The significance of the TfL cycling funding

The big headline for cycling at the end of last week was the £1 billion worth of funding announced by Boris Johnson for cycling improvements in London, spent over the next ten years, which made the front page of the Times.


The figure isn’t £1 billion, of course – to be precise, it’s £913 million. This number is made up of £640 million ‘extra’ funding, on top of the £273 million already set out in Transport for London’s ten year plan. So Boris is indeed planning to treble spending on cycling over the next decade, at least compared to the original baseline funding. We can see how significant this is by looking at TfL’s funding for cycling over the last decade –

From the London Assembly's Gearing Up report

From the London Assembly’s Gearing Up report

A figure of £273 million over ten years would have meant cycling funding trundling along at about the level of those red bars. £913 million – £91.3 million a year – means that cycling will be funded at about the level it has been for the last three years.

There was some carping over the weekend – from myself included – about the significance of the announcement, particularly about the presentation of the ‘£1 billion’ figure, in the light of the small increase in funding it actually represents, compared to the last three years. But make no mistake, this is a large sum of money. It amounts to over £10 a head for the London population, per capita. This is not Dutch (or Danish) funding commitment, but it should be enough to start getting things done properly – about which more in a moment.

This announcement of funding for London does do one important thing in particular – it demonstrates quite clearly the pitiful size of the ‘extra’ £20 million announced by Norman Baker for cycling improvements across England only a few days earlier. Unlike the TfL funding commitment, this appears to be just a one-off payment, presented at the Active Travel conference, no doubt as a feel-good announcement. But it’s barely a fifth of what Transport for London will be spending on cycling, in London alone, every year for the next ten years. By contrast, this £20 million will be spent across the entire country, and there’s no commitment to any future funding. While cycling groups, including the Cycling Embassy, welcomed the cash – it’s very hard not be grateful for funding, however small – it pales into complete insignificance in the light of the Transport for London announcement. It’s meaningless.

What’s needed is a firm commitment for a serious proportion of the Department for Transport’s budget to be put aside for cycling, each year, and every year. Enough of these scraps appearing intermittently every six months. If cycling is as brilliant as all the Ministers keep saying it is, they need to back up words with action. Boris Johnson, despite my reservations about his commitment, is at least starting to do that, and the government should follow his lead.

But of course the cash needs to spent in the right way. It’s all very well committing to £90 million a year for spending in London, but if TfL do things badly, they’re effectively wasting it, because at some point in the future the work is going to have to be undone, and redone properly. The consultation for Superhighway Five – from Victoria to New Cross – opened yesterday, and while there are some good things in the proposals, there are some aspects of it that are still awful, and nowhere near the standards of Go Dutch that the Mayor has pledged to implement all future Superhighway developments to.

One really standout example is at the Vauxhall Cross gyratory (doubtless there are more examples along the length of the route which can be picked out). The better of the two Options proposed taking away a traffic lane on the (one way) Harleyford Road, and replaces it with a two-way cycle track, the intention being to allow cyclists to progress more or less directly across the gyratory, without having to make complex movements across three or four lanes.

Screen shot 2012-12-04 at 12.00.33

The lane on the left, shown in the picture below, will be replaced with a track. If done properly, it should be plenty wide enough for two-way cycle traffic. This is good.

Screen shot 2012-12-04 at 12.03.41

However, as is often the case, however, the problems come at junctions, and the entry to the track heading west is deeply problematic.

Screen shot 2012-12-04 at 12.06.00

There’s an ASL, which means cyclists can position themselves on the right for entry into the track when the lights change. But what about when the lights are green? You need to get across two lanes of traffic to move into the track. I can’t see this kind of manoeuvre being at all attractive to the people who would like to cycle across this gyratory in comfort, and it rather defeats the point of protective measures elsewhere. Just as a chain is only as strong as its weakest link, so a cycle route can be rendered pointless if there are difficult gaps in it.

Money – some of that £913 million – will be spent implementing this design at this point. I think that would be a complete waste. Money needs to spent properly, on good designs, that won’t need to be tinkered with in years to come, and that are suitable for cyclists of all abilities.

