Mayor launches three new Quietways, but where’s the quality?

(The video was shot with information that the Mayor would attend the launch, but he did not.)

Today, at the junction of Newcomen Street and Borough High Street, the Walking and Cycling Commissioner, Will Norman, formally opened three new sections of Quietway on behalf of the Mayor of London.

The new sections are on the routes of Quietway 14 in Southwark, Quietway 22 in Newham and Quietway 6 in Redbridge. All three new sections have elements of high-quality cycling infrastructure to add to London’s growing list. However all three Quietways fail at key moments repeatedly and stand in stark contrast to the high-quality and continuous protected cycle tracks that are successfully increasing cycling rates in central London.

The current low quality of the Quietways programme stands in contrast to the Mayor’s commitment to make London a “byword for cycling”, in part by meeting the promise he made to LCC to triple the mileage of protected space for cycling on main roads during his first term – a commitment he is currently on track to dramatically undershoot.

We know quiet streets, and indeed Quietways, do increase the number of people cycling and will be a vital part of the cycling network – not all journeys will be on main roads. “Low traffic neighbourhoods” in Hackney, Waltham Forest and elsewhere demonstrate clearly what happens when you do it right by closing off through routes to motor traffic across an area – walking and cycling levels go up dramatically with a wider range of people doing both, the community flourishes and kids play out. And the same approach as in Hackney and Waltham Forest is now being advocated in the City of London’s amazing transport strategy, and indeed is used partially along Quietway 14.

The issue, however, is that the interventions and infrastructure that make a Quietway quiet (like the bollard stopping through motor traffic that Will Norman stood beside on Newcomen Street), aren’t along the whole of the routes. On Quietway 14, the genuinely quiet, filtered areas of the route are bookended by ratruns where taxis, mopeds, delivery vans and those cycling all mix together across complex junctions with poor sightlines. The same route, nearby, in both directions, is anything but quiet.

Until Quietways offer long, continuous sections of quiet and comfortable riding, that do not involve long and excessive detours, they will not enable a wider range of people to cycle, nor will they enable London to become a “byword for cycling”. The City of London clearly recognises what is needed to make a street “quiet” enough for cycling going forward. Does the Mayor? Not on the basis of what we have seen announced today.

Not only are Quietways often not quiet, the quality of them seems to be dependent on the borough they run through. Quietways can be excellent as they pass through one borough, only to fall apart when they cross into a neighbouring borough. And that exposes another weakness in the Mayor’s plans: while the City of London, Waltham Forest, Enfield, Hounslow and others move forward on cycling and walking, other boroughs such as Westminster are dragging their heels or fighting against schemes. And this shows in Quietways – whose quality is more often than not decided by the borough’s ambition on cycling, rather than a common quality bar or design guide. That’s not directly his fault, but the Mayor needs to start playing hardball with boroughs who don’t step up.

We want more quiet routes such as Quietways. We want more protected cycle tracks on main roads, as we were promised. We don’t want more delays, or dodgy claims of hundreds of kilometres of cycling ”infrastructure”, when most of those kilometres don’t provide the traffic reduction needed to attract more people, and a wider range of them, to cycle.

Our press release on this issue, released today, is here.