A lecture by Robert Skidelsky on Keynes (gosh he is so sharp at the age of 79) prompts thought of eco-economics, which he mentioned as one answer to the post-2008 slump critique of mainstream economics. Maynard Keynes of course had a wider view than many mainstream economists.
Ecological economics has quite a history. The current interest dates back to the 1980s. This led to Ecological Economics: energy, environment and society: (1990) by the Spanish economist Juan Martinez-Alier. Although one can trace some ideas back to E.F Schumacher’s Small is beautiful – a study of economics as if people mattered (1973) or beyond to the likes of the Austrian economist Karl Polanyi.
Eco-economics is characterised firstly by recognising an economic system has both an impact on the ecology and is in turn influenced by it. For example, different ways of organising production and consumption affect our natural environment in ways which differ, and similarly the response of the natural environment also differ. Secondly eco-economics uses thermodynamic theory and ideas of entropy to examine the relationships between economic and ecological activity. Key to this is the idea that natural systems cannot be monetised as a set of commodities. Rather energy flows, use of renewable and non-renewable resources and the use of the planet as a sink for waste should each be monitored separately and in physical terms. Thirdly eco-economics is used to argue that the potential costs of inaction are so severe that a democratically approved course of action should be pursued.
Eco-economics differs from environmental economics in this respects, it rejects the notion that natural capital can be substituted by human-made capital. And this argument can be extended to the notion that there is not necessarily a technological fix for all environmental problems.
Malte Faber (of Heidelburg) in his lecture How to be an Ecological Economist argues that mainstream economics lacks adequate concepts of nature, justice and time and he argues that “interest in nature, justice and time are the essential characteristics of Ecological Economics” He also argues that:
“A successful politician, a wise judge, an effective manager and a good scientific adviser all have in common that their decisions and counsel cannot be deduced entirely from scientific concepts. What distinguishes them is the quality termed in the German philosophic tradition “Urteilskraft”, in English “power of judgement”, “prudence” or “practical wisdom” (i).
And as the Wikipedia article on ecological economics argues “issues of intergenerational equity, irreversibility of environmental change, uncertainty of long-term outcomes, and sustainable development guide ecological economic analysis and valuation” (ii).
The earth’s carrying capacity is a fundamental concern of eco-economics, and this was a key issue of the Club of Rome’s Limits to Growth 1972. And this leads to concern for sustainable agriculture, fishers and energy production. Some economists forecast a crisis and unrest if energy growth is not contained (iii) and this is increasingly echoed in military academics and defence think tanks.
There is much in this which is of interest to landscape architects. Water to drink, air to breath, soil to produce food, biodiversity to maintain ecosystems are all of interest to us.
(i) Malte Faber. (2008). ‘How to be an ecological economist.’ Ecological Economics 66(1):1-7 https://ideas.repec.org/p/awi/wpaper/0454.html p. (accessed 15.4.2017) p.3.
(ii) Ecological Economics: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ecological_economics ((accessed 15.4.2017)
(iii) Nicholas Stern Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change HM Treasury: 2006 http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/20100407172811/http://www.hm-treasury.gov.uk/stern_review_report.htm (accessed 15.4.2017)
In writing about London for Der Spiegel Christoph Scheuermann starts with three problems to which the landcape architecture profession can make a contribution. The crap weather, the traffic, the noise, the obscene amounts of money, the horrific rents, the Central Line during rush hour, the greed, the indifference, the Russians in Mayfair, the French in Notting Hill, and the price of a pint has long since risen above six euros: There are, of course, a number of reasons to hate London. But then the sun peaks through the clouds for a second, the woman sitting across from you in the subway smiles and you are given a ticket for a theater premier — and all the aggravations are forgotten. In such moments, it becomes clear: There is no better place in the world than this wondrous city. Nowhere is more exciting or more polite, nowhere else gives you more, despite terror, despite Brexit and despite the constant chaos. Landscape architects can:
create a network of roofed public open space and sheltered greenways to combat the crap weather
Scheuermann then argues that Brexit could kill the golden goose. I completely disagree. London’s destiny is to be, as it has since the renaissance, a world city as well as a European city. Like Venice, it became great because of its separateness. But it does need more and better landscape architecture.
