London Mayor Boris Johnson has decided to press ahead with his flagship cycle superhighways through the centre of London. Campaigners feared vested interests would scupper the plans, and although some compromises were made following a two-month consultation process the kerb-protected cycle routes that run past some of London's most iconic buildings – including the Houses of Parliament – will now definitely get built. Construction work will start in March.
While there was some opposition to the plans – brewery interests claimed they'd not be able to make beer deliveries over kerbed bike paths, although such deliveries take place in the Netherlands with no problems – the Mayor's resolve was no doubt strenghtened by the vocal support from 180+ employers including Unilever, the Financial Times, Universal Music, Microsoft, Orange, Land Securities, Coca-Cola Europe and the Royal Opera House. In pushing for protected cycle superhighways in London they were joined by all four major trauma centres, the London Air Ambulance, the City of London Police and Southwark Cathedral. This support from businesses in London was collated by the CyclingWorks campaign. The majority of Londoners were in favour too.
The compromises to the plan include narrowing of the superhighway in places. While Transport for London is expected to nod through the plans there could still be court battles ahead, with some organisations threatened to seek a Judicial Review over TfL's consultation process.
Chris Kenyon, founder of CyclingWorks, said: "Transport for London’s revised plans reduce potential delays to motor traffic whilst delivering a high-quality cycling route, demonstrating that they have listened to the overwhelming response to the public consultation."
He added: "Business leaders contacted CyclingWorks throughout the two-month consultation to express their support for the proposals. Major employers representing hundreds of thousands of jobs in London across the finance, law, entertainment, design, construction, property, healthcare and education sectors were unanimous in calling for the cycleway to be built.
“We all benefit from more Londoners getting on their bikes. The city is less polluted; employees are healthier and happier; congestion on public transport is relieved and the city is a more attractive place to live and work.
“At a fraction of the cost of Crossrail, running additional buses or more trains, this high-capacity cycleway is an extremely smart investment. It will unlock the city to cyclists of all ages and abilities.”
Other cycle orgs have also hailed the news.
Cycle use in London has doubled in ten years. Cyclists make up almost a quarter of rush-hour traffic on some central London’s roads. Over the same period, motor traffic has fallen by 24 per cent on the Victoria Embankment and by 44 per cent on Farringdon Street.
TfL is billing the £913 million bike plan as "Europe’s longest substantially-segregated urban cycleways.
Two continuous cycle routes, almost completely separated from traffic, will cross central London from east to west and north to south, opening up thousands of new journey opportunities.
The final plans retain two westbound traffic lanes on Upper and Lower Thames Street and Victoria Embankment, while preserving the continuous, kerb-segregated cycle lanes and junctions.
Boris Johnson said: “We have done one of the biggest consultation exercises in TfL’s history. We have listened, and now we will act. Overwhelmingly, Londoners wanted these routes, and wanted them delivered to the high standard we promised. I intend to keep that promise.
“But I have also listened to those concerned about the east-west route’s impact on traffic. Thanks to the skill of TfL’s engineers and traffic managers, we have made changes to our original plans which keep the segregated cycle track and junctions, while taking out much less of the route’s motor traffic capacity – and so causing much shorter delays.
“I now look forward to the transformation that these planned routes will bring – not just for people who cycle now, but for the thousands of new cyclists they will attract. Getting more people on their bikes will reduce pressure on the road, bus and rail networks, cut pollution, and improve life for everyone, whether or not they cycle themselves.”
21,500 people responded to TfL’s nine-week consultation on the proposals, with 84 per cent overall in support. More than a hundred major businesses on or near the routes, including Unilever, Royal Bank of Scotland, Deloitte and Orange, also publicly backed the scheme, as did all parties on the London Assembly.
The planned east-west route will start at Tower Hill, where it will connect to the existing Cycle Superhighway 3 which runs east to Canary Wharf and Barking. From Tower Hill, the new route runs along Lower and Upper Thames Street, Victoria Embankment, across Parliament Square, to Hyde Park Corner and through Hyde Park, across Lancaster Gate and up Westbourne Terrace.
Apart from a tunnel adjacent to the Upper Thames Street tunnel the new superhighway is physically segregated largely with bi-directional cycle track. The amount of segregation will increase slightly under the new proposals, with the superhighway routed away from a residential street at Lancaster Gate and a more direct, segregated route provided instead.
The north-south route will run from Elephant & Castle to King’s Cross, with full segregation on St George’s Road, across St George’s Circus, Blackfriars Road, Blackfriars Bridge, new bridge street and Farringdon Street to Stonecutter Street. The east-west and north-south routes interchange with each other at Blackfriars.
On both routes, there would be substantial benefits for pedestrians, with thousands of metres of extra footway, 22 new crossings and 35 shortened crossings and 41 crossings fitted with pedestrian countdown.
Sir Peter Hendy CBE, transport commissioner for London, said: “Cycling is clearly now a major transport option in London, with over 170,000 bike journeys now made across central London every single day. We have listened and considered every point raised as part of the consultation and have made design changes to ensure that we can deliver the best possible scheme for London.
“These projects will help transform cycling in London – making it safer and an option that more and more people can enjoy. At the same time, we’ve listened to concerns that were raised and have made changes that significantly reduce the effects that the new routes will have on other traffic. Our task now is to work in concert with businesses and local boroughs to ensure these plans are introduced smoothly with the minimum disruption possible. Subject to the final decision of the TfL Board, we will look to work day and night to deliver them as quickly as possible while ensuring that people and goods continue to move around London easily and efficiently.”