Mayor doubles London’s cycle tracks

Speaking at the London Walking & Cycling Conference, the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, and his Walking & Cycling Commissioner, Will Norman, have made a series of announcements regarding cycling. The key one being that they have successfully in this term doubled the mileage of protected space for cycling on main roads in London since his election in May 2016. This puts him on track to fulfil the promise he made to us all during LCC's "Sign for Cycling" election campaign.

TfL says that 116km of “protected cycle lanes” are now “complete or under construction” since the Mayor’s election in May 2016, and that 53km where in place at that point. This means the Mayor has to deliver a further 43km before the end of this term – and he is on track according to TfL to achieve that.

The Mayor used his speech at the London Walking & Cycling Conference (co-organised by City and Hackney councils) to tell a “tale of two cities” where boroughs including Enfield, Hackney, Camden, Waltham Forest and City of London were pushing forward on cycling infrastructure, while opposition and inaction from boroughs including Westminster is “harming the health of Londoners”.

The Mayor also announced the Healthy Streets TfL budget has increased to over £2.3bn despite increasing pressure on its finances, and full detail was unveiled for TfL’s quality criteria now being applied to ensure the authority won’t “build or fund new routes that aren’t up to scratch”. The Mayor said the criteria would mean new cycle routes are “for cyclists of all ages, all abilities and from all walks of life”. Also at the conference it was finally confirmed that Quietway and Cycle Superhighway branding is being replaced with a unified “Cycleway” branding – with some routes being re-numbered to create a unified numbering system.

Cycle tracks

It’s great news that Sadiq is on track to fulfil his pledge to our members and all Londoners to triple the mileage of protected space by the next election. With less than a year to go, it’s vitally important the Mayor, TfL, and particularly the boroughs, pull out all the stops to deliver the cycling network Londoners deserve and need to ensure the city can keep moving sustainably and healthily.

However, while the Mayor’s mileage claim is very welcome, it bears some scrutiny. The Mayor and his team are being somewhat coy thus far about exactly what he is and isn’t counting towards this tally – it appears that the Greenway Quietway getting lighting doesn’t count as a new scheme, but do minor works to existing A40 shared space? More worrying, nearly all of the distance delivered thus far comes from schemes well underway during Boris Johnson and Andrew Gilligan’s term – schemes that were already consulted on, have had no substantial redesign, and just required a sign-off to begin construction.

20km comes from Cycle Superhighways, 5km from Quietways, 17km from other schemes such as Stratford gyratory, Highbury Corner and Westminster Bridge south and 21km from the mini-Hollands – notably Enfield’s semi-segregated network and Waltham Forest work on Lea Bridge Road. All of these schemes were already in train under Sadiq’s predecessor as far as we can tell. Even Cycle Superhighways (or Cycleways as they are now rebranded) CS4 and CS9 had been extensively worked on before the election – and they are yet to begin construction.

The routes Sadiq can confidently claim as his own include the replacement to Boris’ proposed Westway flyover cycle track – a set of neighbourhood schemes running from Wood Lane, through Shepherd’s Bush and on to Notting Hill Gate – and the scheme from central Hackney to the edges of Canary Wharf, both currently in consultation.

Also set for consultation in 2019 are routes taken from TfL’s Strategic Cycling Analysis of highest potential corridoors: Camden - Tottenham Hale; Dalston - Lea Bridge Road; Rotherhithe – Peckham; Ilford - Barking Riverside; and Wembley - Willesden; as well as potentially the proposed Rotherhithe to Canary Wharf bridge, that would link Cycle Superhighway CS4 and the Rotherhithe - Peckham route to Canary Wharf and on to Hackney.

All of these routes, however, are yet to get through consultation – which can be a bumpy ride, as the Kensington & Chelsea schemes are certainly experiencing already. Unless Sadiq gets lucky, and pushes hard, he could still yet easily miss his targets. After all, he has taken three years thus far to add 63km, now he has less than a year to add 43km more. On top of that, there are worrying signs he hasn’t been made aware that what he is set to build isn’t what is required to really deliver on cycling.

TfL’s Quality Criteria

LCC has had early sight of TfL’s cycling quality criteria, and we have a major concern around it. Its launch confirms this – it simply doesn’t set the bar high enough to guarantee, as Sadiq says, that only schemes that will enable “cyclists of all ages, all abilities and from all walks of life” will be funded.

The biggest issue is of the six interlinked criteria, that the one for motor traffic volume is set far too high. As currently set, the criteria falls far from Dutch CROW manual guidance, far from LCC policy that is based on that guidance, and far from what is clearly needed to enable cyclists “of all ages, all abilities” to cycle in comfort.

The criteria gives a green light to motor traffic volumes where people cycling mix with motorised traffic “where there are fewer than 500 motor vehicles per hour (vph – two-way) at peak times, and preferably fewer than 200vph.” 500 motor vehicles in the peak hour means people of “all ages, all abilities” would be expected to mix with up to eight motor vehicles a minute passing them. Or, put another way, 500 vehicles in a peak hour generally translate to around 5,000 vehicles a day – which is lower than most main roads, but makes for a very busy and hostile ratrun.

As the criteria are currently set, TfL’s approach will remove the worst cycle schemes that previously would have been funded – blue paint Cycle Superhighways, paint and sign only Quietways down mega-ratruns. But “all ages, all abilities” cycling will remain far out of reach for many schemes that will pass the criteria with flying colours.

Already we’re seeing schemes come forward that are indirect, that go down ratruns with no interventions, and that use shared space crossings of main roads that presumably pass this criteria. If the Mayor wants to truly deliver on his promise to make cycling something for people “from all walks of life”, these criteria will need urgent revision.