Campaign: Cycle Superhighways & Why They’re So Important

 This article was originally published in the December 2014 edition of London Cyclist

With the public consultations now completed, what should we expect from the proposed Cycle Superhighways? Rosie Downes looks at the plans

In 2012, the Mayor promised LCC that he’d deliver all new Cycle Superhighways to best continental standards. And we’ve been getting impatient. But in September, Transport for London released designs that, if implemented to a high standard, could represent a major step forward in creating streets that are safe and inviting for cycling.

Three schemes were finishing their consultation stage as this issue of London Cyclist went to press: an East-West Cycle Superhighway, a two-way, kerb-segregated track that would replace a traffic lane along much of the route from Tower Hill to Acton; a North-South Cycle Superhighway from Elephant & Castle to King’s Cross; and the upgrade to Cycle Superhighway 2 (CS2) between Aldgate and Bow roundabout — a route on which six cyclists have died since 2011.

More than 14,000 people responded to the North-South and East-West consultations, with more than 7,000 via LCC — one of the ‘highest responses ever’ according to TfL — with 80 percent of that number supportive of the plans. But a minority, described by the Guardian’s Dave Hill as “a subversive combination of Square Mile planning officers and chauffeur driven suits”, have been less positive. So why have the Cycle Superhighways been so contentious — and why is it so important that they go ahead?

 

 

The Good


These proposals are, in many ways, what we and other cycle campaigners are calling ‘game changers’. There’s the 4-metre wide, protected cycle track along the river on Victoria Embankment. The introduction of (a version of ) what we call the ‘Cycle Segregated’ junction design — which, if implemented properly, allows all traffic to go in the same direction at once, removing the risk of lethal ‘left hook’ or ‘right hook’ collisions. There’s the slip road from the northern junction of Blackfriars Bridge onto Embankment, which is shown in the plans as a two-way cycle-only route. There are banned turns, and relocation and removal of parking and loading bays on Victoria Embankment too. It’s also good news for pedestrians, with 21 new signalised crossings and a net footway gain of 5,076 square metres.

 

The Bad


Of course, the designs aren’t perfect. There are junctions on all the routes that we don’t feel are safe enough — some are overly complicated and many haven’t designed out the notorious ‘left-hook’ risk. The tracks are also too narrow in places.

Not enough has been done to ensure the connectivity of the routes either. How people will get from Tower Bridge onto the route is a real concern — the current proposals could actually make it more dangerous for cyclists.

CS2 is also home to the notorious Bow roundabout, where three cyclist fatalities have occurred since 2011 — yet further improvements to Bow roundabout are still a long way off. TfL says it will be consulting on its proposals for the ‘Vision for Bow’ this winter. Then there’s the section of the CS2 upgrade plans where the segregation disappears altogether — which we’ve made clear is completely unacceptable.

We’ve outlined our recommendations clearly to TfL in our responses and you can read these on our website (lcc.org.uk/cycle-superhighways).

 

And the Ugly


Despite the details we’ve got concerns about, it’s clear that these schemes, if implemented properly, are a very good thing. But while we’ve seen overwhelming support for the proposals throughout the consultation period, we’ve also seen some negativity.

The City of London Corporation recently published a report suggesting it could block the proposals, although subsequent information suggests this was a tactical move to keep TfL on its toes, and the City has said it is supportive of the plans in general.

More disconcertingly, we’ve had to call for a TfL board member to step aside from discussions on the new Cycle Superhighways schemes due to a conflict of interest. Peter Anderson, Finance Director of Canary Wharf Group PLC — the group behind a damaging and inaccurate briefing against the Superhighway proposals — also sits on TfL’s board. We made our feelings on this known clearly to the GLA and, at the time of writing, TfL was seeking legal advice on whether Peter Anderson should be involved in any such discussions.

We hope they’ll make the right decision. Because while they’re not perfect, it’s essential that these plans go ahead. Here are just a few reasons why…

Cycle Superhighways will keep London moving


“There will be a 40 percent increase in people working in central London boroughs over the coming decades. Promoting cycling will not be the cause of congestion, it will be essential to keeping London moving,” says Ashok Sinha, LCC’s chief executive.

On all the routes, according to TfL, some journey times are predicted to go up, and some down. But, as TfL admits, its predictions don’t take into account the reduction in traffic levels as a result of people changing their behaviour, which is often the result of reallocation of road space of this kind.

New York has found that since installing protected bicycle lanes there’s been a reduction of vehicle volumes as road users shifted to other modes — and journey times have improved.

Cycle Superhighways are good for business


CyclingWorks has gathered support from a huge number of leading organisations. At the time of writing more than 160 employers, including Microsoft, RBS, Orange, Deloitte and Unilever, have spoken out in support of the Cycle Superhighway proposals (see cyclingworks.london).

On CS2, traders from Whitechapel Market have expressed concerns about the impact the plans will have on their trade. But at present cycling on this route is so intimidating that people don’t dare stop to see what the market has to offer. Tower Hamlets Wheelers recently organised a ‘buy in’ at the market  which was an opportunity for cyclists to exercise their purchasing power directly with the traders, to understand their concerns, and to show that improving cycling infrastructure can help local business.

In New York, local businesses saw an increase in sales of up to 49 percent when a protected lane was installed.

 

Cycle Superhighways will save lives

Tragically, two people have died in just six months at Ludgate Circus. Both deaths were the result of being run over by 32-tonne waste container lorries typically used in the construction industry. If the new Cycle Superhighways had been in place as per the proposals, these cyclists would have been in protected space while waiting at the lights, and the redesign would have meant no motor traffic would be turning across their paths while they were crossing the junction.

We’re also aware of at least two serious collisions involving cyclists that have taken place on CS2 during the consultation period alone.

Cycle Superhighways will get people cycling


Thousands of Londoners would like to cycle, but don’t feel able to because they’re afraid of the danger posed by motor traffic. By providing safe space for cycling, more people will choose cycling over other congested modes of travel. Both the East-West and North-South Superhighways each have a capacity of around 3,000 cyclists an hour in both directions — a capacity equivalent to 10 London Underground train loads. Cyclists already make up between 30-50 percent of traffic at points on these routes.

Despite the poor infrastructure and hostile conditions currently on CS2, the number of cyclists increased by 32 percent in the year after the route opened and at times the road carries around 2,000 cyclists a day in each direction.  Providing safe space for cycling along this route could mean it’s a viable option for thousands more who don’t currently feel it’s safe enough.

Let’s make this happen!


As this issue goes to print, almost 9,000 responses have been sent to TfL via LCC in support of the North-South and East-West Superhighways and CS2 upgrade. Thanks to everyone who responded to the consultations and got friends, family and colleagues to make their voices heard.

With your support, we’re one step closer to a city where it’s safe and inviting to cycle.

MORE INFO

For updates and further campaign actions on these and other Cycle Superhighways, log on to lcc.org.uk/cycle-superhighways