Monday, 20 June 2011

Jeremy Clarkson still thinks we're anti-capitalists. His own newspaper disagrees. Sunday Times: cyclists now outnumber motorists on busy commuter routes

Today's Sunday Times featured two big pieces on cycling. The first, an editorial from Jeremy Clarkson. "Cycling is seen now .... as a frontline propoganda weapon in the war on capitalism, banking, freedom, McDonald's..." you get the idea. 


Except that a much larger and more balanced piece featured large on page 11.  "Cyclists have for the first time outnumbered motorists on some of the country’s busiest commuter routes during the rush hour," splashed the Sunday Times news feature. You can read the article below.


Jeremy Clarkson thinks these cyclists in the Square
Mile are anti-capitalists. How little he knows...
You see, Mr Clarkson. Those cyclists aren't a front line against capitalism. If anything, as your own newspaper asserts, those cyclists are hurrying to jobs in the City of London and Canary Wharf. Far from being the warriors against banking that Mr Clarkson thinks they are, a sizeable chunk of London's cyclists actually are bankers. If you don't believe me, take a look at this picture here which proves the point quite neatly. In fact, let's continue the theme. Pictured left, the bike park of another large, very capitalist company in the Square Mile. I don't see many 'anti-capitalist, anti-banker' cyclists here. Even if these people were anti-capitalist, why on earth should that matter? These are just people going about their business. And happen to be using cycles to get about. 

The Sunday Times news feature, however, takes a very different view to Clarkson's column. According to the Sunday Times:


"On Cheapside, a street in the City of London, cycles make up more than 50% of the commuter traffic, according to official data, and account for up to 42% of traffic on Southwark Bridge across the Thames. In one Bristol suburb more than one in four people cycle to work....Since Bristol was designated a “cycling city” in 2008 under a government scheme the proportion of cyclists on some of its roads has trebled. In the suburb of Ashley a quarter of people now bike to work."


If you're interested in more examples of how much cycling has grown in London, you can see more detailed statistics here and here.


Now, one very decent idea crops up in Jeremy Clarkson's piece on cycling. He talks about the fact that: "Nobody in their right mind believes that a bit of yellow polystyrene could possibly keep a head intact should it be run over by the rear wheels of an articulated lorry. So get rid of them." He goes on to talk about how cycling should only be allowed in what he calls 'home clothes'


So, it's relevant to link that comment to one made by Iain Simmons, the City of London’s assistant director for planning and transportation in the Sunday Times news feature saying this: 'He believes there is a new breed of fairweather cyclist “who wears a suit instead of biking gear and is a little less experienced on the roads” — who need greater protection'.

Kensington & Chelsea "our approach to cycling is to
encourage a safe mix with other traffic". Would you cycle
here with your family? I think not...
People are starting to cycle in 'home clothes', Mr Clarkson. But as Iain Simmons point out, planners need to provide those people who cycle in 'home clothes' with safe spaces to cycle. Which is exactly what transport authorities like Transport for London are failing to do at Blackfriars, for example. Or in Kensington & Chelsea which encourages those people in their home clothes to play chicken with motor vehicles: "Our approach to cycling is to encourage a safe mix with other traffic"


Transport for London believes that creating fast-moving, multi-lane motorways for motor cars is the right way to encourage people to don their 'home clothes' and get on their bikes without helmet, Mr Clarkson. 


Iain Simmons at the City of London is right. Cyclists need better protection. In that assertion, he joins the ranks of London Assembly Members from all the political parties and the President of the AA. In a strange sort of way, I think Jeremy Clarkson may have accidentally stumbled on to something too, namely that people will take to their cycles in normal clothes to do normal things. But only if they're offered the right sort of protection from motor vehicles when they do. 

I was kindly sent a copy of the article by its authors. I've posted most of it below and you can read the remainder here

http://www.thesundaytimes.co.uk/sto/news/uk_news/National/article652178.ece

Sunday Times 19 June 2011

Commuting cyclists outnumber cars for the first time


Transport for London claims that peak-time cycling on the blue lanes has doubled and there is a similar phenomenon outside the capital

Jonathan Leake and Robin Henry

Cyclists have for the first time outnumbered motorists on some of the country’s busiest commuter routes during the rush hour.

