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A Thousand Cyclists Hold “Die-in” to Demand Safer Streets in London

One thousand cyclists held a "die-in" in front of London's transportation offices on Friday to dramatize the dangers faced by the city's cyclists. Image: ##https://twitter.com/MeredithFrost/status/407286714835955712/photo/1## Meredith Frost/ABC##

One thousand cyclists held a “die-in” in front of London’s transportation offices on Friday to protest dangerous streets. Image: Meredith Frost/ABC

In a potent demonstration for safer streets, 1,000 Londoners staged a “die-in” with their bikes in front of the city’s transportation offices Friday. ABC producer Meredith Frost snapped the above image, which has been going viral on the Internet. The protest lasted a brief 15 minutes.

Demands for safer streets have gained urgency in London following the death of six cyclists in a two-week period. Organizers are demanding 10 percent of the city’s transportation funds for safe bike infrastructure.

“We want a real budget, at the moment we’re getting crumbs,” organizer Donnachadh McCarthy told the BBC. “We want an integrated cycling network in London within five years and we want a say at the top table.”

The die-in tactic has some detractors, who think it will scare people from cycling and obscure evidence that cycling has recently become safer in London. But the BBC points out that similarly blunt and aggressive protests were key to the success of the 1970s-era safe streets movement in the Netherlands. They have also been used, with some success, to demand better infrastructure in American cities such as San Diego.

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Letter From London: What a Mayoral Commitment to Cycling Looks Like

A few weeks after SF Mayor Ed Lee displayed a total lack of commitment to the city’s Bike Strategy, London Mayor Boris Johnson has announced an aggressive $1.3 billion plan for a comprehensive bike network, including protected bike lanes.

Streetsblog NYC‘s Stephen Miller reports:

“Cycling will be treated not as niche, marginal, or an afterthought, but as what it is: an integral part of the transport network,” Johnson said. ”I want cycling to be normal, a part of everyday life.”

The plan includes big changes, including new types of bike lanes for the capital:

  • The flagship initiative, a 15-mile separated crosstown route connecting western and eastern suburbs via central London and business districts including the West End and Canary Wharf.
  • A network of “quietways,” akin to bike boulevards, that will connect suburban and central London neighborhoods.
  • Adding physical separation to the existing “cycle superhighways,” which sometimes offer little more than a stripe of paint on some of London’s busiest roads.

The plan also has a broad policy framework to transform biking in London:

Read more…

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As Bike-Share Pilot Lurches Along, Supe Wiener Calls for Full-Scale Launch

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Barclays Cycle Hire in London. Photo: mikesandra4/Flickr

While San Franciscans eagerly await the repeatedly-delayed launch of the Bay Area’s small-scale bike-share pilot program, which has now been downsized to a minuscule 700 bikes (350 of them in SF), Supervisor Scott Wiener says San Francisco needs to take the initiative to move ahead and launch a “full-scale system” throughout the city by next year.

Wiener plans to introduce a resolution [PDF] at today’s Board of Supervisors meeting calling on the SF Municipal Transportation Agency to move beyond the pilot being planned by the Bay Area Air Quality Management District and launch a citywide bike-share system by 2014. American cities including New York, Chicago, Portland, and Los Angeles are all expected to launch their respective systems by then.

Scott Wiener at Bike to Work Day 2011. Photo: Dyami Serna, SFBC

“All over the world, cities are recognizing the tremendous value of city-wide bike-share programs in reducing traffic, improving public transit and stimulating the local economy,” Wiener said in a statement. “Here in San Francisco, we should be doing everything we can to establish and start reaping the benefits from a full-scale bike share program.”

Bike-share, which the SFMTA has called one of the most cost-effective ways to increase bike ridership, was originally promised to launch in the spring of 2012 in five cities along the Peninsula, from San Francisco to San Jose. However, the BAAQMD has delayed the 1,000-bike pilot program, citing the general complexity of coordinating a regional system between five municipalities.

Karen Schkolnick, the BAAQMD’s grant programs manager, said the current launch date is set for this August, and that the pilot will initially only include 700 bikes, though the agency expects to deliver the full 1,000 bikes within the following six months. The reason, she said, is that the $7,000,000 program won’t be adequate to provide the 1,000-bike system as originally thought, and the agency hopes to get more funding from private sponsors with the initial 700-bike launch. “Basically, we used local funding to seed it,” she said.

Ultimately, said Schkolnick, the BAAQMD hopes the system will sustain itself on sponsorship funds and membership fees, and expand to the East Bay with as many as 10,000 bikes. But Wiener said he wants to make sure “we’re not just, in the future, waiting on the Air Board. I believe we should be pushing forward with our own expansion.”

“We know what we need here, and we need a lot more bike-sharing,” he said.

