Tuesday, 10 August 2010

The most expensive bikes in the world ?

Cycling in the UK is on a very small scale. Under 2% of journeys in the country as a whole are made by bike. In the capital, London, the figure is also around 2% of journeys by bike.

London's new cycle hire scheme has provided 6000 bikes across sites in Central London. It's been widely reported as something which will transform cycling in London.

But is this really likely ? Can these bikes ever become the "tipping point" needed to kickstart London cycling ?

And what's more, is it good value for money ?

Rather prematurely, the scheme has been reported in some places as an instant success based on each bike being used about once per day. Initially, the promoters of the scheme in London claimed that the bikes would each be used ten times per day, though this has never happened on any other public bike share scheme. If every one of the bikes was used ten times per day, between them they would have adequate capacity for just 0.3% of journeys in the city. If each is ridden just once per day per bike you're talking about 0.03% of journeys by bike share bike. And these numbers only really count if everyone who rides the bike share bikes wouldn't otherwise cycle. If existing cyclists use the bikes then that has a neutral effect on the modal share. Does this look like a transformation ?

A shortage of bikes was never the reason for the low cycling rate of London. In fact, it's estimated that there are over a million bicycle owners in London. The Bike Hire bikes have increased the number of bikes in London by less than 1%. The problem is not a lack of bikes, but that Londoners in the main don't cycle because conditions for cycling in London, as with the rest of the UK, are terrible when you compare them with Dutch cities. Londoners are scared to cycle, and it's quite obvious why. This problem cannot be resolved by making fractionally more bikes available. It can only be addressed by making conditions for cyclists better. Spending a bit more on London's "superhighways" for bikes might have helped, as unfortunately those have been rather underfunded (around 20 million pounds / €24M / $31M) and they have been built to a very low standard.

We've touched on money, in that the Superhighways didn't get enough of it, so how much has London spent on the bike hire scheme ? Well, it's surprising. So far, the scheme has cost 140 million pounds (€170M / $220M) to put in place. That's over 23000 pounds (€28000 / $37000) per bike. A huge figure ! Given the specification, and the quantities bought, it's quite generous to say that the bikes themselves have cost around 500 pounds. That leaves around 22500 pounds worth of "overhead" per bike (46 times the value of the bikes themselves). Some of this will be due to such things as the docking stations and IT required to make the scheme work. However, there no doubt also a lot spent on such things as publicity, consultants to advise about the scheme and people to write lots of press-releases about how wonderful it all is (the considerable press that the scheme has attracted is a result of these). If the scheme is to expand outside the currently limited area that it covers, the costs will grow considerably, and the overheads will continue along with them. Even Transport For London can't provide an estimate of the cost of future expansion.

Later figures show that the operating costs for the scheme amount to an astonishing 2500 pounds per bike per year.

I might feel differently if bike share schemes had a proven track record of success in altering the modal share - but they do not have a track record of success. As a result, I find it hard to see how this can be regarded as good value for money - especially as it has consumed such a lot of funds which could have been used to build decent infrastructure for cycling.

There are other problems yet to be addressed. In Paris, almost every bike was either stolen or vandalized within two years and had to be replaced. Is this more or less likely to be a concern in London ?

Why did London look the long distance across the Atlantic to a nation where very few journeys are made by bike (the bike hire system comes from Canada, where 2% of journeys are by bike, just like in London) for inspiration about how to improve the cycling rate ? Why not instead look the short distance across the North Sea to the most successful example of a cycling nation here in the Netherlands ?

How much money is that?
Somehow people don't seem to realise how ludicrous the amount of money spent on London's bike share. Let's work it out as a number of other bikes that could have been bought and simply given away for the same money:

At retail prices, not asking for any discount at all, London's £140 million could have bought and given away 250 Pashleys every day, for a year, plus an additional 160 Bromptons every day for a year plus an additional 100 Bakfietsen every day for a whole year.

In total that would make another 190000 bikes on London's streets over the year of the giveaway. Nice ones, too, from good manufacturers. We're not skimping on quality with our hypothetical give-away.

That might sound like an impressive number, but it's less than a fifth of the number which people in London already own and don't use because they are scared to cycle on the streets. That's why it's the roads which need to be changed not the supply of bicycles increased.