On Cheapside, a street in the City of London, cycles make up more than 50% of the commuter traffic, according to official data, and account for up to 42% of traffic on Southwark Bridge across the Thames. In one Bristol suburb more than one in four people cycle to work.

Now cyclists are trying to exploit their strength in numbers to force motorists to stop hogging the road. They want transport officials to give a lane from dual carriageways to cyclists, widen existing cycle lanes, impose 20mph limits in city centres and have busy junctions redrawn in their favour.

The surge in the number of people switching to two wheels is likely to be even greater than the new figures suggest.

Most of the data was compiled before July 2010, when 5,500 rental bikes were introduced and the first two “cycle-superhighways” — distinctive blue cycle lanes — were opened by Boris Johnson, the mayor of London.

Transport for London claims that peak-time cycling on the blue lanes has doubled and there is a similar phenomenon outside London, stoked by investment in cycle lanes by Cycling England, a now defunct quango.

Since Bristol was designated a “cycling city” in 2008 under a government scheme the proportion of cyclists on some of its roads has trebled.

In the suburb of Ashley a quarter of people now ride bikes to work.

In York, which received more than £3.6m in cycling city funding, the number of cyclists has increased by 20%, while in Cambridge more than a fifth of the population now travel regularly by bike.

In the space of four years the number of commuter journeys taken by cyclists on the UK Cycle Network — which includes long-distance and tourist routes — has risen by 16m to 73m trips a year.

Cycling campaigners say provision for them has not kept up with their growth in numbers. The London Cycling Campaign accused local authorities of being too narrowly focused on preventing congestion to consider giving cyclists more space and priority treatment.

Mike Cavenett, the campaign’s spokesman, said: “There needs to be more sensible planning, which gives cyclists the appropriate road space, provides safer junctions and reduces the speed alongside cycle lanes to 20mph.

“We have these huge motorway-style dual carriageways in the centre of London, which are completely unnecessary.Instead there should be a lane for cars and a lane for cyclists.”

Sustrans, the green travel charity, agrees. Malcolm Shepherd, chief executive, said: “Reallocation is the best option in urban areas where there’s often not enough space to provide off-road routes.”

While handing over whole lanes may be popular with cyclists, councils are wary. York city council is reviewing its 2009 decision to convert a stretch of road into a cycle lane after drivers complained it has added to their journey times.

In London’s Square Mile the roads are too narrow to hand over lanes to cycles, so the Corporation of London is instead considering lowering the 30mph zones to 20mph.

Iain Simmons, the City of London’s assistant director for planning and transportation, said cyclists “now dictate the speed of traffic”, and added: “Monitoring shows that on some roads such as Cheapside, cycles account for more than 50% of the traffic and these numbers are going up and up every year.”

He believes there is a new breed of fairweather cyclist “who wears a suit instead of biking gear and is a little less experienced on the roads” — who need greater protection.

The remainder of this article is available at http://www.thesundaytimes.co.uk/sto/news/uk_news/National/article652178.ece

14 comments:

  1. It's interesting that that 50% is largely despite current traffic conditions, legislation and infrastructure. If they were made more favourable, who knows what could be acheived?

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  2. @John, exactly. The real story here is that as soon as conditions are improved, demand for cycle space on the roads will skyrocket.

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  3. Clarkson comes out in favour of cycle chic. Who knew?!

    Indeed, as John mentions, if conditions were better on a lot more roads maybe our modal share would increase substantially.

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  4. I think there is a great idea in a smartly dressed flash ride over the bridges, ditch the dayglo and wear home clothes!

    This blogger has gone to some thought to flesh out the idea:

    http://voleospeed.blogspot.com/2011/06/unexpected-type-of-protest.html

    "But the "gimmick" would be that it would be the reverse of the Naked Bike Ride; rather than looking whacky, as most cycle protest do, it would emphasis the normalisation of cycling: everybody on it would be dressed in business suits. Not fancy dress, not Boris Johnson wigs, just straight, serious, everybody in formal suits."

