- The Foundation’s new ‘Vital Cities’ research shows London trailing behind other world cities in cycling infrastructure
- Cycle Superhighways will not go far enough to reduce pressure on the city’s transport network
- The Foundation recommends a redistribution of the Santander Cycles bike-sharing scheme to include outer zones
- The Foundation calls for mayoral candidates to join the debate and show how they would make cycling in London a more inclusive activity for all
London is trailing behind other world cities in cycling infrastructure, according to new research from the Future Spaces Foundation, a think tank established by Make Architects.
The Foundation believes London’s Cycle Superhighways infrastructure programme will not go far enough to change the city’s cycling culture or reduce pressure on the city’s transport network. The Foundation is therefore proposing reforms to London’s Santander Cycles bike-sharing scheme to encourage debate about cycling infrastructure in the run-up to the mayoral elections. The reforms include more financial incentives to use the scheme and a redistribution of the bike fleet to areas outside of zones 1 and 2. They also support Transport for London’s recently announced goal to see 1.5 million daily bike trips by 2026 – double the current rate.
The recommendations, unveiled this week at property summit MIPIM, are based on data from the Foundation’s new Vital Cities Scorecard. The research looks at key factors that make cities thrive – for example breathability, bike and foot networks, use of data and apps – and scores 12 cities from A-F. London receives a disappointing C+ for its bike and foot network, against a best-in-class A- for Copenhagen and New York. The city scores particularly badly on cycle network density, above only Dubai, Kuala Lumpur and Mumbai.
Through its research and recommendations, the Foundation aims to make cycling in London a more inclusive activity, as opposed to one disproportionately enjoyed by one specific demographic. According to a study by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, cycling in London is currently most popular amongst affluent white men#. This is something that is reflected in England more widely; according to the latest Department for Transport statistics on cycling, cycling is still very much the preserve of white men, with 20% of men vs 10% of women having cycled in the past four weeks, and white people showing a greater proportion of people cycling for both utility and recreational purposes than any other ethnic group#. The Foundation’s recommendations highlight the need to encourage a broader demographic to start cycling, as well.
Making cycle-sharing worth it
One of the Foundation’s primary recommendations is to consider a review of how people pay to use London’s cycle-sharing scheme. This is especially relevant in light of the advent of contactless payment.
Although the Santander Cycles scheme has a relatively large fleet compared to other cities (around 8,000 bikes), London still performs badly against other similar ‘global’ cities when it comes to encouraging use of the scheme. For example, it’s currently not possible to pay with an Oyster card, and there is a hire charge of £2 – more than the price of a single bus ticket, and more expensive than the Tube for frequent Oyster card users.
Surprisingly, it is Beijing that ranks first in promoting bike-sharing schemes from the research, with lessons for London such as providing one hour’s free travel, or the inclusion of the bike-sharing scheme in the city’s strategy to encourage more commuters to take to the roads by bike.
Cycle-sharing for the ‘last mile’
Taking lessons from cities such as Copenhagen, the Foundation is calling for the Santander Cycles scheme to be extended to the outer zones of London.
Although London’s bike-sharing network is fairly dense within zone 1, zone 2 is poorly covered, and there are few stations in the outer zones. London has the smallest length of cycle network compared to the other global cities it was grouped with in the study (Hong Kong and New York), and few commuters consulted during the research considered it a viable alternative to public transport or taxis.
An extended cycle-sharing scheme would focus on areas around tube and train stations, to allow for the bikes to be used at the start and end of journeys, making them a safer, more viable option to be used as part of a multi-modal commute. This would help London increase the proportion of trips conducted by either bike or foot, which is currently rated in the Foundation’s research as a C+, with less than one-quarter of trips (23%) taken in those ways.
Ken Shuttleworth, chair of the Future Spaces Foundation and founder of Make Architects said:
“Through our research we want to open a debate about how we can make cycling safe and accessible enough that, as in other cities around the world, it is seen as an efficient and practical way of getting around the city every day for everyone. Initiatives such as the Cycle Superhighways and the ‘Mini-Hollands’ planned for local boroughs are well-intentioned, but these are not enough to encourage everybody in London to see cycling as a genuinely viable commuting option. London’s roads should be open to everyone who wants to cycle, and in this crucial election year, we are calling on the mayoral candidates to put cycling policy at the heart of their manifestos.
“By moving bike-sharing schemes to less populated areas and making them easier to pay for, we believe we can start to change the culture of cycling in London to make it more inclusive, supporting TfL’s proposals to make cycling a mode of transport that is open to all over the next decade.”
Peter Murray, chairman of New London Architecture and founder of Cycle to Cannes, said:
“As a commuting bike rider and member of the Mayor’s Design Advisory Group, I am a keen supporter of integrating walking, cycling and public transport to deliver an active travel strategy for London. Active travel is healthier, cleaner and makes better use of our streets and public spaces. I congratulate the Future Spaces Foundation on highlighting these issues and I hope the next mayor will take note of its recommendations.”
DfT Local Area Walking and Cycling Statistics, England, 2013/14