Cycling in London
London has experienced a cycling boom since the turn of the 21st century, with the number of journeys made by bicycle in Greater London having doubled between 2000 and 2012 to over 540,000 per day, according to the Department for Transport. The extent of the rise in popularity of cycling as a mode of transport around London varies between sources, for example Transport for London (TfL) reported a 150% increase from 2000 to 2011, and it varies between regions within the city, for example on Cheapside cycles were reported to make up over half of rush-hour traffic.
In January 2013, Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London, appointed London's first Cycling Commissioner, tasked with making it a safer and more popular mode of transport in the capital. In December 2013, TfL published a draft map of a "Central London Grid" of new cycle routes.
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.
Starting in the 1960s, Britain experienced a decline in utility cycling due to increasing wealth and affordability of motor vehicles and the favouring of vehicular traffic by planners. Cycling's comeback began in the 1970s when cycling advocates gained more concessions for cyclists and voiced ecological and social concerns about car use.
In 2007 there were more than 500,000 cycle journeys each day in the capital - a 91 per cent increase compared to 2000 - even though 2007 was England's wettest summer since 1912.
Former Mayor of London Ken Livingstone 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.
In 2011 around 2.5 per cent of all commutes to work in London were by bike, though this jumps to 9% for Hackney. This compares to other cities in the United Kingdom such as Cardiff (4.3 per cent), York (18 per cent) and Cambridge (28 per cent of commutes) and to cities on the continent such as Berlin (13 per cent), Munich (15 per cent), Copenhagen (23 per cent of all journeys / 36 per cent of commutes), Amsterdam (37 per cent of all journeys) and Groningen (57 per cent of all journeys).
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. 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 Transport for London 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. 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. 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. 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 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 January 2013 Johnson appointed Andrew Gilligan as the city's Cycling Commissioner. In March 2013 Gilligan, together with Johnson, launched "The Mayor's Vision for Cycling in London", a statement which included plans for 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, 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. 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.
In recent years[when?] Islington and Southwark have imposed borough-wide 20 mph zones, with Camden announcing plans to introduce the same system in 2012 and the City of London going 20 MPH in 2013. Such zones are backed by cyclng groups, who support traffic speed restrictions for both encouraging walking and cycling and making them safer.
London's main roads often have heavy, fast-moving traffic, although there have been efforts made by politicians for 20 miles per hour (32 km/h) maximum speed limits across the city. Many roads in London are lined with guard rail, and cyclist deaths have occurred when vehicles passing cyclists have crushed them against it.
Cycle lanes and paths
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.
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 code of conduct for riding on London's towpaths.
On public transport
Full-size bicycles are prohibited on all London Underground and most National Rail lines during morning and evening rush hour, but are otherwise permitted on the London Underground system except where the trains run in "deep level" tunnels ("tubes"). Bicycles are generally permitted on National Rail services and at off-peak times on the London Overground and the Docklands Light Railway (except at Bank). Folding bicycles, fully folded, can be carried on any public transport service; they are allowed on buses at the driver's discretion.
A study of deaths of cyclists in London published in 2010 stated that "the biggest threat remains freight vehicles, involved in more than 4 out of 10 incidents, with over half turning left at the time of the crash." The London Cycling Campaign and others strongly recommend that cyclists should never undertake a lorry, especially in front of red lights.
Between 1986 and 2011, 439 cyclists were killed in traffic accidents in Greater London. The annual number of deaths varies considerably, for example, in 2004 8 cyclists died whilst one year later the number rose to 21. The worst year was 1989 with 33 fatalities. According to Andrei Morgan et al. (2010) "the number of cyclists killed in London remains small, meaning that even if trends were present, they may not have been detected."
The absolute number of deaths can be compared to the number of cycles on the road. The absolute number of bike journeys in London has roughly doubled since the 1990s, from 300,000 daily journeys in 1993 to 500,000 in 2007.
Andrei Morgan et al. (2010) estimate a "death rate per 100,000 cyclists per kilometre per year". This number came down significantly in recent years: In 2006 it was 11.1, while the average between 1992 and 1999 was 15.5. Morgan et al. estimate that this figure declined by 2.7% per year.
Figures released by Transport for London in June 2013 showed that while the number of cyclists killed in 2012 had fallen by 13% from 2012 levels (from 16 to 14 deaths), the number of cyclists seriously injured was 1,054, a rise of 17%. Boris Johnson stated that the rise in injury rate was greater than the rise in the rate of cycling, and described the figures as "troubling".
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). 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. 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. 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. 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.
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 Transport for London, in which over 1,000 cyclists lay silently in the road and held a vigil for cyclists and pedestrians killed by road traffic.
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.
Growth and effects
The number cycling in London has grown in recent years. For example, the introduction of two new "cycle superhighways" led to an increase of cycling numbers on those routes by 70% overall (one of the two routes actually doubled in numbers) within one year to 2010.
Growth is assisted by governmental encouragement of cycling and the construction of improvements to enable safe and efficient cycling. Other conditions are:
- Bicycle advocacy
- cost of public transport and running private cars, including the London congestion charge and petrol price increases.
- safer roads for cyclists, this includes allowing cycling in bus lanes, 20 miles per hour (32 km/h) default limits, and redesign of roads to make cycling safer.
- better support facilities, including parking spaces
- better bicycles and gear, including waterproof bags and panniers, better lighting
- concern over terrorism on public transport networks since the 2005 bombings
In 2009 London estate agents reported that close-by bike paths and on-site bike parking facilities were influencing the decisions of prospective property buyers and tenants.
- 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'. 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. The 8-mile event on closed, flat London roads no longer requires helmets to be worn since Andrew Gilligan intervened.
- Critical Mass, which leaves the National Film Theatre on the South Bank around 7.00pm on the last Friday of each month
- World Naked Bike Ride, held annually in 70 cities in 20 countries, including London every June since 2004,
- Bike Week, an annual UK celebration of cycling with many local events in June
- London to Brighton ride for charity each summer; about 30,000 cyclists take part
- London to Paris rides for various charities
- Dunwich Dynamo, annual midsummer overnight ride to Suffolk since 1993
- London Cycling Awards: the London Cycling Campaign celebrates some of the best improvements for cyclists each year with the London Cycling Awards. 2008 winners included cycle parking at Frampton Park Estate in Hackney and at Shadwell DLR station; Kingston Council and Metropolitan Police for the Recycling Bikes Back Into The Community scheme; Newham University Hospital NHS Trust for the Well at Work project; STA Bikes and Hackney Council for Family Cycle Clubs; and Jenny Jones for services to cycling.
- The Tweed Run, an annual ride inaugurated in 2009 where the participants recreate the early years of British cycling by wearing tweed and other period clothing and by riding vintage bicycles.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Cycling in London.|
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