Archive for the ‘Cycling’ Category

RAC Foundation response to the consultation on the proposed segregated East-West Cycle Superhighway and North-South Cycle Superhighway

Insufficient information has been published for us—or anybody else—to form a rounded view of the merits of these proposals. Therefore we neither support nor oppose these schemes. There may be sufficient advantage to outweigh the considerable costs and disadvantages, but a case is not offered.

This is a large scheme. The proposal to restrict the flow of vehicles into the area of the schemes is likely to have significant impacts over much of Central London. This is illustrated by the examples TfL have published as part of the consultation, some of which are reproduced in our Appendix, below.

These examples confirm that road users (buses, cyclists, pedestrians, taxis, private hire, commercial vehicles and private vehicles) over a large area of Central London would be adversely affected, some of them seriously so. The disbenefits to a large number of road users of all types (including bus users and pedestrians) across a large area of Central London would appear to be be very substantial.

To make an informed, rounded judgement it will be necessary to quantify the magnitude of these disbenefits and to set them against the magnitudes of the benefits anticipated for the schemes. A proper business case needs to be published before the public (or the TfL Board and the Mayor) can take an informed view and our understanding is that is still being drafted. In accordance with TfL’s normal good practice this should quantify the costs and benefits of the proposals.

We note with concern the statements in the consultation documents that “Our latest analysis shows the proposals would mean longer journey times for motorists and bus, coach and taxi passengers along most of the route, both during construction and once complete. There would also be longer journey times for users of many of the roads approaching the proposed route and longer waits for pedestrians at some signalised crossings.” This seems to imply that almost everybody would be made worse off.

There should also be a properly articulated safety case. This should consider the balance of advantage in safety terms for pedestrians, cyclists and others, between the schemes under consultation and alternative ways of using the resources (including the road space). We understand some estimation has been made for casualty reduction along the schemes’ routes but what is the effect beyond them? Could the same or greater casualty savings be made in a more cost effective way?

There may well also be a need to carry out an analysis of the environmental implications: significantly worsening traffic congestion over a large area would have adverse implications for air quality and carbon dioxide emissions which could be at variance with the Mayor’s policies (and duties), some currently under consultation.

The published consultation material would allow comment on the fine detail of such things as junction designs and road layout. But our interest is in the overall merits of the schemes in relation to their disadvantages. That requires a thorough appraisal of the estimated effects on transport users affected across the relevant area.

We would expect TfL to apply the same rigour and completeness of appraisal for these schemes as they have for other schemes over many years, in accordance with good practice. To cite some examples:

  • As for many public transport improvements, the case for Crossrail relies, in part on the benefits from decongesting road traffic through transfer of passengers from road to the new scheme. Models of the effects on traffic across the whole of London were used to evaluate these. These estimated benefits to road users are real enough but in most cases quite small for any one journey. By these standards some of the increases in trip time cited as examples due to the cycling superhighway proposals are enormous.
  • The case for the Congestion Charging scheme relied on detailed modelling and estimates of the changes in traffic flow across Central and Inner London, and the benefits of to the reduced traffic (including buses and commercial traffic) in the charged area.
  • The decision to proceed with the “World Squares” redesign of Trafalgar Square was based on analysis of the effects that scheme would have on traffic as far afield as the Inner Ring Road. An account by a TfL official of the traffic modelling relates that “Modelling of the wider network was undertaken by consultants, WS Atkins, during the development of the scheme using SATURN and, later, TRANSYT. SATURN work suggested that while the direct impact of the scheme is to reduce traffic flow passing though Trafalgar Square by approximately one third, the scheme would not displace trips beyond the Inner Ring Road.” Our point is that this kind of traffic appraisal possible, routine and good practice in cases similar to the cycling superhighways.
  • The proposal for a cable car crossing of the Thames was subject to an appraisal of a business case, considered by the TfL Board, which estimated benefits and costs. This includes quantified estimates of the benefits of time savings to cyclists, which demonstrates that TfL believes that appraisal of this is possible.
  • When London was constructing its bid to host the 2012 Olympics detailed traffic modelling was necessary in order to understand the implications for traffic. The analysis was considered by the TfL Board. Particularly relevant to the cycle superhighways were the reserved, “Olympic Lanes” and the Olympic Route Network. These proposals were controversial at the time, but concerns were mitigated by the facts that the disruption was only for about four weeks in total and, by design, that was at the quietest time of year. The cycle super highways are, of course, proposed to be permanent.
  • Over the years proposals for new East London river crossings have been controversial. Discussions at public inquiry and elsewhere have centred on detailed estimates and evaluations of implications for traffic flows across large areas of London.

