London's Cycle superhighways have, in the past, left a lot to be desired. But construction has now begun on some potentially gamechanging plans which would introduce protected space for cyclists in central London.
The new superhighways - a new North-South route running from Elephant and Castle to King's Cross, an East-West route running from Tower Hill to Paddington - are due for completion in March 2016. They will feature segregated cycle tracks and junctions redesigned to separate cyclists from motor vehicles. The proposals aren't perfect, and we are speaking to Transport for London about the details we have concerns about. But providing space for cycling of this kind in London would be a step towards creating safe, inviting streets where everybody feels able to cycle.
Over 20,000 people responded to the consultations on the East-West and North-South superhighways - apparently, one of the highest responses ever. 80% of those responses were positive - 7,000 of those sent through the LCC website. We welcomed the initial proposals as a success for our Love London, Go Dutch campaign:
Ashok Sinha, Chief Executive of London Cycling Campaign, said:
“In 2012, 10,000 LCC supporters took to the streets to call for streets that are as safe and inviting as they are in Holland. In response, the Mayor promised them that he would deliver all new cycle superhighways to best continental standards. We congratulate the Mayor on finally taking such a big step towards delivering on this promise, and will be working with TfL to address the concerns we have about parts of the new routes.
"LCC’s main concerns are that some of the planned new junctions are not safe enough and that the width of the new cycle tracks is too narrow in places. Our local groups and activists will ensure these and other questions are presented to TfL. Overall, though, LCC is really pleased to see commitments to substantially reallocate carriageway space to ensure protected space for cycling – particularly on the east-west superhighway, where cyclists regularly make up almost half of traffic during the morning peak.
“We’d encourage all our members and supporters who use the routes to feed back on the proposals.”
Others did too. The Evening Standard published a letter from 24 academics with expertise in transport, health and other related disciplines:
"While the plans are not perfect in all details, we believe the benefits are likely to exceed those stated, as current transport modelling approaches deal badly with cycling.
It is crucial that the vision embodied in these schemes is implemented without dilution or delay. We urge academic colleagues and others to write in support and organisations to do the same on behalf of their staff."
A website, CyclingWorks, was set up to enable businesses to easily voice their support for the proposals. Over 50 employers have now signed up, including RBS, Orange, Barts NHS Trust and Jones Lang LaSalle:
Guy Grainger, UK chief executive of JLL, said: “We take pride in London being a global city. However London cannot presently claim to be best in class for cyclists at the moment. I welcome the plans for new Superhighways. More and more people will want to cycle to work in the future so keeping bikes and vehicles separate is good for everyone.”
However, despite overwhelming support, some opposed the plans. The Evening Standard claimed that 'business leaders [are] in revolt over Boris Johnson's cycle superhighway plans'. TfL responded by publishing its traffic impact data for the East-West and North-South routes, which showed that fears of London grinding to a halt are unfounded, and reminded us that the proposals are essential to keep London moving:
“There will be a 40% increase in people working in central London Boroughs over the coming decades. Promoting cycling will not be the cause of congestion, it will be essential to keeping London moving."
Transport for London's board has now approved the schemes, but under the current plans, the cycle superhighway vanishes by the Queen Victoria Memorial next to Buckingham Palace. Cyclists will be expected to use the existing shared-use area – mixing with thousands of pedestrians at one of London's most popular tourist destinations. If cyclists choose to use the carriageway instead, they will have to mix with six lanes of motor traffic on the unacceptably dangerous Spur Rd gyratory.
LCC is urging the Royal Parks to give permission for the East-West cycle superhighway to continue, on dedicated, segregated cycle track, in front of the Queen Victoria Memorial. Otherwise there will be high risk of collision between all road users in the area of the Memorial, including the millions of tourists who visit Green Park each year.
The second phase of consultations on the East-West cycle superhighway closed on 29 March. You can see the details on the Transport for London website.