Lucinda Turner, head of strategic planning at Transport for London, has confirmed that there are no plans in the short, medium or long term to make cyclists pay for their use of London’s roads or the new cycleways.
Unlike motorists who are responsible for hidden, sunk economic costs to other travellers and wider society, such as air and noise pollution – the so-called “negative externalities” – cyclists are responsible for “positive externalities” such as zero pollution and public health benefits. And it’s for reasons such as these, and the need to encourage cycling as a way of moving more people in the congested, busier capital city of the future, that TfL won’t be raising a charge on cyclists using London’s new cycle superhighways. Such infrastructure, like roads in general, is paid for via income tax and council tax.
London’s protected super cycleways are part of a ten-year £1bn plan to carve out more space for cyclists which, on some roads in central London at peak times, are the majority users.
“We have been thinking about cyclists paying an access charge for use of the networks, but it’s not something we have plans to do,” Turner told a think-tank meeting in London earlier today.
She also said that initiatives such as the cycle-hire scheme and the cycle superhighways will help London keep moving.
“Things would have been a lot worse if we hadn’t made those sort of changes.”
She added: “Because there are so many people moving to London we could soon be at gridlock even if car ownership stays the same as today.”
The thank tank meeting – “Who should pay for London’s roads?” – was arranged by New London Architecture, and co-hosted by Transport for London. There was a general consensus that a greater degree of road-user charging than the congestion charge would have to be introduced soon, although it was recognised that this was first mooted in the Smeed report of 1964 and has always been politically unpalatable.
The findings from the meeting will be presented to the new mayor of London when he or she is elected on 5th May.
Experts at the meeting included Natalie Chapman, head of policy at the Freight Transport Association; Nick Lester, corporate director at London Councils; Jack Skillen, London director of Living Streets; and Tony Travers, director of the London School of Economics.
Note: I was at the think tank because my history book Roads Were Not Built For Cars.