Small steps forward instead of strides for cyclists in today’s Transport Plan

Just flicking through the first few pages of the Mayor’s New Transport Plan suggests big positive changes for cyclists. The front page and page 3 even have pictures of cyclists and cycling facilities. The wording of BoJo’s opening statement “I want London to be the best big city on earth” also suggests change is ahead. But can Boris appease the motorists, the voters, the public transport users, the businesses, the shops and the cyclists? Or will my previous sentence turn into a priority list for Boris, with cyclists as always at the end of that list?

To answer that question we can look at the Mayors track record as well as his proposals in the new draft document that is now open for public consultation.

You may well remember that the Transport Plan is not an alteration of the existing plans put in place by the previous mayor but instead a complete overhaul.

Congestion charging increases one of many potential solutions

The one part of this plan that all the newspapers are likely to cover is the potential congestion charging increases. This will help improve funding for TfL which has a major cash shortfall due to taking over the running of the failed tube maintenance company. Additionally it will discourage motorists from using crowded roads freeing them up for cyclists and buses. Of course ancient motoring organisations such as the RAC Foundation will strongly oppose them and motorist voters goaded on by the newspapers may well choose to take their vote elsewhere. Of course it is important to stress this is only one of many potential solutions.

Changes for cyclists in Transport Plan

cycling mode share in new plan

The target is set in the plan to raise the current level of 2% of journeys taken by bike to 5% by 2026. Obviously this is far from 20% by 2020 which is what some have hoped and is nowhere near to Netherlands levels where 27% of journeys are made by bike.

The so called “revolution” includes the London Cycle Hire Scheme with 6000 rentable bikes and the Cycle Superhighways. Revolution is definitely not a label I would apply to the Cycle Superhighways. In fact it appears that the plans for far short of anything the LCC would like to see and of the equivalent plans in Copenhagen. Though there is some hint to cycle servicing facilities and additional cycle parking as part of the Superhighways scheme.

In terms of facility improvements there also appears to be plans to increase the amount of cycle parking available by 66,000 in addition to the existing parking facilities. There is also plans to encourage through planning permission a prevalence of cycling facilities such as parking, lockers and showers. This will not stop at new development but also at existing sites such as shopping centres to attempt to “normalise” cycling by knowing facilities will be available. If carried forward vigorously this would be a very positive change.

There is also discussion of growing cycling by changing attitudes and educating users about cycling. Though this is likely to be largely a continuation of existing programs. The term “mainstream” cycling is used in the report and recommends promoting cycling not as a “sporty” thing that requires special equipment but instead as something anyone can do. I am glad that they recognised this fact.

There is also some hint of tackling cycle safety though specific details of how are lacking. The report states that cycle safety will be addressed through:

“delivering road enhancements to make cycling safer and easier, including managing car access to residential areas, through physical or design measures, to create pleasant and safer cycling environments”

That would suggest more car free routes for cyclists. Though it is a shame there is no talk of creating cycle paths that are separated from the main road through barriers. For example I would one day like to be able to cycle across London Bridge with a barrier separating myself from the main traffic as has been so successful elsewhere.

Further in the document there is some discussion of the problems with Heavy Goods Vehicles and cyclist deaths. The Mayor appears to have recognised how much of a deterrent to cycling this can be and has offered some limited solutions. These include adding additional mirrors to HGV’s and electronic warning devices to detect cyclists. Additionally to further training for cyclists and drivers to encourage more road safety.

Finally increasing 20mph zones are discussed and even implementing technology that can automatically limit the speed of cars.

Overall these are positive steps but it is clear that they are aimed at getting a usage level of around 5% and not the full push to 20% which would actually be revolutionary. I think the Mayor should trust far more in the benefits of cycling and really put it as a number one priority, taking much larger strides forward.

Public Transport Improvements

In terms of public transport the plan promises oyster card use on National Rail stations. Something that should have already be done by now as promised by Boris. Also it gives the go ahead with the removal of bendy buses though details on costs of doing this are not present.

It also proposes various extensions to the tube lines and improvements to London Overground and overland Rail Network. However for further discussion on this you are better off looking at the excellent London Reconnections blog as I would prefer to focus on the cycling elements.

I want to live in “The best big city on earth”

Bold changes are needed to create “the best big city on earth”. If plans are successful then a better quality of life may be the result. Transport wise this would mean stress free travel that is a pleasure to use, a noise-free environment, cleaner air and well designed streets that Londoners can be proud of. There is no doubt this is something everyone wants but different groups have different opinions about how to get there. To make sure the voice of cyclists is heard fill in the survey on the Mayors Website, email your views and go to some of the roadshows.

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As seen on The Guardian, BBC and The Independent.

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