In a similar vein, Transport for London also need to have a good look at their ‘early start’ traffic light design, which is now increasingly prominent in their designs, appearing several times on this Superhighway route. While the principle of separating movements is sound, in reality, as Paul James shows, this is an ‘always stop’ design for cyclists; arriving at these junctions on two wheels, and you will always hit at least one red light. Again, that’s not good enough. You can’t spend serious money on junction designs that needlessly impede cyclists, and tempt them to jump lights in a way that defeats the purpose of the design.

Money is starting to appear; while that’s excellent, and shows up how the desperate paucity of central government’s commitment, it’s really important it doesn’t get thrown away.

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21 Responses to The significance of the TfL cycling funding

  1. ianbrettcooper says:

    There is no chance it won’t be thrown away. TfL is focused on one thing – segregated cycling. As such, there will be more penny-ante bike infrastructure and no integrated policy that makes cycling safer. And all this as 2005’s peak of conventional oil means fewer and fewer cars on the road and more bikes on the road. In the end, we’ll be left with bike lanes and paths that no one needs to use anymore.

    • I await your campaign for the removal of pavements with interest.

    • What a bizarre comment. Many of us are crying out for segregated facilities. People who drive in London are not very price sensitive (witness yummy mummy doing the school run in the 4×4) so rising fuel prices won’t make much difference. Even if we see the reduction in vehicles you suggest, in London that means higher vehicles speeds (as there is no or ineffective enforcement of speed limits) as we currently get outside rush hour or at weekends. Neither removes the need for safe segregated facilities.

    • Nope, we’ll have busy cycle lanes and paths, and motor roads that no one needs to use any more. The cycle routes, of course, having been built to be perfect for cycling along, unlike those motor roads which are optimised for fast-moving and high volumes of heavy motor vehicles.

    • TfL is focussed on segregated cycling?! Ian, I’ve seen you write some really bizarre stuff, but this is a new level of nonsense. (I wish they were focussed on segregated cycling!)

      And you still haven’t told us when it was you went cycling in the Netherlands (you always stop responding when someone asks) – was it in the mid-1980s as your website suggests?

  2. One of the dangers with segregated cycling is that hard infrastructure ends up excluding cyclists who ride anything other than 2 wheelers (cargo bikes, trikes, handcycles etc), especially at entry points, pinch points etc. It will only be acceptable if properly thought through.

    • 100% agree. However, I think the problem is not with separated cycling facilities but with facilities stupidly designed. I struggle with my trailer, I shudder to think what a disabled person with a hand tricycle would have to go through in London.

    • Tim says:

      I think the point here is that the focus is on high-quality Dutch-style facilities.

      You’re absolutely correct to point out that a lot of poor UK infrastructure unacceptably excludes less common pedal powered devices, but you could never suggest that the segregated infrastructure in the Netherlands excludes cargo bikes!

  3. This design is stangely reminiscent ot the Tavistock Street switcheroo, but with added car traffic. See,-0.124454&spn=0.010787,0.016716&t=m&z=16&layer=c&cbll=51.525897,-0.124592&panoid=BEOERpruty_HnPjecO-lJw&cbp=12,48.29,,0,15.71
    How could this go wrong? And when the hell will TfL finally aknowledge they do not know how to design streets for high volume cycle+pedestrian traffic and hire a Dutch company to help them? That would save hundreds of millions of pounds of our tax money over the years.

  4. Jim says:

    Excellent post.

    If TfL are anything like other large bureaucracies, then their dream scenario is to be given a lot more money to continue doing more or less what they were already doing. As Isabel Dedring has previously said, there is a lot of resistance to change within TfL. Radically changing the way they design roads would require accepting that they way they currently do it is wrong and learning a whole new set of skills and way of working, and that’s difficult for anyone to do. When you add on layers of institutional inertia and resistence to transparency then you’ve got a an organisation that is more likely to favour rebranding and marginal real changes rather than a genuine transformation.

    So far, TfL have been a lot better about talking about change then about actually delivering it, and I see that continuing unless cycling campaigners make a very clear, very public and very firm stand in favour of Dutch levels of quality and against the kind of half-arsed compromises the CS5 proposals display. This consultation is a test of our commitment to our principles and to the genuine transformation that Isabel Dedring and the Mayor have both said London needs. We have to say no to the proposals and offer a genuine, positive alternative. And as you suggest, value for money needs to be a big part of that alternative, because the superhighways have been a massive waste so far.

