A crossrail for bikes – London cyclists to finally have their wishes granted

Tower hill of the future

Transport for London have announced detailed consultation plans for two new Cycle Superhighways. They are the first two routes that really deserve the superhighway label.

The East-West route will take you from Barking to Acton. An 18 mile route that will see some of the most dangerous junctions in London completely re-imagined. It will continue from Cycle Superhighway 3 past Tower Hill (shown in the picture above), along the Embankment, through Parliament Square, Hyde Park and then past paddington.

east-west-route

The North-South route will take you from Farringdon to Elephant and Castle using a radically redesigned Blackfriars Bridge – previously a major point of contention back in 2011, amongst cyclists.

blackfriars-bridge

The routes feature cyclists only traffic lights along with physical separation along almost the entire routes. Basically, it’s a little like the kind of infrastructure you’d expect in places like Copenhagen and Amsterdam.

There are also major improvements for pedestrians with new and improved crossings. This is particularly striking at Parliament Square where pedestrians will finally have access to the square.

There are of course some flaws, some of which are easier to address than others. For a start, much of the route uses bi-directional tracks, which creates some issues for cyclists wanting to come on and off the route and might slow things down. It also gives drivers in London a bit of a new complexity. It’s a shame that it wasn’t possible to achieve routes that follow along with the direction of traffic.

Despite the flaws, it’s worth really supporting these plans as they are a bold step forward for the way people get around in London. For cyclists it’ll mean no more cars parked in cycle lanes. It will mean a safe, pleasant route that you’d be happy to ride with your family along. For pedestrians it means safer crossing and for London it means less congestion and pollution as more people take to bikes.

However, cyclists have an uphill battle to ensure that these go from being more than just plans. As reported on by Cyclists in the City, three groups have already voiced their opposition:

  • The RAC have told the BBC that the money would be better spent on other transport schemes. Billions is already spent on roads, and as soon as a comparative small amount is to be spent on something else, they object to it. One of their outrageous arguments is that only 4% of people in London cycle to work, so why invest in it? Which would have been the equivalent of saying in the past: nobody has a car, so why build a road. As we well know, the infrastructure needs to come first, before you can mobilise more people to get on bikes.
  • The business lobby group London First welcomes the plans but have raised concerns for other road users  “This must not make life worse for those on London’s buses, cars, taxis, coaches and vans. As well as moving commuters, London’s roads ensure we get the goods and services we need where and when we need them.”
  • The London Travel Watch, which supposedly represents all transport users, has said that “TfL’s proposals to change the road layout at Vauxhall and Oval pose a risk to millions of bus journeys every year”

To ensure that forward thinking change does happen, it’s up to cyclists to get involved in the consultations:

Set aside 30 minutes in your calendar to write in your views to TfL. The more people they hear from, the better. You can add views on every part of the improvements if you have the time, but just adding your comments in the overall proposals box would be very helpful.

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As seen on The Guardian, BBC and The Independent.

15 Responses to A crossrail for bikes – London cyclists to finally have their wishes granted

  1. Mick Maciver 08/09/2014 at 8:52 am #

    It should be fun. The cycle lanes are narrow (in the pics shown – which I realize might not be representative of the whole route) meaning that if it achieves the aim of getting lots more people/families/kids cycling then the cycle routes will be slow and overtaking very difficult. It will drive (sorry!) those in a hurry back on to the roads – which will be narrower (in some sections) making them more dangerous for cyclists and making cyclists more of a bottleneck for vehicles on the faster parts of the route. This will lead to cyclists getting hurt and the inevitable demand from vehicle lobbies that use of the cycle paths be compulsory “now that they’ve got their own special/expensive bit of road”.

    The risk is that for some sections of the route use of the cycle track will become mandatory and the cycle route will become as congested as the roads are with vehicles with long queues at the lights, dawdling families strung out across the path in the rush hour traffic, and average speeds plummetting. I look forward to reading cycling forums then.

    • SRC 08/09/2014 at 9:14 am #

      Mick – Perhaps I can reassure you on a couple of points.
      I don’t claim any specialist knowledge here, but I do know that a mandatory cycle lane means that drivers are not permitted but there is no compunction for cyclists to have to use it.
      The narrower carriageways remaining for traffic will actually (and I know this is counter-intuitive) be safer for cyclists. This is because most of our lanes are precisely the wrong width for us. If wider, we would have more room, and if narrower, we would be part of the traffic, with no temptation for drivers to squeeze past. Yes, less experienced riders might find that intimidating, but this is the situation in most of the cyclists’ republic of Hackney. Also, as you say, less confident riders will have access to the new infrastructure.
      The devil will be in the detail.

