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Motorcycle group echoes unsubstantiated bike lane congestion claims

Motorcycle Action Group reiterates incorrect interpretation of INRIX report which actually states cycle lanes will help cut congestion by 20%

A motorcyclist campaign organisation has echoed unsubstantiated claims London’s cycle superhighways will increase congestion and pollution in the capital, and harm businesses, citing a recent study which concludes the contrary.

In a recent news release the Motorcycle Action Group  (MAG) cites an INRIX report, which states the average motorist spends 101 hours stuck in traffic annually. While the INRIX report attributes congestion in the capital to construction of Crossrail and Cycle Superhighways among other causes, it concludes these measures will help reduce congestion by 20 per cent in the long term.

A Daily Mail article, cited by MAG, says “partly as a result [of traffic lanes] the capital is said to be the world’s most congested city, with the average driver spending 101 hours in traffic last year, according to transport experts INRIX.” 

Business group suggests "dramatic rethink" of bike lanes

However, the article itself and MAG fail to mention the INRIX report’s conclusions, which INRIX director, Graham Cookson, explained in a blog.

He said the work represents “short term pain for long term gain” and that “the cost of both a growing economy and a huge investment in London’s transport network is temporarily more congested streets”, a price he concludes is worth paying.

Cookson says while vans and HGV traffic each increased by eight per cent since 2012 thanks to the city’s growing economy, congestion is largely caused by reduced road space, with roadworks and road closures having increased 362% in the same time.

He says while the “vast majority” of disruptions are due to ongoing improvements, including the construction of Crossrail, and TfL’s £4bn Roads Modernisation Plan, which included construction of four Cycle Superhighways, and installation of improved traffic light signal timings, this is part of a long-term strategy.

London's new cycle highways will be better than before

He says: “Taken together INRIX predicts that these improvements will ultimately reduce congestion by 20%, whilst completing the projects will obviously stop the temporary congestion caused by their construction. In summary, it’s short term pain for long term gain”.

“A key aim of the improvements is to make London’s roads safer and to reduce road traffic accidents by 40%. This would also have a substantial impact on congestion as up to 30% of congestion is caused by accidents.”

“The message is clear,” he writes. “The cost of both a growing economy and a huge investment in London’s transport network is temporarily more congested streets; a price that is worth paying.”

Quoting the Daily Mail’s interpretation of the INRIX study, MAG’s chair, Selina Lavender, concludes the opposite, however.

She says: “We’ve been raising these issues for years because we saw this crisis coming. The massive increase in cycle lanes is not based on any objective calculation of danger. The already limited London road space has been squeezed further by dedicating swathes of it to cycle lanes which are under-used. Cycle lanes that have been built with huge amounts of taxpayers money for the benefit of a very few. Even many cyclists, it seems, never wanted them.”

“We’re working with authorities to bring some common sense to the debate. The current approach is based on fashion, not logic or any sense of proportionality regarding bikers and other road users who are suffering gridlock for the sake of the cycling agenda.  That’s bad business, bad environment policy and a terrible way to treat the 97%+ road users who aren’t cyclists.”

Approximately 7,000 cyclists use the Victoria Embankment on CS3 and approximately 8,000 cyclists use Blackfriars Bridge on CS6 in peak hours, with cycles now 70 per cent of traffic over the latter at peak times. The Deputy Mayor for Transport recently reiterated to a commitment to cycling to tackle congestion.

In a recent Transport Committee meeting in City Hall, Director of Road Space Management at Transport for London (TfL), Alan Bristow, said five per cent more people are moving along the Embankment since construction of the new East-West Cycle Superhighway was completed in May.

MAG’s Director of Communication also raised safety concerns regarding the new kerb-protected bike routes, telling the Evening Standard “narrowing roads makes it more dangerous for motorcyclists going through the gap between cars in traffic, which is perfectly legal”. 

Collision statistics from before and after cycle superhighway construction are not yet available, as the first of London’s new substantially segregated routes, CS5 at Vauxhall, was completed less than a year ago.

However, the latest statistics on motorcycle collisions, from 2015, which were released in June, showed what TfL described as a “concerning increase in the number of motorcyclist fatalities and serious injuries”, but it said the main cause of these collisions was “travelling too fast for the conditions”. Nine more motorcyclists were killed in 2015 compared with 2014 (36 up from 27).

In June, TfL’s Managing Director of Surface Transport, Leon Daniels, said: “We are making good progress in reducing death and serious injury on our roads and meeting our target of a 50 per cent reduction by 2020.

“However, there remains an enormous amount to do and we are, in particular, deeply concerned about the rise in the number of fatal collisions involving motorcyclists. We are taking a range of actions to tackle this, including working with the Motorcycle Industry Association, funding for accredited training centres and one-to-one motorcycle commuter training, and improving street design for motorcyclists."


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