Thursday, 25 September 2014

Major corporates, investors, London's hospitals and air ambulance are starting to support new Cycle Super Highways. There are clear business benefits and big benefits for all Londoners. But sources tell me Canary Wharf Group is briefing against London's new cycle network. You need to ask your employer to join the many who support this.

According to a press briefing that has been sent to a large number of businesses and journalists in London, Boris Johnson's planned Cycle Super Highways will:

"be extremely damaging to London"

lead to "significant increase in traffic in outer London"

"put the safety of cyclists, pedestrians and drivers at risk"

This press briefing has been sent to all sorts of influential people and it is as misleading as it is poorly-researched. It presents subjective opinion as fact and it is full of falsehoods. My understanding  (from two different sources) is that this briefing document has been circulated by Canary Wharf Group PLC. You can review the briefing yourself via this link.

Now, it is important to mention that several of London's large employers are actively supporting the Cycle Super Highways. Just some of the companies that I'm aware of are shown in the image below and you can see their statements on the CyclingWorks website. As you can see, some of London's major real estate players - Jones Lang LaSalle, Knight Frank and Barratt Homes - have already come out in support of the Cycle Super Highways. Deloitte, a massive employer, has also come out in support. Only yesterday, Knight Frank, published a report on the effectiveness of global cities, praising cycle tracks and the need to invest in Cycle Super Highways.Plenty of other big employers (and, interestingly, plenty of big real estate players) are preparing their own letters of support to the consultation.

NHS Barts (which runs the Royal London) and the London Air Ambulance have both come out in support of the Cycle Super Highways by the way. A number of London's other big hospitals will be adding their support next week.

Just some of the employers and investors who have so far issued statements of support for the Cycle Super Highways


















Let's look at some of the noise that is being bandied about against the cycle super highways. If there is any "anti" noise in the media, it all seems to be stemming from this briefing note and it all seems to be saying the same thing. So I'll address most of the points which are raised in this briefing note for you to consider:

a) The Cycle Super Highways "would take 50% of the road space on one of London's main arterial roads". Not true. The East-West highway will reduce the current four lanes to three lanes in some places, it will remain four in most locations. There is a very short stretch of a few hundred yards through Blackfriars underpass that will be two lane and that is the only section where this is the case. Along the Embankment, what's happening is that space currently used for coach parking during the rush hour is going to be used for a bike track. I'd suggest this is a good use of space. It will create a much more enjoyable environment along what should be an iconic stretch of the river but is currently choked with coach fumes and traffic that jockeys for position. It is worth noting how Paris has actually removed an entire road along its river banks and replaced it with beaches, bike tracks and walking space. London has got nothing on Paris on this front.

b) The Cycle Super Highways will "halve  the capacity of a primary transportation artery". Not true. The scheme will cause "gridlock" in central London. Not true. TfL is "unwilling to publish" its traffic analysis. Not true. Why are none of these true? Well, the east-west capacity data was released today along with the north-south capacity data. TfL said from the outset that they would release the traffic data. They have done that today and they have also extended the consultation period to adjust for this. That is admirable and seems to be proper process.

You can read the full TfL statement on capacity changes via this link. I have also copied a section of that explanation below. I think the most important part of the TfL statement is this: "This scheme aims to allocate road space more in line with the actual usage of the road network." This is a fact that the press briefing chooses to ignore.

TfL statement on traffic capacity 


What is apparent from TfL's data is that some journeys in central London will be quicker (as much as three minutes quicker) by motor vehicle than they are now. Others will, it is true, be slightly slower. But as far as central London is concerned, we are talking about extra journey times of generally a minute or a minute and a half extra at peak hour in a sample 35 minute journey time as the absolute maximum. This is hardly the stuff of meltdown and gridlock.

What's more, as TfL points out, this scheme very deliberately goes along routes where there will be minimal impact on buses (there are no bus routes on most of the length of the scheme) and very little impact on car parking (there is hardly any car parking along the Embankment). You can't accuse TfL of doing this in a rush. It is clearly chosing the East-West route to minimise obstructions to other users.

On most of the routes in central London, the traffic impacts are minimal. On the core stretch between Tower Bridge and Parliament Square, the extra journey time in the morning rush hour will be a whopping 19 seconds.

Elephant & Castle to Farringdon Station by car would take 41 seconds longer than now in the morning peak. In the evening, to be fair, it would be quite a bit slower (4 minutes longer) but the majority of traffic is flowing south at this time and this journey would increase by only two minutes. I don't think this is the stuff of gridlock. It is what you have to accept if you want people to be able to cross the road safely and to get them on their bikes.

