cycling revolution - In other boroughs, this would be cycle superhighways. In the City it means mainly cycle stands
0.7% goes on road safety, mostly in the form of policing
2.9% goes on streets as places. This is architecture and plant pots. No mention of cycling here at all.
25.6% goes on major schemes. These are schemes that are good for making roads more pedestrian-friendly but if you look at a representative sample of one of these, they are not designed with cycling in mind.
0.7% goes into travel behaviour. This is PR and schemes to encourage sustainable travel (electric cars, bicycles, walking)

If we're hugely generous, cycling in the City of London gets 0.45% on the ground and a smattering of money for other initiatives. But the signs are that it doens't get any of the major money.

Compare and contrast with Lambeth. Not all is perfect with the Lambeth plan. Not by any means. But if you have a read of the Lambeth transport plan here, just like the Camden and Southwark transport plans which I mention here, it is clear about the need to support improvements to the roads to make it safer and more sensible for people to cycle. Lambeth states rather boldly that: "funding will be directed at schemes that are likely to achieve a shift away from car use (as opposed to switching between other sustainable modes of transport)." Bear in mind that the funding is still tiny when compared with the money going into other transport modes. But it's the sort of noise a borough needs to make if anything is going to happen to make people feel they want to cycle on London's roads. And it's a far better statement than the City of London's assertion that "...the City Corporation concurs with the Mayor that there is a need to maintain a particular focus on improvements for this key mode of travel (cycling). Projects implemented within the cycling revolution programme will nevertheless be designed with the needs of all road users in mind".


So, let's see if Lambeth puts its money where it's mouth is. And, where the City is full of contradictions about its transport plan, Lambeth is pretty clear about where its money is going:

Neighbourhood Schemes £2.55million - These are improvements to pedestrian and cycle  environment, parking reviews. Equivalent to the City's Streets as Places scheme that fails to mention cycling at all.
Cycling - £1.4 million to improve cycle routes and movements, permeability and accessibility, local access,  greenways, on-street and estate cycle facilities. Nearly three times as much as the City of London
Road Danger Reduction - £160,000 (roughly a quarter what the City of London is spending on policing) goes on driver/HGV/cyclist awareness,  community projects
Schools programme (school travel plans) - £150,000 - intriguingly the City of London's schools don't seem to get this
Workplace travel plans  £90,000
Travel awareness schemes -£710,000 goes on cycle training, walking promotion, roughly the same amount as the City of London.

All in all, cycling, together with pedestrian initiatives get a better slice of money in Lambeth than in the City. The point is that cycling is placed together with pedestrians in Neighbourhood Schemes (vs nothing for cycling in similar spending in the City) as well as getting sizeable direct funding all of its own.

And compared to the City of London,Lambeth has tiny amounts of money to play with. A total £25 million in all of its transport plan for three years, compared to over £130million in the Square Mile. Now, much of the Square Mile money comes from its own funds and from developer funding. But that £100million+ figure is why it's such a travesty that cycling isn't seeing any significant input in the City. Just imagine £5million of that going to cycling developments in the City of London over three years and what a difference that could make.

Lambeth gets it. Camden gets it. Southwark gets it. City of London wants to get it and has the money to get it but then doesn't put the money behind it. The City, from my point of view, starts with lots of good intentions but then waters these down by insisting on equality between all road users and by refusing to give cycling any sort of space. I can't help thinking that's a wasted opportunity.


We need the people who don't cycle because they're too scared to stand up and say they'd like to use a bicycle in our cities

I like the bloke (blokess?) at the back. Happily wearing a
woollen hat and a coat. None of this fancy cycling kit.
Cycling needs to look more like him to become 'normal'.
According to Wandsworth council:

"One-sixteenth of all potentially cycled journeys are currently cycled and there is huge potential to increase the rate of cycling in South London". 

Cycling now accounts for 2% of all trips in the borough up from 1.5% in 2005.

Guess what the target is for 2013/4? A whopping 3.7%. With 7% reached after some of us will have dropped off the face of the planet, by 2031.