This is one of the inexpensive bikes
referred to on the left. It has all
the essential features of a reliable
everyday bicycle
But those are really nice bikes. What about if we economise a little ? At the time of writing in the Netherlands, the very cheapest traditional bikes with mudguards and chainguard, of lower quality but similar in appearance to the Pashley in the photo above cost about €110 retail. That's about £70. The wholesale price is presumably somewhat lower, but if London had spent its £140M on these bikes at retail price it could have bought no fewer than 2 million bicycles to give away.

The bike shops wouldn't like the city to give them away, but the city could have worked with local bicycle shops, giving away vouchers for these bikes, perhaps also vouchers for servicing after six months or a year. It would surely have been better for London to support local businesses than a multinational from Canada.

It's fair to ask whether the free bicycles would find themselves unused in a shed, but each only has to be ridden an average of twice to beat the value for money of the bike share system in terms of rides per pound.


Central London is an ill-defined area with a population of around 1.5 million people, which rises considerably in daytime due to incoming workers. The total population for the city is around 8 million. If you're feeling charitable you can multiple the 0.3% maximum effect of London's bikes by 4 to get a little over 1% in just a part of the city. But this really is extremely optimistic. You have to believe that all the bikes work, that all are used ten times per day even though that's not happened yet in any bike share scheme (at a later date we found out that they were used only a quarter so often), and that all the users are people who wouldn't otherwise ride their own bikes.

29 comments:

Simon said...

Boris is a magpie. He's borrowed the Bike Scheme idea from paris (although the implementation may well have come from elsewhere) and the cyclesuperhighway idea from Denmark (although the Danish do these things propetly, not in the half-assed English way.) He doesn't have a coherent view about transport or anything else, so he just splutters wasting money on vanity schemes. Bring back Ken I say.

arh14 said...

I agree with you on some points. The scheme will not substantially increase modal share. Such money could have been spent on building proper segregrated infrastructure.

However, the scheme is valuable and worthy of support. Here's why.

No politician will ever build the necessary segregrated infrastructure as it stands. It's too expensive and caters to too small a minority. It's not a vote winner. With no support from the Department of Transport either, this is another sad example of political myopia.

It's sad but it's true. If the infrastructure were there, then people would cycle more. It's a chicken versus egg problem. But Britain is not the Netherlands. It is not about to reallocate funding destined to new bypasses, motorways or railways to the building of new segregated cycle routes. It just won't happen. Clearly, we either need to change politicians or we need to change attitudes.

The first is unlikely. We've now had both the cycle-friendly Ken Livingstone and the cycling Boris Johnson as Mayor of London. We've also had the cycling Lord Adonis as Transport Secretary. Little has changed.

So, to change attitudes. This is where the cycle hire scheme comes in. If we wish to increase levels of cycling, and improve the facilities provided, we need to promote it as a sensible and realistic method of tranport to everyone. We need to get more people cycling, who wouldn't normally do, to see its benefits and the problems of sharing road space. The scheme does precisely this. It encourages non-cyclists to cycle. It is a viable alternative to the overcrowded tube network or the stuck-in-traffic bus network. Theft is less of an issue. It's also cheap.

These are all realistic incentives to cycle.

It might be an expensive step but it is one, I hope, in the direction of proper separate lanes for cycling.

David Hembrow said...

Simon, there's nothing wrong with being a magpie, but you do have to make decent (and perhaps improved) copies.

I find it difficult to actually dislike him, but yes, Boris is a bit incoherent at times. I really think he missed his calling in becoming a politician. He's excellent on HIGNFY !

I must point out, btw, that NL is way ahead of Denmark on "superhighways," not to mention on safe junction design.

Kevin said...

I agree with the notion that most people in the UK are just plain scared to cycle even here in Cambridge (which is supposed to be cyclr friendly)there is a high risk of bieng swiped by the stupid busses as they overtake and then pull into the bus stop showing no care for the cyclists who have to mount the pavement to avoid bieng crushed.
Last week I was with a group of my Explorer Scouts in deepest Norfolk on a small road between cycle paths the only car we saw was going so fast and did not slow down as it approached I shouted to slow down the driver screeched to a stop then reversed to complain and not to tell him what to do. he had his two children safely strapped into their car seats in the back. So no wonder Cycling is not popular in the UK

James D. Schwartz said...