That said, there is one big issue and that is in east London on the A13 approach. TfL points out that "road space would remain the same as now but westbound traffic will be held longer at various points to control the flow on to Tower Hill and Upper Thames Street". This could mean delays of up to 16 minutes. That clearly doesn't make sense. And so it's not surprising that the Mayor has asked TfL to review this part of the scheme again and get those numbers down. That's the point of a consultation. It brings this stuff out and gives TfL and the Mayor a chance to improve the designs. Let's trust them to do that. It's in everyone's interests.

It is also important to raise one other issue which TfL has been pretty bad at explaining. That is that the traffic projections that have been published today show the results of a total of 19 different major schemes on London's roads, not just the impact of the cycle highways themselves. What the projections are showing is what the roads will look like when the cycle schemes have been built, ie once all sorts of other schemes have also come into effect, not just the cycle highways. One of those schemes is the new Haymarket in Westminster. Westminster council has removed traffic lanes on the roads around here and replaced them with pavements. This doesn't help traffic or cycling in any way. I don't hear Canary Wharf Group or anyone else complaining to Westminster Council about the knock-on effect of daft road narrowing programme in the West End.

c) It will cause delays for pedestrians. Yup, that's true. At a handful of sites on the east-west highway, it will take nine seconds longer to wait for a green man east-west and possibly 24 seconds north-south. Now, bear in mind, that big chunks of the north south route currently lack formal pedestrian crossings in the first place, in particular for the 10s of thousands of people who walk over Blackfriars to Waterloo and have to play hopscotch with the cars to cross Stamford Street. That junction will get a pedestrian crossing for the first time ever, which is sorely overdue. In fact, the pedestrian crossing which the City of London was happy to have ripped out across New Bridge Street (north side of Blackfriars Bridge) will also be replaced. This is a hugely busy desire lane. Should motor vehicles have fractionally slower journeys so that people can cross the road? Yes, they should.

The critics are completely blind to the many benefits for pedestrians in these schemes. In total, there will be 25 improved (shorter) corssings on the east-west route, four crossings will be changed from two-stage (requiring pedestrians to wait in the middle of the road) to one-stage to allow pedestrians to cross entirely in one movement. On the East - West route, there will be a further 14 new traffic light controlled crossings for pedestrians and there will be over 4,000sq metres of new pavement. On the North - South route, 10 new pedestrian crossings.

There are some other very significant benefits for pedestrians:

A new traffic-free pedestrian boulevard on Horse Guards Road, removing a barrier between Whitehall / Horse Guards Parade and St James’s Park.

At long last, proper pedestrian access to Parliament Square (currently only one access point)

Getting rid of horrible shared cycle/pedestrian crossings that cause conflict at Constitution Hill

Sorting out the ridiculous traffic island at Westminster station where tourists spill into the carriageway pretty much all day, every day.

And as I've already mentioned, the installation of safe crossings just south and north of Blackfriars Bridge where thousands of people are forced to run across the road at the moment.

c) "Reducing road capacity could potentially hold back growth in the east of London". Err, this scheme is about boosting growth in east London. As Knight Frank stated in its report yesterday, the growth of cycling to date "can only benefit the growing markets around Shoreditch and Hackney as they expand to the east".

d) There are lots of claims bandying about that "TfL did not consult on the details of the scheme with any relevant major organisation or transport organisation". Sorry. Complete rubbish. Writing in the Standard, Andrew Gilligan points out the scheme was discussed over 25 times with the City of London. I was at a public meeting with TfL and the City of London plus several employers weeks before the consultation went public where the super highways were discussed (with supporting nods from the City, in fact). This has been known about, talked about, vision documents shared, images shared, press comment made for well over a year. My understanding from other big organisations is that TfL did consult with the Freight Trade Association and with some very large property owners and businesses. In other words, anyone who makes this claim is lying.

e) The document demands a "business case" and"economic impact assessment". Right ho. So TfL is now supposed to be an economic forecasting agency as well, is it? Nope.

f) Bus journeys. Now, tellingly, this press briefing doesn't seem to care much about bus users. It hardly mentions the buses, which suggests to me that the sponsors of this report don't actually care about workers who use buses.

