On the buses

A hot topic at the moment is potential conflict between London’s bus network, and an expanding cycle network – one suitable for all potential users.

It’s becoming a prominent issue, I suspect, because in the places where cycle provision is being installed, or proposed, space is – in some instances – being taken from the bus network. The Superhighway 2 extension along Stratford High Street has taken a lane away, in each direction, from a six lane road. However, that road did, in the recent past, have (intermittent) bus lanes in each direction – bus lanes that aren’t there now.

Likewise the new proposals for Superhighway 5 show that the cycle tracks on Vauxhall Bridge will come at the expense of one of the two bus lanes, rather than at the expense of a general traffic lane.

A bus lane has gone missing.

Six lanes down to five, but a bus lane has gone missing.

The West End Project in Camden is also being presented by some as a ‘conflict’ between bus priority and cycle priority, although it is not clear to me that the parties who are demanding a much higher standard of cycle provision in the scheme are suggesting that bus priority should be watered down. Importantly, there is no reason – in principle – why a good bus network, equivalent or better to the bus provision currently running north-south through this area of Camden – cannot work alongside a cycle network of a high standard.

The problem, I think, is that Transport for London see the bus network as the easiest thing to erode, when it comes to installing cycle-specifc provision. Bus lanes are already the ‘domain’ of Transport for London; there isn’t a large, vocal group standing up for them, apart from the bus companies, who are themselves contracted by TfL. It’s probably much easier for Transport for London to put cycling provision in place of a bus lane than it is in place of a general traffic lane, and they are taking the path of least resistance.

Of course, it doesn’t have to be like this. Vauxhall Bridge could have excellent cycling provision, and two bus lanes in each direction. Those four lanes of private motor traffic could come down to three, with bus priority maintained. As I’ve said above, there is no necessary conflict between bus provision and cycle provision.

Space for cycling should come first from private motor traffic, then from the bus network, if necessary, and if that can be achieved without eroding the quality of the bus network as a whole. Indeed, this is how Dutch cities, in my experience, function. Space for walking and cycling comes first, then space for a bus or public transport network, and space for private motor traffic then has to fit in around that. This ordering means that many ‘main roads’ in Dutch cities aren’t open to private motor traffic at all, except for access. In Haarlem –

Or in Utrecht –

Potterstraat - a bus- and cycle-only main road

Potterstraat – a bus- and cycle-only main road

You can find numerous examples of where private motor traffic has been squeezed out, to make space for a good public transport network, alongside comfortable, attractive conditions for cycling and walking.

So to that extent, any ‘battle’ between public transport and cycling in London is most likely a reflection of a failure to take space away from private motor traffic, or to reduce it to the extent that buses are not impeded. This is, I think, the strategy for the ‘Clerkenwell Boulevard’ – to maintain bus and cycle priority along the length of the route, while allowing private motor traffic to use the bus lanes, but for access only.

And in Camden, there is again no reason why – in theory – priority bus routes cannot exist alongside high quality cycling infrastructure in the West End Project, although I appreciate that politically and strategically this is very difficult.

The biggest part of that political and strategic difficulty lies with the fact that cycling remains very much a minority mode of transport in London. It is a huge ask to demand space for it, in its own right, when it still forms a small percentage of trips in the city, compared to driving and public transport.

And yet… This is all very circular. People do not cycle in large numbers in London primarily because space has not been allocated for cycling. Cycling has not been prioritised, or given the space necessary to make it a comfortable, safe and attractive mode of transport, suitable for more people than the small minority who cycle now.

What is needed is a strategic vision about the future of London, and other British towns and cities, built around the way we would like people to be making trips, and certainly not one built around maintaining existing mode share. A central part of this strategy should involve opening up cycling as a genuine choice for all, alongside walking, driving, or taking public transport. That choice does not exist, at present. It is clear that people drive or take public transport for trips that would actually be more convenient by bike. They are forced into driving or taking the bus because conditions for cycling are sufficiently hostile to remove ‘choice’ altogether. The Alternative Department for Transport has written a very good blog about precisely this point.

