Cycling groups condemn evidence-free arguments that segregated lanes cause congestion and worsen pollution
Mon 5 Feb 2018 07.02 GMT
Cycling organisations have condemned members of the House of Lords, including Prof Robert Winston, for propagating the “myth” that separated bike lanes cause congestion and worsen pollution, saying there is no evidence it happens.
Accusing the peers of making arguments based on “anecdote experienced through a taxi window,” the groups said that Winston, in particular, as a prominent scientist, should know better than to spread such misconceptions.
It follows a Lords debate on vehicle emissions earlier in January in which several peers, Winston among them, called on ministers to examine whether short stretches of protected cycle lanes installed in London had slowed traffic speeds and thus increased emissions.
When the Guardian contacted the peers to ask if they had evidence for the claim, none provided it. Winston, a doctor and popular TV scientist who has been a Labour peer since 1995, said the fact bike lanes slowed traffic was “not deniable”.
Pressed again for evidence, Winston thanked the Guardian reporter for her “entertaining comments” and said the “law-breaking, aggression and dishonesty” of cyclists had turned him against them.
Another peer contacted, former Tory MP Lord Patrick Cormack, said his evidence was that his cab journey from King’s Cross station to the House of Lords now took longer, adding that all the peers he spoke to believed bike lanes were to blame.
Asked by the Guardian to further outline his view, Caithness replied to argue that the separated bike lanes hampered the journeys of emergency service vehicles “at time resulting in loss of life”, again providing no evidence.
London currently has about 12 miles of bike lanes where riders are protected from motor vehicles by kerbs and dedicated traffic lights, with more planned.
Other cities are planning similar networks, most notably Manchester where the mayor, Andy Burnham, has recruited former Olympic cyclist-turned campaigner Chris Boardman to make its streets more bike-friendly.
These have faced opposition from some groups, particularly the black cab industry in London, which first made the argument that the lanes were responsible for slower road journey times in London and thus increased pollution.
This began as a fringe idea, not least because roadside pollution monitors found no increase in pollution levels where the lanes had been built. However, it has gained prominence, with some newspapers, notably the Daily Mail, reporting it as fact.
Andrew Grieve, a senior analyst at King’s College London’s Air Quality Network said the issue was “a bit of a case of an anecdote being halfway round the internet before the data analysis has got its shoes on”.
Experts also contest the idea that bike lanes contribute to slower motor traffic speeds. While they generally remove a lane for motor traffic, the reallocated space carries more people.
While Transport for London (TfL) data shows some journeys on routes which have separated bike lanes have slowed, the same is true of many roads without cycle infrastructure.