Shhh! The Quietways are coming

With the first two Quietways about to launch, Tom Bogdanowicz, LCCs Senior Policy Officer assesses the rest of the scheme.


If you haven’t heard much about the Quietways you are not alone.  Official maps of the first two routes were only publically released in January 2015 despite delivery of them being promised by Spring 2015 and the fact that planning started some two years ago.

Reading between the lines of official and unofficial comments it appears none of the many ‘partners’ in the Quietways programme  (all 32 London boroughs, Transport for London, several parks authorities, including the Royal Parks, plus the Canals and Rivers Trust (formerly British  Waterways) and the Mayor’s office) was willing to authorise release of information until all sides had agreed the basic route alignments and key infrastructure works.  But the cloud is lifting – so here’s what we know.

In case you were wondering , the Mayor’s Vision for Cycling intended the Quietways to be along quiet streets rather than shrouded in secrecy.  

What they will look like

The Mayor’s Vision, back in March 2013, said that the programme (now with announced  funding of  £123m  till 2022)  will create  ‘a network of high-quality guided Quietways on low traffic back streets and other routes so different cyclists can choose the routes which suit them. ’ The popular cycle route through De Beauvoir Town in Hackney appears to be the image that the Mayor’s Cycling Commissioner , Andrew Gilligan, has of the Quietways. 

In his Vision the Mayor declared that Quietways would be:

  • Direct
  • Clearly signed
  • Better surfaced
  • Designed as whole routes not piecemeal
  • Segregated from motor traffic where they briefly join busy roads
  • Include new bridges where required
  • Make use of ‘filtered permeability’ that restricts through motor traffic
  • Make use of greenways : parks and waterways

The Mayor made it clear that these would not be high intervention routes unless there were significant barriers at key points, such as major junctions or waterways and railand rail tracks that had to be crossed. 

LCC takes the view that to attract new cyclists Quietways must suitable for everyone and take people where they want to go, not stopping short of key destinations or running out at borough boundaries.  

To actually be ‘quiet’ the routes need to restrict through motor traffic (rat-running) and provide separation where required (where speed limits are above 20 mph or traffic volumes are high). Junctions need to be both safe and convenient without detours or delays for cycle users. 

More detail of the TfL Quietways principles emerged when the London Cycling Design Standards were published.  They made it clear that routes needed to be open 24/7 or alternatives provided. Signage will be both on road supplemented by direction finger signs at junctions. We also know that they will be numbered in order of delivery so the pilot through Southwark will be 1 (formerly 2) and that in Islington 2 (formerly 38 after the nearby bus route) .  

The Network

Sustrans provided the initial QW network design based on some 260 routes suggested by London boroughs. In many cases these were existing, or planned, LCN+ (London Cycle Network+) most of which had been previously looked at through the CRISP (cycle route implementation stakeholder plan) process.  The preference for LCN+ routes ties into the declared Mayoral intention of moving forward quickly with limited additional intervention. 

The 260 were whittled down to a shortlist of couple of dozen priority routes and from these TfL and the Mayor’s cycling commissioner, Andrew Gilligan, agreed on 2 pilots (Waterloo to Greenwich and Bloomsbury to Hackney(to be later extended to Walthamstow )  plus 5 other routes for the first phase .  A further batch of up to 15 routes will likely be announced by the time this issue of LC is published.  In the longer term the network designers where hoping for the full shortlist of several dozen routes to be realised. 

Given that TfL says that eventually Quietways will reach into every London borough it is likely that the additional routes will extend to those boroughs not included in the first phase.  More longitudinal routes are promised along with some between local town centres. It is expected that work in the fully-funded (approx. £30m each) ‘mini-Holland’  boroughs (Enfield , Waltham Forest and Kingston)  as well as the runner-up boroughs, like Ealing, will create additional connections to the Quietways. 

Maps have officially been posted (see illustrations) for the first two pilot routes , but our smaller map (also available on the web) shows all of the first seven based on additional  information we had at time of going to press.  Multiple lines indicate that several options were still being considered.  All of the following routes are due to be delivered by the end of 2016:

  • Waterloo – Greenwich –April 2015
  • Bloomsbury – Walthamstow – stage 1 to Hackney Spring 2015
  • Regents Park to Dollis Hill – Nov 2015
  • Elephant and Castel to Crystal Palace – Dec 2015
  • Aldgate to Hainault – Feb 2016
  • Waterloo – Clapham – March 2016
  • Clapham Common to Wimbledon – June 2016.
  • Quietway Standards

According to both TfL and Sustrans the Quietways are expected to meet the new London Cycle Design Standards (2014) . A section at the front of the these standards provides a Cycling Level of Service assessment (CLoS) which rates every section of a cycle route and awards it points from 0 for ‘basic’ to 6 or 2 (6 in key  categories, 2 in others) for ‘highest, ’ with an intermediate category of ‘good.’ The TfL Quietways team will assess every route design submitted by boroughs (which are responsible for delivery except on TfL and Royal Parks roads)  and those with a zero rating will not, according to TfL, get approval. TfL say there may be exceptions if one specific section of an otherwise’ good’ or ‘highest’ rated is zero rated but efforts will be made to overcome any such barriers. Its worth noting that in addition to basic, good and highest the CLoS includes a ‘critical’ column which TfL describes politely as ‘cause for particular concern.’ Among  the factors that trigger the critical red column are:

  • Left hook danger
  • Cycle lanes below 1.5 m next to parked cars
  • 15% or more vehicles  exceeding 30 mph
  • More than 1000 vehicles per hour at peak times
  • More than 500 vehicles per hour with 5% or more HGVs

Quietway routes are also expected to comply with the six core design outcomes contained in the LCDS:

  • Safety
  • Directness
  • Comfort 
  • Coherence
  • Attractiveness
  • Adaptability

Followers of Dutch design principles will find these outcomes familiar from the well-established CROW Cycle Infrastructure Design Manual,  aside from the last one which has been added to ensure that ‘ cycle lanes and tracks are designed to accommodate future increases in cycling volumes.  (Users of the crossings at City Road in Islington and Hyde Park Corner will know what  1,500 cyclists per hour looks like). 

