Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Cycling is going to get 0.45% of the City's transport budget

For those of you who’ve been following the blog, the local implementation plan will be finalised in January. The version that we’ve seen here and here is a draft. This is the document that sets out the City’s transport plans for the next few years.

We’ve been told by people close to the City politicians that, unless large numbers of people write in to complain about the plan, it will be nodded through in February.

There are a number of reasons that the plan doesn’t work for cycling. Although the intentions are good, we’ve been told that the plan has actually been watered down to make it less controversial to the existing situation of taxi rat runs, clogged streets choked with motor traffic. So we end up with two farcically contradictory statements:

Good intentions: “The City’s longer-term target (to 2020) is to continue to increase the numbers of cyclists at a similar rate, i.e., reaching at least 62,800 crossings of the screenlines [from nearly 25,000 in 2010] by cyclists by 2020.”

Versus

Lack of political will: “Projects implemented within the cycling revolution programme will nevertheless be designed with the needs of all road users in mind”

Let’s just be clear about this. There are two issues here

The first is that cycling is supposed to increase. But the second is that City does not seem to think that it needs to prioritise cycling on its streets to achieve that goal. In other words, the roads will continue to be roads for motor vehicles. Cycling will be squeezed in on a couple more contraflow streets and we’ll get a little more bike parking and a few advances stop lines.

And that’s it.

And just to make that really clear, let’s look at the way the City plans to spend its transport money:

Cycling revolution programme - £528,000 over three years

Road danger reduction programme (that’s City police and stopping ‘road users’ to you and I) £780,000

Maintenance and general street upkeep-type projects - £85million

And then we have ‘Major Schemes’ £30million

What is a ‘major scheme’?

A major scheme is something like the new street layout at St Paul’s. Have a look here for the St Paul’s plans. Basically, what's happening is that the City is slicing up major parts of its streets where it builds wider pavements, narrower roads, lays down all sorts of architectural treatment like the daft brickwork on the road at Queen Street. Cycles are then squeezed into narrower lanes for road traffic but at least we get some additional advanced stop line treatment and everyone can say the City is doing things for the bicycle.
Alternatively, have a look at the Cheapside major works here that are being built at the moment. Exactly the same thing is happening: Narrowing of the road space means there is now nowhere to get past stationery motor traffic and nowhere for impatient taxis to get past people on bikes. But very wide pavements indeed.

And the tragedy is that the City thinks it is really doing something to help reach that 10% of all journeys being made by bicycle.

The fact is that these major works create streets that make cycling less pleasant and feel more dangerous but under the pretence of better streetscapes and safer journeys for everyone. What it means in reality is more pavement and cycling can just squeeze into narrow and dangerous road space. If you’ve ever cycled along The Cut on the south bank at rush-hour, you’ll have a feeling for what’s going on.

Cycling would help the City meet several of its local targets, such as lower particulates in the air, safer journeys, faster journey times, less congestion, healthier people.

But cycling gets just 0.45% of the budget in this plan. And most of that will be on bike parking.

If you want people to be able to cycle in spaces that are less clogged with motor vehicles; if you want your mother to cycle into town with you; or your children or girlfriend, then just think about how this local implementation plan is going to help them feel safe to cycle on the City's roads. It's not. Nothing is going to change and it’s just going to get worse. But it will make for some nice architectural drawings.