Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Friday, July 18, 2014

UK's different take on the cycling-motor vehicle divide: the mobility system favors motorists and government needs to lead

Perspective is interesting.  Most of the discussion in the US about cycling, especially by elected officials and in the media,   is shaped by the perspectives and interests of motorists.

Last year, the UK "All Party Parliamentary Cycling Group" (a caucus) produced a report calling on a variety of measures to "Get Britain Cycling."

Can you imagine an actual report such as this produced by the US Congressional Bike Caucus?  There's a caucus--160 members, but no reports..., and not enough positive movement on federal policy towards bicycling and sustainable transportation.

From the Get Britain Cycling report:

Some strong messages came from the enquiry:
  • the need for vision, ambition and strong political leadership, including a national Cycling Champion;
  • the Government needs to set out an action plan for more and safer cycling with support from the Prime Minister down;
  • We need transformation of our towns, streets and communities, and to the way we think about cycling, whether as drivers or as people who might take up cycling ourselves;
  • Our vision is for a dramatic increase in the number and diversity of people who cycle, because they see it as a safe and normal activity;
  • We suggest that the long-term ambition should be to increase cycle use from less than 2% of journeys in 2011, to 10% of all journeys in 2025, and 25% by 2050.
Bicycling cover, New YorkerIn the US, it's hard to find such recommendations in a planning document in most communities and especially from the federal government.

I suppose you could argue that the 75% sustainable transportation trips goal in the DC Sustainability Plan is that kind of stretch goal.

But there is a big disconnect when it comes to actually rebalancing road space towards sustainable transportation--not just for cyclists, but also for transit (where are dedicated transitways, which were suggested in DC's 1950 Comprehensive Land Use Plan) and walking.  And certainly the discussion still favors motorists.

Past blog entry:

- What should a US national bike strategy plan look like?

Yesterday, a report was released by the Transport Committee of the UK Parliament calling for more spending on cycling infrastructure.

From "UK taxpayer should foot cycling bill, says transport select committee: MPs call for cycling budget to be increased to £10 a head by 2020 in order to makes roads safer for cyclists across UK" in the Guardian:
Government spending on cycling should rise from £2 per person to £10 in the next six years, according to the transport select committee, which said a "cultural change" is needed to ease tensions between motorists and cyclists. 
The committee said cyclists complained of aggressive driving, poorly designed junctions and a failure to enforce speed limits, which were contributing to quarrels between road users. 
In its report examining how roads could be made safer for those on bicycles, the committee calls for all departments to work together to fund and facilitate support for cycling.
The report states there is "limited evidence of a widespread culture that is supportive of cyclists as road users", despite a call last year by the prime minister, David Cameron, for a "cycling revolution" following British successes in the Olympics, Paralympics and Tour de France.
Clearly the report and its recommendation came from the perspective of cyclists, which is completely opposite of the tenor of the discussion in the US--not that the UK is doing significantly better than the US in terms of cycling take up as both have been particularly shaped by the vehicular cycling paradigm.

The entry in the Guardian Bike Blog says the report could be better but is an important step. From "MPs' report shows even the slightly inept can get it right on cycling: Their first evidence session was an embarrassing disaster, but the Commons transport committee has ended up producing a half-decent report about getting people on bikes":
So why the interest in this fairly unexceptional report? In short, because it shows that even utter cycling ignoramuses – and their first hearing did, I’m afraid, portray some of the MPs in that light – can, fairly quickly, understand what’s needed to get people on bikes.

As we’ve argued before here it’s pretty basic stuff, and very well known. Consistent, predictable, increased spending. Proper bike infrastructure. Better awareness of cyclists among other road users. And, covering it all, some genuine political leadership on the issue. It’s the conclusion that more or less every report in recent years on the subject has come to.

The problem isn’t the knowledge, just the political commitment. The junior transport minister whose job takes in cycling, Robert Goodwill, talks a reasonable game about wanting to see more “everyday” cyclists on the roads but somehow thinks this will just happen, with no new money or planning.

