Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Ben & Holly's Little Kingdom

"Somewhere hidden amongst thorny brambles is a little kingdom of elves and fairies. Everyone who lives here is very, very small." If you have kids of a certain age, you'll know this show and might even recognise the local mayor!

So what on Earth has this got to do with a civil engineering blog? Not much, but it's a bit of fun to make a point. In the show, the fairies simply have to wave a wand to make things happen (often with unintended consequences) whereas the elves are clever and industrious with their work grounded in science (stay with me). This is very much like how the public perceive civil engineering (especially highway engineering) compared to reality.

I recently responded to an enquiry at work which was basically someone venting their spleen at having been sat in some of our roadworks. The gist was the work was taking too long to complete, the contractor was slow and we should sack them and get someone else and we didn't know what we were doing. My response highlighted that we were working on a main route and so had to work off-peak, the contractor got paid on work done and not a day rate and how and how we did, in fact, know what we were doing.

The enquirer had been stuck in off-peak traffic when the cones had been out and for sure, (motor) traffic capacity was greatly reduced. Over the years roads have got busier, especially in urban places. This has pushed governments to legislate in favour of maximing capacity at peak times and this has led to it becoming harder to get things done in less time during the day. 

In general, restricted weekday hours been we can work between 9.30 and and 3pm. When you think that temporary traffic management needs to go out and come back in as well, the actual time for work is much reduced. In urban areas, we can't generally work all night because of noise considerations (typically no noisy stuff after 11pm) and there is a cost implication. OK, things vary with scheme and location and the nature of some work has the cones out all the time, but you get the point.

For local A roads, we've the Government consulting on measures to force local authorities to get roadworks taken in over weekends or for works to continue over the weekend; my industry thinks it's a pretty daft idea and one does wonder who will be appointed to police local authority works.

There are always tweaks and efficinecies to be had, but I do think my industry needs to be more straight with people, whether our highway users or the politicians holding the purse strings. At some point we need to do work and it will lead to distruption, so people need to consider alternative methods of travel, change their times of travel or sometimes, put up with it.

As we've seen only this week with a hydraulic oil spill in London's Blackwall Tunnel, we sometimes have to react to circumstances and it will cause huge levels of distruption. Yes, it is hugely inconvenient when you are stuck in it, but things have to get done. The underlying issue of course is that in terms of the road network, we don't have a great deal of capacity going spare in many places and it affects our resilience. But, it is unrealsitic to expect miracles. 

Our roadworkers are not the fairies from the Little Kingdom, able to magic up highway repairs and schemes while everyone sleeps, they are more like the elves. Their effort is tangible, it takes technology, planning, skill and a huge amount of muscle from the roadworkers themselves.

So next time you are stuck in your car cursing the cones, or your bus is running late because a sewer has collapsed, just spare a thought for the people out on our streets in all weathers, day and night, summer and winter. The unsung heroes of our industry who physically do the work; and that's no fairy story! 

Friday, 20 May 2016

Miles & Munchies

I've been boring everyone with the proud father routine recently because my eldest daughter (nearly 8) has just learnt to ride her bike.

She was really disappointed last last summer, because try as she might, she just couldn't get the knack. This year, she wanted to try again and after a few days of thinking it might be the same struggle as before, the light bulb pinged and she was off! 5 days after learning, she rode 4 miles in a sponsored cycle for her Beaver Scout Colony and 2 days after that, I took her to Central London to ride along the newly opened CS3 cycle route between Tower Gateway and St James's Park. 

It was a first for me as although I had ridden lots of parts the new new route, it was the first time I'd seen it since it was fully opened through the Blackfriar's Underpass and the Castle Baynard Street tunnel. 

We arrived with our bikes at Liverpool Street and I attempted to get us to Royal Mint Street using back streets as there was no way we were going to ride on the main roads in the City which are bad enough for someone like me who puts up with the conditions. This is a major flaw for cycling around some of London's main stations because now we are starting to get some useful infrastructure, the lack of safe links is all the more stark. I could have taken us to Shadwell, but it would have been more of a faff. I eventually un-lost us and we started our ride.

