London Is Looking to Increase Cycling Tenfold After the Coronavirus

CC BY 2.0. Waiting for the light to change, London/ Lloyd Alter

It's the only way to deal with reduced capacity in the underground, and is a great example for other cities.

In North America, bikes are seen as recreation rather than transportation; that's why some cities like New York and Toronto have to be dragged kicking and screaming into providing room for them. But both of these cities are dependent on subways to move commuters and are faced with a serious problem of reduced capacity. London is even more reliant on the Underground, and is looking at bikes being part of the solution. Walking and Cycling Commissioner Will Norman (yes, they have someone doing that!) explains the straightforward mathematics in BikeBiz:

With London’s public transport capacity potentially running at a fifth of pre-crisis levels, up to eight million journeys a day will need to be made by other means. If people switch only a fraction of these journeys to cars, London will grind to a halt. Essential deliveries and emergency services will be stuck in gridlock and Londoners will once again be exposed to toxic traffic fumes and rising levels of road danger. Our city’s economic recovery will be choked off.

They also project five times the amount of walking, with more people working from home and walking around their neighborhoods. Commissioner Norman explains:

Many people will continue to work from home for many months to come. We’re likely to have fewer longer journeys to work and more shorter journeys in our local neighbourhoods. We will rapidly transform local town centres on the TfL road network to enable these local journeys to be safely walked and cycled where possible, and work with the boroughs to make similar changes on their streets. Wider footways on high streets will facilitate a local economic recovery, with people having space to queue for shops as well as enough space for others to safely walk past while socially distancing.

This is where it gets really interesting, a vision not that different from the one laid out in TreeHugger's The Coronavirus and the future of Main Street, where more people working at home supported what Eric Reguly called "a relaunch of Jane Jacobs’s urban ideal, where neighborhoods have a diverse range of work and family functions."

Space taken by different forms of transport

Space taken by different forms of transport/ Netherlands Institute for Transport Policy Analysis via Stephane Schultz/CC BY 2.0

Instead of spending billions on expensive subways and highways, it becomes an exercise in rebuilding shorter, local links serving revitalized neighborhood centers. But it also recognizes, finally, the importance of walking, bikes and now e-bikes as transportation, not just fitness or recreation. Cars take up a lot of space, and we don't have enough of it in our cities. We have to acknowledge, as they are in London, that we can't just hand our cities over to drivers and cars or we will just have gridlock and pollution. In an earlier post, E-bikes will eat ... buses? I quoted Morton Kabell: "A lot of people will be afraid of going on public transportation, but we have to get back to work someday. Very few of our cities can handle more car traffic."

Mayor Khan is showing real foresight here. I wonder if we will see anything similar out of Mayor DeBlasio of New York or Mayor Tory of Toronto.