Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Summary of Mayor's "Cycling in London Vision"

Overview - May 2013

There is no doubt that the profile of cycling, particularly in London, has increased significantly. Both positive headlines about Team GB’s cycling successes in the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, and negative headlines about cyclist fatalities and injuries have contributed to this. There have also been high-profile campaigns such as the London Cycling Campaign’s “Go Dutch” initiative.

In March 2013 the Mayor and Transport for London (TfL) announced that TfL will invest an additional £640 million directly into cycling over the next 10 years, on top of the £273 million previously identified in TfL’s 10-year base plan. Shortly afterwards, the Mayor published “The Mayor’s Vision for Cycling in London: An Olympic Legacy for all Londoners”. This post sets out the main points in the vision document.

The Mayor’s cycling vision document sets out his aspirations for cycling and the support required to deliver the Mayor’s aim of doubling cycling over the next 10 years – and ultimately achieving a 400 per cent increase in cycling by 2026 – based on 2001 levels – so that cycling makes up 5 per cent of the transport modal share. The Mayor continues to believe that a modal share target for cycling of 10 per cent by 2026, as recommended by the London Assembly, is not achievable. The outcomes of the vision set out in the document are:
• a “Tube” network for the bike – a network of direct, high-capacity, joined-up radial and orbital cycle routes, many running in parallel with key Underground, rail and bus routes
• safer streets for the bike
• more people travelling by bike
• better places for everyone.

The Mayor of London has published his vision for cycling in London. This post outlines the main points – the vision offers to maximise cycling and make areas better places to live.
The main elements outlined to deliver the outcomes of the vision include:

• a “Crossrail for the bike” route that will run for more than 15 miles, very substantially segregated, from the western suburbs, through the heart of London, to Canary Wharf and Barking. It will use new, segregated cycle tracks and the Mayor believes that this will be the longest cycle route of its kind in any European city
• a new central London grid of bike routes in the City and West End, using segregation, quieter streets, and two-way cycling on one-way traffic streets
• a new network of “Quietways” – direct, continuous, fully-signposted routes on peaceful side streets, running far into the suburbs, and aimed at people put off by cycling in traffic
• substantial improvements to both existing and proposed “Superhighways”, including some re-routings
• major improvements to the worst junctions, making them safer and less threatening for cyclists. Spending on the existing better junction review will be significantly increased, and it will be fundamentally recast to prioritise major improvements to the worst junctions
• work to make heavy lorries (HGVs) safer.

The Mayor says that he will more than double London’s cycling budget – to a total of almost £400 million over the next three years. He goes on to say that over the next 10 years cycle spending will total £913 million, more than treble previously planned levels, including around £300 million available to boroughs. This will include dramatic spending increases for outer London. However, the funding earmarked for spending beyond 2016, when the next Mayoral elections are due to take place, may be subject to amendment by subsequent administrations.
The Mayor also says that he is looking to the boroughs to deliver extra funding and resources in parallel. So what are the four outcomes of the vision in a bit more depth. 

A cycling “Tube” network
The vision is of a London cycle network that is easily understood, heavily used and appeals to all types of cyclists. It will include two types of branded route:
1. Superhighways – high-capacity routes largely on main roads for fast commuters
2. Quietways – slightly slower but direct routes on low-traffic side streets for those wanting a more relaxed journey

Where there is a conflict between modes, the approach will be to make a clear choice rather than an unsatisfactory compromise – routes will be segregated where possible and pavements shared by both pedestrians and cyclists will be avoided. The vision document says that to support this, the London Cycle Design Standards are being revised, although it does not say if and how stakeholders are being involved in this process. It does say that specific standards of service and maintenance for each of the new routes will be developed in discussion with the boroughs.
The Mayor commits to creating a central London bike grid of high-quality, high-volume cycle routes, in partnership with the central boroughs, of which the east-west “Crossrail” Superhighway will be part. With boroughs’ agreement, the Mayor wants to open up a number of central one-way streets for two-way cycling. The aim is to deliver the majority of this grid by 2016, subject to borough agreement. The vision document says that route planning has already started, so central boroughs should already have heard from TfL and be involved in discussions.

The vision includes better Cycle Superhighways – both delivering future Superhighways to higher standards, albeit with the somewhat unvisionary caveat of “closer to international best practice”, and substantial improvements to existing Superhighways. No specific mention is made of liaison with boroughs on the Superhighways. However, the document does say that
some parking along Superhighways may need to be removed in partnership with boroughs.

The vision also includes a cross-London network of Quietways on low-traffic back streets and other routes, which will have good surfacing, be clearly signed and will be particularly suited to new cyclists. The Mayor is looking to local budgets to add to TfL funding to help make the Quietways, particularly the off-road routes through parks and along waterways, safe to use at night. The aim is to open the first Quietways in 2014. As with the central London bike grid, the document highlights that the routes will be agreed with the relevant boroughs.