I don't know whether to groan in Wandsworth's direction for being so weak-willed. Or whether to congratulate Wandsworth for at least being realistic. Because, if you look at these two blog entries here and here, you'll see that for all Boris's talk of a 'cycling revolution', last week's Mayor's question time at the London Assembly revealed Jenny Jones questioning the Mayor to learn that there seems to be no strategy to increase cycling, nothing is happening on the roads themselves, the money that is being spent is going into pretty bicycle stands and some training, that there is seemingly no political will and that we have a Mayor who seems to think a sponsored Skyride once or twice a year will trigger mass cycle participation. 

Depressing really.

Cycling just doesn't seem to be much of a vote-winner at the moment. And I completely agree with this post here that cycling feels like something politicians can just ignore.

And part of me wonders if the problem is that not enough people who cycle or would like to cycle are raising their voices.

Just take a look at my post earlier this week about the plans for Moore Lane. 248 responses were submitted by residents and 'stakeholders'. And the response was overwhelmingly positive. I used to live on that very street at the time of the review. And I know my response at the time wasn't very positive. But I'm just one little bicycle rider. If we assume that even as many as 10% of the people who responded to that survey were cyclists, then that makes 90% who weren't cyclists and wouldn't have thought or cared about what it will be like to cycle here. No wonder there is no overwhelming support for an alternative that really caters for cycling as well as walking.

And that's worrying. Because the government is increasingly encouraging local communities to tell local government what they want. So, if 2% of people cycle, say, then what we'll get is 98% of money and time spent on cars and other modes and no real consideration to cycling.

However, if 48% people who would like to cycle but are too scared actually made some noise, you have to wonder how different things might be.

Monday, 24 January 2011

An example of a 'major scheme' - how the Square Mile doesn't fit cycling into its transport spending

Moor Lane - viewed today. Pretty ugly. But not bad to
cycle in. Not too dreadful to walk either.
The Barbican area strategy is one of the 'major schemes' that the City of London will be spending its transport money on. The major schemes make up nearly 26% of the money budgeting in the City local implementation plan. As such, they're hugely important to cycling as they represent the largest bulk of City spending on new streetscapes.

Moor Lane - the future. Lots of pedestrian space. Good.
Lots of trees. Good. Nowhere to cycle? Bad.
Moor Lane isn't a hugely nice environment at the moment, I'll be the first to admit. But one benefit is that you can cycle along without getting squashed by a taxi as it's wide enough for them to get past you on your bicycle.

The plan is to spend rather a lot of money making this street (and others around the Barbican to follow) look like a nicer place that has plants, trees and bat boxes.

And a massively narrowed road space.

Which will mean that cycling along here could become one of two things:

a) much more pleasant because motor vehicles won't use it as much and will travel more slowly
or
b) pretty horrific as vans driving to the phone exchange or taxis using the road as a rat run get even more impatient with people on bicycles blocking 'their' road space and preventing them from getting past. The net effect is that if you're on here on your bicycle, you become a living, breathing and moving speed hump.

How Germany does it. Lots of space for
walking. Good. Lots of trees. Good. AND
plenty of space for cycling. Good.
Very different to the City.
The City clearly thinks the former. It describes how the scheme will "encourage sustainable forms of transport". It will clearly become a slightly nicer place to walk. And that's a good thing. But this is the only sensible north-south route for cycling between the Museum of London and Moorgate. And I can't really see how it makes cycling - surely also a sustainable form of transport - much nicer. In fact, I fear it will make it worse.

On the left is a similar sort of space in Berlin. The footpath runs alongside the buildings. Then some trees and bike stands. Then a bike path. And then the road space.

The project is under valuation. Stakeholders, mainly Barbican residents and the people building the new residential tower block at the end of this street, from what I can tell, will be invited to comment over the next couple of months. The fact that 248 responses were sent and 'the majority' were positive seems to suggest this scheme will be going ahead.

Friday, 21 January 2011

City of London: Streets behind Camden as well as Southwark

A bold vision in the City of London: "The 
you what that means on the ground.
Camden is the latest borough to state the obvious. You can reduce congestion on London's main roads by encouraging people out of motor vehicles on to their own two feet or on to bicycles. But that you need to design your streets to encourage people to feel safe cycling or walking. 


Camden transport plan:
"Camden will continue to manage congestion on the road network through encouraging mode shift away from motor vehicles to modes that have less impact on “road space” whilst recognising the needs for reliable and efficient freight and bus services and the role of the strategic road network."
and
"Enhancing facilities to encourage walking and cycling, which means less vehicles are required in the road"


Southwark 'gets it' too. Southwark points out that it too can improve congestion on London's main roads but that it will do so only by ensuring that facilities are designed with pedestrians and cyclists in mind first and foremost. 


