Transport Poverty

Note: I’m really struggling to comprehend the number of comments I’m getting along the lines of “ah, well I once had to carry three hundred melons up Mount Everest, so you are wrong”.

So for the purpose of clarification: This article isn’t suggesting that every single journey made by everyone in the whole world should be made by bike. Of course buses, trains, cars and taxis all have their uses, I use them all myself.

What I’m saying is that Britain’s infrastructure over-encourages the use of buses, trains, cars and taxis and massively suppresses the use of bikes, especially for short urban journeys (which make up the vast majority of journeys that people in the UK make every day, and for which the bike would make most sense for many people).

Last week I went to an event 2.7 miles away from where I live.

My journey was entirely urban, through London’s central financial district, AKA “the City”.

There was a tube strike on, so that wasn’t an option. As a result, the buses were packed and the roads congested too. (Actually, the roads are always congested, but still.)

So I walked.

I walked past where my bike is locked up, and kept on going.

It took almost an hour.

At that time of day, the bus would have taken nearly as long – probably 45 minutes or so. But I’d have been paying for the privilege of being squashed into a crowded space for the duration.

Even if the tube had been running normally, it would have taken me 30 minutes at least, if the walking at either end was included. And again, I’d have been paying to cram into a tiny underground train with hundreds of other people.

The distance could easily be covered by bike in under 15 minutes, and yet I chose not to cycle because the conditions on the roads in this country are so awful. (As I walked along, I saw that I was right not to cycle.)

I call this Transport Poverty.

I’m not the first to use this term, but I’m going to talk about what I understand it to mean.

Choices, choices…

What are the options to British people today?

There’s public transport, which for most British people means a bus. Outside of London, buses are usually expensive (here in London it’s £1.45 for a bus journey of any length, in Leeds it’s usually £2 or £2.80 depending on distance – how does your town compare?). They can also be infrequent, especially in smaller towns or on Sundays, whereas here in the capital they are at least fairly cheap and pretty reliable.

But we’re still paying £1.45 to sit on (or stand in, or squeeze onto) a great lumbering beast of a vehicle which almost certainly doesn’t even go exactly where we want it to, and even if it does then it may not take the most direct route.

Photo of a crowded bus with steamy windows. An unhappy-looking woman looks out of the window.

Yeah, this is a great way to travel two miles. (Photo: Simon Ingram)

As Mark Treasure pointed out, a BBC News report about the tube strike showed crowds of people waiting to get on a bus whose entire route is only six miles long – and most bus passengers don’t travel from the first stop to the very last. Even if every passenger was going to the final stop, the whole journey would take only about 30 minutes by bike – and the bike takes you right to the very place you’re going, there’s no walking at the other end.

The same goes for the tube and trains. Rail travel is great over long distances, but for a huge number of shorter journeys it’s terribly inefficient.

Another down-side to public transport is that not only do you have to walk the first and last legs of your journey, but you have to wait for the bus/tram/train to arrive!

You know, now I’m describing the actions required to make a short journey by public transport, the more insane it seems.

You have a walk from where you are to the stop or station, then you have to wait for the bus/train/tram. When it does arrive it may be full to bursting, and it will stop several times at places you don’t want to go before it gets to your stop. Even then you still have to walk to your final destination.

And that’s when everything is running perfectly – when there’s some unforeseen delay it can increase the total journey time massively, and surely we’ve all missed the last train or bus at least once?

Hundreds of people cram onto an underground train

That millions of people choose to do this every day rather than cycle for half an hour, even on a perfect summer’s day, should tell you something about the conditions on the surface. (Photo: Steve Chou)

If you’re very rich then a good (almost-) door-to-door solution is a taxi, but these do cost a lot of money and are often no faster than a bus, as they have to sit in the same traffic as everyone else while you watch the meter run up your final price. It does also seem rather mad that in London we have a huge army of people driving thousands of empty cars around such a densely-packed city, looking for people who need an expensive lift somewhere.

Then we come to the private automobile – usually a car. This option is very space-inefficient as just one person can take up so much room. Wherever these vehicles are found in great numbers in urban environments, you’ll find them going nowhere fast at all. The sheer bulk of the things means that they can never be a mass urban transportation solution, as our villages, towns and cities soon fill up with them, and the freedom these vehicles supposedly represent seems bitterly ironic. Given the massive cost of owning and maintaining these vehicles, many people have to spend a good chunk of their earnings on keeping one.

A still from one of TfL's traffic-cams, showing traffic at a crossroads. One road has three lanes, the other has five. The traffic flows are blocking each other, leading to gridlock.

