Is London's cycle revolution losing momentum, asks mayoral candidate Jenny Jones

Green Party's mayoral candidate warns that lack of new ideas and cuts in funding risk stifling growth

by Simon_MacMichael   September 27, 2011  

Jenny Jones.jpg

London Assembly Member Jenny Jones, who acted as deputy mayor under Ken Livinigstone and is herself the Green Party's candidate for next year's mayoral election, welcomes efforts to increase cycling in the capital in recent years, but warns that a lack of vision and cuts to the cycling budget may stifle further growth, as she writes in the blog post below for road.cc.

Is London’s cycle revolution losing momentum? by Jenny Jones

2010/11 was the London Year of Cycling and the success on the streets is there for all to see. The plans for cycle hire and superhighways that I was involved with drawing up under the previous mayor have been taken forward by this mayor. As much as I complain about the failure to deal with some dangerous junctions on the superhighways, or the slow progress in expanding cycle hire to a similar sized scheme as Paris, I love the fact that we are arguing about the detail of how things should happen, not whether they should be happening at all. That is a far cry from when I campaigned with cyclists in 2001 to stop London’s measly £8m cycling budget from being cut.

Cycling is being taken seriously, but having pushed for years for bigger budgets and bigger changes, I am worried that the momentum is about to go out of our cycling revolution.

2011 was also the third year of mayoral press releases claiming ‘record levels of investment in cycling’ and the third year of delivering less than promised. I have discovered that Boris has under-spent his annual cycling budgets so far, by £80m. However, I can guarantee that we won’t get a fourth press release claiming a ‘record level’ of spending on cycling, as this year the cycling budget is dropping by £22m.

Year       Total claimed       Actual spent     Carried over 

2008/09    £55m                £44.8m           £10m 

2009/10    £111m               £57m             £54m 

2010/11    £116m + boroughs    £100m + boroughs £16m 

2011/12    £94m                unknown          unknown 

The reason for the drop is simply that the current mayor has run out of ideas. Cycle hire was designed to attract new cyclists in central London. The superhighways cater for the commuter cyclists. And then what…? Cycle hire is being expanded east and west to reach a wider audience and at some point it may be a comparable size to the Paris scheme. Surely that isn’t the limit of our ambition? That, eight years after I went to visit Paris on behalf of the last mayor and got the idea adopted in London, we will finally catch up with our French neighbours?

For all the talk of record investment, the money for cycle training, cycle parking and local cycle schemes, remains fairly unchanged. Indeed the cancellation of funding for the London Cycle Network was a disaster for outer London cyclists, who struggled to take forward over 230 safer cycling schemes which they had worked on and agreed with local engineers. Even the Mayor’s funding for greenways has been halved, despite its obvious benefits for promoting a really enjoyable cycling experience.

The Mayor did respond to my pestering and agreed that the biking boroughs money needed to be a dedicated ring fenced budget, but he then allocated such a pathetic amount of money that very little of substance can be done with it. £4m over three years, compares badly with the £50m in one year which boroughs lost when the Mayor cancelled the London Cycle Network.

A genuine cycle revolution has to extend beyond zones 1 and 2 and reach all the distinctive town centres and communities which make up our wonderfully diverse city. My cycling tour of London has brought home to me the endless list of local problems and exciting opportunities which the Mayor and the boroughs need to deal with. All the unfinished schemes from the LCN and the visionary plans for the greenways network barely scratch the surface of the pent up demand for safe, high quality local facilities. Rather than back pedalling on the cycling budget the Mayor should be planning for it to double again as the cycling revolution heads for the suburbs.

With thanks to Jenny Jones you can find her own blog here.

Any other London mayoral candidates wishing to outline their own views on cycling are invited to get in touch by emailing info@road.cc.


 

13 user comments

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think there is far more cycling in London than Paris.

posted by rootes [39 posts]
27th September 2011 - 20:53

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the economy isn't in a good way. budgets have to be cut somewhere.

The evidence that I see on a daily basis is plenty of cycling.

posted by the-yorkshire-p... [179 posts]
28th September 2011 - 8:52

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I think there could be a collapse in cycling in London. The growth in cyclists on the street simply isn't matched with investment in cycling provision and a change attitude to (and of) cyclists. If these things don't change, then there will be a marked increase in cycling accidents and fatalities. And then people will be back off their bikes.