Southwark transport plan:
"We will work with TfL to help smooth traffic across all modes, provided this can be achieved without disadvantaging vulnerable road users...We will support the removal of traffic signals where they are shown to be unnecessary, but at the same time resist any measures that have a negative impact on pedestrians."
and
"There is a risk that improved traffic flow and greater reliability of motorised modes may increase this mode share and therefore reduce cycling levels. This will be combated by prioritising cycling (as shown in our hierarchy) above all other modes in scheme design."


And then there's the City of London. Totally and utterly fails to get the message. The City politicians have insisted on including clauses in the City's transport plan to ensure that car drivers won't notice any worsening of congestion but that they're not going to alter the Square Mile's roads to encourage cycling - roads will be designed for 'all road users' (read taxis and motor cars). So, the status quo is what we'll get. That means 50,000 taxis a day rammed into the City's streets going on trips to the West End that could be done faster by bicycle if only there was a usable bike route from the City to Trafalgar Square. You could cut taxi journeys in half if people could nip on a bike rather than feel squeezed into insanely congested motor-centric streets. 


The City transport plan has no stated priority for pedestrians or for cyclists. Despite the fact that the City knows full well, cyclists can already make up 30% of vehicle traffic at rush hour on some streets. 


And here's the clincher. While Southwark and Camden realise they need to make things less convenient for motor vehicles, the City is boldly going in the opposite direction:


City of London transport plan


 there will be "no increase in average journey times...for journeys by car drivers on key routes around and across the City"


and this one:


"...the City Corporation concurs with the Mayor that there is a need to maintain a particular focus on improvements for this key mode of travel (cycling). Projects implemented within the cycling revolution programme will nevertheless be designed with the needs of all road users in mind". 


So, if you think the Mayor's "cycling revolution" means you'll be able to cycle sensibly between meetings in the day in the Square Mile, you can forget it. 


If you think something needs to be done about it, then join us by writing to the City authorities while there's still time. Everything you need is here on this page

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Tell Southwark whether you want more cycle training or more bike lanes

Southwark is surveying people who work, live or travel through the borough on its transport plan.
You can go to the survey by clicking on this link


A lot of the questions relate to cycling. Questions such as this one:


"Should we focus cycle improvements on the main roads, where most people cycle, or develop quieter cycling routes?"


And crucially, this one:


"In promoting cycling, should we focus on improving cyclist skills or improving cycling infrastructure?"


I ticked the latter. And then I read Charlie's post in the comments below. And realised that just ticking infrastructure probably isn't the right answer. Both please. But if it came down to one versus the other, I'd still stick infrastructure over training every time. Have a read of Charlie's comment on this article though. He makes a very valid point about how you can enter your comments on the survey to argue it shouldn't be an either / or scenario. 


There's a classic moment in the Southwark transport plan where it talks about how training people to be better pedestrians can improve road safety. I'm all for the green cross code but, come on, why should people be "trained" to walk more safely? Walking isn't dangerous. Neither is cycling.


Crap infrastructure, priotisation of motor vehicles on the ground and legal and insurance anomalies help to make cycling and walking dangerous. 


It is a good thing that Southwark trains school children to be better pedestrians or cyclists. And I fully support teaching people how to cycle more safely. But I disagree with Southwark's believe below, that:


"In order to try and encourage school children to cycle to and from school, Southwark offer free cycle training in schools to all primary school children"


Free cycle training will teach primary school children how to cycle, avoid obstacles and what to look out for. But the reality is that all that encouragement to cycle will be outweighed by a very discouraging reality of busy streets with no space for cycling and fast-moving motor vehicles. 

