April 30th has been revealed as the date of the official opening of 'Crossrail for the bike', Europe's longest substantially-segregated city cycle route.
Six months ago central London's first segregated cycle superhighway was opened at Vauxhall, which has seen a whopping 73 per cent increase in cycling compared to its pre-superhighway state. The office of the Mayor of London has said that despite fears from the Licensed Taxi Drivers' Assocation (LTDA) and others, motor vehicle journey times have returned to what they were before the construction works, or are quicker with only one exception.
The route covers just under 12 miles, from Westminster to Blackfriars, the City, Tower Hill, Canary Wharf and Barking, entirely on traffic-free segregated tracks or low-traffic streets. Blackfriars will be the connection with the forthcoming north-south cycle superhighway, to Southwark and Elephant & Castle - and via an upgraded Superhighway 2 to Whitechapel, Stepney, Bow and Stratford.
And that's not all - a further 'Crossrail' section from Westminster to Hyde Park Corner, Lancaster Gate and Paddington is under construction and will open later in the summer.
The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson MP, said: “In 2013 I stood on this very spot on the Embankment and promised that we would soon behold a magnificent cycle superhighway. Many doubted it would ever get beyond the artist’s impression. A noisy minority fought hard to stop it happening.
“But, in opinion polls and public consultations, large majorities of ordinary Londoners, most of them not cyclists, said they wanted this project and what it represents for a cleaner, safer, greener city.
“I apologise to motorists temporarily inconvenienced by the construction works on the Embankment, and I thank them for their patience in putting up with it - but the end is now in sight. I am immensely encouraged by the evidence from Vauxhall showing that now the scheme there is finished, the flow of traffic in the area is also returning to normal.”
Last month, Transport for London counts show that 3,394 cyclists a day used Vauxhall Bridge in the morning and evening peak periods (7-10am and 4-7pm). This compares with 1,967 a day at the same time periods in February 2015, before the cycle track opened - an increase of 73 per cent. The general rise in London cycling over the same period was 10 per cent. The counts found that 2,753 of these cyclists, 81 per cent, used the cycle track, rising to 93 per cent in the evening peak.
Sustrans welcomed the news. Matt Winfield, acting director of Sustrans London, said: “This safe, fast cycle route right across the heart of London will give thousands of Londoners the choice to cycle for their daily needs. All the signs show that they will be hugely popular from day one, boosting our health, freeing up space on the tube lines below and saving Londoners money on travel.
"Such a long, mostly-segregated route is a huge step forward for the capital. But there's lots more to be done. Many areas of London are not served by such impressive Cycle Superhighways and the next Mayor of London must continue the hard work and investment needed to bring cycling to the door step of thousands more Londoners."