IGF-Vorstandsmitglied Beatrice Stude hält sich in England auf und teilt uns ihre Eindrücke vom Radverkehr mit – inklusive Anregungen für die heimische Verkehrsplanung! Heute zu Highways: FahrradfahrerInnen brauchen schnelle Verbindungen – ein Hauptradverkehrsnetz in der Stadt. An Durchgangsstraßen für den motorisierten Individualverkehr, auf denen Geschwindigkeiten von über 30 km/h vorherrschen, brauchen RadlerInnen separate Wege. London hat das erkannt, aber Theorie und Praxis driften leider weit auseinander. Wien sollte sich ebenfalls vorrangig auf den Ausbau eines übergeordneten Radwegenetzes konzentrieren, aber keinesfalls Londons Fehler nachmachen.
Das Fahrrad ist das schnellste und daher beste Fortbewegungsmittel in der Stadt. Gilt das für jede Stadt gleichermaßen? Leihradsysteme machen es einem leicht dies auszuprobieren. Die Boris Bikes in London im Selbstversuch.
Im Vergleich gibt es einiges was sich die Wiener Citybikes von den Boris Bikes abschauen können: Netzdichte, zügiger Ausbau – vor allem die Anbindung wichtiger Orte mit entsprechender Größe der Leihstationen in der Stadt, wie Parks, öffentliche Einrichtungen, Museen; sowie einfaches zeitsparendes Entleihen. Allerdings gibt es auch etwas, dass in Wien wesentlich nutzerfreundlicher ist: das Tarifsystem.
Wie sorgt man dafür, das es im Wahlkampf wieder um Inhalte geht – vor allen Dingen um jene, die einem am Herzen liegen? Und wie kann man sicherstellen, das die Wahlversprechen präziser definiert und mit künftigen Projekten hinterlegt werden? Die London Cycling Campaign hat mit ihrer ,Love London, Go Dutch‘ Kampagne einen erfolgreichen Weg dafür aufgezeigt.
Wenige Tage vor den Bürgermeisterwahlen hat die London Cycling Campaign – LCC – ,The Big Ride’ organisiert, um noch einmal die Aufmerksamkeit auf die Bedürfnisse der RadfahrerInnen in der Stadt zu lenken, und auf ihre Kampagne ,Love London, Go Dutch’. Die Kampagne ist im Grunde ein vorgefertigtes Wahlversprechen mit recht präzise umrissenem Umsetzungsprogramm zur Verbesserung der Bedingungen für den Radverkehr. LCC hat lobbyiert, Druck aufgebaut und … gewonnen!
IGF-Vorstandsmitglied Beatrice Stude hält sich zur Zeit in Großbritannien auf und bringt Erkenntnisse mit, die sich auch auf die Radverkehrssituation in Österreich und Wien umlegen lassen. Heute der erste Teil: Londons Bürgermeister Boris und seine Räder. Auch an der Themse wird zum Thema, dass sich „Städtväter entscheiden müssen: Autos oder Fahrräder.“ Bislang ist die Entscheidung in London zugunsten der Autos gefallen, das muss in Wien anders rum sein!
Mit dem Bestreben, weitere kontraproduktive Gesetze ins Leben zu rufen, zeigt die Politik in Österreich wie „ernst“ es ihr mit der Umwelt und Nachhaltigkeit ist. Gesetze wie die Helmpflicht, eine Reduktion des Alkohollimits auf AutofahrerInnenniveau, die weiterhin bestehende Radwegbenützungspflicht etc. sind eine Gängelung der NutzerInnen des umweltfreundlichen Verkehrsmittels Fahrrad. Dass auch FahrradfahrerInnen WählerInnen sind, wird hier allzu gern vergessen. Bei den anstehenden Bürgermeisterwahlen in London könnten die RadlerInnen das entscheidende Zünglein an der Waage sein.
London has recognised this and started to build the cycle superhighways. However, what was perfect in theory got watered down in the implementation.
Vienna should also focus on a main cycle network, but not make the same mistakes London made.
