Friday, June 27, 2008

Is Britain really getting on its bike?

Image of bicyclist in London
From The Independent (UK), 06.27.08:

The Big Question: Is Britain really getting on its bike and turning into a nation of cyclists?
Why are we asking this now?

Because cycling's time has come--or so it seems from a flurry of initiatives sweeping the country as politicians and planners wake up to what is increasingly seen as the transport of the future.

Gordon Brown has now adopted the cause, yesterday pledging his support for a festival of cycling in Newham in east London next year--the latest in a number of big cycling events associated with the capital, all of which reinforce the message that the activity has a central role to play in people's lives. "The place of cycling in our society is set to grow, and I am committed to doing everything possible to encourage that," the Prime Minister said.

And are people really taking to their bikes?

The picture is somewhat mixed. They certainly are in London, where a combination of circumstances has led to an astonishing 91 per cent increase in the amount of cycling since 2000. There was surge in uptake following the terrorist attacks of 7 July 2005, but the trend was already upward, a response to the increasing congestion of London's streets, the discomfort and unpredictable journey times on public transport, and the realisation that cycling was both the healthy and environmentally responsible option. A steady if not dramatic improvement in cycling infrastructure in the capital has also encouraged people on to two wheels.

Nationally, the situation is rather different. The latest figures from the Department for Transport show that the overall number of cycle trips has fallen slightly, down from an average of 17 trips per person in 2000 to 16 in 2006. The average cyclist made six trips a week by bicycle in 2006, spending just under two hours in the saddle and covering 14 miles. But within this rather static overall picture, there are clear signs that where towns make a big effort to encourage cycling, the public will respond. (Read more.)
Inspiring article from "across the pond," detailing the national conversation underway in the U.K. on bicycling. It indicates the low mode share for bicycling presently, far below the rates seen in other European countries, such as the Netherlands and Denmark. And details many recent innovations, such as those initiated in London and the development of "demonstration towns" where transport policy is shifted to encourage bicycling.

Imagine if the President of the U.S. spoke so enthusiastically about bicycling for transportation. There are hints that one candidate might be receptive to shifting transportation policies toward bikes. I have no hope the present administration intends anything other than continued oil dependence.

Image: Web capture.
Visit: Massive rise in London cyclists, Bike Commute Tips Blog
Visit: Times of London acknowledges "the stick", Bike Commute Tips Blog
Visit: Get on your bikes, the green Prince of Wales tells staff, Bike Commute Tips Blog
Visit: Paul Dorn's Bike Commuting Tips Site

1 comment:

jon said...

The car still rules over here; politicians spout mainly hot air when it comes to cycling (as with everything else). One must ride ultra-defensively in Britain at all times.

It amuses me that Americans are protesting about $4 a gallon gas prices. Over here we are paying $10+ a gallon (though our measure is slightly larger). Diesel is $12 a gallon. 75% of the price is tax.

Even so, the penny hasn't dropped yet. The owner of my local bike store (where I just picked up a nice new Giant CRS!) says he sees no sign of increased sales.