What London really needs is more space for bulky, polluting, dangerous vehicles. (Image via.)

I should also insert motorbikes into my list somewhere, but this is one option I don’t know much about. But while I’m sure they have their uses, and they don’t take up anywhere near as much space as a car, I’d say that they’re overkill for the vast majority of urban journeys (which are only a few miles in length). They make far more transport sense than cars in some ways, just for the space efficiency (and surely they’re more fuel-efficient, too?). I expect that, for most people, motorbikes also suffer from a poor safety image – which brings us to the humble bicycle.

The right tool for the job

For my journey today (and for a vast proportion of journeys that British people make on a daily basis) a bike would have been easily the best mode of transport. It’s certainly much cheaper than the competition (except walking), and in central London – where the cars and vans barely move at all – it would have been much faster than any other transport, too.

There’s no per-journey cost, it can take me from door to door, and it’s fast enough to make journeys across town quickly. It poses almost zero risk to other people, it doesn’t take up lots of space, and it doesn’t pump toxic fumes into the air. What’s not to love?

People using bikes for transport in Utrecht

Wow, it’s the perfect vehicle for urban journeys! What could go wrong?

But the way that Britain’s roads have been designed means that the best tool for the job is also the scariest. (And remember, they were intentionally designed that way – they’re a man-made construction, not a natural phenomenon.)

So what do millions of people do when they need to make a short journey of just a mile or two? They walk to a bus stop and wait. They flood into a tube station and wait. They sit in the traffic. Some of them even walk along the narrow footpaths and cross all those vehicle-priority minor side-streets!

Very few of them even consider using a bicycle even though it would be the fastest way of making their journey, and cheaper than everything except walking, too. But given the dreadful conditions for cycling in this country, I understand that decision completely.

Kingsland High Street in Hackney, London. A bus is stopped, and a lorry is overtaking it. A cyclist dressed in high-visibility clothing follows the lorry, and a bus follows the cyclist.

The luminous person is cycling despite the conditions here, not because of them. (This road has apparently been described as “perfect for cycling”.)

So because using the easiest, most direct, cheapest and cleanest mode of transport involves high levels of stress and fear, the vast majority of people choose to pay to sit in queues of cars belching fumes, or herd into trains and buses.

Cycling in Britain today really is that awful.

There’s a whole country outside of London

And outside of my little central London bubble, the form of transport poverty that many are locked into is that of dependence on motor vehicles.

In Leeds, where I’m from, people are locked in to car ownership, and most people feel they have no option but to drive. The buses are infrequent and expensive, and despite the acres of space available the conditions for walking and cycling are dire. I myself have felt the panic of having no car to rely on, back in what now seems like a former life. I have friends who still live there who really do feel the pain of car ownership yet feel there’s no alternative. Even for very short journeys, the car is seen as the only sensible option.

A road in Leeds which is incredibly wide. Wide enough for 8 lanes of traffic at least, even though there's only one lane each way. Most of the huge expanse of tarmac is painted with various stripes and parking areas.

Leeds could accommodate space for cycling, but it’s a matter of finding space in those narrow streets.

In any Dutch city, even in the busiest parts of The Hague, Amsterdam or Rotterdam, most people would choose a bike to make such a journey. I’ve spent a fair amount of time in that country, and I’ve covered many hundreds of miles through countryside, villages, towns and cities, without any of the stress and fear which is the norm when riding a bike in the UK.

We don’t have to live in transport poverty

If we didn’t live in a state of transport poverty, we wouldn’t even have to think twice about how to travel a mere 2.7 miles.

Dutch families on bikes on a cycle path at a junction. In the foreground we can see a teenage boy on a bike, next to him is his mother with the younger brother sat in a child seat on the back of her bike. Further away is another mother with her children in a box-bike.

This is the opposite of transport poverty. Transport affluence? Transport ease? Transport abundance? Whatever it’s called, I want it.

 

 

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30 Comments

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30 responses to “Transport Poverty

  1. Transport poverty is a very good way of describing this problem. People don’t choose to travel as they do because they like it, it’s simply the least bad option available to them. Cycling can only be made available to the majority by changing infrasructure sufficiently to make it attractive and not terrifying.

    BTW, I like the photo of the bus passengers. Have you ever seen anyone smile on a bus ? There’s a form of transport which does put smiles on faces…

    • Thanks David. Having seen what the Dutch have and knowing how quick and easy it is to travel miles and miles (or km and km) when the infrastructure for cycling is there, it pains me every time I have to get a bus or tube to travel a few miles here.

