London Cycling Campaign sets three key tests for success of central London Cycling Grid

In responding to Transport for London's consultation on the Central London Grid for cycling,  LCC's Chief Executive, Ashok Sinha, set outs three key tests for the Mayor and the Central London boroughs:

The Central London Grid (CLG) is a hugely important and exciting project. Originally conceived by the London Cycling Campaign in 2009, and now being backed and developed by Mayor Boris Johnson in partnership with central London boroughs, the CLG is both literally and figuratively at the heart of the Mayor’s Vision for Cycling in London.

LCC congratulated the Mayor at the time of the Vision’s publication for its groundbreaking ambition and its defined, funded, programmes to support cycling; we also praised him for starting to make good his promises to the tens of thousands of Londoners who supported LCC’s Love London, Go Dutch campaign.

In the same way as the Vision’s ‘Mini-Hollands’ should prove the case that the immense potential for cycling in Outer London can be unlocked so too should the CLG be transformative in cementing London’s position as a world class city in which to live, work, do business and spend leisure time.

Indeed, thanks to the Mayor, London already has a world-class Cycle Hire scheme; as LCC said at the time, what better than to also create a high-quality environment for cycling within the centre for those who use it?

A centre that can be safely and easily traversed by bike is also what increasing numbers of businesses in London want to see happen, for the benefit of their workers and to attract new international talent to the capital.

The hire bikes have become a major selling point for London; so too can be the CLG.

A high-quality CLG is also essential as central hub that will connect the Cycle Superhighways, and from which improved facilitation for cycling can be built outwards.

Those who arrive in central London on the Superhighways (which the Mayor has also promised will be upgraded to the highest standards) deserve not to be cast adrift in what is often a hostile and sometimes hazardous environment for cycling.

It's only fair that instead they are able to continue their journeys safely, enjoyably and directly to their ultimate destinations. Done well, the CLG will enable this.

The key tests of TfL’s current CLG proposals can be summarised as follows:

1. Convenience: Does the CLG as currently envisaged provide a convenient network, such that any journey that a member of the public might wish to make within the centre can be made easily and directly by bike?

2. Quality: Is the planned quality of provision suitable for cyclists of all ages and abilities, as it should be?

3. Capacity: Does it provide enough capacity to not only better facilitate existing cycling levels but unlock cycling’s potential to be one of the mass transport modes of choice in the centre (second only to walking)?

In examining Transport for London’s CLG proposals, we've come to the conclusion that while they have much to commend them, they also fall short in a number of ways, most notably in respect to:

(a) the insufficient coverage, continuity and directness of the planned network; and

(b) the lack of confirmation of quality and capacity standards.

As a result, we're still giving our backing to the Mayor for the CLG, but calling on him – as well the boroughs involved - to guarantee that:

1. The pre-2016 phase of the CLG will provide a coherent (albeit initially coarse-grained) cycle network for central London. This will proved the basis for a subsequent and rapid increase in the density of routes during the early years of the next mayoralty to create a centre that is easily and safely navigable by bike throughout.

2. The highest quality of provision will be adopted as standard from the outset, with cyclists benefiting from physically separated lanes where motor traffic speeds are greater than 20 mph or volumes are higher than 2,000 PCU/day (as is the standard for urban spaces in the Netherlands).

3. The CLG will have sufficient capacity to enable cycling to become the prime means of typical journeys in central London (after walking). The pre-2016 CLG must have capacity that is consistent with this objective.

The importance of the boroughs

Local politicians also have a vital role to play. Political will is the key ingredient to enabling Londoners to enjoy streets that are as “safe and inviting for cycling as they are in Holland” – as promised to LCC’s supporters by the Mayor - but displaying such will is not just the responsibility of him alone.

It is an oft-cited fact that 95% of London’s roads are not with the City Hall/TfL’s control and it is therefore transparent that London’s Boroughs have an equal responsibility to make cycling safe and enjoyable for all. In the case of the CLG, the boroughs involved will be held to account by Londoners in the same way as the Mayor for the level of political will and ambition they show.

It is therefore hugely encouraging that the boroughs are working in partnership with each other and City Hall to create the CLG; it hasn’t always been obvious in the past that such partnership would have been welcomed by many parties and this a very good start. But it is clear that there is much more that some boroughs can and should do (and in this regard it is very disappointing that LB Tower Hamlets is not present at the table).

The concerns – at times objections - of local residents must of course be taken seriously, but at the same time no progress is ever challenge-free. Those boroughs which are currently withholding approval for CLG plans at critical locations must look to the bigger and wider picture, engage their residents, and if necessary take some political risks in support of the project – after all, the CLG will ultimately be hugely good for the quality of life for everyone in central London.

To this we can add the Royal Parks whose co-operation will be essential if the CLG is not to be blighted by major discontinuities within an otherwise high quality network. The Royal Parks appear to be similarly withholding consent at certain locations, apparently because of unfounded concerns about pedestrian safety and comfort.

LCC therefore calls on all the boroughs concerned and the Royal Parks to ensure that they do not block progress at key nodes and links within the CLG. The same leadership qualities are expected of them as of City Hall, and large numbers of Londoners will similarly back them too when they make hard choices to support cycling.

It is vitally important that by the time Mayor Boris Johnson comes to the end of his current term of office in 2016, the unprecedented funding allocated in his Vision for Cycling for flagship programmes such as the CLG is spent, and spent well.

The CLG must by that time offer high quality infrastructure and facilitation for cycling that is being used and valued by the swelling number of Londoners and visitors to our city who cycle in central London, or who wish to do so but are deterred by the dangers they face.

The Mayor will undoubtedly want to be remembered not just for having a Vision for Cycling, but for delivering it. Improving the current CLG plans as LCC has described will be a quintessential part of this delivery. The boroughs and Royal Parks must also recognise the public support that exists for a high quality CLG, and do more to play their full role in achieving it.

Ashok Sinha
Chief Executive
London Cycling Campaign

more GRID details here

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