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