Did the Congestion Charge Drive us to Cycling?
In 2003, London implemented a congestion charge - if you wanted to drive in Central London, you had to pay. New York, or more specifically, Mayor Bloomberg, now wants to do the same. He came to London this week in order to get a feel for how it's going in the UK, and London Mayor, Ken Livingstone apparently explained how it's driven us all to cycling to work instead.
A press release from his office said, "London has witnessed a 43% rise in cycling since the introduction of the congestion charge and an 83% increase overall since 2000," which suggests a link which may not exist.
The Guardian's Alison Benjamin believes that there isn't much of a link, and I have to say that I agree. The estimated 250,000 daily cyclists in London aren't all converted drivers, not by a long way. London's roads feel full to bursting with cars now, just as they did before 2003. She suggests that the people on bikes are ex-bus/tube/walking commuters instead and they have been forced into cycling just as much as they have been enticed into it.
Part of the reason that we are cycling now is to do with the rapidly inflating cost of commuting on the Underground, just as much as it is due to a rise in awareness of green and health issues. Another factor may be the 7/7 tube bombings - it was well documented at the time that cycle sales rose dramatically in the following weeks.
Whatever the reason for the increased number of cyclists, Ken's main focus now should be in keeping them safe. Almost 2 cyclists a month are killed in the capital, and many more are seriously injured.
Livingstone claims £122m raised in congestion chargin was spent on "improving the public transport network, as well as pedestrian and cycling facilities, and road safety" in 2005/6. However, I don't see where this has gone. Others may feel differently, but my commute to work doesn't have full cycle lanes, and some parts that do have cycle lanes have potholes that could easily break a wheel, and branches that force you into traffic to get around them. ::The Guardian ::Picture Source