A few nights ago, I cycled from Barbican to Waterloo in 15 minutes, at a leisurely speed and along a convoluted route of mostly quiet streets.
I can ride from Waterloo to Kings Cross in 20 minutes, it’s mostly uphill and entirely via a complicated route of back streets. (These journey times are on a London hire bike, which aren’t the speediest bikes around.)
If it was safe for everybody to ride a bike, and the routes were convenient and direct, would fewer people use the tube? Would the bus operators lose customers?
To get from Waterloo to Kings Cross on the tube takes 20 minutes — if you’re lucky. I couldn’t get from Barbican to Waterloo in 15 minutes by any means except bicycle — although a taxi probably could do it if the roads were quiet, but it would cost much more of course.
I wonder, is TfL scared of the effects that mass cycling would have on the existing transport network? Is it so reliant on income from crowded buses and over-capacity underground trains, and so in thrall to the taxi drivers, that suppressing cycling is the real goal? (If that is their plan, then they’re doing a great job of it!)
In a London with good cycle infrastructure, would we need the multi-billion pound tube upgrades, or Boris’ new Routemaster? Would we need as many buses and taxis? Would the Victoria Line need 33 trains per hour?
Is it a problem that cycling is essentially free, and there’s no clear way to charge for it per-journey?
Funnily enough, I don’t think the taxi drivers have anything to fear from mass cycling. The type of journeys for which taxis are used — tourists with luggage, business people, drunk groups of friends — are less likely to change to cycling than those journeys which are currently made by bus and, to a lesser extent, the tube.
Of course, someone living in Morden but working in Edgeware would probably still take the Northern line, but those making shorter journeys would be more likely to change to bike. For example, I reckon that Camden to Waterloo could be done in 20 minutes with the right infrastructure.
I can say with certainty that if London had Dutch-style cycling provision, I would use my Oyster card far less than I do now. I’d probably hardly use the buses at all unless the weather was bad.
So where does this leave London’s future? Is TfL scared of mass cycling? Why wouldn’t they be? It would massively change the face of transport in London, all those new bike journeys have to come from somewhere — and they would come mostly, I think, from current bus users.
Are they keeping us imprisoned in the tube and on the bus, just so the status quo can continue? Is it too much to expect the authorities to have the citizens’ interests at heart, rather than the financial interests of the privately-owned bus operating companies? Or do they feel that their jobs are reliant on all that money we top-up our Oyster cards with?