But could things eventually change anyway? The transport committee’s report really tells us nothing new. But it does show us that 11 MPs from all three main parties have now, to an extent, got the message. Do this enough times – and God knows, we’ve had a few cycling inquiries – and you might end up with a critical mass of MPs.
Achievement of critical mass within political leadership is key.  And we're not there yet.

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At 9:47 AM, Anonymous charlie said...

There was an EU report on motor taxes a while back, I'll never find it.

France was the worst "road" offender is your parlance. The UK took in more money (higher gas taxes) but blew a lot more on transit.

I've framed the discussion on bikeshare that way; basically you are buying the equivalent of one circulator line. Which is a better spend? better return?

In my fantasy world, we would take transit out of highway budget, and put in a large import tax on bikes and bike components and spend more money on biking.

At 12:17 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

all of the Anglo countries are far behind the Germanic countries in cycling practices. The UK, Canada, Australia, and the USA are all the same and are basically beholden to vehicular cycling as the true model for everyone. Holland, Germany, Austria, Denmark, and the Scandanavian countries all have inclusive cycling as their model and approach. I favor inclusive cycling . It is way superior and harder to implement- but ultimately it is better.

At 12:38 PM, Anonymous charlie said...

Sorry, my bad on the summary. the extra money the UK raised from gas+road taxes went into the general account, not into transit. And to be more clear, France overinvested in roads underinvested in transit+bikes.

At 7:13 AM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

That's a weird finding on France in that not only do they put a lot of money into railroads, but they've spent a fair amount paying for light rail systems in many cities throughout the country--Lyon, Bourdeaux, Montpelier, obviously Strasbourg (given the GGW entry), lines around the perimeter of Paris, etc.

2. wrt road taxes, I have no problem with going up and funding in part transit. David Engwicht in _Reclaiming Our Cities and Towns_ suggests that motor vehicles pay a kind of reparations tax for transit, because of the negative impact on transit effectiveness because of automobility.

I don't have a problem with taxes on bikes, licensing bicyclists, etc., but I don't see how those taxes (unless they are somewhat comparable to how the Dutch charge a 100% fee = to the cost of a motor vehicle for registration) could raise all that much money.

It's unfortunate that the infrastructure wasn't included when roads were first built, when it would have cost much less to do.

At 7:17 AM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

anon -- Canada actually does a lot better than the US in terms of bicycle take up. In large part it's because they have less in the way of suburban development. So the cities they have people bike.

HOWEVER, they have big winter time snow issues.

Note that the Province of Quebec has a great bike plan, a network of cycle routes throughout the province, and Montreal specifically has the best cycle track network in North America. Plus Bixi. They couldn't make it work financially, but it was an impressive contribution to the world by a municipally-related agency.

Similarly, Translink, the regional transit authority in Vancouver, has produced some of the best bike planning documents (especially on facilities) in North America, with serious stretch goals about increasing bike trips. They do have a strong helmet law, which is delaying the introduction of bikeshare.

At 7:26 AM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

with bikeshare I don't know what to think. It definitely raises the visibility and accessibility of biking.

It doesn't work everywhere (e.g. Chattanooga). You have to have the right spatial and density conditions.

The prevailing pricing for usage wrt membership significantly underprice the cost of providing the service. Maybe that's worth subsidizing, maybe it isn't. Sponsorships and advertising can't generate enough revenue to make that up, let alone pay for capital replacement.

Only the cities with a high rate of tourism, like DC, can possibility achieve operational profitability or break even.

The Decobike pricing model (in Miami Beach and about to be launched in San Diego). I proposed a not dissimilar model in our proposal for Chattanooga, but not a price for single trips of 1/2 hour, 1 hour, or 2 hour duration.

the membership is higher, but not significantly higher ($125), the fees for use beyond 30 minutes are significantly higher, the day use price is higher ($15), and then they offer $5,$7, and $12 rates for one time rides.

At 7:29 AM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

re France and light rail:


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