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Streetsblog NYC 15 Comments

Lessons From London After 10 Years of the Congestion Charge

A Republican member of Congress told me last week that he recently was in London for the first time in a long while. “Traveling was so much better,” he said. “You can actually get around. That traffic-charging system they’ve got seems to be doing a lot of good.”

London’s system — known formally as congestion charging — started up 10 years ago this Sunday, on February 17, 2003. In the decade since then it has been meticulously monitored, analyzed and debated — perhaps more than any traffic-managing scheme since Moses parted the Red Sea. It has also spawned a raft of charging programs elsewhere, most notably in Stockholm, and, starting last month, in Gothenburg, Sweden’s second city. Of course, an all-out effort to enact a comparable system here, the proposal to toll motor vehicles entering Manhattan south of 60th Street, died in the state legislature five years ago.

Ten years on is a good time to take stock. Let’s have a look.

What It Is: Cars and trucks pay £10 (roughly $15.60) to drive into or within the charging zone between 7 am and 6 pm on weekdays. The zone is London’s commercial and financial hub and, at 8 square miles, rivals Manhattan’s 8.5-square mile Central Business District. Taxis are exempt, as are qualifying low-emission vehicles. Cars registered to zone residents, who account for 2 percent of Greater London’s 7 million people, pay one-tenth the standard charge.

How Drivers Pay: London’s system deploys 1,360 closed-circuit cameras at 348 sites within the charging zone and on its boundaries to record the license plates of vehicles entering and moving within the zone. The plates are continuously matched against a database of monthly accounts, and “spot” payments are made via Internet or at kiosks, drawing down accounts or billing license-plate holders. This cumbersome system arose not only from the absence in the U.K. of electronic toll collection systems such as E-ZPass when the system was launched a decade ago, but also from the decision to charge for car trips entirely within the zone in addition to vehicle entries. A byproduct is the relatively meager net revenue available for transport improvements.

Traffic Outcomes: In its first few years, the London charging scheme was heralded as a solid traffic-buster, with 15-20 percent boosts in auto and bus speeds and 30 percent reductions in congestion delays. Most of those gains appear to have disappeared in recent years, however. Transport for London (TfL), which combines the functions of our NYCDOT and MTA and which created and operates the charging system, attributes the fallback in speeds to other changes in the streetscape and traffic management:

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Streetsblog NYC 6 Comments

London’s Bike-share How-To

[Editor's note: This post comes to us from Streetsblog NYC, but San Franciscans may also find the video useful (and exciting) in anticipation of the launch of the Bay Area's bike-share system in August.]

For your viewing pleasure this weekend, here’s the animation produced by Transport for London explaining how to use Barclays Cycle Hire — the 570-station bike-share system that launched about two years ago. There’s a lot to cover in a little more than four minutes: when bike-share is useful, how to get a membership, what not to do with your bike, how to handle a bike that needs repair, and so forth.

In New York, we’ve already seen some confusion about what sort of trips bike-share is meant for, and even something as simple as swiping a Metrocard has a learning curve. We could probably use a video like this before Citi Bike launches in July.

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Mapped: Dramatic Changes on London Streets in the Congestion Pricing Era

Change in car use, 2001-2010. Source: ITO World

For the last nine years, private motorists entering central London between 7 a.m. and 6 p.m. have paid a fee (currently £10 or US$16.22) to drive on the city’s scarce street space. The revenue from the congestion charge is plowed into the city’s transit system, and as Transport for London has amply documented, many Londoners have changed their commuting habits.

Now a flurry of maps released by ITO World, a British company that specializes in visualizing transport data, shows London’s dramatic shift to more sustainable modes from 2001-2010. (The congestion charge went into effect in February 2003.)

The map above depicts the extraordinary decrease in private motor vehicle traffic, with the dark blue dots showing where driving has gone down more than 30 percent and the bright red dots showing where it’s up more than 30 percent. By the looks of it, the drivable suburbs are still a bastion of private vehicles, but the central city is seeing far less traffic.

Of course, people aren’t just sitting at home. They’ve embraced other ways of getting around. So while there are fewer vehicles in London now than in 2001, one motorized mode has become more ubiquitous: the bus.

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Streetsblog NYC 10 Comments

London Mayoral Candidates Vie to Be the Most Bike-Friendly

Boris's cycling superhighways aren't good enough, says Ken Livingstone. Photo: EcoBlog

Remember the Times of London’s “Cities Fit for Cycling” campaign? Earlier this year one of the most prominent dailies in the UK launched an all-out blitz to make bicycling safer in British cities, complete with a comprehensive policy platform. The campaign is for real: The Times is now getting London mayoral candidates on the record with their bike policy positions.