Very broadly, the impact on bus users along the east to west route is almost non-existent. North to south is slightly different. One route will see increases of up to seven minutes (along its entire journey, ie from the very start of the route to the end) in the evening peak. Other routes, however, will be 1-2 minutes faster. That longer delayed route is the 45 which travels from St Pancras to Streatham. Seven minutes sounds a lot and doesn't look great but it is seven minutes over a pretty long distance.

What is worth pointing out as well is that the forecasts don't include a whole a host of initiatives that are going to be added to minimise these delays. So, bus traffic lights will be introduced. They aren't factored into the forecasts but will help speed things up. Proper, forceful traffic policing will take place on the route, so no more vans blocking a whole carriageway for 20 minutes. The forecasts assume traffic patterns will stay flat on current flows. In fact, they've been falling every year for a decade, so it's safe to assume there will actually be less, and therefore faster traffic flows in the future.

On a personal note, I'd like not to see delays to bus travel times. I note that when the Cycle Super Highway 2 was brought to Stratford, TfL predicted longer journeys of around two minutes. My understanding is that in reality that hasn't happened. The extra journey times have been in seconds, not minutes.

In summary 

There are plenty of other statements in this briefing that are simply false. The document smacks of an organisation that wants to bully London to do things its way. But what is very clear is that the document has gone to people with influence and with access to the media who are already starting to quote bits of it to the press and in my opinion this briefing note is all about scaring Londoners to think the Cycle Super Highway will kill off London's businesses, close down central London's streets and be a disaster for pedestrians. None of this is true. In fact, in most scenarios, the opposite is pretty much the case.

What is also interesting is that a lot of other businesses just don't seem to see things the same way. Several other large real estate players have already come out on record in support of the scheme. My understanding is that several more CEOs are poised to do the same.

What is good is that the Mayor is asking TfL to review elements of the scheme. I do see why people would have genuine concerns with the traffic projections in some parts of east London. And those need reviewing and sorting out. What they don't need though is the battle force of corporate heavyweights ramming this scheme into oblivion based on misinformation and subjective opinion.

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Cycle Super Highways need your help. If your employer backs cycling, please ask them to get involved. It's easy to do. Click here for the templates and emails you need


Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Evening Standard makes more increasingly fanciful claims against Cycle Highways, bordering on fiction. Meanwhile, in the real world, some very big employers start coming out in full support of safe Cycle Highways in central London. Is someone funding a poorly-informed anti-cycling stance in The Standard, I wonder?

"Those who prophesy bikeageddon have been proved wrong. A more bike-friendly city will be better city all round" Boris Johnson in today's edition of The Times

Cycle Highways might mean "insufficient space to stage the BUPA 10k, British 10k, Royal Parks 10k and half marathon, London triathlon, and cycling’s Tour of Britain" says truly weird piece in the Evening Standard

Due for release later today. Proposals
for segregated cycle super highway 2, towards
Bow roundabout
Over the past couple of weeks, various business groups and the City of London have briefed the media against London's planned cycle super highways. The City of London put out a rather ambiguous press release stating it had "considerable reservations about the current proposals", citing "knock-on effects on noise and air-pollution" and suggesting cyclists, pedestrians and motor vehicles need to "share the space" in the City's dense street patterns. We are talking about cycle super highways that will be running along what are very wide, multi-lane roads with horrible narrow pavements. They are among the most polluted streets in London, they are not places that pedestrians, cyclists and motor vehicles should ever have to 'share' space. It is a rather bizarre press statement, to be frank, that reads like the City hasn't done its homework. It's a shame, because the City is doing some good stuff and this is not up to the City's usual standards. The press release also claims that TfL and the City authorities haven't agreed on the plans. Interestingly, TfL has briefed journalists today stating it has held over 25 meetings with the City of London about these plans. Something can't be quite right.

Both the City and business groups The London Chamber of Commerce and London First have also brought up issues about longer pedestrian crossings. This is a valid point but my understanding is that the longer waiting times for crossing points will be at most nine seconds.

And what they have all failed to notice is that the cycle highways will bring about some pretty sizeable improvements for pedestrians. It took Living Streets, formerly the "Pedestrian Association" (why on earth they re-branded is anyone's guess) to point out that the new cycle highways will bring about "21 new signalised pedestrian crossings, 10 crossings converted from staggered to straight ahead and a net footway gain of 5,076 sq m". I think the Living Streets position is a good, well-balanced critique that flags some possible problems but, unlike the City of London press release and those of London First and London Chamber of Commerce, points out some true wins for other road users.

