Jump to content
House Price Crash Forum

Archived

This topic is now archived and is closed to further replies.

Rave

Thoughts On The London Cycling Lobby

Recommended Posts

So I wrote this while tucking into some strong booze; it's an early draft. There's a lot more cogent argument that I could work into it. I would like to submit it for publication on/in a website / publication that has some circulation at some point, so I'm vomiting it up here and asking for criticism of every part of it: my facts, my argument and my writing style, don't spare me please. Also I need to write a conclusion with some sensible suggestions as to a change in policy.

Very few people would argue that the cause of encouraging people to swap their cars for bicycles for journeys in London is not a noble one. But the power wielded by cycling lobbyists over transport policy in the capital amazes me, and I do not believe that that policy, which seemingly prioritises cycling over all other road users, is good for the economic future of our city.

Nearly a billion pounds has been earmarked for investment in cycling infrastructure in the capital in the period from 2013 to 2023. The results are already visible in the construction of 'Cycle Superhighways' on major trunk routes. And the effects are already being felt, in the form of major traffic delays.

I'll declare my professional interest in the matter at this point- I work as a bus controller for a company that runs London bus routes, and traffic delays make my working day more difficult. I would of course prefer to sit watching my buses run up and down the full length of their routes on time without having to make decisions about where and when to ask my drivers to stop short of their original destinations in order to get them back on time. But I'm being paid to do that, and my additional workload is of almost no consequence compared to the inconvenience of our passengers, who are finding themselves having to leave for work anything up to 30 minutes earlier than before the delays began, and still running the risk of having to wait for a connecting bus to take them to their destination when their first bus stops short of it.

I am also a regular cyclist, though I choose not to do my 8 mile commute to work on a bicycle as that would add an hour to my working day; my small motor scooter costs about £100 a year to tax and insure and uses a gallon of petrol every 120 miles. The most recent figures I can find show that at this time fewer than 2.5% of people commute to work by bicycle in London. The most optimistic projections I can find foresee that doubling to 5% by 2023.

So how have the cycling lobby so comprehensively skewed transport policy to favour such a tiny minority of road users? And why have the vast majority who have been negatively affected not made their voices heard? Road lanes on major routes in and out of Central London are being taken out of use for the majority of vehicles who use them in favour of a small minority. This change is fairly permanent, as the new cycle routes are typically segregated by newly installed kerbs and barriers. The delays caused to anyone who can't cycle- elderly people, disabled people, parents with young children- seem not to matter.

Rentierism aside, London is a dynamic city powered by hardworking people. Commuters need to get to work; tradespeople need to get to sites; shops need to get deliveries. Delaying road traffic to favour a tiny minority of right-on pedal pushers is madness.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm a lazy drunk git, if it's gonna be any kind of publishable article it'll need the same word count again. I'll write those tomorrow after work (doing lates this week).

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

OK I'll offer some counters.

Perhaps current investment levels simply reverse decades of underinvestment and marginalisation? Crossrail is £15bn.

The biggest barrier cited by many (most?) to cycling is not feeling safe. Personally, I'm slightly sceptical whether anything can fix that one. Some people are simply not confident enough to be alongside any motorised traffic - but there is no way London will ever be anything other than a patchwork of only vaguely connected cycling routes. There simply isn't the will, and probably not enough space, to segregate traffic like this everywhere it is needed. And speaking personally, I kinda feel it sends the wrong message to put cyclists separate to pedestrians and motorised traffic. Again, I'd be much more inclined to widen pavements and make them shared use. Or even get rid of any separation between vehicular and pedestrian traffic for virtually all of central London, and make the pedestrian king, the cyclist queen and motorised traffic the knave in terms of presumed liability.

We need big cultural change. Road rage needs to be made socially unacceptable. Aggression/risk taking etc has no place on highways by either cyclists or motorists. I find it interesting that Tube users just endure much worse conditions in resigned silence or tinged with mild humour - but motorists/cyclists are not able to bring the same level of sanguineness to their travel.

