Friday 6 August 2010

More fantasy campaigning from Sustrans

Sustainable transport charity Sustrans has welcomed the arrival of Barclays Cycle Hire in London, but warned the scheme isn't based in the areas where the potential to increase cycling is at its highest.

Outer London areas have the potential to see a 70 per cent rise in cycling, but won't stand to benefit from the central London-based scheme, according to the charity.

"The London Cycle Hire scheme is a positive move for helping to mainstream cycling and raise its profile," commented Carl Pittam, Sustrans’ Director in London.

Cycling doesn’t need its profile raising. I think everyone in London by now has heard of this revolutionary means of personal transportation. What cyclists need is serious infrastructure, which is the one thing neither Transport for London nor London's car-centric councils are remotely interested in supplying. In any case, as David Hembrow has pointed out:

The hire bikes simply don't have enough capacity to make any great difference. That's why it can never be "a success" if you're interested in modal share. You don't need to wait for the scheme to be better established in order to be able to perform these simple calculations.

The London Urban area has around 8 million people. They'll make on average about 2.5 - 2.8 "trips" per day each (this is roughly the same anywhere in the world - to work and back again counts as two "trips"), meaning at least 20 million trips per day are made by Londoners, or at least 60 million trips over three days.

14000 hire bike trips out of the total of 60 million shows that around 0.02% of the modal share in London over those three days was the hire bikes.

London doesn't actually have a shortage of bikes. There are already plenty of bikes in London, but many of them permanently stay in sheds because people are simply too scared to ride them.

And even within that framework, bearing in mind the massive publicity the bike hire scheme has had, and also bearing in mind that the scheme is geared towards use of less than half an hour (free) or less than two hours, this is not an encouraging statistic for bikes which are available 24 hours a day:

The 5,000 bikes are each being used on average once a day.

If Carl Pittam really believes that a bike hire scheme in Waltham Forest would be of the slightest significance in helping bring about ‘a 70 per cent increase in cycling’ (whatever that is supposed to mean) he needs to take a look back over the local conditions for cyclists shown on this blog over the past three years. He could even start by clicking on the link for posts under Sustrans.

Or even look at the conditions for cyclists at the waterworks roundabout subway complex, where cyclists are diverted down convoluted routes in a literally rat-infested wilderness in order not to inconvenience motor vehicles. Where the A104 meets the A406. It's a major route linking Woodford and Walthamstow and forms part of the glorious London Cycle Network. Sustrans was so impressed by this infrastructure that it recommended it as forming part of an Olympic Greenway, until Waltham Forest squashed the idea.

I have only once ever met another cyclist on all the occasions when I have used this facility. I wonder why? How can a bike hire scheme possibly make the slightest difference to the comprehensively crap experience of cycling in the London Borough of Waltham Forest? Modal share here is one per cent, and there is not the slightest reason to think that this is going to change in the future, no matter how many posters of pretty girls on bicycles you put up.