I heard the head of a London bus company on the radio this week saying that cycle lanes should be de-segregated because they were only used during the morning and evening rush hours. He should have a look at the bus occupancy on the south side of Trafalgar Square. The number of passengers could be fitted into one or two bike rickshaws. The only busy buses are the tourist buses. The clips were taken on a sunny day (5th October 2018).
They’re not so easy to photograph but if you look at the buses in The Strand outside rush hour the occupancy is similar and the conditions for cyclists are worse than vile. The mid-day buses in Oxford Street have a higher occupancy, because it is a shopping street, but it is well under 50%. So TfL is 100% right to reduce the number of buses in Central London and the London Cycling Campaign is right that the space should be allocated to cyclists and pedestrians.
Busy buses make a good contribution to mass transit in London. But at quiet times, empty cycle lanes are much better than empty buses. Cycle lanes don’t waste fuel, make no noise and cause no pollution. Empty buses do all these things.
BBC report on bus service reductions in Central London
The garden works well, because of a thoughtful design, but would be spoiled by raising the height of the residential blocks. The Corbusian towers beyond Dolphin Square show how raising the height of the blocks would damage the garden space. (Above photo courtesy Pamela Preller)
Sadly, a US property company Westbrook wants to spoil one of the most significant housing projects in London. Its central importance in the history of residential site planning comes from:
Dolphin Square’s use of high residential terraced blocks to create an enclosed garden, very much in the tradition of London squares
Dolphin Square’s great superiority to Le Corbusier’s thoroughly bad Plan Voisin habit of arranging tower blocks like an array of tomb stones
Dolphin Square’s excellent roof garden, beneath which there is a car park
The design was characterised, in 1935, as ‘a city of 1,250 flats, each enjoying at the same time most of the advantages of the separate house and the big communal dwelling place’. Very good that Dolphin Square was conceived as a city within a city. Some developers have been using this pattern in the past 20 years. There are examples on the Greenwich Peninsula and the developers hope to use it for Convoys Wharf. It’s a really good approach to site planning and I wonder why it is not used more widely. Two possibilities are:
architects hero-worship Corbusier and ape his approach to the design of ‘sculptural’ blocks with a significant starchitectural impact on the local environment. This can make them famous and get them work.
planners’ education is dominated by social and economic theory so that spatial and urban design have become frills attached to core professional skills
Dolphin Square has far stronger connections with English practice, with what people want, with urban design and with landscape architecture. Despising the Corbusian approach, and seeing its appearance in London, Steen Eiler Rasmussen, finished the second edition of London the unique city by writing with grit in his mouth that ‘This is the bitter END’. Loving our green space, I’m sure he would have admired Dolphin Square’s roof gardens. But he might have thought the enclosing buildings on the high side and, like me, I’m sure he would have been in bitter opposition to Westbrook raising their height. If you agree, please add your name to the petition https://www.change.org/p/westminster-city-council-save-dolphin-square-and-its-beautiful-listed-grade-ii-gardens
The roof garden was designed Richard Sudell. Spanning the worlds of garden design and landscape, and a prominent figure in the Institute of Landscape Architects, his design made a useful contribution to lessening the bulk and height of the buildings. This was done with large healthy trees and an extensive pergola. As in a deep gorge, their canopies frame views of the sky and protect users from intimidation. Sudell wrote that:
‘There will be nothing in London to equal the Square when it is completed. A stroll round the Square will, as it were, enable you to make a tour of the whole horticultural world. London’s eighteenth-century squares are beautiful indeed, but Dolphin Square will surpass them all in brightness, variety and originality. We shall require about 30,000 more bulbs and plants and nearly 3,000 shrubs and trees to complete our work. We are also going to recondition the whole surface of the lawns, which will be as fine as the central court at Wimbledon – if residents will only assist us!’
There are two roof gardens. One is at ground level, with fountain and roses and lawns in raised beds, plus the two pergola gardens between the terrace bays. This is above the 1930s car park (for 300 cars). The other is the Spanish/Mexican garden. It is at a higher level, above the sports building, and is accessed through the loggia.
The London Cycle Network was planned by the London Cycling Campaign shortly after it was formed, in 1979, and approved by Ken Livingstone when he became leader of the Greater London Council in 1981. This led to some minor improvements in London’s cycle facilities, like some contra-flow lanes on one-way streets.
No ‘network’ of cycling infrastructure was planned or built. Most of the money was spent on signposting routes on backstreets. Because so little infrastructure was built, the LCN attracted few users and cyclists came to see it as a time-wasting attempt to make more space for motorists on busy roads. Looking back, I’m grateful for some small improvements, as a starving man is grateful for bread crumbs. But I’m still as angry about it being called a ‘London Network’ as I would be about 3 bread crumbs being called a Three Course Meal. The below video may have a nostalgic charm for those who biked London in the 1970s and 1980s, as I did.
