Monday, 17 October 2016

If we had infrastructure like the Dutch, how many of us would be cycling?

I have been having fun with the PCT (Propensity to Cycle Tool) which estimates how many commuters would cycle, based on a different scenarios. Cambridge has a high proportion of cyclists already but there is still scope for improvement.

Looking at Cambridgeshire as a whole, as of the 2011 census 9.7% of commuters cycle but if we behaved more like the Dutch it would be 23.7%. You can use the map view to drill down into specific routes. In the snapshot below I have activated the popup on a section of the Madingley Road. In the Go Dutch scenario we could have 80% more cyclists.
Screenshot of the PCT showing potential for increased cycling on the Madingley Road in the Go Dutch scenario


That is a particularly bad section. The table below shows results from some of the other routes.

WhereBase line
number of cyclists
Go Dutch
 number of cyclists
Increase 
Madingley Road22039880%
Huntingdon Road75992221%
Histon Road49364932%
Milton Road1292163126%
Fulbourn Road42763749%


The tool uses distance and hilliness to decide what proportion of commuters will cycle. Weather is not taken into account but I believe the Netherlands' weather is fairly similar to ours. The assumption is that the Netherlands has higher rates of cycling because they have better infrastructure - more segregation between cyclists and other traffic making cyclists feel more confident and the ride more enjoyable. We could do the same.

Looking at this chart showing data for Cambridgeshire, it is surprising how many commute distances are 7.5 km or less. This makes a large proportion within cycling range.
Number of between-zone commuters within Cambridgeshire cycling by scenario and distance from http://pct.bike/cambridgeshire/

The PCT presents other scenarios too:

  • Goverment Target is for a doubling of cycling nationally.
  • Gender Equity presumes that the the same proportion of women cycle as men - in practice men are more likely to cycle
  • Ebikes assumes rollout of electric bikes

This tool can be used to identify routes where there is scope for considerably increasing the proportion of cyclists, by improving infrastructure. I am sure it is going to be very useful.

There is a detailed description of how the tool works here.

I was introduced to this tool at a meeting organised by Smarter Cambridge Transport. They are campaigning for more visionary solutions to Cambridge's traffic problems than those currently proposed under the Greater Cambridge City Deal. Their suggestions include intelligent control of traffic signals; improved travel hubs in some of the villages rather than park and ride sites; and unified multi-operator ticketing to make bus travel easier.

At the same meeting we also heard proposals for a light rail system from Cambridge Connect. The key issue is that conventional buses cannot cope with the sheer numbers of people travelling in and our of Cambridge and so we need a mass transit system. It would be expensive (way beyond the City Deal budget) but the benefits would be huge. This would reduce air pollution and enable businesses to attract more customers. Since benefits accrue to all Cambridge residents, not just the service users, I think it makes sense that it should be partly funded by local government. I just hope that the costs are better managed than they were for the Guided Bus!


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