The Mayor's Cycling Commissioner Andrew Gilligan tells us about his new role.

Andrew Gilligan talks to Tom Bogdanowicz about his new role as Cycling Commisioner and the exciting times ahead for London's cyclists.

TB: You’re London’s first Cycling Commissioner — what is your vision for cycling in London?

AG: I want to make it normal, to broaden it out beyond the current demographic. At the moment cyclists are disproportionably white and male. We need to broaden the age range, the gender mix, and the social background of cyclists. Our policies are aimed at cyclists, and at people who would like to cycle: to give them the confidence, the routes, the treatments to the roads that they need. Our policies are also aimed at everybody. One of the ways in which we’ll be able to sell this vision to the whole of London will be the argument that helping cyclists will not just do good for cyclists, it will create better places for everyone: it means less traffic on the roads, more space on the Tube, less air pollution — if we achieve a 14% mode share for cycling in central London we can cut nitric oxide and nitrogen dioxide pollution by a third, particulate pollution by almost a quarter. If we did that in central London we could save thousands of lives.

photo credit: Steve Rutherford

The Mayor signed up to LCC’s Love London, Go Dutch pledge, including continental-style standards at three flagship locations for better walking and cycling, in new TfL traffic schemes and on Cycle Superhighways. How is the Vision for Cycling going to deliver on these promises within this mayoralty?

The flagship schemes include the extension to Cycle Superhighway 2 between Bow and Stratford that includes full segregation; it also includes a fully segregated Superhighway along Victoria Embankment forming part of a substantially segregated East-West ‘Crossrail for Bikes’ between western suburbs and Barking. It follows the existing cycle tracks along the A40 (though they need to be improved), over the West Cross Route on a new bike bridge, it follows the Westway Flyover on a fully-segregated track, taken by removing one of the six traffic lanes, it goes down through Lancaster Gate, which will have to be changed, through Hyde Park. It joins a fully-segregated track along Victoria Embankment, goes through the City and it joins up with the existing Cycle Superhighway 3 to Poplar, Canary Wharf and Barking.


Superhighway 3: new plans will use segregation to separate bicycles from fast-moving motor traffic. Photo credit: waronthemotorist

What about the promises of Continental standards on TfL traffic schemes and also on the Cycle Superhighways?

We cannot do segregation on every main road in London, most main roads in London are bus routes and that creates problems with the buses. We can get round that in a number of ways: we can do the ‘floating bus stop’ treatment as we are doing in Stratford High Street; we can put segregated tracks where there aren’t buses like the Westway and Victoria Embankment; we can create room for segregated tracks in some cases by narrowing the median strips and doing clever things with bus priority; we can create tracks on some streets where the buses are only on one side of the road. Where we can’t do that we can do semi-segregation which is for mandatory cycle lanes and shared bus and cycle lanes to better segregate them from the existing traffic — using things like ‘rumble-strips’, or as in Camden, what they’re calling ‘armadillos’, small cat’s eye type things — something that tells people this is a cyclist’s space, or a cyclist’s and bus space into which you shall not go. That’s what we plan to do on a lot of the existing Superhighways which at the moment are not much more than blue paint on the roads. There will also be better treatment at junctions. We’re going to be moving both some of the new and proposed Superhighways to different roads which are more suitable for cyclists.


The London Assembly called for a doubling of the Mayor’s cycling target from 5% of journeys to 10%, and Boris Johnson himself has said that he sees no reason why cycling shouldn’t account for 20% of journeys as it did a century ago. Will you be arguing for an increase in the target and the policies to deliver it?

We are saying we are going to be doubling cycling as a whole in London in the next 10 years and that is substantially more ambitious than we’ve managed in the last ten years. In the last ten year it’s increased by 78% so we are aiming to raise it by more than that over the next ten years. We are not changing our modal share target. To achieve a modal share target of 5% by 2020, something the Assembly wants, is just impossible. We’ve crunched the numbers and it can’t be done. To get up to 5%, even if the other modes did not increase at all, which is highly unlikely, we would have to increase cycling by 19% a year for each of the next seven years. We’ve managed 7.8% in the last 10 years on average, which is pretty good and we are going to do better than that but we cannot do 19% a year — no-one in history has ever managed that over seven years [except Seville? — ed]. We are not going to promise things that we cannot do.


