Modal shift occurs by pursuing measures to increase the share of carbon-efficient modes by transferring transport demand from more carbon-intensive modes – plane to train, car to tram, etc. Is there any evidence for the Mayor’s claim that:

[the cycle hire scheme] will be a wonderful way of getting people out of their cars and breathing the fresh air

The Mayoral Decision authorising TfL to deliver the cycle hire scheme [PDF] states:

Increased cycling also alleviates pressure on other parts of the transport network. In addition to increasing capacity on London’s roads by providing an alternative to car usage, the Scheme is expected to ease crowding on the Tube and buses within central London, particularly during peak times, benefiting both local residents and visitors.

Based on customer research conducted by TfL as part of the Scheme feasibility study, the largest modal shift is expected to occur from walking (34%) but some shift is expected from buses (32%) and Tube (20%) with small shift from car (5%), other (4%), taxi (3%) and non-Scheme bicycle (2%).

Only 5% shift from car? To judge by the demographic of users so far, I’d be surprised if even 1% have abandoned their cars for bicycles. As for walking, if online forums are representative, few cycle hirers are using the bikes as an alternative to walking; it is the Tube and bus which have lost their passengers (and revenue) to the cycle hire scheme.

Walking represents a dilemma for the Mayor as he has designated 2011 his Year Of Walking; walk for free or spend money on a hire bike? The Mayor’s commitment to walking so far consists of reducing the length of time pedestrians have to cross the road and proposals to remove some pedestrian crossings altogether.

Back to modal shift. The Mayoral Decision document tells us:

Within the current modal share for cycling, women are less represented than men at 37% and 63% respectively, as are Black and Minority Ethnic (BAME) men and women (22%) compared with White men and women (78%) (LTDS 2006/7). Therefore the greatest potential increase in modal share is for BAME women.

Which will be why Boris has chosen Kelly Brook as his tits/legs Face of Cycling, evidently.

What exactly were the environmental benefits cited in the business plan for the cycle hire scheme? Strangely, our accountable and transparent Mayor hasn’t made the business plan public and TfL have not responded to a Freedom of Information request [UPDATE – partly-redacted response finally received, check here] . In the London Assembly’s Budget and Performance Committee report on the GLA group’s environmental spend, 2009/10 [PDF], the Chair of the committee complains:

We find that there is much desirable work happening but that there is a shortage of strategic leadership. By this we mean that although the GLA is corporately committed to long-term targets, particularly of CO2 emission reductions but also, for example, for air quality, the selection and prioritisation and monitoring of projects does not appear to be driven from City Hall towards the achievement of those targets. Each functional body seems driven by its own priorities and without a consistent method of measurement or set of priorities.

As an example, the bicycle hire project, which accounts for about a quarter of proposed environment spend, and over 80 per cent of the increase in budget for this year, appears as yet to offer no targets and fit no strategic plan towards environmental mitigation or improvement. It is clearly in some sense an environmental project but it appears not to have been selected or prioritised or designed against environmental targets.

The cycle hire scheme has also swallowed up most of the increase in the 2009/10 GLA group environment budget:

The GLA group environment spend for 2009/10 has increased by £64 million compared to 2008/09 but programmes designed to combat climate change have increased by less than £1 million. Of the £64 million increase, £52 million will be spent on start up costs for the new cycle hire scheme.

The Mayor’s cycling programme makes up more than half of the GLA group total budget:

An example of one of these environment programmes is the TfL cycling programme. It has a budget of £111 million for 2009/10 and makes up over 50 per cent of the total GLA group environment budget. Within this programme, £52 million is for the Mayor’s new cycle hire scheme. Despite TfL’s current plan to launch the scheme in less than a year, it is still working on the programme’s expected environmental outcomes.

Boris Johnson said in his transport manifesto that the cycle hire scheme would provide ‘a genuinely sustainable alternative to the car and encourage more Londoners to cycle’. Market research for TfL suggests that less than 7 per cent of cycle hire scheme users will come from people who previously would have used a car. The research indicates that 39 per cent of cycle hire scheme users are likely to be people who previously walked, 30 per cent from underground users and 24 per cent from bus users. These figures indicate that the scheme is only likely to have a minimal effect on car usage and as a result CO2 emission and air pollution levels.

A lot of wonga, then, for little beneficial effect on the environment.

As a commenter on part I of this post has asked, why is the cycle hire scheme not Oyster-compatible? A very good question, especially as the TfL feasibility study [PDF] says:

Opportunities: Integration with Oyster. There is potential to link the scheme to the existing Oyster ticketing system which operates on London’s public transport network. This would allow full integration of a cycle hire scheme with other public transport modes

The Mayoral Decision document says:

The Scheme will be Oyster compatible. Users will also be able to hire a bicycle using a credit or debit card at an on-street terminal at each docking station.

And a  presentation by TfL to the London Cycling Campaign stated:

Oyster cards will be the preferred method of paying. The Oyster card will have to be pre-registered, with a linked credit or debit card so that a deposit can be taken.

Meanwhile, instead of improving the infrastructure to encourage more cycling in London, the Mayor has spent £441,000 on some shiny, happy films. Oh, and all the problems with the scheme which are listed in my previous post continue unabated with still no date for “casual” users of the scheme to get on their bikes…

UPDATE: The scheme still can’t cope with tidal flow - previously enthusiastic users are becoming ex-users.

FURTHER UPDATE: It emerges that the original BIXI cycle hire scheme in Montreal also made exaggerated  claims of modal shift:

Bixi’s environmental benefits have been “grossly exaggerated,” with the vast majority of trips taken on the bike-sharing service actually replacing other “green modes” of transportation, McGill University researchers have found.

Eighty-six per cent of Bixi trips replaced walking, or rides on personal bikes or public transit, according to an online survey of 1,432 Montrealers conducted this summer by researchers at McGill’s School of Urban Planning. Another four per cent of trips wouldn’t have been taken without Bixi.

Of the rest, eight per cent replaced taxi trips and two per cent replaced car trips.

That contrasts with the impression Montrealers might have of Bixi, hailed last month by Greenpeace as a tool to fight climate change.

Bixi’s website appears to assume all Bixi trips replace car rides when it calculates the amount of greenhouse-gas emissions the service has helped eliminate. The Bixi site suggests 909 tonnes of GHGs were eliminated thanks to 3.6 million kilo-metres travelled by Bixis in its first four months of operation in 2009.

In French, here and here.

Set your Twitter account name in your settings to use the TwitterBar Section.