      London is a big city, but it would be a much smaller place with the right infrastructure!

  2. I agree, and believe transport poverty is a failure of the government, they ‘picked a winner’ and chose to support the motorcar at the expense of everything else. They then spent the next 80-100 years pumping money in to infrastructure designed solely for cars, this was back in the 30-50’s even when the bicycle was still highly popular they sought to eliminate it in the name of progress. The market distortion this created is still with us today and we all pay the price for it because the system is inefficient and we can’t always choose the most appropriate mode. In a completely rational market bikes would probably be used for most journeys up to 5 miles cars and buses up to 30 miles, and trains for the rest.

    • I’m sure that there’s very little cost attached to using a bicycle (and therefore, very little profit to be had) influences how the government treats it as a mode of transport. Nothing threatens big oil more than bikes!

      Once you stop thinking of the government as acting in the interests of the public, and start seeing it as the legislative arm of major corporations, everything starts to make a lot more sense.

      • Jitensha Oni

        I’m not sure about that since the Dutch are hardly oil-free. Indeed the other famous inhabitant of Assen is NAM.

        http://www.nam.nl/nl/contact.html

        And the Germans are considerably more bike-friendly than the UK even with their massive car firms. Very good post though which nicely answers Dave Warnock’s blog question “How do people manage without bikes”.

        http://42bikes.warnock.me.uk/2014/02/14/people-manage-without-bikes/

        • Oh, the Dutch certainly aren’t oil-free! But it does stand to reason that by converting all those short car journeys into bike journeys, motor fuel use will decrease.

          I’ve also read somewhere (I think it was Paul M who said it) that the Dutch keep their cars for two or three years longer than the British do, very probably because they last longer due to less wear-and-tear due to fewer short journeys.

          Thanks for linking to Dave Warnock’s post, I’d missed that somehow! It’s a great example of how the bike does make sense, and should make sense for millions of people making trips around town like that.

  3. Then you have what I call designed Transport Poverty. I live in a small town in Wales but our nearest general hospital is now 17 miles away – how can an elderly person visit a loved one when the bus service stops at 18.30 and visiting doesn’t start till 18.00? If I wished to work in a retail job in Swansea I couldn’t get to work on a Sunday as the first train is 10.23. We actually have reasonable local cycle routes but, in an area where 35% of households don’t have access to a car, the poor, young and elderly have been effectively disenfranchised from normal modern life by a managed reduction of public transport facilities. Cycling is only part of the solution and David, I do smile when the bus turns up!

    • I’m glad you made this comment, as I was aware that I’d missed out the rural village one-bus-a-day experience – my intention was to express my own experience of what transport poverty is. And it does hit me every time I have to travel in London that while there may be a wealth of public transport options, they’re all far more expensive and take much longer than cycling would.

      The intentional reduction of bus services in the UK (outside of London), especially in smaller towns and villages, is another scandal altogether really. I guess it’s the flip side of the coin – while in London the authorities push people onto heavily-subsidised and regulated public transport, in the shires public transport is very often at the bottom of a long list of priorities.

      • Trawlln Sue

        In Wales there was a badly-managed cut to bus subsidies resulting in the UK’s largest drop in bus passenger numbers.http://www.walesonline.co.uk/news/wales-news/bus-travel-wales-lowest-launch-4694681 It’s not just small villages that are affected. Ystalfera up the valley from Swansea has a population of 3,000 and now has no bus service on Sundays. I know people who have been forced to move because of this. I live in Swansea and getting around by bus is a poor option even in the city because of cuts in recent years (no buses at all after around 6pm on Sunday, for example).
        Cycling here feels much safer than in London but there’s also rain and hills to contend with. And I managed to get a whole hour with a Welsh Assembly Member and a councellor to hold forth about transport issues (nobody else turned up to the surgery).

  4. Bonjour, it seems you are ready for a sustainable change. As a Dutch expat living for 15 years in Burgundy France, 2 years ago I thought the time was right to become a urban biking coach. How about my folding bike and me take a bus, a tgv, the Eurostar this summer to London and have a look how to improve your situation? E+ Judith UN, owner of ECOMMoBILE, urban biking coach, membre of 2 associations, affiliated nationally in France.

    • Thanks for your comment Judith, I appreciate you mean it in a positive way, but are you kidding me? Unless you know a way to stop taxi drivers intentionally cutting you up, can prevent the bus companies forcing their exhausted drivers to work seven-day shifts, and can convince the authorities from designing roads which put people on bikes in dangerous positions, then you won’t get me on a bike in most of London.

