Are London’s cyclists being shortchanged?

A London cyclist

In Hackney there are now more bicycle commuters than car commuters. It’s little wonder then, that London Mayor Boris Johnson has recently doubled up on his commitment to create a London fit for cycling.

The widely reported headline figure from the recent announcement is £1 billion for cycling over the next 10 years. That’s an extra £640million from previous funding levels for TfL to bring the actual number up to £913million.

Does the commitment go far enough?

Even under Boris’ new plans, cycling spending will account for less than 2% of the TFL budget. Yet, 4.3% of people in London travel to work by bike, a huge rise on the 2.3% who did so in 2001.

The spending also stands pale in comparison to the aim of having 5% of all journeys in London completed by bike, by 2026.

The London Assembly was calling for exactly 2% of TfL’s budget to be allocated to cycling, as this is the overall percentage of journeys completed by bike. This would have provided an extra £41 million for cycling infrastructure.

As an article written in 2012 titled “How Britain Has Failed Cyclists” in Cycling Weekly points out, the Dutch authorities spend on average between £10 to £20 per person, per year on cycling. The UK average is £1. In London, over the next 10 years, the figures work out at roughly £10 per person, per year.

The more you look at the figures, the more you can see that cyclists continue to be shortchanged, even under the new plans.

It’s also important to mention that these are just plans, and they rely heavily on external factors that are not within Boris Johnson’s direct control.

For example, around £600 million of the £913 million budget, depends on future government grants. There’s no guarantees therefore that the money will be available.

Beyond that,  the plan also relies heavily on local councils, agreeing to re-allocate road space and work with TfL to improve the conditions for cyclists. It will be interesting to see what kind of resistance, anti-cycling councils such as Westminster put up.

It’s not all doom and gloom however. In fact, I’m sure most cycling campaigners are feeling pretty chirpy around about now. It’s also refreshing to hear statements such as these emerge from the plan:

“This will benefit everyone, even if they have no intention of getting on a bicycle. It means less traffic, less pollution, more seats on the Tube, fewer cars in front of your car at the lights, more trees and green space.”

It’s great to see the wider benefits to society not only been recognised but also used to promote the plan to various parties and not just cyclists. Even the president of the Automotive Association has praised the plans.

As Dr Adrian Davies, a transport and health specialist, pointed out in the parliamentary cycling enquiry:

For every £1 pound spent on cycling initiatives they can generally return up to £4 in saved costs to the NHS and value to the economy. The health benefits of cycling outweigh the risks by 20 to one.

Cyclists have had their expectations raised, and they’ll be many people out there closely following the developments- including this blog!. The hope is that as more benefits are realised and the number of cyclists increases, we’ll see further jumps in the investment.

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As seen on The Guardian, BBC and The Independent.

9 Responses to Are London’s cyclists being shortchanged?

  1. Charlie 11/03/2013 at 11:48 am #

    Completely agree. Like you, I’m vaguely hopeful that if we just see a few projects done properly, then the advantages will be self-evident, and it all becomes a virtuous circle.

  2. The Ranty Highwayman 12/03/2013 at 6:06 am #

    I hope that someone tracks progress and names and shames the boroughs which don’t play ball…

  3. Curtis 13/03/2013 at 8:22 pm #


    I’d like to start out by saying I am a cyclist. But……I’m just curious if all the money TFL gets to spend of cyclists is from money raised by commuters who use their services. Or is it entirely from government grants?

    • Andreas 14/03/2013 at 10:11 pm #

      It’s a mixture Curtis – some of the money is raised through fares and some of it comes from the government.

  4. Goodwheel 15/03/2013 at 3:30 am #

    Boris has limited himself to being Mayor for no more than two terms. Hence as things currently stand he won’t be mayor beyond circa 2016. And as this is a 10-year plan it doesn’t seem very likely that he will be hanging around for long to see it through.

  5. Juan Unoze 15/03/2013 at 11:15 am #

    Boris, despite his image, is a very clever politician and can spot a bandwagen when he sees one. Cycling is the “in thing” at the moment but i’m sure if it was tidlywinks he would find funding for that. I don’t believe cycling will improve in this country untill motorists are made to stop deluding themselves into believing they pay for the roads. Maybe Boris could fund a campaign to do that.

  6. Chris 15/03/2013 at 3:31 pm #

    I do a 30 mile round trip to central London by bike on a regular basis, so I’m all in favour of a decent amount being spent on cycling infrastructure, but even so it seems somewhat disingenuous to complain that there isn’t the same amount spent per mile on cyclists as there is on other types of travel.

    After all, surely one of the biggest benefits of more cycling I’d that it has a much lighter footprint, so shouldn’t need anything like as much spent on it per mile?

    • Vlad 17/03/2013 at 10:45 am #

      I completely disagree. Bikes use a hell of a lot less carbon during use, so it does have a lighter footprint.

      Roads need to be better and cycling infrastructure needs to be developed to encourage more cyclists onto the roads as opposed to more cars. Cycles do not damage the road as badly as cars do, so money spent on cycling infrastructure is money well spent.

      I think cycles need as much on them spent per mile as any other mode of transport – after all they represent a mode of transport and should be treated as such.

      Not to mention that the roads in London are barely coping with the amount of cars on them at the moment, and the whole city is congested. More people on bikes as opposed to cars will only serve to ease that congestion, reduce the amount of pollution in the city, as well as make conditions better for the drivers that will insist on driving for various reasons (it is not my place or intention to judge their reasons).

      Bottom line: YES – more money should be spent on cycling, at LEAST as much per mile as other modes of transport, and perhaps even more!

  7. Sabine 04/04/2013 at 10:17 am #

    I am always surprised why we need to throw so much money at this whole thing, instead of looking what other countries do and see what cna be improved. Why do we need the narrowest roads in Europe and the widest pavements at the same time. Squeezing a cycling path onto roads that are barely wide enough to fit a single lorry while allowing on street parking is just stupid and dangerous. Let’s take some space off the pavements instead. Do they relly have to be wider than a road? And why can it cost millions to paint some white lines and errect the odd sign?
    What they could spend money on, would be phased traffic lights that give bike and push bike riders a phase before the cars? It only needs a minute at the most?

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