Here’s how this political slugfest is playing out so far. Tory Boris Johnson, the mayor who launched the largest bike-share system in the English-speaking world and built the first corridors in a network of “cycle superhighways,” hasn’t done enough to make cycling accessible and safe, according to his chief rival, Labor candidate Ken Livingstone.

Livingstone, who was ousted from the mayoralty by Johnson in 2008, made his reputation as a transportation reformer in his first stint as mayor. He instituted London’s congestion charge in 2003, completed a range of high-profile pedestrian reclamation projects, and initiated the idea of building high-volume bike routes. Now he’s attacking Johnson’s bike-share initiative for being out of reach to most Londoners, and assailing the cycle superhighways as little more than paint on the street.

A political campaign group called “Londoners on Bikes” is going to deliver a bloc of at least 3,000 votes to the candidate who commits to the strongest platform for bicycling. Here are some highlights from Livingstone and Johnson, according to the Times.

Read more…

StreetFilms 14 Comments

London’s Do-It-Yourself Approach to Safer Streets

In the UK, the non-profit Sustrans is pioneering a community-based method to reclaim streets from high-speed traffic and make neighborhoods safer and more sociable places.

Called "DIY Streets," the program brings neighbors together to help them redesign their streets in a way that puts people, safety, and streetlife first. So far, individual streets have benefited from DIY redesigns in 11 communities in England and Wales. Recently Streetfilms got a walk through of one successful DIY project -- on Clapton Terrace in London. With the people who made it happen as our guides, we saw how planners and neighbors collaborated to transform a place where speeding used to rule into a local street with calm traffic and safe space to socialize.

Can the DIY model work on a bigger scale than an individual street? We're about to find out: Residents of the London Borough of Haringey will soon be working with Sustrans on the first neighborhood-wide DIY project.

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Congestion Pricing: Still Good For Basically Everyone

Urbanists often find themselves falling into a pattern of thinking
that boils down to the dictum that what’s good for drivers must be bad
for walkability, and sustainability, and all the things that they prize
about well-designed cities. Drivers seem to believe this too, which is
interesting because it often isn’t true.

28.jpgWhat’s good for the driver in the middle is also good for public health. (Photo: FHWA)

Take performance parking.
Both urbanists (and drivers) seem to believe that it’s good (or bad),
because it makes parking more expensive, which is bad (or good) for
drivers. But this assumes that a free parking system, where open spots
are almost never available, is desirable for drivers.

That’s
like saying that a store that gives away bread for free — and which
subsequently never has any bread — is good for people who like eating
bread.

For the most part, thinking about congestion pricing
follows this same rule. Urbanists tend to like it because it makes
driving more costly and raises revenue for transit infrastructure.
Drivers tend to oppose it, because they don’t want to pay more to
drive. In fact, congestion pricing would be good for people who really
want to drive and good for people who’d like to have an alternative to driving.

This
message has been slow to sink in, but the fact that drivers may benefit
from congestion pricing may be beginning to resonate with urbanists.
Unfortunately — and so powerful is the
what’s-bad-for-drivers-is-good-for-cities mentality — the absorption
of this message has caused some urbanists to conclude that they’ve been
wrong all along, and that congestion pricing really is bad. If drivers might benefit, it must be the case that cities, and the earth, will not.

So writes the New Yorker‘s David Owen, in an extremely misguided piece in the Wall Street Journal.

By requiring car drivers to pay a fee to drive in a city
at peak hours, congestion pricing reduces traffic and raises money that
can be used to support public transit—both worthy goals.

Yet congestion pricing has dubious environmental value. Traffic
jams, if they’re managed well, can actually be good for the
environment. They maintain a level of frustration that turns drivers
into subway riders or pedestrians.

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The Nowtopian 5 Comments

Over the Pond

bikes_jogger_traffic_8426.jpgCyclists disappear in bus lane while a pedestrian bolts across the street in South London.

Editor's note: While changes appear to be in the works in London on the public space realm (check out our latest Streetfilm posted today), Chris Carlsson got a slightly different take when he visited there last week. 

I'm on a book tour in the UK so I thought I'd send in a quick report on the street conditions in London. I was only in town for a couple of days, so necessarily anything I write is rather impressionistic, but I've been here before and it was interesting to see the difference, even from two years ago. There are a lot more cyclists on the road! A LOT more!... I had to do a lot of bus riding, so I sat up top on those great London double-deckers, right in front, and took lots of photos. Somehow I could never get my camera on in time to catch the ubiquitous clusters of cyclists that would appear suddenly on side streets, or stream across the intersection a half block ahead of me. It was quite common to see groups of 5-10 bicyclists, usually decked out as commuters with chartreuse vests and helmets, briefcases and panniers, whilst riding along in business drag beneath the gear.

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