The table below (courtesy of Transport for London) gives some indication of the problem.

Screen Shot 2014-08-08 at 00.40.32

66% of all bus stages in London are under 3km, and nearly 90% are under 5km – about 3 miles (with the caveat this data is ‘as the crow flies’, i.e. a direct line from bus stop to bus stop).

Now of course many of these trips are ones that are inconvenient, or impossible, to cycle – they might be connecting trips on public transport, or a bus genuinely is the best option for the trip in question. Likewise many people making these trips won’t be able to cycle – they might be too infirm, or carrying too heavy a load, or it might just be raining, or too cold. This is what transport choice is all about! But surely a considerable proportion of these trips could be cycled, and more importantly the people making them might prefer to cycle them if we had Dutch-equivalent conditions in London.

This is fun! Why would you take the bus, if you could do this instead?

This is fun! Why would you take the bus, if you could do this instead?

Going by these TfL figures, on average something like 4 million bus journeys are made by London residents every day (and I’ve heard figures of 6.5 million trips per day, in total), but we haven’t arrived at this position spontaneously. Such a large number of bus trips has arisen out of the bus network being developed and prioritised, and made an easy and obvious choice for ordinary people.

To argue that cycling is for fit young men, while (by implication) bus travel is for ‘everyone’, a universal mode of transport, is to spectacularly miss the point. Cycling isn’t for everyone precisely because it hasn’t received the care and attention that bus travel has received. Humane, civilised cities offer people a genuine choice between bus travel, cycling, and walking; they don’t pretend that the fact ‘everyone’ takes the bus while ‘cyclists’ (fit, young and male) continue to cycle is a natural state of affairs.

Does this look like an environment where people have a free choice between cycling, and taking the bus?

Does this look like an environment where people have a free choice between cycling, and taking the bus?

Cycling and public transport co-existing; a genuine choice between the two.

Cycling and public transport co-existing; a genuine choice between the two.

So the respective modal share for buses and cycling in London isn’t in any way ‘natural’, or spontaneous. We should think carefully about what London can and should look like if cycling was an available choice for everyone, and the benefits that would bring, rather than tying ourselves to defending existing levels of public transport use (and, even worse, existing levels of driving). 

Indeed, there are many good reasons why we should be prioritising cycling ahead of public transport; reasons that no doubt explain why many London boroughs, including Hackney and Camden, continue to place cycling ahead of public transport in their road user hierarchies. (Although in practice this does not happen – presumably because of the weight of numbers of people using buses, compared to the numbers cycling).

Cycling offers public health benefits that are harder to achieve with public transport. Cycling involves being physically active; taking the bus does not, at least not to the same extent. If we are serious about public health, and reducing the burden on the NHS, then walking and cycling should obviously be prioritised ahead of public transport.

Buses present danger. They are much better for cities than private motor traffic, but the fact remains that they are large heavy objects that travel quite fast, carrying considerable momentum. They can, and do, kill and seriously injure people on a regular basis – 2000 people have been killed or seriously injured by TfL buses since 2008, nearly one a day.

Although emissions technology is improving, and much more progress can be made, buses pollute here’s just one example. 50% of NOx emissions in central London come from Transport for London buses. More people cycling means fewer buses are needed, and cleaner air.

While children and the elderly go free on London buses, as do people using travelcards, most people have to pay to use a bus. £1.45 for a single trip, while a bicycle – once you have one, of course – remains free at the point of use.

Buses are slow. This might come as a surprise to most people, who would never dream of cycling on the roads in London, but a journey by bus is typically much, much slower than one by bike, especially when the fact you have wait for a bus is accounted for. (To take just one example, a trip I used to make from Kentish town to Old Street on the 214 typically took 30 minutes, to cover 3 miles. This is one of the reasons I started cycling in London; most people are not as confident or as happy as me cycling on roads busy with motor traffic, and not have the choice I did).

Buses are indirect. Quite obviously, buses don’t go from door-to-door. You will have to walk to the bus stop at the start of the journey, and away from it at the end, and very often this will involve travelling indirectly – away from the most direct route. Cycling, by contrast, offers a door-to-door journey. You go where you want to go (at least, this is something you should be able to do).

