by Carlton Reid
20 November 2012
“Political will is needed to make cycling a mainstream form of transport that is supported by high quality, safe cycling routes. There could, and should, be more segregated cycle space in London. Currently, decisions to give cyclists protected space are often turned down because there is a lack of political will to take space from motorised traffic.”
In the summer the London Assembly’s transport committee held hearings, collected evidence, accepted external submissions and went on site visits to research the cycle-friendliness of London compared to other great cities around the world. The committee’s report will make for uncomfortable reading for Transport for London and London Mayor Boris Johnson.
Many recommendations are made in the 60-page report, including better designed junctions, cycle training, better policing and the introduction of strict liability, where the larger, heavier vehicle is deemed to be at fault, for insurance purposes, in any collision. The committee also advised TfL to create Dutch-style infrastructure for London’s cyclists. £10 per head of population is currently spent per year on cyclists in London but too much of this budget has been spent on the Cycle Hire scheme, said London Assembly’s ‘Gearing Up’ report.
It’s recommended that Transport for London should spend 2 percent of its annual budget on measures to increase cycling. Currently TfL spends less than one percent of its annual budget on cycling, of which over half goes on the ‘Boris bike’ scheme. Most of the rest goes on tins of blue paint for the Cycle Superhighways (blue paint isn’t expensive, but the consultancy fees are). Only a small fraction of the budget is spent on good cycle infrastructure.
The transport committee is made up of six Labour members, four Conservative, and a member each from the Green Party and the Lib Dems.
￼Caroline Pidgeon, chair of the committee, said:
“We want to see London become a model for cycling best practice in the UK. Cycling in London could be as safe and popular as other European cities if the Mayor and TfL have the vision and energy to lead a properly resourced cycling revolution. The Mayor’s new vision for cycling must create a genuine step-change about the road space given to cycling. With strong political will and investment, 2012 could be the turning point for cycling in London.”
Without better conditions for cyclists, London would fall behind other world capitals. ‘Gearing Up’ cites how New York has started to transform its streets for cyclists and how politicians in Amsterdam and Copenhagen did the same in the 1970s and 1980s.
“Cycling requires bold political backing to make [it] a safe and viable option for all Londoners,” stressed the report.
The Committee received written submissions on cycling from TfL; London Councils; individual London Boroughs; London Cycling Campaign; Sustrans; and London TravelWatch. A public meeting held in July heard evidence from German Dector-Vega of Sustrans; Martin Gibbs, policy and legal affairs director of British Cycling; Chris Peck, policy co- ordinator, CTC; and Ashok Sinha, chief executive, London Cycling Campaign.
Another public meeting was held in September, attended by Roelof Wittink, director of the Dutch Cycling Embassy; Dr Rachel Aldred, director of Sustainable Mobilities Research Group, University of East London; Ben Plowden, director of planning, Surface Transport, TfL; Steffen Rasmussen, head of Traffic Design, City of Copenhagen; and Karen Dee, director of Policy, Freight Transport Association. The Committee also conducted a site visit to Bow Junction roundabout with representatives of TfL and LCC to view the safety of the road layout.
After distilling all the evidence, the London Assembly’s ‘Gearing Up’ report makes many recommendations.
The Mayor should establish a new target for cycling in his 2020 Vision statement due in December 2012. He should also establish a new target of 10 per cent cycling modal share by 2026 to reflect the Mayor’s ambition to create a ‘cycling revolution’ in London. The Mayor should appoint a Cycling Commissioner to champion cycling and realise his target to increase cycling. The Cycling Commissioner should be responsible for the publication of a biennial London Bicycle Account to inform Londoners of what TfL is doing to improve cycle safety, increase investment in cycling, and encourage more Londoners to cycle.
In 2013/14 TfL should allocate at least £145m to cycling (which is equivalent to 2 per cent of TfL’s 2012/13 budget) and should commit a minimum of £100m to funding the a review of the most dangerous road junctions. The junction review should be able to demonstrate substantial and innovative changes to the space and protection given to cyclists at the junctions. The changes should take account of best practice in Denmark and the Netherlands, and be in line with the Mayor’s commitment to Love London Go Dutch, urged the London Assembly.
The Mayor’s Roads Task Force should review TfL’s use of traffic modelling to judge the effect that protected space for cyclists would have on cycling and other traffic.
The Department for Transport should introduce legislative changes to traffic regulations to enable TfL to use new cycle safety solutions. TfL should also write to the DfT to renew the case for transport authorities to install internationally-proven cycle safety measures.
‘Gearing Up’ suggests that HGV safety training should be a condition of planning and development consent for all borough and Mayoral planning schemes.
There should also be greater driver awareness of traffic regulations to protect cyclists, including a better education campaign on the use of Advanced Stop Lines.
The Mayor and TfL should develop a plan to roll out cycle training across London, to enable all children to have equal access to cycle training, said the report.
The DfT should examine evidence from leading cycling countries about the costs and benefits of strict liability and penalties against dangerous driving that endangers cyclists.
“More Londoners could take advantage of the health and economic benefits of cycling,” said the report.
“But cycling will not increase without political leadership which treats cycling as a mainstream form of transport, and which is matched by the resources required to achieve the objectives the Mayor clearly holds.
“Currently, many people feel that London’s cycling facilities are not designed for them. Although the Mayor and TfL are working to encourage more cyclists and to raise the profile of cycling, many Londoners remain unconvinced that cycling is a safe or viable form of transport.
“In the last four years TfL has spent more money than before on cycling infrastructure and the Mayor has published a Cycle Safety Action Plan. However, the majority of this investment has been spent on the Cycle Hire Scheme. TfL’s cycling budget has not been spent on the type of cycling facilities used in leading cycling cities that maximise safety for vulnerable road users. Furthermore, the Mayor’s approach to improving cycling safety relies heavily on cycling becoming safer as more people cycle, but this pattern is not necessarily supported by the evidence in London.”
London Assembly’s transport committee report stressed that:
“We recognise that improving the safety of cyclists presents significant political and financial challenges to the Mayor and TfL. Nonetheless, the Mayor must prioritise cycling if it is to become a viable choice for all Londoners. London could be safer and a more pleasant place to cycle if the Mayor and TfL took action to reduce the potential for conflict between cyclists and other road users. They could do this by building Dutch-style infrastructure, piloting innovative safety solutions, mandating HGV safety training and working with the Metropolitan police to improve enforcement.”
Critically, the report added “this will require political will and it will involve difficult financial decisions. TfL will need to set aside more resources for continental-style infrastructure. Some space will need to be reallocated away from motor traffic to ensure cyclists are protected on roads and at junctions. But it can be done. Apart from anything else, this was demonstrated by the successful reallocation of road space during the Olympic and Paralympic Games.
CTC’s Chris Peck said:
“The Mayor’s ‘Cycling Revolution’ has stagnated and needs to get radical, but this report makes an excellent set of recommendations to help reboot London’s faltering cycling infrastructure plans. It’s time that the Mayor takes on board this advice and fully commits to making London safe for everyone to cycle.”