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BikeBiz Editor Carlton Reid quotes TfL as saying roads access charging for cyclists was on the cards

Transport for London (TfL) considered charging cyclists to use the city’s roads and infrastructure such as the city’s Cycle Superhighways, but decided against it.

Although charging cyclists an access fee was later decided against, TfL’s head of strategic planning, Lucinda Turner, is quoted by BikeBiz editor, Carlton Reid, admitting during a think tank meeting yesterday that it had been on the table.

Turner added the role cycling plays in transporting a growing population on a finite and crowded road network is an important one. Previously she has highlighted the pressure TfL is under to become self-reliant as the capital sees a net population increase of 10,000 people per month.

Bikes make up one sixth of Central London traffic, says TfL

Reid quotes Turner as saying: “We have been thinking about cyclists paying an access charge for use of the networks, but it’s not something we have plans to do”.

She adds initiatives such as the Santander Cycles hire scheme and Cycle Superhighways will help keep London moving. The capital is spending almost a billion pounds over ten years on its cycling programme, including Cycle Superhighways, Mini Hollands and Quietways.

Turner added: “Things would have been a lot worse if we hadn’t made those sort of changes.”

Cyclists aren't alone in being considered for roads charging in London, however: earlier this month Boris Johnson asked TfL to lobby government to devolve Vehicle Excise Duty to the capital to "ensure revenue is reinvested in the capital's roads".

However, Reid wrote in his article, all road users aren't created equal. He said: “Unlike motorists who are responsible for hidden, sunk economic costs to other travellers and wider society, such as air and noise pollution – the so-called ‘negative externalities’ – cyclists are responsible for ‘positive externalities’ such as zero pollution and public health benefits.

"And it’s for reasons such as these, and the need to encourage cycling as a way of moving more people in the congested, busier capital city of the future, that TfL won’t be raising a charge on cyclists using London’s new cycle superhighways.”

Roads in the UK are paid for by general taxation, such as income tax and council tax, with motorists entering the city centre paying additional fees in London via the Congestion Charge. 

During the think tank meeting - “Who should pay for London’s roads?” – organised by New London Architecture and co-hosted by TfL, Reid says there was a general consensus that road charging would need to be extended beyond the Congestion Charge zone soon.

Reid was invited to the think tank because of his expertise in the area, having written the history book, Roads Were Not Built For Cars.