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Is the future of urban transport in Sutton?


Sutton's successful cycle push

Tom Edwards
By Tom Edwards
BBC London's Transport Correspondent

Maria Walters still uses her son's cycling helmet and by her own admission admits she's still a fair weather cyclist.

But at the moment one or two days a week she's cycling into work.

She used to drive the six or seven minutes in her car - now she uses two wheels to get from her home in Carshalton to her work in Sutton.

It takes her 20 minutes. And she's become a little bit of a convert - apart from when it rains.

Maria could be the future when it comes to trying to get people out of their cars.

She was given a bike by a friend and at the local bike shop she saw a card advertising "Smarter Travel Sutton."

She rang the council and they organised a cycling lesson within two weeks which built up her confidence. They also offered discounts on servicing the bike and equipment.

Future of Urban Mobility?

So why's this so significant?

Novice cyclist Maria Walters

And why are other authorities across London and from China, Korea and Singapore asking for information on the Sutton project? Why has it been called 'The Future of Urban Mobility?"

Well, in three years Sutton has seen a 75% increase in cyclists - and it's cost £5 million in funding from Transport for London.

Compare that to the cost of just two direct arterial blue cycling superhighways being built in London - £22 million. You can see why it is attractive.

There has also been a 13% increase in bus use and a 2% decrease in car use. These are modal shifts that transport planners dream about.

'Soft Measures'

With transport budgets under increasing pressure these "soft measures" will become more common.

What they have done in Sutton is spend money not just on infrastructure and engineering (hard measures) but on convincing people to use their bikes and public transport.

This is about spending money on changing the mindset and changing mentality.

I joined one of their leafleting teams knocking on doors across Sutton. They offer anyone who answers a set of coupons and vouchers. They are a team of just eight.

  • They will offer you free lessons
  • 10% off cycling kit
  • 50% off your bike

When residents in Sutton were asked what they thought of Smarter Travel, most say it is the type of programme in which TfL and Sutton Council should invest.

As well as the cycling, in the past they have also offered every home a £10 oyster travel card. Schools and businesses have "green travel plans" - kids are encouraged to Wow (Walk on Wednesdays).

Of course this type of sustainable travel and this type of promotion cannot be used everywhere.

It has also been tried in Darlington, Peterborough and Worcester with pretty good results.

Now, it is being used in combination with new hard measures such as the cycle superhighways. So, you haven't heard the last of 'soft measures' in London.

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