Why are politicians getting away with bike lane claims based mostly on rumour? | Laura Laker | Environment

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Peers use evidence-free anecdotes and cabbie rumour to assert cycle lanes trigger congestion – shouldn’t we demand the next commonplace?

Cyclists in a designated bike lane in Manchester city centre.

Cyclists in a delegated bike lane in Manchester metropolis centre. Photograph: Christopher Thomond for the Guardian

A variety of friends have tried to defend unsubstantiated claims that cycle lanes trigger congestion and air air pollution, apparently echoing anecdotal proof from their very own observations, taxi drivers and the rightwing press. These claims are likely to go unchallenged and are allowed to form the political debate – however this has to cease.

In a House of Lords debate on air air pollution on 15 January, the distinguished scientist and Labour peer Lord Robert Winston questioned the federal government over journey occasions for motor visitors earlier than and after cycle lane development, saying idling or slow-moving engines pollute extra at gradual speeds.

Winston requested: “Can the minister give us government figures on the evidence of pollution being greater before bike lanes are introduced than afterwards? This is an important issue in the future planning of our cities.”

When requested by the Guardian whether or not he believed cycle lanes trigger congestion or air pollution, Winston stated “the evidence for longer car journeys where these resulting land closures have taken place is not deniable.”

When requested to offer this simple proof, nonetheless, Winston merely replied “the traffic delays are not denied by transport users, nor by the government or the minister or even TfL [Transport for London].”

The causes of air pollution are notoriously difficult to separate, however London Air’s senior air high quality analyst, Andrew Grieve described Winston’s claims as “a bit of a case of an anecdote being halfway round the internet before the data analysis has got its shoes on”.

Winston’s anecdote, which seems to have began with taxi drivers on Twitter, earlier than spreading, apparently unquestioned, to elements of the press, will be damaging to sustainable transport alternate options; if individuals consider bike lanes injury air high quality, why would they assist them?

Like air air pollution, congestion will not be a simple subject, however efficiency-wise, cycle lanes are definitely a winner. A latest freedom of knowledge (FoI) request despatched to TfL revealed central London’s segregated cycle lanes are transferring “five times more people per square metre than the main carriageway”.

Within weeks of being constructed there was a 50% increase in cyclists on London’s cycle superhighway routes, which have been transferring 46% of individuals on the highway utilizing 30% of the highway house. On the superhighway on Blackfriars Road, cyclists make up 70% of visitors.

The routes have affected some motor visitors journeys, though not essentially for the more severe; the identical FoI request confirmed that westbound journeys at the moment are faster than before the cycle route was built, though eastbound journeys are slower.

TfL data shows that by summer time 2017, a yr after the east-west superhighway opened, visitors speeds really elevated by 0.7% on the earlier yr, reversing a longstanding downward pattern from 20.2kph in 2007 to 17.9kph in 2015 – lengthy earlier than the protected cycle routes have been constructed.

A 74-page TfL report concludes that the most important contributors to congestion are visitors quantity (55%) and extra demand for highway house (16%).

TfL expects an additional 5 million journeys on London’s roads by 2030. The solution to deal with the difficulty, it says, is to prioritise different modes of journey than the personal automobile or taxi. A 3.5m lane of blended visitors can carry 2,000 individuals per hour, a motorcycle lane 14,000, a pavement 19,000, and devoted public transport, comparable to rail, as much as 100,000 individuals per hour.

The report concludes: “Limited evidence suggests that while these schemes may have short-term negative impacts on traffic speeds during the construction phase, longer term impacts may be negligible.”

Perhaps this was not the proof Lord Winston hoped for.

Meanwhile, elements of the media handle to misread sure findings. An Inrix report last year showed that bike lanes, together with public transport funding, can finally assist cut back congestion by 20%.Despite this, the Mail and Evening Standard concluded congestion was brought on by cycle lanes.

There is greater than a bit of of this reverse pondering in some friends’ claims. The Earl of Caithness, a Conservative peer, claimed final July that bike lanes enhance congestion however went additional, claiming they can lead to lack of life when ambulances can’t get to emergency calls on time.

Caithness informed the Guardian: “I believe some bicycle lanes have been beneficial but traffic is undoubtedly moving slower and is often stationary, pumping out noxious fumes where there are sacrosanct bicycle lanes which restrict the space of the road unnecessarily.” Caithness didn’t present any proof that the lanes had contributed to congestion.

In truth, cycle lanes can be helpful for emergency automobile drivers. Last yr the driving force of a police vehicle was filmed utilizing a segregated lane on Vauxhall Bridge to avoid visitors jams.

The arguments put ahead by some friends seem like based mostly on a notion that automobile journeys are inevitable, and that taking away highway house naturally creates congestion, when 80 years of data tells us in any other case.

The idea of induced demand states for each 1% increase in capacity, visitors will enhance by 1% in the long run. Predictably, the inverse can be true: a phenomenon generally known as visitors evaporation. The truth of induced demand was acknowledged by the Department for Transport (DfT) in 1994, and but is ignored in sensible phrases, even by them, to today.

In final month’s air high quality debate a DfT junior transport secretary, Baroness Sugg, stated: “Of course, cycle lanes are welcome in order to protect cyclists and encourage cycling. I understand that they have increased congestion, but we want to encourage people to cycle.”

Neither Baroness Sugg nor the DfT supplied any proof for this assertion both in the course of the debate or when contacted by the Guardian, though the DfT responded with a press release saying the federal government “wants to encourage cycling.”

Ruth Cadbury MP, co-chair of the all-party parliamentary biking group, says pro-cycling advocates inside parliament are met with scorn once they deliver up the advantages of biking.

She stated: “That is a real issue in this place and I sometimes worry that myself, and [fellow committee members] Sarah [Wollaston], Meg [Hillier], we stand up and ask a question [on cycling] … and some people say ‘Oh god, she’s going on about that again.’”

Cadbury added: “The pro-car narrative is back on the rise again, and that’s really worrying.”

The Conservative peer Lord Cormack is amongst those that consider cabbies maintain the solutions. Addressing Baroness Sugg, he stated: “My Lords, will my noble friend herself meet with some black cab drivers? If she does, will she listen very carefully to what they say has been the result of reducing the lanes on our major roads in London, caused very largely by the creation of cycle lanes?”

Cormack additionally claimed there was “very little activity” on the route between 9am-5pm, saying “every taxi driver confirms this and I have seen it myself on many occasions”.

Although Cormack didn’t present any proof for his feedback, he burdened this was not merely him believing what black cab drivers say. “I have no idea a single colleague within the House of Lords who takes a unique view – it was noticeable that my remarks have been greeted with approbation in all elements.”

It’s value noting that the Licensed Taxi Drivers’ Association commerce physique has protested vociferously against every major cycling scheme proposed in London, even after claiming to assist them. Hardly the place to go for unbiased data.

Decisions with actual penalties are being made based mostly on little greater than ill-informed opinion and anecdote, perpetuated by cries from cabbies and elements of the pro-car media. With the long run well being of the town at stake, shouldn’t we be insisting on a extra rigorous, evidence-based strategy?

(Editor references)

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