In less than a year cyclists in London will be able to cycle along the first two cycle superhighways. Their aim is to provide a safe and direct route into the city centre to cyclists. Is this a major cycling revolution or is it just a normal bike lane with a lick of blue paint and a bit of clever branding?
Design of the cycle highways
The artists impression (showcasing some excellent Photoshop skills) from the TfL website basically looks like a normal cycle lane painted blue. In fact taking a closer look at this picture you realise its a bit of a marketing disaster. Not only does it show a scared individual cycling in the gutter but also it shows a London bus driving in the cycling lane. Not exactly dream conditions.
The limited information that has been given so far suggests that the cycle lanes will be:
- Separate from motor traffic wherever possible
- Painted blue
- Following the route of main roads
Definitely nothing too “revolutionary” there. The description on the TfL website is slightly more positive:
Direct and continuous – The routes will be clearly marked from start to finish so you’ll have no trouble following them. You’ll also see information along the way about journey time and links to other cycling routes.
Comfortable – We’ll be improving road surfaces along the route so you can pedal more comfortably.
Easy to find – Each highway will have a clear and unique identity.
Safe – Signals, road markings and continuous cycle lanes at junctions will help you keep safe.
The first two routes that are currently under development are very direct and a decent cycling length. However, they have limited space to develop larger cycling lanes to accommodate the suggested threefold increase in cycling users that the scheme aims to achieve. If the lanes did eat further into car users space then there would be a highly negative effect on rush hour traffic. Perhaps the standstill would be enough to encourage motorists to switch to pedal power as they watch even the slowest cyclist beat them to their destination.
- Barking to Tower Hill via the A13 and Cable Street
- Opening: May 2010
- 9.8 miles (estimated) so roughly 39 minutes bike ride (riding at 15 mph)
- View map
- South Wimbledon to Bank via A24, A3 and Southwark Bridge Road
- Opening: May 2010
- Follows Northern Line to Bank
- 8.9 miles (estimated) so roughly 35 minutes bike ride (riding at 15 mph)
- View map
- There are also 10 more routes that will be developed after the 2 pilot routes are completed.
- TfL appear to be aiming for completion of all 12 routes before the end of 2012. However, considering the length of time taken to develop just 2 routes I can’t see that happening.
Image source: TfL
Marketing gimmick or positive step forward?
If Boris’ big blue bike lanes catch on then the outcome can only be positive. After all, any cyclist would be crazy to wish away good cycling lanes along major routes. It is important however not to have the wool pulled over our eyes. The new mayor of London famously cut spending to the London Cycle Network which resulted in 400 new cycle lanes been scrapped.
There are three measures of success here. The first is weighing up the quality of the cycling highways compared to traditional cycling lanes. If the superhighways delivered the promised improvements such as greater road comfort, more room to cycle and priority over traffic then they may raise the bar of what is expected from a cycling lane thus prompting improvements across the network of cycle routes. Conversely if the cycle superhighways end up being just a glorified cycle lane then the benefit will be marginal to cyclists.
The second measure of success is the completion of all 12 cycle lanes. In a positive scenario all 12 would be completed by the end of 2012 as promised. This would have a strong impact to the London cycling scene. If however the scheme is scrapped before completion, which may well happen depending on the feedback from the first two cycle routes and a negative backlash from motorists, then a lot of time will have been wasted.
The final measure of success is the positive impact it has on the number of cyclists and on the awareness of cyclists as fellow road users. If drivers end up paying more attention to cyclists then maybe less accidents will occur.
What would be nice to see in future initiatives is a more united front between the mayor of London and London Cycling Campaign rather than arguments over who is right as this does not portray a positive image to us cyclists. I look forward to May 2010 and giving the first cycle superhighways a test run.