Four stages in the life, and hoped-for death, of the London Cycle Network can be identified:
Conception 1978-1981. The London Cycling Campaign (LCC) was founded in 1978 and helped plan a 3000 km web of signposted cycle routes
Design 1981-1986. Ken Livingstone became leader of the Greater London Council (GLC) in 1981. He set up a cycle planning unit in the GLC and allocated 1% of the transport budget (£2m/year) to cycling. Its work ended when the GLC was abolished in 1986.
Implementation 1981-2008. The GLC’s work on implementing the London Cycle Network was transferred to the London Boroughs after 1986. Some, like Camden, were fairly active. Others, like Westminster, developed a hatred for cyclists. In 2001 LCN Plus (LCN+) replaced the earlier London Cycle Network project with the aim to producing a ‘higher quality’ network to link strategic centres. Since its length was reduced from 3000 to 900 km it should have been called LCN Minus.
Afterlife 2008-2018. Active promotion of the London Cycle Network drew to a close with the election of Boris Johnson in 2008. Focus shifted to the two phases of the Cycle Superhighway programme, with the LCN winning an afterlife in the form of the Quietways programme. The length was much less than LCN+ so it could well be called ‘LCN Minus Minus’. See LAA Review of Quietway 1.
John Grimshaw, in a book on the National Cycle Network (Sustrans, 2000) wrote, in a fit of insanity, that the 3000 km of the London Cycle Network ‘provide direct access to all major centres of employment, education and leisure in addition to all of London’s railway stations’ (p.64). As a marketing stunt for Sustrans (which Grimshaw founded) he might as well have put up another signpost and added 54.6 million kilometers so that cyclists knew the way to Mars. As Rachel Aldred says in the below video: ‘historically cycling policy has focussed on encouraging people to cycle, rather than changing a road environment that’s frequently scary and intimidating’.
The first ‘Blue Paint’ phase of Boris Johnson’s Cycle Superhighway programme, launched after his election in 2008, looked more like a network but the quality was indifferent (see History of cycle infrastructure planning in London). The second phase, which began to open in 2016, was of higher quality and some sections, like the Embankment section of CS3, are a joy to ride. By London standards, it can be described as a ‘gold standard cycleway’. By Dutch and Danish cycling standards it would not get a bronze medal (because it is bi-directional).
The Transport for London TfL website has legacy references to LCN but, thankfully, there is no more talk of completing the atrocity. In the interests of sanitization and repentence the TfL website needs a new page, (1) explaining why the name London Cycle Network is being dropped (2) explaining what was wrong with it (3) explaining what will take its place. Also, the LCN signage and road markings, implying the existence of cycling facilities that do not exist, should be removed. Also, TfL should stop using LCN data in its Journey Planner. Useless cycle maps have no use. Routing advice should take account of the safety data mapped by Rachel Aldred and I support her call for a map of the London Cycleable Network.
2002 map showing part-completed and proposed sections of the London Cycle Network map
2002 map showing completed sections of the London Cycle Network map
The LCN belongs with the living dead and the most recent LCN map I could find was published in 2002. The key (left corner of above map) classifies Cycle Routes, Part-Completed Routes and Proposed Routes. The preposterous deceitfulness of this data is revealed by looking at any part of London you know. See for example, my the video clip of cycling on London Bridge at the top of this blog post. It was classified as ‘Part Completed’ in 2002 and the clip (from 2:60 to 4:26) of the LCN17 cycle route on the Isle of Dogs (shown on the above map in blue, as a completed route). The Sustrans N1 Route and the TfL Olympic Cycle Route are just as bad. Red eyes is what they give you.
“I used the London Cycle Network”
‘Cycleways’ are facilities in the sense of ‘physical infrastructure designed for cyclists’. Most elements of the LCN were signposted routes on backstreets for travel between town centres. Signposting a backstreet route from Barking to Ilford does no more for cyclists than signposting a route to Mars does for astronauts.
The term ‘network’ refers to an interconnected system, Cyclists want safe routes which follow their desire lines from origins to destinations. The LCN provided little physical infrastructure. Mainly, it was a paint job which road markings and signs on posts to try and make cyclists feel cared for.
The term ‘plan’ means that there is an intention, and funding, to create a connected network of facilities. This would give London a sustainable mass transit system.
So-called London Cycle Network had a few kilometres of useful cycle infrastructure. They and should be used in the London Cycleway Network Plan. As well as providing a segregated cycle network, all London streets (except major highways) should be cyclist-friendly.
Cycling infrastructure costs about 1/30th as much as railways and produces three times as much benefit/£1bn invested.
