Tell TfL it's vital the BikeGrid is a genuinely safe and inviting network of cycle routes in central London
- By London Cycling Campaign on at 11:00pm 5 February 2014
- Posted in: News and blogs
- Tagged with: Zone 1, consultation, bikegrid, superhighways
Cornwall Road, parallel to Waterloo Road, uses bollards to remove through motor traffic, as does Shoe Lane below. They show how inexpensive bollards can create Space for Cycling (and walking)
Make your views known to Transport for London
It's really important that you email Transport for London's to tell them their plans for the BikeGrid are flawed, and need to be changed in line with our recommendations.
Please email Transport for London with your views at email@example.com, and we urge you to make the following points:
- The BikeGrid must be designed in a way that makes it suitable for all people who ride bicycles, not just slow or novice cyclists.
- Removing through motor traffic (using bollards, for example) should be a core principle of the BikeGrid, helping to ensure no-one cycles on a street with motor vehicles over 20mph or more than 2000 PCUs (passenger car units) per day.
- Cycle routes should be direct, with safe and convenient crossings of minor and main roads, in particular the inner ring road and the River Thames.
- There should be a coherent network of routes, without major gaps that force people on to streets that are unpleasant or dangerous to cycling.
- The BikeGrid should be delivered in a reasonable time, with 12 months as a realistic timetable.
A BikeGrid to our specifications would improve the public space along the grid routes, benefiting residents and businesses, while still maintaining access for deliveries and parking.
NB: The consultation is only open until Friday 14 February 2014. Please respond today.
The time is right for the BikeGrid
The BikeGrid is excellent idea and, if done properly, could provide central London with an urgently needed network of safe, comfortable and convenient routes.
The population of central and inner London is rising, with car use falling, and cycling doubling in a decade.
Now's the perfect time to create a coherent central London network of cycle routes that's suitable for cyclists of all abilties.
We first proposed a central London BikeGrid back in 2009 to coincide with the arrival of the Cycle Hire scheme, and while TfL listened to our proposals at the time, they ultimately rejected them.
Our BikeGrid idea was revived by Mayor Boris Johnson in his March 2013 Vision for Cycling, which was written in the wake of our successful Love London, Go Dutch campaign, which pushed cycling up the transport agenda.
Now there's a danger the implementation will be done badly, which means the project will fail to provide the cycling provision London desperately needs.
What's wrong with the Mayor's BikeGrid proposal?
1. The proposal thinks cycle routes can be slow and designed only for novice cyclists
We agree with the principle that the BikeGrid should provide safe and comfortable cycling routes on smaller streets away from the mass of motor traffic on main roads.
However, the routes must always follow streets that are direct enough to allow convenient journeys for people of all cycling abilities.
There's a major concern that the Mayor’s proposals will design routes just for slow cyclists, with the TfL's BikeGrid FAQs document saying:
"Quietway routes are slower than the main roads. They are not aimed at speedy commuter cyclists, who will almost certainly stick with the fast main roads. Instead, they are intended for people who want to avoid the main roads and want to take it more slowly and calmly. We want to attract this new type of cyclist, who wants to cycle because traffic is lighter and travelling slower, and there are fewer or no heavy goods vehicles on the roads."
These statements miss the point that, if designed properly, cycle routes on quieter streets can actually provide faster journeys than stop-start routes on busy main roads.
On a well-designed BikeGrid route, faster cyclists should find they're cycling at a more relaxed speed than they would on a main road, but because the routes give them priority, their journey times should be shorter.
Worryingly, the Mayor's proposals are likely to create routes that result in longer cycling journey times, which is a major concern because experience has shown time and time again that routes that increase journey times don't attract large numbers of cyclists.
It's vital that BikeGrid should give cycling traffic priority over other small roads, and introduce minimal delay when crossing main roads.
2. There's no guarantee of direct routes or the removal one-way streets
Under the Mayor's proposals, there’s no indication as to the quality of cycling provision that will be put in place.
Many routes are not direct, forcing cyclists to make inconvenient detours, including around existing one-way systems.
