https://cyclingfallacies.com/en/ has a comprehensive set of responses to common myths about cycling. The list below is drawn from there and from other sources to cover a wider range of arguments against change that you are likely to come across in discussions around schemes to enable active travel and reduce motor vehicle dominance of our streets.
Healthy Route is Lambeth’s name for a route where conditions will enable more people to walk and cycle. The borough’s ‘Healthy Route’ strategy has identified a network of routes that will link people to the places they need to get to - schools, workplaces, parks and amenities, and shops. They can be on residential streets, main roads, or a combination but either motor traffic levels will be low or there will be dedicated space not shared with general traffic.
Low traffic neighbourhoods are not a new concept - they’ve been a standard approach in the Netherlands and in good town planning for decades. Most of London’s post-war estates were built on these principles.
Looking at the overall road network those roads that are suitable for carrying non-local traffic (the A and B roads) are identified. Within the neighbourhoods between the main roads only local access for residents and deliveries is permitted.
These plans are a response to the COVID crisis - capacity on public transport is likely to be limited for some time and London’s road network simply cannot provide for the shortfall in trips people need to make if they try to make them by car. Even if they could, less than half of Lambeth households have access to a car (as few as 30% in some wards in the north of the borough). Most of the trips people make in London are short - 70% of trips driven in London are under 5 miles and 42% are under 2 miles. Those are trips that could be either cycled, or at the lower end walked, by the majority of people who are currently driving them. That’s the only way we’re going to get London moving again.
Further consultation would be needed to make the schemes permanent. Funding at the moment is for emergency measures only - the ambition and strategy was for the schemes set out in Lambeth’s Transport Strategy to be built in high quality materials and create new public spaces. The emergency funding does not allow for that (and all other funding from TfL has been frozen).
Problem traffic is often concentrated on a few roads within a neighbourhood but simply blocking these just shifts the problem. As many as 80% of London drivers now use Satnavs so will immediately be rerouted around a single closure.
Many rat runs run through a number of neighbourhoods - cutting them off in one nearly always reduces rat running in the surrounding area and keeps more traffic on the main roads. It’s simply not possible to change the entire borough at once but Lambeth’s Low Traffic Neighbourhood plan has identified neighbourhoods across the whole borough.
Measures are focused on making walking more attractive, and on the high proportion of residents in the borough who say they would like to cycle, but don’t because the roads are too dangerous.
XX% of local households have no access to a car. If you can afford to run a car in London, you are part of a privileged minority. Car ownership correlates very strongly with higher income - people on low incomes don’t own or travel by car and also tend to live in the areas with the worst pollution.
Car ownership (households with access to a car) varies substantially across London:
at a borough level it ranges from 26% of households in Islington to 75% in Richmond Upon Thames. London wide 46% of households are car free, while for inner London 60%.
[With a bit of internet searching you can usually find out the figures at an electoral ward level for your borough.]
It’s hard to overstate the benefits low income households can gain if people feel able to safely ride around their town or city. A Zone 3 Travelcard now costs nearly £160 per month so even a high quality bike rapidly pays for itself.
In places like Denmark and the Netherlands, the bike lanes are filled with people of both genders, all ages, most ethnic backgrounds and every social class, from members of the royal family downward. A TfL study in early 2016, following the advent of higher quality bike routes in London, found black and minority ethnic Londoners were now just as likely to be regular cyclists as white people in the city.
These schemes don’t stop any property from being driven to and with fewer unnecessary trips being made by car journey times often improve. Increasingly, people in these trades are looking at different, less stressful, ways to travel. For multi-day jobs tools can be delivered at the start and collected at the end. Materials and large items can be delivered directly to the customer. Cargo bikes can carry toolboxes and a bike is a much quicker way to get to a local merchant for small parts than driving.
In Waltham Forest the average response times of fire appliances actually fell after the Mini-Holland schemes were implemented (link to FOI https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/fire_brigade_response_time_in_wa#incoming-805225) . The Borough Commander states “It is my view that this data does not show an increase in response times and therefore that the road closures in Waltham Forest have not had a significant impact on our services”.