      Even if, through some miracle, you could teach me – one person – to cope with all that stress and danger, how would it help the other millions of Londoners? The problem with training like this is that it simply doesn’t scale to the size required, and that most people simply don’t even want to travel amongst cars, buses and lorries. Coming from the Netherlands, I’m sure you cycled as a child, and I’m sure your parents or grandparents feel they can cycle if they want to, and I doubt they needed any urban biking coaching to do it.

      Only fixing the roads as the Netherlands has can make millions of people feel that the bicycle is a mode of transport available to them.

  5. T.Foxglove

    Cars are great, they are fast warm & dry, you listen to what you want, it’s an extension of your home as you travel conveniently from door to door at a time of your choosing; that’s why most people have one.

    Unfortunately making our cities suitable for most people having a car creates a hellish environment for everyone.

    To encourage people from cars to bikes, the bike is going to have to be a lot more convenient than the car; high quality segregated infrastructure on major routes is an important part of it (& will improve things for us the 2%ers and may get people off public transport) but the major part of modal shift is making car journeys inconvenient through cost, time/distance, loss of facilities etc.

  6. I was lying awake last night, fuming about how our local voluntary project, to work up a local development plan under the Localism Act, seems to have degenerated into an argument about car parking: two groups going hammer & tongs at each other about where to locate a multi-storey car park to serve people who drive from miles away to commute from our railway station into London, only occasionally uniting to beat up on the third (smaller) group who pose the Emperor’s Clothes question of “er, excuse me, would it not be a better idea to have no multi-storey car park at all?” For some reason I got to thinking about those algebra equations I did at school. I think they call them quadratic equations, but my memory is a bit hazy on that – it was after all in the sixties and, as they say about the sixties, if you remember them, you weren’t really there.

    Anyway, the trick is to reduce them to the bare bones, by eliminating common values from both sides. For example, if 2x = x+1, take x from either side to get x = 1.

    Apply that to cars.

    Man who lives in A Street + car > man who lives in B Street
    Man who lives in B Street + car > man who lives in A Street

    reduces to Car > man (who lives in A, or in B Street)

    That is pretty much what an argument about where to site a car park boils down to. For all the talk about accessibility and inclusiveness and the needs of those less advantaged than ourselves, the good burghers of this town cannot escape the yoke of the motor car so they can’t think beyond it. The multi-storey car park provides absolutely zero benefit for the town or its residents – it will be used exclusively by people who transfer directly to or from railway services to London and live too far away to be able (or willing) to walk or cycle to the station, which almost by definition means they are not residents of this town or contributors to its council tax base. If they come here to shop, it is at weekends and they would not be parking in this multi-storey because it will be in the wrong place for that. And yet a significant body of opinion here believes that we must build it, because we must always accommodate drivers, which of course means we must always accommodate cars. They consider it inevitable.

    The geography here doesn’t entirely favour walking and cycling. It is fairly rural so things are quite spread out. Distances are not so short. And it is quite lumpy, with gradients which would be quite a challenge on most utility bicycles. And the town seems to be favoured by the sort of affluent senior citizens, with safe index-linked final salary pensions from a lifetime working for ICI or BP or British Airways, who perhaps are not fit enough for cycling this kind of landscape and certainly can afford to change their car every few years. That of course is the class of resident which has the leisure and the engagement to vote in, or stand for, local elections, or volunteer for local planning fora.

    There is of course a solution for them too. You talk about motorcycles and say you don’t really have a view on them, other than that they too are not really necessary for short distances. What you didn’t mention, perhaps because so far almost no-one in the UK thinks about them, is electrically assisted bicycles, or e-bikes.

  7. Gardda

    Hi Schrodinger,

    You should understand that far from Transport poverty, walking with Shanks’ pony is an entirely acceptable one, and what many people would consider to be transport riches. Whilst we may not be vehicles whilst we walk, thank goodness, we do class ourselves as transport, self propelled, and no gadgetry!

    The second thing is that whilst taking a bus may seem an unpleasant alternative there are a good many , who use it as a social outlet, meeting old friends who also take the same route regularly, which you certainly would not do in the underground! Transport riches surely includes such welcome diversions to the journey!!?

    Stand corrected!

    • I did specifically say that I was giving my experience of transport poverty. And I genuinely do feel it every time I have to make a journey here in London, that it is going to take a lot longer and be a lot more expensive than the equivalent journey that someone in The Hague might make.