Within a couple of minutes of explaining where she should position herself, we had our first set of traffic signals to deal with. Being 7 (and possibly her father's daughter), she quickly understood the big signals are for when one is far away and the little ones are when one is at the stop line. She already understands the signal colours and she understood the stop line plus (importantly) not to trust drivers to stop.

And that was it, we were off! My daughter wanted to go to Borough Market for a snack (because that's what I do with her older brother when we ride CS3 in from Barking). Previously, we would have used Tower Bridge and then Tooley Street (which is OKish on a Saturday morning), but I remembered there was roadworks on it. Fortunately, the new section of CS3 runs to Fish Street Hill which gives access to London Bridge which crosses the Thames right to Borough Market. We had to ride on the footway here as London Bridge is awful to cycle on, even at weekends. Still it is better than Tower Bridge!

Achievement unlocked. The view down to CS3 at the Fish Street Hill junction from London Bridge. After our stop at Borough Market, we retraced our tyres back down Fish Street Hill and carried on towards Westminster. First, it was through the Blackfriar's Underpass, somewhere only the battle-hardened would have ventured previously. The one issue I need to mention is that the kerbed island is of course very welcome (and enables the scheme), but it is a little narrow and one needs to keep away from it so it doesn't catch a wheel (because you really don't want to fall over the island on the wrong side).

I'm not saying its a *nice* place to be, but it is functional (if a little unfinished). At the end of the run, we had to turn left across various traffic lanes to get to the track on the Victoria Embankment. It was a little confusing for my daughter and I think it needs "elephant's footprints" to make the route clearer (I found this in a number of places). 

As you can see from the image above, we were turning left at the end of the Blackfriar's Underpass and then we would be turning right onto the Victoria Embankment. Turning left again would take us up a ramp to Blackfriar's Bridge which connects to the North-South Cycle Superhighway, now part of CS6. We continued all the way to Westminster Bridge and it was bliss. 

Come on, how good is this! Cycling with my son has always been single file, planning each section and having to worry about both of us. This is such a contrast, often side by side, chatting away. It's comfortable and safe.

The pedestrian crossing from Westminster Bridge over the Victoria Embankment has also been hugely improved in terms of width, space and green time, although it's still two-stage. Parliament Square is still being worked on and again, I think elephant's feet markings are needed to really show the routes through the junction as despite getting a green cycle stage, it doesn't quite feel your own space. Our ride ended (fittingly) outside One Great George Street, the HQ of the Institution of Civil Engineers.

We walked our bikes to St James's Park for a rest and an ice-cream before heading back through Parliament Square and we weren't the only ones taking advantage of the protection;

The route bends from the left side of the street (as in the photo) over to the right (by the central part of the Square) and again, I would prefer to see elephant's feet to help guide people cycling. We carried on back towards Blackfriar's with the odd rest and of course a couple more photos.

There were quite a few people cycling in the area, not as many as we have seen in the weekday photos of course. We did see the fast people on racers (fast but not dangerous), but we saw lots of people on hire bikes and people dressed normally (lots with kids), just pootling along; it's going to be packed in the summer!

As we headed back east, I gave the option of going onto CS6 to head south to find lunch or to get lunch near Liverpool Street. We headed south via the ramp up to Blackfriar's Bridge which, until a few weeks ago, was essentially a mini-urban motorway ramp.

As much as CS3 winds through iconic London, I still think CS6 along Blackfriar's Road has the edge for me (for some reason). We ended up at the Elephant & Castle for lunch, before we headed north again to jump on the Tube at Southwark (and the tube was nowhere near as pleasant as cycling).

