Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Boris Johnson's "Cycle Fridays" pass Londoners by

Boris Johnson launched "Cycle Friday" last month as a means to encourage nervous cyclists onto London's roads.

Commuters were told to meet at one of six starting points.

They were then led to one of four different finishing points (where by some chance they would all hopefully want to go.)

Part of Boris's "cycle revolution" the Mayor used the following methods to publicise it:

  • Post in Tube stations for four weeks
  • Website with key information on all the rides
  • PR launch which delivered articles in key London press
  • Email to targeted customers
  • Face to face marketing each week (on Wednesdays) to distribute leaflets to commuters at the six start point locations
  • Weekly Metro travel page advertisement
  • Leaflet distribution at 170 bike shops
  • Leaflets distributed at the start points to interested commuters prior to the ride leaving
  • Safety bibs available for participants with Cycle Fridays branding
  • Twitter cards to all participants.

  • And here's how many people have taken part in the first month:

    14 August 82
    21 August 88
    28 August 48
    4 September 54

    Asked By Caroline Pidgeon how much this 'revolution' had cost us, the Mayor replied:

    "The total cost of putting on ‘Cycle Fridays’ is not yet known as the initiative is only half-way through; these will continue into October. Given the numbers who have taken up the offer, with many taking the opportunity to cycle to work for the first time, and the incredible publicity and support for the initiative, I am confident that the cost of ‘Cycle Fridays’ will prove to be money very well spent."

    "Boris Admits Cycle Friday has had a Slow Start

    Boris Johnson's admitted his Cycle Friday initiative hasn't been the success he'd hoped.

    The scheme where commuters can ride in groups into town each morning has been running for a month but the Mayor says even his wife's never heard of it."

    Time for a few more "Twitter cards" perhaps?

    -Update- Caroline Pidgeon AM said today:

    "Cycle Fridays are a nice idea so it is a great shame that they have been implemented so badly by the Mayor.

    "Over the last few weeks it seems there have been far more marshalls and press officers present at Cycle Friday events than people cycling to work for the first time."

    "If the Mayor is really serious about getting people to start cycling there needs to be far more off road training and events like Cycle Fridays must be promoted in a far more intelligent way."

    Speaking of which, the Mayor is now offering a prize:

    "Take part in a Cycle Friday ride on 18 September and get entered into a draw to win a fantastic “money can’t buy” prize at Saturday’s Tour of Britain final stage in London

    The Mayor and Transport for London (TfL) have teamed up with the organisers of the Tour of Britain cycle race to offer one lucky Cycle Fridays rider the chance to present a top professional cyclist with their winning jersey at this Saturday’s Tour of Britain final stage."

    Well the odds of winning must be good!


    prj45 said...

    The best way to encourage new cyclists onto London's roads I figure is not to tell them that Bendy Buses kill many cyclists each year.

    Other things that might have an effect: increasing congestion by cancelling congestion charges; stopping the funding of the London Cycle Network; taking the easy way out and putting "cycle superhighways" alongside very busy noisy polluted roads; allowing motorcyclists into bus lanes (not to put down all motorcyclists, but we're seeing some using the lanes as drag strips), scrapping the next phase of the LEZ (pollution, older vehicles without modern saftey features); I probably could go on.

    AdamB said...

    By all means, feel free ;)

    Anonymous said...

    You should count yourselves lucky. Just imagine if it had been succesfull and hundreds or thousands of cyclists all turned up to cycle the same stretches of road at the same time. Half of London would grind to a halt!

    AdamB said...

    So that's how he's planning to 'smooth the traffic flow'...

    Grant Blowers said...

    I always thought it was a good idea in principle, however the glaringly obvious flaw in the plan is that it will only attract those cyclists who appreciate where the cycle group ends up: Russell Square, St Paul's, Trafalgar Square and Holborn.

    It just seems to me that London is somewhat bigger than these few end locations, as are the number of locations that people work at...

    AdamB said...

    The other big flaw is that it's due to end at the start of next month. If it was to have any chance of success it would need to go on for much longer than two months.

    It just looks like a policy based on PR. Spend two months looking like you're encouraging cycling, whilst backing away from the policies* that would actually help cyclists (see prj45)

    The Cycle hire scheme being the obvious exception.

    prj45 said...

    >Anonymous. You should count yourselves lucky. Just imagine if it had been succesfull and hundreds or thousands of cyclists all turned up to cycle the same stretches of road at the same time. Half of London would grind to a halt!

    Of course, if they had all been people that had previously driven to work things would improve significantly.