Another key element of the “Tube” network is the plan to increase cycle spending specifically dedicated to outer London from £3 million to more than £100 million, linked to TfL’s analysis that shows that more than half of the potentially cyclable trips in London are in outer London. 

The Mayor plans to select “willing outer London boroughs to make into “mini-Hollands”, with very high spending concentrated on these relatively small areas for the greatest possible impact”. The Mayor says that “in many ways this will be the most transformative of all our policies”. All outer London boroughs are invited to apply for this scheme. Letters inviting expressions of interest have been sent to the leaders and chief executives of each of the 20 outer London boroughs and that interested boroughs should submit outline proposals and ideas by June 2013. The successful Boroughs will be selected in autumn 2013. 

Safer streets for cyclists 

Although the vision document states that cycling in London is much safer than it was in terms of the rate of cyclists killed or seriously injured (KSI), 2011 casualty figures show there was an increase of 22 per cent in cycle KSI casualties compared with 2010 when there were 467 KSIs. The document cites fear of injury as the main reason more Londoners do not cycle and recognises that more needs to be done to improve the safety figures and perceptions of safety. It also notes that serious accidents and deaths involving those on bikes happen disproportionately in two ways: while cyclists travel through the busiest junctions and in contact with HGVs.

The document recognises that TfL’s existing better junctions review has lacked adequate resources and a focus on the worst junctions. To address this the Mayor is increasing the budget from £19 million to £100 million – with the vast majority being spent in this mayoral term – and prioritising early and major improvements with the worst junctions. TfL is also reviewing its traffic modelling systems to “take better account of cyclists”. The document states that full timetables for the junction changes will be announced as soon as possible, but makes no mention of whether and how stakeholders will be involved in the recast and enhanced better junction review.

The vision for HGV safety is that no lorry should be driven in London unless it is fitted with safety equipment to protect cyclists, and driven by someone fully trained in cycle awareness.

Steps to achieve this include:

• the Greater London Authority (GLA), TfL and Crossrail ensuring that all their vehicles and those of their subcontractors conform to the highest practical level of safety equipment and all drivers are fully trained in urban driving techniques – i.e. gold level accreditation of the Freight Operators Recognition Scheme (FORS)
• building on the experience of the Olympics identifying how to get HGVs out of traffic at the busiest times of day
• funding eight full-time Met Police officers to investigate HGV collisions with cyclists
• continuing to support boroughs through Local Implementation Plan (LIP) funding to address HGV and cyclist safety issues with the caveat that “all future TfL cycling funding for boroughs will be conditional on ensuring their own fleets and contracted services adhere to best practice”, although it does not give any further details of this requirement.

The vision document notes that the multiple functions of the road network mean that the safety and liveability of town centres need to be considered alongside other functions including moving people and goods. However, there is no mention of the work of the Mayor’s Roads Task Force, which is currently conducting work in this area. The vision says that a caseby-case approach will be taken on the use of 20mph limits on TfL roads, but the speed limit will be reduced to 20mph at several locations on the TfL network where cycle improvements are planned.

Additional measures to increase safety include:
• expanding the number of Met Police officers, from 39 to 50, to improve enforcement against antisocial road use behaviour, including by motorists and cyclists
• funding children’s cycle training at all schools in London and more funding for adult cycle training (delivered through the boroughs), although no further details are given.

More people cycling and better places

Measures and approaches put forward in the vision document to encourage more people to cycle include:
• delivering 80,000 additional cycle parking spaces in residential locations, stations, workplaces and other places by 2016, including a “cycle superhub” in at least one central London mainline rail station, with storage for thousands of bikes, good security, London’s largest Cycle Hire docking station and good cycle routes radiating from the hub
• encouraging communities to design their own safe cycling routes to school by providing funding, for which schools and boroughs can bid, to pilot “Cycle to School Partnerships” to initiate such approaches
• expanding the Cycle Hire scheme, including working with boroughs who wish to pay to expand the size of docking stations
• exploring the potential of electric bikes
• encouraging cycling through the boroughs and other partners, recognising that “boroughs will play a key role in our plans by helping to develop, fund and deliver better and safer routes for cycling”.

Better places for everyone

The section on “Better places for everyone” is the least specific on measures and reiterates some of the specific elements previously cited in the document, but linking them to wider benefits – including better neighbourhoods, more prosperous places, better transport and a healthier city.

The Mayor’s vision for cycling articulates a step-change in the Mayor’s ambitions for cycling in London in a way that no other document from the Mayor has done to date. It includes a number of innovative and new policies, and new funding as well as reiterating some previously announced approaches. However, it does not give clear direction to TfL to prioritise walking and cycling as the general rule on London’s streets and, while a large slice (£400 million) of the proposed total funding is to be spent in the remainder of this Mayoral term, it appears that significantly less is planned to be spent per year for the remainder of the 10-year period that the vision document covers.

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