There are already numerous dead end streets around the borough which are serviced by bin lorries. Depending on the layout of your street, they will either be able to unlock a bollard to exit, reverse down the street (as they already do in many places), or turn around.
The creation of a low traffic neighbourhood, or filtering of a road, will result in the adjustment of motor vehicle traveler behaviour to compensate … some people will stop making particular trips, combine multiple trips into one, travel at a less congested time, or switch to public transport, walking or cycling.
Initial figures from the Walthamstow Village area show traffic levels on main roads have increased by between 3% and 11%, but the number of vehicles in filtered roads has decreased by 56%. This means that across the overall area, there are around 10,000 fewer vehicles every day, an overall reduction in traffic of 16%. This is called “traffic evaporation”. Since the schemes went in, traffic levels have started to fall on main roads back to previous levels too.
Meanwhile, looking at Hackney, which has historically put in low traffic neighbourhoods and filtered roads over decades, the average speed of motor vehicles on roads in the borough are broadly similar to similar boroughs nearby and in inner London, as is the average percentage decline of overall motor traffic volumes per street over those decades, but the average volume per road is lower as so many roads carry little traffic.
To summarise, over the long term overall motor traffic capacity and volume has been reduced by filtering, but the increased congestion that can be seen in the first year of their operation is a temporary effect.
Though it can seem hard to believe, reducing road capacity does actually reduce traffic. A major study from 1998, which used 150 sources for evidence, found that roads that had their capacity reduced saw an average 41% reduction in traffic. Less than half of the displaced traffic found other routes, while 25% disappeared entirely. Source Wikipedia on “Disappearing Traffic”.
Rachel Aldred - http://rachelaldred.org/writing/thoughts/disappearing-traffic/
Think about the removal of some road space for ‘Games Lanes’ during the Olympics. Coupled with weeks of posters and information London was prepared and, every day of the Games, over a third of people changed the way they traveled in painless and positive ways (Londonist 7 Aug 2015 “Taking Road Space Away From Cars Won’t Create Traffic Jams”).
New York City started adding new protected bike lanes in 2007, and there was concern that taking street space away from cars would slow down traffic. A new report from the city after years of data collection has shown that for some streets redesigned with protected bike lanes, travel times are actually faster (“New York City’s Protected Bike Lanes Have Actually Sped Up Its Car Traffic”).
All homes will still be accessible by motor vehicles, though some trips may take a minute or two longer.
“Low traffic” areas are generally designed so that they can be walked across in 10 minutes or so. Research shows that busy roads are a major barrier to community cohesion - as motor traffic on a street increases interactions between residents drop. Children are given less independence and don't play in the street, people are less likely to know their neighbours.
Even the worst case is usually far less of a detour than drivers think it is and as part of a longer journey a few minutes are not significant. More to the point, many people often stop driving those very short trips so that overall traffic in an area falls and this means overall pollution levels fall, far outweighing any increase from the small number of trips that are truly essential. There is plenty of evidence of this from places like Waltham Forest and Hackney, as well as from overseas.
A shift from oil-powered to electric cars should help to improve air quality in urban areas but as much as 50% of particulate pollution comes from tyres, brakes and dust thrown up from the road. Until the electricity supply is renewable it still leads to carbon emissions and pollution elsewhere.
Electric cars don’t solve many of the other problems involved with motor vehicle use – congestion, danger, public health, land use required for parking, and roads and streets that are blighted by motor traffic. Remember, inactivity and being overweight are one of our biggest health crises - and one that is strongly correlated to unnecessary car use.
Subsidies to encourage electric vehicle purchase (cheap/free parking, exemption from congestion charge etc) and very low fuel costs mean they can even encourage more journeys. In Norway car ownership per household, and distance driven, grew: 15-20% of Norway’s EV’s wouldn’t have been bought without subsidy.
Crime will go up/the streets won’t be safe if there is no through traffic
There is no evidence of this effect in areas where Low Traffic neighborhoods have been implemented. Crime is deterred by people on foot, not by passing motorists. The Police are supportive of the programme, partly because by improving the number of people walking in an area and making an area feel nicer, with a more cohesive community, anti social crime is reduced.
