LCN and Cycling in London

Review of cycling in London

Many will already know about our campaign success late 2001. LCC successfully lobbied - through its groups, members, activists, friends and contacts  - Ken Livingstone to restore an £8million budget for cycling in London after its omission in the first draft budget. At the same time, we argued that a review of cycling priorities must inform where and how that budget is spent. That "re-conceptualisation "is now underway and is throwing up some interesting issues.

What does it mean?

Nick Lester of the Association of London Government (ALG) suggested that we might be afraid of any word with so many syllables. What hidden plans might be brewing in the planners' minds? Would London's new administration put the capital's cycle route network at risk? Many thought that in establishing a Cycling Centre of Excellence and a Walking Champion, TfL was well on the way to fulfilling the promise of the Mayor's Transport Strategy. Ken Livingstone promised a city for people: accessible, fair, green and prosperous.

London's cyclists had hoped that by now the new administration had begun to deliver a co-ordinated approach to building a cycle friendly city. The former piecemeal approach to building the London Cycle Network (LCN) has provided too many good routes and facilities separated by areas where many cyclists fear to ride. With each local authority working at its own pace and to its own priorities, we have cycle routes without a cycle network.

A strategic review is overdue, so the re-conceptualisation is something we should welcome. That is why LCC is working with TfL on the steering group for this process. That is why we sent four delegates to the TfL consultation meeting in December. We are committed to removing the fears and doubts that the suggested budget cuts had caused among borough cycling and transport planners.

We have won the battle for ongoing and increasing funding for cycling (and walking). For the coming year there is to be £8 million ring fenced for cycling projects. TfL is planning that the total budget for cycling, walking and town centre schemes will rise to £70 million per year by 2004/05.

What do we want for the LCN?

What LCC wants to achieve from being part of the re-conceptualisation process is a network of cycle routes and facilities that will encourage people to choose to cycle for significant trips. These will be for commuting to and around Central London, provide convenient access to important transport hubs, and link up the town centre areas around London. The re-organisation of the LCN directorate, to be led by Camden, with an increased staff and more secure funding, is essential for this to work — and produce something better than the current Network.

It's important to implement the Priority Strategic Routes (PSRs) connecting people to a coherent network of routes in the central area. The PSRs need to be continuous, without problem areas caused by obstacles to cycling along the way. In particular when the Mayor brings in congestion charging cyclists need free access across the boundary at all points. The LCN monitoring reports have already identified some of the other work required.

The new funding regime should allow for more than just capital spending. There needs to be support for monitoring cycle routes and all of London's roads to identify where Londoners are cycling and where there are problems making cycling difficult, for example. The whole street network should be assessed on a regular basis. We can then better assess the facilities as they improve and demonstrate what works and what doesn't. One of the problems in the past has been the lack of reliable data on how many cyclists use which routes. With better resources, LCC could enable proper user representation and involvement local cyclists at the planning stages. Ongoing funding is also required to maintain the quality of routes, especially where signs have disappeared or have been moved.

Town centres within London

The Mayor's transport strategy identifies a need for better access to the many town centres in London, especially in outer areas. Many of these areas are in decline or are strangled by car traffic. Cycling has a crucial role in improving access to these areas. Cycle and walking routes are required to break through the barriers created by large scale roads and inappropriate re-development. This is a new focus in strategic thinking about transport in London.

Linking these centres to the cycle network allows many more people to access them easily, avoiding traffic jams. Where there are stations, easy cycle access with high quality parking will help revive some of the failing rail services.

Looking beyond a network of routes

If the re-conceptualisation process achieves its promise then there should me more than just a network of routes. Consideration for cyclists needs to be included in all transport and regeneration planning. Further still cycling needs to be promoted, this has begun with TfL producing cycle maps for all of London. To be serious about encouraging cycling requires more training for school children, it needs the co-operation of other sectors, especially business and health.

Re-conceptualisation of cycling strategy is not something to be afraid of. It is the opportunity to force some transport strategists to think seriously about cycling for the first time. It should lead to progress towards the Mayor's vision of a city for people, accessible to all.

Charlie Lloyd is a member of LCC's management committee and advises on policy issues.