You will need significant funding and you say you will allocate £145m in 2015/16 (£400m over three years), yet the ten-year allocation is £913m. Will there be a rapid decline in funding as you go forward with the plan?

There will be a big rise in funding over the next three/four years. The Mayor cannot commit his successor, of course. The back years of this plan are after the current Mayor will have left office...


He has another job in mind?

You will have to ask him about that. But we are spending almost £400m in the three years to come and that is a substantial and transformative amount of money. People are calling for us to spend £145m this year, and we could have done, but we don’t have shovel-ready projects — designing a quality cycle network is not just something you can pick up off a supermarket shelf. What I want to make sure is that what we do is good. We are revising the London Cycle Design Standards. We are going to be more demanding. We are going to make sure that everything we fund, everything we do, is going to meet those standards — it is delivery capacity rather than the money that is the issue that we should be worrying about.


The London Cycle Network was dropped half way — how are you going to ensure that doesn’t happen to your projects?

The ‘Quietways’ programme is essentially the London Cycle Network done properly and it’s the absolute heart of our proposals. Unlike the LCN, Quietway routes will be direct and they will be properly signposted, —and won’t give up at difficult places, and will be delivered end to end not piecemeal. It is possible now to make any journey you want along side streets, but there will come a point when you hit a junction or a bridge across the Thames and it is at those points that we want to put in interventions so that people can get across those unavoidable points. That’s why we are remodelling Vauxhall Cross and Elephant & Castle. There are going to be fast routes on busy roads for cyclists who want to go fast and slower routes on quiet streets for cyclists who want to go a bit slower.


The Vision requires cooperation with the boroughs, especially the ‘Bike Grid’ of cycle-friendly streets in central London, and the Quietways. How will you secure borough cooperation?

I’ve been going round the boroughs, initially the central and inner ones, and although I’ve still got one or two to meet they’ve been universally welcoming so far. We’ll have to work with the grain of each borough, there’s not a one-size-fits-all solution: sometimes we’ll do permeability, sometimes we’ll do segregation, sometimes two-way cycling on one-way streets.


The Vision calls for “eventually transformative change” in transport policy with cycling integrated into all transport schemes. How will you create that cultural shift within TfL, within the boroughs?

I’ve been extremely impressed by TfL’s support and engagement for this. All major cities in the Western world are starting to spend large sums on cycling: New York, Paris, Edinburgh, Dublin, because they recognise it delivers enormous benefits for relatively modest expenditure. Peter Hendy (the Transport Commissioner) says transport shapes a city for everyone who lives there for good and for ill, and cycling shapes it mostly for the good. The Superhighway along the Embankment will have a capacity of around a 1,000 an hour in each direction — that is almost four entire trainloads and that would make enormous difference to crowding on that tube line.


The Mayor’s said he wants the Olympic Park to be a showcase of cycling provision. What’s around Westfield Stratford currently is an embarrassment. Are you going to ensure that the rest of the Park doesn’t make London a laughing stock?

A lot of schemes which haven’t yet opened are legacies of the policies of several years ago: the Olympic Park got planning permission in 2007, before this Mayor took office. We have a specific commitment to improve it and I think you will see improvements in the Park. There is also a commitment to closely monitor all major planning applications such as Earls Court, Nine Elms and that’s something we haven’t done much in the past.


London Bridge is a £1.2 billion development and nothing is being done on the streets around it for cyclists...

I entirely agree and that’s a huge problem. There hasn’t really been anyone, until now, looking at schemes in a concerted way. On the whole developers will do things if you ask them, it’s just that nobody has really asked them and we are going to start doing that. And it’s very much in their commercial interest to do it because the people in their schemes want to cycle. One of the reasons that we’ve been able to get so much buy-in for this is that local politicians, as well as the Mayor, are getting precisely the criticisms you voice from people who work in developments without good enough cycle provision.


This article first appeared in the April / May 2013 issue of London Cyclist magazine, delivered free to LCC members every two months.