Manchester set to steal London’s cycling crown?

Mayor Sadiq Khan has admitted he has only built 14km of cycle tracks since coming to power. Our work-in-progress London cycle infrastructure map shows that compared to that, during Boris Johnson’s Mayoralty, London gained 41km of main road TfL physically-protected cycle tracks and a further 39km from borough schemes.

Nearly all of Johnson's progress came in the last two years of his second term - which is why we asked Khan to repeat that rate of progress across four years in our #signforcycling election campaign. But Khan’s currently slow progress means that to achieve his pledge to triple the mileage of protected cycle tracks on main roads that Johnson achieved in two years, in his first term, Khan and the boroughs will have to build over 150km of cycle track (or discounting borough-led schemes will need to build over 80km).

What London needs

Since Khan’s election to Mayor, the 14km of track begun or completed includes the North-South Cycle Superhighway extension, the East-West Cycle Superhighway through some of the Royal Parks and track on schemes including Archway and Westminster Bridge. Borough schemes begun or completed amounts to nearly 15km and includes Boston Manor Road, the Stratford gyratory and schemes in the Waltham Forest and Enfield mini-Holland areas.

To achieve the #signforcycling tripling, our map suggests that the Mayor will need to complete CS4, CS9, CS11 and the six announced new strategic routes. If you add in borough schemes, he will need to do everything consulted on thus far (such as Nine Elms, Five Ways and the Canary Wharf – Rotherhithe bridge), everything the boroughs have announced so far, and find some more schemes from elsewhere to add on top.

Khan admitted the slow rate of progress following questioning from London Assembly member Caroline Russell. Khan also said he had delivered “over 100km of Quietways” and that “the mini-Holland, Quietways and central London grid programmes are also delivering some segregated space too. By 2020 more than 30km of additional protected space will have been delivered through these three programmes.”

What's the problem?

Khan suggested that the slow pace of delivery was down to boroughs, saying: “TfL is responsible for just 5% of London’s roads… If the councils work with us, we can do it... But we can’t impose these Cycle Superhighways. It’s a waste of taxpayers’ money to be bringing court cases against these cycle lanes that we desperately need.” [Referring to recent moves by Westminster Council to launch a judicial review against Cycle Superhighway CS11]

Khan and his new Deputy Mayor for Transport Heidi Alexander, as well as Walking & Cycling Commissioner Will Norman can blame the boroughs, but they face competition from another major UK city that seems to have solved that particular issue and are clearly ambitious to steal London’s crown as the UK’s premier cycling city.

Manchester on the rise

Chris Boardman, the Walking & Cycling Commissioner for Greater Manchester has announced his ambitious “Beelines” programme as the first phase in his programme to transform Manchester for walking and cycling. Boardman has secured £500 million of funding to deliver 25 filtered (or “low traffic”) neighbourhoods as well as up to 240km of cycle track (it is unclear whether the pledge to deliver “75 miles” of track counts each direction or not, as we do), with over 1,600km of safe walking and cycling routes total to connect all the major Manchester centres and regions. The Greater Manchester Mayor, Andy Burnham, and Boardman say this is only the first step in a planned £1.5bn longer-term approach.

Most starkly, Boardman has met with and got routes and schemes initially approved from all of the councils that make up Greater Manchester, while Khan is still grappling with boroughs that refuse to embrace walking and cycling, and while Khan, Alexander and Norman seem very concerned about the dreaded “bikelash”, and wary of any moves that will upset residents, motorists and businesses, Boardman has been clear that on his watch, consultations will not be treated as a referendum and the case for building these schemes is clear. The Beelines document says: “Consultation offers a chance for all those affected to be heard. However, political leadership may also be required to ensure weight is given to positive change supported by the majority.”

With Burnham and Boardman taking bold strides to make Manchester the UK’s premier cycling city, Khan needs to get a move on to if he wants to retain that title for London.