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Says bikes cannot replace other forms of delivery

A Transport Select Committee member has suggested that cycle lanes may exacerbate urban congestion on the grounds that bikes cannot do a significant proportion of the jobs currently undertaken by HGVs and vans.

Rob Flello – who is chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Freight Transport – announced the launch of a government inquiry into urban congestion last week and suggested that “loss of tarmac” for cycle lanes could be a major cause of London’s congestion problems.

The Stoke-on-Trent South MP, whose entry in the Register of Members' interests shows donations from the Road Haulage Association, claims he was misrepresented in some quarters as being ‘anti-cycle lanes’ when he would describe himself as merely a ‘cycle lane-sceptic’.

Flello says his three concerns are as follows:

  • If tarmac formerly used by vehicles is underused by bikes does that in turn cause greater congestion and pollution?
  • Why is it that as traffic volume has been falling in London congestion is getting worse?
  • Can cycles ever do a significant proportion of the jobs currently undertaken by HGVs and vans, and if not, are their reserved lanes essentially creating more of a need for more of those larger vehicles?

Citing Cambridge, where around half the population cycles at least once a week, he says: “Anyone who’s ever tried to negotiate that beautiful city by car or by public transport will not be surprised to learn that it is officially one of the most congested places in the country.”

He added: “If half the population makes at least one journey a week on bikes and congestion is still going through the roof, the transfer to two wheels clearly hasn’t solved many problems.  Of course, it might be that if they didn’t do that everything would be even worse, but the point is that while bikes may be an element of the solution to the congestion problem they’re not an answer on their own.”

Speaking to the Independent, Roger Geffen OBE, policy director at Cycling UK, responded:

"Cycling is a highly efficient way to use road-space – a typical traffic lane can accommodate 2,000 cars per hour, or 14,000 bicycles.

“Cycle lanes won’t be used all the time, in the same way that outbound traffic lanes and outbound public transport services aren’t heavily used during the morning. That doesn’t mean they are inefficient: far from it. Nor are they adding to congestion and pollution.

“On the contrary, congestion and pollution are both greatly reduced compared to what we’d have if all those people were travelling by cars, taxis or buses.”

Flello’s main gripe, however, appears to be the bashing of the logistics sector as, “some kind of evil, diesel fume-belching demonic brotherhood, intent on choking our streets and our children’s lungs in pursuit of undeserved wealth.”

He takes issue with the findings of a 2015 report carried out by the European Cycling Logistics Federation which claimed that about a quarter of all motorised trips in the area of deliveries and more than half of all motorised private and commercial trips associated with the transport of goods can be shifted to cargo bikes.

After questioning the capabilities of cargo bikes as well as the organisation’s definition of ‘transport of goods,’ he goes on to say that, “the men (and sadly somewhat fewer women) who drive vans and lorries through our cities do so because we need them to.  If you’ve ever bought anything from a city shop, cafe, restaurant or warehouse, ever had anything delivered to your door or had building work done, you are part of the problem.”

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