Cycling in London

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Utility cyclists during rush hour in the City.

Cycling in London is a popular mode of transport and leisure activity within the capital city of the United Kingdom. Following a national decline in the 1960s of levels of utility cycling, cycling as a mode of everyday transport within London began a slow regrowth in the 1970s. This continued until the beginning of the 21st century, when levels began to increase significantly - during the period from 2000 to 2012, the number of daily journeys made by bicycle in Greater London doubled to 580,000.[a] The growth in cycling can partly be attributed to the launch in 2010 by Transport for London (TfL) of the Barclays Cycle Hire system throughout the city's centre, which by 2013 was attracting a monthly ridership of approximately 500,000, peaking at a million rides in July of that year.[1]

Cycling conditions in the city have in recent years been found to be widely perceived as unsafe by cyclists.[2] A spate of cyclist deaths in London occurred in November 2013, drawing heavy criticism of TfL's cycle facilities and sparking protests and calls for rapid safety improvements from politicians, cycling organisations and the media.

History[edit]

Beginning in the 1960s, Britain experienced a decline in levels of utility cycling due to the increasing wealth of its populace and greater affordability of motor vehicles; this in turn led to the favouring of vehicular traffic over other options by transportation planners.[3] In 1977, the Conservative Party won the Greater London Council (GLC) election, and enacted policies that deprioritised spending on public transport.

In 1980 Ken Livingstone, at the time the Labour Party's transport spokesperson, made a promise to the London Cycling Campaign (LCC) that should Labour take control of the GLC they would spend more on the needs of cyclists.[4] In May 1981, Labour won the GLC election, with Livingstone becoming GLC leader shortly afterwards. The following month, Livingstone announced that the GLC would accede to the LCC's demands, creating a cycling planning unit and spending at least 1% of the yearly transport budget, £2m, on cycling.[4]

In 2000, Livingstone became the first elected Mayor of London, and in 2008 set a target of a 400% increase in cycling between 2008 and 2025. On 9 February 2008 Livingstone announced an estimated £400 million of initiatives to improve and increase cycling and walking, including thousands of new bike parking facilities at railway and tube stations. To be co-ordinated by the TfL and London boroughs the aims include having 1 in 10 Londoners making a round trip by bike each day and five per cent of all daily trips by bike by 2025.[5]

In 2011 around 2.5 per cent of all commutes to work in London were by bike,[6] though this jumps to 9% for Hackney.[7] This compares to other cities in the United Kingdom such as Cardiff (4.3 per cent), York (18 per cent)[8] and Cambridge (28 per cent of commutes)[9] and to cities on the continent such as Berlin (13 per cent), Munich (15 per cent), Amsterdam (37 per cent of all journeys)[10] and Groningen (57 per cent of all journeys).[citation needed] The amount of growth has varied between regions within the city; on some routes such as Cheapside cyclists have been reported to comprise over half of rush-hour traffic.[11]

Plans to construct twelve "Cycle Superhighway" routes were announced by Livingstone in 2008, connecting inner and outer London, as well as providing cycle zones around urban centres.[12] The firsts two pilot routes were implemented in July 2010 and connected Barking in east London with Tower Hill on the eastern perimeter of The City of London and Colliers Wood in South London to Bank in The City. The concept was designed by German Dector-Vega and included a trial of cycle lanes through junctions (as in Denmark), convex mirrors at traffic signals to reduce the blind spot between lorries and cyclist (as used in Switzerland), new signage, and the re-design of some traffic junctions to improve safety.

In July 2010, 6,000 bicycles became available for short-term rental from TfL under the Barclays Cycle Hire at 400 docking stations in nine central London boroughs. This was later expanded to 8,000 cycles from 570 stations. The scheme, run by Montreal-based BIXI, initially covered about 17 square miles (44 square kilometres) over nine central London boroughs, and included 6,000 bikes and 400 docking stations.[13] The docking stations were spaced by 300m and mainly at key destinations and tube stations in central London. There is a charge for hire but there was a period of free use to encourage the scheme.[citation needed] The scheme was designed based on a feasibility study produced by German Dector-Vega and Charles Snead in Nov 2008.

Over the next few years, pressure from bloggers and cyclists using social media to complain about the state of London's roads led to significant new investment in safer cycle infrastructure for London.[14] In March 2013, City Hall announced £1 billion of improvements to make cycling safer and easier in London, as well as to improve air pollution and inner city congestion in the capital. Boris Johnson, Livingstone's replacement as Mayor of London, planned to build a 15 mile "Crossrail for bikes" running from the West London suburbs across the Westway, through Hyde Park, the Mall and along the Victoria Embankment past Canary Wharf and into East London.