What is particularly interesting is that big employers and big land owners (many of which are members of the business groups mentioned above) are starting to come out in public support of the Cycle Highways. In The Times today, the Big Four accounting firm Deloitte added its support. Alongside them is The Crown Estate, which is the UK's sixth largest landowner (and owns huge swathes of the West End, for example) and Jones Lang LaSalle - the multinational real estate investment company. I've seen Deloitte's letter. It states that the cycle super highways are important because they will help the firm "attract and retain" the right talent in London. In the Mayor's own press release, Barratt Homes has stepped in and said "We fully support the Mayor of London’s campaign to get London cycling.  Physically segregated cycle lanes will encourage more people to try cycling in London by making it a more appealing as well as a safer transportation option.” 

A whole host of slightly smaller but still sizeable employers has also come out in support of the Cycle Highways on behalf of their staff. FTSE250 media company Euromoney's CEO (2,900 staff); the chief exec of Hammer Films, the chairman of Progressive Media (1,000 staff), the CEO of Barts NHS Trust (15,000 staff). And many more big names are due to announce their support over the coming days.

For some reason, the Evening Standard's transport correspondent is ignoring this growing support. In a piece today which also announces the new consultation to upgrade the killer Cycle Super Highway 2 from Aldgate to Bow, the Standard focuses solely on repeating the (not really substantiated) concerns it has already covered three times in ever less convincing tones from the City and business groups and then adds some truly bizarre (and seemingly made up) concerns that the cycle tracks will disrupt the London Marathon. No they won't. I don't understand why the Standard is ignoring the support of big employers for these cycle tracks. The Standard has been a massive supporter of cycle tracks in central London over the past couple of years. Now that they are becoming reality, there is a sudden drip drip of poorly informed, inaccurate 'anti' cycle lane reporting. It is all deeply suspicious.

Boris Johnson writing in today's Times
Back in the real world, though, the rationale for some of these employers is plain business sense. Marc Shipper of Hammer Films points out "[My team] and I have a right to get to work safely and we support the mayor’s plans for segregated infrastructure. There is an extraordinarily vibrant creative industry based in London, the UK is a world leader in both production and post production. In an industry where thousands of collaborators get around London by bike, the least TfL can do is support their need for separate and safe cycling infrastructure."

For others, though, the rationale is extremely heart-felt. Richard Kramer, co-founder of Arete, a technology equity research company explains: "I’m the MD and founder of a 30+ person technology research imagescompany in London. More than half of our staff cycle to work and cycling is the primary way we get around town to see clients and partners. The efficiency and health benefits are clear to our business.In 2005, one of our co-founders was tragically killed by a lorry while cycling. As a small company, this had a profound impact on all of us. Another such incident would surely force us to consider leaving London, despite its world-class, vibrant economy."

I know of several other businesses, and other large employers, both private sector and public sector, that are preparing to come out in support of the plans for real cycle super highways in London. Some of these are extremely big, well-known names.

I think it's extremely impressive that employers are putting their names to the cycle super highways. It takes a lot of internal pressure to get large companies like Deloitte to make statements in support of things like this. Lots of people have to cajole the leadership and persuade them this is the right thing to do. It's a real sign that opinions about the future of London are starting to change tack.

Last week, Peter Walker wrote a piece in The Guardian saying that "The opposition to London's segregated cycle lanes is living in the past". He might well be right.

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You can encourage your employer to get involved by using this helpful template by on the Cycling Works website. 

You can send your own comments to TfL in support of the Cycle Super Highways by sending a letter of support via the London Cycling Campaign website.


Wednesday, 17 September 2014

How you can help make London's planned cycle tracks a reality. Three quick and easy ways to make a real difference.

As I mentioned in my blog last week, a number of business organisations have been making noise about Boris's plans to build cycle tracks in central London. London First and the London Chamber of Commerce have both issued fairly negative statements that predict the cycle tracks will cause traffic problems on central London's roads.

Both groups claim that conditions will be worse for pedestrians too, ignoring the fact that the plans involve wider pedestrian crossings, more single crossings (rather than irritating sheep pen crossings where you have to wait in the middle of the road) and, frankly, more pedestrian crossings than are on these routes at the moment.

Proposed layout on New Bridge Street, near
Blackfriars Bridge
Now, I happen to know that a number of the companies that are members of London First are preparing to write to the TfL consultation and give their active support for the planned cycle super highways. Their support will be in direct contradiction to the statement London First put out last week, supposedly on behalf of these companies. These are large, well-known companies that everyone will have heard of.

