Monday, February 14, 2011

Cycling in the City

Ross Lydall reports on the demand for cycling in the City. He reports the City of London Corporation saying the area is short of 27,000 bike parking spaces. In other words, more people would cycle to work if there were more bike parking. Office buildings have waiting lists for bike parking. The Cyclists in the City blog reports that cycle traffic over London's bridges exceeds car traffic in peak hours going into the city, which is something this blog had previously remarked on in respect of other parts of London.

It seems that demand can only go one way: as public transport prices increase, more people will turn to cycling. And that's only half the story, as there is another massive tranche of unmet demand from people who would cycle if safer infrastructure were provided.

Meanwhile, there are reports that increasing obesity levels, fuelled by sedentary lifestyles, could bankrupt the NHS. You would think that politicians eager to cut public spending would jump at the chance of reducing NHS spending and improve public health into the bargain, but cycling seems to have wrong-footed them. They and their transport planners are stuck in a "roads-are-for-cars" mindset that belongs to the last century. They don't know what to do. They have previously been insisting that there must be a balance between different transport modes. It's clear that the balance is all wrong - it favours a transport mode that is dangerous, polluting congesting, and discriminates against a transport mode that is largely benign and offers a much more efficient use of roadspace. Now clearly you can't get rid of all motor traffic. Businesses need to move goods and equipment, and there are some journeys that need to be done by car. But there's also an awful lot of car and taxi journeys that could equally well be done by public transport - or indeed by cycling.

An enlightened government would see an opportunity here to create a city that values the health and quality of life of its citizens, that prioritizes the free movement of the maximum number of people and goods, while balancing the need to tackle air quality and noise pollution. Unfortunately, looking at the LIPs that have been produced by the City and other boroughs, there are optimistic targets for cycling, which aren't matched by political commitment.The LIPs do very little about the free-for-all on the roads, where cyclists are intimidated by larger, faster-moving vehicles, and unable to park when they reach their destination. Car-centric ideology continues to hold sway over evidence-based policy making.

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