It is only reasonable to apply the same standards of analysis to the cycle superhighway proposals as would be normal for any other major London scheme.

In particular, proper forecasts of the number of users need to be constructed and scrutinised. With a major infrastructure proposal it is never enough to publish the maximum expected carrying capacity: capacity is not the same thing as usage and there are many infrastructure schemes round the world that are not “used and useful”. Of course we recognise that absolute precision is not to be expected. But it is normal practice in a case such as this to estimate numbers and origins and destinations of trips that might divert to a new facility such as this, and to justify any assumptions as to the number of new trips that might be generated. In other contexts (new railways, road bridges, road improvements, bus services) these analyses are, rightly, subject to close scrutiny.

We believe that, in accordance with its usual good practice, TfL must have carried out comprehensive modelling of the impacts of traffic of these proposals—and if it has not, it should.

Having done the traffic and economic and environmental modelling TfL will have the information necessary to calculate, in the normal way, estimates of the total benefits and disbenefits to those affected. Then the general public (and the Mayor) will have the information necessary to come to a judgement on the balance of advantage of the schemes.

The appraisal will need to reflect the fact that according to TfL’s estimates (Drivers of Demand for Travel in London: A review of trends in travel demand and their causes, 2014) “the proportion of network capacity for private motorised trips lost relative to 1996 … is estimated to be 30 per cent in central London, 15 per cent in inner London and 5 per cent in outer London”. Competition for road space in Central London has always been intense and the fact that so much capacity has already been given up for other purposes makes it much harder to accommodate new schemes without causing disproportionate disadvantage to existing users.

The nature of the traffic on the proposed lines of route is only a small part of the story. Because traffic will be diverted onto many roads in the Central area, all that traffic may be affected. (See TfL’s examples in our Appendix.) In particular, there may be important implications for reliability and cost of operation of bus services throughout. Further, a glance at any Central London street during the working day confirms the significant proportion of traffic that is commercial. The appraisal of these proposals needs to take proper account of the costs to the London economy due to adverse effects to buses and commercial traffic.

We note that the proportion of traffic in Central London that is private cars is now quite low—maybe close to an irreducible minimum. This is partly because of the success of the Congestion Charging scheme. Also, we suspect that some of the historical increase in cycling is diversion from walking and, particularly, public transport. So, whatever its merits, the case that the cycling superhighways will be material in reducing private car use is not made.

We note that TfL funds are proposed to be used on bus measures to mitigate the impacts of the proposed cycle scheme. Assuming—as must surely be the case—that these funds would have had a beneficial alternative use for bus services elsewhere then that cost should be accounted as one of the costs of the cycling proposals. (And that would be to disregard the net benefits they would have generated in the forgone applications.) Similarly, the business case will need to cost in realistic mitigation measures for commercial traffic and general traffic control across the affected area.


TfL have published some illustrations of the effects of the east-west scheme on journeys here:


The biggest changes to journey times would not occur in central London or on the superhighway section, but on the A1203 and A13 east of Tower Hill, where road space would remain the same as now but westbound traffic will be held longer at various points to control the flow on to Tower Hill and Upper Thames Street. To evaluate the scale of these impacts, we have modelled a journey between the eastern end of the Limehouse Link Tunnel and Hyde Park Corner. The current journey time westbound is currently 34 minutes 34 seconds in the morning and 30 minutes 51 seconds in the evening. Once the scheme is built, journeys for general traffic in this direction would be 50 minutes 28 seconds in the morning and 44 minutes 20 seconds in the evening. The same journey eastbound is 27 minutes 51 seconds in the morning and 30 minutes 51 seconds in the evening. Once the scheme is built, these journey times would increase to 35 minutes 29 seconds in the morning and 35 minutes 6 seconds the evening.

TfL have published some illustrations of the effects of the north-south scheme on journeys here:


Travelling northbound from Elephant & Castle to Farringdon Station, average journey time in the morning peak would rise by 41 seconds, from 11 minutes 28 seconds to 12 minutes 9 seconds. In the evening, in the same direction, journey times would increase from 10 minutes 56 seconds to 15 minutes 12 seconds. Travelling southbound from Farringdon Station to Elephant & Castle, average journey time in the morning peak would rise from 10 minutes 50 seconds to 14 minutes 43 seconds. This journey in the evening would increase slightly from 12 minutes 17 seconds to 14 minutes 20 seconds.

