Friday, 26 April 2013

The Crown Estate - the UK's sixth largest land owner - declares: "Cycling is good for business" and "We agree with you that what cyclists really need are safe and segregated cycle lanes as suggested by the Mayor in his ‘Vision for Cycling’"

Regent Street during recent emergency gas works.
Less pollution, no horrible traffic congestion. 
Over the past fortnight, I have commented on plans to re-design the roads in the streets south of Piccadilly Circus. The works will narrow many of the roads in a way that will make it more hazardous to travel by bicycle than the current hairy arrangements in this area.

I feel strongly that there is an opportunity in this area to create an environment that makes it safer and more convenient to travel here by bicycle. There is sufficient space and sufficient investment in the pipeline to achieve this. The schemes also seem to mean conditions will get worse for significant numbers of bus passengers. As the Evening Standard put it yesterday: "there are fears that the removal of bus lanes, and the shrinking of such busy roads, will boost congestion and leave cyclists even closer to traffic. The plan also runs counter to Boris Johnson’s policy of creating segregated routes to increase cycle safety".

The proposed works are to be and the ultimate design are by Westminster council, however, the funding and overall strategy is led by The Crown Estate. The Estate is a property business that manages property which is owned by the Crown but is not the private property of the monarch. It is the sixth largest landowner in the country and is governed by an Act of Parliament and its profits go to the Treasury for the benefit of the nation.The area around Regents Street and St. James's is directly owned by the Crown Estate. It therefore has a pivotal say in what the heart of the West End looks like and how it works.

The Crown Estate is a significant land owner and developer. What the Crown Estate thinks and does matters not only on Regent Street but around the country. I am delighted that the Peter Bourne, development manager of the Crown Estate has responded to my blog posts in an informative email that contains some highly significant statements.

I will let Peter's email talk for itself but have taken the liberty of bolding the lines that should make local authorities and land owners around the country sit up and take notice. See for yourselves:

Email from Peter Bourne, development manager, The Crown Estate:

"In answer to your original post on 18 April and the subsequent one on yesterday, The Crown Estate are strong supporters of cycling in London and are actively promoting cycling here in the West End.

We have created 500 secure cycle parking spaces, complete with lockers and showers, in our buildings with another 500 on the way in buildings under construction. We have also provided some 100 on street cycle parking stands and are looking to increase this number.

We are also working to reduce traffic and congestion in the local area, for the benefit of both pedestrians and cyclists. 10% of traffic on Regent Street is from goods vehicles, so we created a delivery consolidation scheme that now involves a quarter of the Street’s shops. This award winning project sees retailers bring their goods to a consolidation centre outside of London, from where they are then brought to store by electric lorry. This means 75-80% fewer deliveries, less traffic and less pollution. We have a similar project to reduce office deliveries that uses cargo bikes.

We agree with you that what cyclists really need, however, are safe and segregated cycle lanes as suggested by the Mayor in his ‘Vision for Cycling’. Within days of that report being published we met with Transport for London and proposed a north-south route running from The Mall to Regents Park. There is still some work to be done on this, but we hope that it could be implemented before the end of 2014.

Our support for cycling is part of a wider commitment to sustainability, which is why we are also investing in making Regent Street safer and more welcoming for pedestrians. We also know that the completion of Crossrail and tube network upgrades will bring 20-25% more pedestrians into central London, so wider pavements and improved pedestrian facilities are essential.

Proposed improvements to Lower Regent Street and Haymarket, which your post focuses on, are part of this commitment. They build on the success of the Oxford Circus diagonal crossing and the re-introduction of two-way traffic around Piccadilly Circus, which we also helped design and co-fund. All these schemes seek to better manage congestion and reduce pollution, whilst the new road surfaces and improved traffic easing measures that they bring also benefit cyclists.

The more recent blog makes some specific proposals: “What Westminster needs to do here.”

• Create a two way system for bikes: that is what our north-south routes does; albeit not on Haymarket/Regent Street.
• Bike access from Shaftsbury Avenue to Piccadilly along the current bus- only lane: the scheme proposes this.
• Piccadilly/St James’s bike lanes: the new Boris east-west cycle route will run along Bird Cage Walk and the existing route along The Mall will link into this, in turn (subject to approvals) linking in to our proposed north-south route through Soho and up to Regents Park  to create a fully joined safe network.

We know that traffic, congestion and pollution are amongst the top concerns of businesses, residents and visitors to the West End. So tackling these issues and making the area more welcoming to pedestrians and cyclists alike is good for business as much as it is for the environment and visitors. This strategy drives our investment and our plans for the local area. We hope that this reassures you that The Crown Estate is and will remain a firm supporter of cyclists in London.

We anticipate that your readers would like to see a response from The Crown Estate on the issues you raise. I am therefore proposing to post a version of this note as a comment.

I would like to invite you to visit Regent Street where I would be happy to give you a tour of the cycle friendly schemes we have implemented and brief you on our future proposals, including the north-south cycle route we are working on. Please could you let me know when you could make such a meeting. "


  1. not regent st? why not? Its the only direct route between Regents park and the Mall. Its going through Soho? So we talking Wardour st, Berners & Cleveland? That would dump you on Euston rd though, so not sure how useful that is?

