Question time with Boris Johnson at the cycle superhighway launch

Boris Johnson at the superhighway launchToday the Barclay’s Cycle Superhighways were launched at a big press and public event. TfL kindly invited me along and also promised me a couple of quick questions with the Mayor. Of course this was too good an offer to pass by so I went down after canvassing everyone on Twitter for questions to ask. (My take on “open” journalism.)

Boris Johnson was on top form as he arrived by bike looking tired and tieless. He told us that along his 35 minute journey from Islington to Clapham Common it was him versus a boy racer and he only narrowly won thanks to the superhighways. An entertaining story although a quick check on the map confirms the majority of the route is not covered by a superhighway.

Speeches were given and many laughs were received from the gathered members of the press. Boris went on to explain that the blue of the superhighways was meant to represent freedom and be an international sign of how serious London is about cycling. He finished his speech by stressing the importance of London competing against other cities in order to receive investment. By growing cycling he hopes to prove that London has what it takes.

We were also given some figures about the superhighways. The money will fund 5,000 new parking spaces for bikes, over 17,000 hours of cycle training and 3,000 hours of cycle maintenance classes. Boris also told us that any rumours that the cycle superhighways would be less than 1.5 metres in length at certain points were not true.

Everyone seemed rather wooed by the speeches and was happy to walk away thinking how good us cyclists have it. This is highly arguable but you can’t help but agree that the visible nature of the superhighways is a positive thing.

When the opportunity came along to grab some questions with Boris I knew he was not really going to answer anything. However, it was worth trying anyway. I wanted to find out about his vision for the cycle superhighways compared to the reality. What I really wanted to know is how someone can look at the superhighways and think to themselves “yes, this truly is a superhighway, this will be great for new cyclists”. Boris simply said that of course his initial vision would not be possible due to the big range of stakeholders. However, he would like to see the blue tarmac all throughout London.

I also asked about the reductions in cycle lanes along certain points. He told me that of course there would be some problems at the start. What about the policing of the cycle superhighways? A lot of people on Twitter wanted to know what would be done to keep vehicles out of the lanes. He quoted the TfL research that suggests the visual nature of the lanes will be enough to help drivers recognise the sheer volume of cyclists passing through and thus they will stay out of the lane.

Our interview was cut short by a cyclist riding on the pavement. Boris approached him and shouted “why did we build the superhighways if you’re not going to use them?” I’m sure we could give him a number of reasons.

There are many questions still to ask – the congestion zone extension scrap, how fast the cycle hire scheme will be rolled out to wider London, prohibition of trucks at peak times and why London doesn’t have more bike boulevards.

They will have to wait for another time. However, there was one final question I wanted to ask. I managed to grab Kulveen Ranger, the Mayors Transport Advisor, who is pro-cycling. I asked him if he’d heard of the idea before of privatising car parking in-order to capture the true cost of parking. It was an interesting idea I’ve not heard before suggested to me by Paul Battley. It caught Kulveen unaware and he wasn’t able to answer. This is definitely an idea worth exploring more and I’ll see if I can chase him up on it.

Whilst I didn’t get to ask Boris all the questions I wanted, especially “who does your hair?”, it was an interesting launch and its good to see the first stage of one of the big cycling projects finally delivered. Now on to the Cycle Hire Scheme.

Thanks to my fellow cycling blogger Rob Ainsley for the picture. Also make sure you read his take on the launch.

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14 Responses to Question time with Boris Johnson at the cycle superhighway launch

  1. Jim 19/07/2010 at 3:38 pm #

    “Boris also told us that any rumours that the cycle superhighways would be less than 1.5 metres in length at certain points were not true.”

    If that means 1.5m for each ‘lane’, then what about these: http://www.flickr.com/photos/suburbanslice/sets/72157623474683197/with/4798674127/

    Looks to me like the two lanes together might be 1.5m or more, but surely not each one?

