Sunday, March 25, 2012

Cycle ways mean more Cycles–Roads mean more Cars–you choose

So one of the interesting things about life is how much we are all under the influence of feedback mechanisms – whether it is biological processes through to how many browser tabs I leave open on my Computer. (Too many tabs slows it down, so I stop opening them – although if you give me a faster computer I will open more until it slows down to my level of tolerance for a treacle-speed computer.)

The same is true of things like roads, building more roads tends to attract more traffic until the same congestion delays occur and alternate solutions to transport are found. Similarly the setting of prices through supply and demand could be thought of as a feedback-process. The price of an item fluctuates as supply and demand vary. As the price of say petrol goes up then people buy less and look for alternatives. However if the demand drops too much then the suppliers’ profits drop and then the price tends to reduce. The price settles at the equilibrium.

So what has this got to do with a cycling Blog – well I was pleased to see that “Bike trips in Cambridge soar by 14 per cent in a year”. \What was also interesting was that the increase in cycling in the City was 12% whilst the increase in surrounding villages was 21%. Before I get too excited I am not sure quite how statistically sound these numbers are as they compare one day this year with the same day last year. There is no mention of the weather for instance.

One of the new Cycle ways Cambridge to St Ives

I would guess there are three main factors at play here; the cost of transport (including parking), the levels of congestion in the city and the provision of safe and decent cycling facilities.  The complications arise though because people are different and circumstances are different. If you live in a village with little public transport and 50 miles from work then you are very unlikely to start cycling no matter the cost of petrol or the provision of a cycle way. Indeed you would probably see the cycling way as a slap in the face of “hard-working” tax-payers. Whilst talking about petrol – it has smashed the 140p-a-litre barrier. That is supply and demand at work – whilst Motoring Organisations may moan about the fuel tax rises, the fundamental economics are against motorists really.

Old style Petrol Pumps – somewhere in Oregon

I have linked to item before which predicts that traffic congestion in Cambridge will get worse over the next ten years. Apparently what was a ten minute journey would become a 14 minutes and 36 second journey.  The issue is that there is not a lot of flexibility in terms of building more road infrastructure, unless we want to completely ruin an historic city. So there will have to be a modal shift form cars to other forms of transport such as walking, cycling, trains and buses. (I wonder if thought is also given to a reduction in the need for parking which also has a major impact on our narrow streets.)

One of the investments in alternate forms of transport is to be a new railway station – Chesterton Station, “800,00 will use new rail station”. I would like to think that there would be very little provision for car parking since all that would do is bring in more cars. Instead there needs to be proper provision of sufficient cycle parking along with proper cycle routes on the major corridors – such as to the Science park and into the town. Unfortunately that won’t be the case – it will have space for 400 cars and 1,000 bicycles. Why waste so much space on attracting people to drive to the station. What is the point?

There is also talk of extending the Guided Busway from Milton Road and a new pedestrian and cycle bridge over the river as well as more office space. My view is that offices close to decent transport links should not be allowed many car spaces. I also find it somewhat incredible that we can plan on a new station but then scrabble around for funding for a cycle bridge – where is the joined up thinking?

It does make the point that half of the 800,000 would be those who use Waterbeach or the current City centre Station. (Building facilities does attract users after all.)  By my reckoning if you assume 70% will be commuters then that means around 1,000 people will use the train daily. (I am not sure if a journey in the morning and a return at night would be considered as two separate trips.)  Also I am not sure whether it factors in the expansion of Waterbeach which could “rocket to be twice that of Ely”.  The article suggests an additional 38,000 people. a new station, guided bus link and six schools. I  wonder whether they will build a concrete tracked busway or mean that they will allow the Guided buses to get stuck use the roads.

Mind you Cambridge is not the only place that predicts growth – the Department of Transport expects road traffic in London to increase by 43% by 2035.It won’t be cyclists unless things are improved. There was a useful link in the Cyclists in the City blog to the Cambridge County Council Press release giving more detail on the rise in cycling on the new cycling corridors.

It would seem though that cars still feature heavily in the Transport thinking – whilst there is a struggle to build a new cycle bridge in Cambridge there will be a new road to bypass a Huntingdon ring road. Which is kind of weird, I wonder what the budget is – "£2m in this document, Table A8.34”. Pesky people and guided buses have caused problems on the St Ives bypass for cars. Whilst they are at it “Bus ban continues in St Ives … for now”. And of course the old favourite “A14 improvements shortlisted as part of Budget” – oh goody more cars for Cambridge.

St Ives CGB P&R – Kiss and Ride

Building roads attracts cars – Somewhere near Bristol
Taken from the Bristol Bath cycle route

Whilst looking for the cost of the Huntingdon ring-road bypass I came across this assessment of the Ely bypass – “Better Bypass”. Does Ely really want to spend £20m on a few peak rush hour queues with a monstrosity of a viaduct. Checkout how ugly the A14 is where it travels over and around Godmanchester and Huntingdon if you want an idea.

Still if we really want to screw it all up we could go for toll roads, there is nothing like bureacrapitalism when you don’t know what to do next. Look how well the M6 Toll road works. See how well it has worked on the railways.

Bicycles can help cultures for the better you know – we just need to let them.

Sorry, when there is a Grand Prix on  then Sundays are a day of tension for me as I try to avoid learning what the results of the Grand prix were until I can watch the BBC highlights. it is harder than it looks. That means I tend to do controlled things – like writing Posts – but don’t worry I have been cycling and have three sets of pictures to follow, including the inside of the new King's Cross railway Station and Spring, spring around the flatlands.

Sustainable Transport on the River Cam?


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