The lack cycling provision was strongly highlighted watching the world champs last week. The cycling lanes all over Copenhagen were practically motorways in themselves. But it's also the smaller things that make a difference. ASLs and filter lanes that are well marked and enforced - it needs to be an offence to drive into the box full stop. None of this and if drivers don't want to respect them, then put cameras up and start issuing automatic fines.

And while were talking fines. I'd like to see some kind of on the beat campaign stopping and fining cyclists who run red lights and ride on the pavement. To me, this seems to have grown exponentially since the Boris bikes were let loose. (And while they're at it, they can be shown a few pictures of people who've been t-boned at the lights.)

Why should we expect drivers to act courteously and responsibly on the road if cyclists are flouting the law left right and centre?

posted by Matt_S [182 posts]
28th September 2011 - 9:52

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God, I'd hate to have to commute through London on a bike. Apart from dodging HGVs and breathing in shit, there's the fixie riding skinny jeans types, the pious MPs, plonkers on Boris 'bikes' and RLJers to compete with. Think Boris would get some considerable good PR if he took up Matt S's suggestion about fines.

arrieredupeleton

posted by arrieredupeleton [538 posts]
28th September 2011 - 10:21

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Quote:
The evidence that I see on a daily basis is plenty of cycling.

...by the usual suspects: mostly men, mostly between 25 and 50.

This isn't "cycling for everyone". Until it is, there's no revolution.

Conscientious Objector in the War on Vulnerable Road Users

t1mmyb's picture

posted by t1mmyb [86 posts]
28th September 2011 - 10:46

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t1mmyb wrote:
Quote:
The evidence that I see on a daily basis is plenty of cycling.

...by the usual suspects: mostly men, mostly between 25 and 50.

This isn't "cycling for everyone". Until it is, there's no revolution.

But there's an interesting question, should it be up to the state to provide "cycling for everyone"? Those facilities are technically there via the road network, and there's much to be said for the safety in numbers argument. If more people rode, more people would ride, and ultimately there would be more awareness by other road users. And sadly there would be an associated increase in crap rider behaviour as well due to the volume increase.

Having ridden the roads of London for the last 20 years, its not particularly dangerous if you have even a basic level of competence and awareness.

Segregation isn't the answer. Enforcement of existing provisions and traffic offences by all parties is, I reckon.

posted by the-yorkshire-p... [179 posts]
28th September 2011 - 11:19

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TfL's own research shows that most of the expansion of cycling in London is due to the same number of cyclists cycling more often, rather than a genuine widening of people cycling. All the new recruits to cycling are merely replacing those giving up because it's just too hostile or scary. Sure, the roads are there for everyone in theory but they're not exactly inviting for people wanting their kids to cycle to school, older people, or those of us who don't want to dice with death on a daily basis. Before I left London, I gave up doing all but the shortest journeys by bike because I got sick of having cars just pull onto the bit of road I was already cycling on and I'm a pretty confident cyclist. Maybe it's not *really* dangerous if you're alert enough and fast enough to get out of the way but that's really no way to travel to work, is it? And it's certainly no way for my seven year old niece to get to school, so another car joins the school run...

It's an eye opener that there's so much unspent money in London. So much for 'we simply can't afford it.' Why not take what's left over and do one tiny part of London properly along Dutch lines? Then we'll see who can cycle there...

posted by townmouse [14 posts]
28th September 2011 - 11:33

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Quote:
But there's an interesting question, should it be up to the state to provide "cycling for everyone"?

That depends on whether you want to wrest the UK from the grip of car-dependency, I suppose.

The Netherlands is often cited as the ultimate Safety in Numbers example, but it wouldn't be what it is without the measures it has taken *at a state level* to embed cycling in its transport policies.

Quote:
Segregation isn't the answer. Enforcement of existing provisions and traffic offences by all parties is, I reckon.

I never mentioned the S word, but segregation isn't the answer _by itself_. We need a reduction in the number of cars, streets designed for people, strict liability, positive promotion of cycling etc. etc.

Conscientious Objector in the War on Vulnerable Road Users

t1mmyb's picture

posted by t1mmyb [86 posts]
28th September 2011 - 13:31

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Unlike Matt_S I think cycling in London will keep increasing. But in spite of what TfL are doing rather than because of it.
Using a car is only going to get more expensive and public transport is crowded.

A big boost would be more law enforcement on road safety. Dangerous driving, uninsured and unroadworthy vehicles, parking in cyle lanes and on pavements, and speeding to think of a few.
This would make cycling safer, which is the big barrier for most people.

