Saturday, 1 January 2011

Boris Johnson thinks Greenways are genuinely useful cycle routes and scotches the idea of useful routes people will actually use

This one makes me so unbelievably depressed, I don't know where to start. 
The London Assembly has regular mayoral question time sessions. And here's one about creating segregated space for cycling asked by John Biggs, the assembly member for the City of London. 

And if the mayor is to be believed, then 

a) there is no room for segregated cycle tracks on London's roads
b) Transport for London genuinely seem to think Greenways are viable cycle routes that will generate a culture of mass cycling

I fundamentally disagree with both these assertions. 

There is plenty of room on London's roads for proper bicycle infrastructure, as I first tried to explain here. Not City of London-related but I was looking at South Lambeth Road today, between Vauxhall and Stockwell. Two lanes taken up by parked cars, two further lanes for motor vehicles and a bus lane. Simple solution. Remove one lane of parked cars and you have space for a cycle track in each direction. 

South Lambeth Road - plenty of room for cycle infrastructure, just move some of the parking spaces

View Larger Map

Or Newington Causeway below. A whole lane taken up by hatchings to keep the motor vehicles away from each other. Why not put the motor vehicles nearer each other in the middle of the road, force them to drive more carefully as a result and use the intervening space to allow proper cycle lanes?

Cycle lane? No thanks, I'll put some pointless hatchings in the middle instead and squeeze everyone else together. Great fun for cycling along when the bus lane is crammed with buses and the main lane filled with lorries.

View Larger Map

And Greenways are fine and lovely leisure routes. You can amble along to off-road the Olympic site, giving way to every road you need to cross. But at night there's no lighting, so it's no good for commuting in the mornings or evenings. It sort of gets you places but not to the shops or to work. It's a leisure route. It's not a route for cycling to get anywhere. 

So, here's the summary our mayor believes will get people cycling in London on safe routes, segregated from motor traffic:

Questions to the Mayor 

Help us Get on our Bikes
Question No: 4070 / 2010
John Biggs

I have been contacted by a constituent who believes that there is a growing body of support amongst moderate cycle users for measures which would encourage more people like themselves out of their cars and on to two sedate wheels (as opposed to the more “vehicular cyclists”). He believes that this can be achieved by the provision of well designed, off-road or at least enforced, cycle paths and says there is evidence from other European Cities such as Copenhagen, Frankfurt and Amsterdam that his argument is well founded. How could such a scheme be rolled out in London beyond the flagship Superhighway schemes and what are your proposals to achieve this?

Answer from the Mayor

The attractiveness of off-carriageway segregated cycle routes is widely recognised. Such provision is considered where possible, and in appropriate locations, during the design of new cycle schemes. TfL has an ongoing programme to deliver ‘Greenways’ in London. Greenways provide attractive and traffic free environments for cyclists that make the most of London’s parks and open spaces. 

In 2010 alone, Greenway schemes were delivered at 54 locations resulting in improvements to 18km of existing infrastructure and the delivery of 7.5km of new infrastructure. Safety and access to the Greenways was also improved at 10 junctions and 30 access points, improving a further 5.5km of routes. Greenways 
will play an important role for spectators accessing the Olympic venues during the 2012 games with eight legacy Greenways funded by the Olympic Delivery Authority and delivered by boroughs and TfL, linking into the Olympic Park and River Zone venues. 

In addition, off-carriageway provision is considered on the Cycle Superhighway routes and Route 3 from City to Barking already has mainly segregated cycle tracks. Nevertheless, road space restrictions on London’s roads preclude the possibility of segregated provision for cyclists in many cases. 


  1. Don't forget that at almost every junction on a Greenway there's a special gate designed to discourage people from taking cycles along them.

  2. Don't forget the taxi ranks that can be found in the middle of the road in much of Central London, or the 4 rows of car parking on Portland Place, etc etc etc. Some roads such as Elgin Avenue have parking in the middle of the road but only one lane in each direction, which I suspect causes problems with vehicles overtaking cyclists.

  3. Forget the greeway, Farringdon Rd has a bus lane cyclist can feel safe riding in but it is so full of little potholes all the way to Blackfriars Bridget you'd need a special cycling skill to swerve to avoid them. The City of London has all the money to pay the bankers but none to re-surface the road!

  4. Ask a Local Councillor about removing parking and watch them turn grey. When Richmond removed just enough parking to put in somewhat substandard cycle lanes between Twickenham and Teddington Lock the opposition was hysterical. "if I can't park immediately outside my house I will be raped!"

  5. Thanks for highlighting the possibility of removing hatchings in the middle of the road and adding a cycle lane instead.

    I see this in a lot of places (both inside and outside London) where 'traffic calming' puts cars and bikes in conflict, yet there's plenty of room to put in a cycle lane if only they removed the hatchings and bollards.

    End result: no change to the situation for cars but a massive improvement for cycling. Perhaps that explains why it's not happened!