In all, we covered 8 miles and this was astonishing because my daughter had been riding for just a week. What was even more astonishing was that we were able to have this ride at all. For comparable places back home, there is no way we would have been on the road and it would have been back to the stressful watching out for both of us, no side by side chatting and no real comfort. We do have a shared-use track along the trunk road near where we live and it isn't terrible to use (and it usefully serves a cluster of big box stores), but it belongs in a different era. I asked her what her favourite part of the ride was, it was the little traffic signals!

If there are any politicians reading, please take notice of this because it is a shining UK example of how we need to enable people to cycle on big UK roads. This as nothing to do with forcing people out of their cars because it is such a great alternative and although our trip was for the ride itself, cycling was a much better way to get around than the Tube.

Don't take our word for it. A Kidical Mass ride (the "June Jaunt") has been set for Sunday 26th June. It will be starting at the Cable Street Trees near Shadwell Station at 11am and will end at St James's Park. Bring your children and see for yourself!

Friday, 13 May 2016

High Society

It seems that no corner of London is without groups who actively seek to prevent people cycling in their neighbourhoods.

This week, a statement from the Chelsea Society on Quietways (from last March) was ridiculed on Twitter and I think it is worth exploring this in a little more detail as it is a microcosm of the self-interest which seeks to prevent change under the thin veils of faux concern, heritage and traffic-centric NIMBYism. I am going to spend some time responding to the points raised, so bear with me, it will take a while to go through (bingo cards at the ready);

The Society is certainly not against responsible cycling in Chelsea, but it has to be acknowledged that central London is a very dangerous place for cyclists, and too many of them suffer injury and even death. 

What is "responsible cycling" exactly? Well, it's the classic parallel to "some of my best friends are cyclists"; it's the classic set-up of the out group.

Moreover the polluted air in central London is not conducive to the health of people engaged in strenuous activity such as cycling. It is perhaps possible to make cycling in central London safer but it is not possible to make it safe. The Mayor is determined nevertheless to encourage more cyclists on to the roads.

Cycling per se is not particularly strenuous (well it is compared to sitting in a car) and we know that despite London's pollution, it is a method of transport which is good for us and the statement utterly fails to realise the cause of the pollution that everyone has to breathe (unless the residents of Chelsea are wearing space suits). On safety, yes people have been hurt and killed (from a casualty point of view) and yes, there are experienced safety issues to be overcome. We deal with both by separating people from heavy traffic and filtering it out elsewhere. Tried, tested and successful; we can make it safe and the good people only have to look down the Thames a bit to see what is going on.

He has therefore designated certain streets as Quietways as part of his Cycle-grid for the use of cyclists who are nervous about riding on busy roads in London. In Chelsea two routes have been designated:

There is probably some agreement that Quietways should not be an alternative to direct routes on busy roads with protected cycling space, but for sure, there will be quieter streets which can form part of a useful grid to complement main roads (if direct).

a route running north-south from South Kensington to Albert Bridge, passing the Royal Marsden and Royal Brompton hospitals, Chelsea Fire Station and a connection on Oakley Street to …
… a route running east- west from Belgravia to Oakley Street, via Holbein Mews, Turk’s Row, Franklin’s Row, St. Leonard’s Terrace Tedworth Sq., Redesdale St., Alpha Place, Oakley Gardens and Phene St.

OK, I'm not going to analyse the routes (I don't know the area well enough), but looking at one of the approved sections, there doesn't seem to have been any radical changes and the crossing of main roads is pretty weak indeed. But there is no technical reason why decent treatments cannot be deployed.

We do not believe that it makes sense to channel large numbers of cyclists into these designated routes, and if large numbers are not expected there is little point in designating the routes at all.

Well yes, a classic bit of self-defeating circularity!

Large numbers of cyclists using a street do have an impact on pedestrians. They make it more difficult to cross the road, they are less visible than cars to other road-users and some do not wear high-visibility jackets. Some ride without lights on their bicycle at night, some ride on the pavement, some do not warn pedestrians of their silent approach (some do not have a bell at all) and some ignore the traffic lights. Large numbers of cyclists in a street would also add to the hazards faced by local residents when driving or parking their cars.