When a main road is disrupted, such as by a collision, the restricted capacity of side streets means that they very quickly become clogged. Moreover, the extra turning movements created by drivers seeking to avoid the main road, can even generate extra congestion. Lockable bollards can be used to enable emergency services to temporarily open areas during extended incidents. And in a fast-unfolding emergency service vehicles are designed to be robust enough to smash through bollards (although this is actually necessary incredibly rarely).
A recent study by Imperial College found that diesel vehicles with engines of between 1.4 litres and 2.0 litres produce fewer harmful emissions at 20mph than at 30mph while smaller petrol and diesel engine vehicles both generate fewer particulates when driven at this lower speed. Download the report here.
Nearly all modern cars have ‘auto stop-start’ so that the engines don’t run when stationary at traffic lights or in a queue. The introduction of the ULEZ charge means most vehicles in London will have this technology.
Research shows retailers overestimate the importance of the car. Making public environments more attractive for pedestrians and cyclists can boost footfall and trading by up to 40%. People who get to the shops by cycling may spend less per visit than motorists, but they visit more often, and they will spend more money overall.
Space for deliveries, and for people collecting heavy loads, can be relocated to streets adjoining a retail parade where a cycleway removes main road loading bays. Furthermore, pedestrianised areas still manage to maintain vibrant shops and businesses. Generally they are able to do so by coordinating delivery times, sharing delivery vehicles, making deliveries using smaller vehicles (or even cargo bikes) or making deliveries out of hours.
TfL reports that where such schemes have gone in, retail vacancy rates drop significantly and footfall rises. Making nicer shopping areas and streets where people feel able to linger is proving far more resilient to the rise of internet shopping than traditional, car-dominated high streets whose drivers are increasingly turning to out-of-town “experience” shopping at malls.
The school run accounts for at least one in every five cars on London’s roads, and is a major cause of congestion, pollution & frustration for road users. Fear of road traffic injury is the key reason people give for not cycling and that parents give for limiting their children’s independence. Many people say they drive their children to school because the roads are too unattractive and dangerous to walk or cycle. But in doing so they add to the problem. Every hour you spend in a car makes you 6 percent more likely to be obese. Every kilometre you walk (about 0.6 of a mile) reduces it by almost 5 percent. So making active travel safer and easier means better physical health for children.
About 23 per cent of Lambeth children in their reception year and 39.4 per cent of children in Year 6 were overweight or obese in 2015-16.
Traffic speeds and volumes are currently too high in residential areas for most people to feel safe enough to cycle, or to let their children cycle. Drivers traveling through their own neighbourhood usually travel more slowly and are more careful than when cutting through other residential areas.
We need to encourage people to consider alternative means of transport by making walking and cycling a quicker and more attractive option than jumping in the car. More than 40% of outer London car journeys are less than two kilometres and the school run accounts for at least one in five cars on London roads. On its own, improving cycle lanes is not enough to encourage the level of behaviour change we need to address congestion and dangerous levels of pollution.
Cycle (and pedestrian) routes need to be as direct as possible because people are using their own energy to move. That’s why pedestrians cut across the grass in parks and ignore crossings when they’ve been badly situated (not on the “desire line”).
Back street routes are rarely direct - they are normally long winded and hard to follow. Conserving energy is even more important on longer journeys so safe cycling on the main roads is vital.
The Netherlands makes their bike (and mobility scooter) lanes the most direct and prioritise them ahead of motorised traffic. The UK often does the opposite, making pedestrians and cyclists go the longer way round, often via footbridges and unpleasant underpasses, while prioritising shorter distances for cars. The unsurprising consequence of this is that people prefer to drive.
With quieter, safer, road conditions many more people feel able to travel by means other than car. Many disabled people can cycle and the facilities that are good for cycling are perfect for mobility scooters. Children experience greater freedom to travel independently. These schemes are not about forcing everyone to walk or cycle - they’re about giving people the choice.
In countries such as the Netherlands and Denmark, where cycling is catered for as a serious mode of transport, people choose to cycle because it's safe, convenient and pleasant – and journey times are reliable, as they won't get stuck in congestion. People in those countries can drive if and when they want to, but because driving isn't the only choice for travel, as it is in many other countries, they choose to do so less often.