And finally buses disconnect you from the street*, and the people on it. If you see someone you know when you are cycling, you can stop and talk to them. If you see someone you know when you are on a bus, you’ve probably missed that opportunity.

It should be emphasised again that these are merely reasons why cycling should be prioritised ahead of public transport, and definitely not reasons against public transport per se. Public transport is vital, and important, and should be strongly defended ahead of private motor traffic, and taxis. We should have space for cycling, and space for public transport. But in recognising that importance, and acknowledging the huge part buses play in transporting Londoners, we shouldn’t use that as an excuse for failing to make cycling a viable for mode of transport, for all.

*Edited – this piece originally used the word ‘antisocial’ here, which on reflection I don’t think is quite right. I’ve changed this, to more accurately reflect what I wanted to convey.

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49 Responses to On the buses

  1. Frederick Guy says:

    Yes, the best way to foster a coalition that supports a green, healthy city is to tell bus riders that they’re anti-social and should be riding bikes.

    • Do you actually think that?

    • Brandon says:

      Is the best way to win over transit riders to pretend that cycling has no advantages over transit?

      • Frederick Guy says:

        I don’t pretend that cycling has no advantages over buses. I prefer to cycle. But I have no particular interest in “winning over” transit riders. I think bikes and buses both are parts of the solution, and excessive use of cars is part of the problem. That’s so whether we’re talking about greenhouse gases or walkable streets or public health or community or supporting small shops or the gap between rich and poor. Who gains from debating the ways in which bicycles are superior to buses, or vice versa?

        • Tim says:

          I can see where Frederick is coming from, but it seems naive to me to divide modes of transport into problem/solution (black/white). Surely better to consider the relative strengths and benefits of the modes as this post does (and it also goes to some lengths to say buses are great too).

          In Manchester a senior member of the University sustainability team was quoted as saying student cycling needs no promotion as students already take the bus. This seems shortsighted to me. Many students would like to cycle but don’t because of the hostile roads (including the very busy bus corridor) and facilities that would make cycling more accessible for students would also benefit many others.

          • Frederick Guy says:

            I agree with your observation about Manchester.
            I do think that, relative to where we are now, both buses and bicycles are solutions, and cars are problems. I don’t think that’s black and white – it’s just a question of direction of movement (I wouldn’t want to live in a world without cars, but then I wouldn’t want to live in a world without antibiotics – both are over-used, with bad consequences.)

  2. Dan B says:

    Nobody’s saying that. The point is that the simple act of being inside a vehicle (bus, taxi, car, anything) physically separates you from street life – pedestrians, markets, cafes and shops. It’s similar to shopping – if you drive to the supermarket you buy things and drive home. If you walk or cycle you’re much more likely to visit other shops or cafes along the way. You can window-shop easily by bike in a way that just isn’t possible by bus.

    Again, the post clearly isn’t an attack on bus passengers, but on those running the roads the network runs on.

    • Michael J says:

      But “antisocial” is an unfortunate choice of word – after all, taking a bus is forcing the user to mix with others to some extent at the stop and whilst on the bus, and it’s not an “anti-social” journey in the same way that an unnecessary car journey is – a bus is less polluting and takes up much less road space than the equivalent number of private cars or taxis.

      • Frederick Guy says:

        Agreed. In my experience, walking to the bus/waiting at the stop/walking from the tube, I’m much more likely to run into neighbours / friends / acquaintances than when I hop on my bike. But I’m not here to argue the superiority of buses. Rather, I think we need more buses and more bikes, fewer cars – which seemed to be the starting point of the post before it wandered off onto establishing the inferiority of buses.

        • davidhembrow says:

          That is surely a function of exactly what the article is about. i.e. people take buses en-masse because that’s available to them. Therefore because its a mode available to your friends and neighbours you’re more likely to see them on a bus than on a bike.

          It’s absolutely the reverse over here in the Netherlands. I see my neighbours and friends all the time when cycling because they cycle too.

          There’s a pretty decent bus service here, but no bus service can compete for convenience with cycling for a short journey.