Boom! Here we have the meat of the bile. Have a look at some of the streets in the area (and on the Quietways) such as Oakley Street and St Leonards Terrace which are wall to wall parking and maximum door zone for cycling; they are not going to be streets you will want to ride with your kids in their current, unfiltered state and I do wonder how busy these streets are with the pedestrians the Society is so worried about. Of course, it's nonsense, people walking and people cycling can get along and if there or lots of people cycling, clear space for each mode is the proven and safe solution. The rest is classic cycling bullshit bingo and the real nub is that people cycling will essentially make it harder for residents to park their cars. Oh boo hoo! 

Don't take my rhetoric, let's look at some facts and data. According to the Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea's report on the 2011 census, 56% of households in the borough do not have access to a car or van. Yes, over half of residents are car-free and this group is growing. It seems to me that there is a ready market for people to cycle in the borough!

With the aid of the A-Z or Google Maps, cyclists are capable of planning their own route to avoid the busiest roads, and they do not need to be directed. They will each have their own point of origin and destination and are therefore unlikely to concentrate so as to add significantly to cycle-traffic on any of the roads they have chosen. Cyclists tend to be independent people and don’t like to be herded.

You really cannot make this up. Cyclists don't need to be directed and don't like to be herded. Like anyone navigating towns and cities, people cycling don't like to get lost and having to stop every five minutes to check one's route is daft. With a dense grid of cycling-friendly streets (however that is achieved), people are enabled to choose a route for sure, but sooner or later there will be convergence on the most direct routes too as the just opened CS3 and CS6 extensions have shown us. This is no different to how people walk and drive.

Generally the Society is opposed to the proliferation of road signs (including those painted on the road) and “street-furniture.” They are unsightly and are distracting for drivers.

I'm not sure there are many straws to clutch at, but still they do. Again, look at the roads I linked to earlier and others on the Quietway routes and what do we see in terms of road signs (including those painted on the road, or road markings as we know them and other items of street furniture. We have traffic signals which deal with conflict between traffic streams, let people out of side roads onto busy roads and give people a chance to cross the road. To be fair, zebra crossings also help people cross the road and even in a low car utopia, they have a place where cycle routes might genuinely be busy to the point people need help to cross the road. The zig-zags, however are there as people can't be trusted to work out where they shouldn't park and stop near zebra crossings and this is why zig-zags are not needed on cycle tracks (under the new 2016 Traffic Signs Regulations & General Directions).

Parking bays and parking bay signs essentially control where people can store their vehicles on the street (mostly the car-owning minority) and parking restrictions (yellow lines) where people cannot store their vehicles. Keep left arrows to help people notice traffic islands and by people I mean drivers in general because of the speed and size of their vehicles. Cyclists in the whole don't tend to flatten traffic signals because they didn't see a keep left arrow. Large advanced directional signage (ADS) is aimed at drivers moving at speed an so need large letters. People cycling need smaller ADS. You get my point, most of the clutter our there is concerned with the management and regulation of motor traffic. Cycling is light-footed in street clutter terms by comparison.

We have consulted with Residents’ Associations for some of the streets affected, and they will be making their own detailed submissions to RBKC.

Well OK, I'm not sure I can be critical about this statement!

A large increase in cycle traffic in Turks Row would be particularly undesirable, as there is a school there and the street is congested at the beginning and end of the school day. Also, some of the streets have “speed-bumps” which are a hazard to cyclists, but local residents do not wish them to be removed.

