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Re: WorldTransport Forum walking and cycling in London - [presently being discussed in the NewMobilityCafe]

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  • Michael Yeates
    After several readings of this interesting collection of views (following), it isn t clear to me who said what. But what seems increasingly clear and is
    Message 1 of 2 , Jan 3, 2006
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      After several readings of this interesting collection of views (following), it isn't clear to me who said what.

      But what seems increasingly clear and is perhaps illustrated in it, is the implied tendency to view "support" for cycling (and walking and disabled access) as provision of "infrastructure to support the safety of cyclists" (and pedestrians including disabled access). The "convenience" of cyclists (and pedestrians) does not seem to get a mention and nor does the reason/cause for the concern about cyclists safety.

      Too often this then leads to the assumption that bike lanes and bike paths (ie various forms of separation of cyclists) are essential.

      London like many other cities and towns has little chance to easily and cheaply provide "more" space for more infrastructure eg for a citywide cycling network that replicates the convenience of the road network. One way is to convert existing road space to benefit other modes (eg bike lanes, bus lanes, bike+bus lanes, etc). Another is to "encourage" all road users to "share the road". 

      So the general issue is how best to reduce the dominance previously and currently given "high speed" traffic ie traffic sufficiently fast to create (i) the impression of threat, (ii) the risk of severe or fatal outcomes of any crash, and/or (iii) lack of time to take avoidance actions.

      For a while (eg during the "20 for 20" campaign), there seemed to be an opportunity for London to adopt the 20mph (30km/h) speed limit as the "safe" speed limit, and then only increase the speed limit on roads where "safe" to do so following an audit eg a "safety+convenience" audit (Yeates, 2000 at  http://www.yeatesit.biz/transfiles/rsafe00papera.pdf ).

      This "strategy" avoids the dependance on infrastructure (in the sense of the implied need for yet another "layer" of infrastructure comprising an expensive separated cycling network) by reconsidering the role of roads and streets in urban areas.

      I cannot but agree with the success of the separated infrastructure where it has been employed well and is continuous, well connected, and has priority over vehicular traffic at side streets and equitable provision at major intersections etc.

      But far too often, the bike lane or bike path network is installed where it is relatively easy to do so, and often, where it is not as necessary as the more difficult locations where providing separation proves too difficult (or more commonly, too expensive in both monetary and political terms). The expense cannot be justified because there is insufficient evidence of demand.... so nothing is done.

      Because the roads are too dangerous, cyclists and pedestrians avoid them wherever possible but this is hardly a solution. Increasing the numbers of cyclists and pedestrians incrementally over wide areas is often considered too expensive but this assumes bike lanes, bike paths or footpath cycling are the only options. A lower cost "safe" implementation strategy is needed.

      We hear a lot of promotional effort put into the need to "share the road" but little if any of this turns into the necessary "supportive infrastructure" including reduced speed and speed limits, and with that, increased enforcement of the (s)lower speeds by both infrastructure and by enforcement by design including police but also including endorsing cyclists "right" to use the roads as a vehicle.

      The idea that cyclists are somehow not sufficiently safe while "sharing the road" too easily leads to cyclists been viewed as the problem.

      The provision of "safer roads for all" in urban areas requires roads that are safe enough that children do use them including for walking and cycling. Indeed the roads should not create a barrier to "safe" walking and cycling, and if they do, then the questions must be asked why the roads are designed and managed to be so dangerous.

      So could some of the funds from the congestion charge be used to "endorse the presence of cyclists" on London's roads but without resorting to bike lanes or bike paths or "footpath cycling"? Of course!

      The problem that continues to make this difficult is the continued use of cyclists as a group in danger (along with pedestrians) rather than as a group that has been and continues to be "discriminated against" primarily to avoid addressing why the roads are considered too dangerous, and who decides the way the roads are managed.

      TfL has an ideal opportunity to adopt a range of strategies but to accept the view that increased numbers of people walking and cycling cannot be achieved without bike lanes and bike paths and footpath cycling, is to accept that the roads can remain more or less as is.

      My understanding is that the congestion charge has reduced the volumes of traffic in parts of London, but the opportunity to take advantage of this to "endorse the presence of cyclists on the road" in a "share the road" manner has not been adopted by TfL.

      It seems there are increasingly numerous examples of using "share the road" from around the world yet from reports, TfL is not (as yet) accepting this approach to safer and more equitable road management.

      It is too easy for road designers and/or managers to effectively ban cyclists so even in a "provocative" sense, banning cyclists is not a new suggestion ... the problem is to get urban designers and planners to recognise that one of the reasons that children and older folk and people with disabilities are not obvious in many urban areas is because too many people think, promote and indoctrinate the view that the roads are too dangerous for cycling and walking.

      The roads may be dangerous but they are not TOO dangerous and they don't have to be dangerous. Not much is "safe" or "risk free".

      Of much greater concern, the continued emphasis on the danger of walking and cycling ignores completely the cyclists "on the road" at present.

      Far better perhaps for TfL (and others elsewhere) to "endorse the presence of cyclists on the road" by showing road users HOW to (more)  safely "share the road".... eg see www. bicycledriving.com/bfz/yeates .doc and http://www.yeatesit.biz/transfiles/yeates_yellow_bike.pdf  (and related materials and web info) rather than continue to rely on separation of cyclists and pedestrians (and then cyclists from pedestrians).

      The combination of slower speeds and shared-use roads is one of a number of types of "missing infrastructure" (eg including "nude roads") located between the roads as they too often are and the 20mph "home zone", woonerf, etc ... .