I'm with arh14 - bike sharing isn't the silver bullet to substantially increase modal share. But its presence alone on street corners all over the city will help to make cycling as an accepted mode of transportation in car-centric cities.

As badly as I want better cycling infrastructure, I still need to respect the democratic process - which is why I spend a lot of time trying to convince people that better bike infrastructure benefits everyone in a city.

But until we can convince a significant portion of voters that this is true, things won't change fast enough.

dr2chase said...

I'm worried about this here in Boston. The last thing I want to happen is a lot of money spent "for bikes" with no tangible result. Wasted money now means a harder slog for money in the future, spent on useful stuff.

There is also a saying in research labs, "good ideas come from elsewhere", and the same seems to hold for fuel price increases. In the US at least, what works best for cycling, is a spike in gas prices, but a gas tax as large as our last price spike is politically unacceptable. So we wait for the next shortage, when the money flows to oil exporting nations, instead of keeping it here and doing something more useful for our own selves.

David Hembrow said...

arh14, James: I'd be behind bike share if not for three things:

1. It's been tried before and has no proven history of success.

2. The numbers show that it can never really alter modal share.

3. It's incredibly expensive.

It might simply be a nice thing to have in a city, even if not very effective, if it were not for the third of those objections: These bikes really have come at an absurd price. I've updated the blog post itself with a section at the bottom showing what other bikes could have been bought for the same money.

140 million pounds is the largest figure that has ever been spent on cycling in the UK, and they've gone and blown it on something which a lot of people seem to be getting a warm feeling about, but which can and will do nothing much except fill column inches.

arh14 said...

David, I appreciate what you're saying. I am also inclined to agree with you on its effect on modal share. The figures too were perhaps exaggerated. (Though, given our media's hostile attitude to cyclists, frankly I'm not surprised). The only real way we can transform our modal share is by investing significant amounts in infrastructure.

But here's the rub, as it stands right now, £140m would never have been spent on cycling infrastructure. It's stupid, illogical and annoying but that's the truth. We don't yet spend anything significant, relying instead on the charitable efforts of Sustrans. You do remember quite how backwards most of our transport policies are, do you?! £140m simply won't happen, so any argument this money should have been spent elsewhere, seems to me sadly irrelevant.

The scheme therefore seems to me an intermediary step.

It also seems a shame to criticise it outright, before it's even been established. It only reinforces the opinion that cyclists are just moaners and whingers...

As for the figures, £140m is a lot, especially from your cycling advocacy point of view. It would indeed buy a lot of Pashleys! But how about looking at it from Transport for London's point of view? I think TfL's overall budget is just over £9bn. I read somewhere that your £140m would have bought just 8 tube carriages. Because the tube is reaching capacity, it's likely one of TfL's real motivations for the scheme is to get people off the tube and on to something else. £140m would not have bought any other type of public transport network for central London. That that network involves cycling has to be good news for cyclists in London.

And if you think I'm just some TfL insider, I'm not! The cycling 'superhighways' are not very 'super' at all!

dexey said...

I'm with arh14 on this. His is the best explanation that I have seen of why this scheme is the best London will get.
Personally, I live several hundred miles West of London and enjoy my cycling in the Welsh borders as it is. What goes on in London is of minor concern to me.
Most aspects of the Dutch cycling infrastructure would be wonderful here but they are not going to happen, imo, so i make the best of what I have.
I look in daily on your blog and enjoy it most when you tell us what is happening in The Netherlands.

Anonymous said...

Here in the Denver, Colorado USA metro area, there are over 200 miles of off-street multiuse (walk/bike/[equestrian in some suburban areas])paths. Over time these paths are being connected to form a metro-wide network. Much of the funding for this originates in a state-sponsored lottery. If funding is a problem, a game of chance can be a solution.

herb said...

Isn't playing with stats fun?

If you say central London is 1.5 million and Greater London is 8 million then that's a factor of 5.3 give or take. So multiply that by .3 to get 1.6% of trips, which for transportation planners is a large increase - probably over 100% increase.

The 140 million pounds you quote is *over 5 years* so divide your numbers by 5. So that's 4600 pounds per bike, but even that's unimportant. First off, if the system is mostly self-sustaining it really isn't a subsidy - the users will pay and get good value for it, so no concern of yours. And even if it's not self-sustaining then it may still be cheaper than subsidizing other trips by transit or car. For officials that's the real draw, how can they save money in the long-run by shifting people from other modes.