The Cycle Superhighways (CS) in London
The main idea for the Cycle Superhighways, was and is to establish fast cycle routes for commuters. But let‘s take a first look at the wording they use: CYCLE SUPERHIGHWAY. A highway is by definition a main road, especially one connecting major towns or cities; the prefix super implies that is an exceptional, extreme form of a highway. With that in mind you will propably be disappointed when starting to explore the CS in London. And here is why:
- The CS have opening hours, mostly from 7am to 7pm. Before and after that motorists are allowed to park there. Ever heard of a motorway having closing times? I‘m sure people living near the M1 would love that and enjoy a good night‘s sleep.
- The CS are suspended during the Olympic Games.
- At crossings with main roads you sometimes need to press a button at the signal light to continue your journey eg. on the CS7 at Elephant & Castle. I‘d love to see motorists having to do that too.
- The CS (eg. the CS8 along Grosvenor Road) is wide enough to be very convenient for other cyclists to overtake, but at main crossings with traffic lights, the CS narrows noticeably or even ends surprisingly and there is a gap between the CS and the ASZ (Advanced Stop Zone) that you are often unable to reach as a cyclist when lights are red.
- The CS which are not along main roads make the cyclist feel like a rabbit dodging and turning corners in slow motion. This zigzaging forces the frequent cycling commuter to find a better and therefore faster route, eg. CS7 around Elephant & Castle.
- The CS is sometimes just painted on bus lanes, which often leads to a ridiculous game of overtaking between the cyclists and buses if one is not among the faster cyclists. In any event, both types of cyclists have to squeeze themselves through a bus stopping at a bus stop and the motorists bumper to bumper at peak hours on the lanes next to it.
There are, nevertheless advantages which need to be mentioned:
- The bright blue colour of the CS is respected by most motorists who do not usually drive on it, unlike the not very visible green of the few cycle paths. Unfortunately it is not respected by the police.
- The bright colour and therefore presence on the streets also helps to raise cycling awareness.
- It might help commuters to change their commuting habits in favour of cycling as an easy way to get started. Indeed, the signsposts with important points and travelling time to these points is quite helpful and you notice that the design follows the same rules as the tube and is easy to understand.
- The CS is helpful for routes you do not travel on everyday, like short business trips to outer London.
- The CS routes are almost gapfree which usually cannot be said for the common cycle paths, which seem to have no connection.
The bicycle is the fastest way to get around in a city. Is that in the same way true for every city? Cycle hire schemes make it easy to try it out. The Boris Bikes – an opinion.
By comparison the Viennese Citybikes could learn a lot from the Boris Bikes, such as the density of the docking stations, the quick extension of the scheme – especially the connection of important places throughout the inner city, parks, public institutions, museums; as well as the easy and quick hire. However, there is something the Viennese scheme is much better in: the costs.
How to get around in London? The first thing you will hear when telling Londoners your plans on cycling in the city – if you are not talking to one of the cyclists – is: Cycling in London is suicide or at least pretty scary. With 16 fatalities and a lot of severly injured cyclists in 2011 you realise that this is not just a personal opinion, but fact. The other thing they might tell you is that you need two locks at least to secure your bike from theft. Later on you will find out yourself that there are not many facilities to lock your bike to – even lampposts are quite rare in some areas. Enough reasons to put you off from cycling? NO. Especially not after queueing three times every morning to ride the tube: Before you enter the building, in front of the ticket barriers and on the platform. Usually there is a tube coming every other minute, but often it is too crowded to get on the first one, sometimes you are not even able to enter the second one. However, there is this newish cycle hire scheme, Boris Bikes – nicknamed after London‘s mayor. And if your happen to live somewhere near the inner city you might live in the proximity of one of the cycle hire stations. But are they the perfect fit for short time Londoners?
With a lot less to worry about like bike theft, abandon your bike for the night when you lose the ability to ride it after uncountable pints, and the flexibility to choose easily between your mode of transportation: walking, riding a bike and sometimes even taking the tube again.
Despite looking and actually being quite heavy, Boris Bikes are much more convenient to ride than expected. Still they are quite heavy and unhandy to carry around. You will never try to carry them up some stairs a second time, any detour is less troublesome than that. The cycles have three gears, but you will hardly ever use the second and probably never use the first one. The saddles are huge compared to racing bikes. However, they are comfortable and have a nice advantage: women with tight dresses or skirts just turn them around and are still able to ride the bikes in their business clothes.