Turks Row appears to be exactly the kind of street (taken in an area) which should be filtered. Congestion at the school is congestion by motor vehicles and presumably the Society wouldn't want people cycling getting in the way of the Chelsea Tractor brigade (sorry, I had to be as bad as they with a bit of stereotyping). The kids at the school should be enabled to get there by foot or bike, especially as the majority of households don't have access to cars. Next to Turks Row, we have Franklins Row which has humps. As we know, humps are a symptom of innapproproate speed and people cutting through in motor vehicles. Yes, they are a pain for cycling and if really needed, they can be improved by making them sinusoidal. The answer for this residential areas is to filter out through traffic which would make the area nicer for the people who live and it would take away their ability to access their homes by car.

It is difficult to see how a busy street like Oakley Street could possibly be designated a Quietway.

Well I've looked at the street in Google and with a combination of armchair punditry and experience, I am included to agree. It's a 'B' road which connections Albert Bridge to King's Road (an 'A' road); let's face it, it's going to be a traffic sewer and I would lay odds that in terms of a cycling level of service assessment, we will be talking protection for people on cycles. I also lay odds that the street could be reworked to provide stepped cycle tracks inside some parking and possibly by making the road one way so some (not all) parking and access is maintained.

Dovehouse Street has many problems with difficult junctions, speeding cars, aggressive drivers, some very thoughtless cyclists, serious ambulance-and-other-delivery-vehicle-related congestion at the northern end of the street and generally quite difficult conditions crossing the street for the oldest and youngest residents at morning and afternoon/evening rush hours.

Well from the description, Dovehouse Street, sounds like another traffic sewer. It's a shame as it runs past two hospitals; The Royal Brompton and The Royal Marsden. I'm sure that there are plenty of staff and indeed patients who might find cycling convenient. The through traffic clearly needs dealing with. But cyclists.

This Cycle-grid is likely to be a costly exercise, and the Society would like to know how much the tax payers would be expected to pay for it.

Yes, building stuff costs money and yes, tax payers fund it ultimately. I am sure maintaining the local roads to a standard suitable for driving is a costly exercise, but using that as an argument would be silly.

I have also had a poke around the Society's website and even the RideLondon cycling event is subtly laced with anti-cycling rhetoric;

As the route for the event goes through east, central and west London before heading out to Surrey it requires over 100 miles of road to be closed which will have a major impact on getting around the Capital.  If you are planning any special events such as weddings or making a journey out to an airport it will be advisable to plan ahead. 

For most people, "getting around the capital" doesn't automatically mean "by car" and let's be honest here, Chelsea isn't exactly the suburbia of Outer London, although, there are some pockets of the area less served by public transport as you would imagine (but it's relative). The image below is a Public Transport Accessibility Level (PTAL) map of the area taken from the wonderful TfL Webcat tool;

The green and yellow areas have a score of 3 and 4 respectively which is still better than a suburban tube or rail interchange which tend to have a high score around the interchange, but then tails off quickly because of lack of options. The Thames plays a role because it is a barrier to transport accessibility itself. I digress, the area isn't a public transport wasteland, but perhaps cycling could improve local accessibility, especially as most residents have no access to cars.

Anyway, this has been a long and rambling post which is probably rather pointless in terms of influencing the views of the good people of the Chelsea Society. They don't speak for everyone, but they have influence and that alone makes them fair game to be singled out for their position to be challenged. I am sorry to be blunt, but when it comes to cycling, the Chelsea Society are dinosaurs.

Saturday, 7 May 2016

Invest for the 66%

I was fishing around for some data a few weeks' back (I can't remember why now) when I found this table linked from the 2014 National Travel Survey report for England.

The full table can be downloaded as a spreadsheet here (it's linked on p12 of the NTS, Table 0308) and I have shown the table in two parts with the first being trips per person by year and the second a cumulative percentage of trips under the given distances. This data is about the numbers of trips people make rather than mode share, so please don't confuse the two.

I don't know why there isn't UK data here, but I assume the devolved administrations have their own. I find the data interesting as it is a good summary of how people travel in terms of distance by mode. We need to be aware that this is about "main mode" and so other journey stages are not counted. In other words, someone being dropped off at the station by car is not counted, the rail journey is.

