Wednesday 31 October 2012

Waltham Forest Cycling Strategy 2012-2015

An appendix to this year’s Waltham Forest Cycling Action Plan (see previous post below) is supplied by the new Waltham Forest Cycling Strategy 2012-2015 Scoping Document (which does not appear to be available on-line). A fuller strategy document is promised at a later date; there is little reason to believe it will be substantively different in its basic cycling policy.

As its title indicates, this short version applies a strategy to the Cycling Action Plan. Much of it could have been cut and pasted from almost any local authority plan to encourage and increase cycling – stuff like cycle training and promotion, and vague aspirations such as

work with partners in health, education and the police to bring about a significant increase in cycling. 

To my mind it adds to the existing published Cycling Action Plan in only three significant ways.

Firstly it promises to “Substantially increase funding on cycle infrastructure and initiatives”. No concrete figures are supplied but various possible sources of funding are outlined and it is argued that “spending £10 per head of population per head is required to significantly increase cycling levels”. Encouragingly, “Spending £10 per head achieved a 100% increase in cycling levels in Brighton over 3 years”. This statistic is not sourced or further explicated.

Secondly, the Strategy promises to “increase the number of cycle trips to 2.5% by 2014 and 6% by 2026”. If the current TfL estimate for modal share in Waltham Forest is correct (0.8%) this will require a tripling of cycling journeys in just two years. This strikes me as being astonishingly ambitious.

Thirdly, there is greater clarity regarding infrastructure. The strategy states that action will be required in at least four key areas: infrastructure, training, promotion and enforcement. As far as infrastructure is concerned, the commitment is as follows:

The type of infrastructure will be determined through use of the DfT hierarchy of solutions which recommends that reducing the volume and speed of motor traffic should be considered first as they are potentially the most effective in promoting cycling. Preference will be for on road solutions as opposed to off road full segregation, as these can be achieved more quickly and at lower cost. However, where road speeds exceed 30 mph mandatory cycle lanes and/or segregated provision will be explored. 

By a remarkable sleight-of-hand the London Borough of Waltham Forest’s affiliation to the LCC’s ‘Go Dutch’ programme is thus turned into a conventional vehicular cycling policy.

Leaving aside all the other little difficulties associated with the Hierarchy approach, there is no commitment to a grid of segregated cycle tracks, since the core primary route networks are 30 mph roads and by definition excluded from this strategy. Even on that handful of routes where the speed limit exceeds 30 mph there is no firm commitment to a segregated cycle track.

If cost is going to be an important factor, then painting a continuous white line to create a mandatory cycle lane in the carriageway will clearly be a more attractive option for a cash-strapped local authority. But even this miserable option will only be “explored”. It is perfectly possible that the kind of existing infrastructure to be found on a 40 mph route like Woodford New Road (i.e. a cycle path painted on the existing footway which fizzles out at junctions) will simply be retained.

I can see that the goal of reducing the speed of motor traffic is met by the introduction of a borough-wide 20 mph speed limit in all residential areas. However, there is no empirical evidence to show that this will bring about an increase in cycling with regard either to modal share or among those who live in such zones.

This Strategy fails to indicate how the existing volume of traffic on the borough’s roads will be reduced. Nor does it indicate to what extent this reduction needs to occur to bring about a surge in cycling. This particular goal does not strike me as being remotely credible.

All in all, this does not amount to a cycling strategy. It amounts to a fairly orthodox collection of quack remedies with a very long history of failure. Like earlier targets, these will fail and vanish into the memory hole. Like all previous London Borough of Waltham Forest transport documents this new one sets ambitious goals without ever considering the very substantial previous history of transport goals and targets not met.

The Strategy also recommends links to sources of useful information. These include

WF Cycling Campaign, TfL, LCC and CTC cycling pages. 

There is one campaign group missing from the list, but I suppose this is logical since its strategic advice would be somewhat different.

Finally, this blog really only came back from the dead in reaction to the Waltham Forest Cycling Action Plan and the uncritical praise it received - with the added provocation in this ‘Olympic Borough’ of the Green Olympics cycling legacy.

It’s now time to take another break.

Take it away, guys…