Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Mayor launches 'major step forward' with new cycle highway plus announces new segregated cycle highways and upgrades to existing routes. It's not before time.

New look Blackfriars Road? I hope so, but let's see
He is the third person to be killed on this negligent piece of non-infrastructure.
Also yesterday, a male cyclist was hit by a coach on Southampton Row (a road controlled by Camden council rather than the Mayor directly) at 7pm and suffered extremely serious injuries. This is the third person to suffer life-changing injuries while riding a bike across this junction in five years. Two people on bikes have also been killed here in the same period.
This is a bike and pedestrian only route. The barriers went up last week. There were none here for over a decade.
Pic courtesy Cycalogical blog
Earlier in the week, on a smaller scale by far, some chicane fences went up on extremely busy (and supposedly flagship) Lambeth local cycle route 3, between Ovaland Stockwell. The fences make this bike and pedestrian-only route near impossible to use during rush hour, encouraging people instead to use busy,fast, narrow roads instead: The sorts of roads where bikes, buses and lorries are forced to share space. Not smart. So far, TfL: and Lambeth councillors all agree that the chicanes are insane. No-one’s even sure who put them there. Was it a TfL contractor? Is it the housing association that owns the land? Let’s see.
And today, the Mayor rode for the first time along his new,seriously sexy Cycle Super Highway 2 Extension (CS2 X to those involved with the planning) that leads into Stratford from Bow roundabout. CS2X is a major shift for London. It is the first time that TfL has removed a motor traffic lane and installed a pretty decent, high quality bike track instead. The only problem is that it runs out at Bow roundabout and dumps you into the killer stretch of Highway 2 that was built a couple of years ago. Nevertheless, the London Cycling Campaign is right in its verdict that CS2X is a "major step forward" for cycling in London

You can see a review of the new Cycle Super Highway on this excellent and well-balanced BBC news report. 
The Mayor has also today admitted that the whole Cycle Highway scheme needs an upgrade. Earlier today, Transport for London announced that it intends to build a segregated bike track running from Kings Cross to Elephant & Castle in the south. It also releases new images of the proposed East-West track along the Embankment. If these two tracks get built, they will be a game changer, a serious central London cycle link heading in all four directions with a massive cycle cross roads at Blackfriars Bridge, where bicycles already account for 43% of all vehicles in the morning rush hour. 
Updated perspective showing planned bike track along The Embankment. Truly amazing, assuming it does happen.

This is serious stuff. If it happens. For the first time, there is some reason to believe it just might happen. According to today’s Evening  Standard, Transport for London will be hiring “128 new posts within its cycling division with new opportunities for designers, engineers and traffic modellers”. That would be very significant and would, at last, start to give cycling a serious seat at the table within TfL.
For the very first time, there are signs that CS2X and the recently announced plans for new Cycle Super Highways through central London might at last mean the Mayor starts delivering on that 2009 election promise. And it’s not before time. This is what he should have done the first time around, instead of delivering high-cost, seriously low quality routes lined with blue paint.
There are also promises to upgrade some of the other Cycle Super Highways, including route 7 to Balham and Tooting, which is little more than a bit of blue paint that is normally filled with parked cars. Cycle Super Highway 7 is utterly unusable outside of rush hour. Strangely enough, no-one cycles on it outside of rush hour. If we want people to switch to cycling, we need routes that work all day and all night. 
CS2X is the start of something that resembles a real commitment to infrastructure for people who want to pedal from place to place. Don't get too excited, though. The Embankment won't look like this until at least 2016. I don't know if there's a date for the north-south link or not (and my understanding is that the developers along Blackfriars Road are quite opposed to the bike lane for goodness knows what reason). Either way, there's still a lot of time for things to change. We have to keep the pressure up but we also have to acknowledge that, at long last, the Mayor has delivered a couple of miles of decent cycle highway. Which is exactly what he should have done several years ago.