Friday, 30 November 2012

Some thoughts on 'SkyCycle': a further defence of Boris Johnson's cycling credentials

Clearly we can all take as read that the SkyCycle idea publicised earlier this year is absolute rubbish and neither practically nor financially viable. However, I would argue that putting it on the table was actually a very shrewd move by Boris Johnson and co at TfL.

Snazzy (if completely unrealistic) computer animations like this help capture the tabloid imagination.
Unlike, for instance, a proposed protected cycle-lane (which all cyclists would much more prefer) SkyCycle plans are 'sexy' and thus got significant tabloid coverage. This publicity constructively helps to put cycling on the map to the general British populace as a viable mode of transport, and reinforce the idea that cycling conditions in this country are currently substandard and something needs to be done.

Furthermore, by giving the impression (whether correct or not) that they have pursued and then discarded the SkyCycle scheme, if Boris Johnson and TfL then turn around and say (as they do appear to be doing now) that what we actually need are early-start cycle-only traffic lights and cycle bus stop By-Passes, then their arguments have significantly more clout with those that oppose improving road layout for cyclists. They can say, 'look, we've looked into a number of options but a protected cycle lane and reduced motor traffic capacity is really the only solution'.

Perhaps I'm being too kind to Mr Johnson, but I don't think it's wise for cyclists to underestimate the depth of anti-cycling feeling that a politician like Boris has to negotiate in order to deliver any lasting road layout solutions; especially when these very solutions will often result in increases to average motor traffic journey times in London.

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Surprisingly good plans from TfL for Bow Roundabout Junction Review

TfL have just released some rather radically effective new plans for Bow Roundabout. They propose:

1. Cycle-only early-start traffic lights with a cycle-only Advance Stop Box which will be 18 metres deep. This is an unsatisfactory compromise solution that has been effectively critiqued by the London Cycling Campaign (LCC) here.

2. Cycle Bus Stop By-Pass. This is, by contrast, a very impressive idea since it will prevent cyclists coming into conflict with buses at the bus stop on the approach to the roundabout. Buses are a inescapable feature of London's traffic and as such are not going to go away anytime soon. However, cycle bus stop By-Passes are a very rare, even non-existant, sight in London at present. The implementation of a successful and popular Cycle Bus Stop By-Pass at Bow Roundabout could pave the way for their installation across London's busier roads which is really a very exciting prospect indeed.

(For pedestrians getting off buses that need to cross the By-Pass, TfL are also intelligently proposing a specific pedestrian crossing on the cycle lane which is visible on the map below. This is a much better idea than having a general-crossing free-for-all for the duration of the By-Pass because it limits pedestrian-cyclist conflict to a specific area and gives cyclists a specific location where they need to look out and give way to pedestrians, thereby reducing the risk of pedestrians and cyclists not seeing each other.)

Map of proposed changes. Click here for a PDF download of the image.

I would urge, in no uncertain terms, that anyone interested in Cycling in London visits and takes the 'Online Survey' sometime between now and 19 Dec 2012 in order to let TfL that they are doing the right thing.

It's just as important to let know organisations like TfL know when they are doing stuff right as it is to let them know when they are getting it wrong (c.f. the closure of Upper Ground covered impressively well by Cyclists in the City).

That way we can hopefully see more Cycle Bus Stop By-Passes (and Cycle Early Start systems) being rolled out all over London; i.e. not just at junctions where people have to die before TfL start doing anything about the road layout situation.


Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Doubling of Boris Bike Fares from 2 January 2013 - DISASTROUS move by Boris Johnson and TfL

EDIT (25/4/13) - As predicted... Boris Bike rentals drop by a third in the first three months of 2013 (and that's despite an overall increase in the total number of journeys made by bike in London, and large amounts of 'cycling publicity' caused by our new Cycling Commisioner)


From 2 January 2013 daily access to the London Cycle Hire Scheme will double from £1 to £2, weekly access from £5 to £10, and yearly access from £45 to £90.

This is an absolutely atrocious move by Boris Johnson and TfL at just the point when cycling in London generally, and usage of the Boris Bikes, seems to be on the rise.

As this blog has previously argued, one of the principle advantages of the London Cycle Hire Scheme (if not the principal advantage) is the low cost of renting a Boris Bike, making it in almost all situations the cheapest way of getting around London short of walking.

Increasing the charge for access fees by 100% - while bus and tube fares rise by only 4.2% - will completely destroy London Cycle Hire's position as the cheapest form of transport in London, and make single bus and tube journeys, in certain situations, a cheaper way for a Londoner to get from A to B than renting a Boris Bike.

Similarly, raising the price of annual subscriptions will make it much harder to woo new members to the scheme and may convince many existing customers (like myself) to choose not to renew their membership next year.

Yearly membership to London Cycle Hire to double from £45 to £90 from January 2nd 2013.
While their might be a very slight uptake is usage from certain sections of the upper-middle classes that will inevitably see a more expensive product as worth buying simply on account of its higher price, the overall and unavoidable effect of this price hike will be to further to cement an image of cycling that is centered on the rich, white, middle class.

This is exactly what cycling shouldn't be.

Cycling is the cheapest, greenest, and healthiest mode of transport known to man. It should therefore be associated with all social groups, especially lower-income segments of the population.

Instead Boris Johnson and TfL's latest decision will only further entrench a completely unnecessary and invalid view of cycling that is restricted to 'lyrca-louts' and 'arsehole-bankers'.

Moreover, if the doubling of rental costs results in a dip in Boris Bike usage, this fare increase could very well lead to an increase in cycling deaths and fatalities in London.

Over the past few years large numbers of Boris Bikes in Central London have helped to calm traffic and make the streets safer for everyone. This benefit to all Londoners that choose to cycle (or walk) will be lost if Cycle Hire usage declines.

This blog has championed Boris Johnson's efforts in the past, but this fare increase is idiotic, incompetent.

Worse, it will in any case be ineffectual, since too few Londoners use the Boris Bike scheme to contribute anywhere near the billions of pounds needed for the continuing tube upgrade (and £180 million which the new routemasters cost). The fiscal burden should instead be borne by the tax payer, and tube and bus users themselves.

If you believe that the planned price rises are ridiculous and cretinous, please feel free to drop Barclays Cycle HireBoris Johnson, and TfL an email and let them know your thoughts.


Please see also similar responses from The Evening Standard, I love Boris Bikes, and The Telegraph on this issue.