          That’s not to say that the Dutch don’t use buses of course. Every bus-stop has cycle-parking, sometimes on a huge scale, because cycling to a bus which goes a longer distance is a very useful thing to be able to do.

          As for trying to get people to use buses instead of private cars, that’s something which hasn’t really been achieved anywhere. Public transport patronage is inversely proportional to wealth. i.e. when people can afford not go by bus, they prefer not to. Wealthy nations which have successfully managed to convince people not to drive have achieved success by encouraging cycling.

          • Frederick Guy says:

            The lack of a bus-car tradeoff may hold in statistics aggregated at the national level, but even if that is so there is a great deal of within-country variation, between cities: London and New York have much higher use of buses & transit generally than all other cities in their respective countries, and that is not because the people in London & New York are poorer. At the city level, you can also see big changes over time: in London, the congestion charge, bus lanes & investment in buses when Ken was mayor & Gordon Brown was Chancellor did in fact shift a lot of people from cars to buses.

            • davidhembrow says:

              Yes I’d broadly agree with that. The point is though that you need quite special conditions. I’d say London (& prob NYC as well though) has particular unpleasant conditions for driving, truly punishing parking prices and a bus and the service which absorb a lot of money in order to make the service regular enough to work to people.

              They’re also both very hostile places for cycling.

              Even given all that, public transport makes journeys slower and inconvenient ompared with what cycling could be for most people, and the proportion of journeys by car remains high. It’s notable that Londoners’ journeys made by car are
              over the same ditances and fo same purposes as the Dutch cycle and that Londoners respond to low subjectie aafety of other modes by using cars t make their journeys more than they would otherwise.

              What this indicates is that people aren’t particularly happy with modes other than private cars in London, but many put up with them until they have an important reason to want to be safer – such as having a child.

          • Paul Gannon says:

            What about trams? Does the same apply to tram travel or is it seen as a more attractive form of travel than bus?

            • davidhembrow says:

              I have no figures specifically for trams. The tracks are lethal for cyclists, though

              • Jan says:

                Lethal? Really? Can you give me statistics on that? I can’t find any lethal accident involving tram tracks and a bicycle in the Amsterdam news archives. There are one or two collision with bikes and trams but far less than with trucks. Trams are predictable, since they can’t leave their tracks, and there are far fewer (potential) points of conflict.

                Tram tracks are scary, and they cause some incidents with bikes getting stuck or losing grip on them. But as we say in Amsterdam, that’s a freshmen’s problem. Every september, it’s easy to spot the students that didn’t grow up in the city, since they slow down and avoid the tram tracks. Around november, they’re indistinguishable.

                Care has to be taken to make tram tracks and bike traffic cross perpendicular, where possible, but i really don’t see a reason to call tram tracks ‘lethal’. Trams are great: electrical, so no exhaust fumes, high volume, high speed, comfortable transport. If we would replace all trams in Amsterdam with buses, the city would immediately grind to a halt. And when it’s pouring with rain, about a third of the cyclists convert to public transport, so they add value to the ‘cycling option’. Without them, people might acquire a car for the rainy days, and even decide to use it all the time.

        • My experience is different. Our personal transport hierarchy is walk, bike, tube/train, bus with the car as a last resort.

          Personally I find driving in London unpleasant enough that I avoid it at all costs though I know many people prefer it to public transport. I’m not a fan of buses – modern buses accelerate, brake and corner to hard and fast. Uncomfortable and not possible to do anything else while travelling – for me even a crowded tube is preferable.

          We often bike on walkable journeys as it gives more onward options. Public transport when weather is poor or not certain of secure bike storage (I don’t feel safe leaving a bike locked in the street for any time in London)

          Conversely we meet masses of people we know when out cycling – it’s easy to stop to talk to someone you pass and a route that doesn’t just go home-tube station means we are more likely to pass other people.

  3. So in the Netherlands, where do taxis fit in?

    We have a number of rising bollard point closures in central Cambridge, which all but eliminate private motor traffic from a number of roads. Buses, obviously, can get through the bollards, but so can taxis. Some people make the case that taxis are a form of public transport, of which I am deeply sceptical. Certainly the bus and taxi combination makes a couple of roads deeply unpleasant for cycling (no segregation).

