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Tower Hamlets and City of London raise safety concerns - but RBS joins dozens of businesses in pledging support

With the consultations on London’s planned ‘Crossrail for the Bikes’ scheme as well as proposed improvements to the existing Cycle Superhighway 2 due to end a month today, battle lines have been drawn between critics and supporters of the schemes.

Business organisations as well as the City of London Corporation and the London Borough of Tower Hamlets have expressed strong reservations over Mayor of London Boris Johnson’s plans, but dozens of major employers – banking group RBS and building materials firm Cemex being among the latest – have gone public with their support for segregated bike lanes.

Last month, after consultation opened into the two routes, one running from Tower Gateway to the Westway, the other from King’s Cross to Elephant & Castle, the London Chamber of Commerce & Industry and the organisation London First warned the proposals would disrupt businesses.

They claimed they would cause more congestion and affect deliveries, and also said the six-week consultation period on both routes – which has since been extended from 19 October to 9 November – is too short.

City of London says pedestrians will miss out

But as blogger Danny Williams of Cyclists in the City points out, the City of London Corporation’s objections to the scheme, contained in a report to be put considered by its Transport & Environment Committee next week, are more to do with the potential impact on pedestrians within the Square Mile rather than any effect on motorists.

While acknowledging that “these proposals have significant benefits,” the report adds that “are heavily biased towards cycling but results [sic] in negative impacts for some other users.”

It adds: “The overall impact of the current proposals on pedestrians, local access and the environment are not in keeping with the Mayor of London’s Vision to “create better places for everyone.”

In particular, the report raises concerns about increased wait times for pedestrians at crossings, noting that they have already increased in recent years in favour of motor traffic, and also expresses reservations about changes that will be made to left or right turns at certain junctions.

The report recommends requesting Transport for London (TfL) to extend the consultation period further and lists a number of suggestions it says should be put to TfL, although it notes that those “are not expected to detract from the mayor’s plans for the segregated cycle routes.”

It adds: “They should provide a much more balanced and better outcome for the City and for London.”

A briefing note circulatedrecently among businesses and journalists in the capital and believed to have originated from property owner Canary Wharf Group has warned that the two routes would "be extremely damaging to London.”

It also said that it would result in a "significant increase in traffic in outer London," and "put the safety of cyclists, pedestrians and drivers at risk" – claims described as “unfounded” by the London Cycling Campaign.

Tower Hamlets mayor raises cycle safety concerns over CS2

The Canary Wharf Estate, which over the past three decades has developed into London’s second major financial district alongside the City, lies within Tower Hamlets, but it is plans elsewhere in the borough that concern its executive mayor,  Lutfur Rahman.

He believes that proposals for an upgrade to Cycle Superhighway 2, which runs through the borough, will be detrimental to the safety of cyclists and pedestrians and will also lead to severe delays for motorists and people travelling on buses.

Mr Rahman wrote to Mr Johnson last month to express his concerns, focusing in particular on the stretch of Whitechapel Road occupied by Whitechapel Market.

He said: “I am disappointed with the proposals offered because of the impact they will have on the market. The design is also flawed in ensuring cycle safety, as well as in the impact it will have on pedestrians.

“Whitechapel Market is a vibrant and busy shopping street with both street stalls and shops. It is one of the oldest street markets in London and I would not like these proposals to prevent it from prospering.

“This proposed design will place delivery vehicles outside the cycle lane, in the bus lane. It will disrupt bus services and bring cumbersome delivery movements involving heavy goods, waste, and pedestrians across the cycle lane, causing frequent obstruction to cyclists.”

Mr Rahman went on: “This won’t just have an impact on market traders and shopkeepers. It is also a less than ideal solution for cyclists, whose journeys will be disrupted. I worry that cyclists will get increasingly impatient with these continual obstructions. As they will have less flexibility to move out of the lane to avoid them, due to the island segregation, they may choose to stay in the main traffic flow.

“This isn’t my only concern for cycle safety. There are still numerous side roads where cyclists are left unprotected from left turn hooks and little improvement is offered for local cyclists seeking to join the route other than at major junctions.

He added that it is not just the danger face by people on bikes he is concerned about, saying: “Pedestrians too face greater safety risks. The removal of the central reservation will reduce the ability for pedestrians to safely cross the road informally and the road will become a more significant barrier.”

Major employers pledge support for segregated bike lanes

The south side of the stretch of Whitechapel Road where the market sits is occupied by the Royal London Hospital, home to the capital’s biggest trauma unit, which treats more than 100 seriously injured cyclists each year and is also the base of the capital’s air ambulance.

The hospital is run by the Barts Health NHS Trust, which employs 15,000 people on six sits in the city and is one of around 60 employers that have publicly affirmed their support for the planned cross-London routes on the website, Cycling Works.

Major businesses pledging their support in recent days include Royal Bank of Scotland, which has 12,000 employees in London, and building supplies firm Cemex, whose lorries use the capital’s roads daily to deliver cement and other materials to sites across the capital.