Crap Cycling and Walking in Waltham Forest deconstructs the whole idea that cycle training will bring about mass cycling nicely. And I have to agree with this statement:


Proponents of defensive cycling breezily assert that If you ride confidently, obey the rules, wear visible clothing and control your space you shouldn’t have any problems. And there is no shortage of people urging people to realize that cycling is safe and to get their children cycling to school. But this depends on what kind of environment you cycle in, and for most towns and cities in Britain this is sheer fantasy


As part of our efforts to make the City of London realise we have to do more to make cycling a reality here, I've had dozens and dozens of emails and responses. Including this one which just about sums it up for me from a woman who describes herself thus (and I hope she doesn't mind me re-posting her thoughts but they just speak for so many of the people I talk to who say 'I'd love to cycle in London but I'm too scared to'):


" I wouldn't even think of cycling anywhere near [Elephant & Castle] and get off and walk if a junction looks a bit tough.  I'm not really a cyclist.  I think I'd put myself in the even more under-represented category of people who would like to cycle but daren't!  It's been really great seeing how people like me are getting noticed."


Well, I hope that the City of London does sit up and notice people like you. And I hope that Boris Jonson does too. I'm worried that they won't because they don't see the votes in it yet. But it's people who would like to cycle and daren't who need to get involved and help us bring about a change in the way our politicians look at transport and the way they plan for it. 


Back to the point, though. This is what she had to say to the City of London and which I hope she doesn't mind me re-quoting. And I think she says better than I can why it's not about cycle training. It's about infrastructure: 


"My concern with cycle initiatives being mixed in with other schemes is that while I can see this might appear to save money (by doing all the work once), there is a risk that a cycling elements would take a lower priority and end up not being done at all.   I can see this will be very likely where cycle-specific elements will have to: “….be designed with the needs of all road users in mind” - this will lead to compromise solutions that don't give the real ease of cycling that we need to increase cycle journeys.   


Current road solutions in my area doesn't give me much confidence in this 'design for all' approach.  For example, traffic calming measures, presumably installed partly for my benefit as a cyclist to slow down motor traffic, actually make my trips more dangerous.  The "pinch point" variety combining a hump with a road narrowing arrangement forces me to swing out into the traffic to navigate the width restriction, instead of remaining safely to one side.  The "slotted hump" has channels cut in it, presumably to make life easier for bus drivers, but presenting me with the challenge of steering a heavily laden town bike through a very narrow gulley, and meaning I have to watch the tarmac rather than the traffic.  
 



If the City is really planning to see a significant increase in the number of people using bicycles then it needs to give cycle infrastructure greater priority in the Local Implementation Plan.  It could also learn from other world cities doing much better than London at getting ordinary people out on to bikes... In the UK - and specifically in London - we have stuck with an approach that puts cyclists out on the road mixed in with motor traffic, and we have failed to see the kind of rises in bike use that we wanted.  We've given the old approach a fair trial - and it hasn't worked.  It's time to try something new:  build a decent cycling infrastructure and watch the cyclists spring up to use it
.
 


Let's face it - the City of London is congested with motor traffic.  It has been for years.  You can spend your money on road improvements for motor vehicles, and you will maybe ease a teeny bit of a blockage here, or make a junction slightly better there.  But at the end of your investment period, the City will still be congested.  If you spent the money on a cycling infrastructure instead, you could have a have a world beating cycling city so good that anyone complaining about traffic congestion would get laughed at for sticking with a car
. "




If you have a chance, Southwark wants to hear from you. The Southwark survey really does only take three minutes to complete. And they really want you to say whether you think they should prioritise cycle training or cycle infrastructure. I know where I'd place my bets.

Sunday, 16 January 2011

Southwark's transport plan is miles better than the City's. Help encourage the City to realise where it's going wrong

Southwark Councillor Hargrove.
Can you come and rescue
the Square Mile please?
 
 The more I read the City of London transport plan, the more I think it's a complete fudge. And when I compare it with other boroughs, even more so.

Over in Southwark, home of the busy Southwark Cyclists group, the council is also consulting on its borough transport plan. You can download the whole document here.

One interesting feature in the Southwark transport plan, which has traditionally been a more cycle-friendly council than the City of London, is the way that it talks about road casualties.

In Southwark, the number of people killed and seriously injured on the roads has been decreasing for a number of years (while increasing in the City of London). However, since 2005, the number of slight injuries has been rising among cyclists while it decreases among other road users generally.

Southwark is aiming to do something about the fact that more and more cyclists are being injured on its streets. And one interesting thing stands out loud and clear in Southwark's response: Half of all road casualties occur on Transport for London's trunk road network (ie the bit managed directly by Boris Johnson rather than the boroughs. In fact the boroughs have very little say about these roads). So, 50% of road casualties are occurring on 5% of the capital's roads. You can see a map of those TfL trunk roads here.