    • Andreas 21/07/2010 at 10:10 am #

      Jim, a good example of the failings of the superhighways – shame to see such narrow lanes when there is clearly more space around.

  2. Jonathan 19/07/2010 at 7:27 pm #

    I’ve noticed two big problems with the CS7 – it’s all fine until a traffic island comes along (or they get bored), then cars just cut into the blue lane. Also, when vehicles (particularly buses) keep their right-hand side within their white lane marker, the left hand side spills over into the cycle lane. And on Sundays, forget it – the CS7 is just full of parked cars.

  3. Jules 20/07/2010 at 11:40 am #

    so yesterday i wasn’t in a rush and figured as i was going from upton park to the city i’d give it a go over the canning town flyover and see how it went (i normally use the bus lane to keep going straight on into the city).

    i got to the end of the flyover and i couldn’t find the rest of it – ended up going round a nasty roundabout and back on the main carriageway until i eventually found the sign (which is on the other side of the road and not that clear) that said you should turn left along the road you just crossed.

    i’m now getting told off for being in the bus lane instead of on the blue when it’s better for my journey to be in the bus lane (i’m not jumping curbs on my road bike!)

    i’m yet to be convinced to put it mildly.
    Jules

  4. Stephen Danse 20/07/2010 at 12:47 pm #

    I still haven’t read anything (officially) to suggest the concept of why a wider blue line is better than a well known green line?

    Also, does anyone think that small rumble strips may have been useful, smaller versions of what they use on motorways. Although these will not physicall stop cars, buses etc driving in the leanes if they want too, it will at least alert those that want to stay out if they start drifting over.

    It would also help cars by keeping cyclists in the blue lane.

    I’m not suggesting rumble strips everywhere, but maybe on the 50 metres leading up to a junction.

    • Andreas 21/07/2010 at 10:13 am #

      The rumble strips are a good idea and one I’ve not heard mentioned before. When I next see the cycle superhighway project manager I’ll mention it to him to see what he suggests.

  5. Jim 20/07/2010 at 1:26 pm #

    Just saw this over at the lgfss.com forum:

    “CS7 is being policed quite firmly by motorbike cops. And they are only after cyclists. This morning, I saw riders stopped at Balham & Clapham Common. I saw a third on the road, so pointed out some PTWs in an ASL, which he ignored. He also ignored three cyclists who went ahead of the line at the entrance to Stockwell gyratory, but nicked an RLJer before Oval.

    Last night, I saw two cyclists being spoken to – near Oval and Clapham Common, and another PC waiting partially concealed near Clapham North tube. I pointed out a car in an ASL to him, and he made as if to move off, but did nothing as the lights changed.

    So stay clean. The Met’s idea of promoting a new facility is not to educate & inform people driving carelessly, but to target cyclists.”

    Marvellous.

  6. Andy 20/07/2010 at 10:25 pm #

    I usually use LCN route 5 – it runs parallel to CS7 but uses bike paths over Tooting Common and Clapham Common and I finish my commute through Hyde Park, but today I thought I’d give the Blue Line a go. All but 3 of the ASLs were occupied by cars, vans and buses (and those had the usual motorbikes in…) but as Jim reported I saw motorbike cops out in force so I thought I would I ask if they were going to do anything. In response I was asked to prove that my lights worked (in broad daylight?) and told that they were there in case any cyclists tried to ‘take the mickey’ on this ‘day of days’. While very little of the blue paint actually constitutes a cycle path (and even less with a solid white line) I reckon it’s just a matter of time before anyone hit ‘off the reservation’ will just be told ‘you shouldn’t be that part of the road’.
    The idea that Boris could outrun a ‘boy racer’ is so laughable it made up for the rest of his ‘jokes’. Shame the biggest on should have cost so many millions already! Just share the roads…

    • Andreas 21/07/2010 at 10:16 am #

      Sad to hear these bad reports of police behaviour. They obviously haven’t been trained in dealing with cyclists correctly.