An increase of even 1% can make a big difference in a city where rates are already really low:
http://bike-sharing.blogspot.com/2009/09/cycle-mode-share.html.

The greater perception change is well-worth the investment as well: more bikes on the streets = more occasional users = more people sensitive to the needs of cyclists = more political power for cyclists.

David Hembrow said...

Herb, I already did your first calculation at the very bottom of the blog post. This is absolutely the most optimistic spin you can possibly put on the figures, assuming that all the bikes work all the time, that all of them are used ten times per day every day and that none of the users would otherwise have brought their own bikes. These things have never happened on any bike share system anywhere. 1.6% is simply not attainable, even in this limited area of the city.

Your link points to a blog which writes cheerfully rose-tinted words about all and any bike share schemes. They even wrote in that way about Melbourne just after it started, where they say that "Early reports on the first full day of operation state that Melbourne Bike Share is a real hit with tourists.". In reality, "Fewer than 70 trips are being made a day on Melbourne's 600-bike system".

Melbourne sadly has done worst than most, but there is always a huge gap between expectations and results with these things. There has to be, because the numbers simply don't work out in the way that the advocates suggest that they do.

Many people prefer to believe in instant "success" while not looking at any bothersome figures which might stand in the way of their enthusiasm.

Dividing the cost per bike by five only makes sense if they're buying 6000 bikes per year. They're not. 6000 is the total number. 23000 per bike is accurate. Congratulations on making 4600 pounds per bike sound like a small amount, though.

Even though the usage charges in London are rather expensive by the standards of other schemes, the system is still not nearly expensive enough to pay for itself through usage fees. Do the sums.

And then you're back on the usual vague "perception" stuff. This doesn't change modal share. Only getting people riding bikes, in significantly larger numbers than bike share can provide, can change modal share.

Severin said...

Well I love all Hembrow posts, but especially the Netherlands specific ones. But these myth busters are really cool for arguing in favor of infrastructure too. It's all wonderful!

Anyway, I had never really considered the cost of bike-share but generally seen it as a positive thing. They're bringing it to Long Beach (closest to LA). They're focusing on downtown and a college campus which seems like good targets for me, especially since the downtown is going to receive separated bike lanes!

Ian Ringrose said...

Another way to think about this:

The tube network is running out of seats in central London.

New tube trains are expensive and need new signalling systems to fit more trains on the line.

A lot of tube stations are at capacity and need expensive upgrades.

A lot of people change tubes and then end their journey with a 1 or 2 stop trip on a different line in central London. The tube stations people change are the most crowned.

The worse time to use the tube is on Hot Summary days.

The bike hire scheme may get people of the tube for a lot less cost than upgrading the tube system. The users are also likely to end their long tube leg at a less used station.

I think we need to think of this more as an extension to the tube/train network rather then cycling promoting.

It will be a few years before anyone know if it is working well. If it works well and is expanded 10 fold it will transform transport in central London, I think the cost is worth it given the possible benefits.

Chris Jones said...

I'm not with arh14 or schwartz on this one.

I think we can all agree that the scheme, when considered on its own merit, will not substantially increase modal share.

So, what are we left with? It seems to me that the scheme can be best described as a very slick marketing ploy, at best up'ing the profile of cycling (although, I think Barclays maybe benefiting more than cycling, but that's a topic for another day!).

So, the question then becomes: is marketing the best way to improve modal share? There is no evidence to suggest it does! In general, people avoid choosing to cycle because cycling is perceived to be risky, or riskier than other modes - no amount of marketing/advertising will change that perception. Just go for a ride in the UK - can you honestly say it's not stressful?

What's my point? It maybe unpalatable, politically, to lobby for proper segregated infrastructure in the UK - but lobbying for anything else, or saying something is wonderful, when actually we know it's not, is truly a waste of time (and money) in the modal share stakes.

Every cycling organisation in the UK avoids lobbying for segregated cycling infrastructure (infrastructure along Dutch lines). This is a strategic blunder, and will result in very poor modal share for decades to come.

Don't get me wrong - I love Skyrides, the bike hire scheme, biking breakfasts, and the many other activities that cycling organisations in the UK help bring about and support - but, they are completely irrelevant when it comes to modal share. Modal share is the only statistic worth talking about in campaigning terms.

dexey said...