My own company's chief executive has also been happy to write a letter of support to the public consultation. He isn't a 'cyclist' but he can see that plenty of his staff cycle to work and he feels it should be made safer. He also feels he might one day get a bike to work himself if the route is made safe enough.

And we really need your help to get more companies (and more individuals) to show their support for the plans.

There are three really easy ways you can do this.

Personal response

On a personal level, I've already pointed out that one option is to provide detailed feedback on the Transport for London online consultation sites. There's one for the East - West highway and one for the North - South highway.

Sign the petition

Or, if you want to keep things really simple, the London Cycling Campaign has set up an online form where you can fill in your details in about a minute and send a letter of support to TfL with the click of a button.

But there's another way you can help.

Get your employer to show its support

Organisations, large and small, are starting to line up and publicly support the cycle track plans. So far, we're aware of letters of support from the chief exec of Barts NHS Trust, tech supplier Millnet, property developers Goodsir Commercial, furniture company Sofa.com and a host of others that have made their letters public. Next week, I am expecting some very large employers to join them.

They're not doing this because someone at the top suddenly sits down and fancies writing a letter to TfL. They're doing this because people who cycle to work are writing to their bosses and asking them to support this.

And you can do this too. A group of us has formed a pop-up campaign called Cycling Works. On the Cycling Works website, there is a template which you can send to your management team explaining the plans and explaining why you're looking for support. 

All sorts of people are getting behind this initiative. As I said, some of the names are very big. Others are smaller. But if you're in work, in any sort of organisation, please try and help make this happen. Use the template to ask your senior management to support the cycle tracks and make their staff's journey to work safer.

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Big business starts throwing its weight around, will obstruct Boris's cycle super highways. Work for a big employer? You really do need to get involved before we get pushed back to 1970

Today's Evening Standard says that big businesses in London are 'in revolt' about plans for the London Cycle Super Highways. It quotes an unnamed CEO of an unnamed company (why so shy?) who says big business will consider legal action against the plans. They support the idea of cycle infrastructure, they claim, just not the way that the Mayor is going about it, he or she says.

There is a similar sort of message coming from London First - an organisation that represents a lot of London's banks, property developers, housing trusts, universities, law firms and accounting firms. Take a look at this list and you might find that you work for one of their member companies. You might be surprised that your employer signs up to a charter that opposes these cycle super highways. The list includes banks like HSBC, Merrill Lynch and Barclays (who sponsor the old cycle highways) but also organisations that should know better - Edelman PR, J Sainsbury, John Lewis, The Peabody Trust, even The Ministry of Sound, KPMG, EY and PwC, Eversheds, Allen & Overy, Thames Water. Go see for yourself. The list is long. Firms like Deloitte and Freshfields have large HQs on the route of the cycle tracks. Hundreds of their employees bike to work. Yet they are represented by an organisation that opposes making their staff's journeys safe and convenient by bike.

Both London First and the London Chamber of Commerce are saying (in broad terms) that they welcome investment in cycle infrastructure but not any version that slows journeys times or doesn't 'benefit all road users'.

It's kind of curious really. Because if you look at New York, which has been building tracks like these for years, the city has just published real and meaningful data which shows a) that traffic speeds have increased on roads with protected bike lanes b) that retail takings on roads with protected bike lanes have increased faster than on roads without and c) that road collisions for all road users have decreased on those roads with bike tracks. 

Data released in New York last week. Bike tracks equal faster motor vehicle trips


My own view? This is a purely personal view but I think the London Chamber of Commerce and London First are promoting subjective opinions about these cycle tracks before they (or anyone else) has had time to understand the data. TfL has always said, by the way, it intends to provide further data on the proposals tomorrow. But given the headstart made by these two organisations, I wouldn't be surprised if a major media push emerges to push those anti cycle-highway opinions in a way that will sink the cycle super highway initiative and render it so toxic that neither this Mayor, nor the next, will ever build a cycle track anywhere in inner London.

Now, I don't particularly want to encumber other road users. But I do firmly want to make cycling a more convenient option for all sorts of journeys. And I would like to live in city that is less polluted, where people have more space on the streets, where journeys are easier and quicker. Investment in cycling has a big part to play in all of that. The majority of journeys in outer London, for example, are less than five miles. Most are made by motor vehicle. Very many of these could easily be replaced by non-motor vehicle journeys. But that's only going to happen if cycling is made more attractive, more convenient than other modes of transport. And if it feels safer to people, as well.

