The Strategic Cycling Analysis (SCA) has the potential to be one of the most powerful tools in a cycle campaigning group’s kit – and we tell you some of the best and easiest ways to use it below.
What is the SCA?
The SCA is a collection of data maps produced by TfL in 2017. The maps combine datasets to predict where the highest potential for future growth in cycling (and walking) in London could occur. This is, in other words, a map of where lots of cycling could happen, but doesn’t currently.
Most trips currently done by “mechanised modes” but that could easily be cycled are short – averaging 3.15km, and there are around eight million a day that could be switched in London. One third of these future trips start or finish on main roads.
The most frequently talked about map (Figure 5.1 in the SCA) shows the potential high-flow corridors - TfL highlights the top 25 corridors for cycling across London. But below that are many other high potential corridors – if all of these are done, you have the makings of a real and connected cycling network in London.
As well as the corridors, there is a map of high potential for walking as well as cycling (Figure 3.1 in the SCA), and areas with high population growth, cycle demand and other factors that make them likely these will be where borough “Liveable Neighbourhood” schemes will be sited (Figure 4.2 in the SCA). Other maps cover collision spots, bus frequencies, transport hubs and areas with low access to public transport that could be transformed with good cycling access to the nearest transport hub.
What is TfL doing with the SCA?
TfL engineers are already assessing the feasibility of the 25 highest priority cycling corridors – in fact, the Mayor has announced six that are beginning to go through the stages of traffic modelling, detailed design, with the boroughs they’re in happy to move them forward.
The 25 “corridors” are based on the demand to get from A to B, and joining the points with straight lines. This does not necessarily mean that the route created to meet that demand will be tracks along the corresponding main roads. TfL and the boroughs will work together to decide whether that corridor is best done by side-street Quietways or main road tracks or a mix of the two (of the first six to come forward, the Mayor’s office has said they’re 75% main road tracks). But it is important that whatever solution they come up with, it meets the potential demand of that route.
Boroughs are also beginning a conversation about which areas are best for their Liveable Neighbourhoods, based on TfL’s maps. Some boroughs have multiple areas that could be candidates for Liveable Neighbourhoods.
How to campaign using the SCA
1. Use the amazing Camden Cyclists map
Camden Cyclists have produced zoomable overlays of most of the key SCA charts onto Google Maps. Here: https://camdencyclists.org.uk/more-maps-and-tools-for-cycle-campaigners/ Using the slider in the top right of the screen, you can adjust the opacity of the SCA vs maps layer – and thus identify areas and roads underneath the SCA’s corridors and neighbourhoods.
2. Spot where funding will come
TfL are being very clear that schemes aligned with the SCA corridors or areas will be a funding priority. So when it comes to campaign planning, picking out areas that match up with the SCA has a higher chance of success. If you live in a borough where there are multiple candidates for Liveable Neighbourhoods, you can use the SCA as a starting point, and then think about other factors that will support your campaign – is it in an area of poor air quality? Would it connect to other cycling infrastructure? Is there an inequality element?
3. Demand schemes that fulfil potential
If your borough isn’t bringing forward schemes to match corridors and areas in the SCA, start to engage with them on why not, as well as come up with ideas for what they should do. But more likely, if they are bringing forward schemes or ideas that match areas or corridors highlighted in the SCA, you can hold them to account for the quality of schemes against their need to fulfil high potential cycling flows. When combined with a Cycling Level of Service and/or Healthy Streets Check score, this should really be able to help you fight back against poor quality schemes. After all, if it’s not suitable to ride for a much wider range of people, it’s not going to fulfil a high potential to cycle.
4. Consider all schemes against the SCA
Check every transport scheme you come across against the SCA. For instance, if a pavement widening or bus priority scheme comes forward that happens to be on a high priority cycling corridor, will that scheme risk reducing road space so much it locks out cycling for decades? Or if a scheme with minor safety benefits for cycling is on a high priority corridor, argue that minor improvements won’t unlock the potential already identified. Think about whether schemes parallel to a high priority route or crossing it will help fulfil potential, or shut it out.
5. Check for connections
Don’t just follow the route of a scheme, look for lines of high potential (or even medium potential) crossing it. In other words, if a council scheme runs along a main road, and a corridor from the SCA crosses it, that junction or link becomes very important – can cyclists get to and from the proposed scheme to the SCA corridor? What are conditions like on the roads underneath the SCA corridor? Do they need fixing too?
Combine it with:
- DfT Traffic Counts to show current cycle levels, but also motor traffic levels (and levels of HGVs, and buses and coaches) as well as trends over years.
- Crash mapping (http://crashmap.co.uk and/or https://tfl.gov.uk/corporate/safety-and-security/road-safety/london-collision) to highlight collision hotspots for cycling, walking etc.
- TfL’s Healthy Streets Check and/or Cycling Level of Service scoring systems for schemes.
What if I or Councillors or officers don’t agree with the SCA?
All models contain shortcuts, assumptions and caveats. There are several important problems we’ve spotted so far with the SCA, and they are listed below, but it’s really important to understand that what officers, local campaigners, anyone you’re likely to deal with or you think of the SCA is fairly irrelevant (sorry)!
In essence, whether you like the SCA or not, whether your council does or not, it has become the main “game” in town. If you propose a scheme to the council, or the council proposes a scheme to TfL that ignores the SCA, that focuses on an area or corridor not highlighted for high potential growth, the chance of TfL funding that scheme is low.
If you want new schemes, and the council wants the money, you need to stick to the SCA. (Or prepare the council to use non-TfL funding such as Section 106 funding.)
What if I’m in an outer borough that doesn’t have a priority route in it?
Every borough has a potential Liveable Neighbourhood, so focus your campaigning on that. It’s also important to note that the SCA models don’t take multi-modal trips into account - it can’t yet understand people who ride to the station, get on a train and then ride at the other end. These account for 1.2 million more cycleable journeys a day, according to TfL. In outer boroughs, getting people to and from any station or transport hub in that area will be vital, and that means they are ripe for Liveable Neighbourhood funding.
Current problems with the SCA:
- If a high potential flow is near a current or planned route, the system assumes that route fulfils the potential perfectly. That means CS7 and CS1, for instance, are assumed to be working at full potential.
- The entire system cannot predict flows on routes that don’t currently exist – for instance new river crossings.
The underlying cycling model is based mostly on commuting to/from work journeys – and misses journeys that don’t happen much in London currently, kids riding to school with their parents, for instance.