London mayor Boris Johnson’s ambitious plans for a 29km cycle superhighway across London have split opinion this week.
Johnson said the east-to-west route would allow cyclists to travel from Barking to Acton almost completely segregated from traffic. A separate north-to-south route would take bike riders the 5km from King’s Cross to Elephant & Castle.
But the east-to-west route, dubbed a Crossrail for bicycles, will require major changes to central London roads, including the Westway and Horse Guards Road.
Transport for London (TfL) conceded that the proposals would mean longer journeys for motorists and bus passengers “along most of the route”.
Business group London First said such delays could have “a significant economic cost”.
London First infrastructure director David Leam said: “In the absence of complementary proposals from TfL, these plans offer the dispiriting prospect of jams today and jams tomorrow for many Londoners.”
Truckers warned that the changes to road layouts must work for all users.
“Cyclists are only one user of the road and the needs of all must be considered - Londoners depend on the goods our members supply every hour of every day,” said FreightTransport Association head of policy for London Natalie Chapman.
“It is important that these schemes are carried out in such a way that does not unduly disrupt traffic flow or prevent kerbside access for deliveries to businesses and homes.”
Scarce road space
Transport policy body the RAC Foundation also warned that road space was a scarce commodity.
However, the Active Transport for Healthy Living Coalition - which represents engineers and architects among others - said the plans were “incredibly welcome”.
“Schemes of this nature will not only save lives through avoiding accidents at dangerous intersections, they will also do so by encouraging people to use a bike more regularly, in all probability improving their own physical health as well as contributing to fewer vehicle journeys with associated air pollution,” said a spokesman.
The ICE said the proposals could have a dramatic effect on cycle safety in the capital.
“TfL’s cycle super-highway plans could vastly improve the Capital’s cycle infrastructure and minimise the potential for conflict between cyclists and motorised vehicles,” said ICE cycling working group chair John Parkin.
“While cycling is on the rise in London, the key barrier to greater levels of cycling is cyclist safety - both actual and perceived.
“Reducing the potential for conflict on these new routes - in combination with action to improve safety on other hazardous roads and junctions - could help to remove this barrier and enable cycling to become a mode of choice.
Campaign for Better Transport also backed the scheme.
Its roads and sustainable transport campaigner Sian Berry said: “Many of the roads affected by this scheme have seen steep falls in traffic anyway in recent years and the scheme builds on this positive trend and helps more people to use the healthiest, cleanest, least congesting form of transport.”
£913M cycling commitment
The urban cycleways form the centrepiece of Johnson’s £913M commitment to get more Londoners on their bikes.
“This isn’t just about cyclists,” insisted the mayor.
“Getting more people on to their bikes will reduce pressure on the road, bus and rail networks, cut pollution, and improve life for everyone, whether or not they cycle themselves.”
On the Westway flyover, one lane will be removed to create a segregated cycle track for the east-to-west route.
Horse Guards Road will be closed to general traffic at its junction with Birdcage Walk and Great George Street.
Protected cycle routes will be created through dangerous junctions including Tower Hill, Blackfriars, Parliament Square and Lancaster Gate. A detailed public consultation has been launched on the proposals, with work due to start early next year and the routes planned to be open by March 2016.
TfL managing director of surface transport Leon Daniels said: “We will be working hard in the coming months to ensure these schemes can be delivered as quickly as possible, while balancing the needs of all road users, and look forward to hearing the views from Londoners and visitors to the city about these transformational plans.”