Cycle planning in London – landscape architects should help

Cyclists love AmsterdamGreat to see cycling as an issue in the election for a London Mayor and, since it is safer to judge politicians by what they do than by what they say, I will vote for the re-election of Boris Johnson. I have SEEN him cycling to work in London. Ken Livingstone  says a bit about cycling but, during his years as Mayor, I SAW no significant improvements – and nor did I hear of him riding a bike.

To ride with the election, the London Cycling Campaign is running  a ‘Love London, Go Dutch’ campaign. The LCC points out that in the 1970s, cycling was not much more popular in Amsterdam than in London. Today, 3% of London journeys are made by bike (this includes 90% of my journeys!) and 47% of Amsterdam journeys are made by bike (figures from Evening Standard 26.4.2012). The cycle park at Zuid Station holds 2500 bikes and parking is free for the first 24 hours. TfL has a cycle park at London Bridge Station which holds 400 bikes and costs £1.50/day.  I would like to see landscape architects taking an active role in London Cycle Planning and Design. Those ugly Barclays cycle ‘superhighways’ should be replaced by beautifully designed  leafy and flowery routes. This will cost money – and the Landscape Institute should be a very-active campaigner for safe, convenient and enjoyable cycle lanes. It would not surprise me if 50% of landscape architects cycle to work in London – so they can be trusted to produce good designs.

Image courtesy MaWá

19 thoughts on “Cycle planning in London – landscape architects should help

  1. Robert Holden

    For a cycling mayor Boris Johnson has been very very disappointing, cycling in London remains dangerous and under-provided for, 2.2% of all journeys are by cycle in London compared with 37% in Amsterdam
    On becoming Mayor Boris Johnson reduced funding for the London Cycling Network

    Cycling accidents have risen during his period of mayoralty by 13% upto 2011, see

    For a map of London’s blackspots for London cyclists see
    It was Boris as mayor who has worked to increase vehicle speed levels in central London see above Daily Telegraph Report

    To hear Mayor Johnson on cycling see the Times/ Sustrans mayoral candidate debate

    Now I am about to vote for green assembly members and Ken Livingstone as mayor after cycling through two of Boris’s blackspots. Vote for Boris Johnson is you have a 4×4 and wish to drive a car faster in London.

  2. Tom Turner Post author

    Thank you for the link to the great article about cycling in the Telegraph. I look forward to reading the book on which it is based and VERY much agree that a great deal more money should be spent on cycling. My thoughts on the transport budget is that since the aim should be 50% of London journeys by bike the norm should be for 50% of the TfL investment budget to be spent on cycling – after a 10-year catch-up period in which 99% of the budget is spent on cycling.
    PS I think voting for the Green Party would be better than voting for Ken Livingstone: he is not trustworthy.

  3. Christine

    Perhaps with greater promotion of the benefits of cycling more people will take it up? [ ]

    However, it might also be useful to address the disadvantages of cycling too…such as the safety issue for cyclists. Is cycling promotion funded as part of the health budget? If it was, the bad health effects of accidents could equally be addressed as a social health cost too.

    1. Tom Turner Post author

      The health calculations would be very interesting but very complicated. Since one rarely sees overweight cyclists one might include the avoidance of obesity and its associated problems as a benefit of cycling – and, I suppose, respiratory problems as a disbenefit of motoring.

  4. Christine

    Hmmm. Respiratory problems could be a disbenefit of cycling too, but the cause of the bad air is motoring, so you are right these calculations could be complicated…

    Health benefits of cycling: contribution to maintainence of healthy weight (W%) and fitness level (F%)
    Health disbenefits of cycling: if cycling in area with air pollution (air pollution greater than X)respiratory problems are highly likely.

    Health benefits of motoring: not exposed to polluted air (Y% of journeys undertaken)
    Health disbenefits of motoring: opportunities for exercise are reduced (Z% reduction in exercise opportunities)

  5. Tom Turner Post author

    To recycle a banal phrase, ‘we are where we are’. So the focus should be on the deployment of investment funds. I would like to see a sophisticated cost-benefit calculation of:
    – a billion pounds spent on facilities to improve commuting by cycling
    – a billion pounds spent on facilities to improve commuting by road transport
    – a billion pounds spent on facilities to improve commuting by public transport
    My guess, is that money spent on cycling would produce the highest total returns (in London, anyway).