We have also modelled a journey for general traffic between Stamford Street and Queen Victoria Street. Journeys for general traffic starting on Stamford Street and travelling north over Blackfriars Bridge to Queen Victoria Street would increase from 3 minutes 45 seconds to 15 minutes 43 seconds in the morning, and from 3 minutes 20 seconds to 12 minutes 41 seconds in the evening. Much of this increased journey time would be on Stamford Street itself, approaching the junction with Blackfriars Road. Journeys heading south in the opposite direction would be quicker by 2 minutes 11 seconds in the morning and by 1 minute 41 seconds in the evening.


Read Full Post »

A couple of very interesting meetings with Transport for London recently as part of its stakeholder engagement programme relating to plans for the East-West and North-South cycle superhighways.

One of the messages that came across was clear.

The proposals are not simply about getting people out of their cars in central London – the number of private vehicles in the middle of the capital is already relatively low and unlikely to get significantly lower without a major hike in the congestion charge, and according to TfL “motor traffic in central London has fallen by around 17% per cent since 2006/07” – but generating modal shift away from the buses and Tube.

Public transport is already under significant strain and likely to become more so as the population of London rises by 1.6 million by 2031, a point emphasised by today’s news via the Press Association:

“Transport for London (TfL) has announced that a weekly bus and Tube passenger journey record has just been broken.

“In the week beginning September 22 2014 a total of 76.1 million passenger journeys were made on London Underground (LU) and on London buses.

“This was made up of a record weekly total of 50 million bus journeys, while 26.1 million Tube trips were made.

“The combined total beat the previous bus-Tube record set in the week beginning December 9 2013 when many extra travellers came into the capital to see the Christmas lights.”

Officials recognise (as they’ve acknowledged on the consultation website) that there will be knock on impacts for other traffic, not just on the routes but also on the roads surrounding them.

As a way of mitigating these effects – and those created by 20 or so other road schemes being implemented by the end of 2016 – tens of millions of pounds are being invested to help prioritise buses at certain junctions to help keep bus journey times reasonable and passengers happy.

There are now some broad indications, albeit still provisional and based on an imprecise science, of potential casualty reductions.

Annual reductions of collisions involving injury to cyclists:

East-West      7 serious, 35 slight

North-South      2 serious, 11 slight

Total   9 serious, 46 slight, 55 overall

Approximate annual monetised benefit of reducing cycling collision:

EW      £1.84m

NS      £0.53m

Total   £2.38m

So far TfL not made an accurate assessment of what reduction there might be in fatalities, though say it is reasonable to assume a number of fatalities will be avoided over the full life of a business case, which they emphasise is still at draft stage. (It’s not clear over what period the business case is being made but for most large infrastructure projects it would be at least 30 years.)

The plans form a major part of delivering the Mayor’s vision for cycling. It is worth noting what the other four key points of the roads and street plans to 2020/21 are:

  • Ensure roads assets are fit for the future
  • Deliver a programme of major highway improvements to: unlock economic growth and regeneration; optimise use of road space (for all modes); improve pedestrian, cycling and bus facilities; enhance urban realm and ‘place’ function; deliver safety improvements
  • Deliver a further 40% reduction in fatalities and serious injuries on London’s roads
  • Keep London moving

The question is: how compatible are all these aims?

Read Full Post »

It is tempting to believe that London is unique when it comes to the way people travel; after all, the capital is awash with alternatives ranging from the underground to buses to taxis to trains, something that cannot be claimed for the rest of urban and rural England. Given the headlines, it would be unsurprising if most people thought these methods of transport far outweigh the car as modes of choice to get to work. Except they don’t, certainly not in the outer boroughs of the city.

On average a car (or van) is used by 29.7% of Londoners to get to ‘the office’, making it the largest single method of travel. Yet this does not tell the whole story. Take places like Hillingdon, Havering, Bexley and Sutton. Here the proportion of commuter journeys undertaken by car is at or over 50%.

At the other end of the scale – City of London, Islington, Westminster, Camden, Tower Hamlets – the number of commuter journeys by car or van can be measured in single or low double figures.

As for cycling, the figure is just 4% across the capital, but in Hackney more than 14% of residents use their bikes to get to work.

The picture is revealed in the latest work from the RAC Foundation, The Car and the Commute. (The data tables for London boroughs are available here.)

The point is that London should not be viewed as a single entity. There is life – and diversity – beyond zones one and two. Something that our politicians, cocooned in Westminster, would do well to remember.

Read Full Post »

The shadow transport secretary, Maria Eagle, has called for a proportion of the Government’s roads budget to be “reallocated to deliver a long-term funding settlement for cycling infrastructure”. Speaking in a Parliamentary debate on the All-Party Parliamentary Cycling Group’s ‘Get Britain Cycling’ report, she said, “While there is a £28bn commitment for roads, we have only a one-off £114m from central Government for cycling, and that is spread across three years. It is time for a serious rethink of priorities within the roads budget.”