You can play with the data of course. Looking at the top part of the table, when we look at walking, we have 134 trips out of 175 trips under a mile made on foot which is 76%. Looking at the second table, 19% of trips are under 1 mile - I hope this makes sense. With private cars, looking at the top part of the table, we have 6+7 trips out of 175 made by car (as a driver or a passenger) which is 7% of all trips under a mile.

Looking at the bottom part of the table, in cumulative terms, 66% of trips are under 5 miles and this is very interesting as 5 miles is generally considered to be an easy distance to cycle at a reasonable pace, but not so vigorous as to need a shower (we're talking utility cycling here folks). For 2 to 5 miles (top section of the table), we have 7 out of 256 trips made by cycle (the table says 'bicycle' which sums up thinking here) which is 3% (I've rounded up). For car travel (driver or passenger) this is 128+70 out of 256 or 77%.

Surface rail has people making most trips at the 10 to 25 mile range and this is 8 out of 109 trips or 7%. 95% of all trips are under 25 miles.

The main document gives this as a little summary table as follows;

In walking terms, the sub-mile journeys are the easiest to make in terms of physical effort and I would argue that this is largely facilitates by the highway network having walking generally built in (regardless of quality). In addition, this type of trip will generally be a school journey or a trip to the local shops - remember this is not about commuting, this is about all trips. It also shows us that the highway network and access to private cars means that relatively short trips are dominated by the mode.

Think about 5 miles if you will in terms of your local town centre or place of work or anywhere you make day to day trips; are you aware how much of an area a 5 mile (or 8km) radius could cover? Let's look at four examples (Leicester, Brighton, Winchester and Stratford) where I have taken a point and drawn an 5 mile circle around (and I acknowledge Free Map Tools for help).

The maps starkly show how much space is covered by a 5 mile radius. The whole of the city of Leicester comfortably fits in the circle which means all trips to the city would be under 5 miles. Brighton is similarly catered for, notwithstanding the South Downs to the north which are on the steep side! Winchester is dwarfed by the circle and it shows a number of villages within. Stratford has a catchment which includes a colossal amount of people. I realise that if one lives on one side of town and is going to the other, the circle would have a different centre, but the point is many UK towns and cities will easily fit in the 5 mile circle.

My inevitable conclusion is the 2 to 5 mile distance is easily cyclable and with only 3% of people's annual journeys being made by cycle for that distance as opposed to 77% by car, it takes no leap of the imagination at all to realise that the either the car is too convenient or cycling conditions are too hostile. In fact, they are different sides of the same coin. 

This data does rather dismantle the argument that from a mass movement of people point of view, very few people travel a long way for their day to day trips, yet we are investing in long-distance high-speed rail and motorway/ trunk road building. Longer journeys in terms of town and cities will invariably be for people travelling in from outside and so we maintain a level of big-road (and not-so big road) capacity for people driving into our communities which maintains all of the severance, pollution and danger issues we have.

Over this distance and in places like those shown above, we simply cannot provide more motor vehicle capacity unless were are seriously considering knocking down homes and businesses and it we did, it just enables people to come in from further afield. for some places, park and ride might be an option, but buses still take up road space and car parks are needed. If there is no advantage to using park and ride, people will still drive into town and this makes it politically difficult to reallocate road space.

In any case, all of this leads me to an inescapable conclusion. We should be investing in the 66% of trips which are 5 or less miles and we should be doing so by making it easy, comfortable and safe to do so by cycle. This means we have to take capacity away from the private motor car, but if we do it right, people will choose the easiest mode. We may be able to take pressure of the motor capacity which is left and in that case, we can set aside other space for buses and possibly freight. But, we are not going to be able to change anything by investing in long journeys.

Saturday, 30 April 2016

Cost, Invest, Value

A Twitter debate has got me thinking about getting a bang for one's buck when it comes to transport. It started with a discussion about a London Mayoral candidate promising to spend £100m a year on cycling.