  4. Liz says:

    I find it baffling that people like Vincent Stops thinks that people who ride bikes don’t understand the needs of bus passengers. The majority of cyclists I know regularly use buses and other forms of transport, because (at least in a city) they’re less likely to own a car, and so for some journeys, they need to use public transport instead of cycling. I get cabs, too, sometimes even with my bike! As you say, it’s about having the freedom to choose the right mode of transport for the journey you’re making. This assumption that road users can be neatly divided into groups just doesn’t hold water.

    • Vincent Stops seems to think that bus users and bike users are like mods and rockers, that you choose which club you’re in and stick to it.

      It doesn’t seem to have occurred to him that these are just modes of transport, a means to an end which people aren’t really that attached to, or that most people who use a bike in London will also use buses (though the opposite is unlikely to be true under the current road system).

      (Incidentally, and off-topic here, but I wonder if this “club” mentality explains some avid cyclists’ opposition to Dutch-style infrastructure. I want people to treat bikes like they do buses, merely as a means to an end, while they want people to become bike fans who know about gears and tubes and things.)

      • davidhembrow says:

        If it were that then they should not be afraid. Far more bike geeks here than Britain – due to far more people taking part in all types of cycling.

    • Paulc says:

      actually Nazan, private cars should come right at the back after goods vehicles and utility vehicles… 🙂 everybody needs goods to be delivered into the shops etc. and everybody needs utility vehicles to fix things… private motoring should ALWAYS come last.

  5. Angus Hewlett (@angus_fx) says:

    Buses are not antisocial for school kids. Indeed, being able to muck about with your mates (and facebook/snapchat with your other mates on a different bus) is a big part of the appeal, as far as I can see.

  6. Nick Evans says:

    On the specific issue of bus lanes on Vauxhall Bridge, mixing them with general traffic southbound probably works ok. There are no bus stops in the middle of the bridge, so no need for buses to pull in and out of traffic flow, and they’ll not hold up or be held up by the motor traffic. A bit different northbound, as there are bus stops near the northern end, so they’ll need some priority.

    So far as removing a lane from general traffic is concerned, there is an extra issue here, in that it’s a bridge. So one of a limited number of crossings of the river, and reducing capacity too much is likely to have significant knock-on effects elsewhere. If you were to close it off to general traffic, there would be substantial diversions to Lambeth Bridge (which is narrower and less suitable) or Chelsea Bridge (quite dangerous bottlenecks on both sides). TfL’s proposals here are a reasonable compromise.

  7. It is evident from what Vincent Stops, and indeed other Hackney labour councillors have contributed to the debate through Twitter, that they are concerned to protect bus services and the people who use them. To me that is entirely predictable, and indeed quite laudable in a way. Buses, after all, are the choice (if indeed “choice” is a suitable word in the circumstances) of people for whom the private car is not an option – the poor and the disadvantaged generally, including elderly and disabled. I think they are entirely right to be aiming to protect those.

    Of course, I also think they are caught in the horns of a misconception in taking the position they take. Either they – mistakenly – believe that cycling is only for the non-disadvantaged middle classes, or they know, with good reason because research studies like Dave Horton’s “Understanding Walking and Cycling” tell us so, that this is in any case what poor or disadvantaged people themselves believe.

    The real problem is their apparent unwillingness, along with the rest of the British body politic, to challenge private motor vehicle hegemony. There should be a cycle lane AND a bus lane, and it should be lanes for other types of vehicles which are taken away. The reason they don’t is because they fear the backlash from the motoring lobby if they did.

