Build it and they shall come

Build a shop and people will buy things from it.
Build a train network and people will ride it.
Build a house and people will live in it.
Build a playground and kids will play in it.
Build a fast car and people will drive it fast.

I’m going to presume you get what I mean by that. To increase cycling in the UK and to decrease our dependency on motorised transport, which is bad for the environment, we need to build good quality cycling facilities.

If we build these facilities then people will start to cycle. Just look at the stats for the Barclays Superhighway. My opinion of the superhighways is not high, I would want a much better standard of cycling infrastructure, one that would be safer and more enjoyable to use.

What ever type of facility is built, it needs to at least cater for the ‘slower’ cyclist. The cyclist that is a utilitarian, for people who don’t wish to change clothes between bicycle ride and getting on with the rest of the day. Those are the people we need to attract into cycling. I feel that is where the greatest amount of potential is.

Build usable and safe cycling facilities and people will ditch the motor vehicle and cycle where practicable.

Are we being sold a fairytale?

It’s approaching the time of year where another set of Barclays Cycle Superhighway routes are going to be opened. Work has already been underway for several weeks, with the roads being re-surfaced and blue paint being laid. In some places it has even meant a remodel of the road design, reducing 2 lane sections of road into one.

The cycle superhighways are meant to make it easier and safer for cyclists to commute into and out of London via direct and continuous cycle route . But CS7 and CS3 haven’t exactly done that.

CS3 is pretty much a nightmare. The shared pavement sections on Cable Street and the A13 aren’t continuous and aren’t exactly what i would call safe. Pedestrians walking onto the cycle route, plenty of roads crossing the path where they have priority. And due to how narrow it is, it makes it very hard to pass slower cyclists if it’s busy.
Due to the on road bits being built on sections of road which are quite narrow, then there is lots of conflict with drivers as you are forced to take a primary road position at plenty of points to keep safe. Not exactly what a novice cyclist wants to be doing on their dream cycle path to work.

CS7 is much the similar, i use it near daily for my commute to and from work and anyone that watches my videos will know that it certainly comes with issues. At certain sections you have to take a primary position to avoid dangerous overtakes and to keep your self safe.

Most of the cycle lanes along both routes only meet the minimum requirements set by the DfT (1.5m in width). With less than 1 mile of both of them being any greater. Even less of them are mandatory, and thus you will often find that other vehicles are driving in them and it’s not uncommon for it to actually be completely blocked.

Re-design of the road structure has been kept to a minimum. Sections of road have been re-designed to attempt to keep traffic flow and cycling flow constant but key issues like left hooks have not been addressed.

TFL boast about the increase in ASL size and quantity. Which is pointless considering they aren’t even enforced and more often than not they are full with other kinds of vehicles or you can’t get to them!

The main problem I see with these cycle lanes is the mentality of cyclists. I witness on a near daily basis cyclists filtering in the blue cycle lane in an unsafe position. Be it through a small gap or up the inside of a left turning TP flat-bed lorry. When these blue cycle lanes of death are laid down on the road, it gives cyclists the feeling that they are safe because they have their own designated area but in reality we are still at risk from the motorists that care not for our safety.

These cycle lanes are meant to aid in the cycling revolution that is happening in London. An increase of 70% of cycle journeys was recorded on CS3 and CS7. But the cycle lanes do not meet the demands of commuters, more often that not they are overflowing with cyclists overtaking each other and conflicts with drivers are not dropping.

Will the new cycle superhighway routes be an improvement over what has been given to us?

On a side note, don’t even try to use the superhighways on a weekend. It’s like cycling down Oxford street!

Popularity of the Cycle Superhighways

TFL released a press statement yesterday stating that cycle journeys have increased by up to 100 per cent during peak times on route 7 and 3.

The headline is a bit misleading unless you look at the numbers and the smaller print at the bottom. The 100% increase was only on a few sections of the routes (these sections are not mentioned) and the real increase is more around 70% with the CS7 (A24) seeing a jump from 2724 in 2009 to 4092 in 2010 and CS3 (A13) seeing a jump from 1388 in 2009 to 2932 in 2010. These where taken during a 12 hour period and where both done in October.

What we can’t tell is how many of them are new cyclists, it may just be that the extra 70% of cyclists that are on these routes have just migrated from another route near by because they now feel safer with the larger number of cyclists.

So whilst it is clearly positive that we see such large numbers of cyclists on a single route during a 12 hour period. There may not actually be any new cyclists on the route.
Lets also not forget that the A24/A3 has been a popular route for cyclists to get to the city for quite some time now, and I suspect that CS7 was chosen as one of the first routes to be a pilot as it would be very hard for it to fail.
What will really tell is how the next 10 Cycle Superhighways do on improving the numbers.