  6. Robert Holden

    Cycling in London is problematic. This is something that the GLA and our Mayor ought to do something about. One aspect is the poor level of the atmosphere in London, The wikipedia article on atmospheric pollution appears a reasonable introduction, see
    in respect of this I quote:

    “In 2010, the European Commission (EC) threatened the UK with legal action against the successive breaching of PM10 limit values.[47] The UK government has identified that if fines are imposed, they could cost the nation upwards of £300 million per year.[48]…In March 2011, the City of London remains the only UK region in breach of the EC’s limit values, and has been given 3 months to implement an emergency action plan aimed at meeting the EU Air Quality Directive.[49] The City of London has dangerous levels of PM10 concentrations, estimated to cause 3000 deaths per year within the city.[50] As well as the threat of EU fines, in 2010 it was threatened with legal action for scrapping the western congestion charge zone, which is claimed to have led to an increase in air pollution levels.[51]”

    for the GLA’s monitoring of atmospheric pollution in London see:
    the latest figures are for 2008!
    and for independent scientific monitoring see:

    1. Tom Turner Post author

      Thank you for the information. I have several theories as to why I was affected by late-onset asthma and one of them is that particulates inhaled when cycling caused the problem. If so, the cost of doctors’ time and drugs prescribed should be added to London’s transport budget.
      London’s cycling network requires a very much higher level of expenditure than it has received.

  7. Christine

    A capital works proposal for your billion pounds to improve cycling conditions:

    The sky cycle network looks like a better investment under polluted air conditions. Perhaps micro studies could identify the areas of greatest concentration of local pollutants and sky tubes could be built for these sections?

    1. Tom Turner Post author

      YES! But the sky tubes would require excellent integration with the urban environment. I would not like to see them choking streets, like the L in Chicago. My suggestion is would be to build them in conjunction with railways and trunk roads. They are, in any case, much better suited to long trips than short trips.

  8. Robert Holden

    The value of bicycles is they provide door to door access. Sky tubes as decribed by TT would be expensive (comparatively) and not provide door to door access, they are a diversion, the precedents of how to provide for and foster cycling are in many continental European cities, Copenhage, Amsterdam, and many German, note the example of French cities, where the 1995 legislation requiring all towns with populations of over 100,000 to have active cycling policies. See also
    for a list of more recent strategies and policies.
    The GLA ought to reinstate its annual reports on atmospheric pollution last published in 2008.

    1. Tom Turner Post author

      A distinction needs to be made between short cycle journeys and long cycle journeys. Cycle tubes would be useless in Central London but for the journey from Dartford to London by bike would be much pleasanter on a bike in a cycletube than by bike on the A2. One could do the trip on side roads etc but it would take an unreasonable length of time.

  9. Christine

    Cycle tubes need not provide door to door access as they do not replace bicycles, rather they are a form of bicycle path. It would be entirely possible to go in and out of a number of cycle tubes across a long journey.

    Cycling policies in Australia are having an impact on the popularity of cycling both with the provision of road space for cycling and dedicated cycle spaces.
    [ ]

    But yes the distinction between journey lengths is an important one.

    The question of atmospheric pollution should not be framed as either cycle tubes or clean air.

    1. Tom Turner Post author

      Coronation Drive looks like a great place to ride a bike.
      Last weekend I rode my bike from St James’s Park to Kensington Gardens and thought the number of cyclists on this route (a shared path) had risen about tenfold since I last did it. London may yet become a cycle-friendly city.

  10. Robert Holden

    Cycling and atmospheric pollution are related in a number of ways. The French cycling strategy requirements are part of an anti-pollution law.

    Cycling tubes are a tactical wiz which have not been followed up in any of the European cities which have promoted good cycling and appears an idea of little strategic importance. The Dutch cycle regularly long distances (e.g. Den Haag to Delft) in my experience and enjoy the bracing conditions.

    The idea of cycling in a long tube with little view out of the window and in a hot clammy atmosphere appears unappealing.


    with the wind in my hair

    1. Tom Turner Post author

      The cycletube idea should be compared with a light railway, not with street cycling. The nearest I have come to the experience it would provide is when I have ridden my bike in (1) the tube from Waterloo East to Waterloo (2) within some of the tubes at Heathrow airport (3) in the pedestrian tunnel at Greenwich. I was misbehaving on each occasion but felt it had to be done in the interests of research. The fact that the system has not been tried in any European country proves nothing and if the bank run spreads round the Mediterranean from Greece then we may have more countries taking an interest in lower-cost sustainable transport infrastructure!

  11. Christine

    Robert, Holland is flat, flat, flat and so an ideal environment for cycling. It also has only small sized cities with Amsterdam having under a million inhabitants. The Dutch are generally lean and active. The question is not so much one of climate. Holland is the only place I have cycled as a tourist.

    Imagine that the tube was all window with a feel more like the London eye….[ ] but perhaps also with open and semi-open sections as well.

    Coronation Drive is an excellent place to ride a bike, walk, jog and rollerblade. There was also a floating walkway which was an extension of this pathway but it got washed away in the floods. [ ]

    It would be great if it was re-instated.

    1. Tom Turner Post author

      It would be pleaseant to have a cyclepath with a roof and no walls, as they have in Dubai, but a ‘crystal tube’ would have a great advantage: instead of cyclists having to ride into the wind for half the time they would always have the wind behind them. Believe me, that’s better.


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