Sadiq launches Cycling Action Plan

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has launched his long-awaited Action Plan on how he proposes to make London a “byword for cycling”. While the document doesn’t explicitly reference Khan’s commitment to triple the extent of protected cycle tracks on main roads (as he promised to LCC and London during our #signforcycling campaign), his Walking & Cycling Commissioner says Sadiq is on track to achieve this too. The Plan is a clear roadmap that shows how, and describes what else TfL will do to make cycling a natural, safe and enjoyable choice for everyone.

The Action Plan can be downloaded here.

Launching the plan this morning, Khan said: “Getting more Londoners cycling is essential for our city’s future health and prosperity… The evidence is clear - where we’ve built new high-quality cycling infrastructure, the routes have been hugely successful in getting more people on their bikes. Despite this, too many Londoners still don’t have the high-quality cycle routes they need in their local neighbourhood. I’m delighted to be announcing some of the major new work that will start on cycle routes across London next year, and in introducing new quality standards for cycle routes, I’m determined to ensure every Londoner feels comfortable and safe getting on a bike, whatever their age, experience or background.”

Dr Ashok Sinha, LCC’s CEO said: "The Mayor promised the London Cycling Campaign and our supporters he would triple high quality, protected space for cycling on London’s main roads by the end of this mayoralty. We welcome this Cycling Action Plan which sets out how this will be achieved and how the Mayor will make London a ‘byword for cycling’. The introduction of quality conditions for funding cycling infrastructure is a particularly important win in the document. LCC has long campaigned for this, to help ensure that only those cycling projects that exhibit international standards of safety and comfort are funded."

Our initial assessment:

The Action Plan is welcome - it represents a roadmap of where London goes next and the new quality criteria (see below) summarised in it should ensure schemes genuinely start to enable more cycling and a wider range of people to cycle more consistently. The long overdue timeline for schemes is particularly welcome.

However, there remain major concerns over the pace of progress thus far. Good schemes haven't moved forward rapidly enough, and where there has been rapid progress – e.g. on the Safer Junctions programme - the quality of infrastructure changes are largely below the safety standards LCC believes necessary.

Until they are fully released, there is also a concern that the new quality criteria, particularly on volume of motor traffic doesn't match our policy, or the Dutch CROW manual (the bible for Dutch cycle safety design) - it may not even match the DfT's own guidance on when to physically protect cyclists. The criteria look set to remove the worst schemes currently coming forward from funding eligibility, but we want to ensure they deliver cycling routes that people of all abilities can truly feel safe and comfortable cycling on. That remains to be seen.

What’s in the Action Plan?

Quality – This is the big news. A new version of the already excellent London Cycling Design Standards is promised, and in it will be new quality criteria for funding cycling schemes. This is a huge win for London Cycling Campaign and something we have long been pushing for. The new criteria are briefly laid out in the Action Plan: volume of traffic where cyclists are expected to mix with motor traffic should be less than “500 motor vehicles per hour (vph) at peak times, and preferably fewer than 200vph” (this nods to LCC policy and should match to DfT guidance); the speed limit should be 20mph where cyclists mix with motor traffic; lane and track widths should be “appropriate”; kerbside activity such as loading, parking should have “minimal impact”; those cycling should have “sufficient space for cycling relative to the” proportion of large vehicles; and collision risk from motor vehicle turning movements should be “minimised” to “give people cycling time and space to pass through [junctions] comfortably”.

This approach is clearly aimed to progressively raise the bar boroughs and TfL need to achieve to get a scheme approved. Much will depend on how rigorously TfL interprets words like “appropriate” and “minimal impact” – we will be watching closely to make sure they aren’t used to justify unacceptable compromises – but our best assessment so far is this approach will certainly remove the worst of the weak cycling schemes we still see far too many of. As the criteria stand, blue paint Cycle Superhighways and busy Quietways would not make it through – a positive step forward.

Targets – The Action Plan commits to doubling cycling numbers from 0.7 million trips per day in 2017 to 1.3 million by 2024 – which keeps the city on track to achieving the Mayor’s Transport Strategy aims in 2041. It also commits to increasing the proportion of Londoners living within 400m of a high-quality cycle route from 8.8 percent in 2017 to 28 percent in 2024, again to keep the Mayor on track with his existing long term target of 70 percent by 2041. The plan also commits to delivering over 450km of high-quality routes within 5 years.

Routes – Most of the news here had already been made public in separate statements, but the Action Plan now brings it all together:

  • The first six of the major routes the Mayor’s team are working on are re-confirmed, with approximate routings for both the Tottenham-Camden and Hackney-Isle of Dogs schemes shown.
  • Existing schemes are also timelined, with Cycle Superhighways CS9 and CS4 due to go into construction next summer, and a potential CS10/extension to the east-west CS3 scheme on Wood Lane and Notting Hill Gate is due for consultation “early” next year.
  • Clerkenwell Road/Old Street on our “London Boulevard” corridor is due for consultation next year.
  • The Mayor also recommits to CS11 despite Westminster council blocking it, and says the Canary Wharf-Rotherhithe bridge will get a planning application in 2019/20.
  • Routes will also be rebranded in 2019 - no more Cycle Superhighways or Quietways, but a unified brand, perhaps something like "cycle route", "cycle network" or "cycleway"?

Junctions – The Mayor says 27 of the 73 “Safer Junctions” programme have been completed (but we know that nearly all of them have been completed only partially and unsatisfactorily), and another 20 will be in construction by 2020, with the remainder at design or construction stage.

Evidence - the Action Plan rounds up a load of TfL’s current research and evidence base on cycling, showcasing how more cycling is good for London, how cycling fits into the Mayor’s Transport Strategy and tracking the current trajectory of cycling in London in terms of mode share, safety, demographics etc. It also identifies the key barriers to cycling for most Londoners (fear of collisions, worries about fitness, lack of knowledge about where to cycle, belief cycling less convenient, not identifying as a cyclist, not having access to a cycle, lack of infrastructure).

Cycle Infrastructure Database (CID) – TfL have been mapping every cycle parking stand, cycle stop box, track and lane, even every cycle route sign and painted logo on the road across London. Their open data CID launches in “spring” and combined with an open data map of all cycle routes, also due in “early” 2019, this should allow digital mappers to create better cycling routing apps than at present.

Partnerships – the Action Plan emphasises TfL’s work with others – the boroughs on delivering schemes, the police on close-pass and cycle theft operations, and with community groups with their cycling grant funding.