It is interesting that Ms Eagle talks only about diverting funding for roads to boost cycling infrastructure. If the £50bn HS2 rail project were cancelled, for example (no, we’re not obsessed with HS2 – it’s just a good example in this case), and this money diverted to funding cycling schemes, then the Government could buy every person in England a new Raleigh 700C bike (retail price £260), at a total cost of £13.8bn, and still have £36bn in change left over to build dedicated infrastructure for everybody to cycle on. All without touching the roads budget. Just a thought.

Another thought, of course, is whether there is or is not the significant latent demand for cycling infrastructure that the suggestion of much more spending on cycling implies. Here, a recently Parliamentary written answer suggested that nationwide only a tiny fraction of journeys are undertaken by bike, and that this is not expected to change significantly for at least a couple of decades, which suggests that spending lots of money on cycling infrastructure is not a good idea.

On the other hand, however, the recently launched DfT/TfL plan to improve cycling safety in London says that during the rush hour in central London a pretty hefty 25% of all vehicles are bikes. So there quite clearly is strong demand for good cycling infrastructure, but only in certain places. At the moment London is leading the way; if the right money is spent on the right schemes then will other cities follow? Only one way to find out.

Read Full Post »

The Government has announced funding for cycling schemes that it describes as “the biggest ever single injection of cash for the country”, as far as cycling infrastructure is concerned.

Perhaps significantly, the announcement says that new trunk road schemes that have a significant impact on cyclists, such as junction improvements or road-widening, will be ‘cycle-proofed’ so they can be navigated confidently by the average cyclist. The sums being proposed to ‘cycle-proof’ trunk roads are not by any means huge (if we are talking about Government spending!), however.

“Significant junction upgrades and other improvements will help cyclists at 14 locations on the trunk road network where major roads can prove an obstacle for journeys by bike,” the Government notes. “£5 million will be invested in upgrades this year and a further £15 million will be invested in 2015 to 2016, with plans in place for many more similar schemes.”

The announcement of new funds for cycling also includes a commitment from the Government “to cut red tape that can stifle cycle-friendly road design and to encourage changes to the way roads are built or altered”. What this specifically means, an accompanying briefing document reveals, is that the Government is planning to remove the need for local authorities to obtain a Traffic Order before they can create mandatory cycle lanes, contraflow cycle routes and exemptions for cyclists.

In terms of where the new money is going, £77 million will be divided between Manchester, Leeds, Birmingham, Newcastle, Bristol, Cambridge, Oxford and Norwich, while the New Forest, Peak District, South Downs and Dartmoor will each share a slice of £17 million funding for national parks. With local contributions, the total new funding for cycling is £148 million between now and 2015, the Government says.

Labour’s response to the Government’s announcement of new funding for cycling was to point out that it represents something of an about turn in the coalition’s attitude to the bicycle. “No amount of cynical spin… will make up for the fact that, immediately on taking office, he [Prime Minister David Cameron] axed Cycle England, the Cycle Demonstrations Towns scheme and the annual £60m budget to support cycling that he inherited,” shadow transport secretary Maria Eagle told the BBC. “Only last month the Prime Minister set out plans for Britain’s roads that failed to include a single commitment to the investment in separated cycling infrastructure that is the best way to boost cycling and make it safer.”

Professor David Cox, chairman of the CTC cycling group, however, praised the Government’s announcement, claiming that the Government had shown “leadership” on cycling.

According to the DfT’s own website, meanwhile: “Between April 2008 and March 2011, the Department for Transport, the Department of Health and Cycling England invested over £140 million to promote cycling… Part of this investment (around £50 million) was used to create one Cycling City and eleven Cycling Towns (CCTs).”

Putting the scale of the Government’s latest burst of spending on cycling in context, Richard Westcott, the BBC’s transport correspondent, summed things up nicely. “£94m might sound like a decent amount of money but how many cycle lanes does it buy you?” he asked rhetorically. “Actually, it’s not a simple question because it depends on where they are, whether you have to redesign complex road junctions and whether it’s a newly-built lane or some paint on a road. Still, to give you some idea, four new cycling superhighways in London, stretching to about 40 miles in total, recently cost £35m. As I understand it they were more complex and therefore more expensive than most, but still, you’re looking at just under £10m each. Cycling campaigners tell me the £94m is a good start, but say far more money is needed over a prolonged period of time to really spark a cycling revolution.”

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: