Amsterdam look out, London is competing for the cycling crown

Victoria Embankment has been re-envisioned in the new plans to give cyclists a separated path from traffic

Boris Johnson today unveiled inspiring new plans to transform the way Londoners get around. It will see the bicycle moved from the bottom of the pecking order, to take prime position.

The full Vision for Cycling can be read here but these are the highlights:

A cycling corridor from West London all the way to Canary Wharf

“The longest substantially-segregated continuous cycle route of any city in Europe”

London’s cyclists will finally have an easy way to cross from West to East London. The route will be largely segregated, offering safety and comfort. To carve out the 15 mile, continuous route, a lane of traffic will be removed from the Westway and Victoria Embankment.

According to Andrew Gilligan, the Mayor’s cycling commissioner, the Embankment Cycle Highway will have capacity of the equivalent of four District line trains per hour.

This is a common theme of the plans, to get people out of cars and congested tubes, and on to bikes, thus easing everyone’s commute.

The plan stresses that this will be an improvement for all Londoners with a vision of creating a “village in the city” with green corridors, more trees and less traffic.

A tube network for bikes

There is a commitment to overhaul London’s existing bike route network by creating more direct, high-capacity, joined-up cycle routes. Where possible, these will follow the routes of key Underground, rail and bus routes. They will also be branded as such as with names such as “The Bakerloo Superhighway”.

These will be quality routes inspired by Dutch cycling infrastructure design. Unlike current routes, the cycle paths will not simply disappear as soon as you reach a dangerous junction. However, they will only be segregated in parts.

    This will be a particularly tough commitment to stick to, as it relies on the support from London’s boroughs.

    Mini-Hollands in outer London

    Up to three willing outer London boroughs will be redesigned around cycling through significant investment from the Mayor. The vision is to create the kind of infrastructure that will make people feel safe enough to allow their kids to ride to school.

    Reducing unnecessary cyclists deaths at dangerous junctions

    The much needed Junction Review that the Mayor has committed to is also a focus of the new plans. TfL will be asked to go back to the drawing board to deliver more significant improvements.


    • The not-so-super Cycle Superhighways will also be reviewed in an attempt to broaden their appeal to more cyclists by aiming for “close to international standards”.
    • An increase in 20mph zones
    • New design standards for transport and cycle planners
    • Borough cycling funding to be conditional on ensuring best safety standards for borough HGVs
    • Bikes to be allowed on off-peak DLR trains – on a trial basis.

    Will this actually be delivered?

    As a cyclist in London it’s hard not to get swept up in the excitement of the plans and we have to remember that London certainly won’t see an overnight transformation. However, if the plans come together, Boris Johnson will be the Mayor who dared to dream big about cycling and turn London in to a case study for other cities to follow.

    After announcing such ambitious plans, it will be hard for Boris Johnson to go back on his promises. There are many road blocks on the way to achieving this, especially from local councils which are lacking in vision and planning. It will be up to London’s cyclists to hold the mayor accountable, as they have been doing already.

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    As seen on The Guardian, BBC and The Independent.

    20 Responses to Amsterdam look out, London is competing for the cycling crown

    1. Kenny 07/03/2013 at 8:43 pm #

      Maybe I’m just pessimistic in general about anything our wonderful Mayor attaches his name to but I can’t see that happening very soon, indeed if at all. I think they quoted £800 million in the Standard tonight. They spent £13 million on CS3 and did nothing about it when a huge chunk of it was removed at Canning Town last summer. It’s all too much trumpeting and ego boosting when they announce these things but gets half-hearted when it comes to actually implementing them. I’d love to be wrong though, this would improve my commute dramatically!

      • Martin Upham 08/03/2013 at 12:48 pm #

        Let’s scale back the euphoria. This is hype at its worst. Brilliant packaging (a tube for bikes etc) and most people are swallowing it but it consists largely of visions and promises. Hidden in the small print are implicit admissions that there has been very little progress for bikes since 2008.In effect they are now admitting that the superhighways have failed – otherwise why unveil a different concept? This whole announcement reads to me like a lists of cirrent deficiencies in London’s cycle network. Can we really believe that the regime has which in five years has done precious little apart from blue paint and Barclays can now sort it out?

    2. Watdabni 08/03/2013 at 8:37 am #

      The headline is wildly overstated. To even begin to compete with Amsterdam these proposals need to be attempting to create ‘mini-hollands’ (or, if one is aiming for accuracy, ‘mini-Netherlands’) in the the inner London Boroughs. That is where proper infrastructure for everyday cycling is really needed; not the outer London Boroughs where the need is no-where near so great. These proposals make the usual error of assuming that a few major segregated lanes will make all the difference. They probably will for commuters but definitely not for rest of of us who just want to use bike for getting around generally. Certainly none of this is going to persuade granny that it is safe to get on her bike. Without proper infrastructure one is thrown back onto the dangers of traffic as soon as one leave the fancy new bit. What is proposed is progress but it is far too unambitious. This should be about persuading everyone that cycling is the most sensible and safe way to get around; that is what the Dutch have done and what we should be trying to emulate.These proposals fall far short in that respect and it is a great shame.

      • Charlie 08/03/2013 at 9:20 am #

        The proposals talk about the “Quietways”, which look they will partly be a resurrection and improvement on the London Cycle Network. This looks like exactly the sort of thing to get granny on her bike. However, the roads are mostly owned by the boroughs, so presumably the details will have to wait until they’ve got the boroughs to agree…

      • Paul 08/03/2013 at 10:37 am #

        OK, we have all heard big, flashy announcements from the mayor and the government that came to naught, but if even a very few segregated lanes are established, the number of cyclists in the city will increase further. This will (& has) increased the awareness of other road users of cyclists, and the result is a much better cycling environment for us all. I’ve been cycling around London for 30 years and my experience is that even though traffic has increased, HGVs and buses more powerful and faster, it is becoming increasingly rare to meet drivers who have contempt for cyclists and their space on London’s roads (only 3 or 4 times a week, rather than 3 or 4 times a DAY).
        If the local council Luddites are pressured by their local constituency cyclists, change can happen. We’ll never be a Netherlands (that’s just hype), but I’m already grateful for the improvements Ken & Boris have brought to our streets as a cyclist.

    3. Nick Donnelly 08/03/2013 at 10:10 am #

      I’m actually not sure I’d want London to become Amsterdam – have you ever tried crossing the road there?

      Also the cycle culture is one of really crap disposable bikes – where you just get a crap one then when it dies or gets stolen pay 20EUR for another (stolen) one. There is little care or love for bikes in Amsterdam!

      So while London can learn from it, it can improve on it. I want to ride a great bike. The completely separated both ways cycle lane in the rendering above is highly preferable to how it works in Amsterdam I’d say.

      • Vincent 08/03/2013 at 12:59 pm #

        They ride crap bikes in Amsterdam because there are too few parking spots where they can lock their bike to a fixed point. Hence, lots of stealing.

        • Stuart 13/03/2013 at 9:41 pm #

          In Amsterdam, and in Holland in general many people own 2 or more bikes. One gets them from the house to the local station, then another, usually the rusty old hulk, is used at the city end to get to the office or place of work. These are the wrecks you see piled up outside the main stations.
          People will also have a quality bike, hybrid, tourer, road etc that is used on weekends etc for pleasure. You don’t normally see these lying around in public places.

          • Sally Crawford 14/03/2013 at 12:54 pm #

            Good point, Stuart, Many Dutch own up to five bikes: they’re a part of most people’s lives. In terms of commuting by bike, we in London have potentially a better system which, were funding to be available, could be spread out to the rest of the UK. Commuters within London can grab a Barclays hire bike for the run to the station, leave it at the station, and grab another Barclays hire bike for the run to the office, reversing the process on the home journey. Meanwhile the bikes are professionally maintained and the commuter, dressed for the office, need never get his or her hands or clothes dirty. No problem of theft either – the bikes are traceable. For leisure or pleasure the commuter can then purchase the bike of their choice for weekends and holidays.

      • george debono 15/03/2013 at 4:13 pm #

        Crap bikes ?

        I lived many years in Denmark. Yes crappy bikes. And no wonder. Try using a bike for just one winter and see what happens.

        Anyway the Danes (or Dutch) don’t care a fig about how their bike looks as long as the thing moves when you push on the pedals and gets you there.

    4. Watdabni 08/03/2013 at 11:32 am #

      Agree, as I have said, that what is proposed is an improvement. My principal complaint is that the proposals seem geared, as always, to the commuter. Perhaps they will encourage a few more people onto bikes but I very much doubt it will be many. Most people will not be getting on bikes unless they feel safe for the whole of their journey not just the ‘crossrail’ bit. I know this from conversations with friends and neighbours all of whom would like to cycle more but who all think it is utter madness at the moment. I have been cycling for 50 years – 40 of them in London and I still think it is a bit crazy myself. To get others on their bikes will take a lot more than a couple of showpiece cycleways. Far more important to provide decent infrastructure in local areas.

      For those sorts of reasons the comparison with Amsterdam is very apt and I would say a goal to aim for. No-one expects it wil be the the same as there though; it is more about the principle. My wife and I travel to the Netherlands with our bikes quite a lot. It is a different world. Amsterdam is a small crowded city with many very narrow roads in the centre – especially alongside the canals. The authorities there have found ways to accommodate cars, pedestrians and bikes to the benefit of all. Not all the roads in the centre are segregated because there isn’t room but it is mostly well organised so that everyone feels safe. Some parts of the Netherlands are a bit better than Amsterdam in cycling provision and some a bit worse but, overall, the whole experience of cycling in the Netherlands is a pretty stress-free one and a delight. The problem is returning to Liverpool Street station from the ferry. After a few days cycling in the Netherlands, the experience of cycling in London again is positively terrifying for a day or two.

      As to crossing the road in the Netherlands it is no worse than here and if one were to be hit by a cyclist (which I have yet to see happen there) the likelihood of injury is very low. By contrast I, as a pedestrian, have been hit several times over the years by cyclists in this country – all of whom were cycling on pavements at the time. Similar incidents have happened to my wife and neighbour. There are no statistics on this but I would be willing to bet that this happens all the time. Improvements in cycling infrastructure would therefore be likely to reduce the risk of accidents – not increase them.

      Lastly, this not about being able to ride a great bike – it is about being able to ride a bike at all. None of this is about providing facilities for sports cyclists – it about about making cycling in London the preferred option for anyone living here whether they ride a racing bike or a granny bike.

      I hope the sentiments of others that this will, eventually, lead to the sort of improvements that are really needed are borne out.

      • Jo 08/03/2013 at 5:01 pm #

        Agree, a lot also has to be done to change attitudes of drivers. It is very disappointingas the way people drive in London, absolutely no regard for the safety of others and London drivers think they have more right to the road – No! the Road is for us all we have to accomodate each other. Lets hope that message gets assimilated. Driver cyclist awareness training should be included in driving tests.

    5. k8 08/03/2013 at 12:22 pm #

      The day this was announced my friend tells me her cycling nephew has been terribly injured by a vehicle near Paddington.

      I would like to see this money doubled and half of it used for proper, immediate enforcement by the police and courts of existing laws, and the introduction of other legal measures (assumed liability, lifetime driving bans, etc) that would mean drivers had to pay constant attention to cyclists. We and our children could then cycle anywhere and not be herded into inconvenient back streets or narrow, segregated cycle lanes.

      I understand all the arguments about segregated cycle lanes, but I think the whole UK car sick culture needs to be tackled head on. What if I want to take kids out cycling on country lanes, just outside London? While we are waiting for this ten-year plan to take effect, thousands more people will be killed or injured on London’s roads and another generation of school children will be lost to cycling.

    6. Elaine Barrow 08/03/2013 at 1:45 pm #

      Well done Boris!……I think he should be Prime Minister.

    7. Elsie Rhor 08/03/2013 at 4:25 pm #

      My issue with the ‘tube’ for bikes is that cycling as a mode of transport has been largely pioneered in boroughs where the tube provision is limited. Take Hackney which (correct me if i’m wrong) hasn’t a single underground station – only the overground. Does this mean this pioneering borough will be left out in the cold in terms of infrastructure?

    8. Jo 08/03/2013 at 4:54 pm #

      Ambitious plans, Boris does have very good intentions unfortunately he can’t do it alone. As you rightly put it “local councils lacking in vision and planning” yes let’s hope they are willing to bend to make this happen.

    9. Sally Crawford 08/03/2013 at 5:08 pm #

      Westminster City Council and Camden Council have already signed up to this brilliant scheme. They’re not stupid (

    10. Goodwheel 10/03/2013 at 4:29 am #

      What is not being discussed is that Barclays funding is not going to cover the proposed extensions of the Boris bike scheme into Hammersmith and other areas. Instead, the money is going to come from local authorities who will be required to pay for the scheme with Section 106 property developer taxes originally earmarked for affordable housing.

      When the excitement over the Mayor’s proposals dies down there will probably be some hard questions being put to the Mayor like, what level of reduction of affordable housing is justifiable for what particular level of improved bicycle infrastructure.

      Whilst the Mayor deserves every commendation for his vision, like all job in public service he will have to make a convincing case that his juggling act between conflicting needs has indeed resulted in an equitable allocation of resources.

    11. Simon K 11/03/2013 at 7:13 am #

      As much as it pleases me to see the promise of all these plans I cannot help but wonder exactly how much this will be scaled back over the next few years, also what about the rest of the country which has an almost miniscule budget compared to London.

    12. Michael 13/11/2013 at 6:01 pm #

      The mini amsterdam idea is clever as it will have a knock on effect to the surrounding boroughs. Residents cycling in from other boroughs will then go and put pressure on their own councils to do something similar.

      One thing is very important though. Getting school children used to riding on roads and to school. They are the future and we can’t expect a change instantly. If in two decades time there’s anywhere near the infrastructure for cycling in Amsterdam then I’ll be happy.

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