This is a view that is well made by David Hembrow's blog. There's no need to be anti-car. There is a clear need to make cycling more attractive than driving, though, Do that and the rest falls into place.

This is why the particular style of noise coming from a couple of big business groups is not helpful. It seems to suggest more of the status quo and that isn't going to make anyone's live's any better. Worse than that, both organisations are making noises that suggest investment in cycling = bad for business. London First, for example, has its media release on a page with the URL "london-cycle-plan-could-put-business-at-risk". 

A more helpful stance from these two organisations might be to suggest what they do think would work for cycling as well as for business.

For example, in a private email exchange, London First told me they are concerned the cycle tracks will impede deliveries. Really? Will rolling carts with some boxes on them an extra two metres over a cycle track instead of just over a pavement have a massive impact on London's economy? No.

In this useful shot by AsEasyAsRidingABike, deliveries can easily made across a cycle track. 
Hardly rocket science. 

Do the London business organisations think that the current use of, say, the Victoria Embankment is sensible? At rush hour, one lane in both directions on this road is used to park coaches to let school kids amble around on the river. Two whole lanes. The proposal is to use some of this space to create safe space for cycling and move the coach parking around the corner. Is this going to have a noticeable impact on traffic? Yes, it will enable more people to have more convenient, safer journeys than a coach park would.

The list goes on. Do these business groups object to cycle tracks on Blackfriars Road? A road so wide, and so windswept you can easily slot a bike track in each direction with negligable impact on traffic capacity.

What's more, as TfL has said right from the start of the consultation, the data on traffic flows hasn't even been published yet. It comes out tomorrow.

I've already encouraged people to respond to the consultation, which you can do by filling out the (quite detailed) online survey for either the East-West highway or the North-South. Alternatively, you can email consultations@tfl.gov.uk

Or, here's another thought. Maybe you work for one of the big businesses that is represented by a group that opposes these cycle super highways? That's you if you're an employee of HSBC, Citibank or Merrill Lynch. Or if you work at J Sainsbury, John Lewis, M&S or even the Ministry of Sound. Or perhaps you work for a London university or college. Or maybe you work for the NHS. You could even work at Allen & Overy, or Deloitte or EY or KPMG. If so, get your pens out and get writing. You can either write in as an individual or maybe as a bicycle user group, or ideally, encourage your corporate social responsibility team or board members to write in. I know plenty of firms and companies that have done this in the past. Time to do so again, I'm afraid.

You can email a letter to the consultation address. Or you can write to the Mayor. Just remember to mark any letters 'for inclusion in the East-West or South-North cycle superhighway consultation'. 

We need to show support for these super highways is widespread. And we need your help. 


Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Never thought I'd say this. It might almost be time for a flashride to support Boris Johnson's cycling plans. Meanwhile, we urgently need you to fill out TfL's Crossrail for Bikes online survey. The time is now and you need to play your part, otherwise cycling is sunk.

Tower Hill with new planned cycle track on the right

This morning, Transport for London issued the detailed consultation plans for two planned Cycle Super Highways running East to West and North to South across inner London. And, unlike when the Mayor announced plans for his original Cycle Super Highways, this time they really have the feel of being proper Cycle Highways. They are almost entirely segregated. They have priority over side roads, just the same way that other traffic does. And, at points, they are pretty impressive.

Shockingly different. Cycle track along the River (to the bottom right of the picture) with a link up
on to Blackfrairs Bridge (up the hill in the background) where it meets the north-south cycle link.
This is serious stuff - taking a whole slipway and reassigning it to people on bikes. The bike track to Tower Hill continues through the underpass.
One route will take you from just north of Elephant & Castle through to Farringdon and over a radically redesigned Blackfriars Bridge. One route from Tower Hill (where it will join the track to Canary Wharf) along the Embankment, through Parliament Square and then up to Hyde Park Corner, through Hyde Park and then up past Paddington.

Cycle track replaces a motor traffic lane
on an underpass in Montreal. This
is something radically new in London.
Other cities have been doing this for years
All along the route, things have been made better for pedestrians as well, with new or improved pedestrian crossings. There are some impressive new features, such as a bike track through the service tunnel that runs parallel to Upper Thames St (near Cannon Street) and a stonking new bike interchange (pictured above) where the two Cycle Highways will meet at Blackfriars. There is a cycle track planned through Parliament Sqaure, and pedestrian crossings so that people can actually access the Square properly for the first time. And once you're on the tracks, there is a consistency that means I would - for the first time ever - be able to get my mum on a bike with me in central London. Something I never ever thought would be possible in this country.