    And yet, when a road closure is imposed by force majeure, this backlash largely vanishes. I recently saw a retweet of a remark by a Putney resident, that the closure for repairs of Putney Bridge had made Putney High Street so much more pleasant lately. All that traffic that used to pass through Putney High Street and on across the bridge, or vice versa, belching fumes and choking the streets, where has it gone? Well, It doesn’t seem like the sky has fallen in, does it? The press and local TV have not been bursting with daily reports of the chaos, delays and frustrations of motorists. I haven’t read any reports of ambulances or fire appliances being unable to attend emergencies or get people to hospital because of the closure. Traffic must have evaporated, just as the theory says it will, and really hardly anyone is all that bothered by the fact. Similar situations have occurred any number of times, with road closures or permeability schemes fought tooth and nail ultimately becoming universally accepted.

    This is clearly something the Netherlands learned decades ago. While they have a significant network of segregated cycle paths, in fact the great majority of road mileage there does not have segregated provision because it doesn’t need it. What they have done instead is excluded private motor traffic from the great majority of their streets. Not entirely of course, you can still drive almost anywhere for access, but you simply can’t drive through a place and out the other side, or if you can it is made sufficiently difficult and inconvenient to do so that almost no-one attempts it.

    It is a great pity that Hackney seems unwilling to embrace the first element of good cycle provision, ie taking away road space to give to cyclists as protected lanes on principal roads, because clearly in places that is the best or only solution, but in terms of the second element, ie calming and reducing motor traffic on minor roads, they are light-years ahead of almost all other local authorities in the UK, and even the more enlightened other boroughs in London, such as Islington, Camden and now the City, are barely catching up.

    • Frederick Guy says:

      Agreed. The key objective is restricting through traffic by private motor vehicles, and one of the political keys to achieving that objectives is to develop a vision of a city in which buses, bicycles, and pedestrians all flow freely – not to give credibility to the bikes vs. buses choice. Good examples of such a positive vision are Andrea Casalotti’s Clerkenwell Boulevard proposal, Rachel Aldred’s response to Camden’s West End plans, and AAARAB’s observations, in this post, on Vauxhall Bridge. What I take issue with (besides the buses=anti-social nonsense) is AAARAB’s general framing of the problem in this way:

      “Space for cycling should come first from private motor traffic, then from the bus network, if necessary, and if that can be achieved without eroding the quality of the bus network as a whole. Indeed, this is how Dutch cities, in my experience, function. Space for walking and cycling comes first, then space for a bus or public transport network, and space for private motor traffic then has to fit in around that. This ordering means that many ‘main roads’ in Dutch cities aren’t open to private motor traffic at all, except for access.”

      OK, but we’re not in the Netherlands. We are starting from a place where sufficient space is dedicated neither to bikes nor to buses, and excessive space to private motor vehicles. Under such circumstances I would suggest that the number of cases in London (to say nothing of elsewhere in Britain) where the bus network should yield space to the cycle network is vanishingly small. Under these circumstances, it does not help to say “then from the bus nework”. The space for cycling will be found by displacing private motor vehicles; one key to that displacement is making sure there’s plenty of space for buses (which as others here have noted make much more efficient use of street space than cars); this is a key not only to finding the space, but to a political settlement that can get past the issues raised by Vincent Stops. To argue about bike vs. bus priority in London today can please only the petrolheads.

      • I think this comment sums up neatly your main objection to what I’ve written here – it seems to be ‘let’s not talk about conflict between buses and bicycles, at all, because both are important modes of transport which should both take priority over motor traffic, and besides once we crack down on motor traffic, there won’t be conflict.’

        Well, I don’t think we can be that complacent. There are many, many roads in London (and other places) that have two bus lanes, where motor traffic can’t be removed completely. You will still need lanes (even just one lane!) for access, for instance. So, once you have that lane, then bus lanes, and no space allocated to cycling, what happens then? Do we just give up on cycling? Or do we accept that one of the bus lanes might have to be sacrificed, for the benefits that cycling might offer, compared to bus travel?

        There will be conflicts, I’m afraid. I wish they wouldn’t happen, but we can’t pretend they don’t exist.