And there's some definite pass the buck going on between Southwark and Transport for London. You see, in order to get money for its transport plans, Southwark (in the same way as the other London boroughs, including the City of London) has to achieve the following to keep the Mayor and TfL  happy:

Objective 1: Manage demand for travel and increase sustainable transport capacity
Objective 2: Encourage sustainable travel choices
Objective 3: Ensure the transport system helps people to achieve their economic and social potential
Objective 4: Improve the health and wellbeing of all by making the borough a better place
Objective 5: Ensure the transport network is safe and secure for all and improve perceptions of safety
Objective 6: Improve travel opportunities and maximise independence for all
Objective 7: Ensure that the quality, efficiency and reliability of the highway network is maintained
Objective 8: Reduce the impact of transport on Southwark’s air quality
Objective 9: Reduce transport’s contribution to climate change

And here's the nub. Getting more people on bicycles and out of other motor vehicles would pretty much help all of these objectives. 52% of Southwark households don't have access to a car. Bike lanes would help objectives 3 and 4 in that case. I don't need to explain that cycling would help objectives 1, 2, 4, 8 and 9 just by using a bike rather than some motorised transport alternative.

But there's a nasty trick lurking in these objectives. And that is objective 7, to 'ensure that the quality, efficiency and reliability of the highway network is maintained'. Dig a little deeper into what the Mayor is asking Southwark to do here, and you'll see that one of the key objectives of this objective is to "smooth traffic flow".

What does "smoothing the traffic flow" mean, you ask?

Smoothing traffic flow is detailed in this document here. What it consists of is finding technical solutions to allow motor vehicles to avoid congestion. Just remember, that means motor vehicles. Bicycles are vehicles too. But there's nothing about smoothing the flow for bicycles. It's about things like removing traffic signals or rephasing them. And it's entirely about moving motor vehicles around the system as efficiently (ie as rapidly) as possible.

So, good on Southwark for saying this about the Mayor's insistence that the borough should smooth traffic flow:

"We will work with TfL to help smooth traffic across all modes, provided this can be achieved without disadvantaging vulnerable road users...We will support the removal of traffic signals where they are shown to be unnecessary, but at the same time resist any measures that have a negative impact on pedestrians."

And then even better of Southwark for reminding the Mayor that the concept of smoothing traffic flow is entirely at odds with all the other objectives he's trying to achieve. If you read between the lines in the statement below, what Southwark seems to be implying is something like: "Mr Mayor, you want fewer motor vehicles, you want sustainable transport, you want to encourage cycling and walking. But your insistence on smoothing traffic flow runs completely counter to all of those objectives". Here's what Southwark has to say:

"There is a risk that improved traffic flow and greater reliability of motorised modes may increase this mode share and therefore reduce cycling levels. This will be combated by prioritising cycling (as shown in our hierarchy) above all other modes in scheme design."

In other words, Southwark is sticking up for making cycling safer versus increasing motor vehicle speeds, which run directly counter to making cycling safer. And it is undertaking to prioritise cycling. Prioritising cycling is exactly what Paris is doing if you look here. Paris wants it to be easy to cycle around the city, harder to use a motor vehicle. Southwark is hinting at the same.

Let's just compare Southwark's statement about prioritising cycling with the City of London's transport plan:
The City of London intends that its streets are safe and accessible for all road users, engender considerate behaviour, function efficiently, feature exemplary design and maintenance and, where practicable,meet the needs of all of the City’s communities. There is however not the capacity to give all road users the space and facilities that they may want

In other words, Southwark is undertaking to give priority to cycling even if if that means a conflict with the Mayor's stated aim of improving traffic flow and retaining high motor vehicle speeds. Whereas, the Square Mile is undertaking to leave things pretty much as they are and not give space or facilities to different types of road users (read people on bicycles perhaps). In fact, the City of London plan specifically undertakes to ensure there will be "no increase in average journey times...for journeys by car drivers on key routes around and across the City"

And just to bang the point home, the City of London even goes as far as to specifically state that any provisions made for people on bicycles, will be made half-hearted. Just review these weasel-words:

"...the City Corporation concurs with the Mayor that there is a need to maintain a particular focus on improvements for this key mode of travel (cycling). Projects implemented within the cycling revolution programme will nevertheless be designed with the needs of all road users in mind".

