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Posts from the "London" Category

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Citi Bike Carries More Riders on Fewer Bikes Than London Bike-Share

The gray and black lines represent Citi Bike average weekday and weekend ridership, respectively. The red, orange, green and blue lines represent different years of Barclays Cycle Hire average daily ridership. Image: Oliver O'Brien

Five months after its launch, Citi Bike is already moving more people than its larger, more established sister program in London, according to an analysis by University College of London researcher Oliver O’Brien.

Using data feeds from Citi Bike and Transport for London, O’Brien calculated the average number of trips taken on both systems during weekdays and weekends each month. New York, which pulled even with London’s peak usage in July, has been ahead since August, despite having fewer bikes available. Citi Bike, which by O’Brien’s count has approximately 4,500 bikes in circulation (counting bikes out of circulation, the system has about 5,700), is smaller than Barclays Cycle Hire, which O’Brien estimates has 7,600 bikes in circulation.

This means Citi Bike is clocking about seven trips per bike per day. O’Brien speculates that London might once again pass New York during the winter, which tends to be milder in London — but we’ll let the numbers be the judge of that.

Bike-share ridership isn’t the only place where New York is ahead of London: After a number of cyclist deaths on its modest “cycle superhighway” routes, Mayor Boris Johnson has shifted gears and begun installing physically protected bikeways. He dedicated the first of London’s new protected bike lanes this week.

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The Heart of London Adopts 20 MPH Speed Limit

The City of London, the square mile in the heart of Greater London that is home to the city’s finance sector, is resetting the speed limit to 20 miles per hour on all streets.

In New York, this would be the equivalent of, say, lowering the speed limit in Manhattan south of the Brooklyn Bridge — not exactly earth-shattering, but noteworthy for a number of reasons.

Cyclists accounted for 47 percent of all road fatalities in the City of London in 2011. Other 20 mph zones in London have seen injuries and fatalities drop by nearly half. A person struck by a vehicle traveling at 20 mph has a 95 percent chance of surviving the collision.

All other surrounding boroughs (the equivalent of City Council districts) have already adopted a 20 mph limit — eight of Greater London’s 32 boroughs have lowered speeds or are considering doing so, according to the 20′s Plenty for Us campaign, suggesting a domino effect. Finally, police support the change, and have called for additional speed cameras and other resources as needed.

“The City of London joins Paris and Tokyo in recognizing that 20 mph limits are better for business and health,” said Jeremy Leach, 20’s Plenty for Us London coordinator, in a statement.

There is high demand for 20 mph “slow zones” in NYC neighborhoods where locals live in fear of reckless drivers. Speeding was the leading cause of traffic deaths last year, and speed enforcement is virtually non-existent.

Bill de Blasio has called for more slow zones, and says he wants to dramatically reduce traffic deaths and injuries. Neither Bill Thompson nor Joe Lhota has a detailed traffic safety platform. No candidate has suggested lowering the speed limit to 20 mph on a broad scale, though City Council transportation chair James Vacca has endorsed the idea.

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Words of Wisdom From London’s Bike-Share Chief

London launched its bike-share system in 2010, and it looks like New York’s experience so far isn’t so different from theirs. Animal New York went straight to the source to speak with Nick Aldworth, general manager of London’s Barclays Cycle Hire, who offers some words of wisdom for New Yorkers adjusting to Citi Bike.

“I’ve read some of the things that have been said in New York, and I recognize them from when we were doing the same thing,” he said, recalling London’s own NIMBY opposition to station placement in historic neighborhoods and overblown concerns about safety.

Citi Bike’s first days have seen some technical problems with glitchy docks and stations, and some distribution problems — early reports suggest that Midtown tends to have pronounced bike shortages at times. Aldworth says London is no stranger to the occasional un-docked Barclays bike, and that the greater challenge is managing the distribution.

“Redistribution is the key,” he says. “Once you have thousands of thousands of people cycling around, I think the negativity will quickly go away, but that challenge of redistribution won’t.”

