A Cyclist’s Tale of Two Cities

I confess I was pretty dismayed when I read of the Mayor of Liverpool’s decision to pilot the abandonment of bus and cycle lanes in the city.

BBC Liverpool Coverage
BBC Liverpool Coverage

My gut feeling was that this was a backward step and further evidence of the pro-car, so-called populist politics we are coming to expect these days.

So I was pretty relieved later in the same week to come across The Traffic Commissioner for New York’s account of their recent experiment that firmly pointed in the opposite direction. In recent years and months they have set out to ‘re-imagine and re-invent’ their streets as shared resources for people, cycles, busses and cars – with great success. In summary, they have:

  • used paint and temporary materials to create 50 pedestrian plazas
  • converted 26 car lanes into open squares
  • built 57 miles of speedy bus lanes
  • created 350 miles of bike lanes
  • introduced 50 miles of new parking protected cycle lanes
  • provided 6000 rental bikes which now see 35000 average users each day who have cycled 7 million miles between them since the introduction.
  • seen a 49% increase in retail sales along bike lanes
  • seen a 50% decrease in cycle and pedestrian injuries
  • seen a 170% increase in economic activity in the areas concerned.
Figures Speaking for Themselves?
Figures Speaking for Themselves?

So I started out pretty depressed, but ended up impressed and even a little optimistic. If New York, capital city of ‘the bottom line’ can manage this, then surely any city can? ¬†Unless, perhaps, you are Liverpool and managed by dinosaurs pointing the city backwards to the future?

Janette Sadik-Khan’s TED Talk is well worth watching – thought-provoking and funny.