60 per cent of cyclists said the blue coloured surfacing made them feel safer. Overall, more than three quarters asked said that the Barclays Cycle Superhighways had improved safety for cyclists.

If only it was the case that we where safer in the blue lanes. I’m afraid that in some situations the cycle superhighways put cyclists in danger by taking them next to parked cars and leaving them to cross a busy lane just outside oval. The cycle lanes don’t stop people from driving like idiots on the roads and until that behaviour is sorted no amount of paint will make us truly feel safer.
The later section of that quote leads me to believe that motorists believe that the blue lanes make us safer, hopefully not because they think we now have a defined place on the roads along these routes. As I often find I’m in need to leave the superhighway and take control of the road due to a pinch point or obstruction of some sort.

Lets not forget that the superhighways are not just about blue paint and that TFL and the local councils have done a fantastic job of improving the routes for cyclists (even if it isn’t quite at the level we want).
There are 40km of new or improved cycle lanes, 94 new or improved ASLs at least five meters deep, 46 signalised junctions improved to provided quicker journey times and create more space for cyclists, 39 safety mirrors installed at junctions, 2,372 new cycle parking spaces along the routes and 1,362 extra cycle training hours delivered.

BUT we are missing some important data in this press release with regards to traffic and public transport along side the cycle superhighways.
What effect is there on traffic?
Is there a decrease in the use of cars?
Are the buses/tubes/trains quieter?

2010 – A short look back

2010 was a long and interesting year for me, I started a youtube channel and a blog about cycling, unfortunately the blog took the back seat as I got some very good results from my videos.

Combined they lead me to have some wonderful experiences with meeting people and getting to know some people who have common goals and interests. It included meeting with several people involved with the Barclays Cycle Superhighway, getting a test ride on the Barclays Cycle Hire bicycles before they came out and meeting the police officers behind the Road Safe London scheme.

My youtube channel has been a great success with over 600 current subscribers. This year alone I have had 410,788 video views. And with that only being my first year, i hope that I can improve on that greatly over the next 12 months ahead.

Towards the end of the year I started a new cycling series called ‘Silly Cyclists’, which is now a regular feature I do. It’s earned nearly 30,000 views in its self and is getting some great feed back.

The last time I rode my bicycle in 2010 was when I had an RTC. At present I don’t want to comment on the incident as there is an ongoing investigation by the police. But I think it shows that these things can happen to anyone.

What will 2011 bring? who is to know, but I wish to continue with my videos and put a bit more emphasis on my blog, so keep checking in to see what I have to say, you never know, one day it might be interesting.

The Success of the Barclays Cycle Hire

Barclays Cycle Hire bikes
Image by duncan via Flickr

Anyone that has been into central London after the 30th of July will have seen the Barclays liveried cycle hire bikes that are scattered across 7 boroughs of central London. Thousands of people use them each day, with peak days reaching over 20,000 journeys being made.

Who would have thought that this scheme would work, adding such a scheme into a busy metropolitan city such as London could easily lead to a disaster. A similar scheme in Melbourne, Australia failed dramatically. That was mainly down to the mandatory cycle helmet laws they have over there.

Why is the success of such a scheme important for cycling in London and potentially England?
The added cycles to the road and image value that they have will make people aware that cycling is the cheap and easy transportation. The easy access to the bikes also gives people the freedom to cycle around the City and in many cases people start using other bikes for other duties, such as commuting.
The sheer volume of cyclists on the road during non commuting times has increased dramatically and the bicycles i see the most are the cycle hire ones. Could the success of this scheme be the next big thing for the Cycling Revolution in the 21st century?
In the first 2 and a half months 1,000,000 cycle journeys were made using the Barclays cycle hire and with only 90,000 people registered that means each user has used a hire bike on average 11 times.
This makes the Barclays cycle hire scheme more succesful than any other cycle hire scheme of its kind in the world for its uptake by the public that uses them.

For the lucky person that took the 1,000,000th bike for a spin, Barclays have awarded them and 3 of their friends a 5 year membership to the scheme for free. This lucky person is Rupert Parson from Balham, South London, he also wins a cycling makeover at Bobbins Bicycles in Islington.
Rupert is not just a user of the cycle hire scheme, he also uses the Cycle Superhighway 7 to commute to work. Clearly the two major cycling schemes in London are working well for Rupert.

Clearly from the quick uptake, even with technical issues and access limited to people in the UK with credit or debit cards, the scheme has been a massive success and lets hope that it continues to grow.