        • andreengels says:

          It all depends on the situation, but one has to look at the situation at a larger scale. Not every road has to be adapted to every travel mode. Maybe the bus can be detoured to the next road, maybe cyclists can. Maybe with a cleverly chosen set of filtered permeability points (with bus and cycle access through bus traps with, if need be, cycle bypasses), one can even resolve the whole situation without either bus lanes or cycle tracks. I do agree that one should not exclude the removal of bus lanes a priori, but when one does, add in other measures to actually make the bus lane unnecessary. Because just like cyclepaths are not necessary along every road, bus lanes are not necessary on all roads with a bus line.

        • Joel_C says:

          Might sound a bit odd, but what about bus lanes which allow local access only? Would this be too difficult to enforce? Alternatively, routes without bus lanes but where bus gates prevent private motor traffic (e.g. Glasgow’s Nelson Mandela Place)

          • Joel_C says:

            I mean, local access for private motor vehicles…

          • Frederick Guy says:

            It would not need to be enforced at many points – should be feasible.
            Andrea Casalotti’s proposal for Clerkenwell does it with bus-only sections of the road, separating the local access sections.

        • Frederick Guy says:

          I don’t have any problem with talking about bus-bike conflict – I just think a cycle campaigner’s priority should be searching for a resolution that improves roads for both buses & cycles, rather than asserting priority.

          • fred says:

            There is an argument that – unlike most other UK cities – London, after Ken Livingstone’s extension of bus lanes, and several years with ‘bus men’ running TfL, some parts of London (particularly Zone 1) have more buses than they need. Certainly I’ve heard informally from several places that the real objection to removing buses from Oxford St is not the need for bus garages at each end, as Peter Hendy claims, but the cost to several private bus companies (that will need to be refunded by TfL) of removing large long-term contracts for provision of bus services with (essentially) guaranteed profits. Replacement of (some) bus trips by walking and cycling trips that produce fewer particulates and less NO2, particularly in zone 1, is no bad thing.

            • Frederick Guy says:

              @ Fred: There are more cycles than get used in London, too – sitting in sheds. Bad infrastructure, so not enough of them are ridden, as we all know.
              With several years of bus fare hikes, falling cost of driving relative to public transport, failure to charge superstores and businesses for the social costs of drivers going to and from their car parks… of course there are too many buses in some places.
              When I look at Oxford St don’t see too many buses – I see too many cabs (almost as many black vehicles as red ones, and how many passengers in the cabs?)

          • Okay, that’s my priority too.

            But there will exist situations where conflict between a bus and cycle network will occur, regardless of how much we reduce space for motor traffic. In those situations walking and cycling should quite rightly take priority.

            I’m not quite sure what your objection is here.

        • AndreassenVon says:

          Look at Copenhagen…I lived there once and there was no conflict simply because
          the majority commuted to work…by bike…think also about air pollution most of which
          is caused by cars…don’t believe it ? look at the buildings all that black stuff is going into our lungs !

    • Traffic does adjust. Albert Bridge was closed for repairs for about a year seemingly without any significant effects on the local traffic – I commuted through before during and after and traffic was much the same. Neither Albert nor Battersea bridge have any safe space for cyclists. The closure suggested both could have been given two way separated cycle lanes with a single directional lane of traffic without ill effect.

  8. Bill G says:

    The post matches my experience very closely. Monday to Friday I commute by bike to work but every weekend I ride the bus with my wife because she will not cycle in London. If there were segregated lanes she would cycle, and I know this because when working in The Hague she cycled regularly.
    Most of our journeys are sub-4 miles, a little too far to walk but perfectly normal on a bike and no special clothes or equipment required. Put in the correct infrastructure and we would be cycling most weekends.

  9. andreengels says:

    You write: “Indeed, this is how Dutch cities, in my experience, function. Space for walking and cycling comes first, then space for a bus or public transport network, and space for private motor traffic then has to fit in around that.”
    I don’t think that’s a good description of the Dutch system. In fact, I would say it misses the cleverest part. There’s not one order of priority for all roads. Rather, there are, at least in the more ‘forward’ cities, separate networks for buses, for cars and for bicycles. Sometimes they are along the same roads, sometimes not. On their own networks each gets first class provision. Outside it, they are pushed down in priority, sometimes to the extent of not allowing car traffic at all. Think for example of Houten, well known among Dutch infrastructure enthousiasts. Large parts of the ring road (and the central east-west connection) are forbidden for bicycles, without a cyclepath or parallel road alongside. Elsewhere in the town, there are cyclepaths with a clear through traffic function. At one place cars are prioritized to the extent of fully excluding bicycles, at another it’s the other way around.