      • Mick Maciver 08/09/2014 at 7:42 pm #

        SRC – I understand the theory of narrow lanes – in theory it means that it is virtually impossible for a vehicle to pass a bike so it’s easy to claim the lane and everyone’s safer. In practice it means that cyclists have to move at the same pace as the traffic and cyclists in heavy traffic will have to patiently queue behind buses and skip lorries and wait their turn at lights and roundabouts instead of sneaking to the front. The commute along these stretches will take as long as it would in a car. This has the potential to tempt the more impatient among us into even more dangerous squeezing between buses and kerb or riding on the pavement to get to the race at the front of the lights.

        I know that at the moment cycle lanes are rarely mandatory, but when drivers start to see “their road tax” being spent on cycling infrastructure but are still “held up” by bikes on the road then the lobbying will become intense and I really believe that bikes will be banned from some of these roads and forced onto the cycle paths- just as cyclists will lobby to make it a capital offence for pedestrians to walk on “their” cycle path.

        My stance comes from a personal belief that the problems on our roads are cultural and spending money on infrastructure will not help cyclists or motorists or passengers very much. I think if you swapped out the Danish population of Copenhagen with a bunch of Britons who used a similar modal mix then the fabulous transport infrastructure would quickly become clogged and criticized in the same way that Britain’s is today.

        We are a selfish people; we don’t let people in at junctions or at 2-into-1 lane roadworks; we show no courtesy to other road users of any mode; we believe that being overtaken is a direct challenge to our manhood and will do stupid and dangerous things to prevent it; we believe the law to be merely a clearing house for wrongdoing whereby one can collect the transgressions of others and trade them for personal law breaking (I can run a red light because I saw a motorist on a mobile phone – I can walk in the cycle path because cyclists cycle on the pavement – etc). My journey is, and always will be, more important than any one else’s.

        These are clearly ridiculous generalizations, but I really believe that the current carriageway space is already enough for everyone (and more) and that very little money would need to be spent if we all, in whatever mode, allowed a bit more time to get to our destination and we actively considered the safety of everyone around us to be our number one priority. If we acted with courtesy, grace and intelligence and accepted that our journey is no more important than any one else’s then I think that we shouldn’t need to spend much money on cycling (or other) infrastructure just to stop people being hurt and killed.

        Just my 2d – all opinion – no real sources other than a bit of experience on the streets on foot, bike, motorbike and car and a massive dose of cynicism.

        Be safe.

        • SW London Rider 09/09/2014 at 6:35 pm #

          Mick – How can you claim you’d like people to act “with courtesy, grace and intelligence and accept that their journey is no more important than any one else’s” and then claim you’re applying a massive dose of cynicism?

          As all the bloggers are saying – you need to support this, not because it is providing all the answers at once, but because it is providing a half-decent template for future works on TfL roads, perhaps the best seen for over half a century anywhere in the UK. This could benefit those who see cycling on London roads currently as either dangerous or, perhaps more germanely, unnecessarily unpleasant: pollution in your face, overly close proximity to noise and unforgiving surfaces etc – sharing the road however nicely isn’t going to stop that one iota.

          In addition it should be quite possible for those who don’t wish to cycle on the paths to avoid the affected roads without compromising travel time, whether or not a bicycle traffic meltdown occurs on their extremely limited extent. London’s grid permits that. For example, of roads I’m familiar with, if they put a protected bike lane down York Rd (CS8) tomorrow, I could still use Lavender Hill or even Larkhall Lane to get to Vauxhall (as I often have in the past for a change – Lavender Hlll is actually my preferred route). So while any person’s journey may be the most important, the decision over the route (or mode of transport) may not be the optimum one. These plans if they come to fruition may help people make a better choice.

        • Mark 17/09/2014 at 11:54 pm #

          Couldn’t agree more Mick. I’ve seen this posted on several sites and news outlets and every time it just makes me more cynical. People telling you to support it (because it’s for cyclists, so it must be good!) aren’t really examining the plans properly.

          To the other supporters:

          Narrow, segregated 2 lane cycle paths, in central London, during rush hour… it is going to be absolute carnage, and as you say, will send a load of cyclists back on to the road pretty quickly into contact with pissed off motorists whose journey times have doubled thanks to reduced road capacity, extra crossings and completely ballsed up new junctions.