18 cycling videos made as part of a landscape architect’s survey-assessment-analysis-design for an East Central London Cycle Network
Please give Amazon-style *Ratings for: A2, A200, CS3 Cable St, CS3 Embankment, Quietway Q1, Thames Path, Sustrans NCN1, Sustrans NCN4, Sustrans NCN13. The themes of these videos are (1) planning for London cycling has been terrible, with the exception of the post-2015 cycle superhighways (2) there is a distinction between planning for cycle commuters and planning for recreational cycling (3) the Quietway programme, like the LCN network, is a failed compromise (4) cycleway planning should be integrated with the urban landscape architecture of roads, streets, parks and greenways (5) all London cycle routes should be subject to survey, assessment, analysis and design.
Cycle infrastructure assessment methods Assessment methods for London cycle infrastructure: CROW, CLoS Cycling Level of Service, SCRAM, Simplified Cycle Route Assessment Method for cycleways, bike paths, bike lanes, cycle routes etc
London cycle route maps and mapping Cycle mapping in London is chaotic but the OpenCycleMap, using OpenStreetMap data, is better than the cycling maps by TfL and Sustrans – and better than the cycling strategy maps in the London Borough plans
Q1 Review of Quietway 1 cycle route Quietway 1 in SE London goes from Waterloo to Greenwich. Q1 is a compromise between planning for leisure and planning for commuter cycling. It falls between two stools.
Brunel Bike Bridge: Rotherhithe or Deptford? The Brunel Bike Bridge was approved by the Mayor of London in 2016. It will be a great cycle facility for East London. But if it was moved 1500m downstream, from Rotherhithe to Deptford, it would be a much more significant component of London’s cycling network
TfL Olympic Cycle Route on the Isle of Dogs Transport for London TfL planned a cycle route on the Isle of Dogs to take cyclists to the 21012 Olympic Games. It’s a disgrace, with no segregated facilities, no cycle path and no useful cycle lane.
The proposed Isle of Dogs Cycle Superhighway A cycle path of superhighway standard is proposed for the west bank of the Isle of Dogs in London. It would link the Greenwich Foot Tunnel to Canary Wharf, CS3, the City and Westminster. Approximately 97% of the land is paved and has public access. See also:
National Cycle Route NCN13 was planned by Sustrans. It is an enjoyable ride from Tower Bridge to Canary Wharf (via Wapping, London Docks and Limehouse Basin) passing attractive landscapes and architecture
National Cycle Route 13 is planned to run from London to Norwich. This video follows the section from Tower Bridge to Limehouse Basin. I like it. Though you do feel as if you’re being allowed to cycle on a route which was designed in part for cars and in part for pedestrians. A surprising 56% of it runs beside water and most of the route is segregated from motor vehicles. Scenic and environmental conditions are good – though a fair-bit of the track is cyclist-unfriendly. It goes through the area which used to be called London Docks and looking for surviving fragments is fun. This part of docklands was used for luxury goods, like tobacco. It would have been a good place for a ship museum.
The first section, beneath the Tower Hotel, is the worst section, and a reminder that the hotel has been voted London’s ugliest building. Twice. Cycling on the waterfront would be much pleasanter – but obviously can’t be done when it’s busy with pedestrians.
St Katherine’s Dock takes its name from the medieval church which was destroyed to build the dock – to a design by Thomas Telford. After it closed, in 1968, the dock became a commercial success for the first time, and set the standard for docklands redevelopment after 1981. The planners completely ignored cyclists. Retrofitting of a cycle network has taken place but there is more to do.
NCN13 goes through the old London Docks, making use of the Ornamental Canal – a waterside greenway designed in the 1980s
For most of the past half-century London’s cycle transport planners have had their heads in the sand. Instead of looking for desire lines which link origins to destinations, as other transport planners do, they have looked for underused ‘quiet’ roads and for underused space on busy roads. They don’t seem to have realised that the usual reason for roads being underused is that they go from nowhere to nowhere. Painting white bikes on the road and putting up blue and white road signs cannot make indirect routes through housing estates popular with cyclists. Commuting by bike is not the outdoor equivalent of a session on a fitness bike in a gym. It can be a heavenly experience or a hellish experience. Too often, it is a purgatory experience. We ride in fear. List of 18 London cycling posts and videos.
