Monday, 8 October 2012

TfL / Royal Parks: Bring Boris Bikes to the Mall

Back in July 2009 TfL, led by our cycle-friendly Mayor Boris Johnson, proposed installing a large 38-bike Cycle Hire Docking Station on the Mall as part of the initial 2010 implementation of the Boris Bike scheme. (For those interested the full details of the refused planning application can be found here.)

There is currently a massive glut of Cycle Hire Docking Stations in the Mall Area. See for yourself on this map.
Among those idiotically opposed to the Docking Station was the Conservative MP for Westminster, Mark Field, and the proposed site on the Mall was eventually rejected on the grounds of:

"impact on streetscape"  (!)

Yes, installing a Docking Station here would clearly change the large pavement area on the North side of the Mall in some small, minor and purely cosmetic way. But as has been shown with other public events like the Notting Hill Carnival and the Olympic Games, the Cycle Hire bikes can be quickly and easily removed during busier periods to prevent excess congestion. When this is done all one is left with is a few stands barely waist height. There really is no logical reason not to extent the Cycle Hire Scheme to comprehensively cover the Mall/Constitution Hill area.

Moreover, if there is one part of Central London where the roads are wide and empty enough to accomodate large amounts of cycle traffic it is the Mall. The entire network of roads around Buckingham Palace are almost comically large and this whole area could really become a very pleasant place to cycle around in the near future.

This is something devoutly to be wished, since a higher numbers of cyclists (instead of cars and taxis) on these streets would make the whole neighbourhood:

1. Cleaner
2. Less polluted
3. Quieter
4. Safer (no one can argue that even the most irresponsible cyclist in London is a fraction as dangerous as a car going at 30mph or more)
5. Less congested (cyclists take up far less road space than the equivalent amount of passengers using cars, taxis, or even buses)
6. Safer cycling (since as cyclist numbers increase political support for tough decisions in favour of cyclists - e.g. reallocating road space in cyclists' favour, cycle-only traffic signals, adequate cycle parking in urban centres - will become ever greater)

The Mall's proximity to the wonderful off-road East-West cycle routes available through Hyde Park also mean that it is (comparatively) very pleasant to travel to and from by bike meaning a Docking Station there would be very well popular with both tourists and locals alike.

From the official Westminster Council planning application. Space for a Docking Station here? YES YES YES. Boris Bike racks have been squeezed into far smaller spaces in the more cycle-friendly boroughs of London.

As I've argued before in this blog, Cycle Hire schemes function as a highly effective 'gateway drug' to much higher levels of cycling by all portions of the population, not just on cycle-hire bikes. This is one reason why cycling rates in London have risen so markedly in the last two years despite the amount of safe cycle infrastructure in the city, and the statistical risk to cyclists, remaining relatively static from 2010 to 2012.

Therefore, it is clearly in the interest of everyone interested in cycling in London to improve the currently woeful lack of Cycle Hire Docking Stations in the Mall area. How can this be done?

The Mall as it is now. Full of (mostly empty) taxis and not a single cyclist in sight.
Well, fortunately I've been informed by TfL that they are now re-applying for planning permission for a Docking Station on the Mall as part of the 2013/2014 Phase 3 expansion of the Boris Bike scheme which will (hopefully) include substantial intensification of the scheme in Central London. This intensification is needed to help accomodate increased commuter flow of bikes from the South-West areas of London which are being brought into the area covered by the scheme.

Therefore, if you want to help support TfL's, and the Mayor's, efforts to gradually tame Westminster and make it that little bit less cycle-toxic, please sign this petition by I Love Boris Bikes to bring the Cycle Hire Scheme to the Mall.

If TfL can show evidence of widespread support for a Docking Station here they are much more likely to get a successful planning application for it.

Furthermore, if you are a resident in the Borough of Westminster please consider writing personally to your local councillors and Mark Field MP, as letters from personal constituents can often be more effective than large scale campaigns.

Thursday, 4 October 2012

Doing the simple things well with road design for cyclists

Below is a picture of Storey's Way, Cambridge (googlemap street view:,0.107503&spn=0.017303,0.0318&sll=37.0625,-95.677068&sspn=47.483365,65.126953&hnear=Cambridge,+United+Kingdom&t=m&layer=c&cbll=52.213776,0.104975&panoid=-l2D8TEtu8I4pkMgJsVPPg&cbp=12,20.89,,0,1&z=15)

Cycling right-turn cycle safety box outside Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge

The very simple cycle 'box' painted on the road provides greatly increased safety to any cyclists turning right here. Drivers on both sides of the road are alerted to the potential presence of a cyclist by the red paint on the road and cyclists are therefore much less likely to get hit by a vehicle while waiting to turn right.

Moreover, this kind of cycle infrastructure costs virtually nothing; it's just some red paint, a white cycle sign, and some chevrons.

What is surprising though is that this kind of street layout is still a comparatively rare sight in the UK.

Equivalent situation street design in London (Ladbroke Grove). The road is blocked with paving in the middle, but no effort has been made to make this permeable for cyclists or to use the road space which is being taken up anyway to provide a safe box for cyclists turning right. I imagine this design was put in during the 80s.

It's up to all of us to help inform our local planning officials and let them know about the little things like this which can make a cyclists journey so much safer and are so easy to implement!

(Obviously much bigger elements of cycle infrastructure are crucially important too. But it really does surprise me how many local planning officials would - if they knew it existed - be happy to implement smaller elements of cycle infrastructure like the cycle-box in the first photo. It's our job to make them better informed so we don't get more of the second photo.)