Nine Elms “better than Amsterdam”? Not likely!

Boris Johnson promised the Battersea and Nine Elms area would be “better than Amsterdam” for cycling, Lambeth’s Cycling Strategy says it aims to be the “most cycle friendly borough in London”, and TfL says "the proposals form part of the Mayor of London’s plan for Healthy Streets”. Something has gone terribly wrong. Because what TfL have put out for public consultation for Nine Elms Lane and Battersea Park Road would be something the Dutch would look at with horror.

This proposal would be the opposite of a “Healthy Street” and it’s noticeable that TfL are rightly unwilling to call this a Cycle Superhighway either. Those cycling along the route will be expected to use bus lanes that are only in operation part-time, and what appear to be mostly cycle lanes often with parking/loading bays out of peak hours in. There is little physical segregation proposed. And there also major risks of left-turning “hook” vehicles at several key junctions – particularly concerning given the volumes of construction HGVs on this route that will still be around in 2022 when this route is set to be finished. Side road treatments are also often not up to the standard we expect to see these days.

There even seems to be confusion from those who should know better what the scheme actually includes. Will Norman, the Walking & Cycling Commissioner says proposals are “substantially segregated”. And TfL’s consultation materials talk about stepped tracks. That appears to be hype, as there is little actual separation proposed along the route when the materials are scrutinised.

This is far from the standard that would help the Mayor fulfil his pledges to us all to increase protected space for cycling in London and fix the worst junctions; it risks – as Westminster’s Baker Street has already done – the new Healthy Streets brand, by allowing it to be used for schemes that will remain unhealthy barriers to “active travel”.

The result will be a scheme that ensures this route remains a huge barrier and danger to those walking and cycling in the area for the foreseeable future. And not just for those who currently commute through the area. When the flats in the area are complete, how many residents there, or further south and west, will feel able to cycle through this area? And how many will choose to drive instead?

That’s, of course, if this scheme even goes forward at all. Improving the scheme is vital if London Cycling Campaign is going to be able to recommend supporting this scheme. And without the support of those already cycling, it’s likely any “bikelash” would sink the scheme completely – opposed by both drivers and cyclists.

The Mayor is to be applauded for bringing forward Lambeth Bridge and Waterloo Roundabout. But we urgently need to see a big improvement in the Nine Elms/Battersea Park Road scheme. Now is the time for the Mayor, his Deputy and Commissioner  to demonstrate their commitment to making the tough choices needed and having the political bravery to make London genuinely a “byword for cycling around the world” as the Mayor put it.

If the Mayor and Commissioner allow this scheme to go forward without major improvements, then it sends a message to every single London borough where cycling is currently marginalised, and to many inside TfL, that this level of quality is acceptable. It isn’t – and we will be conveying the serious issues with this scheme direct to the Commissioner.

Join our Cyclescape discussion and feed into our response on this scheme here.