Bike redistribution is an ongoing task for bike-share systems in the U.S. as well. In Boston, the Hubway system uses three Sprinter vans carrying 22 bikes each to move bikes between the system’s 108 stations, with staff working two shifts from 6:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.

Hubway general manager Scott Mullen told Streetsblog that as more people use the system over time, usage patterns begin to emerge. “Because you know what’s going on, you can set the system up for success,” he said. “You’re not putting out fires.” Mullen added that sometimes, a station is nearly empty or nearly full intentionally, because Hubway staff will move bikes in advance of rush hour or a big event.

DOT announced today that Citi Bike had passed 100,000 trips in its first ten days. As more people use the system and it expands to more neighborhoods, rebalancing will become even more important.

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Bike-Share Works Just Fine in Historic London, Boston, and DC Neighborhoods

Sumner Place in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea has homes dating to the 19th century, luxury SUVs built in the early 21st century — and a bike-share station sponsored by a multi-national bank. Photo: Google Maps

While polls have shown that upwards of 70 percent of New Yorkers support bike-share and DOT engaged in a multi-year public process for station siting, a vocal minority in Fort Greene is objecting to public bike stations in the landmarked district. At least one extremist has gone so far as to tar newly-installed stations with wheatpaste posters decrying the Citibank-sponsored kiosks. In response to the neighborhood chatter, Council Member Tish James has scheduled a community meeting about bike-share for tonight.

The historic preservation arguments simply fail to hold any water. The Landmarks Preservation Commission has signed off on the stations. Take a stroll in Boston or Washington, and you’ll see that other cities have managed to introduce bike-share stations on historic residential streets without harming their architectural legacy. And a quick glance at historic Fort Greene will reveal that its residential streets and sidewalks already have commercial activity in the form of bus shelter advertisements, newspaper boxes, and ice cream trucks.

One of the arguments against the bike-share stations is that sponsorship from a multi-national corporation like Citi has no place in historic neighborhoods. This, of course, conveniently overlooks the Coca-Cola logo on a Fort Greene storefront or the brightly-colored cars with BMW and Volvo logos parked throughout the neighborhood, which have failed to attract the ire of the anti-bike crowd.

It also doesn’t account for Boston, a city full of historic neighborhoods where the Hubway system is sponsored by footwear manufacturer New Balance, and London, where the bike-share system is named for another financial giant, Barclays Capital.

In fact, some of London’s most historic neighborhoods, including pricey West End districts like Mayfair, Kensington, and Chelsea, have Barclays-sponsored bike-share stations on residential streets. When the stations were first installed in 2010, neighbors raised an array of bizarre objections, from bird droppings to human rights violations — and yes, historic preservation.

But as the system has rolled out and proven to be a big success, the objections have waned. As the later phases of the system have come online, elected officials who had accommodated the initial complaints by slowing implementation have been less likely to give serious attention to the dwindling NIMBYs. “The administration was considerably less sympathetic to concerns that were purely subjective and hampered the roll out in phase one,” London bike blogger Danny Williams told Streetsblog.

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London Cycling Group Proposes a Safer Urban Truck

Images: London Cycling Campaign

In the last few weeks, truck drivers have taken the lives of at least two NYC pedestrians: a 6-year-old child and a 60-year-old woman. Though the physics of the crashes were different — one driver was turning, the other accelerating into a crosswalk — in both cases the driver was said to have hit a person he did not know was there.

NYC is not the only world city that suffers truck-involved pedestrian and cyclist fatalities. In London, trucks account for some 5 percent of vehicle traffic, yet their drivers are responsible for approximately half of all cyclist deaths, according to the Guardian. Most of those crashes involve construction trucks, with many resulting from a driver failing to see a cyclist while making a left turn.

At present, half the cycling fatalities in Greater London involve lorries, and about three-quarters of those vehicles are from the construction industry. A large proportion of pedestrian fatalities also involve lorries. Tellingly, the most frequent response from lorry drivers after a fatal collision is to say they didn’t see the victim in the moments leading up to the crash.