In March 2013 "The Mayor's Vision for Cycling in London" was announced, a plan which includes a "Crossrail for bikes" running a fully segregated route from east to west across London to be in place by 2016. The statement also announced a Central London "bike grid" which would join-up and improve existing cycle routes in Zone 1,[15] as well as a network of "Quietways"[clarification needed] in outer London, and E-Bikes[clarification needed] for rents in hilly areas of the city.[16] The London Cycle Hire Scheme has been described by the deputy mayor as "oozing" out over London with expansion in 2014 in Hackney, Notting Hill, Hammersmith, Fulham and Wandsworth.[15][17]

In December 2013, TfL published a draft map of a "Central London Grid" of new cycle routes.[18]

Facilities[edit]

An advanced stop line allows cyclists to get a head start on stationary traffic.

Cycle lanes and paths[edit]

On-road cycle lanes vary. Some have raised concrete kerbs that separate the cyclist from the traffic, whilst others are defined by lines painted on the road surface. The Cycle Superhighways went into use in May 2010.[12]

Cycle paths include routes through the royal parks (St. James's Park, Hyde Park, Regent's Park and Green Park), along the Thames Path and London's canals and waterways. There is a behavioural code for considerate riding on London's towpaths.[19]

On public transport[edit]

A bike rack on a Thames Clipper commuter catamaran on the River Thames.

Folding bicycles may be carried on almost all public transport in London. Full-size bicycles may be carried on some sections of the transport network during certain hours of the day.[20] Bicycle parking facilities, generally cycle stands, but in some cases more secure facilities, are available at many stations.[21]

Full-size bicycles Folded bicycles
During morning (07:30-09:30)
and evening (16:00-19:00)
rush hours
Prohibited on Permitted on
  • All LU, NR and Tramlink lines
  • All river boat services
  • Buses, at driver's discretion
At other times

Permitted on

  • LU surface lines[b]
  • All LO and NR lines
  • All DLR lines, except at Bank station
Prohibited on
  • Deep-level LU lines[b]
  • All Tramlink lines

Safety[edit]

A segment of guardrail in Camden marked as being due for removal in June 2014.

Many roads in London are lined with guardrail, and cyclist deaths have occurred when vehicles passing cyclists have crushed them against it.[22] In 2007, TfL set a policy of the use of guardrail only in locations where it has been proven to be a requirement for safety, and began a programme of removing it where possible.[23] By 2010, 60 kilometres (37 mi) of the 204 kilometres (127 mi) of guardrail on the Transport for London Road Network had been removed.[24]

In 2008 Ken Livingstone announced that councils would be able to set borough-wide 20 miles per hour (32 km/h) limits without a requirement for special enforcement measures.[11] Islington and Southwark subsequently[when?] imposed borough-wide 20 mph zones, with Camden announcing plans to introduce the same system in 2012.[25] The City of London will impose a borough-wide 20 miles per hour (32 km/h) limit in July 2014.[26] Such zones are backed by cycling groups,[27] who support traffic speed restrictions for both encouraging walking and cycling and making them safer.[28]

In January 2013 Boris Johnson appointed London's first Cycling Commissioner, tasked with making it a safer and more popular mode of transport in the capital,[29] and announced that segregated cycle facilities would be built across London as part of a package of measures designed to improve cyclist safety.[30]

In June 2013 TfL announced the creation of a "Safe Streets for London" plan for new road safety measures. The plan aims to cut road deaths by 40% by 2020 via a range of measures, including redesigning "critical" major junctions and streets, installing more and upgrading existing traffic enforcement cameras, working with London boroughs to implement more 20 mph speed limit zones, modifying heavy goods vehicles with safety equipment, and offering cycle training to every school pupil in London.[31]

Statistics[edit]

The number of daily bicycle journeys in London has roughly doubled since the 1990s, from 300,000 daily journeys in 1993 to 570,000 in 2011.

