Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Bike Hire Update

Only around 25% of London's cycle hire users are women. Apparently fear of traffic and fear of sweating (perspirophobia) are the main concerns, although it's not clear whether this is backed up by actual research.

Women also make up around 25% of all cyclists, although they seem to be disproportionately represented in the accident statistics. You don't have to be a rocket scientist to figure out that fear of traffic is going to discourage women, and indeed men from cycling.

Meanwhile, some collision statistics for Cycle Hire have been released. TfL report there were 34 'incidents', emergency services were called 13 times, and there were 10 injuries. There have been 1.6M journeys in the 11 weeks since the scheme started.

Extrapolating these figures would give around 50 injuries per year. However, there are a few considerations to bear in mind:
1) Currently the scheme is operating at around half predicted capacity.
2) The scheme is not yet open to casual users - only registered users. Registered users are more likely to know what they're doing, and are more likely to be familiar with London's roads.

If you extrapolate again to assume the scheme is operating at full capacity, that will give 100 injuries per year. It is difficult to know what effect the 'casualisation' of the scheme will have, but it's likely that casual users will include tourists and people who don't normally cycle, or at least don't normally cycle around Hyde Park Corner. You might also factor in the consideration that some of them may have had a cheeky lunchtime pint in one of London's fabled hostelries. I'm going to take a wild guess and say that casual users are twice as likely to be involved in a collision than a registered user. If half the users are casual users, these assumptions would give 150 injuries per year. That's about 4% of the total London-wide cycle casualties (3600).

It's quite likely that these injuries are additions to existing casualties, so it would mean the overall casualty total going up. There was a 5% year-on-year increase nationally in 2009.

Remember, this is pure supposition, and there are many factors that could affect the casualty rate positively or negatively. However, this many casualties, which will likely include a small number of fatalities, in such a small area of London, must beg the questions: why do Westminster Council and TfL have such disregard for the safety of cyclists? Why is there no network of traffic-calmed cycle routes in central London?

Westminster has a very, very poor record on cyclist safety. 2003 figures show that its casualty rate increased 25% over a period when the inner-London average went down 14% and the London-wide average went down 22%. Casualties in Westminster continued to increase in the period 2004-2007. While clearly Westminster has unique challenges that affect casualty rates, that's no excuse for the relentless increase in casualties. It's no coincidence that Westminster is way behind in the safety game. It has very few cycle facilities, 20MPH zones and very few traffic calming or traffic reduction measures. How long can they be allowed to get away with turning a blind eye to the cycle casualty rate?

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