Thursday, 2 December 2010

TfL's cycling revolution is complete garbage


The Local Implementation Plan - which is the means by which boroughs seek to obtain their funding for local transport - involves each borough having to set targets for cycling. We haven’t seen the City’s LIP draft yet but some data is dribbling out. The targets are important. They define how much each borough is going to ask for and get to spend on cycling initiatives and the like. 

It’s rather pleasing to see that the City of London is setting a fairly pacey target for cycling. It expects to see an increase the number of cycles observed at its cycle counting points from just under 25,000 per day in 2010 to over 36,000 per day in 2013. Specifically, this is the number of cycles passing the City’s 12 survey sites between 0700 and 1900 on a single survey date in 2010. It's a chunky enough growth rate, I think. 

So it’s rather surprising that it seems our friends at Transport for London wanted the City to adopt quite different targets. According to the base lines set by TfL, City of London residents make absolutely no journeys by bicycle. 0% is what is says on page 70 of the recently-published Transport in London report here. Even put charitably, that must be complete and utter garbage. Just look at the number of City of London residents who have signed up to the cycle hire scheme here. More than 10% of City residents have signed up to the scheme and are therefore 'cyclists'. 

Admittedly, the statistics in the report show the 2006/7 to 2008/9 average when there was no cycle hire scheme. But even so, this just feels downright wrong. 

What's worrying about the statistics is that they're actually really important. 

TfL gives these base figures to each of the boroughs and from what I understand, the boroughs are obliged to base their cycle targets on these numbers. In other words, if I get this right, TfL specifically asks the boroughs to use these numbers as the starting point to set their cycling targets for the next few years. And if you look at the numbers, a fair few of them show 0% or 1%. 

Apparently, if the boroughs don't want to use these numbers, they must have an almighty fight with TfL and prove to TfL that they're talking garbage. Some boroughs won't bother to do that. 

At least the City has decided to ignore the report as far as cycling is concerned. And hats off to them. But word on the street is that other boroughs are using these statistics to base their LIP plans. What that means is that they're planning their budgeting requests for the next few years on these numbers. 

So, that means cycling would, by rights, get 0% of the transport budget in Newham, if you believe these numbers.

So we have a Mayor who is championing a cycling revolution. But his transport body seems to be working in almost the exact opposite direction. For if the boroughs really do take these base lines seriously, then the budgets for cycling are never ever going to materialise. Because it appears that TfL is asking boroughs to build cycling targets on an assumption that, in a large number of boroughs, precisely no-one cycles.  

Thumbs up to the City for ignoring all this. But that cycling revolution we keep hearing about is never going to happen, is it?