  7. Paul 20/07/2010 at 11:33 pm #

    As a cyclist from London now living in Holland, I have watched this development with some amusement. I know the South route very well, cycling from North Cheam to central London following the Northern line from Morden to Clapham Common, before turning off, for the best part of a year. The area between Tooting Bec and Colliers Wood I remember in particular as the location of a number of near accidents.
    Painting the road blue is a token gesture with no long term benefit. Surely the solution is to educate all road users that cyclists should be expected and accepted on all roads, not single out these roads in particular? Even on the BBC coverage the blue line was being used for the two-lane traffic jam.
    I could not imagine returning to be a cyclist in London after 3 years in Holland. I hope it does work for all of you, but I’ll happily stick with my dedicated cycle lanes and cycle friendly road regulations.

    • Andreas 21/07/2010 at 10:17 am #

      In London I agree we could do with more cycle friendly road regulations but it seems any segregated infrastructure is bound to fail

  8. Cait 23/07/2010 at 10:22 am #

    I watched a video on YouTube the other day by Jenny Jones as a response to the Superhighways being opened, and I have to say I didn’t realise a couple of things:
    1) They were actually a *Ken* policy, after a paper on impoving cycling in London to which Jenny was a contributor, so Boris just picked the policy up
    2) Jenny’s 100% pro, which was a surprise to me, given all of our luddite-esque negative comments about them!! (and you know you do feel negative don’t you! I too am guilty ;)

    So… listening to her talking about them made me reassess them slightly, and I came to think that for prospective cyclists they are potentially actually rather great. For new *new* cyclists. for existing cyclists, we are justified in the scepticism. What does it do for us? not much really, they’re painted across bus lanes mostly, they confuse motorcyclists *even more* when there’s even an entire bus lane painted blue at Stockwell, for example…

    …but I don’t know about anyone else who touches the blue route through Clapham/Stockwell but I’ve really noticed the existing (and maybe new?) cyclists more since the painting was completed. The drivers are as rubbish as they always are but I did notice yesterday, since the publicity that there was some effort to pull away from the curb and out of the blue around the junction with the astronaught pub (regulars will know where I mean!).

    So if you were a new / prospective cyclist, would you feel slightly more supported? I would say probably yes, in which case that’s a really good job done.

    Of course there are huge questions about long term maintenance and pleeeeease can we have about 4x’s as many of those large scale mirrors (that’s the bit that no one can possibly moan about) but I must confess I find my 180 degree turnaround in opinion a bit freaky.

    I think the answer is, relax about it, support it for the positives that it will bring… and try and help velib cyclists to not kill themselves.

  9. A Swan 29/07/2010 at 1:02 pm #

    As a London cyclist and motorcyclist i welcome the new cycle lanes but I would like to make some comments on cyclists’ attitudes to motorcyclists using the blue areas across all lanes at traffic lights. Firstly, I have to admit that i almost always wait for the lights to change in these areas as it just seems to me to be common sense that motorbikes should be free to use these as they are always going to be first away from the lights. What i never do is block off the left hand side of these boxes as i believe cyclists should have that area to themselves but i can t see why they should have the right to exclusively occupy all that space. Certainly when i m cycling, it does nt worry me that motorbikes are ahead of me, in fact i d be more worried about them coming past me too closely and knocking me off. However I have found that the blue colouring has given some cyclists a more agrressive attitude to bikes in the blue areas at the lights, so can i ask for some tolerance and understanding as i believe motorbikes use of this space is actually safer and more sensible. Happy to be told i m wrong if someone has a different view!

  10. Jeff 07/11/2010 at 8:07 pm #

    Hi

    A new cycle superhighway is due to open near me at Wandsworth. One thing the mainstream media don’t seem to have picked up on is that surely corporations such as Barclays sponsoring cycle superhighways are never going to want them routed through quieter, safer roads, as their advertising/branding will want to be seen by as many people (ie motorists) as possible. Surely there is a conflict of interest here?

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