      The social aspect of buses may well be true, but are we talking about public transport or a social club here? If people meet on buses, that’s fine. I’m not saying get rid of all buses. I’m saying that they’re far from being the best form of transport for urban journeys, yet most people who use buses feel compelled to use them. For most users, they’re the only option or a last resort.

      I’m sitting down, thanks all the same.

  8. Gardda

    What i do most regret in UK cycling/vbussing terms is the lack of national busses which are prepared to take bicycles in the hold. SW Trains for example are contstantly campaigning for their cycling customers to buy
    folders, yet the need for non-car owners, who are not car owners because they use their bikes, to have a national mode of transport for themselves AND their bikes is surely obvious as per the enthusiasm of the French and Spanish national carriers to take a full size bike without any qualms whatsoever, not even a fee.

    That takes me back to my censure of UK cycling that the bicycle should be considered as a vehicle at all, unless otherwise stated. It should not, nor be considered anything other than an item of luggage on any train or bus.

    [French intercity trains are an exception to this and do not take pushbikes at all.Whereby hangs the tale of the carriage shouting for me against a loony guard who wanted to chuck me off the train because i had put my bike on. He was not going to let me take the bike off with me!!! Me OFF! Leave bike!! The carriage was in uproar for the poor Brittanique being so misused by a wicked and obviously fascisti guard!!!

  9. P Barritt

    Everyone knows London isnt part of England. And London is a long way ahead of the rest of England when it comes to cycling.
    I am affraid its never going to happen here, not in my lifetime anyway.

  10. Angus H

    Just to point out that, in a London context at least, where jobs of all kinds are relatively easily available, poverty of all kinds often walks hand-in-hand with ill health and disability. The causal relationship is of course complex & flows both ways.

    While I’d like to think that five flat miles is a distance almost anyone could be expected to cycle (about the same as walking a mile-and-a-half – something a child of 6 can manage twice a day, at a push), I’m not sure that’s true of the people I tend to see when I make bus trips outside of commuting/school transport hours.

    • I’m not saying get rid of all buses – they do have a place in the transport mix. But in London they’re massively over-used by able-bodied people squeezing in to travel just a few miles, due to the lack of viable alternatives.

      Having seen the freedom that the cycling infrastructure gives less able people in the Netherlands, it seems criminal not to offer the same here.

  11. We celebrate choice as almost a right in every other part of our lives. Apart from transport where as you’ve so eloquently pointed out, people do not even perceive cycling to be a realistic choice. For most people it seems as practical as going by rocket or hovercraft, I.e. you’d feel stupid or mad just for considering it.

    I think before we get anywhere towards mass cycling, we have to make people understand that cycling is a choice that has been denied to them, much to their detriment, although this may not seem so obvious to them feeling superior whizzing past an angry man (nearly always a man) in hi-vis while in the comfort of their car.

    People need to be given a realistic choice, and frankly at the moment politicians aren’t bothered about even raising people’s awareness about what they’re being denied.

  12. Hmm. I’m a (south) Londoner, which means no tube option. I cycle two or three times a week the 9 miles into central London. I’m not a super-fit lycra-clad bloke, I’m a middle-aged woman who gets puffed out going up hills and does get fed up about being cut up by buses and vans. Regular cycling in London has persuaded me that the risks are over-stated. Yes, it can look scary, but mile for mile it’s a pretty safe way of traversing the city, has all sorts of health benefits and is much more pleasant than being crammed onto a hugely expensive train. I’d love better cycling infrastructure, better junction design particularly and a shift in attitude so road-users were all less aggressive (including some cyclists). I try to persuade others to cycle, but they’re terrified – and over-stating the risks means there won’t be enough of us cycling to persuade the politicians that change is needed.

    • Angus H

      Perhaps. I cycle a similar commute to you, and as a competent adult feel relatively safe doing so, most of the time. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t do it, there are people who need me in one piece – and I do have the option of getting the train.

      And yet, and yet.. my oldest aged just 5 is capable of riding that far (well, he did at the FreeCycle six months ago), but there’s absolutely no way he’s capable of dealing with even the quietest route I use, which is one of London’s better existing LCN quiet routes. Him cycling on the pavement and me on the road isn’t really an option either. So, already, he’s being denied good opportunities for active travel, and we wonder why kids are growing up obese.

      Similarly, I’d love to be able to take the children places on my Bakfiets, but a lot of potential journeys are rendered seriously unattractive by the road network. Faced with a choice, we drive, cab it or take public transport.. of a range of choices, riding a cargo bike along the South Circular is not an attractive one.