There was a flurry of virtual applause, but I pointed out that in terms of the city-wide budget, it really wasn't much money and gave the example of the multi-million pound refit of the Hammersmith Flyover as a contrast. So, I thought it would be interesting to have a look at the cost of various transport projects for some real contrast. I will give a bit of a health warning as the examples are quoted from various sources and prices depends on the year announced and much investment is over a number of years; but the ball will be in the park as they say!

Let's start with a London cycling scheme. The East-West Cycle Superhighway weighs in at around £47m for about 18 miles of route (when complete); or roughly £2.6m per mile (yes, I know most places can only dream of money like this). Just out of the eastern side of Greater London, Highways England is rebuilding the junction of the M25 and the A13 for a cool £79.3m. Mind you for a bit more cash, Highways England will delivery 200 cycling projects (£100m) over 5 years (although I'm too sure of the detail!).

The Superhighway approaching Parliament.

Bridges are expensive bits of kit, although most people only notice them when they are closed! The Hammersmith flyover refit has been reported as a £100m scheme; I was under the impression it was more like £60m, but it is sometimes hard to get the exact figure. £100m is likely to include emergency works undertaken in advance of the main scheme. The flyover was in a terrible state after years of under-investment by the Department for Transport which was responsible for it before TfL took over in 2000. For what it's worth, the flyover is 622m long and so at £60m, the refit cost the equivalent of £154m per mile!

At the smaller end of the scale, the New Bus For London costs about £350k, which is a bit more than the £300k for a "normal" hybrid bus and there is a New Tube For London project which is looking to provide 250 new trains and upgrades to 4 tube lines. The trains could cost £1bn to £2.5bn with a total scheme investment of perhaps £16bn. Still on the tracks, London (yes, sorry) has the 73 mile Crossrail project under construction with a £15bn budget (£205m per mile). High Speed 2 on the other hand has a gargantuan budget of £50bn for track and stations - I've looked at this before and it's roughly £104m per mile, so better value than Crossrail? The good thing about rail (and I am not a fan of HS2), is that it can carry lots of people and has a long life in operation. Meanwhile in Manchester, the recently opened 9 mile, 15 stop airport link ate up £400m, or £44m per mile.

 A tram at Manchester Airport.

Meanwhile, over on the motorways and trunk roads of England, £15bn has been promised to build 1,300 lane miles. This is lanes and not length of road of course. So, this is £11.5m per mile; over 4 times the cost of the East-West cycle, although the EW is 2-way, so being cheeky, I'll say 8 times the lane cost! Meanwhile in Scotland, there is a £3bn plan to dual 80 miles of the A9 (£37m a mile) and the Welsh Government wants to invest £1bn in a 15 mile bypass of the M4 which is a staggering £67m a mile.

Back at the little end of the scale, a new zebra crossing might need a budget of £20k and a new signalised crossing about £50k. A job I'm working on at the moment has a budget of around £180k which is adding pedestrian and cycle crossings to an existing junction along with about 320 metres of new 2m wide, stepped cycle track (160m in each direction approaching/ leaving the junction); so this is about £1225 per metre (both directions) or £1.8m per mile treated, including junctions.

OK, I think I have made the point. Things have a cost and they have a benefit. They have direct costs, they have indirect costs. Things have a design-life and a life cycle cost. All of this makes it difficult to compare like with like and even with official benefit to cost ratio calculations, transport investment remains largely political (and that is at any level). But, if we are talking about moving people around a town or city, we cannot ignore the fact that for decent cycling infrastructure, we can get a huge bang for our buck. As you know, I am a fan of local transport which moves people on their day to day journeys, so I am probably biased against those big ticket schemes. 

However, I'll leave you with the following graphic which compares the cost per mile of some of my examples relative to the East-West Cycle Superhighway (which is one unit per mile). It's quite interesting!