Archive for the 'cycling' Category

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Why we need [to] clear space for cycling on London’s main roads

In July, London Cycling Campaign (LCC) members voted overwhelmingly (58.4%) for ‘Go Dutch‘ to be our single-issue demand for the 2012 Mayoral elections. Our chosen strapline is ‘clear space for cycling on main roads’ – which has attracted some negative comment from those who consider it ambiguous or dilatory in some way. There is particular criticism at the choice of the word “clear”.

Personally, I think the choice of the word ‘clear’ (first proposed by Ben Tansley, Co-ordinator of Brent LCC) is a master stroke. What some seem to have missed is precisely that “clear” is deliberately ambiguous: it is both an adjective and a verb – and the latter form is the most powerful.

Let’s stick the adjective, first. To me, “clear space for cycling” means:

  • Clear from the dangers of cycling in motor traffic: On the busiest roads I expect this to mean separate bike paths, on other roads it might be possible to divert motor vehicles elsewhere (e.g. by closing to through-traffic); most importantly it means not having to play chicken at junctions.
  • Clear from conflict with pedestrians: No-one wants any more painted pavement rubbish.
  • Clear from obstructions: Cycle paths that are properly maintained, free of debris, and certainly no parked cars.
  • Clearly visible: Well sign-posted so it’s easy to know where I’m supposed to go.
  • Clear air: Always a relative thing in London but… cycle routes shouldn’t take me through a load of smog where there’s a convenient, non motor-vehicle clogged alternative.
  • Clear from weather effects: Unlike Islington, remember that cycle paths need proper drainage; unlike Camden, remember to grit them in winter!
  • Clear from slower cyclists in my way: wide enough for me to overtake on my commute to work.

    That’s just a few off-the-top-of my head. I’m sure one could think up many more and indeed LCC will be publishing our comprehensive policy position for Go Dutch, in due course.

    But remember, “clear” is also a verb – that’s where it comes in most useful: Proper cycling facilities cannot be made from thin air. On London’s roads that means space needs to be taken away from other purposes (motor traffic lanes, on-street parking, overly-wide footpaths, etc.) in order to provide good quality, cycle paths that most people would feel safe riding on. The Mayor of London’s Cycling Superhighways have been poor primarily because that political will isn’t there to take road space away from private cars. Lobbying highway engineers to create good facilities is like banging one’s head against a brick wall when the politicians are unwilling to provide them with the road space to do so.

    The cycle paths of Copenhagen are the most visible aspect of that city’s cycling revolution. However, what they hide is the more important enabler – the removal of on-street car parking that previously used to be where many of those cycle paths are today. I can’t find a reference just now but I believe the then Mayor of Copenhagen cited ‘on-street car parking’ as both the single biggest barrier to cycling – and its removal as the single most important step they took. Without creating space they could not have built those cycle paths – which whilst good are still not up to the standards of the Netherlands.

    How much is it right to constrain car use to provide for good cycling facilities? Rightly this is a political issue. Car use is an important part of life, especially in outer London, and politicians risk voters’ wrath if they are seen to unfairly constrain people’s freedom. However there are some points that our representatives need to digest and understand:

    1. Current levels of car use are unsustainable. As London’s population inevitably grows (and remember the working population that commutes in from the shires is far greater than the residential population) we have to find better ways of making use of scarce road space. Private cars just take up far too much of it.
    2. Increasing cycling is much cheaper than building mass transit – and even then there are only so many tube lines we can dig.
    3. Londoner’s want to cycle more but don’t feel it is safe to do so. Transport for London’s 2008 survey showed that 58% of residents of outer London wanted to cycle more and that 32% of outer London households don’t own a car. Providing good cycling facilities will give all these people the freedom to cycle safely.

    Ultimately, the thrust of the campaign is about the verb, not the adjective: we are asking the next Mayor (and the wider public) to clear space for cycling on London’s main roads. We don’t want the same old junk in the gutter.

    Anyone still unclear?

Flashride tomorrow (Friday) 0830am: Why we need to draw a line in the sand over Blackfriars

Blackfriars bridge is a watershed. Despite the hositle environment, there are more bicycles on it in rush hour than any other form of transport and there’s a major opportunity to improve conditions as part of the Crossrail work in the area. Yet unbelievably instead TfL decide to make things even worse for cycling! If not here, then where? If not now then when? Read the background here and join us on the #flashride tomorrow (Fri 20 May) morning at 0830. We’ll be on the south side of the Bridge, outside the Doggett’s pub. Follow @london_cycling for updates.

Since I took over the chairmanship of LCC‘s Campaigns Committee I have found there has been one single, recurring theme frustrating many of our objectives: Transport for London, the quango responsible for the major road network in London is drunk on maximising space for cars at the exclusion of all other road users. Now in the right circumstances (e.g. motorways on the outskirts of Greater London) that might well be appropriate. However, on streets in which people, live, work, shop and play that cannot be the case. Our streets must be liveable places where it is pleasant to walk, cycle or just hang out – not ghettos in subservience to a trunk road passing through them. Bridges are particularly important as there aren’t many options to cross the River. As our Chief Executive, Ashok Sinha says “The choice for cyclists shouldn’t be to navigate through a dangerous junction or take a boat.”

