Transport for London cycling supremo, Ben Plowden, talks to the London Cycling Campaign

The man in charge of Transport for London's cycling provision - Director of Better Routes and Places, Ben Plowden - spoke with LCC's Tom Bogdanowicz.

TB: In April 2012, the Mayor signed up to three Love London, Go Dutch pledges: (1) Go Dutch principles on three flagship projects; (2) Continential cycling best-practice on all new TfL traffic schemes; and (3) Cycle Superhighways to continental standards. How is TfL progressing on meeting these pledges?

BP: We are now looking at how we can represent the Go Dutch principles, as far as we are able, on those three things. In the case of the ‘flagships’ the critical question is making sure that we choose locations where other things will be happening on a large scale anyway.

So one of the reasons why Vauxhall [spotlighted by the Mayor together with Greenwich] was interesting was that there is going to be very significant development around the Vauxhall area — because of the American Embassy development, planned development of the area between Vauxhall interchange and Battersea Park and the possible extension of the Northern Line to Battersea Park.

On the wider design principle, we are now looking at the remaining Cycle Superhighways including, in particular, the extension of CS2 to Newham and other junctions in the Junction Review where we are seeing how far we can incorporate the Go Dutch principles. Obviously that will vary depending on whether it’s our road or a borough road, what the local parking provision is, but I think that’s very much where we have to take it.

TB: When will we see implementation at Vauxhall or Greenwich?

BP: That will depend partly on when these other changes take place. I know that the Greenwich local authority has ambitious plans for its town centre and I think it would be sensible to align the cycling changes withother changes rather than doing something quicker and then having to modify it.

TB: So within this mayoral term?

BP: Vauxhall is very actively under discussion at the moment, there are also discussions around Euston with HS2 coming in. I am sure that some of these will start changing in the next three to four years, so hopefully we will see some of the [cycling] changes going through in that period.

TB: What about the second pledge to incorporate international best practice on TfL controlled roads?

BP: We are now looking at the Junctions Review on the TLRN (TfL Road Network) with the Go Dutch commitments in mind and we need to talk to you and others and about how you give effect to those principles and how you apply [Go Dutch] differently in different locations: the character of the highway, the level of traffic, the nature of the local area.

TB: You said in your conference speech that more than half the potential for cycling growth is in outer London — but investment in these boroughs has been minimal so far. Can we expect more funding?

 BP: Yes I hope we can. We’ve made a very clear proposal in the current debate around the TfL business plan which will cover the next ten years, and be published just before the end of this year, that we do need to step up the level of investment we can offer to the boroughs, and also on our own account, in Outer London.

And the reason that this is so important is that that is where we will get potential ability to move people from short car journeys to the bicycle, because a lot of the journeys that are cycleable are currently driven and what you want to do is make your local town centres, and the journeys to and from them from the local residential areas, as safe and attractive and convenient as you can. And I think a growing number of outer London boroughs are now very aware of that.

TB: You said that London is already on track to meet the Mayor’s target of a four-fold increase in cycling from 2001 to 2016 — will you therefore be revising the target upwards to meet the mayor’s spoken aspiration of a 20% cycling share of all journeys?

BP: We will clearly need to keep the target under review because it may turn out to be the case that, as the number of people who cycle regularly in London grows, the rate at which you can increase that growth can increase as well. It’s hard to pin down what the tipping point is, but my hunch is that
somewhere between 5 and 10 percent of journeys, which is where we are heading, is where you see a faster rate of growth.

TB: Do you share the Mayor’s view that the Olympic Park can be a test bed of good design for cyclists, and will TfL lobby to ensure this is the case, not allowing the park to follow the example of the very poor cycling facilities we’ve seen around Westfield in Stratford?

BP: Yes I do, and we are currently in discussion with the London Legacy Development Corporation, not just about cycling, but about what sort of place the Olympic Park will eventually turn into in terms of all its urban design standards.

The Olympic Park is a very substantial new city quarter in an area that needs some investment. So I think that we need to make sure that is the outcome, not just in terms of cycle parking standards, but the way the road network looks and feels, how the spaces are designed.

We need to make sure that it’s the first example of what the 21st century will look like because, like the Olympics, it’s a once-in-a-generation opportunity to get that right.

This article first appeared in the Xmas 2012 issue of London Cyclist magazine, delivered free to LCC members every two months.

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TFL have just told Richmond Council that they will not be progressing with a scheme to construct a cycle crossing of the South Circular at Chalkers Corner despite having recently constructed an off-road track alongside the A316 that peters out at that junction. Ben Plowden may be pro-cycling but TFL seems still to be run by some 1960s dinosaurs.

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