          All you have to do to see this, is take the two photos in this article, which the developers and TfL obviously send out as they think they are a great marketing shot, and replace the traffic with actual London rush hour levels of cyclists, pedestrians and cars. That bus stop stuck between the cycle path and the road will be overflowing with passengers, overflowing into the cycle path – which itself will be overflowing. The road will be rammed solid with cars, vans, buses and a fair few bikes.

          Picture 2 – replace the 6 cyclists approaching that bizarre looking junction on the right with 60, and then tell me that’ll work and not be an absolute mess.

          —–

          The existing cycle superhighways work just fine, there is a large bit of roadspace allocated for cyclists without impacting on everyone else’s journey, without costing millions of pounds to implement and without disrupting London with a huge construction project. Do more of them.

          For what it’s worth, although the above reads like I’m a motorist, I haven’t owned a car for 6 years, I do ride a scooter, but I also cycle plenty, each for commuting, leisure and racing (including at VeloPark, which I cycle across London to get to) – I just don’t agree that we should be putting cyclists ahead of all other road users. Any project should have a net positive outcome, and TfLs own paper on this acknowledges journey times will increase not just on the route, but on routes leading to the route, for all other road users and that already limited parking will be reduced too.

        • Mark 17/09/2014 at 11:56 pm #

          Also… whatever happened to those floating cycleway plans? Now that was an idea I could get behind, minimal disruption to other people and all the benefits for cyclists, much better.

  2. Tony Durham 08/09/2014 at 9:49 am #

    Good news in principle at least. But what became of the plan to build cycle tracks along railway routes? Minimises gradients, and avoids friction with drivers and pedestrians.

    And how much more would it cost to provide some shelter over the tracks? English weather is one of the main reasons more people don’t cycle.

  3. Barney 08/09/2014 at 12:56 pm #

    I don’t think it looks that slow. It seemed like a lot of it will be four meters wide, and because it will be bidirectional you should be able to move on to the right hand side of the lane to overtake slower cyclists.

    On many parts of the route during rush hour most cyclists will be going in the same direction, leaving space for overtaking on the right.

  4. Elsie Rohr 08/09/2014 at 3:27 pm #

    I don’t think bottle necks would be a problem – look at the Regents canal, surely the most busy segregated piece of ‘cycling infrastructure’ we have in London. Even in the mornings when it’s busy with cyclists heading to and from work there is only ever a queue at the odd bridge as the bidirectional traffic pause for one another.

    The only thing that makes using the canal an issue is that it’s really a pedestrian route and isn’t wide enough for both people and bikes. Early mornings when it’s just bikes it’s never a problem and weekends when its just people on foot (you’d have to be mad and a bit of a jerk to cycle there on sunny weekends) its fine again.

  5. Mixxim 09/09/2014 at 8:46 am #

    Good news, however those of us wanting to take the family for a ride are still put off because the cycle path suddenly ends.

  6. Vincent 09/09/2014 at 12:59 pm #

    I’d be curious to know what Dutch and Dane road experts think of that project…

  7. Mick Maciver 09/09/2014 at 10:35 pm #

    Reply to SW London Rider about cynicism

    I probably meant scepticism, not cynicism. Without a cultural/behavioral shift the infrastructure won’t have much effect (in my opinion – others are available). Families who are scared to cycle among cars today will be scared tomorrow to cycle among guys trying to beat their PB or by getting shouted at and abused for delaying someone on their way to work.

    I can’t really support this because in my heart I don’t believe it will have the effect which is intended and will be the stepping off point for bad changes to cycling, like compulsory helmets, mandated cycle path use, speed limits on cycle paths, registration, insurance, bike tax and the inevitable collapse of civilization.

    Yes, I know it’s a huge leap from seeing a pic of a bike path on a blog to bike tax – but it’s late, I’ve had a large Green Spot for supper and, as I pointed out above, other opinions are available.

    G’night – and be safe.

  8. nyge 12/09/2014 at 10:43 am #

    “You can please some of the people some of the time but not all of the people all of the time”.

    I support it because nothing will ever completely satisfy all road users, but this represents a radical step in the right direction for London.

    • Holly 12/09/2014 at 1:26 pm #

      Nyge: I agree 100 percent and was thinking precisely the same thing. No plan will resolve all of the problems or please all of the people. This is, however, a major step in the right direction. I applaud that LOUDLY!

  9. Peter 17/09/2014 at 8:00 am #

    Like the Kevin Costner film Field of Dreams – “IF you build it they will come.”

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