Thursday, 27 June 2013

Cycling is now the dominant mode of travel on Central London's roads, yet still idiotically ignored by Westminster Council in new Bayswater plans.

The Evening Standard published an article a few days ago with some rather stunning figures about bike travel in London:
  • On Theobald's Road 64% of vehicles in the morning peak are bikes.
  • On Kennington Park Road 57% of vehicles in the morning peak are bikes.
  • On Old Street 49% of vehicles in morning peak are bikes.
  • In Central London 24% of all traffic are bikes during the morning peak; 16% acros the whole day.
  • On Blackfriars, Waterloo and London bridges cyclists make up 42% of traffic and 15% of people, though they take up only 12% of road space
  • By contrast: taxis on Oxford Street take up 37% of road space but only carry 1% of passengers!
As Andrew Gilligan says "These extraordinary figures disprove any claim that cycling is marginal and that investing in it is indulgent." I believe it's importnat to make that clear, especially to members of the general public that may not cycle themselves. In fact, I think Gilligan's approach of securing approval for his £1 billion cycle plan by stressing the benefits to those that don't cycle is extremely intelligent.

Cycling is important. Those that choose to travel by bike not only help the environment and reduce road congestion, they also work all manner of jobs and contribute significantly to London's (and Britain's) GDP.

This idea that only those that drive actually have jobs, and so to promote economic growth we need to build more roads, is absolutely crap, as Evening Standard's latest figures show.

These guys are clearly adding nothing to London's economy.... Photo from Standard article.
If we want London to grow economically we need to make its workforce safer. Therefore, since 24% of all vehicles during the morning peak are bikes, we logically need to make those that choose to cycle safer.

And yet cycling is still being designed out of London's roads by awful new schemes such as Westminster Council's proposals for the Bayswater area.

These plans are, frankly, atrocious. Cycle parking is being removed since it is 'clutter' (yes, 'clutter'!). Car parking spaces will be increased leading to more congestion, more fumes, more noise, more road traffic accidents, and more road traffic deaths.

Photo from PDF of Westminster's proposed 'improvements'.

You can see in the photo of the proposed 'improvements' for Queensway North a couple of things:
  • No cycle lanes of any kind. This is simply idiotic. Plenty of space for segregated lanes in each direction on this Queensway.
  • Cyclists positioned in a 'death zone' between opening car doors from stationary vehicles and oncoming taxis and private cars that are driving dangerously close to them. The Highway Code, by contrast, states motorists should "give cyclists at least as much room as you would when overtaking a car".

Notice a difference between this photo (courtesy of The Highway Code) and the last one?
Moreover, these plans are also bad economics. Westminster Council note that "Queensway is a busy shopping street at the heart of Bayswater." They want to improve its qualities as "a shopping and leisure destination". Yet, in their efforts to achieve this Westminster Council are pretending they're in the 1970s, lagging embarrassingly far behind New York City's Department for Transport that has long recognised the economic benefits that increased cycle traffic brings:

Photo courtesy NYC Department of Transportation. The figures speak for themselves.

Westminster Council may not be much bothered about achieving a 58% decrease in injuries to all street users. Perhaps they aren't... That's very sad if it's the case....

But, if they want to be "encouraging people to stay and use the streets shops and eateries" in Bayswater they might just take note of the 49% increase in retail sales. (Yes, 49%!)

What is shocking about these plans is not just that they demonstrate little or no concern for preventing traffic accidents and deaths, but they are also bad, bad economics.

Westminster Council have also tried to contextualise their improvements within the surrounding area, but again they are dangerously off-track.

Map from consultation document showing Bayswater and surrounding areas.

There are a few crucial bits of information left off this map:

    Therefore, there might be a significant commercial advantage to be gained if a safe cycle network were created linking Portobello, Westbourne Grove, Paddington, Hyde Park, and of course, Bayswater.

    But are Westminster at all interested in this? No. 

    Are they even aware of the potentially enormous economic benefits to be had if tourists on Boris Bikes could be lured out of Hyde Park to spend money in Bayswater? No.

    Are Westminster Council even considering that most token of gestures to make pedestrians and cyclists safer, something that the City of London recently wrote had "little or no disbenefit", a 20mph speed limit? No, no chance (at present...). 

    Do they want their pedestrians and cyclists to be safer? Not if it slows down motor traffic...

    We are left with: more car parking; more motor cars; more road traffic accidents and deaths.

    That's all we're getting in Bayswater, despite the fact 24% of morning peak vehicles are now bicycles. Appalling.

    But something can be done - if you take a similar view to these plans then please:

    The feedback form includes a specific section "cycle parking and provision", so it's well worth filling in. Perhaps these plans can be improved on. I certainly hope so.

    B) Write an email suggesting that cycle lanes and a 20mph zone (among other improvements for cyclists such as more cycle parking) could be very profitably integrated into the Bayswater plans to:

    Councillor Edward Argar
    Cabinet Member for City Management, Transport and the Environment
    Westminster City Council

    Since Councillor Argar is also Cabinet Member for 'the Environment' there should be an added incentive for him to embrace cycle and pedestrian safety by promoting cycling as an environmentally friendly form of travel...

    Plenty of space on Queensway for proper segregated cycle lanes like this example from Montreal, Canada. Trouble is, Westminster won't build them... Image courtesy of