Everybody benefits from this increased level of cycling – even those who do need to drive, as it means that they're not sat waiting in traffic which is made up of people using a car for short local journeys.
In countries where there is widespread provision for cycling separate from other modes of transport, people of all age groups and abilities cycle, and do so at a pace they’re happy with. For example, nearly a quarter of all trips made by Dutch over-65s are cycled.
Removing interactions with heavy vehicles makes almost any journey a possibility by cycle – be it a standard bicycle or something specifically for those with mobility needs, such as a hand-powered trike – and may often make trips easier than walking for those who have difficulty doing so. In addition, the increasing use of electrically-assisted “e-bikes” means that physical strength is even less of a barrier.
So in fact the truth is the opposite of the myth – cycling actually gives less-able people more transport options and independence.
Most people with disabilities don't have a mobility disability, most people with a mobility disability can't afford to drive. Many people who can't walk can cycle. Cycle tracks & accessible public transport benefits most people of all abilities.
For many people with disabilities or medical conditions - for instance, blindness, epilepsy and many others - driving isn’t and option at all (DVLA List of conditions affecting driving)
For some disabilities or medical conditions, non-motorised wheeled transport is the easiest way to get around, door-to-door. There are people for whom an e-assist bike, recumbent bike, hand cycle, or trike is an ideal mobility option.
This applies to many people with chronic fatigue, back injuries, ankylosing spondylitis, epilepsy, and cerebral palsy for example. But these people need a safe place to ride – they need proper infrastructure for non-motorised, wheeled transport.
For people who *do* need motorised transport, there are options beyond the car. Electric wheelchairs are one. Birò – tiny electric cars – are another. Both use cycle infrastructure in the Netherlands – a safe place to travel, away from cars.
And if a car is the best option – a better transport system serves essential car use too, because it gives people who don't need a car more appealing options. This means reduced traffic and parking demand, leaving more space for those who really do need it.
Concern about trips being a few minutes longer for those who have mobility issues ignores the fact that the majority of people already have to do all this stuff without a car. And this is *more* true for the people in the most disadvantaged circumstances. Access to private vehicles correlates strongly with wealth, and if you have health problems or disabilities you are much less likely to have access. If we are considering the needs of elderly people, or wheelchair users, (or healthy kids) we should *not* be focusing on the ones who already have the best access to mobility solutions (ie those that have access to a car) who are going to be slightly inconvenienced. Surely the focus should be on those who do without that privilege or who are unable to drive even if they wanted to? Lower traffic levels, better crossings and walking routes and safe cycling directly all benefit the majority of mobility impaired people without a car, letting them make more trips independently. (and many people who can’t drive can cycle with the right type of bike - as Wheels for Wellbeing demonstrate)
This is a problem of public infrastructure, as children generally don't have a problem cycling! Most children are attracted to cycling, rightly seeing it as providing freedom.
The reason many people believe it is too difficult to ride somewhere with children is because there is insufficient provision of safe places to cycle. Areas with high volumes of cycling invariably have safe places to do so – off-road paths, protected cycleways, separation from motor traffic, quiet residential streets, etc.
As the Dutch and Danish experience shows, children are able to cycle significant distances from a young age, and cycling with children can be a great way for families to get around, and also for children to travel independently. Data shows that in the Netherlands almost half of all trips made by under-17s are cycled, and over three-quarters of high school pupils cycle to school.
Cycling on the pavement is almost always a symptom of poor conditions for cycling. The best and most permanent way to tackle this problem is to create attractive places for cycling away from the footway, either in the form of cycleways separated from motor traffic, or by making the road itself a pleasant place to cycle by reducing the speed and volume of motor traffic to a low level.
And while cycling on the footway can be genuinely annoying, scary and inconvenient for those walking, the danger it causes should not be overstated either – the vast majority of deaths and injuries on the footway are due to motor vehicles. People in the UK are over 50 times more likely to be killed by someone driving a motor vehicle on the verge or footway, than by someone cycling, let alone someone cycling on the pavement.
 Government Advisor Prof Frank Kelly, Guardian 4 Aug 2017