Emphasising the company’s support for segregated cycle lanes, its vice president for Cement Commercial, Building Products and Logistics, Matthew Wild, said: “As a major building materials supplier, our large goods vehicles are constantly transporting concrete, aggregates and cement across the capital.

“We have to share the road space and since 2004, we have introduced additional safety features on our vehicles, undertaken regular driver training including putting our drivers onto bikes and encouraged more than 6,000 cyclists to get into our cabs to see the road from the driver’s perspective at Exchanging place events throughout the country. All aimed at keeping vulnerable road users safe.

He added: “Segregated routes will give cyclists their own road space while allowing businesses to continue their day-to-day work.”

Another high-profile name that has pledged its support is Anglo-Dutch fast moving consumer goods business, Unilever, which has head offices at Blackriars in London and Rotterdam in the Netherlands.

Its chief human resources manager, Doug Baillie, said: “We have tragically lost employees in the past who have been killed while trying to cycle to or from work. We do not want to lose any more.

“Our sister head office building in Rotterdam is surrounded by cycle lanes and an efficient urban tramway system. We see the benefits to urban mobility and quality of life.

“We value employee satisfaction, health, and wellbeing and that’s why we proudly endorse the plans outlined by TfL to create new segregated routes through the heart of the city.

“Both the proposed north–south and east–west routes will help us attract and retain the employees our business needs to continue to thrive. These plans are good for business, for London, and for all Londoners whether they cycle or not,” he added.

Boris’s balancing act

Mr Johnson has acknowledged that he faces a balancing act in keeping diverse groups happy, saying: “We must make cycling safer for all types of cyclists – and segregated lanes must be part of the solution.

“In a congested city like London it is simply not possible to do this without taking some road space.

“We would be failing as a city if we were in any way daunted by the difficulties,” he added.

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.

16 comments

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pmanc [210 posts] 3 years ago
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Great to see that quote from the Unilever guy. And huge respect to Chris and Danny who set up the excellent CyclingWorks website.

This stuff shows it's not just a few quirky old guys with beards arguing for dedicated infrastructure, and hopefully they can really make a difference.

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belgravedave [274 posts] 3 years ago
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What a complete waste of money, think about how many wards or even full hospitals that could be built. As someone who lives works cycles jogs walks and even drives in central London the obvious thing to do is bring in a 20mph speed limit, increase traffic police and increase fines for careless driving. Cyclists should be claiming their rightful place on the road not being segregated.
The only people who will gain from this are the companies and organisations with vested interests.

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glynr36 [637 posts] 3 years ago
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belgravedave wrote:

Cyclists should be claiming their rightful place on the road not being segregated.

I agree, I think there is a lot where people want cyclists pushed out the way into a corner, where your commute would then be another 30% longer, or your speed is so severely limited through the use of shared usage paths etc. that sport cycling becomes a sedentary affair.

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Username [228 posts] 3 years ago
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belgravedave wrote:

Cyclists should be claiming their rightful place on the road not being segregated.

Tell that to my six-year-old.

On second thoughts DON'T tell that to my six-year-old. I want proper segregated infrastructure for her and future generations of vulnerable people on bikes to use.

Okay, this highway isn't on her school route but it's a start. It's a good start and we need to support it as much as possible.

I'm a fit male lycra wearer. I can mix it with 40 tonne HGVs and buses, and do daily. But this isn't about me.

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belgravedave [274 posts] 3 years ago
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Do you think it will be possible to segregate every road in London? If we segregate drivers become less aware, so when your cycling on a regular road awareness amongst drivers will deteriorate making cycling more dangerous for your six year old. Why not support the 20mph speed limit?
If they spent 10% of the final costs on police officers your child would be even safer.

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bikebot [2119 posts] 3 years ago
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belgravedave wrote:

Do you think it will be possible to segregate every road in London?

Do you think the embankment or Farringdon is representative of every road in London? Context matters, I completely support the use of segregation on congested city centre routes where it will make a difference to safety.

You could introduce a 10mph limit, when the only way to progress is to filter between a tipper truck on one side, and a double decker bus on the other, cycling will remain a fringe activity only undertaken by the most confident commuter.

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belgravedave [274 posts] 3 years ago
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Ok why don't the powers that be trial an area in London with the lower speed limit and extra police and see what happens? Other countries are trying to get rid of road furniture and bring in lower speeds. We're going to do the opposite.
They won't trial it just incase it works and then they'll be no massive budget to carve up.

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bikebot [2119 posts] 3 years ago
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belgravedave wrote:

Other countries are trying to get rid of road furniture and bring in lower speeds. We're going to do the opposite.

Really? I see an awful lot of London boroughs such as Islington and Southwark which ARE introducing 20mph speed limits. These aren't either/or questions.

