Tomorrow’s Cyclists – facing the challenges
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Tomorrow’s Cyclists – facing the challenges Dr John Stubbs, Department of Geography, University of Derby, May 2007 Tomorrow’s cyclists – facing the challenges

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Tomorrow’s Cyclists – facing the challenges

Dr John Stubbs, Department of Geography, University of Derby, May 2007


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Tomorrow’s cyclists – facing the challenges

This presentation starts by questioning the rationale behind campaigns to increase cycling in Britain and continues by discussing some of the key issues involved in attempts to effect modal shift from car to bicycle. It concludes by arguing that the realisation of any such substantial modal shift will only be met if future cycle campaigning is focused on transport demand management policy, rather than just on cycling itself.

1 Why cycling?

2 Where lies the future?

3 Facing the challenges


Why cycling l.jpg
Why cycling?

  • Cycling, like any other form of transport (walking, bus, train, tram, car, taxi etc) provides mobility regardless of whether for utility, leisure or sport. The rationale for increasing levels of cycling is usually founded upon cycling’s benefits to community health and the urban environment through its potential to replace some of multitude of short car journeys that congest the UKs towns and cities. Implicit within this argument, is that it has been growing motor vehicle dependency over the last half century that has been largely responsible for health and environmental problems.

  • Based on this argument, the question arises as to which is more important; increasing cycling or decreasing car usage? The two are not necessarily the same. Car usage could decline through people resorting to walking and public transport usage without any cycling at all. Arguably this would still give substantial health and environmental benefits. On the other hand, cycling could be increased simply by an abstraction from those who previously walked or travelled by public transport and so with far less health and environmental benefit. With ever rising costs of public transport this latter scenario may by no means be unrealistic and the adage that every bike trip is one less car trip does not necessarily hold. The critical point is that if the quest for healthy communities, liveable cities, and a generally habitable planet are to be taken seriously, then increases in cycling must come primarily from modal shift from the private car.


1 why cycling l.jpg
1 Why cycling?

Walking

Cycling

Increase

Why?

Mobility

(Transport)

between any

two points

Public

transport

Health &

Environment

Car

Decrease


1 why cycling5 l.jpg
1 Why cycling?

Walking

Cycling

Increase

Mobility

(Transport)

between any

two points

Public

transport

Car

Decrease


1 why cycling6 l.jpg
1 Why cycling?

Walking

Cycling

Increase

Mobility

(Transport)

between any

two points

Which is

more

important?

Public

transport

Car

Decrease


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2 Where lies the future?

  • To see where the future might lie for cycling it is useful to examine the historical trend in cycling in Britain. The Department for Transport (DfT) has recorded levels of cycle usage (billion vehicle kms) every year since 1949 and while this data is of questionable reliability due to the small sample size taken, its consistency with the trend shown by other cycling data such as from the decennial national censuses (mode of transport to work) and the 2005 National Travel Survey, indicates that this data (figure 1), may give a reasonably realistic overview of the long term historical trend in cycling.

  • As can be seen from figure 1, cycling declined rapidly in the 1950s and 1960s. From just under 24 billion vehicle kms in 1949 it fell to an all time low in 1973. Then it increased, possibly due to dramatic world oil price rises, but then fell back in the 1980s and stabilized in the 1990s to reach 4.4 billion vehicle kms in 2005. The growth of mass motorisation following World War II is often cited as being a factor in the decline of cycling. Figure 2 shows car and taxi usage (the DfT does not disaggregate between cars and taxis) rising from just over 20 billion vehicle kms in 1949 to just under 400 billion vehicle kms by 2005. So from a level lower than that of cycling in 1949, car usage had risen, 57 years later, to some two orders of magnitude greater than cycling by 2005.


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Figure 1

Data source: Transport Statistics for GB, 2006, Table 7.1


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Figure 2

Data source: Transport Statistics for GB, 2006, Table 7.1


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2 Where lies the future?

  • A very strong statistical relationship exists between the two variables, cycle usage and car usage, to the extent that rising car usage accounts for 93 percent of the decline in cycling over the 57 year period (N=57, R2=0.932). The relationship between cycling and car usage (figure 3) is given by the equation;

  • cycle usage = 3+521/car usage

  • where both variables are measured in billion vehicle kms.

  • The implications of this relationship for the future of cycling is that it will be strongly constrained by the future trajectory of car usage, and if only from a health and environment point of view, it is the car usage trend rather than necessarily the cycle usage trend, that should perhaps be the focus of concern. However the model shows that no matter how much car usage increases there will be at least a residual level of cycling (the hard core, determined!). But if there should be a decrease in car usage (big if!) then people may simply travel less, walk more or use more public transport. Cycling will be only one possible alternative to the car. To see how the option of cycling may be realised, it is instructive to examine the ‘tipping point’ between these two modes of transport.


