Can VNEB opportunity area be as cycle friendly as Amsterdam?

Back in September 2012, local tweeter @KenningtonPOB asked Mayor Boris Johnson the inspiring question “Will the Vauxhall, Nine Elms, Battersea Opportunity Area be as cycling friendly as Amsterdam?” to which the reply was “better than Amsterdam.” See this local KenningtonPOB blog article

To be fair on the Mayor, part of his role is to promote the interests of London and I see no harm in him selling an idea but let’s follow through on this particular one to see what it might actually mean for the area.

Amsterdam had a population of some 805,000 and reportedly, has more cycles than people. About half the population use a bike every day – more than use a car.  Amsterdam does have some 6 cycling fatalities a year but when journies are taken into account accident rates are relatively low.  Some research suggests that as numbers of cyclists increase, car drivers are less likely to hit them.  In other words, when there are a lot of bikes about, drivers, not unsurprisingly, change their behaviour.

Here then are some possible criteria that VNEB OA would have to meet to come anywhere near Amsterdam.

1. There needs to be at least one cycle for every resident in the VNEB OA area (say 40,000 eventually);
2. About half will need to use their cycle once per day;
3. On the roads, we would need to see a similar number of cycles compared with motor vehicles.

In spite of the increase in cycling and decrease in motor vehicle traffic over the last 10 years, in 2011 there were approximately 26 times as many motor vehicles as cycles along Nine Elms. Much as I like the idea of the VNEB OA aiming to be as cycle friendly as Amsterdam we should not embarrass ourselves by claiming we can do better.  A few hundred cycle racks for several thousand residents in new developments does not cut it.  Even if the area does eventually meet the three criteria above then there are more to meet for example:

5. Parents are happy for their children to cycle though Vauxhall to school on their own;
6. Supermarkets have as many cycle racks as they have car parking spaces.

When I see VNEB OA developers emphasise proximity to safe cycle routes in their brochures instead of to underground stations then maybe we might be getting a little closer to Amsterdam.  Until then, lets focus on something realistic…like my plan to put a cycle route on floating pontoons on the Thames 🙂









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