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  5. Ashley isn't a distant surburb of Bristol's outskirts; it's inner city. In nearby Cabot ward walking is the primary commute option. I'd declare success in bristol when more of the out of town areas have people cycling in, as a percentage of traffic, not "has doubled in 2 years" claims, as double of nearly nothing still sucks. Still nice to see Jeremy Clarkson on the defensive. He should come up the MoD site on the North Fringe of Bristol and see people in Army uniforms commuting by bike and then denounce those people as anti capitalist. To their faces. People would then talk about him in the past tense.

    "Whatever happened to Jeremy Clarkson?"
    "He went to the MoD Abbey Wood site and denounced the armed forces staff on bicycles as being a bunch of vegetable-eating sandal-wearing anti-capitalists"
    "aah."

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  6. @Steve L - would be great to show some pics of army people on bikes. Helps dispel the myth.

    @Dave - like the idea of the smartly dressed flashride very much indeed

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  7. One might say that Clarkson’s remark is disrespectful to the memory of the Royal Air Force Officer-Commanding at RAF Northolt, who quite recently died in a collision as he was cycling between home and work.

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  8. So here's the official list:
    Anti-Capitalists:
    Boris Johnson
    David Cameron
    Edmund King (AA President)
    Prof Stephen Glaister (RAC Foundation)

    Capitalists:
    John "2 Jags" Prescott
    Arthur Scargill (Jag owner, apparently)

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  9. One might say that his remarks are disrespectful to everyone who has been killed while riding a bike.
    To quote (and this was in the days after the 7 7 bombings):
    "do not pull up at junctions in front of a line of traffic. Because if I’m behind you, I will set off at normal speed and you will be crushed under my wheels"

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  10. Nice to see a picture of of Deloitte's (who I work for) cycle bay. Deloitte are reasonably good at supporting cycling - providing secure bike parking, lockers and good shower facilities (as part of the work gym). They could do with providing a lot more secure bike parking though - that picture must have been taken on a quite day as usually there are no free bike hangers and there are bikes propped up all over the place

    They also have a lot of partners and senior people that cycle - both commuters and recreationally. This means that there is a lot of support for cycling from the organization in a way that is more than just token - this can be seen from the way in which Deloitte sponsor a charity JOGLE http://www.rideacrossbritain.com

    TFL needs to recognize that people of 'high economic value' (I personally hate looking at things this way) are increasingly choosing cycling as a way to get to and from work and around the city.

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  11. Got one Army bike pic for you here
    http://bristolcars.blogspot.com/2010/06/abbeywood-bikes-vs-cars.html -feel free to re-use it

    Regarding the economic value of cycling, you need to compare the time it takes to cycle to and from Bristol or suburbs to the MoD site at peak hours with the time to drive, and conclude that the people who live locally and opt to drive are the ones who don't value their time. It takes longer, and if you then want to stay fit you have to fit in 45 minutes of aerobic exercise to your daily calendar.

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  12. Well, on my bike commute to work I have a lovely cycle lane on the quiet straight sections past Kew Gardens - but, remarkably, as soon as the road gets dangerous the bike lane disappears and it's a crazy free for all!

    There is still a crazy, mis-placed mentality that we must not inconvenience a person in a car on their way to work but a person on a bike is not as important.

    So, as an extra (financial) incentive to keep cycling to work, I have just made this website which works out your savings www.cycletoworkcalculator.com

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  13. There could be a rather more direct reason why wee Jeremy has a downer on cyclists.http://www.dailymail.co.uk/tvshowbiz/article-1389885/Francie-shows-strain-bicycle-ride-amidst-claims-Jeremy-Clarkson-wife-18-years-living-apart.html

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  14. I'm coming to this debate rather latish, but was it Clarkson or The Sunday times that spelt the word "propoganda" when EVERYONE knows a goose is not a propergander?

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