Transport for London has stridently proclaimed that 2010 will be London's 'Year of Cycling', heralding news of stepped up investment in 12 Outer London boroughs and a new round of grant funding for local schemes across the Capital.
And of course, summer will also see the introduction of London's public bike hire scheme. It's estimated this year will see £111 million invested in cycling in London.
12 outer London boroughs have been selected as 'Biking Boroughs' meaning they will receive extra support and expertise from Transport for TfL to the tune of £25,000 each - hopefully encouraging greater numbers of cyclists in their areas.
TfL says that research shows more than half of the trips in the capital that could be made by bicycle are in Outer London – a total of 2.4 million journeys a day, most of which are currently made by car.
The funds will be channeled onto tailored, local studies which to identify how cycling in each area can be developed.
TfL statistics show that cycling levels in the Outer Boroughs are markedly lower than in central London. TfL's 2007 London Transport Report says cycle to work levels in Inner London are around 4% and in Outer London around 2%.
Speaking to BikeRadar, Mike Cavenett, London Cycling Campaign's Communications Officer, stressed that the money to the Outer Boroughs wouldn't necessarily translate into cycling measures on the ground.
"The £25,000 per council is to produce a cycling strategy," he said. "There is then no onus on the Outer Boroughs to actually implement a strategy. LCC has already been lobbying the boroughs so that when the transport funds come through to local councils this money is indeed spent on cycling. Under Mayor Livingstone, money was previously ringfenced for cycling measures - this ringfencing has been partially removed under Mayor Johnson."
Promote cycling in your area
In a parallel round of investment, grants of up to £10,000 are now available for London cycling enthusiasts to promote cycling in their area.
Transport for London (TfL) is calling for applications to be submitted for the grants, which ran successfully last year, and there’s an extra boost this year, with grants of £10,000 available for particularly outstanding projects (£5,000 is the standard award).
There are two rounds of funding when applications can be submitted; the first round is open from 18 January until 5 February. There will be a second chance for those who miss this deadline to apply between 8 March and 26 March.
The fund grants are aimed particularly at infrequent or new cyclists, especially groups such as women, children and young people, ethnic groups and disabled people.
Rosie Tharp, LCC Community Cycling Officer, described some of the schemes that have been funded since LCC took it on in 2007: "Ealing Cycling campaign has been working with families - providing and fitting cycle kit such as child trailers and seats - to encourage family cycling whilst in Hammersmith similar grants have enabled specially tailored training to be provided to the elderly, many of whom haven't ridden for a long time," she told BikeRadar.
The direction of the funding efforts was clear to Rosie too. "We are trying to ensure - and I think are ensuring - that the grants lead to schemes that are long term and through their popularity exist successfully many years after the initial grant," she said. "We have numerous examples of these."
For more details on the Community Cycling Fund for London grant criteria, visit the LCC website at www.lcc.org.uk/community
Boris gets the industry together
London Mayor Boris Johnson was also doing his bit to court the cycling industry recently. At a City Hall meeting, set up as part of a 'year of cycling’ in the Capital, specialist manufacturers, world-renowned bike brands and retailers were all invited to work together on issues including encouraging new cyclists, improving cyclist safety on London’s roads and reducing bike theft.
So, will 2010 be the year of cycling in London?
Tom Bogdanowicz, LCC Campaigns Manager is quite clear: "There is every possibility this will be the year of cycling in London. Thanks to the cycle hire scheme every Londoner will have the chance to ride a bike. That is a truly radical difference to the previous situation. The challenge will be for the Outer Boroughs, where the scheme won't be implemented right now, to catch up with inner London."