The London Cycling Campaign has proposed a new design for the urban truck — one that is lower in height, puts the driver closer to the street, and replaces “blind spots” with windows. The design is based on existing trash trucks, which are built with the safety of refuse collectors in mind.

“Already a common sight in town and city streets, these vehicles have the same low driving position and high-visibility cab seen on our Safer Urban Lorry,” write LCC staffers Charlie Lloyd and Mike Cavenett. “All we’ve done is to marry this type of cab with a lower chassis from a construction lorry.”

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London Mayor Unveils Ambitious, $1.3 Billion Bike Plan

Coming soon to one of New York's global competitors. Image: Mayor of London

In some ways, London and New York have each leapfrogged the other when it comes to bike policy in the past few years. London’s bike-share program launched back in 2010, but its bike lanes remain largely sub-standard, with little in the way of physical protection. Here in New York, the bike lanes are gradually forming a safe, useful network, while bike-share is a few years behind London.

If New York’s next mayor doesn’t keep up the pace on bike infrastructure, though, London may soon take the lead on both counts. Yesterday, Mayor Boris Johnson announced an aggressive plan for a comprehensive bike network, including protected bike lanes.

“Cycling will be treated not as niche, marginal, or an afterthought, but as what it is: an integral part of the transport network,” Johnson said. ”I want cycling to be normal, a part of everyday life.”

The plan includes big changes, including new types of bike lanes for the capital:

  • The flagship initiative, a 15-mile separated crosstown route connecting western and eastern suburbs via central London and business districts including the West End and Canary Wharf.
  • A network of “quietways,” akin to bike boulevards, that will connect suburban and central London neighborhoods.
  • Adding physical separation to the existing “cycle superhighways,” which sometimes offer little more than a stripe of paint on some of London’s busiest roads.

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Lessons From London After 10 Years of the Congestion Charge

A Republican member of Congress told me last week that he recently was in London for the first time in a long while. “Traveling was so much better,” he said. “You can actually get around. That traffic-charging system they’ve got seems to be doing a lot of good.”

London’s system — known formally as congestion charging — started up 10 years ago this Sunday, on February 17, 2003. In the decade since then it has been meticulously monitored, analyzed and debated — perhaps more than any traffic-managing scheme since Moses parted the Red Sea. It has also spawned a raft of charging programs elsewhere, most notably in Stockholm, and, starting last month, in Gothenburg, Sweden’s second city. Of course, an all-out effort to enact a comparable system here, the proposal to toll motor vehicles entering Manhattan south of 60th Street, died in the state legislature five years ago.

Ten years on is a good time to take stock. Let’s have a look.

What It Is: Cars and trucks pay £10 (roughly $15.60) to drive into or within the charging zone between 7 am and 6 pm on weekdays. The zone is London’s commercial and financial hub and, at 8 square miles, rivals Manhattan’s 8.5-square mile Central Business District. Taxis are exempt, as are qualifying low-emission vehicles. Cars registered to zone residents, who account for 2 percent of Greater London’s 7 million people, pay one-tenth the standard charge.

How Drivers Pay: London’s system deploys 1,360 closed-circuit cameras at 348 sites within the charging zone and on its boundaries to record the license plates of vehicles entering and moving within the zone. The plates are continuously matched against a database of monthly accounts, and “spot” payments are made via Internet or at kiosks, drawing down accounts or billing license-plate holders. This cumbersome system arose not only from the absence in the U.K. of electronic toll collection systems such as E-ZPass when the system was launched a decade ago, but also from the decision to charge for car trips entirely within the zone in addition to vehicle entries. A byproduct is the relatively meager net revenue available for transport improvements.