There are, however, some clear flaws. The routes are almost entirely made of bi-directional tracks, rather than tracks in the same direction as the traffic flow. I think this is a shame as it creates additional complexity for road users, cyclists included. It also means that getting on and off the tracks can be quite cumbersome at points. There are, at some points, far too many traffic lights for my liking as well, so you have a slightly stop-start experience in places rather than a gentle flow.

I am planning to do a fairly detailed review of the plans over the coming weeks, section by section. They are simply too large and spread over too great a distance to do justice to them in a single blog post.

New look New Bridge Street (just north of
Blackfriars Bridge) with cycle track
Yet, in itself, that is what is incredibly exciting. For the first time ever, here we have plans to create a meaningful infrastructure for people on bikes in inner London. This time, it isn't about putting down blue paint and hoping that people won't mind cars parking in the bike lane or expecting people to fling themselves across multiple lanes of fast-moving motor traffic. This time it's about building infrastructure that anyone can use. It is about reallocation of a small number of inner London's streets away from choking, motor vehicle-centric race tracks towards being places that allow people to get about under their own steam. All sorts of people, all sorts of ages and all sorts of abilities.

In short, this isn't about "cyclists" any more. It is about making inner London a place where anyone feels they can use a bike to travel from place to place. And it's about making streets that work for people, not just for people in motor vehicles.

I can find plenty of faults and niggles in the detail of these plans. And I'm going to come back and address these over the coming weeks. But my key concern right now is to make sure people are aware the plans are out there and that people realise just how much noise these plans are likely to create.

All sorts of groups are likely to be try and derail these plans. From what I understand, the Canary Wharf group fears that various "masters of the universe" in its big gleaming towers will have slower journeys to Heathrow as they won't be able to whisk along the river on as many lanes as they do at the moment. This, despite the fact that the Embankment is almost always a quagmire of crawling motor vehicles; that the lanes being removed are generally used to park coaches for teenage students from France and Germany at rush-hour; and despite the fact that Crossrail will soon whizz such ultra important beings from Canary Wharf to Heathrow in a fraction of the time.

The Motorcycle Action Group has already announced its opposition to cycle tracks and - bizarrely - justifies that by saying they will give cyclists higher rates of prostate cancer (there are too many levels on which that is simply plain weird).

Even London Travel Watch - the body which is supposed to represent all public transport users as well as cyclists - has been making hysterical and unsubstantiated headlines opposing cycle tracks.

In Boris's first term, this is what counted for a Cycle Highway.
The bike lane is underneath the bus. Just terrfiying
The RAC Foundation - bless them and their horrendously one-sided views - have already told the BBC that the money being given to cycling 'could be better spent on other transport schemes'. This from a wealthy organisation that lobbies for billions to be spent on more roads and more motor vehicles and is objecting to a tiny amount of money being invested in something other than what it stands for. The RAC is pushing the point that only 4% of people in London cycle to work, so why invest in it? Too stupid for words. As Brent Toderian pointed out last year, when people like the RAC ask "are bike lanes warranted here?" remember it's hard to justify a bridge by the # of people swimming across a river."

Oh, and the business lobby group London First has announced that bike lanes have the "potential to damage business & create traffic jams" How on earth would they know that, given the traffic management data hasn't been released to them or the public yet? Scare-mongering in the extreme.

On a more positive note, the plans have been welcomed so far by the London Cycling Campaign and also by the London Health Commission.

Take it from me. The forces for 'no change' are many and plentiful. And many of these people have the ear of politicians and will seek to bend things their way. Many of them, such as the RAC and London First, have deep pockets too. Deeper than you or I.

The current Cycle Super Highway
at Aldgate (blue paint).
Chillingly dreadful
Yet, the fact is that tens of thousands of you took part of Flashrides. Thousands of you took part in letter writing and emailing. Thousands more took part in influencing the way cyclists voted in the last Mayoral elections. You demonstrated that you wanted "space4cycling".

And I'm asking one more time, now is the time for you to support this and to make sure the voices for change outweigh the hard and tough lobbying that the anti-cycling forces will be throwing at this.

