Saturday 1 January 2011

A Bridge Too Far

One of the arguments used against the suggestion that what Britain needs is Dutch cycling infrastructure is that the money just isn’t there for it. It’s not true. Here in Waltham Forest the car-centric Forest Road Corridor Scheme involved spending almost a quarter of a million pounds on creating twenty free parking bays, while the Wood Street Corridor Scheme is costing £450,000 with the sole beneficiaries motorists and a similarly radical deterioration in on-street cycling and walking conditions. In the absence of a coherent philosophy of cycling from the London Cycling Campaign, car-centric transport planning moves in to fill the void.

As Jim Hardy remarks here (in the Comments):

Take one look at what the Government has planned for new road schemes or the millions for electric cars. If a fraction of that was spent was providing decent facilities for cyclists, we could have the kind of modal shift that we will never achieve if we keep listening to the current cycling campaigning establishment and expecting novice cyclists to mix it up with today’s traffic levels.

Here’s the latest stark example of lavish spending on car-centric infrastructure:

A £32.3 million bridge over the River Thames has been given the go-ahead by the government. Ian Lake, of Surrey County Council, said: "With Surrey's roads carrying nearly twice the national average traffic flow and the county being a powerhouse of the national economy, this is a hugely important scheme.

Whether Surrey is really ‘a powerhouse of the national economy’ is surely debatable. What is true is that it is a very affluent county with a higher level of car ownership than any other county.

Relatively few journeys are made in Surrey either on foot or by cycle. High levels of car ownership have led to low levels of car occupancy. With the majority of households owning at least one car the average number of people in a car has decreased. In 2007, the most common method of transport to primary schools in Surrey was by car (50%).

At the end of the last century the Surrey Local Transport Plan set itself the goal of

increasing the number of trips by bicycle from 2% in 1999 to 6% in 2011.

I have been unable to locate any statistic for cycling’s current modal share in Surrey (the County Council’s website seems to have no figure more recent than 2001) but I would not be unduly surprised to discover that even this unambitious target has not been met and that cycling in the county has stagnated. Nor should that be a surprise in an environment where

The estimated number of car trips made using roads in Surrey (county roads as well as motorway and trunk roads) on an average weekday is 2.2 million.

Of this new bridge

Liberal Democrat transport minister Norman Baker said: "The new bridge will bring long-term benefits for all those travelling in the area. Without this investment motorists would have faced huge disruption and delays

Contrast that statement with this.