A central tenet of the Mayor's proposals should be to acknowledge the negative impact of the many one-way streets and rat-runs that make cycling in central London such a nightmare, and to make these streets two-way for cycling.
You can see an example of the mass of one-way streets in this tiny section of Westminster:
3. There's no guarantee individual routes will be safe or comfortable for cycling
Under the Mayor’s proposals, cyclists will still be exposed to high volumes of fast motor traffic, contrary to LCC’s demand (based on international standards) that protected cycle lanes should be installed where motor speeds are above 20mph and the maximum volume of motor traffic is 2000 PCUs or over per day.
(PCU stands for Passenger Car Unit, a technical term that describes how much space a vehicle occupies compared to a car: 1 car = 1 PCU; a bicycle = 0.2 PCU; motorcycle = 0.4; LGV = 1; Bus = 2; HGV = 3)
These allow residents to access their homes by car, including parking, and access for deliveries, but it dramatically improve the environment for cycling and walking.
At present, there's no indication that this will be the core type of intervention, and there's a worry many streets will be simply left as they are now, which is as show below (credit: Rachel Aldred), with cyclists forced to share road space with motor traffic in a hostile environment:
4. The proposal lacks a coherent network of cycle routes
It sounds obvious but a central London BikeGrid network must have a coherent network, which allows useful journeys across the city, without large gaps that force cyclists on to streets that are dangerous or unfriendly to cycling.
Worringly, the Mayor’s proposal proposal for the BikeGrid looks like it has been put together by nine separate transport authorities (it straddles eight boroughs and the Royal Parks), rather than forming a single planned network.
For example, the density of routes varies massively:
- In Westminster there are significantly fewer routes, some of which lack important links. Ealing LCC activist Martin Gorst produced the map below, which shows the Mayor's BikeGrid proposal on which he's superimposed yellow bars showing the missing links.
- In Lambeth (see below), the proposals cover so many tiny streets that it will be impossible to deliver any suitable through-routes in a reasonable time.
- In Tower Hamlets, there's nothing (see below), not even any proposed safe crossings of the horrific ring-road.
- Routes through parks are an essential part of the BikeGrid and need to be open 24 hours.
We're still working on our map of what we think the final BikeGrid routes should, but the map below shows a snapshot of our progress, and gives an idea of what routes should be like.
The core principle should be to provide a coherent network of through-routes that can be delivered quickly to deliver maximum value.
5. Delivery of the BikeGrid project is going to be much too slow
£54.4 million has been allocated to delivering the BikeGrid, but there’s no clear spending timetable.
Transport for London says the first improvements will be delivered by late 2014, with at least half the Grid area in place by 2016.
This is much too slow: our city urgently needs a central London cycle network, and the Mayor should be adopting our low-intervention proposals - using bollards and such like to remove through motor traffic - in order to provide maximum benefit in the minimum time.
6. The BikeGrid and Superhighway projects are being conflated
Another problem with the Mayor’s proposal is that it mixes up the central London BikeGrid project with the Cycle Superhighways project.
Our vision of the Grid is for routes that are low intervention (bollards to remove through motor traffic), which can be delivered quickly and at low cost.
The Superhighways, because they’re on main roads, require a degree of high intervention in the form of protected lanes.
Mixing the two projects is a recipe for confusion of objectives, and is likely delay delivery.
Cycle-friendly treatments for existing mass cycling streets
There are several routes within central London that already have very high cycling flows, many bus routes, and heavy motor traffic
For example, on Theobald's Road cyclists make up 64% of the traffic in the morning peak hours (see below, credit Toby Jacobs).
Similarly, Shoreditch-Borough High Street has very high flows of cyclists in the morning peak
Despite the high cycling flows, these streets are hazardous, with high cycling casuality rates.
We’re calling for the creation of a separately funded project to deliver Space for Cycling on these major cycle flow routes, with Theobalds Road-Clerkenwell Road being used as a pilot.
We propose that through private motor traffic is removed or diverted on to other routes, creating Space for Cycling as well as buses.