Transport planners and landscape architects should together work to create a cycle network which is functional and enjoyable. The Embankment section of East-West Superhighway 3 has both these qualities. I could spend a happy day riding back and forth between Westminster Bridge and Blackfriars Bridge. But it is only a good quality urban landscape because of what was there before TfL built the excellent cycle route. When combining use and beauty in a cycle route is impractical, as in Upper Thames Street, then:
For journeys to work, to school, to the station, to the shops and to other destinations, cyclists need routes which are as short and as safe as possible. Directness is much more important for cyclists than it is for motorists.
For recreational journeys, estimated to be 35% of all trips, the pleasure is as much in the travelling as in the arriving. Cyclists want to experience fine streets, gardens, forests, rivers, lakes, beaches and the other visitor attractions in which London is so rich. I guess this applies even to people whose reason for cycling IS the outdoor equivalent of an exercise machine.
The map of designated cycle routes in South East London is superficially impressive (see post on cycle mapping). But the 2014 Government data showing how much of this exists as facilities on the ground tells a very different story. It’s like bits of branch without trees. It’s not a network.
The admired Netherlands CROW manual argues for a network that connects origins with destinations. This is very good. But we also need leisure routes.
North of the Thames, East Central London’s cycle planning is much better. CS3 is a good, fast, A to B connection and a key component in East London’s cycle infrastructure. Though it could be safer and more of a pleasure to ride. NCN13 is also good – but as a scenically attractive leisure route, planned for this purpose, by Sustrans, and largely segregated from motor vehicles.
The Isle of Dogs could be transformed into a cyclists paradise, instead of a tangled wire pie without wire, by completing the Cycle Superhighway on its West Bank and making a leisure cycleway on its East Bank. The Isle could have London’s first Five Star Cycling Greenway.
Planners are catching up with the fact that cyclists are now a quarter of Central London’s commuter traffic. So they now need a five-year plan for doubling this figure. Like the money homeowners spend on insulation and double glazing, investment in cycle facilities produces long-term benefits – and without the ongoing costs of fuel, health-damaging air pollution or climate change. Planning for the bicycle has to become a fundamental aspect of urban landscape planning and design.
A network is an important aspect of a London Cycling Landscape (LCL) with full consideration for the needs of both commuter and leisure cyclists. This proposal, made in 2017, is based on the evidence from assessments of cycle routes in the area east of Central London. It shows a network which could have been made and should be an aspect of the All London Green Grid.
My experience as a London cycle commuter
After becoming a London commuter in 1973 I read about Cycle to Work Week (now Bike Week). The hour-long walk-and-train journey seemed un-cyclable but I decided to give it a go, riding from Wimbledon to Baker Street. There were few other cyclists, the traffic was terrible and the air choked me – but I loved it. The weather was beautiful and I’ve now been cycling in London for 45 years, in wind, sun, rain, snow, fog and floods.
My first experience of a signposted cycle route was in the early 80s. I was riding along the A2, as usual, and noticed a sign to what is now London Cycle Network Route 2. So I turned off, got lost 6 times, fell off my bike and ended up at the Elephant and Castle instead of Westminster Bridge. There was no cycling infrastructure at all and the route was longer, slower and more dangerous than riding on the A2. This absurd and tokenist approach to London cycle planning continued until the first of the 2015 cycle superhighways opened some 40 years later. After using many of the routes shown on the above map I revisited them and produced a set of videos:
18 cycling videos (see Youtube LCL Playlist) made as part of a landscape architect’s survey-analysis-design for an East Central London Cycle Network
The landscape architecture of cycleway planning and design
The video at the top of this post proposes a landscape approach to London cycleway planning and design. To make a good cycle network, engineers and landscape architects need to work together – just as engineers and architects need to work together to make good buildings. Individual routes are important. The aim is to plan and design a cycle network which is a joy to use and which takes cyclists from origins to destinations, including leisure destinations. It’s likely that:
Some routes will have the primary role of taking commuters directly from A to B,
Other routes will have the primary role of letting cyclists experience great urban landscapes
You can see the advantages of this approach by riding the Royal Cycle Loop in Central London. Amazingly, it now has both a high quality commuter cycle route and a high-quality leisure cycle route – some parts of which have to be walked because there are so many pedestrians.