Despite the Mayor’s vision of a cyclised city, Transport for London are failing to delivery the much-vaunted ‘Cycling Revolution‘ because they simply refuse to make space available for quality cycling facilities. Next week the London Cycling Campaign will launch its biggest ever democratic exercise to select a single-issue campaign demand for the 2012 Mayoral election. Not a single one of the four options we’ll be asking our members to vote on is attainable without the political will to make road space available to cycling. That’s why, whilst the menial back-tracking by TfL this last week is welcome we must now make a stand and press for a more equitable allocation of road space.

I hope you will join us on Blackfriars bridge tomorrow morning. If you feel as strongly as we do perhaps you’d consider joining LCC and help us in our mission to achieve a world class cycling city. If nothing else, you’ll get to vote on our headline demand for the next Mayor (and discounts at virtually all good local bike shops).

Met Police Cycle Marking Events, July – September 2010

The Metropolitan Police’s Cycle Task Force was established last month, following successful lobbying by the London Cycling Campaign, to tackle the scourge of bicycle theft in London.

One of the activities of the new Cycle Task Force is setting up events where anyone can turn up with their bicycle to get it security-marked. Below is a list of dates, times and venues where they will be offering cycle marking.

11th July 12.30 to 15.30hrs Jazz on the Green, Newington Green N16
18th July 1000 to 1600hrs Ealing Skyride
19th July 07.30 to 10.00hrs Clapham Common, Windmill Drive SW4
21st July 08.00 to 10.00hrs Navy Row, Poplar E14
25th July 11.00 to 07.00hrs Cottons Park, Romford RM7
28th July 10.00 to 12.00hrs Walthamstow Town Square, E17
10th August 07.30 to 10.00hrs Tooley Street o/s Evans Cycles SE1
13th August 0900 to 1700hrs Haringey Youth Day, Ducketts Common N8
15th August 1000 to 1600hrs Redbridge Sky Ride
17th August 16.00 to 19.00hrs Duke of York Steps, The Mall SW1
19th August 07.30 to 10.00hrs Duke of York Steps, The Mall SW1
26th August 16.00 to 1900hrs Tooley Street o/s Evans Cycles SE1
2nd September 10.00 to 14.00hrs Golders green Road NW11
5th September 10.00 to 16.00hrs The Mall, London Skyride SW1

URGENT: All who cycle in Camden: 19 June deadline for Huntley Street consultation

Apologies for the impossibly short notice but the London Cycling Campaign has just sent out the following action alert. I encourage all who cycle in the UCL/Bloomsbury area to respond immediately.

Deadline 19th June for letters and emails regarding a) Cycling contraflow in Huntley Street, Camden b) Cycle Hire docking station in Huntley St, Camden

We understand that both the proposal for a cycle contraflow in Huntley Street and the bike hire docking station in this street may be rejected because of resident objections. We understand there have been very few letters of support for either the contraflow for cycle users or the docking station. Many local cyclists will be unaware of this important consultation. We urge you to express your view immediately.

As you may be are aware local residents, and the many students, hospital staff and patients who use this street are currently forced to use the very busy Tottenham Court Road gyratory system to avoid the one way arrangement along a short (Torrington Place to University Street) but critical stretch of road. Huntley Street, as many people know, is directly linked to one of the busiest cycle routes in Britain – along Torrington Place. Making a small section of Huntley Street two way for cyclists will enable the many thousand of users of the busy cycle route to access University College Hospital and other buildings in this area without having to use the Tottenham Court Road gyratory system. Huntley Street itself has very little traffic and the northern stretch of the street is already two way for all vehicles – in terms of safety this contraflow is not problematic and it will only require minor works .

It would be most regrettable if a useful facility and a reduction in road danger to cyclists will be rejected when funding is available to carry out the necessary works. We understand the funding will be returned to TfL if the proposal is rejected.

The location of a cycle docking station in Huntley Street would be a great convenience for local residents as well as patients who wish to go to University College Hospital. It would unfortunate if this station were rejected. The contraflow in Huntley Street would make the short journey to the Torrington Place cycle route or UCL Hospital legal in both directions.

We understand that the council is consulting on the two matters separately in the same document. All local cyclists whether local residents, users of UCL Hospital. UCL students, Camden Cycling Campaign members, LCC members, CTC London members or any others are urged to write immediately to Dave Stewart, principal engineer, making their views clear on either or both proposals. The deadline is Saturday 19th of June. His email is dave.stewart {at} camden.gov(.)uk .

The consultation can be found at www.camden.gov.uk/consultations.

What one cyclist wrote to Camden Council:

“Dear Dave Stewart ,
I would like to show my support for the measures outlined in the consultation on a) Cycling contraflow in Huntley Street, Camden b) Cycle Hire docking station in Huntley St, Camden.
I am a regular cyclist in the area and I would find these facilities very useful.

Yours sincerely,
Alix Stredwick”