Guardian enters media debate about cycle lanes and congestion

12.00 | 6 October 2016 | | 7 comments

The Guardian is the latest national paper to enter the debate about cycle lanes and congestion – taking a very different view to those expressed yesterday (5 Oct) in the Daily Mail and Evening Standard.

While articles in the Daily Mail and Evening Standard claim specialist lanes for cyclists are having an adverse effect on traffic flow and congestion, the Guardian has decribed the Daily Mail piece as ‘ill-informed’ and an ‘example of post-truth journalism’.

The Evening Standard covers a report by the City of London Corporation which concludes that traffic in the Square Mile is being made worse as a result of Cycle Superhighways.

First announced in 2008, Cycle Superhighways are routes running from outer London into central London and are designed to give cyclists ‘safer, faster and more direct journeys into the city’.

The report, due to be heard by the City’s police and resources committee today (6 October), says there are extra “pockets of congestion” linked to road space lost to cycle lanes.

It says the Superhighways, installed to protect cyclists, result in less space to re-route traffic when problems arise, such as street closures for construction sites and emergency roadworks.

In a separate article, the Daily Mail has described introduction of cycle lanes across the country as ‘lunacy’.

Written by Tom Rawstorne, the report says that ‘from Cambridge to Cornwall, lanes are being marked off for bicycles, and residential streets are being turned into rat runs by desperate motorists looking for a way past the jams’.

The reporter adds that motorists are seeing ‘gridlocked streets bordered by cycle lanes that seem virtually empty outside the rush-hour’.

Focussing on the Embankment in London, Rawstorne says ‘where once it could hold four lanes of traffic, a quarter of the road has now been given over to a dedicated two-way cycle lanes’, adding that traffic has been ‘brought to a virtual standstill’.

The Daily Mail points to statistics which show that average vehicle speeds in Central London have fallen to 7.4mph, slower than a horse-drawn carriage in the 18th century.

However, Peter Walker, in a ‘bike blog’ on the Guardian website describes the Daily Mail piece as an "almost entirely evidence-free, anecdote-based article".

The Guardian article says: "Let’s begin with the idea that London’s bike lanes are useless as they are only used at rush hours.

"They are certainly popular. Both the new so-called cycle superhighway routes have seen cyclist numbers shoot up by 60% since they were built, according to Transport for London figures. On one section, by Blackfriars Bridge, bikes make up 70% of peak-time traffic.

"Yes, at other times the traffic is thinner, though I can’t remember ever being alone on the lanes at any hour. But then, many residential pavements near me are barely used outside certain times. Perhaps the Mail thinks they could be turned over to cars, too."

Photo via DfT



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    To Guzzi in Newport:
    Agree completely!

    If you see this, could you get in touch with myself or my colleague Duncan Dollimore at Cycling UK?

    It’s about this story:

    Duncan’s email is, my contact details are below. Hope to hear from you.

    Roger Geffen
    Policy Director
    Cycling UK
    01483 238322

    Roger Geffen, Cycling UK
    Agree (0) | Disagree (0)

    More cycle routes should be built direct and off-road (Dutch style?) and be shared with others such as mobility scooter users who also want smoother surfaces and dropped kerbs to travel on. There are many atrocious examples of on-road cycle routes. Build cycle routes well or don’t build them at all.

    Guzzi, Newport
    Agree (0) | Disagree (0)

    London Bus number up by 1000 in 2 years, (yet patronage falling by 24% along with average journey speeds by a similar margin. Dumping Bendybuses, with no objective justification, more than doubled the number of buses required to deliver services on these routes (eg one route from 37 to 87 buses taking up 50% more road space, and taking longer to cover the routes because they were slower to load).

    New hire car licences per month increasing by 600 vehicles.

    Courier van deliveries and freight deliveries generally unregulated – ONE address in Baker Street is getting around 200 individual van deliveries from Amazon alone – daily. Amazon refusing to work with Council to consolidate this. One light in this darkness shows the way – the New West End Company worked with Westminster Council to consolidate one shopping street’s refuse collections cutting 57 vehicle trips to just 3 for the same service.

    Back briefly to buses and the near daily wall of red on many streets, buses, moving at less than walking pace, so that passengers are getting off and walking, leaving the road filled with near empty buses and creating a sutiation where pedestrian fatalities are clustered as pedestrians try to wriggle through the ‘wall’ and cross the road – 3 of the top danger road crossings in the UK are on Oxford Street daily clogged with buses and not a cycle superhighway in sight, likewise the Strand. 4-5 serious injury bus incidents per day, at least one death per month, and add to that non injury crashes, every one blocking the flow of vehicles.

    Meanwhile if we swap the metric to the movement of people we know that 70% of the people flowing over Blackfriars Bridge are using barely 10% of the road width. We need more of this not less.

    I recall 30 years ago in Edinburgh that David Begg was battling to justify giving 2 lanes of 4 lane arterial roads over to Bus Lanes, which he won using the clear objective evidence that 50% of the people being moved along those roads at peak times were travelling on buses and 50% in cars. The bus lanes seemed empty because 80 people were being safely moved on a 10.3 metre bus, who would otherwise be in around 67 cars, taking up around 335 metres in a static queue and at least 500 metres in a slow moving line. Some places are getting the idea, and in Birmingham Jaguar Land Rover has cut demand for space on their site and congestion by ride sharing with the latest estimate on annual savings – to JLR alone, a cool £2.5m. The offer is on the table for London firms but few consider it.

    People in vitreous structures might watch where they chuck their mineral building blocks

    Dave Holladay
    Agree (0) | Disagree (0)

    I think you will find that on most city streets at any one time you will see more people moving under the power of their own feet (walking or cycling) than you will see people actually moving in cars. Try it next time you are in the street. The use of the above picture seems ironic whereby 2 cyclist can be seen on a narrow cycle lane, yet there are no cars at all on the dual lane carriageway.

    Rod King, Cheshire, 20’s Plenty for Us
    Agree (0) | Disagree (0)

    Just a thought – if flow is measured in number of people per hour rather than number of vehicles per hour has re-designation of carriageway space the potential to increase capacity? Add in less fumes then aren’t cycle lanes the way forward to get people around cities?

    Nick, Lancashire
    Agree (0) | Disagree (0)

    Groups representing motorcyclists have previously highlighted that the introduction of mandatory cycle lanes are removing space on the road for motorcycles to be safe. This and the move to introducing 3 metre wide lane width is removing the ability of powered two wheelers to overtake safely. Cycle lanes are a plus for cyclists at the expense of safety for motorcyclists and other PTWs.

    Pat, Wales
    Agree (0) | Disagree (0)

    Yes they are. But surely that was to be expected, wasn’t it? Rather a no brainer to expect anything else when you re-allocate road space from “available to all” to specific road user groups. I’d like to stop the spread of on-road cycle lanes when retrofitted to existing roads at the detriment to other users but the various governments in the UK seem to favour them.

    Pat, Wales
    Agree (0) | Disagree (0)

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