So there you have it. Southwark is choosing to prioritise travel by foot and by bicycle. It is quietly and diplomatcially rejecting the idea that roads should be places for cars to move at speed with no hold-ups.

The City of London is underlining that although it would like to see more bicycles on its streets, it is not going to prioritise bicycling, it is not going to do anything to slow motor speeds (specifically it states motor car speeds) on key routes and it bangs home the point by stressing a lack of space (which isn't true, read more here or here or even here) and literally covers its transport plan with caveats that will ensure cycling is suppressed and motor vehicles retain priority.

If you think this sounds like a half-hearted strategy, then you can help by writing in and commenting on the City's plans.


You can use our template letter here but far better if you have 30 minutes to spend some time preparing your own response to the City's transport plan and sending it to the same people listed on the template. You can borrow any of the points raised above or have a look also at these two articles for further background, here and here.

Friday, 14 January 2011

A spending breakdown of the City of London transport plan

The City of London has finally loaded the page on its website that shows you how it intends to finance and spend its transport plan for the next three years.

These numbers show just how marginal cycling is to the plan.

Here's a brief analysis of the numbers researched by someone who is a senior partner at a City firm and thinks the status quo is no longer an option. I quote:


"A review of the City's programmes and budgets over three years, according to its transport plan:

Cycling revolution £528,000 or 0.45% (over three years. So, that's quite possibly less than just one a gothic fountain)
Road danger reduction £780,000 or 0.7%

Streets as places £3,429,000 or 2.9%

Travel behaviour £771,000 or 0.7%

Transport planning £1,398 or 1.2%

Traffic management £23,154,000 or 19.8%

Highway maintenance £56,880,000 or 48.7%

Major Schemes £29,960,000 or 25.6%

Most of the money comes from the City’s own coffers (business rates, parking charges, council tax etc). £17m is what the City is asking Transport for London (“ TfL”) for. £9m is anticipated from “section 106” funding (What we might call a kind of civic bribe, developers funding public projects, as a condition of planning consents).
The first four programmes above contain explicit provision for cyclists or pedestrians. Cycling revolution is mainly cycle lanes, advance stop lines and related signage. We’re mainly talking about paint.

Road danger speaks for itself. Streets as places is about making streets more attractive places for people to be in, eg pedestrianised areas, benches and plant pots etc.

Travel behaviour is marketing to promote walking or cycling as alternatives. While not specifically cycling related, they might be expected to have incidental benefits for cyclists (Ed: the sort of 'why don't you cycle more because it's cheaper for us to market cycling than to actually do something', one might suggest)
Transport planning is partly about securing cycle parking, showers and locker facilities etc inside private developments as part of the planning consents.

The Major Schemes are 10 specifically identified projects allied to private development in various areas of the City. The most imminent scheme is for a redesign of the road space around the south of St Pauls, and the removal of the coach park and some pedestrianisation and traffic calming measures. If you want to see a recent major scheme, take a look at Cheapside, which was conceived around, and partly paid for, by the One New Change retail/office development by Land Securities. They deal with traffic, pedestrian and possibly cycling environments in those locations.

Critique of the plan

The plan is so vague that it is difficult to identify specific points to criticise. The most obvious issue is budget allocation: the City has about 9,000 residents, with a below-average car ownership. It has about 350,000 daily visitors (us) of whom only a tiny proportion (7%) travel to work by car or taxi. We nearly all pursue what they call “active travel” for most of our travel within the city, whether that is by cycling, or (81% of us) by walking from home or from the train/tube station to the office. And yet, provision for active travellers accounts for a minuscule proportion of the total budget: less than ½% for the cycling “revolution” (clearly not a revolution in the “French” or “October” senses); less than 5% on all four programmes which are explicitly about active travel. They could all easily be doubled with negligible effect on the big budgets for highway maintenance, traffic management and major schemes – project budgets typically contain contingency reserves somewhat larger than this.

The City, we suspect, may also have a habit – like most local authorities – of raiding these budgets to pay for projects which are at best tenuously related. We aren't quite sure yet but we have our own suspicions that previous cycling money may have been used for “street scene” works such as those raised cobbled areas which spring up where side streets meet the main drag (not entirely unrelated to such features as gothic fountains). What little is left for real-life cycling improvements on tarmac is then often eaten away by planning procedures or by commissioning consulting engineers to provide reports – you won’t be surprised to know that smaller projects don’t necessarily suffer much smaller compliance/admin charges.