I'm not sure what you mean by road furniture, TfL do seem to think the solution to every dangerous junction is more traffic lights which reflects their lack of maturity in designing such infrastructure. However, having worked in Copenhagen in the past, they do still have junctions, and traffic lights and all the other things you'd expect roads to have in city centres.

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Username [228 posts] 3 years ago
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belgravedave wrote:

Why not support the 20mph speed limit?

I fully support 20 mph zones. I live in Camden where we've had a 20 mph limit on the High Street for the last few years.

It's meaningless; I would never let a child, nor elderly cyclist (and I aim to be an elderly cyclist some day) mix it with the buses and trucks on that High Street.

We need segregated infrastructure. There is no alternative. We've tried all the "let's get along together" campaigns. They don't work. Human flesh just doesn't mix well with 40 tonners.

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Simon_MacMichael [2504 posts] 3 years ago
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bikebot wrote:

Other countries are trying to get rid of road furniture and bring in lower speeds. We're going to do the opposite

One weekday morning last month, I walked down a road in Islington, 20mph zone, school on it, blocked to rat-running traffic.

The number of cyclists was astounding - not sure how publicised it is, but a perfect cut-through from Camden to City.

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TimC340 [80 posts] 3 years ago
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glynr36 wrote:
belgravedave wrote:

Cyclists should be claiming their rightful place on the road not being segregated.

I agree, I think there is a lot where people want cyclists pushed out the way into a corner, where your commute would then be another 30% longer, or your speed is so severely limited through the use of shared usage paths etc. that sport cycling becomes a sedentary affair.

'Sport cycling' - just like sporty driving - has no place on busy commuter streets. Save it for quiet times and quiet roads. Time and place.

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OldRidgeback [2826 posts] 3 years ago
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TimC340 wrote:
glynr36 wrote:
belgravedave wrote:

Cyclists should be claiming their rightful place on the road not being segregated.

I agree, I think there is a lot where people want cyclists pushed out the way into a corner, where your commute would then be another 30% longer, or your speed is so severely limited through the use of shared usage paths etc. that sport cycling becomes a sedentary affair.

'Sport cycling' - just like sporty driving - has no place on busy commuter streets. Save it for quiet times and quiet roads. Time and place.

+1

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glynr36 [637 posts] 3 years ago
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TimC340 wrote:
glynr36 wrote:
belgravedave wrote:

Cyclists should be claiming their rightful place on the road not being segregated.

I agree, I think there is a lot where people want cyclists pushed out the way into a corner, where your commute would then be another 30% longer, or your speed is so severely limited through the use of shared usage paths etc. that sport cycling becomes a sedentary affair.

'Sport cycling' - just like sporty driving - has no place on busy commuter streets. Save it for quiet times and quiet roads. Time and place.

The two are not analogous, 'sport cycling' is riding at a decent speed with the flow of traffic (20-25mph) not past the speed limits like most 'sporty driving' would be.
I also commute at the same speed, I don't want to roll around at less than 15mph on my commute, I do my commute as it's quicker than me getting the train.

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TeamExtreme [104 posts] 3 years ago
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All I got from that post is "me, me, me, me, me".

Riding at 20-25 mph in rush hour traffic is dangerous. You are less visible and have a much longer stopping distance than a car and should adjust your speed appropriately.

It's militant attitudes like this that give cyclists in London a bad rep.

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Must be Mad [625 posts] 3 years ago
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Quote:

Why not support the 20mph speed limit?

I don't agree with a blanket 20mph speed limit - narrow residential streets, yes, but elsewhere no. 20mph is easy to do on a bike, so if the cars are going along at a similar speed, then the cars and bikes will remain closer together for longer, with passes taking much longer to complete. I believe this will be more dangerous for cyclists than a 30mph limit.

At 30mph, cars can (in general) pass bikes quickly and be on their way - so there will be less competition for road space.

Also a slower speed limit may well mean drives pay less attention to the road than a faster speed (there is a well documented effect that if something *feels* safer, then people tend to take more risks)

of course in London, at the rush hour, all this is a bit academic...

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Username [228 posts] 3 years ago
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glynr36 wrote:

I don't want to roll around at less than 15mph on my commute, I do my commute as it's quicker than me getting the train.

If you want your commute to be quick then you need to support proper cycle infrastructure, and I mean 'proper' not the usual stop/start/cyclists dismount nonsense which has been foisted on us for years.

These proposals really are the first proposed 'proper' schemes we've seen. They are not perfect and will need tweaking and polishing but they are a bloody good effort.

Proper infrastructure will enable cyclists, you included, to get places quickly. When done properly, like in Holland, the cycle routes are direct and unencumbered with traffic lights. Those lights which are unavoidable are sequenced in the cyclists' favour. In Holland a cyclist stopped at a red light never has to wait more than EIGHT seconds.

Now tell me your current journey is traffic-light free and you are never held up for more than eight seconds.

We won't achieve this overnight but we have to start here. And these proposals are a great start in the right direction. They need your support.