London is in urgent need of cycling plan. It should connect origins to destinations, including leisure destinations, and the routes should be designed to get high scores on cycleway assessment methods, typically for: Safety, Directness, Coherence, Comfort and Attractiveness. London also needs better cycle maps – which tell the truth about their qualities. Maps of backstreets daubed with white bikes and blue signs are a waste of everybody’s time and money.
Bike Bridges and Skycycle Tubes
As London moves, slowly but surely, towards becoming a Great Cycling City, more imaginative investment projects will become feasible.
London’s first cycle tube could be built above London’s first railway track – the London & Greenwich Railway. The capital cost would be a fraction of providing equivalent capacity on trains and the running costs, year after year after year, would be negligible. Charmingly, and the air pushed forward by each cyclist in a one-way tube would help other cyclists going in the same direction. Oli Clark, a London landscape architect, did some great designs in 2014 and Norman Foster helped publicise them with the name Skycycle.
Cycle Route Maps
London cycle maps are better than its cycle network – but chaotic. The recommended solution is for public bodies and local councils to contribute data to the OpenStreetMap database.
35% of cycle trips in London are made for leisure – so recreation should become an important objective for cycleway planning
The video gives a snapshot of London’s best and worst cycling conditions, hinting that the city needs more cycling heavens, fewer cycling hells and a lot less purgatory. List of 18 London cycling posts and videos.
Cycleway planning and design are often regarded as a branch of transport planning a matter for engineering-only. This is wrong. In Vitruvian terms, cycleways involve issues relating to
commodity: cycleways should be functional, comfortable and convenient
firmness: cycleways should be safe, smooth and durable
delight: cycleways should provide users with such a pleasurable experience that more and more of them are attracted to go by bike
Nor should cycleways be treated as a separate facility that can be designed in isolation. They must be desire lines. Provision for cycling is an inextricable aspect of street design, highway design, park design, forest design and landscape planning in all its varieties. The objective is to create urban and rural landscapes in which design for cycling is a primary objective.
We need a London Cycling Landscape (LCL) with provision for cyclists throughout the urban area. Cycle routes require interconnection, as do telephone cables. But planning for cycling is more than network planning. It involves the composition of streets and buildings with landform, water and vegetation – to create good landscape as an environmental public good.
A London Cycling Landscape should include a London Cycling Network so that both commuters and recreational users have the cycle infrastructure they need and want
The section of Cycle Superhighway CS3 between Canary Wharf and the City is said to be the busiest cycle route in the UK and could therefore contribute more to public health than any other street in London. Though most of it is ugly, narrow and badly surfaced, it has significant virtues. First, it’s a direct route between two financial centres. Second, it’s a key component in the wider pattern of East London’s cycle network, used by commuters from north and south of the river. Third, the section through St James Gardens is a pleasant surprise. It’s fresh, it’s green and it has seats for those who want a rest – which is what you need before and after crossing Butcher Row.
CS3 Cycle Superhighway Cable Street Section Limehouse to Tower Hill
The Cable Street section is as straight as the railway it parallels. But like the whole of this section, it needs is a re-design. The case for three-metre-wide lanes in each direction is strong because:
the volume of cycle traffic is high
the volume is fast growing
the flows of cycle traffic are less-tidal than in most of London. This is because there are important destinations at both ends of the route.
Cable Street should be redesigned to make it an urban cycling greenway and a pleasure to use. Cyclists also like having comfortable street furniture for when they stop to make phone calls or to drink coffee.
Access for motor vehicles should be on a residents only basis, with through traffic guided to use The Highway and Commercial Road.