Like almost everything, the scheme is not for free. Moreover, you need to pay twice: an access fee and an usage charge. The latter is just necessary if you hire the bike for more than thirty minutes at a time. The access fee for one day is £1 and £5 for a week. The usage charge increases painfully after one hour. The first hour costs you £1, it is £4 for-one-and-a-half hours and up to the maximum of £50 for 24 hours. But if you are stingy or just short on cash and do not want to pay the usage charge, you could return your cycle to the docking station within the first 30 minutes, walk to the next and get another one and continue your journey.
If you happen to be in London for quite some time it might be sensible to become a member of the scheme. The annual fee for that is £45 and with an extra £3 you can get a key which enables you to directly hire the bikes without using the docking column and your credit card.
Sometimes this decides whether you get the last available cycle at the docking station or not. Anyway it is just very convenient and saves a lot of time.
Although there are now 8,300 cycles for hire and more than 13,000 docking spaces at around 550 docking stations throughout the inner city, if you start your journey at the border of the hire scheme there is sometimes a shortage of cycles available in the morning or free docking spaces in the evening.
From time to time you need to ride to another docking station which is usually within 300 or 500 metres to give back your cycle. The cycle hire scheme compensates this inconvenience with an extra 15 minutes for free. Especially late at night – the tube only rides until shortly after midnight even at the weekends – this shortage sometimes leads to a racelike competition for the last free docking space. If you are not in a hurry it can be quite entertaining. If, however, you are in a group, it can be a bit annoying because you need to split up to get rid of all your hired cycles. Unfortunately, the cycle is not constructed for transporting more than one person, there is just space at the front for a regular sized briefcase.
In general the next cycle hire station has a free docking space. And if you do not want to try your luck you can ask the screen at the column about availability at the nearest stations. Unfortunately it does not tell you the location so with a map of unamed stations and the availability list it is mostly down to good guess. At this point sometimes the nice British people step in. 70 percent of the cycle hire users are people with a Londen address. Not just once did I look a bit lost on my Boris Bike or a bit upset in front of the full docking spaces when someone showed me, unasked, the way to the next docking station. However, if you are one of the people with smartphones and internet access, there is a nice app which tells you all you need to know. Well, almost anything, because it seems that the app and the paper map (sent to all new members of the scheme) cannot keep up with the extension of the scheme.
Barclays cycle hire, which is the official name for Boris Bikes, was recently extended towards the Olympic Park and intensified in the inner city just some weeks ago, when 2,300 bikes and 4,800 docking stations were added to the scheme. According to the Greater London authority Barclay Bank has invested £25m in the first five years and will provide the same amount of money until 2018. The first £25m were a fifth of the initial cost of the scheme.
How to get the election campaign back in context, especially to topics which are important for one? And how do we make sure, that the promises made during the election process are defined precisely and linked to future projects? The London Cycling Campaign has shown with its ‘Love London, Go Dutch‘ campaign one way how to do this.
A few days before the mayoral election the London Cycling Campaign – LCC – has organised ‘The Big Ride‘ to remind everyone of the needs and requirements of cyclists in the city, and their campaign ‘Love London, Go Dutch‘. The campaign is basically a ready-made promise with a precise programme for implementation for the improvement of the conditions of cycling. LCC has lobbyied, put on pressure and … won!
The Big Ride
‘The Big Ride‘ cycle demonstration took place in London. It rained, but no-one cared. The participants cycled to raise awareness of noise and air pollution, for the future independence of children and adolescents and in general the freedom to get around the city unharmed by traffic. London should go Dutch, at least with regard to the conditions for cycling. The demonstration of cyclists; women, men and children seemed endless. Despite the inclement weather endless batches of cyclists rode by. Even the police officers had fun. The demonstration train always stopped at crossings to accommodate pedestrians. It took half an hour for the first and last cyclists to pass under the Golden Jubilee Bridge.
The aim of the campaign is to ask the mayoral candidates to prioritise cycling and pedestrians in the future and to commit to the three key points of the campaign:
- Implement three flagship Love London, Go Dutch developments on major streets and/or locations.
- Make sure all planned developments on the main roads that they control are complete to Go Dutch standards, especially junctions.
- Make sure the Cycle Superhighways programme is completed to Love London, Go Dutch standards.
The campaign’s petition still continues, at the time of writing 37,000 people have signed. On Friday, 27 April, one day before the ‘The Big Ride‘ Boris Johnson also declared his commitment to this campaign. His competitors did that much earlier. LCC has reached its goal, now we will see if and how quickly the new mayor will put all this into practice.