So, one of our main comments on the plan should be: multiply the cycling etc budgets, and make sure you only spend those budgets on directly related projects.

On a more positive note, the Mayor's Transport Strategy demands that boroughs base their plans on their residents. The City fought back against TfL on this point – and won – in setting its targets for cycling in a way which takes account of the 97% of City transport users who are not residents, by using as the performance measure for cycling the regular count of cyclists passing specific “screenlines” in the city. In my email I will be thanking them for that – credit where credit’s due.

Another flaw in the plan, again due to the terms of reference set by the Strategy, is that it focuses almost entirely on commuter journeys, whereas the City experiences a high level of people movement throughout the day, much of it served by taxis, as we all move around to visit our clients or advisers. More attention could, and should, be paid to travel throughout the day.

Beyond this, in the absence of much in the way of specifics, one could comment on how they might achieve their stated objectives – or do better, as their long-term object of cycling growing from its current modal share of 2.6% to 10% by 2020 is pretty unambitious when you look at any European city or, for that matter, York, Bristol or Portsmouth."

If you'd like to comment on these numbers and make the City realise it needs to take cycling more seriously, then feel free to look at our other background article here.

If you can spare the time to send your own comments on the plan, please help us make the City realise it needs to do more. We have produced our template here which you're free to use but please consider writing your own submission and focus on what's important to you, using your own words if you have time.

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Register your concerns now about the City's transport plan. Email template and instructions included below.

Ludgate Circus: Imagine asking your mum to cycle here

The City of London has now published its transport plans for the next three financial years. You can read those documents on the City's website here. They contain plenty about cycling but plenty more is missing. 

Why should this bother you?

In the last transport plan in 2005, the City set a target that 12% of all vehicular journeys should be by bicycle by 2010. Then did very little to achieve that target. And in 2011, guess what: The target is now 10% by 2020.

What's more, spending on cycling will be 0.45% of the transport budget. A whopping less than half a percent.


You can use our template letter below to tell the City what you think.


Or prepare your own response and send it to the same people listed below.  


For further ideas and background, look here and here.

It's time to make a difference. Thank you so much for your support. And, good luck!
Please use the template below to register your concerns about the City of London Local Implementation Plan

Please follow these easy steps:


1.       Your easiest option is to cut and paste the email below. But please ensure you insert your personal details in the second paragraph (name, company, when you cycle in the City etc)

2.       Feel free to amend and personalise the template. Try to be positive if you can.

3.       Please try to send this email from your work address if you have one, rather than a gmail or yahoo account as it will have more clout with the City

4.       The addresses to send to are listed below for you

5.       If you live or work in the Square Mile, then you can also send a copy to your local ward member (councillor). Click on this link here to see which ward you live or work in and then go to this link here, get your ward from the dropdown list and mail all the ward members on that page.

Many thanks

Cyclists in the City

Email to send to the City of London. Please personalise this as much as you can. Or remove bits you don't agree with.

To:

Chairman of the Policy and Resources Committee stuart.fraser@cityoflondon.gov.uk
Chairman of the Planning and Transportation Committee COL-EB-TC@cityoflondon.gov.uk
Local Implementation Plan official correspondence address lip@cityoflondon.gov.uk
Deputy Chairman, Planning and Transportation Committee christine.cohen@cityoflondon.gov.uk
Deputy Chairman, Streets and Walkways Subcommittee jeremy.simons@cityoflondon.gov.uk
You might also want to cc:

London Assembly Member for City and East London  john.biggs@london.gov.uk
Cyclists in the City cyclistsinthecity@gmail.com (so we can keep in touch with you afterwards)

Dear Sir/Madam


I am writing about the City of London’s draft Local Implementation Plan.


I work as [Insert job title] at [Insert name of organisation] [Note: This information is important - One aspect of this initiative is to establish interest amongst those living in, and working in business in, the City – Businesses are the City's key constituents].  [I live in][I cycle to work [in][through]] the City of London.