It will take you half an hour. But you need to to to the TfL consultation page. This is the link for the North-South Cycle Super Highway and this is the link for the East-West Cycle Super Highway. Click on the Online Survey and then look at each section, one by one. You can view the specific plans for that section. Take time to look at them and then send your comments. But, above all, tick that you support the plans, even with your criticisms. Because there are plenty of people who think their voices are bigger than yours and they will be opposing these plans.

By the way, you can also download a PDF of all the plans East-West and North-South.

On a related note, I have been a vocal critic of the Mayor's cycling schemes to date. But on this, Boris Johnson deserves credit where it is due. If the volume of opposition from entrenched organisations like the RAC and London First gets too much, then I think we may be in a position where we need to stage another Flashride.

This time, we should Flashride in support of Boris Johnson's plans for cycling. Because we need to show that many people simply do not agree with the scare mongering put out by the RAC and London First. What do people think?

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

This is surely not acceptable? Residents in exclusive residential square seem to be preventing safe cycling for people of all abilities on new Quietway in Southwark

Cyclists try to negotiate the insane chicane in Trinity Church Square. Residents in this
very smart square are objecting to plans to make this gate usable by people of all abilities.
The Wheels for Wellbeing charity demonstrates why these gates don't work for a Quietway
A couple of weeks ago, Southwark Council published its draft plans for a section of the new Quietway planned between Waterloo and Greenwich. This section of the Quietway is designed by Southwark Council. The sections further out will be designed by other partners, including Sustrans. The most exciting element of the scheme, in my view, is that there will soon be a brand new link around the back of Millwall football stadium, utilising the new cycle and footbridge at South Bermondsey (installed last summer) which will open a really brilliant brand new, direct and off-road route into inner London.

I want to talk about a few aspects of the plan. 

Firstly, I think there are some very useful new parts. At two junctions along the route, TfL has agreed to install new traffic lights. Whatever else you might think about elements of the route, this is great news as it gives people safe ways to cross two very busy streets. Southwark Cyclists rightly welcomes these new cycle crossings

There are some good improvements at a number of other junctions as well - semi-segregated tracks that approach some junctions where cyclists currently have nowhere to go, other than sitting behind streams of spluttering motor vehicles. There are also some sections which currently feature horrible cycle chicane gates and the gates are for the chop, to be replaced instead by much more sensible cycle speed humps. There are also some great new connectors that eliminate some of the wiggly sections of an existing cycle route here and make it much more direct and generally nicer. 

No more of this. Webb Street will link up as these barriers will
be removed and the area landscaped to improve things
for residents alongside a new segregated bike track here too.
Unlike their posh neighbours in Trinity Church Square,
these residents are fully supportive of sensible win-win plans. 
But I have one general and one very specific concern. Let me start with the more specific concern. Pictured above is a cycle 'gate' in Trinity Church Square. The gates were installed a few years ago with a lot of involvement from the local residents association. Don't get me wrong, Trinity Church Square is gorgeous. It is full of beautiful flats and houses and all very charming. And very expensive. It is also heartening to see the way that residents have campaigned to keep motor traffic out of their streets here. 


I'm going to speak to Isabel about this more in a couple of weeks' time but, as you can see for yourself, getting through that gate on a hand bike or any non 'conventional' bicycle is no easy task. 

My understanding is that the residents of the Square are fiercely opposing any changes to the gate and kicking up all sorts of eloquent fuss with local councillors. The insanity is well profiled by blogger Alternative Department for Transport who points out the residents have consented to allow the gate to be widened by a whopping 30cm on either side.

I mean, come on. This is pathetic. Why is a cycle Quietway being held ransom in a way that  makes it near-as-damn-it useless to anyone on a trike or mobility scooter (oh, and the pavement has a similar chicane as well). Sorry, but I just don't think it's acceptable. Full credit to the residents of Trinity Church Square for blocking their streets to rat-running motors but discriminating in this way feels downright ugly in my view. 

My more general concern, as Alternative Department for Transport also points out, is that in some parts, the plans are extremely over-engineered. What that means is that money is being spent where it simply doesn't really need to be spent. So, what you have is lots of existing (and perfectly adequate) infrastructure being spruced up, fancy paving being added all around it and generally made to look a lot nicer. That has benefits for local residents, I suppose. Is it strictly necessary? Not really. Then again, these things have to involve some give and take - getting residents on side is a good thing. 

But there has to be a line somewhere: allowing residents of this square to veto safe cycle routes for all-ability cycling is just not on. It's even less acceptable when you consider that all along the rest of the route, these sorts of discriminatory cycle gates are being ripped out in favour of other solutions.