Monday, 23 August 2010

Help us get more two-way cyclable streets

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This is a long article. If you can't face reading the detail, then leap straight to the HOW YOU CAN HELP section below and see how you could play a role in making more of the City's streets two-way for cycles.

Last year the City announced it would make a number of one-way streets cyclable in two directions.

The London Cycling Campaign carried a press release here.

The two-way option opened up some very convenient new routes. The north-south link between Blackfriars Bridge and Smithfield being one that has apparently seen a solid increase in cycle traffic since the two-way infrastructure was put in place. Rob Ainsley's excellent Real Cycling blog profiled the new link here.

There was an awful lot of fuss at the time about the heresy of creating two-way routes for cycles. If you want to read the sorts of ranting and raving that went on, take a peek at comments in the Evening Standard here. Cyclists in the City attended some local residents meetings at the time, where a small but fairly determined group of residents had, let's call it, fairly strong views about the two-way streets.

Fast-forward a year, and a number of additional streets have since become two-way for cycles. Lombard Street among them. And, for the most part, the scheme sounds like it's been a success. There hasn't been chaos and mayhem. The scheme has broadly worked.

Getting this infrastructure in place took months of lobbying by pro-cycling people at the City of London. It took further months of testing and further months of high-profile information and more measuring to make sure the concept was working. Each street had to be agreed on a case by case basis and involved jumping through various internal hoops, the likes of which I don't fully understand and hope never to need to understand. Net result, however, is unnecessary expense and lots of potential barriers to making more streets become two-way for cycles.

This month, the issue of two-way cycling becomes really live. It might sound tedious and boring to most people but the City of London meets twice in September to discuss whether to allow two-way streets to become a 'normal' part of the street planning regime. What that would mean is no more hoop-jumping and layers and layers of approval. It would make two-way streets for cycles a standard part of the street pattern of the City, if the street engineers decide that a particular street needs opening up.

This is serious stuff. There are already discussions being had about a dozen streets that could be made two-way for cycles and that would open up a string of new routes for cyclists to cross the City from north to south and east to west. But that's only likely if the two-way project gets approval to become a standard piece of City planning.

And in case you're reading this and for some reason think the two-way cyclable option isn't for you, then consider Paris:


Here's a map of the Bretagne neighbourhood in the 3eme quarter of Paris. The streets in purple are ALL two-way for cycles. Slowly but surely, Paris has committed to turning every single Paris one-way street into two-way for cycles.

So, by Paris standards, the City still has an awfully long way to go. It has a handful of streets that are now two-way for cycles. But the decision about whether to put in place a policy that will allow more one-way streets to go two-way for cycles could be a major step in the right direction and that decision is due in September.

You can help by writing to the City and sharing with them your experiences of cycling down the new two-way routes. A simple email would help, just letting them know how much you value being able to use the new routes, how it's made your journey safer or faster or encouraged you to cycle more.

Improving safety for cyclists is a particularly hot issue for the City at the moment (More on that in future posts but if you're interested in the meantime, take a look at this article that explains the background). The City knows it has a poor record in cycle safety statistics and this is a button you should push if you do decide to write. Two-way cycling allows you to chose more sensible routes for your journey, to avoid certain junctions and to find your way through the City whichever way feels safest for you.

If you can spare the time to drop an email to the City's cycling officer pointing out how two-way cycling makes your journey feel safer or easier, then please drop a line to

Alternatively, if you want to go higher up the ladder, then a letter to

City Planning Officer, Peter Rees
PO Box 270
London EC2P 2EJ

Or, if you're really keen, then an email to your local alderman or woman (that's a councillor in any other borough). To find your local alderman you need to select your ward here and chose a contact from the list

Coming soon to the City? Paris gets its head around two-way cyclabe streets. Can we make the leap?