Chris Jones said, "Just go for a ride in the UK - can you honestly say it's not stressful?"

It is but it isn't my first consideration when deciding on a cycle trip and doesn't stop me riding. I found cycling around Spezi stressful; I couldn't get used to motorists offering me the right of way as I came, on cyclepaths, to roundabouts.
I'd bet there are stresses cycling where the infrastructure is perfect and I don't suppose it is accident free.

David Hembrow said...

Dexey: I've lived in both places. I can tell you without a shadow of a doubt that it's a hell of a lot less stressful to cycle here than in the UK. It's also a lot less stressful to watch your children go out and ride to school or to their friends unaccompanied than it is in the UK.

This stress may not be much of a consideration to you. It wasn't to me either. We're both part of that tiny percentage of people who found cycling in the UK to be OK for us. However, not everyone finds the level of stress acceptable, and not everyone who cycles themselves is happy to put up with their loved ones putting up with it.

That is the essense of the problem of inadequate subjective safety, and how it is reflected in the cycling rate of different places.

It took me months to get used to the idea that drivers would give way to me. Not once in three years have I been shouted at or threatened here. I sadly can't say I had the same experience when I lived in the UK.

BTW, the cycle paths around Germersheim were not actually very good compared with what I'm used to. German cycle paths simply don't compare at all well with Dutch ones.

David Hembrow said...

Ian: I was with you for a while on the idea of tube passengers using the bikes until I looked up the number of tube journeys per day. Sometimes over four million journeys are made on the tube in one day.

The bike hire scheme has a maximum capacity, if we believe the original estimate of ten trips per bike per day which even the advocates seem to have stopped using now, of just 60000 trips per day. This rather over-enthusiastic exaggeration of what the bike hire system is capable of yields a maximum capacity of the bike hire system which adds up to only 1.5% of the 4 million tube trips which can be made in a day...

christhebull said...

The Boris Bikes aren't the most expensive bicycles in the world , but they are a lot of money.

I certainly saw a few in use when in London today, with predictable usage patterns [hire points around the South Bank / Waterloo were nearly empty at 10:45 when I arrived in London, but full up, with cyclists waiting for a rack, at 6 pm].

Nothing much will change, however, until TfL sort out the convoluted mess that is London's road network, with its restrictions and gyratories, banned turns and one way streets.

dexey said...

Hi David

I am perfectly happy to concede that cycling in The Netherlands is a more pleasant experience than cycling here.
There isn't, afaik, any UK national organisation pushing for a cycling specific infrastructure between towns and cities that would be of use, and interest, to me. Sustrans takes me by meandering routes, that can be nice rather than quick, and often dumps me in sink estates or on gated paths. I can plot better B road routes for myself. The CTC seems to be trying to be all things to all cyclists and the T for touring has become very understated. The insurance cover is still very useful though.

Although I think that things in the UK are unlikely to change very much in what remains of my lifetime, I don't want to live anywhere else so I get on with what I have.

arh14 said...

I suspect I might count as an advocate.

I'm also happy to concede something. I didn't look at the figures beforehand. In fact, I've only recently become interested in cycling issues. I've no idea if they were exaggerated. I've not studied them closely, only having looked at the figures on David's site here. What he says is persuasive and I believe him. As I said before, I wouldn't be surprised if they were massaged. The media tend to see cycling and cyclists, at best, as curiosities, and at worst, lycra lout scum. (With a few notable exceptions on the sideline). I therefore firmly believe establishing something on this scale, involving cycling, should be applauded. Likewise the interest, this scheme has generated.

I am still agree we will only see a true transformation in modal share if we transform our infrastructure. But we are only going to see this once the attitudes of the general public change. These attitudes incorporate the general hostility mentioned above and the belief that cycling is for 'fun', not for transport.

Well-meaning efforts by the various cycling campaign groups to transform these attitudes have so far failed. It seems our next best bet is to get more people in the saddle and to see cycling first-hand. Some will be put off, for sure. But others won't and hopefully, like me, they'll start to call for better infrastructure. Cycling is addictive and it makes sense.

Yep, I make no apologies that this is all airy-fairy uncountable attitude stuff, that "perception" thing again but that's the way it works. We have to work with what we've got.

