Following the money: how does Boris Johnson’s TfL value cycling?

Transport for London have this week published their Annual Report, Statement of Accounts and Commissioner’s Report. This avalanche of financial data provides an excellent opportunity to get a sense of their priorities.

The documents contain funding information about Cycle Superhighways, Barclays Cycle Hire, Biking Boroughs and the Community Cycling Grant. Unless otherwise stated, all figures below are for the financial year 10/11.

Biking Boroughs

This flagship program appeals to the Mayor’s core Outer London constituents by providing funding to “harness the huge appetite that already exists for cycling in Outer London”.

Boris Johnson says, “My cycling revolution continues and I am determined to help more residents of outer London to take to two wheels. “

The numbers say:

Vive la Révolution

But maybe I’m being unfair. After all, I’m comparing the Biking Boroughs budget to huge projects, like the London Overground and the TfL PR machine.

How does it stack up against smaller items?

Kingston: His name is Rob Holden if you're looking to borrow a fiver.

Cycling Community Grant

These are grants funded by TfL to “fund events or start projects which promote the benefits of cycling”.

Boris Johnson says‘”This is all about helping the smaller cycling groups within London to pass on their enthusiasm for cycling to local people.”

The numbers say:

Just pension, not salary

Perhaps this is too harsh. After all, these are small grants but there must be hundreds of them, right? Unfortunately, no. There are 25 in total – less than one per borough.

Cycle Superhighways

These are part of the Mayor’s vision for a “cleaner, greener, safer city, where you have a cycling revolution.”

Boris Johnson says: “These radial routes are set to transform our great city into one where cycling is the first choice for many thousands of Londoners.”

The numbers say:

But £6.7m sounds great in a press release

Curious that the Bounds Green central reservation hasn’t had 5 times as much marketing as the Superhighways, as well as funding.

Barclays Cycle Hire

There has been some investment in Cycle Hire this year, but the London Assembly notes that the scheme is designed to break even over three years (p8 – although it looks like it will take a little longer). Just another example of how TfL doesn’t see cycling as a proper form of transport like trains and buses and cars, which all receive huge amounts of public money (yes, even cars).

Assuming TfL do hit their targets, the Cycle Hire balance sheet will look as follows over a three-year period.

Not accounting for inflation

Figures and sources for all of the above here (.xlsx).

With investment like this, is anyone actually surprised that London’s cycling revolution never happened?

10 Responses to “Following the money: how does Boris Johnson’s TfL value cycling?”

  1. aseasyasriding Says:

    24 people at TfL are paid more than £200,000.

    That rather puts the Biking Boroughs’ average individual budgets of £300,000 into perspective.

  2. David Hembrow Says:

    Yes, “£6.7m sounds great in a press release”. I agree wholeheartedly.

    That’s exactly what I meant by “Baffling people with huge numbers”.

    Until the real money flows, cycling is going nowhere.

  3. will kemp Says:

    I don’t see the relevance of executives salaries and pensions to cycling budgets. Is it just an easy headline Daily Mail style?
    Compare cycling with another niche activity, opera, dance or theatre funding perhaps, where does that put us?

  4. Futilitarian Says:

    @will kemp,

    This isn’t about the iniquity of executive salaries – I don’t really care.

    I just find it astonishing that a funding stream for a popular mode of transport can compare unfavourably with, say, one employee’s pension.

    I’m not calling for Garrett Emmerson to get less money: but if cycling is going to progress, it needs much, much more.

  5. Nico Says:

    @will kemp, the difference is that the Mayor himself claims to start a “cycling revolution” so that it stops being a niche activity, but instead a common form of transport. If he really wants Londoners’ habits to change, serious investment has to be made, otherwise it is just a (green?) fig leaf.

    Every other TfL poster I see on the underground or on/in buses features a bicycle, but according to the above it seems that is all that is being paid for.

  6. aseasyasriding Says:

    @Will Kemp,

    Given that cyclists outnumber private motor vehicles, at peak hours, on a great number of central London roads, would you perhaps be inclined to describe the use of a private motor vehicle in central London as a “niche activity”?

  7. will kemp Says:

    As you wish, and I still wouldn’t see any relevance to an individuals salary or pension payments.

    As Futilitarian says he isn’t calling for GE to get less money, what is the point of the comparison?

  8. Paul M Says:

    @will kemp
    You have no doubt seen objects in our solar system compared in terms of, say, a pea for the Earth, an orange for Jupiter, and a beach ball for the sun? You might just as well ask what is the relevance of a pea to a beach ball, and the answer is the same – it places dry numbers in a human context.

    As Futilitarian says, it offers no view on these individuals’ deservedness, but it does contextualise the cycling budget on a human scale, and so shows how niggardly it is.

  9. aseasyasriding Says:

    “As Futilitarian says he isn’t calling for GE to get less money, what is the point of the comparison?”

    Futilitarian has already given you the answer, in a previous response. Namely, that funding for cycling by TfL – and remember, TfL are supposed to be engendering a ‘cycling revolution’ -compares poorly with the money allocated to one of its employees.

  10. If TfL’s Feats Create Unpleasant Streets, Then That’s More Lame. « The Lo Fidelity Bicycle Club Says:

    […] So there you have it; pedestrians don’t count, buses and trams don’t count, cyclists don’t count. If you’re not in a car, you just don’t count. Figures via Cycle of Futility blog.……’ […]

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