The Scoop

How fares Boris Johnson's cycling revolution?

Adam Bienkov | Thursday 7 March, 2013 14:16

There’s been lots of excitement from cyclists today about Boris Johnson’s new “cycling vision” proposals.

There’s certainly some good stuff in there.

New tube-style maps for cycle routes, contactless payments for the cycle hire scheme and a segregated cycle lane on the Victoria Embankment are all sensible ideas

But I do wonder why it’s taken Boris five years to get started with any of this.

TfL first briefed the embankment cycle lane idea to journalists five years ago.

And problems with the payment mechanism for the cycle hire scheme were raised with, and dismissed by Boris before it even launched.

You also have to question his ability to actually deliver any of this.

Over the past five years we’ve had countless ‘revolutions’ promised by Boris, only for little or nothing to happen afterwards.

I remember there being similar excitement about Boris’s ‘river travel revolution.’

Four years later and the number of commuters using the Thames has actually gone down.

Today’s cycling proposals look promising, but so did his earlier ‘revolutionary’ proposals for cycle superhighways and the cycle hire scheme.

So what difference have these schemes made?

The cycle hire scheme has been a success, but TfL’s own studies show that it is used mostly by a small and wealthy group of city workers.

It hasn’t led to a wider cycling revolution in the city.

In fact in 2007, 1.75% of all ‘journey stages’ in London were made by bike.

Four years later that figure had risen to just 2%.

To be fair that’s around a 14% increase in cycling. But while that’s not bad, it’s certainly not a revolution.

In fact the rate of increase in cycling has actually gone down under Boris.

In the eight years of Ken Livingstone the percentage of journeys cycled went up by almost 50%.

If Boris carries on at his current rate he’ll be lucky to manage 40%.

Still it’s early days, and things do seem to be heading in the right direction.

Under Boris the percentage of people cycling is going up and the percentage of people using cars is going down.

But while things have improved in some parts of London, most of the city is still a pretty hostile place for cyclists.

For London to become like Amsterdam where 38% of journeys are cycled or even Munich where 14% of journeys are cycled would take a huge political and financial effort.

Does Boris have it in him? Do London boroughs?

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