  5. Imogen says:

    I really do not understand the current British approach of just throwing substandard infrastructure at random roads and hoping it sticks. Why isn’t TfL focusing on, say, routes from “feeder” housing areas to their local schools and shops, and then building on that? It’s easy to show how quality, Dutch-style infrastructure works and encourages cycling if you actually build routes that people need to travel, not just random crap where it might generate a bit of attention but no real uptake in cycling.

  6. Andrea says:

    We may be at a turning point but blogs like this one need to be at the centre of an intelligent debate on how to spend the money wisely.

    We need a skillful political operator who is able to bring together the growing number of influential actors who have a stake in quality (LCC, The Times, the Dutch Embassy, etc.) and produce overwhelming pressure on TfL, to sit on the table and abandon the dogma that cycling is second class.

    Nobody who is concerned about safe cycling for everyone can possibly argue that the Harleyford proposal makes sense. If we are able to shift the dialogue towards providing quality and value, then we will get what we deserve.

    Who should be our champion?

  7. Paul M says:

    With regard to the scale of the funding, and whether it really was a tripling, there has been some to- and fro and – in my view – some misunderstanding which does seem now to have been cleared up.

    As a partner in a chartered accountancy firm perhaps I am a bit anal about this, but distinguishing between annual (repetitious) income and expense, and exceptional items – one offs or short term items – is critical to making good commercial decisions about investments and capital expenditure. I expect it is the same for public activity as well.

    So TfL should not be dissed for a meagre increase (from £73m pa to £91m pa) as that is not a true reflection, but it might be of some interest to ask: why was it so pathetically low before? Or, how could so much be spent on a couple of high profile vanity projects and so little on the host of small improvements which have no glamour but would have made real differences?

    The news really is a tripling in budget, if only because the previous budget was projected to be o pathetic, and we should congratulate ourselves on nudging Boris into this decision, because I am fairly sure he would not have made it if he had not felt the pressure.

    Now the question is indeed – how can we ensure that such a princely sum is not just squandered? Looks to me like, as Winston Churchill said about Alamein “this is not the end, nor even the beginning of the end, but the end of the beginning”

  8. rdrf says:

    I would welcome some clarification here.

    In the bar chart you show that a large part of current and past spend is the hire scheme and the CSHs. If we are moving from £73 to £91 million per annum, is the increase going to be on schemes which do not include CSH’s and the bike hire scheme? Or will it all be towards other schemes supposeldy supporting cycling?

    One other point: Money to Boroughs through the LIP can be spent on cycling, and should be. This spring Boroughs will ebw roking on their next submisison for LIP funding, so cmapaigners should eb stuck in to maje sure that the new plans (and 95% of London’s roads are Borough roads) should bot be cyclist hostile, which many will be. Also to make sure that cycle trianing and other items are done properly and not in an anti-cycling way.

    And finally, TfL has about £7 billion a yera to spend. So £91 million per annumis only just over 1% of what they are spending.

  9. rdrf says:

    Apologies for unusually high amount of spelling mistakes. The point remains: London Boroughs will have money for road schemes through the Local Implementation Plan (LIP) settlement, which will be bid for during 2013 for the three years from 2013/2014. Local campaigners need to make sure that it is not spent on making the highway environment worse for cyclists – and ideally better.

  10. Andrea says:

    I haven’t seen the details but it is likely that the girl critically injured this morning in Tooley St., was negotiating two lanes of one-way traffic to reach a cycle lane on the left side of the road:

    Exactly what TfL would like to makes us do at Vauxall

  11. I enjoy your blog a lot. I come here for lessons on good design, especially cycling wise. The posts I enjoy the most are the ones where you go into detail about how a particular system works well or when it should be used. It also helps that your blog is pretty, has lots of photos and is regularly updated. (Much more regularly than you’d think a blog about cycling infrastructure in London could be.

  12. I enjoy your blog a lot. I come here for lessons on good design, especially cycling wise. The posts I enjoy the most are the ones where you go into detail about how a particular system works well or when it should be used. It also helps that your blog is pretty, has lots of photos and is regularly updated. (Much more regularly than you’d expect.) Thanks

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