Mayoral elections are coming up in London. Seven candidates are running for this powerful position. However, all of these do not have an equal chance of becoming the mayor of London. There are two frontrunners: the present mayor Boris Johnson and the former mayor Ken Livingstone. With the election being a tight race like this, cyclists may have the decisive vote.
That is why Londonersonbike.org wants to unite London‘s cyclists to vote with their bike for the candidate who promises to do most for the safety of cyclists in the capital. The organisation watches the four most promising candidates: Boris Johnson (Tory), Ken Livingstone (Labour), Brian Paddick (LibDem) and Jenny Jones (Green) – and nominates the candidate of the week, every week.
Boris Johnson the present mayor has done some things which are really recognised outside the UK. He implemented a cycle hire scheme throughout the inner city and later on the cycle superhighways. Best of all, he himself often rides on his bike through the city. From a distance all this and the somewhat charming dishevelled appearance – the fuzzy just out-of-bed look of his blond hair – lets you easily forget which party he belongs to. He likes to label himself as the mayor of cycling, but is it just a label or has he really done enough in his four years of mayoralty?
First of all, the cycle hire scheme was not his idea. It was already part of a three-step plan worked out by the transport commitee of London for increasing cycling in the city. However, one has to say it was under his time in office that it was implemented quickly and in a wide area. Unfortunately, it is also one of the most expensive schemes in Europe. The next step of the plan was the CS – the cycle super highways, which were implemented shortly afterwards – and do not by any means meet the expectations connected to its name. The third step was pushing cycling into the outer parts of London by establishing cycle facilities e.g. for locking bikes safely. Boris Johnson decided against the implementation of this third step.
Secondly, the mayor is known for sometimes speaking before thinking, which might also shed light on his real nature. Confronted with Elephant and Castle, one of London‘s most dangerous junctions the mayor stated: “The Elephant and Castle roundabout is perfectly negotiable by bike so long as you keep your wits about you”
. This must feel like mockery for the 89 cyclists and their relatives who were seriously injured or even killed at this junction in the past two years. Worst of all, the mayor does not just do nothing, but has concentrated on smoothing the traffic flow for motorists. This is commented on very bluntly by Mr Paddick, a former Metropolitan Police commander for Lambeth: “Mr Johnson’s policy of speeding up traffic flow is costing cyclists’ lives.”
Not only is this bad for cyclists, but also pedestrians suffer from this policy due to the abolition of a lot of pedestrian crossings.
Londonersonbikes.org also announces events connected to cycling and the elections. For example the question time of the four mayoral candidates or their represenatives organised by Livingstreets. Apart from the already mentioned issues, another big one is air quality. Improving the air quality at the moment is mostly done by fiddling the measurements of the EU, like planting trees and plants near the EU measurings points in London and applying a certain type of glue onto the street twice a day to capture the particles from the air. Being very expensive, the latter must have quite an effect, otherwise one might think it would not be continued. Why then not use it to freshen up the air near nurseries, schools and hospitals? However, this avoidance of paying high penalties to the EU is somewhat understandable, although it should be temporary, because it is just dealing with the symptoms and not fighting the problem at its source. Especially when the poor air quality is causing more than 4,000 premature death in London every year.
With planes flying over the city every minute or less, there is massive pollution coming from the sky. Even at 4 o‘clock on a Saturday morning their noise accompanies on your way home. Predictions say that the three biggest airports of London will hit capacity in 2030: Heathrow 85m passengers per year (now 65m), Gatwick 40m (now 30m) and Standsted 35m (now 20m). The present mayor is in favour of air traffic. The plans for a new mega-airport at the estuary of the Thames east of London are already nicknamed Boris Island as a result of his commitment to this project.
According to the question time all candidates or their representatives were more or less equally in favour of cycling and pedestrians, except Boris‘ spokesman. His only somewhat reasonable argument the re-election of Boris Johnson was his good connections to the Prime Minister (who studied at Oxford at the same time and is also a Tory) and that he is the one getting the most money for London. However, not only the amount of money available is important, but also how it is spent. Even a motormouth like Jeremy Clarkson stated that at some point not long ago that “City fathers have to choose. Cars or bicycles.“
In London at present it surely is cars, but hopefully the next mayor will start to change that.