    I was sat at traffic light the other day, I counted up to 30 cyclists before the lights went green (and that's not counting the ones that went through on red).

    If those 30 cyclists had been in 25 cars (at an single occupancy rate of 8 out of 10) the queue would've stretched back over the set of lights behind us and beyond.

    Gary Dunion said...

    What's a Twitter card?

    You're going to tell me it's a card with twitter.com/MayorOfLondon written on it, aren't you? And then I'm going to cry.

    AdamB said...

    Time to start crying...

    Actually I don't know. Has anyone seen one?

    saifu03 said...

    It was a pretty good idea in principle. A lot of people are scared of cycling and so some stabilisers was a very good idea. Takeup was always going to be low on Fridays in the Summer - obviously lots of people take timeoff then. Presumably traffic is better then too so it would be less daunting.
    The 4 end points seem very close together - Holborn and Russell Sq are one stop (and a straight road) apart; Holborn and St Pauls are two stops apart.

    It is undoubtedly PR based policy, but that does not mean it has to be a bad policy. What I don't understand in a group populated by journalists, why it was such badly done PR (not bad PR).
    BJ is trying to appeal to the two extremes of "green", sandal wearing cyclists and the private cars.

    Helen said...

    Advertising these events at Tube stations is merely trying to encourage Tube users to cycle instead, thereby reducing revenue for TfL. There's no attempt to encourage car drivers onto bicycles.

    I travelled on the Piccadilly line this morning - no poster at my local station, either on the platforms or in the entrance.

    AdamB said...

    Good points Helen and Saifu03.

    The promotion does seem to be more about pushing people off of public transport onto bikes. Not necessarily a bad thing in itself, although it doesn't seem to have worked.

    Also I'm not sure the summer holidays explain matters as ridership has almost halved since August.

    Karl said...

    I'm sure more people will take to bike riding as the weather turns colder/wetter and it gets darker. If it failed during summer its got no chance now.

    prj45 said...

    For instance, just imagine this lot in a car each:


    Tom said...

    "Not necessarily a bad thing in itself, although it doesn't seem to have worked."

    A City-working mate, as I may have mentioned before, switched from the District Line to the bike over the summer, but that was due to Brother Crow and the boys walking out on strike. He's a keen cyclist anyway, so wasn't particularly fazed by the idea.

    "Also I'm not sure the summer holidays explain matters as ridership has almost halved since August."

    A) what was the weather like on each day?
    B) you often get this with offers, some people try it and decide they don't like it. Doesn't invalidate the concept.

    What does invalidate, or rather marginalise the concept is that cycling is only ever going to be a minority interest in terms of commuting. It's notable that whoever's chosen the start points is clearly aware that there's a maximum limit to realistic cycling distances and thus only relatively public transport rich Z2-3 areas are feasible for a lot of people.

    Also I don't notice a lot of attention from Boris to LCC's call for greater investment in Z1 cycling infrastructure to accompany the bike hire scheme. I might cover that later actually.

    Simon said...

    There's already a better scheme in operation - those who work in the City, or live in a fair number of London boroughs, can get free one-to-one cycle training funded by their council. This can be used to plan the best route to work for you, then have an experienced cycle trainer ride it with you. That's the sort of hand-holding that people need to make the leap, coupled with a handful of practical cycle-related maintenance tips along the way.

    Offering a pooled scheme is a halfway house. It's sufficient to encourage some of those who already cycle and want a more social experience, and to provide stimulus to those who have the equipment and knowledge but lack a catalyst. For those who are starting from nothing, it's probably still too much of a leap.

    AdamB said...

    Thanks Simon. I hadn't heard of this before but you're right. Here's Haringey's version:


    Karl said...

    Incidentally, it seems suicidal of the Evening Standard to support cycling as much as it does. Cyclists aren't going to buy one to read on the way home.

    saifu03 said...

    Evening Standard surely does not sell many copies to people that live in cyclable distance to work anyway - it does appear to be written for the home counties. Depressingly.
    You have to go back to first principles here, what is the overriding reason for encouraging cycling? It is basically so transportation is better - smoother and "greener".

    i.e. encourage people to use more "efficient" transport.
    Ken did this by
    Discouraging car use and encouraging use of public transport by basically disincentivising driving in (or through). The per car congestion charge also incentivises car sharing.

    Boris plans
    Encourage cycling by talking of wider (not efficiency based) benefits. He talks of the enjoyment rather than the efficacy of it. He is trying to sell it.

    It is very positive, but I would wager that a lot of the people doing it were already using a relatively efficient transport.

    Wiccan Girl said...

    What about more cycle lanes? they have tons in countries like holland and belgium!