Will the Mayor meet his commitment to triple protected cycle space?

Will the Mayor meet his commitment to triple protected cycle space in London? 

The Mayor, Sadiq Khan, made an explicit commitment to LCC to triple the distance of protected cycle space in London. But the latest numbers on cycle funding from Walking and Cycling Commissioner Will Norman raise major concerns about the delivery timetable and the prospects of meeting commitments over the less than three years remaining in this mayoralty. More may be revealed in the next two weeks after the Mayor answers questions from London Assembly Members submitted on the 13th of July.  

In a recent letter to London Assembly member and co-Chair of the GLA Transport Committee, Caroline Pidgeon, Mr Norman spelled out how the £770 million promised investment in cycling between 2017 and 2022 will be allocated. And the stand out year for spending is 2021/22 (double that in previous years to £52m) – the year after the next Mayoral election. This differs from former Mayor, Boris Johnson, who spent big in his last year to push through the key, and very popular, East-West and North South cycle superhighways.

Caroline Pidgeon has followed up the letter from Norman with more questions to the Mayor ahead of next week’s Mayor’s Question Time, probing the spending plans in more detail. Pidgeon’s first question asks “How will you honour your cycling and walking commitments within your Mayoral term, given the budget schedule you have set?” Primary among those Mayoral commitments, made in response to LCC’s Sign for Cycling Campaign in the run up to last year’s mayoral election, was to triple the amount of protected cycle space in London.  

With more than a year of the Mayorality gone, pressure to deliver commitments on-time is growing. Several projects are under construction (for example Cycle superhighway 11 at Swiss Cottage and the segregated tracks along Lea Bridge Road and the A 105 in Enfield) and others are in consultation. But the routes planned so far are a long way from meeting the Mayor’s tripling commitment. Given the one and a half to two year lead time on major projects the bulk of the consultations would need to be out this year and an upturn in funding for completing the projects needs to be scheduled for 2019/2020 rather than for the years after the Mayoral term is over.

The back loading of investment by Mr Khan was previously raised in a question to the Mayor in March from Assembly Member Florence Eshalomi who asked ”why spending has been re-phased from the first three years to the last three years?” The Mayor replied that the “The proposed investment in cycling for 2016/17 to 2018/19 has been re-profiled slightly in order to better align with the London boroughs’ capacity to deliver schemes, and my commitment to ensure we learn the lessons from previous schemes about better managing scheme delivery.”

The Mayor needs to provide a more satisfactory answer as to how his commitments will be met. And it’s not just a case of commitments made to LCC – the Mayor’s new Transport Strategy makes clear that a switch from cars to bikes is essential to cope with the transport needs of London’s growing population. The London Plan specifies a doubling of cycling by 2026 to 1.5m journeys per day – that won’t happen unless safe bike routes are provided.