Thursday, 1 November 2012

New York starts shouting loud and clear for more high-standard bike lanes; London delays publication of its Cycle Design Standards yet further. New York, 10 points, London maybe 4?

NYC Department of Transportation tells it as it is: What New York's bike lanes look like and why they're great

Dedicated bike lanes in Manhattan are having a massive impact on the way New York City gets about. The infographic pictured above was forwarded earlier today by America Bikes. The picture says most of what you need to know, but not all of it. This one picture also puts London's 'cycling revolution' firmly in its place - namely in the shade.

New York's Department of Transportation has very cleverly released a full set of data that punches quite a pack.

Firstly, look at the 49% increase in retail sales. What the statistic means is that retail sales along the protected bike lane on 9th Avenue are up 49% compared to before the bike lane went in. How does the Transportation team know this? Simple: it measured sales tax receipts before and after the bike lanes.

This is how Boris Johnson designs bike lanes. Why bother?
Source: AsEasyAsRidingABicycle blog
Over on 1st and 2nd Avenues 'bike ridership' is up a whopping 177% since the protected bike lanes went in. "Injury crashes" are down 37% in the same period on these streets, down 35 and 58%, respectively on 8th and 9th Avenue.

The numbers are stacking up, aren't they?

Meanwhile, over in Midtown (where most of the office buildings are located), the impact of all this road engineering to give space to pedestrians and cyclists? Motor traffic speeds are actually up 10% on average? How do they know this? Well, they fitted taxis with measuring devices and collated before and after data.

London does none of this. Or if it does, it's not good at talking about it. New York is being very clear about its goal: "to reduce private auto use in the most crowded parts of town ... to make more room for [cycling and for buses]".but also to ensure less congestion for those people who are travelling in motor vehicles.

Meanwhile, what does the Department for Transport plan for London? The Department is planning 43% motor traffic growth for London, can you believe. Despite the fact that pretty much everyone - including the Transport Planning Society, an association of professional transport planners - thinks the DfT is bonkers.

1st Avenue bike lane in action. Note separate
traffic lights, so bikes and cars turn in
separate flows.
New York's goals are five-fold:
  • Safer Streets - includes protected bike lanes, junctions designed for cyclists 
  • Better public spaces
  • Better bus services - more bus lanes
  • Reducing delay and speeding - get that, you can actually combine less car congestion with safer streets and proper bike lanes
  • More efficient parking and loading
In other words, something for everyone. Better parking and less congestion going hand in hand with real alternatives in the form of better bus services and real, meaningful, safe bike infrastructure.

New York is one of a dozen cities in the US that got fed up of waiting for federal government. All the government advice in the US is about how to build roads for cars. So these cities stuck two fingers up at government and wrote their own design manuals, the so-called NACTO manuals. As one transportation official from San Francisco said last week; "What that did was  provide guidance on how to design things like protected bike lanes, how wide the buffer should be and how to design the “mixing zones” where cyclists and turning drivers interact. None of those details are included in the engineering guides that loom largest in California — the state’s version of the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD), and the state DOT’s Highway Design Manual".

Peter Hendy's letter promising to adhere
to London's cycle design standards.
Since ignored. 
Apparently, Transport for London is also coming up with some design standards - its (much delayed) guidance for Cycling Design Standards. Rumour has it those standards were ready a year ago. Now, according to a question in the London Assembly last week, they're delayed until next year.

The thing is, London actually implemented its first cycle design standards back in 2005. Pictured left, a copy of the letter by London's Transport Commissioner Peter Hendy, in which he promised that 'all new TfL-funded schemes will comply with these cycling standards". And then proceeded to ignore the standards for at least the next six years.

But just look at what New York is achieving and ask yourself - will London's Cycling Design Standards be anywhere near as good as the New York ones? And more to the point, will London actually implement its own cycle standards this time or just keep them somewhere in a locked cupboard getting dusty? 


  1. 3rdWorldCyclinginGB1 November 2012 at 19:03

    NY adds yet more evidence of the benefits of cycling infrastructure to the already overwhelming body provided by NW Europe and some other American cities for UK planners to utterly ignore. See the Lambeth North Roundabout and Twickenham Town Centre redevelopment plans.

  2. Keepingmywitsaboutme2 November 2012 at 09:23

    Somebody needs to saend this directly to Boris Johnson or whoever it is who is designing (!) our roads here in London. Being a Conservative, surely the increase in trade alone should be of interest to him, even if the improved safety is not.

  3. Take a look at what the Australian government is planning too: The goal is to 'create safe environments for pedestrians and bicycle riders' by 'Separating pedestrians and riders from vehicles, particularly in high-speed and high-volume traffic; sharing road space, with appropriate speeds, in high-pedestrian environments; and recognising the vulnerability of bicycles as road vehicles.'

    To listen to TfL and DfT talk you'd think we were forging ahead of other cities and countries. The reality is we're falling further and further behind.

  4. Hurricane Boris ... lots of blustering but everything pretty much the same afterwards (as just heard on the News Quiz).

  5. I don't think Boris will ever be truly proactive in the way that Mayor 'I think transport should be free' Bloomberg has been in recent years. Boris is totally jazzed about this whole war on car rhetoric and discourse.

    I think London's best hope is for cycling to reach such a huge critical mass that buses and cars are dramatically slowed down by the fact that cyclists must share so many lanes...and then Boris finally agrees to segregated infrastructure in order to allow traffic to start flowing 'smoothly' once again.

    Of course, a lot of pain and suffering will happen amongst cyclists until this critical mass is reached, but I don't see things changing anytime soon otherwise.

    P.S. I would also add that a big impediment to NYC-style infrastructure in London is the diverse governance.

    A single 9th Ave. bike lane in NYC is all under the control of the mayor and his AMAZING transport commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan, whereas the same length bike lane in London might go under the control of Westminster, Camden, Islington, the City and TFL.

    How can London ever have a coherent cycling policy with so many cooks in the kitchen? Even if Boris were less of a motor hound.

  6. Can't help but notice that the 1st Avenue bike lane _without_ separate light phases would be utterly lethal: note the straight on arrow on the bike lane and the "Left Lane Must Turn Left" sign.

    Still wouldn't stop TfL installing such a lane in London though :(

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