Learning from Vélocity 2025

It was announced today that Greater Manchester’s vision for cycling, Vélocity 2025, will be supported by £20m from central government. Hopefully the seedcorn for lots more investment.

The excellent (and well designed) Velocity advocacy document contains lots of good evidence, much of it applicable beyond Manchester. What follows are extracts of my favourite bits, with links to referenced documents where I can find them:

“Our vision is of a city fit for the future: a healthy, safe, sustainable city that people want to live and work in.

To do this, we will deliver a sustained and strategic programme of investment in cycling, from both the public and private sectors, that within a generation will deliver a cycling culture and infrastructure across Greater Manchester that  will make cycling a mainstream, everyday and aspirational form of transport for all, regardless of their age or ability.

“A great city has to be a safe city for cyclists, it’s as simple as that.” Chris Boardman

 

 

The great bicycle economy

Our tally of positive economic outcomes through this proposed programme of investment includes: direct employment through infrastructure development; improved connectivity to employment and training; reduced congestion costs; tourism and leisure benefits; better health of employees; and secondary employment in the supply chain for the cycling economy.

A significant bank of evidence has been amassed showing the economic benefits of increased cycling. Sky, British Cycling and the London School of Economics (LSE) recently estimated the current ‘Gross National Cycling Product’ at £2.9 billion per year.

Even a small number of additional cyclists will pay for investment in new cycling infrastructure. One model developed by Cycling England suggests that an investment of £10,000 requires one additional regular cyclist to pay for itself. Calculations of value include: Improvements in general health and fitness, reduced pollution and theemission of CO2, and reductions in congestion.

In New Zealand researchers have examined the economic benefit of cycling purely through reduced mortality from factors such as heart disease and found that the benefit to society was up to £1.50 per km cycled or up to £1,300
annually per cyclist.

 

Cycling creates jobs, whilst easing the societal costs of car-based travel. A recent study from the United States showed that dollar-for-dollar cycling infrastructure creates more jobs than road building, with pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure projects creating 15-20 jobs per £1 million of spending while road infrastructure projects create approximately 10 jobs per £1 million of expenditure.

The road to well being

In some of our partner cities across Europe, older people are cycling every day, because they’ve done it all their lives, and they are staying healthier as a result; we want to reach that level of inter-generational equity through our Vélocity 2025 plan. The critical path we want to pursue is mainstreaming cycling for all.

Cycling and active travel is a critical tool to achieve better health outcomes for a population like ours. We know, for example, that cyclists take one day less a year off work with illness, and that regular cycling can become a central part of reducing the costs of obesity treatment; we also know that commuter surveys reveal cyclists as the ‘happiest’ in their chosen mode of transport.

Another aspect of our bid – 20 mph zones in and around our network of ‘spokes’ – also has positive health outcomes through greater road safety, better air quality and in making our residential areas feel safer for those who are keen to take up cycling or walking.

Under this bid we will deliver a carefully-chosen and well designed series of ‘spokes’ leading to the central ‘hub’ of the regional centre. Each of these spokes will feature 20 mph default speed limits in and around them to deliver a safer cycling experience, from door to door.

Our business case is robust, with a package BCR of over 7:1, clearly demonstrates very high value for money and a strong economic case for cycling.

Most importantly we have a long term commitment to the Vélocity vision, with a continuing, planned, forward investment programme of around £10 million a year.

We will make our cycle city – our Vélocity – come to life!”

 

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Road Rage between Motorists is Incredibly Common

In the UK, the seething conflict between motorists and cyclists gets a lot of media attention but drivers’ real rage falls on fellow drivers.

2013 survey of UK motorists

 

 

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What Motorists Think 2013

Those lovely folk at Admiral insurance have updated their survey of more than 3,000 UK motorists, giving us another glimpse into what goes on in the mind of the driver. The methodology is consistent with last year so it also gives us a good sense of motorists’ direction of travel (so to speak).

So what’s going on in there?:

This is interesting – now 15% of drivers reckon they might well be able to manage without their car, an increase of 3% on last year’s survey.  And the % saying they could ‘never’ live without a car is down 3% to 34%. Quite a shift in 12 months.

The vast majority of UK motorists still use their cars amazingly little considering how much they cost.

This is another shift compared to last year – a 5% swing in favour a ban on smoking whilst driving.  There are also clear majorities in favour of laws against eating and drinking whilst driving, which is all the more meaningful when you remember that this survey is only of people who drive themselves.

 

As last year, 40% of drivers (and 43% of women drivers) are in favour of cutting the speed limit in residential streets. The % wanting an increase is negligible.

Driver behaviour hasn’t changed but there is a big shift in attitude – last year 43% of drivers disagreed with the statement that it was ‘acceptable to drive over the speed limit’, 12 months later the figure is up to 50%.  Good news in a way, though it leaves even more people failing to meet their own moral standards. Which is not so good.

And one to prove that it’s not just cyclists who break the highway code. By their own admittance 73% of drivers have done so ‘recently’.