Boris' painted blue areas genuinely scare me as they hold surface water when wet and are slightly glossy. I'm surprised more cyclists don't slip on these.

But perhaps we'll see a tipping point with heavy investment to more than doubling. I have no figures to back this up, but anecdotally I'd say cycling has already more than doubled in the last decade. When I was living there you might see one or rarely two cyclists alongside you at traffic lights during rush hour. Now it's quite often half a dozen - and that's even outside of rush hour.

I do think transportation in London could be managed better. It's a 24-hour city. Many deliveries could be made outside of rush hour/working hours. I'd discourage private traffic during peak hours even more. Essentially during the working day and rush hour, I think central London should be largely left to public transport (buses/black cabs/tube), emergency services, cyclists and pedestrians.

Further London is an old city. Many of the roads were simply never designed to take this amount of motorised traffic.

Air pollution. London has a terrible problem with this and regularly breaches EU limits in some areas.

Having heavy traffic, even the large number of buses, on places like Oxford St baffles me. What should be a prime shopping area pretty much given over to pedestrians seems to be largely a rat run for buses. You can have anything up to a dozen buses at one time trying to inch their way down there.

My commute was 40 mins each way. It was doable because I found routes that largely kept me away from motorised traffic and the workplace provided showers. Frankly, the tube wouldn't be any quicker. Again given the relative youth of London's population it doesn't seem unfeasible that if we could move more people from public transport into cycling then perhaps it might ease the burden a little.

Of course it's reversible. Much of the infrastructure used to be given over to trams, but obviously with one or two exceptions no longer is.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Maybe rewrite without the negative, makes it harder to read.

Very few people would argue that the cause of encouraging people to swap their cars for bicycles for journeys in London is not a noble one.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The biggest barrier cited by many (most?) to cycling is not feeling safe.

There's a bigger corollary to that. Peer pressure, and above all, parental pressure. If parents won't let their kids go out on bikes then the kids will grow up not-cycling (and will, incidentally, reach driving age without having developed road sense).

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

There's a bigger corollary to that. Peer pressure, and above all, parental pressure. If parents won't let their kids go out on bikes then the kids will grow up not-cycling (and will, incidentally, reach driving age without having developed road sense).

Perhaps road sense is innate, you either have it or you don't. Putting kids on bikes just allows natural selection.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

There's a bigger corollary to that. Peer pressure, and above all, parental pressure. If parents won't let their kids go out on bikes then the kids will grow up not-cycling (and will, incidentally, reach driving age without having developed road sense).

They can always buy a motorcycle with their first job. In this way parents are encouraged to give free car lessons.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

It's not your road sense you need to worry about,it's the guy's in the 40ft truck that'll mush you up.

Yes undercutting on the left is a bad idea.

Cycle routes would help get bikes away from lorries.

Why not run the bikes through the tube tunnels? Or weld a set of bikes to the back of each tube so people can pretend to cycle to work.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The biggest barrier cited by many (most?) to cycling is not feeling safe. Personally, I'm slightly sceptical whether anything can fix that one.

... well some people can think out of the box ...

510278.jpg

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I think the article needs to be a bit more positive otherwise it just comes across as an anti-cycle rant.

I agree that most segregated cycle facilities are confusing, costly and give a false sense of security, and make motorists think cyclists shouldn't be on the road.

What about writing some suggestions for how cycling and buses could be better integrated, for example?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The nicest cities in Europe are those that have invested in encouraging cycling and reducing traffic. It is not cheap and has taken 30+ years. I have read that amsterdam, copenhagen etc were just as horrible as London i the seventies.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I cycle, but only on dedicated cycleways or off road or (very) quiet roads. I would quite happily cycle everywhere in somewhere like Milton Keynes with a car-free network of paths and tracks spanning the urban area. However, thats not what most the cycling lobby seem to want...

http://www.cycling-embassy.org.uk/blog/2012/04/27/they-built-it-and-they-didnt-come-lesson-milton-keynes

They seem to want to get cars off the road rather than get people cycling. Frankly, London has such high population density and such shoddy roads, it isnt going to get much better. No one drives in London for 'fun' (other than a few arabs in the central bits)...virtually all of the motorized traffic you see is essential deliveries, door to door stuff that cant be done on public transport and so forth. Their ideals to have a car/van/truck free London would mean the city would cease to function.

