Merton Cycling Campaign Response to the Mayor's Draft Transport Strategy

20 March, 2001

Dear Ken Livingstone

Merton Cycling Campaign (MCC) is the Merton branch of the London Cycling Campaign (LCC) and wholly supports the submission made by the LCC. This submission will therefore not repeat that, but will confine itself to underlining what cyclists in Merton consider to be the most important issues.

The two areas where we think the GLA can have the greatest beneficial policies on cycling are measures to reduce traffic levels, and measures to cut traffic speeds. These two policy objectives will support each other, because lower traffic speeds will mean that roads become safer and more attractive for walking and cycling. We also call for modal share targets for cycling to be brought into the strategy.

Traffic Reduction

MCC was delighted when, early on in the new administration, the GLA adopted the traffic reduction targets set by the London Planning Advisory Committee (LPAC) which were:

MCC was therefore very disappointed to see that these targets have been dropped from the Mayor's draft transport strategy, to be replaced by:


MCC is of the firm belief that further growth in car and lorry traffic levels will be a disincentive to cycling and run counter to the GLA's stated objective to promote cycling (Chapter 4J). MCC strongly urges the Mayor to re-adopt the LPAC targets.

The Independent Transport Commission has recently (March 2001) warned that traffic levels look set to rise in the suburbs of cities (congestion charging schemes will protect the city centres) and is of the view that MUCH more should be done to promote cycling and walking.

In recently issued ITP allocation and guidance, we note that "the mayor aims to reduce traffic across the whole of London by 15 percent by 2010". This should be reflected in the Transport Strategy.

Traffic speeds

We warmly welcome the Mayor’s repeated commitment to establish 20mph as the norm on London’s streets, most recently in his foreword to TfL’s draft Interim Road Safety Plan. We urge the Mayor to make a similar commitment in the Transport Strategy as well.

Reducing vehicle speeds to below 20mph on all streets where Londoners live, work, shop or meet for recreational purposes would bring huge benefits to London. Research from across Europe shows clearly how levels of walking and cycling rise as a result of introducing area-wide 20mph limits, with a corresponding fall in the number of trips made by car.

According to the government report ‘Killing Speed and Saving Lives’, a pedestrian hit by a car at 40mph has only a 15% chance of surviving. At 30mph this chance increases to 55%. But at 20mph the chance of survival increases to 95%. A total of 226 people were killed on London’s roads in 1998, 277 in 1997 and 251 in 1996. The majority of those killed each year are vulnerable road users (pedestrians and cyclists).

The main benefits of a 20mph standard limit across London would be:

Moreover, it would be a highly popular move with Londoners: opinion polls reveal overwhelming public support for 20mph as the standard speed limit on London’s streets in view of the road safety gains it would bring. In a telephone poll run by Carlton TV’s London Tonight programme on 25 January 1999, 81% of the 10,000 respondents voted in favour of a London-wide 20mph speed limit, and only 19% against. A similar poll by MORI for the Evening Standard in April 2000 showed that 56% of Londoners would support a 20mph speed limit on London streets (38% against; 6% don't know). Where 20mph zones have already been introduced in London they have been widely welcomed (as they have elsewhere throughout Britain).

20mph will reduce congestion

Congestion on urban roads is governed mainly by the capacity of junctions, and on urban roads "the capacity of a junction tends to be higher when vehicles approach it at a low speed than at a higher one." Time savings at junctions gained through lower speeds in Växjö, Sweden, led to journey times being reduced overall; where 30kph (20mph) zones have been introduced in Germany, drivers spend 15% less time sitting stationary in their vehicles.

NB: In London most average traffic speeds are below 20mph anyway. In such a situation reducing the standard speed limit to 20mph will not increase journey times, but will prevent speeding between junctions.

Traffic collisions are a major cause of congestion in London; lower speeds lead to far fewer crashes (see section 2, above) and thus smoother traffic flow. An experiment in west London restricting speeds through use of speed cameras ascribed time savings to precisely this reduction in collisions.

A safer environment on the roads is the key to turning more people to cycling and walking, thereby reducing the number of motor vehicles and reducing congestion. The introduction of Brighton’s Hanover 20mph zone in summer 1995 saw a 22% reduction in motor vehicles, while as a result of the ‘cycle-friendly towns’ scheme in West Germany, cycle use rose by 50% between 1981 and 1991. As Parliament noted in the Road Traffic Reduction Act 1997, "An increase in cycling’s modal share could help reduce both traffic congestion and pollution."

20mph will help to cut pollution

New forecasts show that 500 of London’s roads are set to break government nitrogen oxide safety levels over the next five years. Lower traffic speeds reduce air pollution by improving traffic flow: "Exhaust emissions always contain larger amounts of carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons and nitrogen oxides when a vehicle is accelerating or decelerating, or when the engine is idling, than when the vehicle is cruising."

Where 30kph zones were introduced in Germany, car drivers on average had to change gear 12% less often, used their brakes 14% less often and required 12% less petrol. One study of the effects of traffic calming schemes on exhaust emissions revealed reductions of 30% in nitrogen oxide, 20% in carbon monoxide and 10% in hydrocarbons.

The same holds true for noise pollution, "with a lower speed always resulting in a lower noise level". Again, the major benefits may come from the smoother flow gained from lower speeds, as a large proportion of noise is generated through acceleration.

Set target for modal share

Growth in modal share remains the best measure of performance in developing cycling, and the commitment to increase cycling’s modal share was a key element in both the National Cycling Strategy and the Cycling Strategy for London. It is a notable weakness that the draft strategy has no clear statement of the need to increase the share of journeys made by bicycle. We must be able to measure the success of any policies introduced to increase cycling levels. As an absolute priority, the Mayor must include in his Transport Strategy an explicit policy commitment to increase cycling’s modal share. The need for clear cycling targets is identified by DETR as a minimum requirement of any local transport plan. We urge the Mayor to adopt as part of the Transport Strategy the targets for cycling set out in the Cycling Strategy for London: 4% modal share by 2004 and 10% by 2012. These targets were fully endorsed by all political parties in the run-up to the 2000 London elections, and have also been accepted by London’s boroughs; therefore adopting them explicitly in the Transport Strategy would represent an important commitment at no political cost.

To sum up

In the same spirit as the main LCC submission, we offer the above proposals in a spirit of constructive criticism, in order to make a good document better still. We look forward to seeing the final draft.

Yours sincerely

Richard Evans

Merton Cycling Campaign