Daily journeys by bicycle in Greater London[a] and cyclist fatalities and serious injuries to cyclists in Central London[c]
Year 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013
Million daily journeys 0.27 0.27 0.27 0.27 0.27 0.27 0.27 0.29 0.32 0.32 0.37 0.38 0.41 0.47 0.47 0.49 0.51 0.54 0.57 0.58
Killed 18 15 15 20 12 12 10 14 21 20 19 8 21 19 15 15 13 10 16 14 14
Seriously injured 485 480 521 571 560 595 469 399 434 387 414 332 351 373 446 430 420 457 555 657 475

A study of deaths of cyclists in London published in 2010 in the research journal BMC Public Health stated that "the biggest threat [to cyclists] remains freight vehicles, involved in more than 4 out of 10 incidents, with over half turning left at the time of the crash."[37] TfL stated in June 2013 that "Excessive or inappropriate speed was a contributory factor in nine per cent of all collisions on London’s roads in 2011, and 22 per cent of all fatal collisions."[31]

2013 deaths[edit]

Over 1,000 cyclists participated in a die-in protest outside TfL's headquarters after six cyclists died in a fortnight.
The Space for Cycling campaign's Big Ride approaching the Houses of Parliament.

In November 2013, six cyclists were killed on London streets within a two-week period, bringing the number of cyclists killed in London in the year to 14, nine of which involved a heavy goods vehicle (HGV).[38] In response, the Metropolitan Police announced an initiative called Operation Safeway, in which 2,500 traffic police were stationed at major junctions throughout the city to issue fixed penalty notices to road users breaking road traffic laws and offer advice to vulnerable road users.[38] Following the deaths, Boris Johnson stated in an interview on BBC Radio that cyclists were endangering their lives when not following road traffic laws, making it "very difficult for the traffic engineers to second-guess [their actions]". The comments were immediately condemned as "deflecting blame onto cyclists [and] grossly insensitive" by Roger Geffen, campaigns and policy director of the Cyclists' Touring Club, and as "dodging responsibility" and "an insult to the dead and injured" by Darren Johnson, the Green Party member of the London Assembly.[39] Former Olympic cyclist Chris Boardman, policy director for British Cycling, the national governing body for cycle racing in Great Britain, called on Johnson to ban HGVs from some London roads during peak hours, saying that Johnson had made a verbal promise to him "to look at the successful experiences of Paris and many other cities in restricting the movements of heavy vehicles during peak hours". Johnson stated in a radio interview that he was unconvinced by the idea, but was however considering banning cyclists from wearing headphones while riding.[2] However, the traffic division of the Metropolitan Police were unable to identify any serious cycling incidents in which headphone use could be identified as a contributing factor.[40]

Two weeks after the sixth death, a protest campaign organised via social media held a die-in - modelled on the Dutch "Stop de Kindermoord" pro-cycling demonstrations of the 1970s — outside the headquarters of TfL, in which over 1,000 cyclists lay silently in the road and held a vigil for cyclists and pedestrians killed by road traffic.[41]

A BBC poll taken in December 2013 found that one fifth of regular cycle commuters had stopped cycling to work as a result of the recent spate of deaths. A fifth of the survey respondents had also been involved in a collision, and 68% believed that London's roads were not safe to cycle on.[2]

Regular events[edit]

London Freewheel 2008
  • Mayor of London's Sky Ride: an annual event launched as London Freewheel in September 2007, for which certain roads in central London are closed to motor vehicles for several hours on a Sunday. On 10 August 2012 it was announced that the 2013 Skyride would be re-branded as 'RideLondon', a two-day 'World-class festival of cycling'.[42] The event will incorporate an 8-mile 'Freecycle' event, 'Aimed at cyclists of all ages and abilities' on closed roads, as well as a 100-mile ride and a 'Grand Prix' event for professional cyclists.
  • Critical Mass, which leaves the National Film Theatre on the South Bank around 7.00pm on the last Friday of each month

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b Daily journey figures from Transport for London.[32][33]
  2. ^ a b c d See Transport for London's website[20] for full details.
  3. ^ Fatality and serious injury figures from Transport for London.[34] Transport for London uses[35] the Department for Transport's definition of "seriously injured", which is one or more of the following: broken neck or back; severe head injury, unconscious; severe chest injury, any difficulty breathing; internal injuries; multiple severe injuries, unconscious; loss of arm or leg (or part); other chest injury, not bruising; deep penetrating wound; fracture; deep cuts/lacerations; other head injury; crushing; burns (excluding friction burns); concussion; severe general shock requiring hospital treatment; detention in hospital as an in-patient, either immediately or later; injuries to casualties who die 30 or more days after the accident from injuries sustained in that accident.[36]

References[edit]

Citations[edit]

News[edit]

Reports and data[edit]

Announcements[edit]

Other[edit]

External links[edit]

General information on London cycling:

Organisations:

Safety information:

History:

  • Cycling for London (on YouTube; 24 minutes), a film produced by the Greater London Council in 1984 to show improvements made by their Cycling Unit to cycling facilities in London