Thus, i think like most lobbies that have been corrupted by the left, they have some freaky pie in the sky utopian view that is unachievable.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

...virtually all of the motorized traffic you see is essential deliveries, door to door stuff that cant be done on public transport and so forth. Their ideals to have a car/van/truck free London would mean the city would cease to function.

... or function differently ...

HeavyLoadsAlainDelorme9.jpg

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

They can always buy a motorcycle with their first job. In this way parents are encouraged to give free car lessons.

I did - 70 quid being the proceeds from a summer job. Parents became very keen to give me lifts.

Didn't take long to conclude cycling was a nicer way to get about.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

It's not your road sense you need to worry about,it's the guy's in the 40ft truck that'll mush you up.

Extremely rare unless you do something dumb. The drivers of those things are professional, and in a lot more control than cars or vans. One of those risks on the level of being struck by lightning.

... and I've cycled several stretches of busy road with lots of lorries this morning, including turning right at two big roundabouts (one of them involving a nine-lane and a split eleven-lane stretch of dual carriageways). As well as some more pleasant, car-free stretches where available.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Extremely rare unless you do something dumb. The drivers of those things are professional, and in a lot more control than cars or vans. One of those risks on the level of being struck by lightning.

... and I've cycled several stretches of busy road with lots of lorries this morning, including turning right at two big roundabouts (one of them involving a nine-lane and a split eleven-lane stretch of dual carriageways). As well as some more pleasant, car-free stretches where available.

I think the people who have been killed by lorries in London have frequently put themselves in very vulnerable situations. Like moving in front of the truck to the drivers blindspot or passing on the inside of the truck.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

First rule of motorbikes - if you can't see their eyes, they can't see you. Never know why cyclists sit in blind spots.

However, I know that as a very occasional London driver, the cyclists scare the heeby-jeebies out of me and I am always amazed that I haven't collided with one.

I guess the more regular drivers don't feel that way. However, I would never cycle in London because sod's law says that I would meet an infrequent city driver like myself.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

First rule of motorbikes - if you can't see their eyes, they can't see you. Never know why cyclists sit in blind spots.

They probably never have driven a truck. ;)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

OK I'll offer some counters.

Perhaps current investment levels simply reverse decades of underinvestment and marginalisation? Crossrail is £15bn.

The biggest barrier cited by many (most?) to cycling is not feeling safe. Personally, I'm slightly sceptical whether anything can fix that one. Some people are simply not confident enough to be alongside any motorised traffic - but there is no way London will ever be anything other than a patchwork of only vaguely connected cycling routes. There simply isn't the will, and probably not enough space, to segregate traffic like this everywhere it is needed. And speaking personally, I kinda feel it sends the wrong message to put cyclists separate to pedestrians and motorised traffic. Again, I'd be much more inclined to widen pavements and make them shared use. Or even get rid of any separation between vehicular and pedestrian traffic for virtually all of central London, and make the pedestrian king, the cyclist queen and motorised traffic the knave in terms of presumed liability.

We need big cultural change. Road rage needs to be made socially unacceptable. Aggression/risk taking etc has no place on highways by either cyclists or motorists. I find it interesting that Tube users just endure much worse conditions in resigned silence or tinged with mild humour - but motorists/cyclists are not able to bring the same level of sanguineness to their travel.

Boris' painted blue areas genuinely scare me as they hold surface water when wet and are slightly glossy. I'm surprised more cyclists don't slip on these.

But perhaps we'll see a tipping point with heavy investment to more than doubling. I have no figures to back this up, but anecdotally I'd say cycling has already more than doubled in the last decade. When I was living there you might see one or rarely two cyclists alongside you at traffic lights during rush hour. Now it's quite often half a dozen - and that's even outside of rush hour.

