Cycling by train in the UK

In the UK, the number of people combining bike and train journeys grew explosively from 19.5 million in 2007 to 28 million in 2009. An explosive increase.

Why? Any orthodox economist will tell you that people make decisions based on incentives. Read the above article and you see two positive incentives at work:

1) Train companies have fixed a policy of carrying folding bikes to be carried for free. Hence the rapid rise in the number of folding bikes being used by commuters. And

Cycling by train in the British Midlands

2) Stations are increasing their bicycle parking spaces. “There are now around 25,000 cycle spaces in the UK, with thousands more planned.” Hence the number of people parking at stations is also increasing.

(Of course, rising petrol prices are another incentive to bike.)

Both of these actions send out signals that bicycles are welcome at train stations (although in part restricted to folding bikes on the trains themselves). Although this isn’t going to cause a mad rush of people biking to the station, it will cause some to think. And some to bike. And as more people bike, it becomes more acceptable. And, like a slow-rolling snowball, grows.

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Hiatus explanation

A double-tipped reason for my prolongued absence from the Interwebs:

-On 4th January, Seoul had its heaviest snowfall in at least 70 years. (How to make a city very pretty, very fast.) The city government did its utmost to clear the carpaths [roads]. However, footpaths and bikepaths remained treacherous for more than a fortnight. Not many bikes about round here, including underground-bound me.

5th January - Seoul

5th January - Seoul

-More pertinantly, I threw a few numbers into a calculator. It’s so cool how much time and money I save by only irregularly using public transport. (Not to mention not wasting time and money on a gym.)  Let’s just say these went a long way towards the 1-year distance learning course I’m now busy studying via the London School of Economics.

A very bicycle day in the Korean press

Ferreted away in the business pages in the Korean papers last week was this intrguing headline:

Bicycles lead charge in green stock boom

According to Korea Exchange, the average per-share price of bicycle-related stocks has soared by 223.5 percent from the end of December, highest among the 15 most popular stocks. … The share price of Samchuly, the largest and oldest bicycle maker of the country, surged by 392.8 percent over the past six months.

And in similar news:

Insurance for cyclists relaunched

Samsung Fire & Marine Insurance yesterday relaunched its insurance policy for cyclists.The insurance product covering bicycle accidents had been sold until 1997, but was dropped from the market as the popularity of cycling declined.

With bicycles playing a key part in President Lee Myung-bak’s “green growth” strategy, the popularity of bicycles has risen again, which has in turn caught the attention of insurers.

And it seems we’re hearing the same complaint as everywhere else:

[EDITORIAL] Roads for walking

President Lee Myung-bak asks people to use more bicycles as part of his “low carbon, green growth” policies, but the problem is that the nation is virtually devoid of roads where people can safely walk or ride bikes.

The government has continued to make huge investments in the construction of highways [and] must face strong influences from the auto industry, the world’s fifth largest.

Koreans both in cities and the countryside no longer have safe places to walk, as all available road space has been taken up by moving and parked cars. As much as they yearned to drive their own cars in the past, people now want to have more time free from the noise, fumes and confinement of motor vehicles. High oil prices are prompting people to reject their cars.

Positive bike news from Britain

News via BikeBiz.com:

CTC: Cyclist numbers in the UK highest in 17 years

Cycling increased 12 per cent from 2007 to 2008 and cycling deaths fell to 115 from 136 – its second lowest level ever.

OK, still a loooong way to go, but it’s a start. The more people who get around by bike, the more people will follow the social trend and give it a go, and the more likely your local councillors will do something to improve bike conditions in your area.

And here’s the most positive big-name news I’ve heard on the bike front in a while:

Asda launches £70 and £50 not-for-profit bikes

The promotion is to highlight Pedal Power, an Asda initiative “to get more Brits on their bikes by making cycling more accessible to all” via support of Bike Club, the CTC’s new community programme.

Asda has brought tens of thousands of the bikes.
A company statement said: “[Asda] will not be making a penny from the sales, such is the supermarket’s commitment to getting the nation on their bikes.”

£60 for passing a cyclist dangerously

As part of a 10-year road safety plan, the government has introduced stiffer sentences for some previously ignored rules:

Offences that are currently regarded by the police as relatively minor, such as passing too close to a cyclist when overtaking, could result in a £60 fine and three penalty points

news via ETA insurance (with whom I insure my bicycle)

This is great news. Especially if it spurs drivers to read the part of the Highway Code where it defines safe passing distance (complete with illustrative photo).

One concern I have: £60 is far too little to hurt most wallets. (Even the spot fine for dropping litter round here is £70.)

A better way to use £300 million?

Germany is offering its citizens €2,500 to trade in their old cars for new.

Treehugger has an article today on Mannheim’s bicycle version on the same idea: €50 to trade in an old bike for a “suitable” bike for city cycling.

The UK is set to plough £300 million into getting 300,000 cars registered before 1999 replaced.

That’s a lot of money just to encourage people to buy more cars. Why not get better environmental and health returns on your investment and use it to incentivise getting to work or around town by bike?

Bicycles are also a source of free exercise. No added sugar.

Bicycles are also a source of free exercise. No added sugar.

New Cycling Demonstration Towns

Today the Transport Secretary anounced more ‘cycling demonstration towns’ and the country’s first ‘cycling demonstration city’ (Bristol). These places will receive varying sums of money to try to encourage people onto their bikes.

Bristol has pledged to double the number of people cycling in the city in 3 years. “The city will receive £11.4m, rising to £23m after three years, to create the UK’s first on-street bike rental network, modelled on the successful Paris scheme.” – The Guardian

Government spending money for the now 18 Cycling Towns totals £100 million over 3 years. (To put that in perspective, widening 50 miles of a motorway can cost thirty times that total – £3 billion.)

The 11 new ‘cycling demonstration towns’:

  • York,
  • Cambridge,
  • Stoke,
  • Blackpool,
  • Chester,
  • Colchester,
  • Leighton Buzzard,
  • Southend,
  • Shrewsbury,
  • Southport,
  • Woking.

The current 6:

  • Aylesbury,
  • Brighton,
  • Darlington,
  • Derby,
  • Exeter,
  • Lancaster.

No mention of actively discouraging car use though.

All the money in the world won’t help unless people can be persuaded about the benefits of change, says my guide Andrew Whitehead, cycling officer at Bristol City Council. And with rising fuel prices and growing congestion, he believes the time is ripe to make the case. – BBC