    Why not Regents st? Its a hugely important shopping street, exactly the street that these businesses would want to see more pedestrian/cycle activity on and less polluting vehicles.

    There's a real risk this won't form part of a meaningful cycle network. Exercise extreme caution when welcoming this. Reeks of "pro cycling without prioritising cycling"

    1. Why not Regent's Street? You're right to say that businesses would want to see more pedestrian activity on this street, but if you're a cyclist and you're actually planning to go shopping on Regent's Street, you're going to park up in the area and have a wander, aren't you? The idea that you're just going to be sailing past when you see something in a shop window that catches your eye is a little bit fanciful, I suggest.

      If you need to get from Regent's Park to The Mall by bike, you are engaged on a strategic journey, and you therefore don't need to go via Regent's Street. Nor do you need to go via Wardour Street - Berners Street - Cleveland Street, as this map clearly shows. As well as avoiding some busy junctions, this route also has the advantage of avoiding this somewhat cycle-unfriendly feature.

      Finally, if this route does not form part of a meaningful cycle network, there is a reason for this which has nothing to do with The Crown Estate.

    2. That's an interesting route. I try to avoid this part of town on a bike as it's so unfriendly but I've always carried up the staircase you link to.

      However, I commute to Portland Place for a year or so, using the Hyde Park and crossing Park Lane to Brook Street. I'm not sure Hanover Square and Cavendish Square are actually any more cycle friendly than Regent Street. Slightly easier to make progress since there are fewer buses but that's about it.

    3. Fail to see why you'd put cars through Regent st but not cycles. It would be progress if peds only had to share that v wide street with cycles and not with cars. Not perfect, but progress.

      As for your other route, it doesn't go through Soho which was the route they suggested. That cycle unfriendly feature could quite easily be made cycle-friendly so shouldn't necessarily rule that route out as an important cycle link in the future.

  2. I got almost the same response; mine started with:

    "We believe that the right approach to safer cycling is not to encourage cyclist, increasingly inexperienced cyclists, to use routes with large numbers of buses & lorries. Unfortunately that is the case in Regent Street and Haymarket. We set out some ideas below about how to avoid these streets. However the current proposals do incorporate some provision for the more experienced cyclist who will continue to use these streets."

    Seems to directly contradict Westminster's "this project will improve conditions for cyclists" nonsense. Also, unless I have missed something, there was no information on what is currently available to avoid Haymarket or Regent St, nor any commitment to implement a route. Just as per the bullets in your response a wishlist of what is needed.

    Does anyone have the concrete information on this north/south route - where it will go, who is constructing it, what is the time frame?

    1. This is extremely worrying. Deliberately creating no-go-zones for cyclists is an anti-cycling measure. Why would anyone be encouraged to cycle if motor vehicles were systematically given priority over cyclists in the very areas everybody wants to go. I don't want to be palmed off to a "cycling ghetto". If I, like so many people, want to shop on Regents Street and Piccadilly, I'll cycle there - if I'm not driven away by anti-cycling infrastructure!

  3. It seems they are ignoring a basic element of human psychology. People want to take the shortest route to where they are going and they want to decide what that route is. As such cyclists will carry on using Lower Regent Street and Haymarket and the proposals don't make either of those road any friendlier (and probably not safer either) to cyclists.

  4. Working in the Real Estate industry and knowing the Crown estate makes me hope the comments in the note are genuine, one to add to the list is the shambolic contraflow lane out onto Regent St after they cut off cycle access. after tackling the shocker of a surface (you could also chase up Stanhope about that one...) you can only turn right so making the only route from Mayfair to Fitravia alongside four lanes of cross rail trucks around cavendish Square.

  5. I think the Crown Estate's comments reflect an overall change in political and economic orthodoxy which now (finally) accepts the overwhelming financial, health, societal, and green arguments in favour of increasing cycling. That's great.

    However, there is a vast difference between adopting this stance in words, and actually implementing plans to reallocate road space away from traffic and towards cycling. Camden has been doing this. Westminster has *not*.

    I feel it is the cycling community's responsibility to let authorities know when their actions match their words, and why they don't.

    In this instance, these are great words from the Crown Estate, but they don't match the actualities of the Haymarket plans.

    Essentially they're being dishonest if they push ahead with the Haymarket plans and still claim to be pro-cycling.

    I for one am not happy to wait on the vague promise of a north-south route that *might* be up and running by the end of 2014, while in 2013 cycling is made even more dangerous on one of the most cycled routes in the West End.

    All that said though, it is fantastic that Martin Low and Peter Bourne are both interested in meeting cyclists and discussing these proposals. This is a major step forward, and could result in major revisions to the plans as they stand.

  6. So they are making it more dangerous and unpleasant ... to make it safer. Maybe they could increase safety further by hiring rooftop snipers to kill every 50th nervous cyclist going along the roads they deem unsafe.

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