London Assembly Members have called on Mayor of London Boris Johnson and Transport for London (TfL) to improve facilities for the capital’s cyclists through a massive increase in funding and adoption of Go Dutch principles, as well as setting higher targets for cycling’s modal share in his 2020 Vision due to be published next month. The call to action is contained in a hard-hitting report published today, Gearing up – An investigation into safer cycling in London, which highlights that cycling casualties have risen 50 per cent in London since 2006.
With the perceived danger of cycling cited as the biggest deterrent to would-be cyclists turning to two wheels, perhaps most damningly, the report's authors find that while in cities elsewhere in Europe that have seen increases in the number of riders the casualty rate went down, "in London, rising cycle numbers do not appear to be having the same positive impact."
In other words, the so-called 'safety in numbers' effect, through which the rate of casualties goes down the more cyclists there are is not happening in the British capital.
The investigation was launched last June by the cross-party London Assembly Transport Committee, which comprises 12 of the assembly’s 25 members and has heard evidence from bodies including the London Cycling Campaign (LCC), Sustrans, CTC, British Cycling and the London Borough Cycling Officers' Group.
"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,” said Liberal Democrat Assembly Member Caroline Pidgeon, the committee’s chair.
“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."
The report calls on Mr Johnson to show see through his ‘Cycling Revolution’ – a phrase not heard much in the past 12 months as attention has switched from how to get more people cycling to how to improve the safety of those who already do, following several fatalities this time last year.
Those led to the safety of the city’s cyclists becoming a key electoral issue in the spring, with The Times newspaper’s Cities fit for Cycling campaign elevating the issue to national level and resulting in a House of Commons debate and now a Parliamentary inquiry.
Recent weeks have shown however that lorries in particular remain a threat to cyclists on the streets of the capital, with three riders killed in incidents in which HGVs were involved.
Sofoklis Kostoulas, aged 31, died a week after being struck by a lorry on 29 October in an incident that took place in Bethnal Green at a location first flagged up by LCC two decades ago as presenting unacceptable risks to cyclists.
In mid-October, 66-year-old Hilary Lee died when she was hit by a skip lorry in Barnet, and on Monday the death toll so far during 2012 among London cyclists reached XX when 35-year-old Brian Florey was killed on the A13 in Barking.
The London Assembly report points out that while overall expenditure on cycling in London is at record levels, including on the Barclays Cycle Hire Scheme, too little has been spent on making the road safer for cyclists.
"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."
The report’s recommendations are, in brief:
1. The mayor’s target of 5 per cent modal share by 2026 to be doubled to 10 per cent, with the 5 per cent figure brought forward to 2020. London must also appoint a cycling commissioner.
2. The ‘Cycling Revolution’ to be built into the mayor and TfL’s new business plan, including £145 million – 2 per cent of TfL’s 2012/13 budget – to be allocated to cycling in 2013/14 and £100 million to fund the ongoing Junction Review.
3. Commitment to “fundamental cycle safety improvements” as part of the Junction Review including “substantial and innovative changes to the space and protection given to cyclists at junctions.”
4. The mayor and TfL to reassess space given to cyclists at junctions in accordance with LCC’s Go Dutch principles.
5. The Department of Transport to amend traffic regulations so that measures to improve cycle safety can be implemented.
6. The mayor’s Road Safety Action Plan to be revised to improve the safety of cyclists with regard to lorries.
7. Greater enforcement of traffic laws by the Metropolitan Police and improved driver education in relation to cycle awareness.
Inevitably, comparisons are drawn in the report with Amsterdam and Copenhagen – the proposed funding and modal share targets, it’s worth noting, fall way short of the figures in either of those cities – but perhaps more surprisingly with New York where the report highlights how investment in infrastructure has helped reduce the risk of cycling while encouraging more people to take to two wheels.
“We recognise that improving the safety of cyclists presents significant political and financial challenges to the Mayor and TfL,” the committee says in its report.
“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."
However, it cautioned that "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.”
Chris Peck, Policy Coordinator at national cyclists’ organisation CTC, 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."
Ashok Sinha, chief executive of LCC, commented: “We applaud the GLA’s call for the Mayor to keep his Go Dutch election promises, and to show the political leadership necessary to introduce continental standards of best practice for cycling and walking across Greater London."
“It's disappointing that recent proposals for redesigning Lambeth Bridge and Waterloo Roundabout put forward by the Better Junctions review fail to provide the safe and inviting conditions for cycling the Mayor promised,” he added.
While Mr Johnson has hinted that some of the measures urged in the report will become reality – he has made noises about the appointment of a Cycling Tsar, for example, as well as urging the DfT to make it easier to introduce safety features – Assembly Members and cycle campaigners alike will be watching closely to see how far he is prepared to go to meet the report’s recommendations when he publishes his 2020 Vision next month.
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.