To finish, let's make one controversial point that might needlessly provoke further debate! If human behaviour were completely rational, and it analysed risk logically, wouldn't central London's modal share already be radically different? It's normally accepted that the benefits of cycling vastly outweigh the disadvantages.

Perception is therefore important. Segregrated infrastructure makes cycling safer, it's also perceived to be safer, but before we can achieve that, we need to normalise cycling. Something this scheme will hopefully do, even if it's expensive.

Green Idea Factory said...

Hi.

1 - Does anyone have any informed guesses or better about why this system costs so much? Just one recent example in Hawaii seems like it might be expensive per bike as it is only starting with 14 bikes, but still it's only about USD 7,000 (less than 20% of the Barclays Bikes) or even less if the contracted amount allows for more bikes for the same investment.

2 - It's about infrastructure... and slowing things down a lot, and removing a lot of private vehicles if not all of them eventually. Separated infrastructure should mostly be about protecting children from emergency vehicles on the main routes they use -- EVERY other vehicle can go 20 mph, which means it can stop very quickly if necessary, but also children can learn to ride straight given the proper attention and investment. Roads with separated infrastructure should always allow cyclists to use any part of it, and make "vehicular" or "Copenhagen" turns.

3 - For OPENbike, our winning concept for Copenhagen's next bike share system, the primary target user has their own bike, and of course the city has relatively great infrastructure. So our idea is to make the bike equal or better to an owned bike in terms of functionality, to make one always available for the "last mile" (e.g. with remote reservation) or to fill any gap where one might want a bike. So, it will at least support the current high amount of cycling, whilst also giving tourists and visitors something good to ride. ("Modal share" is an oversimplification of real mobility patterns such as bike + collective PT + bike trips, and can show extremely ridiculous numbers, e.g. when collective PT gets expensive and shopping centres put local shops out of business, there is not really a choice to do anything but ride for carfree people. I prefer not to use this easy-to-abuse measurement).

David Hembrow said...

Green Idea Factory: I really don't know why London's system is so expensive. As you point out, it's a lot more expensive per bike than some other bike share schemes.

But please leave the Copenhagen hype for other posts. Copenhagen does not in my view have particularly great infrastructure,
and it has a lower cycling rate than Dutch cities as a result. Copenhagen turns are a ludicrous cop-out rather than build proper junctions

There are good reasons to segregate cyclists which have nothing to do with school children avoiding emergency vehicles. Allowing cyclists to make more efficient journeys is one of them.

Modal Share is a simplification where people make journeys which use more than one mode. In NL, someone who cycles to the train station or bus stop is counted as having taken the train or bus, but not cycled. It's a shame, as the number of people who cycle to the railway station is absolutely huge.

Green Idea Factory said...

@David: Thanks. I am not trying to "hype" Copenhagen, and you yourself have said that the infrastructure there is better than in most other places. Still, a new bike share programme there does not have the huge burden of creating new cyclists on its own, and rather creates new challenges about making cycling perfect (and they are looking at Dutch solutions).

When talking about "vehicular" and "Copenhagen turns" I suppose I was talking more about philosophy rather than specific implementation, i.e. that all cyclists - young and old, new or not - get what they want and also that separating cyclists from each other based on speed might be useful. I do very much like good separated paths but I learned to ride on main streets with mixed traffic, and I like the flexibility and being in the middle of the road! Perhaps liking the mixed-part of the street is hard-wired into me, but it does not mean I am a "vehicular cyclist". This is not ideal with 50km/h or higher speed traffic, so that simply means that the roads need to be slowed down (just listen for sirens). Cars need to get removed, and we need to stop creating infrastructure which enables their continued use.

Here is some background on the "Copenhagen turn" from Mikael of Copenhagenize, which appeared as a comment here:

"If bicycle infrastructure is present, bicycles aren't allowed to turn left like cars. The box turn (Copenhagen left) is the required way to do it. Nobody whines about it.

It was a decision made in the 1980's when separated infrastructure begun to return to our streets after a few decades of urban planning revolving around the car. It took a short period of adjustment before it became the norm."