Here are some figures
£11m for 5km of CS6 (from Elephant and Castle to King’s Cross) = £2.2m/km
£47m for CS3 (9.2 km from Tower Hill to Lancaster Gate) = £5.1m/km
£70m for 6km of CS9(from Olympia to Housnlow) = £11.6/km
£55m for the 4km of CS4 (from Tower Bridge to Greenwich) = £13.7/km
Cost of Bakerloo Line Extension will cost £3.1bn for 7.5km = £413.3m/km. The capacity would be 21,000 passengers/hour in one direction during the rush hour.
The London Underground carries 1.37 billion passengers/year on its 402km network = 3.4m/km
The DLR Gospel Oak to Barking Extension (BRE) will cost £263 million for 4km = £65m/km forecasting 2,400 passengers/hour in the AM peak
The Embankment section of cycle superhighway CS3 carries 340,000 cyclists in 6 weeks (3m/year) and since there is only one counter this can be taken as 3m/km. Traffic is on a steep upward curve and will soon rise above the passenger volume of an average km of underground. So let’s reflect:
construction costs are 30 times greater for a kilometre of Underground than a kilometre of cycleway
The London Cycle Network LCN is a prime example of tokenism (‘the practice of making only a perfunctory or symbolic effort to be inclusive to members of minority groups’). It was an advertising stunt and a fraud. When mapped, it created the appearance of a cycle network. The reality was a plague of signposts on backstreets that got a few cyclists out of the way of motorists. In case anyone does not know it, the examples in this video show that cyclists prefer main streets to back streets. This is because bicycles are human-powered and their owners want short A-to-B routes. They prefer fewer junctions to the more junctions found on back streets. Junctions are where most cycle accidents happen. The extraordinary thing about the LCN is that it still exists. When a bridge fails it disappears. The LCN lives on – and for every mile ridden London cyclists are three times more likely to have an accident than cyclists in Copenhagen or Amsterdam. There would be emergency debates in the House of Commons if similar numbers of people died from other instances of dreadful design or pitiful planning.
Cycle routes must be assessed before they are re-planned and re-designed
Please come and please invite your friends to come. Dreadful design and pitiful planning of the UK’s cycle infrastructure results in a per/mile injury rate that is four times higher than that in Denmark and Holland. Something must be done: the UK needs world-class cycle infrastructure – and this requires Cycleway Network Plans (NCPs).b
13th October 2018: National Funeral for the Unknown Cyclist
Dreary-bad architecture and no useful planning is proposed for the Royal Docks Development
The file-name of this depressing image is Riverside-day-overall-view-23032017-Final.jpg. The word ‘Final’ is ominous and, as anyone can see, the blocks are beside a disused dock and a busy runway: it is not a ‘riverside’ development.
Suing the development team for copyright infringement (they must have been ‘inspired’ by the below image from p.92 of City as Landscape) would be a satisfying but I would not want to take the money. And if the team had red the text as well as treating the image as eye candy they would have understood that the drawing was intended to show that cities could easily become ‘miserable places’.
Caricature of ‘sustainable development’ from City as Landscape, (1996, p92)
Apart from its unimaginative blocky ugliness the worst things about the scheme are the unappealing ‘greenspace’ and wicked waste of roofspace. The below illustration (Evening Standard 4.9.2018) shows some sedum roofs and some vacant roof garden type space. But the design goes no way towards the green roof city London should become. I’m disappointed. The developers (China-based ABP) could make more profit with a better design. At the outset, they should have commissioned a plan from a firm of landscape architects. Architecture and planning firms are out of their professional depth on what should be landscape urbanism projects.
The new London Plan calls for more and better use of living walls and living roofs. Not this.
Should London invest in CrossRail 2 or in cycling infrastructure?
In 2018 it was announced that the opening of Cross Rail 1 will be delayed by 12 months and that it will cost at least an extra £600m (up from £14.8 billion to £15.4 billion). In 2019 this will be 3.8 times as much as Mayor Khan plans to spend on cycling (£154 million /year). Cross Rail 1 was given the go-ahead in 2009. It was assumed that it would yield £1.97 of benefit for every £1 it cost (ie a Benefit Cost Ratio of 1.97:1). Cross Rail 2 might cost another £15.4bn. So let’s compare investing in Cross Rails with investing in a London Cycleway Network (the figures and assumptions used in the calculations can be found in the Notes below):
London Cycleway Network
Cost £15.4 bn
Cost £15.4 bn
Length 60 miles
Length 1,232 miles
Percent of TfL Budget: 14.8% for 10 years
Percent of TfL Budget 14.8% for 10 years
Expected trips/year: 200m
Expected trips/year: 3,165.6m
Capital cost/mile: £202m
Capital cost/mile: £12.5m
Trip cost/mile: £1.16
Trip cost/mile: £0.05
The advantages of investing in cycle infrastructure are clear, and it has and there are other advantages:
Parts of the cycle network can be opened phase-by-phase during the construction period.
