Cycle Superhighway CS11 ruled out (for now) by Westminster action

Sad news: the High Court has ruled that Westminster Council's judicial review of TfL's action on Cycle Superhighway CS11 cannot be appealed. The likely result is that work to tame the horrific Swiss Cottage gyratory will now be set back years.

The case, as best as we can tell so far, hinged on the point that TfL consulted on a route that included closing gates around Regent's Park, cycle tracks on Portland Place and cycle lanes on Avenue Road as well as tackling the Swiss Cottage junctions, then tried to deliver just one bit of it when push came to shove. This allowed Westminster to mount its challenge - on the grounds that the business case and traffic modelling hadn't been done for Swiss Cottage on its own. Of course, it was delays to other sections of the scheme - including delays dealing with Westminster Council itself - that led to TfL trying to move forward on just Swiss Cottage.

Swiss Cottage needs help

A quick look at the terrifying collision map for Swiss Cottage junction shows in the last five years, around 60 collisions have resulted in injuries around the junction. That’s 12 people a year seen by emergency services. And one a year on average for a serious injury, one every five is killed. That’s far too many. Of those, the bulk are happening to three groups: pedestrians, cyclists and motorbikers. For each, this complex and often high-speed junction, is resulting in hospital stays, life-altering injuries, families distraught or torn apart.

Measures to prevent this toll have been blocked following Westminster Council’s legal win against Cycle Superhighway CS11 after the High Court ruled TfL could not appeal against a Judicial Review. It is likely TfL and the Mayor and his team will now advance a scheme to tackle the junction - as a standalone Safer Junctions scheme perhaps. But that is likely to require new modelling and a new public consultation - one that is likely to be attacked by the very same forces that attacked Cycle Superhighway CS11. Until the scheme is past all that, likely years from now, more people are likely to be injured, and killed possibly, at the gyratory.

Of course, there’s more to it than just the human toll from collisions. Such a nasty junction represents a barrier so that fewer people walk, cycle or shop here than could, and would, if things were different. That’s the point of the Mayor’s Transport Strategy, of TfL taming our worst junctions, adding public space and cycle tracks. 

Because the outcome of the 'do nothing' alternative, which may satisfy CS11 opponents, is not just collisions, but the congestion, pollution, climate change and inactivity we see daily already – and, in a growing city, set to get even worse. As a result of those who opposed the scheme, Swiss Cottage won’t get fixed any time soon – and every year of delay will mean more cost in terms of collisions, ill health and lost business.

Why did anyone want to stop Swiss Cottage?

The council and campaigners against CS11 say they wanted more data about the risk of traffic being displaced by the scheme away from main roads and onto residential streets. However, this is a common refrain across London, and specifically from Westminster. It is unlikely that more modelling, more data would have satisfied Westminster, and there are obvious measures the borough itself could take to mitigate any displacement if it was so concerned - such as filtering streets or areas into "low traffic neighbourhoods".

On top of that, Camden, where Swiss Cottage actually sits, supported the scheme and did not appear to voice such concerns. Indeed, our Infrastructure Campaigner sat in a summer of meetings with TfL officers, and representatives of key groups against CS11 and officers from Westminster Council where it was made clear the Swiss Cottage section had been amended and was not likely to displace anywhere near as much traffic as first feared.

However, some people and some councils will use any and every reason going to avoid changing roads, particularly when those changes are away from motor vehicles and towards more walking, and particularly towards more cycling. Westminster Council also opposed and is blocking the Lambeth Bridge scheme - stopping progress on the northern roundabout in their borough, that has been named the most dangerous roundabout in the UK, again because of fears of traffic displacement (and the removal of a palm tree).

Weaning Westminster off the car

It is understandable that Westminster's residents fear even more traffic on their already polluted and clogged streets. But the answer is not to accept traffic levels as they are now, but to reduce them by mitigating current schemes and building more schemes. As well as schemes like CS11,

Westminster residents must work with organisations like us to close off ratruns, push for "School Streets" that limit motor traffic near schools, lobby their borough to reduce car parking and restrict car access increasingly. Fighting for a status quo where pollution kills near 10,000 Londoners early a year, inactivity far more (while crippling the NHS), where we have less than 12 years to take drastic action on climate change and where people continue to be seriously injured every year so people, many from outside London all together, can save a few minutes on their drive to the west end should not be an acceptable answer for anyone. Particularly not for Westminster Council, its Councillors and its residents.

We hope Westminster's residents demand the borough now works actively with the Mayor, the Walking & Cycling Commissioner and TfL to deliver safe cycling on Portland Place, through Regent's Park, on Avenue Road and at Swiss Cottage, and to reduce motor traffic on their streets too, rather than continue to accept a far too high level of cycling collisions, injuries and fatalities and a motor-traffic dominated, polluted Westminster. We also hope that until that happens, TfL and the Mayor moves forward independent schemes outside of Westminster in Regent's Park and at Swiss Cottage working with Camden, The Royal Parks and The Crown Estates Paving Commission to deliver safer cycling and walking.