I do think transportation in London could be managed better. It's a 24-hour city. Many deliveries could be made outside of rush hour/working hours. I'd discourage private traffic during peak hours even more. Essentially during the working day and rush hour, I think central London should be largely left to public transport (buses/black cabs/tube), emergency services, cyclists and pedestrians.

Further London is an old city. Many of the roads were simply never designed to take this amount of motorised traffic.

Air pollution. London has a terrible problem with this and regularly breaches EU limits in some areas.

Having heavy traffic, even the large number of buses, on places like Oxford St baffles me. What should be a prime shopping area pretty much given over to pedestrians seems to be largely a rat run for buses. You can have anything up to a dozen buses at one time trying to inch their way down there.

My commute was 40 mins each way. It was doable because I found routes that largely kept me away from motorised traffic and the workplace provided showers. Frankly, the tube wouldn't be any quicker. Again given the relative youth of London's population it doesn't seem unfeasible that if we could move more people from public transport into cycling then perhaps it might ease the burden a little.

Of course it's reversible. Much of the infrastructure used to be given over to trams, but obviously with one or two exceptions no longer is.

I don't really disagree with very much of that and if I'd carried on writing instead of getting stuck into a bottle of voddy I hope that would have become clear. You have gone on to make a couple of points that I was going to:

1: that London is an old city constrained in traffic capacity by streets that were mostly laid out decades ago.

2: that air pollution is already terrible- this can surely only be made worse by having more traffic jams where stationary buses, trucks and VWs ( :P) hurl particulates and NOx into the hardworking lungs of people cycling by on their lovely new Superhighway.

As for the rest of it, I would also like to see shop deliveries being done in the evening or early morning, mainly because parked trucks can and do cause congestion and hence delays to my bus routes. However you need to factor in the additional cost of having to pay drivers to work unsociable hours, and paying shop staff to be there outside of shop opening hours.

Your point about being able to commute as quickly by bike than you would have been able to by tube is also very pertinent, as (as others on the thread have pointed out) few people other than the rich or terminally lazy commute into central London in private cars. Most people (I'd say the vast majority) switching to cycle commuting will be switching from travelling by public transport. That's no bad thing in itself (beyond the loss of revenue for train operators/TFL) as trains and tubes are often stuffed beyond capacity at peak hours, but it rather gives the lie to the argument that encouraging cycling will decrease road traffic levels and hence cut pollution.

And finally, the feeling safe argument. Albeit that I occasionally get cut up/turned left on/pulled out on by idiots in cars, I've never had a collision with a car that caused me to fall off in 25 years off cycling on the roads- I started seriously when I was about 11, I'm 36 now. Maybe I've been lucky- an acquaintance of mine recently broke his back when an oncoming car turned right across his path- but equally I'm a competent, assertive cyclist who doesn't take unnecessary risks to save a few seconds. My mum is a pretty slow, unconfident cyclist, and although apparently some (female) idiot recently shouted at her to 'get off the road!' when she was in a line of traffic turning right, she's never had an accident that I can recall, and she goes pretty much everywhere by bike when she's not got my niece in tow. She certainly rides more miles a week than I do.

I'd argue therefore that trying to make every potential cyclist feel safe is futile- yes you could probably save 15 lives a year and increase the percentage of journeys undertaken by cycle from 2.5 to 3.5% or whatever, but then you'd have people who aren't really suited to cycling clogging up the superhighways and annoying anyone competent! The mistake the cycling lobby make- along with other organisations like Brake- is to think that achieving a zero road casualty rate is a realistic possibility. Without banning motor vehicles and reverting to an agrarian society, it simply isn't.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

  • The Prime Minister stated that there were three Brexit options available to the UK:   103 members have voted

    1. 1. Which of the Prime Minister's options would you choose?


      • Leave with the negotiated deal
      • Remain
      • Leave with no deal

    Please sign in or register to vote in this poll. View topic


×

Important Information

We have placed cookies on your device to help make this website better. You can adjust your cookie settings, otherwise we'll assume you're okay to continue.