Home
Cycling commissioner Gilligan admits powers to seize control of borough roads were threatened on cycle superhighways

• Andrew Gilligan said delivery of cycle superhighways a "nightmarishly difficult" test of strength and came close to failing

• An unnamed borough was threatened with powers to seize control of their roads if cycle superhighways were blocked

• Gilligan warns of "deficiencies" in the network as he was unable to persuade some boroughs on cycling

• "Old men in limos" were comprehensively outfought by campaigners in PR battle, he says

• London "still in the foothills" of becoming a cycle-friendly city

• Gilligan calls on Londoners to secure specific commitments from all London mayoral candidates ahead of May 2016 elections to continue the cycling programme

• Says 5% growth in London cycling justifies continued investment

London's cycling commissioner, Andrew Gilligan, has admitted the city's cycle superhighways came close to not happening, and that it was a "nightmarishly difficult" test of strength to overcome at times "ferocious resistance".

In a speech at the Hackney Cycling Conference on Friday, Gilligan said the threat of mayoral powers to seize control of one borough's roads was used on parts of the cycle superhighway scheme.

Gilligan praised campaigners for winning the PR battle against the "old men in limos" (OMILs), but said London is only in the foothills of becoming a great cycling city, and pressure needs to be sustained ahead of the next mayoral elections in May 2016 to ensure the work continues.

Gilligan said: "We are, as I speak, building four segregated cycle superhighways in London, we're building about 15 cycle safe segregated junctions, the first of about 50, including those on the superhighways. We've started building the first back street Quietway routes; by 2016 there will be seven of them finished."

He said: "It was at times nightmarishly difficult to manage this, and we saw some absolutely ferocious resistance, kicking and screaming, and we saw a lot more passive resistance, heel digging and foot dragging from whom Olympic cyclist Chris Boardman called Old Men in Limos; you've heard of the MAMILs, those were the OMILs. A lot of objections, which would nearly always start with the words 'Of course I support cycling...'"

Gilligan praised campaigners, particularly founders of Cycling Works, brothers Chris and Jono Kenyon, for helping win support for cycle superhighways from London businesses, to the dismay of the OMILs who, he said "were comprehensively outfought in the PR and public support battle."

He said political support from the Mayor's office also "prevented these projects from dying a dozen deaths".

"You'll have to read our memoirs, if anyone wants to publish them, to find out how difficult it all was and how close it all came to not happening."

Gilligan said the battle is not yet over, however, and though the large Transport for London (TfL) schemes on roads controlled by the Mayor, including the cycle superhighways and junction improvements, are secure, those on boroughs' roads, such as the Central London Grid, Quietways and Mini Hollands, are "in a much more mixed position".

Not all London boroughs equal for cycling

While he praised Waltham Forest for the delivery of its Mini Holland scheme, he said other boroughs "are not terribly interested", with too much cycling money in boroughs being spent on shared space, pavement cycle routes and "tarting up" of public spaces with little benefit for people on bikes.

Gilligan said: "Any deficiencies you may notice, and you may notice a few, in the network of routes on borough routes are not on the whole from want of trying by us. They are because we haven't been able to persuade the borough concerned."

"In the end I can't force them, I can't send in the troops to occupy the town hall to make them not do toucan crossings and things like that."

Using mayoral powers to ensure cycle routes are built

However he inferred some mayoral powers were used during cycle superhighway negotiations, and this same power might be required in future.

He said: "There is, in fact, a power in the GLA Act in the setting up of a mayoralty which allows the mayor to take control of any road in London, and we have to get the agreement from the Secretary of State so it's not quite the slam dunk we hoped it was."

"However we did contemplate using that power in one or two cases on the superhighways. We didn't have to in the end, the threat of it was enough.

"I wonder if it might be worth asking future mayoral candidates whether they would be prepared to use that."

Call to arms

Gilligan's speech was also a call to arms to ensure the cycling programme continues after the May 2016 Mayoral election, and to ensure specific commitments are made by all candidates as happened in 2012 as a result of the London Cycling Campaign's "Love London, Go Dutch" campaign.

Gilligan said: "I think we've made enormous progress - unprecedented progress - over the last couple of years, but I believe we're still in the foothills of making London a cycle friendly city and the task for Londoners is to make sure the progress we've made continues after May."

"There is a chance that whoever's elected next might not care so passionately about cycling. There is also a risk that parts of TfL might feel they have 'done their bit' by delivering the segregated routes they are doing now; they have ticked the box, they can get back to buses and trains."

"It's a mistake to think transport investment is a zero-sum game, in which any investment comes at the expense of everyone else. Most of the schemes we're doing for cyclists have huge benefits for almost everyone else."