Spending on each Quietway route will vary with the expectation that larger sums will be  spentbe spent on major works, such as a junction or a bridge over a railway track, and less will be spent on minor roads and greenways.  

Beyond 2016

The Mayoral election in 2016 will have a major bearing on the progress of the Quietways beyond 2016. The funding,currentlyfunding, currently allocated, £123m, is proposed to last till 2022.  At current spending rates (£14.6m for the two pilots, design of the next batch of five and feasibility work for the subsequent dozen according to Local Transport Today)   the money will only stretch to the first 19. Any funding beyond 2016 will require approval from the next Mayor,  even if routes and designs are agreed (for example the dozen  routes to follow the first seven) before the new incumbent is in power.

We anticipate that details of the next batch of 12 routes will be released in February/March.  

Consultation and what you can do

Stakeholder consultation on the first two pilots has been patchy. Without a TfL-coordinated consultation process, as there was on LCN+, local LCC groups have had to rely on either their borough or Sustrans to provide route details and to hear their comments.  Some groups have been relatively satisfied with the process, others displeased by the paucity of information and delays in canvassing their opinions.  LCC contacted with TfL several times in an effort to improve communications and some progress was made but, according to TfL, the lead on communication with local groups is, and will be, the local borough. At time of writing there are still issues to be resolved on both the two pilot routes. 

Following the appointment of Sustrans as delivery agent both Sustrans and TfL came to LCC in January to discuss the programme with local groups. We were told that aside from the final, formal, public consultation associated with new traffic schemes , input to the programme has to come via, or at the invitation of, boroughs who have to formally propose and ultimately deliver the routes. That goes for network development, route prioritisation and concept design. Comment on detailed design comes through the public consultation process.  Having said that, TfL, as the route sponsors , will not only be looking at  standards, safety, value for money meeting TfL objectives but also stakeholder support. Boroughs , says TfL , are encouraged to consult with cycling groups, and other stakeholders, to ensure Quietways are deliverable on time  and on budget.

Sustrans too says it’s interested in local group input (the organisation arranged meetings with Southwark Cyclists on the first pilot) . 

The message for anyone interested in the Quietways, and ultimately most of us are expected to have one nearby, is that you should get in touch with your local group (contact if you need assistance) and then jointly work with your local cycling officer on route alignments, designs and key barriers.  Experience of the initial routes indicates that route alignments can change well into the delivery process, in some cases due to other local developments. Most borough cycling officers already have a working relationship with local cycle groups and take advantage of the vast repository of local knowledge and cycling expertise volunteers can offer.  If that is not the case in your borough, and it’s not unusual for council staff members to change, groups can get in touch with the LCC office for suitable contacts.  

It is also worth inviting the Mayor’s Cycling Commissioner to your borough – his hands on approach to the Mayor’s programmes means that he has wide knowledge of back streets as well as main roads and he has expressed his willingness to talk to local groups with previous visits including Southwark, Islington,  Brent and several others. 

If your group feels it needs technical advice LCC’s infrastructure review group can provide feedback and, if you can secure a reasonable audience, perhaps in collaboration with a  neighbouring borough, one of the authors of the London Cycle Design Standards, Brian Deegan, is prepared to  give evening  talks on best practice.

The Grid

If the Quietways programme has been quiet zone the Grid, also promised by the Mayor in his Vision, has become pretty much a whisper. After the very prominent public consultation on the Grid routes, to which the LCC provided a robust response offering an improved and more coherent version of the Grid, official news of the progress slowed to a trickle.

With eight boroughs involved and Westminster and Kensington and Chelsea only agreeing to a handful of routes the current proposals for completion by 2016 have a rather conspicuous gap in the centre until more routes are put on the table. 

Quietway Principles – TfL 2014

  • Routes should be on the quietest available roads consistent with directness 
  • Routes should be as straight and direct as possible 
  • Routes should try to avoid unnecessary turns
  • At some points, for the sake of directness, Quietways may need to join main roads, but this should be as brief as possible; where they have to join busier roads, or pass through busy, complicated junctions, segregation must be provided 
  • Routes should use the same road in both directions unless it is absolutely unavoidable; one-way streets should be made two-way for cyclists where this is possible 
  • Right turns in traffic, which require cyclists to filter into the middle of other vehicles, should be avoided wherever possible; right turns on quiet roads are acceptable 
  • Right turns which require cyclists to filter in busy traffic should always be avoided; if it is unavoidable, a short stretch of segregation or other road rearrangement should be provided 
  • Wayfinding will largely be on-carriageway, though signs will be necessary at some junctions 
  • Routes need to operate full-time; where routes are through parks that are closed at night, then an acceptable and sufficiently direct alternative night route, on similarly quiet roads, will need to be well signposted 
  • Partners should consider ‘social safety’ as a central and integral part of Quietway design and delivery; lighting and CCTV should be improved where necessary