    • Yes, that’s ‘unbundling’ – putting cycling and motor traffic (and buses!) on completely different routes.

      But unbundling isn’t a complete answer (except in places like Houten, of course) – people will still want to cycle on the main roads, because that’s where the activity is, and because they are obvious routes. The key is making the bicycle network much, much more finely grained than the driving network – covering a large number of available routes.

      • andreengels says:

        The action is usually not where the main car network is in the Netherlands – unless by ‘action’ you mean movement of motor vehicles of course, but then I don’t see why that would be a reason to cycle there. One emphasis in sustainable safety is on reducing or removing speed differences, and a car turning into a low-speed side road or a car parking will have a considerable speed difference with a car going straight on. Because of that, the Dutch strive to eliminate on-street parking and minimize the number of junctions on the car network. Places to go are therefore not directly on the car network – unless there are very many people going, but in that case car drivers don’t want to go to the place itself, but to the car park – and bicycle parking will have its own place, not necessarily close to the car park.
        Of course it is true that often the car network and bicycle network DO run parallel along the same road, but that’s because the rights of way for the roads are wide enough that both can get what they need anyway. My point is that where this is not the case, it’s neither the car nor the bicycle that has standard priority. At one place the cyclist gets what he wants, and the car driver has to accept that what was once a through road becomes a one-way access road. At another, the car driver gets all, and the cyclist is given a more-or-less parallel route instead.
        I agree with you that the bicycle network needs to be more fine-grained than the car network, by the way. Bicycle routes need to be direct, car routes may make a detour, especially if the longer route can be driven faster. Also, because bicycle routes on average are shorter, the ‘off network’ part at the beginning and end need to be shorter to have the same relative impact.

  10. The lack of proper hazard analysis is a key point here. The CS2 cycle track has created a greatly raised level of hazards to motor traffic, and cyclists than existed in the previous arrangement. On 25 July there was a major crash Eastbound, where the flow from the A12 merges with the traffic coming over the flyover. Previously the A12 traffic had a continuous lane, now the reduced width means that a very short narrowing lane merges with the 2 lanes coming from the flyover.

    Westbound buses stop and there is a significant traffic turning left into Sugar House Lane (for 3 Mills Studios) which often has to stop to accommodate the passage of cycle traffic which has priority on the cycle track. The Sugar House Lane turning plus the 2 other left turns and the bus stops present major left hook hazards to the cycle track and major stopping & turning hazards in the now sole lane heading for the A12. A vehicle turning in or emerging from the 3 left turns on this approach has the high hazard of traffic at a nominal official 30mph (but from observation often much faster) failing to stop.

    Cycle traffic taking the safer and faster route over the flyover also normally swings over from the cycle track at Sugar House Lane. The continuous kerb elsewhere makes this about the only safe place to make this move – a serious degrading of the previously open arrangement that permitted the move out to be made at any point. Some cyclists ride on the carriageway all the way for this reason. Returning to cycle track Eastbound can be tricky as the ‘gap’ is aligned with end of tapered lane from A12 thus seriously hazardous conflict between emerging traffic and descending cyclists at 25-35 mph.

    Sadly Newham BC has decided that 3 Mills Cafe cannot have seats and tables outside, so you need to bring your own to sit & watch traffic. Oh and a further hazard created by cycle track construction is that motor vehicles setting down Westbound on High Street can block the only lane for heading to roundabout – likewise for buses (which is why bus stop on slip road from East to A12 is out of use at present and buses currently going over the flyover – with a hazardous rapid move to left at Bow side to serve the next bus stop) – whole scheme not considered holistically for all classes of traffic it seems.

  11. Neve says:

    Hi – What is the best way to contact you personally? I have Cycling PR opps. Please email me on neve@mediarundigital.co.uk! Thanks!

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