Tell Westminster Strand/Aldwych plans are rubbish for cycling

The one way system that covers part of the Strand and Aldwych is a multi-lane nightmare of buses, taxis, motorbikes and more, all changing lanes and racing around the heart of the West End. Horrible to cycle round and hectic to walk next to. 

Now, Westminster Council has put forward a plan to remove the gyratory, creating a new public space. At first glance, this looks great. But scratch the surface and it’s clear, once again, Westminster has dismissed the dangers faced by people cycling here; once again they’ve put car parking spaces before protected space for cycling, metal boxes before people.

The current plans expect the 2,000 plus people who cycle through here daily to either mix it with multiple lanes of motor traffic around Aldwych, dodging sharply manoeuvring traffic and stuck next to parked buses and cars, or to cut through the proposed pedestrianised section on The Strand – a recipe for conflict between people on foot and bike, the result of which could even be a cycling ban there.

To make this a transformation that works for everyone who walks *and* cycles in the area, Westminster needs to provide Dutch style protected cycle tracks like those on the Embankment through the scheme. 

Click here to take our one minute action and tell Westminster to improve the scheme for cycling. 

The plan explained in more detail

The plan is for Westminster Council to remove through motor traffic from The Strand between Waterloo Bridge and Arundel Street, putting all the motor traffic in both directions on Aldwych and removing the current one-way system.

Buses, taxis and loading vehicles will still come into the western end of the scheme, with most then looping back by Melbourne Place. And the eastern half of The Strand will become a pedestrian plaza, basically.

The plaza idea is great – but there’s some snags. First, with all the traffic on Aldwych, Westminster is planning for two lanes of parked vehicles (loading, pay by phone bays, resident bays, diplomatic bays, bus waiting bays and more) there plus four lanes of moving traffic. This leaves no room for cycling on what will be a very busy road. Four lanes of traffic squeezed between two lanes of parked motor vehicles will be incredibly hostile to ride around, polluted and traffic-choked – and Westminster has made no provision to try and reduce motor traffic here. To make this work better, protected cycle tracks should be the bare minimum here, and we think this would be fairly easy to do just by cutting some of the massive amounts of parking/loading provision.

Westminster has told us that it won’t put cycle tracks on Aldwych because that might displace motor traffic away from the scheme, with drivers trying to avoid traffic lights and delays using narrower streets nearby. But the answer to this issue is to further restrict motor traffic on those narrower streets, something Westminster should increasingly be doing anyway – that way, the council could reduce the amount of vehicles cutting through Soho and Covent Garden and make cycling and walking safer around Aldwych.

Faced with four lanes of moving, hostile traffic, and multiple traffic lights to wait at, we believe many cyclists will choose instead to use the plaza on The Strand. The proposal is for “shared space” where pedestrians, cyclists and even low levels of motor vehicles delivering or arriving etc. mix. The result here will be inevitably cyclists trying to cut through from end to end of the scheme and on, and going in both directions, mixing with each other and passing through crowds of pedestrians – it’s a recipe for conflict between cyclists and pedestrians that neither group wants. And we believe this may even suit Westminster Council – they will wait a few months, then happily ban cycling in response to complaints and that will make matters even worse.

This isn’t a recipe that will work out well for anyone – so we’re asking you to raise this issue loudly with the council.

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