Today is Ride to Work Day, part of National Motorcycle Week. I rode to work this morning from the Ace Cafe as one of the MCI’s Bike Squads. Riding to work is great, it gets the brain up and running better than any caffeine injection – you’ve got to be thinking three times faster than your wheels so that, like some sort of traffic grand master, you can predict what moves everyone else is going to make several plays in advance, in order not to be there when that taxi u-turns without warning into one of your many potential paths. So when you get to your desk, you’re already wide awake and ready for the day.
And as predicted by the RAC Foundation last month, riding to work saved me 50% on my normal travel time – 30 mins instead of an hour by tube and bus.
But there’s a cloud on the horizon – the riding in part is great, but finding somewhere safe to leave 2 metres of Triumph remains a challenge. The popularity of motorcycling in London has soared since the introduction of the C-charge and the 7 July public transport bombings – but the number of spaces provided by the councils hasn’t kept pace. So unless you’re in with the lark, your chances of finding enough tarmac are slim:-
And the lack of space leads to an expectation that the next person along can shuffle your bike along a bit if they need to. Now, no-one touches my bike except me (and the volunteers who help me pick it up when I drop it – thanks, all!) so this particular piece of parking etiquette causes me great anxiety!
Westminster Council announced at the beginning of the year that they were giving thought to providing more motorcycle spaces. It would give 2-wheel commuting a big boost if they press ahead with redesignating some bays as a matter of urgency. And if the new spaces have built-in ground anchors, even better.
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The school run is not just a UK phenomenum according to new research from the US, which finds that fewer than half of American children living close enough to school to walk or cycle do so regularly.
Parallels can be drawn between this research and UK stats which show that only 49% of those attending education walk or cycle (TSGB, DfT, 2006). Significant strides have been made in the UK at certain locations where school travel plans are in place, but more needs to be done. In the US children living in the South did the least walking and cycling, partially due to safety fears. Planning and safety concerns need to be addressed to reduce the congestion and obesity problems partially attributable to a lack of walking and cycling to school.
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We are just as car dependent today as we were in the early 1990s, according to a new research paper released today by the Royal Automobile Club Foundation * (16).
The study finds that those using public transport in the early 1990s are the only ones who have used it more since. People who have never used a bus have not been persuaded to give it a go. The number of people driving a car has risen steadily over this time and the number of frequent car drivers is also on the increase.
The Foundation’s Fact File on Car Dependence finds that over the period between 1993 and 2005;
- The percentage of the population with a valid driving license has risen from 67% to 72%.
- The total mileage driven has increased by 17% across the country.
- There has only been a slow down in car usage in London since 2002
- The number of women driving has risen rapidly from under 50% to over 60%
- The number of men driving has risen more slowly (75% to 80%)
- In London the proportion of frequent drivers has fluctuated around 80%
- Car use peaks amongst the 35-44 age groups
Bus usage in the UK (outside London) has declined by 13% over the past ten years and only 19% of people frequently use buses; a figure which has hardly changed over the years. An increasing number of people never use the bus, (currently standing at 50%). There has also been a 40% increase in train usage over the same period, but this increase has come from people being more willing to use the train for occasional trips rather than as a main mode of transport. There has been little change in the proportion of people cycling regularly (7% overall population, 5% in London), although TfL reports a 50% increase in cycling in London since 2002. Overall men are more likely to cycle than women and the greatest increase has been seen amongst the 55 to 64 year old age range.
Elizabeth Dainton, Research Development Manager at the RAC Foundation said:”It is clear from this research that we are still a very car dependent nation. Trying and experiencing new things is part and parcel of our everyday lives, but where transport is concerned we tend to stick with what we know. The fact that 50% of people have never used a bus shows that buses are not a suitable or attractive proposition for many people.
If we are to see a different pattern of car dependency over the next twelve years public transport needs to provide a much better and more reasonable alternative to the car.”
The RAC Foundation’s previous work on Car Dependency** found that twenty percent of car journeys could be made by transport other than the car.
Progress on this outcome has been slow, but if the right mix of targeted solutions are put in place to provide a real alternative to the car for certain journeys some lasting changes could be seen in the future.
Note to Editors:
* Leibling, D. (2007) Trends in Modal Shift: An analysis of the British Social Attitudes Survey. Prepared for the Royal Automobile Club Foundation by David Leibling (Royal Automobile Club Foundation Public Policy Committee member and Board Member of London Travel watch). Based on an analysis of the British Social Attitudes Survey 1993 to 2005.
** RAC Foundation (1995) Car Dependence: A Report for the Royal Automobile Club Foundation for Motoring and the Environment.
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