      This is not a case of using this OR that, but rather a case of integrating a number of approaches rather than accepting expensive reconstruction ... or separation ... or nothing.

      The opportunity is there for TfL to further develop this type of "infrastructure" including by drawing on experiences in other places. Indeed it could be argued that much of London would be ideally suited. As a distant LCC member, I look forward to that happening as a demonstration of "excellence".

      Michael Yeates
      CUST, BURG and PTA
      Brisbane, Australia

      At 01:53 AM 12/12/2005, Eric Britton wrote:

      As a corrective to this complacent piece, cafe society may like to have the views on walking and cycling in London of the distinguished Danish architect and planner Jan Gehl, whose report  for TfL "Towards a fine city for people" was published in June 2004. This is what he told Ken Worpole a few months later. It is an extract from the December issue of Prospect.

      "To be honest, I was shocked. To my mind, London comes only after Moscow in the contempt the city planners show for pedestrians. You never see any children on London streets - what have you done with them all?" He told me that he had considered making the provocative recommendation that cycling should be banned in London - principally for the reason that so little care had been given to providing any kind of infrastructure to support the safety of cyclists.

      Wetzel Dave wrote:

      > 'What has the congestion charge and associated measures done for
      > cyclists?'
      > David Dansky
      > London Cyclist magazine
      > October 2005
      > The Congestion Charge, together with some other measures, has created
      > better
      > conditions for cycling so encouraging more cyclists.
      > Ever more reasons to ride
      > We have all been marvelling at the huge recent uptake in cycling this
      > summer. In fact there has been a steady uptake of cycling over the past 5
      > years in London. This hasn't been a smooth increase in cycle use, but
      > rather
      > a series of surges that have occurred for various reasons such as the
      > recent
      > bombing, causing fear and chaos around public transport; a spate of fine
      > weather; a co-ordinated advertising campaign by Transport for London (TfL)
      > and more.  A huge surge in the number of cycling trips coincided with
      > introduction of the congestion charge on 7th February 2003 (and the timely
      > release of the LCC cycle maps).
      > Road charging made economic sense. The demand for road space in central
      > London was so much greater than supply. Economic theory dictates that once
      > the price goes up demand goes down, and so it did. An end to gridlock and
      > the crazy fuming mess, and in its place more space, more buses and more
      > cyclists.
      > Why did so many people choose to dig their bike out of the shed? Well it
      > became more pleasant and easier to cycle, even on the main roads.
      > Fewer cars
      > meant an increase of average speed (from under 7mph to around 10mph)
      > and an
      > improved traffic flow. Cyclists are able to cycle more often in the stream
      > of traffic so cycling faster and getting fitter, they are less in conflict
      > with drivers and expected to be on the road. The investment in buses and
      > enforcement of bus lanes make it easier to cycle on them.   And some bus
      > drivers have begun to better appreciate the needs of cyclists. As the
      > number
      > of cyclists increases, more drivers are also cyclists and so give cyclists
      > more space. The snowball had started rolling. More cyclists beget more
      > cyclists.
      > London Cyclists are lucky
      > Despite the continual gripes on the letters page of this magazine and the
      > LCC forums about drivers' behaviour, we ain't never had it so good. I have
      > travelled around the UK training cycling instructors. Conditions in London
      > are so much better than in many other towns.
      > So what about some people's fears prior to the Charge?
      > 'Drivers will drive much faster and more people will be involved in
      > crashes.' Unfortunately there are crashes however, recent statistics show
      > that there has been no increase in the number of cyclists killed or
      > seriously injured since the Charge.
      > 'There would be increased congestion on the edge of the zone'. This is
      > hardly discernible. The effect of the charge extends beyond the zone since
      > fewer people use their car for their daily commute.
      > (It was also suggested that poor people would suffer
      > disproportionately but
      > poor people mainly used public transport before the charge and this has
      > improved.)
      > Other measures
      > It's not solely the congestion charge that has contributed to this cycling
      > surge. We have seen that the Mayor really does want people out of their
      > cars. TfL has introduced measures such as 20 mph Zones, the London Cycling
      > Design Standards (that prioritise joined-up routes rather than the odd bit
      > of silly cycle lane), the recent TV and bus stop adverts. TfL is funding
      > National Standard cycle training (enabling more people to develop the
      > skills
      > and confidence to ride a bike on road.)
      > Looking ahead
      > And what does the future hold? The extension of the zone is another
      > step in
      > the right direction, recognising that road pricing for cars is inevitable.
      > Drivers must pay something for the damage they cause to our environment,
      > their own and other people's health. I agree with Professor David Begg's*
      > suggestion that the charge extends to all roads within the M25. Were
      > this to
      > happen more people may consider working, shopping and seeking
      > entertainment
      > within cycling distance of where they live, thus revitalising communities,
      > high streets and improving people's general health. With the result that
      > London would be more pleasant place.
      > Let's hope that other cities around the UK learn from the example of
      > London's Congestion Charge.

      > *Director of the Centre for Transport Policy at RGU, Aberdeen and a TfL  board member.

      > David Dansky is Staff Manager for Cycle Training UK, the UK's largest
      > independent provider of on-road cycle training and cycling instructor
      > training. He rides 150 miles around London each week due to work training
      > and leisure. He has contributed to the development of the National
      > Standards
      > for cycle training and believes that the Charge has contributed greatly to
      > the recent uptake of cycling by Londoners.

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