Monday 8 August 2011

A cycling success story

Let’s be upbeat and celebrate success, because let’s face it there’s a feeling we’re entering, or perhaps even in, a golden age of riding.

The statistics prove what golden times we live in.

I am referring to a London borough which experienced a 30 per cent increase in cycle trips between 1996 and 2002 and an 83 per cent increase in cycling in the eight year period 1998-2006, showing a success rate even better than Mayor Livingstone’s target of an 80 per cent increase in cycling in the period 2001-2010.

By 2005 this borough had achieved a modal share of around 2 per cent on most roads and was aiming for 4 per cent modal share for trips within the borough. This borough has won no less than four awards from the London Cycling Campaign, as well as a Bike to School award and a London Transport award. This borough is rightly proud that ‘the number of cyclists is increasing as the new facilities are being introduced’ and is not ashamed to assert the exciting possibility that in this cycling wonderland, cycling might even become as popular as in Holland. Yes, this is irrefutably one of the leading local authorities in London in its commitment to introducing cycling facilities

And in the last golden age of London cycling (circa the year 2000) there was this good news on modal share:

The aim of Waltham Forest Council policy is to meet the LAPC target of increasing the number of cycle trips from 2% to 10% by 2012.

So all in all it’s a bit of a mystery why the borough’s 2011 Local Implementation Plan revealed that after year upon year of these brilliant successes and massive percentage increases in cycling trips, cycling’s overall modal share was 0.8 per cent, one of the worst in London.

This is disappointing when so much effort has been put into encouraging cycling.

Car Free Day in Walthamstow in 2002 and Leytonstone in 2003/4/5 included a demonstration of unusual recumbent bikes and a cycle obstacle course attracting over 100 participants. These events gained good publicity in the local press.

For those who like good infrastructure, there are lots of vehicular cycling solutions here (yes, come to Waltham Forest and try out conditions on those ‘green tick’ infrastructure pages).

Of course we all know that the borough has a sarcastic, negative cycling blogger (who need not be mentioned!) but luckily the LCC’s Cycling Development Officer is prepared to step forward and set the record straight. And who can deny that the Coppermill Lane ‘cycle superhighway’ route is indeed a rip-roaring success? The council’s monitoring figures speak for themselves. In 2002 there were only 181 cycle trips on this route over a 12 hour period on an October weekday. In 2006 the council decided to switch the monitoring month to July and the results were much, much better. There was a more than 100% increase on this route! Let’s look at the figures. 431 in 2006, 444 in 2007, 465 in 2008, 422 in 2009 and 415 in 2010. So this ‘cycle superhighway’ has achieved a net loss of six cycle trips over a five year period. Truly super. It would have been interesting to know what the numbers were for 2011 but sadly the council has stopped counting.

(Below) Conditions on the Coppermill Lane ‘cycle superhighway’ – a road which is lined on both sides with parked cars, which has rubber speed cushions which both fail to deter speeding drivers and encourage drivers to steer round them, which has pinch points with free parking bays but no separate cycle access, and where all oncoming drivers are on the cyclist’s side of the road but who invariably fail to slow down or give way.

Elsewhere in the borough there are more success stories. For example, in response to those suggestions for segregated cycle tracks put forward by that Lancaster sociologist, the CTC’s Campaigns & Policy Director was quick to point out that this would be expensive, and anyway now is not the time to ask for it, and
Actually, on most urban streets, the solutions don't require a great deal of funding – we just need to introduce 20mph speed limits. Even in the most cycle-friendly countries such as the Netherlands, most urban streets simply have a 30kmh limit, perhaps with some nicely-designed traffic calming, and no cycle-specific provision whatsoever.

And here, too, the London Borough of Waltham Forest is at the cutting edge of this new thinking. Here is a street in a local area-wide 20 mph zone with extensive traffic calming, on a marked London Cycle Network route, which exactly matches the CTC’s winning formula for encouraging cycling, and I think you’ll agree the resemblance to any street in the Netherlands is remarkable:

The great thing about Waltham Forest is that it manages to find a balance between different road user groups. The council is keen to encourage cycling, but it also recognises the need to encourage motoring. Local shops depend on people driving short distances to them, and shopkeepers have always been keen to call for more parking bays and more free parking.

Happily, the council has found a perfect balance between free car parking bays in shopping centres and high quality cycle lanes.

When the M11 Link Road was built through the heart of Leytonstone and Leyton, local residents were promised a traffic-free High Road Leytonstone. Over the years successive administrations realised what a pie-in-the-sky idea that was, and the council’s latest ‘£2.8 million project to transform Leytonstone High Road’ will continue a great tradition. Pedestrians, too, can benefit from the judicious balancing of environmental improvements, as shown here on this fabulous urban gateway to the Olympic Village.

Another success story is Ruckholt Road. Back in 2002 this major commuter route registered only 284 cycle trips over a 12 hour period on an October weekday. By switching to July there was soon proof of an increase of nearly 300%. Yes, by July 2006 the figure had risen to a stunning 764, with 837 trips recorded the following year. Sadly there has been a bit of slippage since those glory days and the figure for 2010 was 708.

For some context bear in mind both motor vehicle flow and cycling infrastructure. As far as motor vehicles are concerned

The 2005 count for Ruckholt Road is 31,516. This is an increase of over 13,000 vehicles per day in only 4 years.

And this is the cycling-friendly cycle lane (another section of the fabulous London Cycle Network) on Ruckholt Road.

And now enjoy the video. Cycling in Waltham Forest.