      A lot of people have complex journeys, and if we don’t campaign for a network that’s fit for kids and elderly people to use, a lot of those journeys are impossible to make by bike.

    • I can only echo Angus’ sentiments. I’m glad that you feel confident enough to make that journey by bike, and can deal with the aggression from others, but clearly the wider population doesn’t see it as an option, as you have stated at the end of your comment.

      The idea that we should build up numbers to gain momentum has been floating around for decades and has therefore been proven to fail. Until we have suitable infrastructure, there won’t be any more people using bikes.

      I don’t know who is overstating the risks. I think people see the situation on the road and decide for themselves that cycling isn’t an option. They don’t need anyone to advise them against it. Surely you’re not suggesting that my little blog is influencing people to take the bus, are you? :)

      • A-ha! Gotcha!

        The idea that we should build up numbers to gain momentum has been floating around for decades and has therefore been proven to fail. Until we have suitable infrastructure, there won’t be any more people using bikes.

        The people who routinely say that they are interested in cycling, but who are put off because, as they believe, the roads are too busy or too dangerous, are indeed the majority – they make up about 60% of the population. There is another group – about 30% of the population – who have no particular interest in cycling. But this leaves a group of about 10% for whom safety isn’t actually the biggest issue.

        But never mind my evidence – let’s hear yours. You have asserted something (“Until we have proper infrastructure …”) and therefore the burden of proof is with you. And I am talking evidence here, not some anecdote that you heard from Bob or Susan.

        @ P Barritt I am not surprised that your point has been left hanging. I am a little bit under 50, and I do expect to see a cycling population of at least 10% in our towns and cities. Here’s how:

        Network first, and then a separation of functions.

        • The difficulty is in the big cities is probably the mix of how we travel is wrong. We need to encourage people to cycle and therefore we need to make the roads safe, and to do that you have to plan, not just one year, it’s year on year, it’s decade on decade, and other cities manage to do it, and we could do it too. It’s very difficult to change the road layout for cyclists in a matter of months; it does take a long time planning, and it can be done, and it’s done effectively across Europe.

          So that’s the first practical step you would take, just to try to encourage people to get out of their cars and onto bicycles?

          It only needs people on the margin [to begin with]: the people who are more likely to do it, to encourage them. Of course there are people who won’t do it whatever, but if enough people do it, it does make a change. We’re talking about things on the margin.

          (Interview with Andrew Davis, Director of the Environmental Transport Association, on BBC Radio Five Live)

  13. Whilst for short journeys with no luggage you may be right, I’m not sure how you sit on a bike doing your marking, for an hours journey (train). Nor how at the end of term you’re supposed to carry 30 lever arch folders on a bike.(cab)

    • I’m not saying that everybody should be forced to cycle for every journey they ever make. Of course other modes of transport will sometimes make more sense. Should we list every situation which is tricky by bike? I sometimes have to carry heavy music equipment around, so I use a van.

      What I’m saying is that there are a huge number of journeys currently made by motor vehicle which could be made by bike. This has been shown to be the case by study after study. I have a friend in Leeds who drives half a mile to the nearest supermarket, and that’s not unusual there.

      Finally, though I’m not telling you to do so, I’m sure you could carry 30 lever arch folders on a bike. I’ve seen parents riding a box-bike with multiple children in it and Ikea in the Netherlands rents out big trailer bikes so that people can get furniture home. Even a standard city bike can carry a lot of luggage on the rear rack with panniers.

    • Angus H

      Nobody ever claimed bikes are the only answer. Improving conditions for cycling – even at the expense of some road space for motor traffic – in no way precludes anyone from, for example, using vehicles when they have to move heavy items around.

      Working on the train is an interesting one – for many, cycling is time efficient because it’s transport and exercise rolled in to one; speaking only for myself, I can’t use time on public transport all that efficiently – it’s a bit better than driving (in as much as I can maybe do a bit of email, or read a story to my kids if I’m travelling with them), but although it’s a 1h20m journey, much of that is waiting, walking at either end or changing trains, no chunk of time big enough to get real work done. The bike has essentially no running costs, and means I need spend neither £60/month on train travel nor £50/month on a gym, so it’s cash- and time- efficient. Having said that, for those who don’t need more exercise in their lives (or at least say they don’t), or who like you can actually get useful stuff done on public transport or indeed driving (like a friend of mine with a long car commute and a serious podcast habit…), the time-efficiency argument is kind of moot.

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