Thursday, 8 January 2015

Has Boris just announced East-West Cycle Super Highway will be going ahead? But could the Royal Parks still prove an obstacle?

Earlier this week, talking on an LBC radio show, Boris Johnson had this to say in response to a caller about the planned East-West Cycle Super Highway: "It's got to be done".

As far as I can tell, that comes pretty close to Boris saying it's going ahead.

I think we'll find out fairly soon what's going on. We know that Transport for London will be deciding whether to approve the East-West Cycle Super Highway at a board meeting in February. For Boris to make this statement in public so soon before that board meeting suggests that, at the very least, his own mind is made up.

One big remaining question is whether the Cycle Super Highway will go ahead as presented in the consultation or not. In fact, it's worth reminding ourselves that not all of the scheme has actually been put to consultation yet, in particular,  the section between Parliament Square and Lancaster Gate. This section has yet to be agreed with The Royal Parks as it crosses their patch of London. I've circled in red those sections on the original consultation map which have not yet been opened to consultation.

If you look at The Royal Parks's public submission to the consultation, it is pretty clear they think bikes should be on the roads: "the Cycle Superhighway routes must be entirely road based as they pass through Hyde Park". Now, I don't know about you, but I don't much fancy having to man up and 'take the lane' on large chunks of the route through the Royal Parks and that's because significant sections of these roads are either a) damn fast, multi-lane roads, for example at the roundabout outside Buckingham Palace or b) extremely narrow but extremely busy rat-runs (for example, West Carriage Drive) where you simply can't get past on a bike when motor traffic is queuing (which is often) and where close, intimidating overtakes are the norm when motor traffic is free-flowing.

Even more odd: The Royal Parks letter sets out demands that TfL should "indemnify The Royal Parks from any personal accident claims resulting from the use of any parts of the Superhighway route in the parks". You have to wonder whether The Royal Parks have so brazenly demanded this in relation to cyclists or whether they also place similar demands on other roads users, car drivers for example.

So, when those revised plans do come out, it is going to be very interesting to see how The Royal Parks propose to manage the Cycle Super Highway through this key central London section.

Reading the letter from The Royal Parks, it seems to me that the authority is terribly concerned that building a safe cycle route through this area might lead to conflict with pedestrians. Fair enough. But I don't see any evidence that The Royal Parks understand that much of that potential 'conflict' is because they are trying to squeeze people on foot and bikes into small spaces at junctions that are absolutely mobbed by motor vehicle traffic. The elephant in the room is that there is an awful lot of motor vehicle traffic in the Parks. Why isn't The Royal Parks worrying about removing some of that, I wonder?

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