Our senior reporter hails the investment in London’s cycling infrastructure
The British love affair with cycling is blossoming spectacularly.
Earlier this week it was confirmed that more people are now cycling in London than ever before, with 10% more cyclists taking to the roads in the three months to December 2014 than in the same period the year before.
Cyclists now make up more than a quarter of all traffic in London, doubling over the last decade, while the number of cars has fallen by 25%.
But it is today that marks an astonishing change in attitudes to cycling in the capital.
Rather than cyclists merely being tolerated, it seems the authorities are beginning to notice the huge benefits of having more cyclists in London.
At a meeting this morning, Transport for London approved two huge new “cycle superhighways” across London in which cyclists are segregated from traffic.
Work will begin in the next few months.
This is a huge win for cycling campaigners, cyclists, potential cyclists and all commuters across the capital.
The segregated paths will attract a greater diversity of cyclists into London, enabling families, older people, and those less confident at riding through traffic a safe route through the centre of town.
As the popularity of cycling grows, safer provision of routes such as this will encourage even greater levels of cycling in London, which will ease congestion on crowded buses and trains, and contribute to improving London’s air quality.
The first phase of the project will see a new east-west cycleway, linking Hyde Park with Tower Hill, following a route along Embankment, and eventually stretching as far west as Acton, including a route on the Westway flyover.
The other will run north-south, linking Kings Cross with Elephant and Castle.
The TfL board also approved further improvements for existing cycle superhighways 2 and 5, which are in east and south London respectively.
Despite the project gaining huge levels of support from hundreds of businesses across London, including major employers such as RBS, Unilever, Coca-Cola, Hovis, Deloitte, Orange, there remained two key groups who were less keen on the project.
The first was the London Taxi Drivers Association (LTDA), who is represented on the TfL board by its deputy general secretary Bob Oddy. The LTDA described the scheme as “an abomination” and threatened a judicial review. On BBC London last week, the LTDA’s Steve McNamara said: “We’re against it, lots of businesses are against it.” He added: “What we’ve got now is this metropolitan elite who can afford to live in the centre of the city, afford to cycle a few hundred yards or half a mile to work, they’re the people campaigning for this.”
Except some of the metropolitan elite didn’t seem too happy about it either. As the other group also threatening a judicial review was Canary Wharf Group.
Interestingly, Canary Wharf Group is also on the TfL board, represented by their finance director Peter Anderson. At this morning’s meeting, Anderson argued that the scheme hadn’t been trialled, would “severely limit” the amount of traffic flowing east and west, and said it was being rushed through.
Boris Johnson, who has fought for the creation of the segregated cycle lanes, also revealed that Canary Wharf Group had even drafted complaint letters in order to help people complain against the scheme.
Of course, hundreds of businesses had pledged their support, and of the 21,500 public responses TfL received about the plans, 84% were in favour of the new bike lanes.
Also, check out this amusing tweet, from CyclistsInThe City:
— cyclistsinthecity (@citycyclists) February 4, 2015
The national cyclist charity CTC, described the plans as a “gamechanger for the city”, while Sustrans said it was “a turning point for London”.
While there is still a lot more to be done to improve London for cyclists and for everyone, this win represents a great starting point.