London’s main roads are its traffic arteries: they lead to the commercial, business, and transport hubs of town centres and in and out of central London.
Often people need to cycle along main roads because that's where shops and workplaces are, or these streets form the most direct routes.
The characteristics that make main roads suitable for general transport – directness and navigability – are as true for cycling as for any other mode of street transport.
In fact, the directness of main roads is of particular value for cycling because the bicycle is a human-powered vehicle.
Guidance from the UK and other countries highlights the importance of directness for cycling trips.
However, currently on nearly all of London’s main roads, cyclists must share the same road space as high volumes of fast-moving motor vehicles, often including large numbers of heavy goods vehicles.
The potential for serious and fatal collisions is ever present and, tragically, this has occurred time and time again.
The promotion and facilitation of cycling in recent years is welcome, but it has become increasingly clear that the design standards that have been implemented are not fit for purpose and fall well short of international best practice.
To make cycling safe on main roads requires high-quality infrastructure that caters for the needs of all cyclists.
There should be protected space such that a wide range of people feel able to cycle and feel comfortable about using our main roads.
To achieve this, usually some form of physical measure is needed to separate motor traffic from protected cycle lanes, with special attention being given to junctions to ensure that conflicts do not occur.
Why main roads?
It may be asked why use main roads at all for cycling? Why not just use residential roads and green spaces? The answer is that, as stated above, main roads provide a direct route to many key destinations, and are easy to follow because of their more direct alignment.
Providing other types of cycle routes that use, for example, residential streets or green spaces are welcome, and can often be suitable for many types of walking and cycling journeys.
However, direct routes, especially for ‘utility’ trips such as commuting, are best provided for along main roads, and that is where much of the recent growth of cycling has occurred (especially Transport for London’s Red Routes).
Also, main road routes provide another type of security, especially at night, when people feel safer from crime when riding along routes that are more likely to have other people using them.
Many quieter routes can lack this quality due to their remoteness especially at night.
Just as importantly, people have as much right to use a bicycle on a main road as anyone else using any other form of transport.
Cycling is a net contributor in an economic and social sense, and the funding used to facilitate cycling on main roads is an investment whose benefit-to-cost ratio exceeds any other form of transport investment many times over due to the health benefits of cycling from physical activity.
Main roads are generally part of the TLRN (Transport for London Road Network), which is managed by Transport for London.
This means that unlike local roads, they are not under the direct control of local councils.
However, changes to TLRN roads are still negotiated locally, so if councillors are willing to support high-quality protected space, this can make a real difference.
What does this mean at ward level?
It might mean campaigning for...
- Support from candidates for installing high quality dedicated space on a local main road
- Support from candidates for upgrading currently inadequate infrastructure on main roads