Friday, 9 August 2013

BBC Newsnight excellent reporting on cycling in Holland + #cyclesafe + #space4cycling; a few crucial points they missed.

For those that missed it, a couple of days ago BBC Newsnight did a rather excellent report on cycling in Holland. Here's a copy of it on YouTube; very well worth a watch:


However, there were a few crucial points that the programme either skimmed over, or missed entirely, and deserve far more substantial coverage.

  1. Massive NHS saving potential from cycling, due to obesity etc. (~£7Bn/yr) [we're the fattest country in Western Europe]
  2. Saving to individuals from cycling, due to high cost of transport in London (£,000's/yr)
  3. Studies have shown that 'one mile on a bike is a $.42 economic gain to society, one mile driving is a $.20 loss.'
  4. Putting in cycling lanes instead of car-parking significantly increases the amount spent in local shops, thus boosting the local economy. This has been proved in New York where there was a 49% increase in retail sales following the installation of a properly segregated cycle lane.
  5. As Danny Williams writing in the Cyclists in the City blog has pointed out, humans cannot adapt the roads they are forced to use to how they want to cycle, but they can adapt how they cycle to the road that they are forced to use . It's all very well for Boris Johnson to say that the Dutch cycle culture is far less aggressive and more inclusive than London currently is. But this culture is simply a reflection of the roads that Londoners and Hollanders find themselves on. An advertisement campaign is going to have no effect on this. People cycle aggressively in London because Boris Johnson himself is forcing them to navigate four-lane gyratories (mostly TfL owned) like the one in Holborn that killed Alan Neve. Dutch people have a much more relaxed 'mentality about cycling' (to quote Boris Johnson) because they have a system of segregated cycle lanes and are not being forced to have to gamble their lives at impossibly dangerous junctions like Bow Roundabout where both Brian Dorling and Svitlana Tereschenko were killed by motor traffic in 2011.
  6. Andrew Gilligan is wrong. There is plenty of road-space in London for Amsterdam-level cycling facilities. It's simply that at the moment we're choosing to use that road space for the aforementioned multi-lane killer-gyratories such as Holborn, Swiss Cottage, Elephant and Castle, Victoria (where Dr Katherine Giles was killed in 2013), Aldgate (where Philippine De Gerin-Ricard was killed in 2013), and Archway (where Dr Clive Richards was killed in 2013). Or we're choosing to use that road space on super-scary roundabouts such as Parliament Square (which Ken Livingstone was going to pedestrianise before Boris Johnson came to power in 2008 and crassly cancelled the scheme), Hyde Park Corner, Elephant and Castle, Old Street, Marble Arch, Charing Cross, and Shepherds Bush. Or we're choosing to use that road space on urban motorways like Euston Road, Park Lane, the Westway, and Vauxhall Bridge Road. Or we're choosing to use that road space on idiotic road-narrowing schemes such as Cheapside, Pall Mall and the new Aldgate and Haymarket plans. [these lists are in no way comprehensive]
  7. A key part of 'Going Dutch' is having 19 mph (30 kph) limits as default. This isn't just the case in Holland. You also find 19 mph limits as default in Paris, Berlin, Zurich, Bern, Basel, Copenhagen, Tokyo, and Munich. 20 mph limits in London are currently seen as abnormal, aberrant, and sometimes abhorrent. They need to become default, as Boris Johnson's own Roads Task Force recommended. These means 20 mph becoming the standard speed-limit in London which can be lowered and adjusted as circumstances warrant (e.g. the Euston Road might be retained at 30 mph if a completely segregated Cycle Superhighway was built alongside the motor-traffic lanes). It should be intuitive to anyone with half a brain that if you lower the speed limits to 19 mph, Londoners will feel much less threatened by motor traffic close-passing them at 30 mph and adjust their cycling habits accordingly.
  8. 'Presumed Liability', as proposed recently by the Lib Dems, would also be a good idea. This puts the puts the burden of proof on the insurance company of the driver in all civil claims involving a cyclist or a pedestrian. While not affecting criminal law's 'innocent until proven guilty', it would provide a financial incentive to drivers and insurance companies to reduce the appallingly high number of Brits on bikes killed or seriously maimed by motorists on our roads every year (3,222 in 2012). The UK is one of only 5 countries in the EU – along with the notably bike-friendly countries of Romania, Cyprus, Ireland and Malta –  not to have some form of this law already. Appalling.