Matthew Plummer

Has local government in London left cycling in the wrong lane?

A couple of months ago I wrote to the Crown Estate about its bike-unfriendly redevelopment of London’s Haymarket area, and was rather surprised when their London team offered to meet me and set out Crown’s cycling credentials. Surprisingly, its new Central London developments have fabulous facilities for bike commuters, with showers, lockers, and ramps that allow you to ride straight into the basement parking space.

The past decade has seen an explosion in two-wheeled travel across the capital, while car use has declined. Recent data shows that cyclists make up to two thirds of traffic on certain parts of London’s roads. This is hardly unexpected, given the cost of tube travel and packed conditions. Crown knows that letting its buildings means catering for the rocketing numbers of people who ride to work.

But, as we discussed the Haymarket redevelopment over coffee, I realised that the challenge facing Crown is that while car use is falling, budget freezes mean parking revenue has become much more important to the balance sheets of London’s inner city authorities. This is problematic for new cycling infrastructure, as installing bike lanes comes at the expense of income-generating street parking.

Catering for cars might superficially help local authorities’ coffers, but a string of studies have shown that bike lanes, locking points, etc. give huge boosts to local businesses: New York City’s recent flagship bike lane on 8th and 9th Avenues led to local shops enjoying a 49% increase in sales. Saving the £1,216 cost of a Zone 2 annual travelcard frees up money to spend in the local economy, and gets people off our overcrowded tubes and trains during rush hour.

None of this washes with Westminster

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