If modal share is discussed at all, the mode to mention is the private automobile, and of course making it lower... by any means necessary. Every other mode is better than that one, and, e.g. talking about bike share vs. collective PT share will not make you friends in the older-skool PT world until they fully understand and agree that bikes are their biggest friends as feeders/leachers and as alternatives for shorter journeys which reduce pressure especially on buses and trams. This is most certainly the case in the Netherlands but many PT actors in especially Eastern Europe need some time with this concept.

christhebull said...

@Green Idea Factory - Emergency vehicles "can" go at more than 20mph, but I managed to catch up with an ambulance on call when riding in London because the traffic was so bad.

In terms of "efficient journeys" - London's road network is a maze of restrictions, closures, one way streets and gyratories. No idea why some just ride on the pavement instead. Some of the restrictions exempt buses, but not cycles. This is because a cyclists waiting to turn right is holding up traffic, but a bus waiting to turn right is reducing congestion. Or something.

David Hembrow said...

Greenideafactory: I can understand your wanting to ride on the road if the cycling infrastructure is such that you make better progress by doing so. However, that's not the case here. I ride faster due on cycle paths here than ever I did on the roads in the UK - and that's rather excellent.

I'm afraid that whatever excuses are made for it, I personally think that Copenhagen Left Turns are a really bad idea. It's hardly the peak of efficient cycling infrastructure design. However, if you want to disagree please carry on in the comments section of the post about them rather than here.

I disagree about only counting the number of journeys not made by car. Public transport may strive for a "green" image, but frankly it's often not nearly as "green" as it would like to be. In particular, local buses often have a very low occupancy rate, which combined with their inefficiency as vehicles and that bus journeys of necessity take passengers on a longer journey than directly the individual's A to B mean that it frequently would be more efficient, consuming less fuel and producing less CO2, for their passengers to drive cars than to take the bus. This argument can never be used against cycling, which is always more efficient than the alternatives.

In the UK, the average occupancy rate of a bus is just 9. That includes the central London, Manchester etc. buses which have much higher occupancy levels. The average occupancy in other areas on unpopular routes is staggeringly low.

Green Idea Factory said...

David: I am not making excuses for "Copenhagen Lefts" and I think that the "...nobody whines..." comment is pretty ridiculous.

For me the centre of a road is a balance or feng shui sort of thing, and it also feels like victory. More people can do it if motorized traffic gets slower and there is less of it.

Cycling is often faster and more efficient, but this also means that we are all wasting our money on the other stuff.

Last I heard, the Netherlands still has huge traffic jams everywhere, so what is the problem? Too much avoiding the real problem of cars outside of town centres and simply building more for bikes? Are trains not helping bikes enough to replace car journeys? Taxes too low for fuel?

Comparing the efficiency of cycling in general with bad examples of collective transport is unfair to the latter: You should see how high occupancy is on metros, trams and buses pretty much all day in Prague.. all that Diesel, coal and nuclear energy goes a long way ;-)

David Hembrow said...

Green Idea Factory: Viewing the centre of the road as "victory" is an ideological argument which actually has nothing to do with whether a situation has been created in which people feel safe to cycle.

Yes, of course the Netherlands has traffic jams. Whether they are "huge" or "everywhere" any more than in any other country would take some analysis. The Netherlands is certainly not particularly bad for driving in.

You say that on the most efficient of public transport schemes that "all that Diesel, coal and nuclear energy goes a long way ;-)"

Indeed. At their best they can be more efficient than the private car. However, none of diesel, coal and uranium are renewable resources. As such, all that you achieve by shifting people onto these things is a percentage difference in how long you can eek out a limited resource. It's not remotely so efficient as getting people to shift themselves by their own energy.

lagatta à montréal said...

Hello David,

I'm no great advocate of cycleshare schemes, but they have done quite a bit in increasing the profile of the bicycle in Paris and here in Montréal (not in some ill-defined "Canada"). I always use my trusty old Raleigh sprite mixte and have not even tried out a Bixi. But the scheme has encouraged many people to commute, which they feared to do in large part due to the fear of theft. (I think secured bicycle parking would have been cheaper and more effective).

It is pointless to compare Montréal, an old and dense city by North American standards, with sparsely populated "Canada" as a whole. Sure we are a long way from the Netherlands, but we have made admirable progress in developing cycling and cycling style - people cycling dressed as normal human beings far more often than as lycra louts.

Once again, I'm not a great fan of such schemes, but do think they can play a role in promoting and mainstreaming cycling.