The annual maintenance costs of cycle infrastructure are negligible (some litter collection and a few repairs).
The running costs of a cycle network do not contribute to climate change or global warming.
Operating cycle networks makes little use of scarce and expensive energy resources (except for traffic lights and other information provided to cyclists).
Physical exercise helps prevent the diseases that result from obesity and lack of exercise (this is a factor in the high BCR of cycle infrastructure)
Cycling does not cause air pollution
At 5.5:1 the Benefit:Cost Ratio BCR for cycling infrastructure investment is way above the typical 2:1 ratio for rail and road investment projects
Notes on cost benefit analysis for cycle infrastructure investment
The evidential base for the above figures is admittedly rough and ready – so comments are welcome. It’s a while since I was an economics student.
A cycleway is defined as a way that is designed for cycling. This does not include the signposted cycle routes which were misleadingly promoted as a London Cycle Network
TfL manages the Transport for London Road Network (TLRN) and should create a London Cycleway Network, on TLRN, on non-TLRN roads and in other public open spaces. TLRN is a network of 360 miles which comprises 5% of roads in London by length and carries 33% of London’s traffic.
Total travel in London using TfL mechanised transport is 27.1 million trips on an average day (*365 = 9,891.5 million trips/year). TfL expect Crossrail to carry 200m passengers/year, which will be 2% of all journeys on the network. This compares to the 2.5% of transport trips by bicycle in London in 2014.
TfL say the number of cycle trips in London has ‘doubled in a decade’ as infrastructure has been upgraded. This puts London in 248th place on the Cityclock table of 700 Cities ordered by Cycling Mode Share. The above table assumes that 1,232 miles of high quality cycleway (CS3 Embankment quality, at least) will raise the cycling mode share in London to the Beijing level of 32%. This would be 3165.6 million trips/year which is 15 times as many as Crossrail. Beijing has more high-rise buildings than London but, physically, is not as different a city as one might think. Amsterdam and Copenhagen are capital cities with mode shares which are now over 40% but they are much smaller cities than London. Beijing has a very good network of roadside cycleways but would find it much more difficult than London to run cycleways through green open space or to create the greenway-cycleways favoured by landscape architects.
The average cost of travel by tube train in London is £1.16/mile. Crossrail journeys will be more expensive. Cycle travel costs about 50 calories/mile in human energy and occasional expenditure on equipment. The energy can be obtained from a thin slice of wholemeal bread costing about 5 pence (18 slices for 90p). If one eats too much, getting rid of 50 calories in a fitness club might cost £10/month so 5p/mile seems a reasonable figure.
My comments on the 5 points are in red text, below
appearance – aspects of a building or place which affect the way it looks, including the exterior of the development. The appearance of the Convoys Wharf development is very disappointing (as discussed in the above link). It is not related to the historic character of Deptford. They are standard blocks which could be anywhere in the world. The applicants have researched Deptford’s heritage but have have then ignored it.
means of access – covers accessibility for all routes to and within the site, as well as the way they link up to other roads and pathways outside the site. Far too much of the space within the Convoys Wharf site boundary has been allocated to vehicular traffic. Instead, the development should have been planned as a bicycle-first estate. There is a strong case for a bike bridge crossing the Thames immediately north of Convoys Wharf and residents should be provided with excellent cycle infrastructure. The aim should be for most local trips to be by bike, including Safe Routes to School for parents and children. Longer trips should be done by cycling to local stations and there should be car clubs for such vehicular use as is necessary.
landscaping – the improvement or protection of the amenities of the site and the area and the surrounding area, this could include planting trees or hedges as a screen. The submitted design for Plot 08 at Convoys Wharf has far too many unvegetated horizontal and vertical surfaces. Convoys Wharf is part of John Evelyn’s former estate and came into dockyard use through his public-spiritedness. He was the most important British garden theorist of the seventeenth century. This provides an enhanced case for adopting an ambitious landscape policy for Convoys Wharf. The roofs should be roof gardens. The balconies should be large enough to serve as private green space. As many walls as possible should be living walls. There should be as much vegetation in the public open spaces as possible. The site should have excellent greenways.
layout – includes buildings, routes and open spaces within the development and the way they are laid out in relations to buildings and spaces outside the development. The layout of Convoys Wharf has too many similarities with Deptford Creek Village and is likely to become another example of a bad landscape:architecture relationship. The streets at Convoys Wharf should be green streets and garden streets. The proposed open spaces should be assessed and the designs should follow established principles.
scale – includes information on the size of the development, including the height, width and length of each proposed building. See above comments on the appearance and layout of Convoys Wharf. In essence, the blocks are too blocky. Instead, they should make a welcome contribution to London’s skyline and riverscape.