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.