So generally people seem very sensible when completing surveys about driving, and getting more so.  But there seems to be something about the act of motoring that brings out the Mr Toad in them:

They had to lay Toad out on the floor, kicking and calling all sorts of names, before they could get to work properly. Then the Rat sat on him, and the Mole got his motor-clothes off him bit by bit, and they stood him up on his legs again. A good deal of his blustering spirit seemed to have evaporated with the removal of his fine panoply. Now that he was merely Toad, and no longer the Terror of the Highway, he giggled feebly and looked from one to the other appealingly, seeming quite to understand the situation. – The Wind in the Willows, Kenneth Graham 1908

 

There’s lots more in the full survey:

http://view.pagetiger.com/AdmiralSurveyofUKMotorists2013/issue1/PDF.pdf

 

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Advertising Is Morally Neutral

Advertising is mostly used to persuade us to do things against our better judgement, but it can be more positive:



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The Imperfect Economics of Cars

Free market economics can be thought of as a dark, windowless room containing a spot-lit house of cards and, in the shadowy background, several large elephants. The economists gallantly ignore the beasts and argue over which number card goes where. But reality inevitably and regularly flattens the whole pack and tramples it into the muck, and the economists say ‘well I’ll be…we didn’t see that coming’.

One of the many elephants in the economists’ room, for example, is the presumption that knowledge is perfect and everyone knows everything they need in order to make well informed purchasing decisions. Another is that investors make rational individual choices, uninfluenced by crowd mentality. Another is that all economic activity – Gross Domestic Product – is beneficial by definition, so wars, car crashes and long-term illnesses requiring daily drugs are all very good news.

One of the biggest ignored elephants is the fact that any economic activity, be it by an individual citizen or a company, has a knock-on impact on the wider world. This can be a benefit – your cattle grazing keeps the common land in good order – or a cost – your cattle block the road for an hour a day on the way to and from the common.

The key to both examples is that neither the benefit nor the cost are really felt by you, the owner of the cattle – in economics terms they are ‘external’ to you and do not influence your decision as to where and when you take your cattle to graze. And free-market economics freaks out when it comes to externalities. It can’t cope with them. If externalites in any given market are significant it means that the optimum, rational solution for the individuals involved can lead to a completely sub-optimal, even disastrous, result for the wider society.

Which brings us, of course, to automobiles, and more specifically to a recent study published by the University of Dresden on the ‘The True Costs of Automobility: External Costs of Car Use in EU-27‘, which says:

“Transport externalities refer to a situation in which a transport user either does not pay for the full costs (e.g. including the environmental, congestion or accident costs) of his/her transport activity or does not receive the full benefits from it.”

The report quickly goes on to say that in the case of cars almost no external benefits can be identified – they don’t keep down the grass on the common – however, on the other side of the balance sheet,:

“The volume of external costs from transport is considerable. Today’s transport users are not covering large parts of the costs of noise emissions, pollutants emissions, greenhouse gas emissions and other cost factors. Costs of accidents are covered in part (mostly through the mechanism of insurances), but still some part of accident costs are paid for by society”

“External costs in this report are stated for passenger cars on roads in the following six cost categories:

  • Accidents
  • Air pollution
  • Noise
  • Upstream and downstream effects (covering all effects before and after the utilization phase)
  • Smaller other effects (land use, separational effects etc.)
  • Climate Change”

“infrastructure costs are generally not included in external cost calculations since they do not occur as an unintended and unwanted by-product of transport activities. They might rather be classified as service for the public or subsidy to the transport user” (The report also ignores the political and military costs of oil dependency).

‘Externalities’ is a remarkably appropriate term in this case. The driver typically sits inside their metal cage blissfully unaware of the impact their passage is having on the world around them. The fact they often find reason to be frustrated and angry with fellow drivers does nothing to puncture this bubble mentality.

The report contains a number of charts that analyse some of the externalities and give us a sense of the range of negative effects that cars have as they pass through society:

There is a whole chapter on calculating the cost of climate change alone.

But then, for me at least, this well thought out report rather misses the point by doing the usual economists’ trick of jumping straight to the money. So, for example, there is no data relating to the numbers of people suffering these one-off and chronic impacts.

That said, the conclusions are still powerful:

“cars used within the EU-27 externalize about 373 billion euro per year on to other people, other regions and other generations. This is a considerable sum [1,600 euro per car, per year], and it leads to a level of car use that is inefficient from the perspective of society. Because “others” pay for large parts of the costs of transport, Europeans travel by car too much to enable an efficient situation. This in part also explains why there is a high level of congestion in parts of the EU.”

- and,  -

“it must be stated that car traffic in the EU is highly subsidized by other people and other regions and will be by future generations: residents along an arterial road; taxpayers; elderly people who do not own cars; neighbouring countries; and children, grandchildren and all future generations subsidize today’s traffic.”

“These findings suggest that political action is urgently needed.”

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Distracting Our Attention

Given their massive financial interest, we can expect the media to ignore or downplay the true costs of depending on cars.

Insurers, however, have a trickier path to tread – they need to scare us a little bit without actually putting us off driving.

This jolly infographic from Moneysupermarket.com sets the bar at a new high (or low):