Congestion Charging: one month on and all is calm (on the streets and in the press) - BikeBiz

Congestion Charging: one month on and all is calm (on the streets and in the press)

A few days after London's successful introduction of the £5 congestion charge the hitherto hostile mainstream media quietly ditched its opposition to Ken Livingstone's bold move. Now, one month after the 17th February introduction of the charge there's a deafening silence from those newspapers, radio stations and TV pundits who predicted Londoners would never stand for the 'motoring poll tax'.
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So, no news is good news for the congestion charge.

Traffic levels are still down by 20 percent and London streets are definitely quieter than before the charge was introduced.

There are now more buses, and more cyclists.

On average, 100 000 motorists are paying the charge each day. Up to 20 000 are fined each day for non-compliance.

Tom Bogdanowicz, campaigns manager for the London Cycling Campaign, said there are no official statistics yet but, anecdotally, the numbers of cyclists in London seems to have increased:

"All I can report is greater use of cycle parking spaces (up one third in this building) and more bikes seen on the road. Meanwhile Transport for London reports high demand for the maps, and traffic in the congestion zone is undoubtedly down.

"Like others, I am finding cycle journeys faster because there's less traffic en route."

Edmund King, executive director of The RAC Foundation ("an independent body established to protect and promote the interests of UK motorists. Motoring organisation RAC supports its six million customers with breakdown cover and a wide range of other motoring solutions. The views of each organisation should not be attributed to the other,") uses an electric car to get around the congestion charge.

He's also a Brompton user. He often cycles to TV interviews yet then puts the case for car use!

He has, however, seen a a huge improvement to the livability of London since the introduction of the charge:

"This morning there were just three taxis at some traffic lights at the Mall. Before there would have been forty vehicles."

But if there are less cars, doesn't this mean they will be able to go faster, making life hell for cyclists?

"The design of London's streets means traffic will always flow slowly. Since the introduction of the charge, cycling has become much easier. You can see all the traffic up ahead, there's less need to weave in and out of cars."

London IBDs have welcomed congestion charging ("Sales through our stores within the congestion zone have generally been above expectations for the past three weeks or so," said Mike Rice, MD of Britain's biggest IBD chain, Evans Cycles) but non-cycle businesses have also warmed to the charging scheme.

London First, a 300-strong confederation of London businesses, today released its findings from a congestion charging survey of London business people. The survey found "strong support" for Ken's scheme.

Three quarters of those questioned by London First said that congestion charging has worked. Only 3 percent of those questioned felt congestion charging has not worked. The remainder did not know yet if it had worked.

65 percent of London's businesses felt charging had no detrimental impact on their business and 30 percent said the impact of the scheme had been positive for their business.

According to the London Cycle Campaign, there are 100 000 cycle commuters who cycle to work every day in London. Half of all trips currently made in London are less than two miles.

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