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Figure 2

Figure 3

N = 57 R2 = 0.932

Figure 1

Cycling = 3 + ___521__

Car usage

Cycling and car usage measured in vehicle kms


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Implications for future of cycling

  • cycling dependent upon future levels of car usage

  • 1 Car usage increase:

  • - residual level of cycling

  • 2 Car usage decrease:

  • - needed for cycling increase - But!

  • - need big decrease in car usage to get much increase in cycling

  • - less travel in total

  • - walking/public transport

  • - cycling?

Cycling = 3 + _521__

Car usage


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3 Facing the challenges: car to bike tipping point

  • To start with imagine the two modes in balance with each other as, numerically, they were in 1949/1950. Since this time period the car has become ever more comfortable, cheaper, convenient and, on the inside but definitely not the outside, much safer. Combine this with ever greater urban sprawl, which has been both cause and consequence of increasing car usage increase and there has developed is a very difficult environment for cycling (and public transport).

  • Most cycle campaigning responses to redress the balance in favour of cycling have tended to try and make cycling safer either through dedicated cycle paths, cycle training, lowered speed limits for cars and traffic calming schemes. However to make cycling safe in relation to the inside of a modern car is, to say the least, challenging and many car drivers may, consciously or subconsciously, make this safety comparison and decide against cycling. If any real progress is to be made on modal shift, campaigns need to be aimed at policies that compromise the speed, economy and convenience of the car (transport demand management) so that people may think seriously about alternatives to the car. In other words the ‘tipping point’ must be brought back towards the bicycle, otherwise what incentive is there to change? To this end, the London congestion charge, perhaps together with restrictive car parking and good cycle facilities, seems to have greatly helped increase cycling in central London. Whether the observed increases in cycling have come from people leaving their cars behind or rather from leaving (crowded/expensive) public transport behind is not be altogether clear.


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3 The tipping point – car to bike

Cycle

Car

Tipping point


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3 The tipping point – car to bike

Cycle

Car

Tipping point

Cheap

Convenient

Comfortable

Fast

Safe (inside)


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3 The tipping point – car to bike

Cycle

Car

Tipping point

Cheap

Convenient

Comfortable

Fast

Safe (inside)

Urban Sprawl


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3 The tipping point – car to bike

Cycle

Car

Cycle training

Cycle paths

Cycle parking

Safer roads

Tipping point

Cheap

Convenient

Comfortable

Fast

Safe (inside)

Urban Sprawl


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3 The tipping point – car to bike

Car

Cycle

Cheap

Convenient

Comfortable

Fast

Safe (inside)

Tipping point

Cycle training

Cycle paths

Cycle parking

Safer roads

Urban Sprawl

Congestion (charging)

(Parking) Restrictions

(Road) Pricing

Transportation Demand

Management Planning


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3 The tipping point – car to bike

To secure any future for cycling, must have -


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3 The tipping point – car to bike

To secure the future of cycling, must have -

Cycle

Promotion and

Campaigning

Policies

Transport

Demand

Management

Planning


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3 The tipping point – car to bike

To secure the future of cycling, must have -

Cycle

Promotion

and

Campaigning

Policies

Transport

Demand

Management

Planning

For if not -


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The Sisyphean task of Cycle Campaigning!

Cycle Campaigning

Car traffic


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3 Facing the challenges: car to bike tipping point

  • A key point is that trying to increase cycling in the context of ever rising and unconstrained car usage is a Sisyphean task – rather like trying to run up a down escalator. For as fast as cycling schemes may be implemented the attractiveness of the motor vehicle beckons (speed, economy, comfort) and effectively nullifies the attempt to cycling. Arguably the current Government plans to relax planning legislation to hasten the construction of more roads and peripheral urban development does not bode well for the long term future of cycling (or walking and public transport)

  • Conclusion:

  • All the above arguments are predicated on the basis that;

  • - achieving improved community health and a better urban environment really is the raison d’être for cycle campaigning?

  • - increased cycling should come from modal shift from car usage and not from people who already walk and/or use public transport?

  • If these two fundamental standpoints are accepted, and if cycling in 21st century urban Britain is to have any long term sustained future, then campaigning must focus itself firmly on advocating robust transport demand management policies. Just implementing cycle promotion schemes alone, while necessary, is unlikely to be sufficient to secure the future for tomorrow’s cyclists.


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Tomorrow’s cyclists – facing the challenges

Conclusions

1 Why cycling?

- environment/health – cycle increase or car decrease?

  • Where lies the future?

    - depends critically on the limits of car usage

  • Facing the challenges: the ‘tipping point’ from car to bike

    - limits to extent people can be attracted to cycling

    - critical role of TDM policies


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Tomorrow’s cyclists – facing the challenges

Any feedback on any of the issues raised in this presentation would be most welcome.Please contact:

Dr John Stubbs

Department of Geography

University of Derby

Derby DE22 1GB

E-mail: [email protected]


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