There are plenty of encouraging statements in the draft plan. You state that you need to improve conditions for cycling and that you hope to see 62,800 cyclists travelling through the City each day by 2020, up from nearly 25,000 last year.

But your draft plan also contains some worrying points.

The draft plan contemplates cycling receiving less than 0.5% of dedicated budget and even that dedicated budget is compromised by a statement that any cycle facilities will be "designed with the needs of all road users in mind". Furthermore, the plan seemingly contains no coherent vision for cycle provision moving forward.  I am writing to ask that the draft plan is revisited to allow for more dedicated funding to be allocated to cycling and a framework included for the development of a coherent delivery plan for a co-ordinated network of improved cycle facilities.  Whilst I appreciate the importance of motor vehicles to businesses in the City, in places work will be required to address the implicit priority currently given to motor vehicles on the City's roads (something that I note is contrary to TfL's specific guidance on modal resource allocation).  References in the draft plan to a policy of not inconveniencing car drivers indicates that the intention is to continue this passive hierarchy that prioritises motor vehicles over cyclists.

I note, in particular, that improvements required include the creation of a network of continuous, well signposted, safer routes that allow cyclists to negotiate the City more easily without reliance on the congested arterial routes.  This could include:

(i)         the creation of more two-way cycling on one way streets that currently block useful routes;
(ii)        making some through routes (for example, on quieter back streets) cycle and pedestrian priority (or where appropriate motor traffic free);
(iii)       removing barriers that prevent access to streets which would otherwise offer helpful alternative routes for cycling; and
(iv)       reviewing the design of currently dangerous junctions to incorporate facilities to allow cyclists to navigate these junctions more safely (and where necessary away from motor vehicles).

Work is also required on the main arterial routes to improve the safety of cyclists, including wider and mandatory cycle lanes (24 hours or at the very least at peak times), mirrors to assist the drivers of larger vehicles with visibility of cyclists and identifying and, where possible, removing dangerous street designs that create "pinch points" which force cyclists into the path of other vehicles.  I would also be strongly in favour of the introduction of a 20mph speed limit on these routes which would deliver significant benefits to both pedestrians and cyclists in improving safety and reducing pollution.

Many of these changes could be delivered both relatively cheaply (particularly when compared to the capital expenditure necessary in respect of other transport modes), phased in over a period of time and with little impact on the experience of other road users or pedestrians.  A delivery plan is, however, essential to achieving this.  It is a shame that cycling in the City remains the reserve of the confident and some might say foolhardy when this is largely unnecessary.

I am also disappointed to see that whilst, your 2005 Local Implementation Plan committed to raising cycling's modal share to 12% of all vehicular journeys in the City of London (a target the City failed to deliver on) the current plan has revised this down to only 10%.  This is particularly disappointing when competing global centres (most notably New York, Berlin and Paris), and indeed a number of other London boroughs, recently placed cycling at the centre of their transport strategies.  Year on year the City of London falls further and further behind.  These authorities have realised the many benefits cycling has to offer, in terms of sustainability, cost efficient and health and wellbeing.  I cannot see why the City seems so reluctant to tap this potential.

In summary, I would strongly support a revisiting of the current form of the Local Implementation Plan to address the issues identified above and to set out a clear and coherent vision for a step change in cycling provision in the City of London.

Best regards


Other points which you may wish to address in a response:

·         The creation of at least two co-ordinated, continuous and clearly signposted east-west and north-south routes on which cyclists have priority and are not required to compete for road space with motor traffic. These cycle routes should be comprised of obligatory lanes on the main road corridors, i.e. prohibited to motor vehicles. Many of the City’s roads are wide enough to do this and there are plenty of options to create a realistic network to encourage the use of bicycles.
·         The development of a number of continuous east-west and north-south routes on quieter back roads where it may be more sensible to use advisory cycle lanes. There is scope to open many more cycle contraflows on the City’s back streets and to block streets to private motor vehicles and taxis while keeping them open to pedestrians and to people on bicycles.
·         On all City bridges, provision should be made for people on bicycles to cycle separately from fast-moving motor traffic and to navigate safely a right turn at the end of each bridge (currently across several lanes of fast-moving motor traffic).
·         The City should recognise that cycling represents an alternative transport mode for a wide range of journeys, not just commuting to work. The use of bicycles – whether cycle hire cycles or private cycles - should be encouraged for all types of journeys.