Thursday, 18 April 2013

Why is the Crown Estate turning central London into a no-go zone for cycling and making conditions worse for bus passengers? Write to the Crown Estate and let them know what you think.

Before and after view of Haymarket. Four lanes will be reduced to only two narrow lanes - plenty of space
for a meaningful bike lane but that won't be happening. Bus passengers lose their bus lanes too.
Image courtesy City of Westminster

Back in February, the City of Westminster published plans for the area around Lower Regent Street and Haymarket. Pictured above is a before and after shot of Haymarket. Miraculously, both of these shots show the scene with hardly any cars and only one bus. Most days, this area is a logjam packed with buses, taxis and bikes.

This is the bike lane at the end of Haymarket as it looks at the
The Crown Estate (ie the Queen's estate) is paying the City of Westminster to spend millions of pounds to build massively wider footways, knocking out the entire bus lane area. That means bus, bikes and taxis will have to fight it out in the remaining two lanes available. There won't be any less motor traffic, it's just that buses will now have to crawl along with the cars in the narrow lanes. And bikes will have literally nowhere to go. You'll just have to sit there breathing in fumes and going nowhere.

The same thing will be going on along Lower Regent Street which heads north and runs parallel to Haymarket. Lower Regent Street is currently six lanes wide. This will be narrowed to three.

In all, the council will remove three lanes northbound and two lanes southbound. And is providing absolutely no safe space for cycling. In fact, no space for cycling at all, unless there is no motor traffic whatsoever.

Lower Regent Street as it looks now. Six lanes wide. At rush hour, almost impossible to move here on a bike
as motor traffic fills up the entire space. 
Westminster has already done this magic trick on Piccadilly, turning that into a two-way street (much of which you're no longer allowed to use on a bike, by the way) and on Pall Mall. The result is extremely narrow carriageways where it is both more dangerous and much more intimidating to be on a bike. At rush hour, the lanes are pretty difficult to navigate, you're forced to duck and weave between queuing motor traffic. Outside of rush hour, the traffic is moving extremely fast and, due to the narrow width of the lanes, incredibly close to your flesh and bones. That is to say nothing of the total lack of bike parking installed by Westminster since it put these shiny new road layouts in place (even more ludicrously at Leicester Square where there is now precisely zero bike parking. Transport for London paid for a good chunk of the Leicester Square scheme only to see its pro-bike policies dashed by Westminster's never-think-about-people-on-bikes policy).

Lower Regent Street as planned
Three narrow lanes, a wide traffic island and cyclists
will be left hugging the kerb, trying to inch their way up the street.
Image courtesy City of Westminster
These designs are not appropriate for a city where the Mayor plans 5% of all journeys will be made by bike by 2020.

The fact is that you simply can't avoid these two roads. To the east, you have Leicester Square which is completely and utterly impermeable to people on bikes. To the west you have St. James's Park. If you want to get north or south through this part of the West End, these are the only roads you can use. They are, laughably, already part of the London Cycle Network (not that you'd ever know) and they're already nasty and dangerous places to be on a bike.

These schemes will do nothing to make either route safer or easier to use on a bike. I suspect they'll also make these routes slower and less easy to use by bus as well. There is unbelievable amount of space to create safe, sensible conditions for people to cycle through these streets, kept apart from the buses and heavy traffic and kept apart from pedestrians. But neither the Crown Estate nor Westminster council sees fit to include even the slightest nod towards bicycle transport in these schemes.

My own view is that these schemes are utterly wrong for central London and I'm astonished that the Crown Estate is going ahead with funding designs that discriminate so vividly against bus passengers and people who want to travel by bike.

I suggest that if you feel likewise, you write to 

Martin Brazier
The Crown Estate, 16 New Burlinton Place, London W1S 2HX.

You might also want to copy

Martin Low

Commissioner of Transportation
City of Westminster
11th Floor North
City Hall
64 Victoria Street
London SW1E 6QP


  1. Er, you've forgotten the existence of St James's Street. Haymarket/Lower Regent's Street aren't the only options.... Use Pall Mall/The Mall to get to it.

  2. Not really sure that I agree with this post. Given the number of pedestrians in this area, pavement widening badly needs to happen. That isn't to say that some of that space shouldn't be cycle lanes, but pedestrians come first, then bikes. Not the other way round.

