A staggering 60 percent of Barclays Cycle Hire users are new to cycling, according to a survey by Transport for London. The survey took place in September and October last year and is just one of a number of elements that all point towards the 'Boris bike' scheme having made an excellent start, despite some early hiccups.
With two million journeys already completed, usage of the now familiar blue liveried bikes is set to expand further as the scheme rolls out in new areas of the capital. Uptake will also be helped by two new Cycle Superhighways – Wandsworth to Westminster and Bow to Aldgate – that are due to open in summer 2011.
The latter would have been longer were it not for the temporary shelving of a section in Stratford due to “significant urban realm improvements” and Olympic Delivery Authority operational testing. London Cycling Campaign’s Mike Cavenett said of that situation: “This is very bad news indeed for the many thousands of people intending to travel to the 2012 Olympics by bike.”
The two Cycle Superhighways opened last year seem to have had a good start, with early results suggesting an average increase of 24 percent in cycle flows along these routes. They have, however, courted controversy, with some people feeling that they constitute cycle routes on the cheap, involving much paint but too few structural alterations. Doubters have suggested that with the creation of Superhighways, the less publicised London Cycle Network might be left to wither.
Where the London Assembly’s recent report Pedal power: the cycle hire scheme and cycle superhighways detects “great enthusiasm” for the Cycle Hire scheme, it finds far less for the Superhighways. The reports says that more than half of the users surveyed didn't feel any safer using the Superhighways than alternative routes, while two-thirds of respondents thought other road users didn't respect them. The report listed some substantial improvements users thought would help make the Superhighways more user-friendly.
Even if you can’t use a Superhighway to get to the Olympics site in Stratford, the Games are the reason for the creation of the Jubilee Greenway. This is a 35-mile cyclist and walker path linking the Olympic and Paralympic venues. There are also proposals for a cable car crossing the Thames between venues at Greenwich Peninsula and the Royal Docks. Gondolas would shuttle passengers – and their bikes – across the river every 10 seconds. A decision is due to made on this later this year, and possibly even a start on construction.
Map showing the proposed cable car route across the River Thames in London
But it’s not just the big, novel or eye-catching that could make 2011 good for cycling London. Measures to improve safety around heavy goods vehicles include new Safer London Driving training for lorry drivers. And cyclists could benefit from the new London Permit Scheme for roadworks which has started in 19 boroughs, with a further seven due to sign up this year. The London Cycling Campaign said of the scheme: “We’re asking that where roadworks create narrow lanes, there must be signs telling drivers not to overtake cyclists.”
The long-running dispute over cyclists using the riverside walkway between the Albert Embankment and the Oxo Tower looks set to rumble on, with some people wanting to promote considerate cycling and others seeking an outright ban. Meanwhile, the evaluation of shared-use paths in the Royal Parks will continue.
The Regent’s Park Broad Walk Cycle Trial ran from August 2008-January 2010 but as some results were borderline, the route has been maintained as shared-use but kept under review. Studio Walk in Kensington Gardens is being trialled as shared-use and this will continue until the end of January 2012, with the results being published the following month. The route offers an alternative to the busy Bayswater Road and Kensington Road.
Could 2011 see a unified cycle map for London? Cycle Lifestyle magazine have been running a campaign in support of a single “London Cycle Map”. They say this could be the equivalent of the London Underground Map and have a petition for it. See www.cyclelifestyle.co.uk. All in all, it’s set to be a busy year in terms of cycling developments in London. There's a momentum behind cycling that has never previously been seen in the capital.