Traffic Outcomes: In its first few years, the London charging scheme was heralded as a solid traffic-buster, with 15-20 percent boosts in auto and bus speeds and 30 percent reductions in congestion delays. Most of those gains appear to have disappeared in recent years, however. Transport for London (TfL), which combines the functions of our NYCDOT and MTA and which created and operates the charging system, attributes the fallback in speeds to other changes in the streetscape and traffic management:

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Following New York’s Lead, London Plans Protected Bike Lanes

When it comes to urban transportation policy, Americans often look longingly across the Atlantic. Paris pioneered big-city bike-sharing, London showed New York that congestion pricing works, and Sweden set the goal of eliminating traffic deaths. But here’s a case where New York is leading a peer city overseas.

London is changing its "cycle superhighways" to incorporate protected bike lane designs. Above: A plan for an East London bus stop. Image via BBC

In 2009, London Mayor Boris Johnson unveiled a plan to install 12 “cycle superhighways” criss-crossing the capital. But Londoners found the new bikeways wanting: narrow painted bike lanes on high-traffic streets, without any protection from passing drivers. One of the cycle superhighways runs across a busy roundabout in East London that’s been the site of two cyclist fatalities since the route was installed.

Not surprisingly, the lanes have a poor reputation, and the number of people riding bikes in London last year fell for the first time in a decade.

Transport for London recently announced that it would install a protected bike lane on the East London roundabout approach. Though advocates want additional tweaks, the plan is a shift in policy. “You can expect to see more of these designs across the capital,” explained BBC reporter Tom Edwards, though a TfL official cautioned that the protected lanes will not be everywhere, particularly in central London.

While Dutch and Danish cities are still way ahead of London and NYC, it seems like NYC DOT’s protected bike lane designs are now the object of some international envy. The proposal is “the first time I’ve seen anything even vaguely close to catching up on what’s already common-place in New York,” wrote Danny Williams at Cyclists in the City, a London bike blog.

The protected bike lane proposed in London will include an element we haven’t seen yet in New York: a bikeway that runs between the sidewalk and a “floating” bus stop. On streets with major bus routes and protected bike lanes, NYC DOT has opted to put bikes and transit on opposite sides of the street. First Avenue has this configuration even though it leads to more conflicts between cyclists and turning traffic (there are more drivers turning left, across the bike lane, than turning right). It will be interesting to see how the floating bus stop works out for London, and whether it becomes a treatment in the New York City toolbox too.

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London’s Bike-share How-To

For your viewing pleasure this weekend, here’s the animation produced by Transport for London explaining how to use Barclays Cycle Hire — the 570-station bike-share system that launched about two years ago. There’s a lot to cover in a little more than four minutes: when bike-share is useful, how to get a membership, what not to do with your bike, how to handle a bike that needs repair, and so forth.

In New York, we’ve already seen some confusion about what sort of trips bike-share is meant for, and even something as simple as swiping a Metrocard has a learning curve. We could probably use a video like this before Citi Bike launches in July.

We’ll see you back here on Tuesday, Streetsblog readers. In the meantime, feel free to share your storyboard ideas for NYC bike-share how-to videos in the comments.

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Mapped: Dramatic Changes on London Streets in the Congestion Pricing Era

For the last nine years, private motorists entering central London between 7 a.m. and 6 p.m. have paid a fee (currently £10 or US$16.22) to drive on the city’s scarce street space. The revenue from the congestion charge is plowed into the city’s transit system, and as Transport for London has amply documented, many Londoners have changed their commuting habits.

Now a flurry of maps released by ITO World, a British company that specializes in visualizing transport data, shows London’s dramatic shift to more sustainable modes from 2001-2010. (The congestion charge went into effect in February 2003.)

The map above depicts the extraordinary decrease in private motor vehicle traffic, with the bright blue dots showing where driving has gone down more than 30 percent and the bright red dots showing where it’s up more than 30 percent. By the looks of it, the drivable suburbs are still a bastion of private vehicles, but the central city is seeing far less traffic.

Of course, people aren’t just sitting at home. They’ve embraced other ways of getting around. So while there are fewer vehicles in London now than in 2001, one motorized mode has become more ubiquitous: the bus.

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