    1. If they're taking two or three traffic lanes away, there's absolutely plenty of room to do both. Even more so if they forget about the largely pointless traffic island (useless to anyone with a mobility impairment) & put in a decent number of raised-table pedestrian priority crossings.

      Pedestrians come first - certainly. But bikes are catered for in the proposal.. precisely not at all.

    2. Unless the pedestrians live locally, or have a helicopter at their disposal, they too at some point will wish to get in/out of the area by regular means. This really affects everyone who uses those roads by bicycle, bus or taxi - most of whom will also be pedestrians on these roads too.

  3. @anon 20:09

    these designs make streets that are already only really useable by a small sub-set of cyclists even worse.

    so i disagree with you. first, make the street usable by all the people on bikes who want to use it. then sort out more space for pedestrians. then make sure the buses can get through. then sort out the goods/services traffic. then, if there's any space left for private cars, they're welcome to use it.

  4. @anon 20.09

    I disagree with you that cyclists should be left out of new planning. There is plenty of space here to do both. Pedestrians will be safer if there are more cyclists too. The pedestrians get better air quality since fewer cars and less chance of being run over and killed since a bike won't kill you.

    So pedestrians should actively be seeking to improve things for cyclists; unless you want to breathe in noxious fumes all day?

    Furthermore, a failure to install cycle lanes will simply encourage pavement cycling by cyclists who don't want to die in the road, so again, by failing to install segregated lanes the Crown Estate are making it worse for pedestrians since there will be more bikes on the pavement.

    Plenty of space here. Segregation is a no brainer.

    1. I agree. A point I want to make is that pedestrians and cyclists are not types of people, they're just words to describe people when using a certain mode of transport.
      What we could instead be saying, for example, is "Walking will be safer if there is more cycling... " I think we should talk about the activity rather than make it seem like there are different types of people.

  5. I've written to The Crown Estate and Westminster, as suggested. I just don't get it - I am keen to go to Westminster to spend my money, primarily in restaurants, and I wish to do so my bicycle. Westminster seems to actively not want me to do this. Should I just be going elsewhere? The outrage when drivers might have to pay for parking - "killing local business" etc their money is obviously wanted. But not mine or that of people who use the bus?

  6. Done,to both and to Boris too! And tweeted.

    Mark Platt, SW1

  7. Reply from Westminster council:

    "Phil, The following is a link to Westminster City Council's website where you can view the report and decisions taken on the Cabinet Member report on " Piccadilly Two Way Scheme Part 2".

    Shortcut to:

    This page contains electronic copies of drawings showing advance works at three locations where the City Council in partnership with TfL is improving safety for all road users and reducing delays and assisting buses and cyclists. These are being undertaken in Cockspur Street at its junction with the western side of Trafalgar Square; Cockspur Street at its junctions with Haymarket and Pall Mall East; and in Shaftesbury Avenue at its junction with Great Windmill Street.

    There are other drawings highlighting the latest designs for Haymarket, Regent Street (south of Piccadilly Circus) and Waterloo Place, which include advance cycle stop lines, wider lanes (to help cyclists overtake slow moving traffic and buses) and therefore great improvements for cyclists!

    I should stress that these proposals are subject to final approvals in June 2013 and require the Department for Transport to allow the use of advanced cycle stop lines at pedestrian crossings protected by zig zag markings and I hope that you and others support our proposals now you have a better understanding of them.

    We want the views of all road users and are happy to discuss them with you. Please contact Theunis Botha ( in West One who is assisting with the design for the City Council if you want any further information.

    Martin Low
    City Commissioner of Transportation
    Built Environment
    Westminster City Council
    11th Floor North West
    City Hall
    64 Victoria Street
    London SW1E 6QP
    Tel: 0207 641 1975
    Mobile: 07736632952

  8. Hi, good article. But which parts of Piccadilly aren't we allowed to cycle along?

    I know we aren't supposed to be in the bus lane getting from Shaftesbury Ave to Piccadilly, but everyone does as it's WAY too dangerous to go around with all the cars and coaches.... but I thought Piccadilly itself was fair game?

  9. Another set of works that f@cks up a road that currently works just fine. What a shock.