Pedal power: the cycle hire scheme and cycle superhighwaysTransport Committee LondonAssemblee , Greater London Authority
Evaluation of the Barclays public bikes scheme and the cycle superhighways of London (blue lanes on key arterial routes). Great enthusiasm for the cycle hire scheme found: over 20 per cent of respondents had started cycling as a result of the scheme and over 80 per cent thought it good value for money. Far less enthusiasm for the cycle superhighways: ambition is to generate 120,000 additional cycle trips per day (the planned 12 cycle superhighways), but the two pilot cycle superhighways are attracting only 5,000 cyclists per day and only one per cent of respondents to our survey had started cycling specifically as a result.
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The distinctive hire bikes and docking stations represent a new piece of transport infrastructure in central London. Similarly, swathes of cyclists on the bright blue lanes on key arterial routes into the centre are becoming a common sight. Our aim in this report is to highlight what is working well and, where we see the potential for improvement, to respond to these criticisms and make constructive suggestions to Transport for London (TfL) and the Mayor. In doing so, we have drawn on the first large-scale survey of users and the views of a number of organisations.
We found great enthusiasm for the cycle hire scheme. Over 20 per cent of respondents to our survey had started cycling as a result of the scheme and over 80 per cent thought it good value for money. One comment received, representative of the views of many, described it as “a very significant enhancement to life in London”.
While clearly value for money for users, there remain questions over how the scheme is being funded and the return on TfL’s initial investment. The amount of sponsorship that Barclays has provided to date is unclear. It may have provided less than anticipated since its agreement with TfL is conditional on certain performance indicators being met but the scheme has not rolled out as planned. Furthermore, delays in the implementation of the scheme and the roll-out to casual users have affected operating costs and revenue from charges.
These delays have costs. TfL reports that the annual operating cost of the scheme will be £18 million which it expects to be met from charges and sponsorship. To date in 2010/11, TfL has received only £1.9 million of income from charges largely because the roll out to casual users was delayed by six months and has missed the summer months. TfL now expects the scheme to be self-financing in two to three years and for the income to start contributing to its £79 million set up costs by 2017/18.
The roll-out to casual users of the cycle hire scheme planned for 3 December will also determine the extent to which the scheme will meet its original objectives. Current users are making on average 15,000 trips per day compared with the eventual aim of 40,000. Our survey found less than one per cent of journeys are replacing those previously made by car; TfL’s planning assumptions were for a five per cent shift from car to bike.
TfL and Serco, the private contractor running the cycle hire scheme, have made some welcome changes in response to initial teething problems. Our report seeks further action depending, in some cases, on the extent to which the roll-out to casual users provides its own solutions. Specifically, we ask TfL and the Mayor to address:
The lack of bikes and available docking points in certain areas, particularly at peak periods.
Problems with registration, charges and poor customer service from Serco’s customer service centre. Half of the respondents to our survey had had to contact the call centre to report problems and one third rated the experience poor or very poor.
The rationale for decisions about expanding the cycle hire scheme geographically is unclear. Inevitably, people in many parts of London want the scheme to be made available in their areas. The existing scheme is limited in its geographical reach, largely benefiting inner London. Yet many have highlighted that the greatest potential for growth in cycling is in outer London. TfL has highlighted some logistical issues to expanding the scheme. It suggests “bolt on” areas in large employment centres are more feasible than the London-wide expansion of the cycle hire scheme along the lines of the Paris model to which the Mayor has aspired.
We have found far less enthusiasm from new cyclists for the cycle superhighways. The cycle superhighways will have to deliver a significant increase in cycling if they are to justify the £166 million investment. The Mayor’s ambition is for the planned 12 cycle superhighways to generate 120,000 additional cycle trips per day. The two pilot cycle superhighways are attracting 5,000 cyclists per day and only one per cent of respondents to our survey had started cycling specifically as a result.
There is a need to learn lessons from the pilot cycle superhighways and apply these before the roll-out of the future cycle superhighways. It is hoped that the cycle superhighways will help create the potential for a critical mass which will eventually encourage others to get on their bikes and help realise the Mayor’s ambition for a cycling revolution in the capital. Our work suggests there are some issues which need to be addressed to ensure this happens:
60 per cent of respondents did not feel safer using the cycle superhighways and two-thirds did not feel they were respected by other road users. Greater consistency in the measures along the route would help this situation, such as a uniform width, improvements to junctions and 20 mph speed limits on busy sections.
Development of future cycle superhighways should include detailed consultation with cycling organisations and London Boroughs and build on evaluations of the pilots to date.
The cycle hire scheme and cycle superhighways have already had a large impact on the capital. We recognise it is very early days. Our report aims to contribute to the planning on how they develop further. Their success will determine the extent to which the Mayor’s ambitions for cycling in London are realised