Quote:
And while were talking fines. I'd like to see some kind of on the beat campaign stopping and fining cyclists who run red lights and ride on the pavement. To me, this seems to have grown exponentially since the Boris bikes were let loose. (And while they're at it, they can be shown a few pictures of people who've been t-boned at the lights.)
Why should we expect drivers to act courteously and responsibly on the road if cyclists are flouting the law left right and centre?

There are plenty. I work in the City of London and there are regualr red light jumper stings at several locations around my office.
Examples of stings and people being caught: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NgCpycc3-_U

posted by thereverent [297 posts]
28th September 2011 - 14:20

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t1mmyb wrote:
.

Quote:
Segregation isn't the answer. Enforcement of existing provisions and traffic offences by all parties is, I reckon.

I never mentioned the S word, but segregation isn't the answer _by itself_. We need a reduction in the number of cars, streets designed for people, strict liability, positive promotion of cycling etc. etc.

Hmm, not sure on the reduction in the number of cars - awareness and enforcement of the fact that a car can be used as a weapon...

Only reason I mentioned segregation is that that is one of the key things that those that currently don't cycle continually raise in the myriad of surveys that seem to be undertaken on this. As it's unachievable on a consistent basis (junctions etc) it's potentially more problematic anyway.

posted by the-yorkshire-p... [179 posts]
28th September 2011 - 17:48

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The reverent is right about enforcement - go onto the City of London Police website and look at the minutes of their community liaison meetings. Initially they focussed on "dangerous cyclists" but later the brief was changed to all moving traffic violations. Funny, though, how throughout, over 80% of all stops and fixed penalties have been issued to cyclists. Not many to motorbikes and taxis which jump lights or infringe cycle boxes.

I don't know what infrastructure works - varies from place to place I suppose and in the city centre that is more likely to be filtered permeability than segregated lanes, but at the moment we don't get anything. And while I agree that cycling in London is objectively quite safe (compared with the countryside, annyway) they critical test is subjective safety. If you want cyclists to be more than just the MAMIL population, you need to address that.

posted by Paul M [306 posts]
30th September 2011 - 10:01

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I like Townmouse's suggestion:

"Why not take what's left over [the underspent budget] and do one tiny part of London properly along Dutch lines? Then we'll see who can cycle there..."

Yes, focus the scarce resources on a tiny part and do the job properly for once. But which tiny part?

Top down you would want an area:

  • With a demographic mix that is normal if perhaps skewed towards young families
  • Geographically not too hilly, with adequate road space, with its own shops and within three miles of a larger town centre, plus access to leisure routes

Bottom up, you'd want an area with a degree of local enthusiasm for the scheme, so that it is not imposed on an unwilling population.

So let there be a competition amongst selected communities. (Selected top-down by whoever holds the money.) The two communities that make the most convincing cases (as arbitrated by an independent panel) get a third of the money each. The one that spends it most effectively (as measured independently by unpublished targets) gets access to the remaining third of the money to spread best practices.

Why normal? A recent survey suggested that people are reluctant to cycle, because they do not consider it normal. That is to say, they would if they saw their peers cycling. But instead they see licra clad road warriors, "dressed like Darth Vader" as one MP put it. The exemplar scheme should offer as many 'peers' as feasible and therefore should be demographically normal.

Why skewed to young families? If we want to effect culture change, we should make cycling safe and normal for children. "Give me the boy and I'll give you the man", as the Jesuits say.

What's with the shops? If you look to the Dutch experience, you'll find much shopping is done by bike and on foot. The 'weekly shop' while it exists, is topped up much more frequently then it is here. This allows the Dutch to seek out best value wherever it is available and to avoid the waste induced by overstocking.

How can they be expected to meet unpublished targets? By doing the right thing, instead of manipulating the data to appear to meet the target. If a reward or punishment is attached to a target (as it is here) people will do anything to meet that target, other than actually doing what was intended. So it is best not to tell them how they are going to be measured in any detail, but only to set out the top level aims and objectives. 'Target culture' was Labour's greatest blunder: yes you need to measure performance, but not against measures that can easily be manipulated.

posted by hmb [4 posts]
1st October 2011 - 23:18

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Clearly we have reached saturation point: without better infrastructure mass cycling won't happen. And, yes government must INVEST in that to happen.

Our streetscape must now be delineated to include the bicycle. And... that's why it's getting more and more difficult to "spend the money": there are difficult POLITICAL decisions to take.

Anti-car!! Yeah. Bring it on!

Katja Leyendecker
kleyendecker.co.uk
newcycling.org.uk

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posted by Katsdekker [12 posts]
3rd October 2011 - 10:00

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