Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Who's in the peloton?

An investigation of the growth of cycling in London

I have been meaning to lay my hands on the above-named document for some time. The authors of this report, TfL and MVA Consultancy, refused to share it with me, and neither is it available on their websites, but luckily, the London South Bank University were able to point me in the right direction.

The report notes, 'A unique opportunity to track (cycling) behaviour over time and understand the reasons for change.'

Having already established a baseline picture of cycling behaviour through existing monitoring, the study team were able to follow up with a further round of telephone interviews. 500 interviews were conducted with cyclists in Richmond and Sutton, of whom 64 were 'new cyclists'. (A new cyclist was defined as someone who was cycling once a month or more in September 2009 and who, one year previously, had been cycling once every six months or less.)

Over 75% of the sample had been resident in London for ten years or longer. Over 90% had access to a bicycle prior to their behavioural change. Around 35% did most of their cycling during peak periods. 66% had concerns before they started cycling.

There were three main groups of concerns: confidence and skills, facilities, and road and traffic conditions.

With regard to road and traffic conditions, the main issues were too much traffic / congestion, not trusting other road users, and a fear of being knocked off one's bike. With regard to facilities, a lack of cycle lanes / routes was cited as the main barrier, followed by a lack of showers and changing facilities, and finally, a lack of places to leave one's bike. As for confidence and skills, the major barrier in this category was, 'Don't know where to cycle'. (Remember, over 75% of respondents have been living in London for ten years or longer.)

In joint first place was too much traffic / congestion, and not trusting other road users. In joint second place was a lack of cycle lanes / routes, and not knowing where to cycle. And in third place was a fear of being knocked off one's bike.

A former Chief Executive of the London Cycle Campaign said, 'The endgame is the prioritisation, completion and signage of an effective London Cycle Network.' Assuming cycle training would always be at hand to those who want it, assuming more cycle parking would continue to be made available, assuming employers and colleges would meet an increase in demand for cycling by providing showers and changing facilities, the development of a London Cycling Network would represent a huge step forward in terms of dealing with those other 'concerns' that new cyclists have.

And how important are new cyclists to the current growth in trip rates? ANSWER = VERY.

So, which way now? How does TfL 'nudge' more people into cycling?

TfL have taken the trouble to understand their 'customers'. They know who is most likely to cycle. These people fall into four different categories: Urban Living, Suburban Lifestyle, Young couples and families, and High-earning professionals.

They know, as well, that there is great potential for cycling in London. 4.3 million journeys a day have been identified as potentially cyclable, by origin, by current mode, and by journey purpose. M'lud, 2.8 million of these journeys are currently being made by car. Every day, then, 165 million 'potatoes' are being 'consumed' unnecessarily. No wonder Britain is becoming so obese.

Interestingly, the main benefits of cycling were identified as health, and then general enjoyment / stress release. More convenient / able to get to more places came fourth.

In response to the above, TfL propose taking a targeted approach, focusing delivery on areas of high potential. These have been identified as short hops in Central London, commute trips from Inner to Central London, and local trips in Inner and Outer London (i.e. to the shops, school and work).

The current strategy involves the Cycle Superhighways and the Barclays Bike Hire Scheme. Both schemes are used mainly by young men. It doesn't look like this situation will change any time soon.

The following conclusions are drawn:

  • Understanding behaviour through targeted research is key to our work
  • Enabling a targeted approach to planning and delivery
  • In support of the cycling revolution which is underway in London.

Please click here to see the TfL / MVA Consultancy report.