Car parking should be allowed only if there is spare road space after creating the cycle lanes in each direction. Parking isn’t allowed on busy motor roads and shouldn’t be allowed on busy cycle roads. Is the plan to wait for cyclists to start banging into each other before creating more space for cycling?
Cable Street has an interesting history which could inspire an urban landscape design. In 1936 it was the scene of Britain’s first successful battle against fascism. Some 20,000 demonstrators turned back 3,000 fascists – who were protected by 6,000 police officers. This led to a change in the law on public demonstrations.
In the 19th century, the area had specialised trades in nautical equipment, cheap lodgings, brothels, and opium dens. The ‘cables’ which gave the street its name were hemp ropes made for ships. What about putting an overhead cable along the street for climbing plants?
In 1812 the last English sinner to have a stake driven through his heart was buried, upside down, beside Cable Street. It was a punishment for his alleged offence of committing suicide. It’s not quite certain that he did it. But the fact that a good landscape design could make Cable Street a charming multi-purpose greenway IS quite certain. Let’s have a budget – and a design competition. The investment would do even more good for Europe’s financial centre than bankers’ bonuses.
CS3 is the busiest cycle path in the UK but it a gloomy corridor and needs a landscape architecture design
If you would like to do an assessment of the Embankment Section of East-West Cycle Superhighway CS3, please retain your impartiality by doing the assessment before reading the post or watching the video. List of 18 London cycling posts and videos.
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The Embankment section of Cycle Superhighway CS3 between Westminster Bridge and Blackfriars Bridge is super:
Aesthetically, this is one of the best parts of Central London’s riverside landscape
The cycle path runs in the dappled shade of London planes
You see sunlight flickering on the water, boats chugging past, seabirds enjoying life – and an occasional represenative of the swans for which the river was famous in the Middle Ages
You see famous monuments, including the Palace of Westminster, the Battle of Britain Memorial and a three and half thousand year old Egyptian Obelisk from Heliopolis – Cleopatra’s Needle
The mingling of cyclists, runners and pedestrians can have the gaiety of a corniche
LONDON’S ONLY SUPER SUPERHIGHWAY: the Embankment section of CS3 East-West Cycle Superhighway 3 from Westminster Bridge to Blackfriars Bridge
Cyclists may even enjoy the sight of stationary limos trying to take fat cats from their plush homes in Chelsea to their plush offices in the City and Canary Wharf. The Embankment section of the superhighway also does well on functional criteria
It is the pleasantest, healthiest, fastest, cheapest and most direct way of travelling from Westminster to Blackfriars
There are no junctions where motor vehicles cross the cyclepath
There is often a colourful line of parked coaches protecting the cycle route from traffic nuisance
But few things are perfect in this life. The fumes from motor vehicles are a drawback and TfL should not have created interruptions in the form of unnecessary traffic lights and ski jumps. Where did the idea come from? What research is being done to assess their effectiveness? How easy would it be to remove them?
The Embankment section of CS3 East-West Cycle Superhighway 3 from Westminster Bridge to Blackfriars Bridge
If you would like to do an assessment of the Isle of Dogs section of NCN1, please retain your impartiality by doing the assessment before reading the post or watching the video. List of 18 London cycling posts and videos.
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Sustrans planned the National Cycle Network Route 1 cycleway from Dover to the Shetland Isles as a recreational route. It was a romantic idea and serves this objective. But the Isle of Dogs section of NCN1 is pretty drab, apart from two short sections of ride by Millwall Dock the River Thames. The rest of the Isle of Dogs NCN1 route has too many dog’s-leg changes of direction, too many junctions and far too many parked cars. The result is a dog’s dinner and following the route is a navigational challenge. The underlying problem is that the creation of the route was not treated as the creation of a greenway, with landscape planning and landscape architecture inputs. The approach was ‘without spending more than a few bob, we have to signpost a route through the Isle of Dogs’. OK. They did it. But how many London cyclists use the NCN1 cycle route?
Sustrans planned NCN1 as a recreational cycle route on the Isle of Dogs. It is dogged by junctions and parked cars.
NCN1 National Cycle Route 1 on the Isle of Dogs was planned by Sustrans as a recreational cycling route. It is hard to find and affords little pleasure to the user.