Thursday, December 2, 2010

London Barclays Cycle Hire - 'Pedal Power' report

The Transport Committee of the London Assembly have issued their report on the Mayor's headline cycling schemes: here's some analysis of what it had to say about Cycle Hire. I also identify two critical issues that the Transport Committee failed to spot.

It seems the scheme has been a hit with users.

In terms of the shift to Cycle Hire from other modes of transport, TfL predicted:
5% shift from cars;
20% from the tube;
32% from buses;
34% from walking.

The reality (as measured by survey) has turned out somewhat differently:
<1% from cars;
20% from the tube;
8% from buses;
7% from walking.

However, you'll notice TfL's numbers add up to 91% and the survey's to only 36%. Therefore there must be serious questionmarks over what conclusions can safely be drawn from the results. Effectively, we don't know what the other 64% of users were doing before the scheme started. It could be that the survey could have been better-designed. The important thing is that the scheme is being used. Clearly it will take some pressure off other transport modes and the presence of the bikes on the streets helps legitimise cycling in the public's mind as a transport mode.

The various delays to the initial launch and the 'casual user' launch have cost the scheme significant revenue, as have the teething problems with the software and administration.
Phase one of the scheme was originally scheduled for May 2010. This was to have enabled members and casual users to use 6,000 bikes at 400 docking stations with over 10,000 docking points. It was anticipated that they would make 30,000 trips per day in year one rising to 40,000 trips per day each year thereafter.
Currently, registered users are making, an average, 15,000 trips per day. TfL has reportedly netted £1.9 million of income from charges, being just 10 per cent of the amount it expects to generate by March 2011 (£18.7 million). To generate the shortfall from casual users in the wintertime seems optimistic.
Another factor is that casual users may have the effect of redistributing bikes, which Serco are currently having to do. So the absence of casual users may have added redistribution costs, suspended revenue from the casual users, and possibly also limited the availability of bikes to registered users.

The report was very critical over the lack of transparency over funding arrangements:

The costs and funding arrangements for the cycle hire scheme remain opaque. TfL has not told the Committee how much Barclays has paid to date for its branding of the scheme. The argument that all details of the relationships between TfL and Serco and Barclays are confidential is not a compelling one. The details of these deals determine how much of the costs of the scheme have to be met from farepayers at a time of huge pressure on TfL’s finances. It is in the public interest for these details to be made available to the Committee. This would be in line with the Mayor’s commitment to transparency about public expenditure.

Main gripes were:
  • Problems with registration, charging customer service
  • Unavailability of bikes

There are a couple of issue the Transport Committe haven't picked up on.

The report doesn't have much to say on safety, and what little it does say is only concerned with objective safety and the small number of minor incidents that have occurred. The Transport Committee must address the subjective safety of the scheme. Central London is a very scary place for cyclists. There are very few cycle facilities, traffic calmed roads, or 20MPH speed limits, and motor traffic has virtually unlimited access to almost all roads. This adds up to an unpleasant and frightening experience especially for inexperienced cyclists, and it surely must act as a deterred to people using the Cycle Hire scheme. For the Transport Committee to fail to identify this issue is inexcusable.

A further issue is related to the inadequacy of the road network for cycling. I've lost count of the number of times I've seen cycle hire users trying to get around the traffic queues on The Strand. Some of them walk their bike on the pavement, others try (and usually fail) to filter through the traffic jam, some try to cycle along the central reservation. This kind of thing makes journeys slow and difficult. As I've pointed out before, the whole road system is designed only with traffic flow in mind, hence the preponderance of cycle-unfriendly no-entry and one-way streets. If the Mayor is serious about maximizing cycle hire as well as increasing the modal share of cycling in general, he cannot continue to allow roadspace to be designed for the exclusive use of motor traffic, when cycling makes much more efficient use of it.Again, why has the Tranport Committee failed to identify this issue?

1 comment:

  1. The other 64% of users were actually in UFO's before switching to rental bikes but I don't think there was a box for that on the survey form.