A design for a new £600 million bridge across the Thames in east London that would include a segregated cycle lane has been published by architects and engineers working on the proposed project. Whether it will see the light of day is another matter, with Mayor of London Boris Johnson having scrapped earlier plans for a similar crossing.
Campaigners led by the London Chamber of Commerce & Industry (LCCI) say that the bridge, which would span the river between Beckton and Thamesmead, would help ensure an Olympic legacy for the east of the capital and improve transport links.
The concept, designed by architects HOK and consulting engineers Arup, was launched yesterday, the 120th anniversary of the opening of Tower Bridge. East of there, the capital has just two fixed river crossings for road traffic, the Rotherhithe and Blackwall Tunnels, with cyclists only permitted to use the former.
Other options for bike riders wishing to cross the river in the east of the city include the Greenwich and Woolwich Foot Tunnels – although they have to dismount – and the Woolwich Ferry.
Since the conclusion of a successful six-month trial, they are also permitted to use the Docklands Light Railway, which crosses the Thames at two points, and the Emirates Airline, with each car taking a maximum of two bicycles.
The only bridge currently downstream of Tower Bridge is outside Greater London, the Queen Elizabeth II Bridge linking Thurrock in Essex with Dartford in Kent, but to use it, or the Dartford Tunnel which runs northbound, cyclists need to be taken across in one of the crossing operators’ vehicles.
Colin Stanbridge, chief executive of LCCI, which has organised a petition to gather support for the bridge, said yesterday: "Nearly half of London's population lives east of Tower Bridge yet they are served by only two fixed road river crossings.
“It is an area with huge amounts of potential and while the Olympics acted as a crucible for creativity and dynamism in the area, its future growth is being held back by this gap in transport infrastructure.”
During his first term in office as mayor, Mr Johnson cancelled plans for a major river crossing in east London, but Mr Stanbridge is urging him to reconsider his stance.
He said: "We know that the Mayor shares our enthusiasm for helping the east of the capital to maximise its exciting reinvention. The area is currently attracting the worlds brightest and best whether to the financial heartland of Canary Wharf, the Royal Docks development or the high-tech firms flocking to Silicon Roundabout in Shoreditch.
"New road river crossings linking east and south east London over the Thames will bring new jobs and homes to an area of the capital that has been overlooked for too long," he added.
However, Green Party London Assembly Member Darren Johnson said that the proposed crossing was not wanted by locals, and that it would add to traffic and create more pollution.
He told the London Evening Standard: “This new road bridge will bring more traffic, congestion and pollution to the streets of east London.
"Local people have been rejecting this bridge for over thirty years and the latest set of pretty artist drawings won’t disguise the fact that this new road will bring pollution and traffic jams to their area. East London has been growing fast and has benefited from several new public transport links in the last few years.
“Evidence to the last public inquiry on this new road showed that it wouldn’t help the local economy, but it would create pollution and congestion.”
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.