Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Why do London's Cycle Superhighways cost at least 10x more per mile than the considerably superior Chicago cycle superhighway?

£2-4 million per mile for some blue paint. Chicago's done miles better than
this for 1/10th of the cost
If you click on this link, you can hear Kulveer Ranger , the Mayor's Environment Director talking about London's Cycle Super Highways.

Among other things, he identifies that the biggest danger to cyclists in London comes from HGVs. His solution? Training for cyclists and HGV drivers. As I pointed out yesterday, Holland's Road Safety Institute feels that's not really the answer: "The ultimate solution for the blind spot problem is a structural separation of trucks and cyclists."

Ranger also describes how the Cycle Super Highways 'were actually designed with input from cyclists'. Yes, that's correct. Input that was consistently ignored. Such as at Bow roundabout where the London Cycling Campaign and TfL super highway teams on the ground agreed a design that would have ensured a structural separation of trucks and cyclists. You can see the scheme that the London Cycling Campaign thought had been agreed here. Someone at TfL overrode that original plan. Two people were killed cycling here on the revised layout last year. But the same is true of all the super highways. Yes, cyclists were asked for input. Again and again, though, that input has been ignored or overriden.

Ranger continues and says that cyclists asked for 'continuous, direct routes on the main roads' and that the blue paint 'isn't just blue paint'. Apparently, the paint is designed to tell motorists 'where they could expect those cyclists to be'. Pictured above, cycle super highway 7 in Clapham. Cyclists are meant to be following the blue paint. I'd argue that the blue paint here isn't much help to either people in cars or on bikes.

And here comes the clincher. How much have these things cost? Kulveer Ranger proudly says the routes have cost between £10-20 million each. The four routes are, respectively, 2.7, 5.1, 5.7 and 7.2 miles long. At a rough average of 5 miles each then, London's cycle super highways cost between £2 - 4 million per mile. And they are either pieces of infrastructure that were already there five years ago or, just when you actually need them to keep you safe, nothing more than blue paint, like the picture above.

Interestingly, Chicago recently launched one of its new cycle super highways. According to the Chicago Tribune: Cyclists are buffered from traffic along the half-mile stretch by plastic posts and a car parking lane. The project cost about $140,000.

In other words, Chicgo's cycle super highway costs around £175,000 per mile. Why on earth do London's Cycle Super Highways cost at least 10x that, between £2-4 million per mile, if Kulveer Ranger's statement is correct?

And what's more, just look at the superior quality of the Chicago bike lane. In London, you get blue paint that leads you directly into a car parking space. In Chicago, they've moved the car parking over to give space to people on bikes, separated bikes from the main traffic flow, provided separate lights so there is minimal conflict between motor drivers and people on bikes at junctions. Look at the enthusiam displayed by Chicago bike users for their new cycle super highway and compare with the sheer anger and incredulity felt by Londoners at the way Boris Johnson's 'cycling revolution' is being mismanaged by Transport for London. The only revolution we're seeing in London is that Londoners are revolting against Transport for London.

What a wasted opportunity to get this right the first time and at a ridiculously high cost.