He said "The need to keep investing in cycling, continue the programme, is absolutely demonstrated not least by figures yesterday showing a 5% rise year on year  cycling on London's roads." 

"You only have to look outside this building or any other building in London just to see how astonishing are the numbers of people going around on bikes."

One small section of cycle superhighway 2 (CS2) has opened - a bus stop bypass - and more will open next month, according to Gilligan. Vauxhall Cross, he says, is six weeks from opening. 

He said: "My hope in delivering these segregated routes is people realise that traffic doesn't melt down, it is not the end of the world, it becomes less difficult to do more routes like that."

11 comments

Avatar
ChairRDRF [357 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

A few points here, writing also as someone who worked in London Boroughs trying to support cycling over a twenty year period. I would note that most Boroughs have a culture which is based on making life easy for the driver who wants to be able to go where, when, and how they want That includes "road safety" engineering to accommodate careless/dangerous driving.

However, the problems do not just lie with the Boroughs, but also with TfL:

* Boroughs operate with a desire to never reduce highway capacity for motor traffic - which is generally backed up or even pushed for, by TfL.
* The "road safety" targets for cycling are based on overall cyclist casualty reduction - not casualties per cyclist journey/mile travelled - so there is an inherent bias in "road safety" against getting a lot more people out there on bikes.
This is, again. backed up by the requirements of TfL.http://rdrf.org.uk/2014/11/07/transport-for-londons-cycle-safety-action-...
* Cycling isn't just about highway layout/infrastructure. An important point is the attitude of the police (Metropolitan Police Service in London). There has been a lot of criticism of what the MPS have been doing in Operation Safeway http://rdrf.org.uk/2013/11/29/is-there-a-police-blitz-on-unsafe-driving-... and otherwise
http://rdrf.org.uk/2015/03/20/the-michael-mason-case-a-national-scandal-.... The MPS traffic police are at least partly directed by TfL.
* The target for growth in cycling in London by TfL has been backpedalled on http://rdrf.org.uk/2015/03/25/transport-for-london-drops-its-cycling-mod...
* TfL (and its Fleet Operators Recognition Scheme - FORS) has done some good stuff with HGV problems, but on parts of this - namely the "Cyclists Stay Back" stickers saga - it could do a lot more: http://rdrf.org.uk/2015/05/06/cyclists-stay-back-stickers-is-transport-f...

Finally, the Boroughs transport schemes are basically financed by TfL through their Local Implementation Plans (LIPs). TfL could be a lot more strict in restricting funding transport schemes in Boroughs where those schemes are going o make life worse for cycling, or indeed in giving funding to Boroughs that are not serious about reaching the modal share target for cycling which has been part of both Mayors' Mayors Transport Strategies (MTS).

Gilligan has made a big effort for cycling and is absolutely correct in the need to keep pressurising the next Mayor - but very often the problems exist in a general transport planners/ highway engineers culture which exists in TfL as well as in the Boroughs.

Avatar
skull-collector... [144 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

The Leeds/Bradford "Cycle Superhighway" currently being build + the Leeds-Liverpool Canal which which is being resurfaced (shared use path) come from the same "cycling" money - but we still get gravel which cuts and punctures your tyres, speed bumps, dangerous crossings and "not being able to reduce vehicle capacity".

CityConnect (the joint name of both works) run by West Yorkshire Combined Authority have ignored advice from local groups and are lying through their teeth. The failed to share a safety audit hiding behind it being the property of Leeds City Council and advised to use a FOI request.

...

Compare this to Cycle Superhighways in more progressive countries.

...

Wouldn't be surprised it this ends with someone going to the local authority ombudsman.

Avatar
Laura Laker [20 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

You're right about the problem being not solely the boroughs, and I did quote Gilligan as saying there is a risk TfL will go back to just buses and trains, though perhaps that should be highlighted.

He also said at the conference he can and has withheld funding from boroughs whose schemes aren't good enough - I should maybe have put that in.

Anyway, what he said was: "In terms of cycling budget [for boroughs], that's not guaranteed, so we can just refuse to give it to them if they don't spend it properly. And that is a tactic that we have used."

Avatar
the little onion [160 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes
skull-collector-not-really wrote:

The Leeds/Bradford "Cycle Superhighway" currently being build + the Leeds-Liverpool Canal which which is being resurfaced (shared use path) come from the same "cycling" money - but we still get gravel which cuts and punctures your tyres, speed bumps, dangerous crossings and "not being able to reduce vehicle capacity".

CityConnect (the joint name of both works) run by West Yorkshire Combined Authority have ignored advice from local groups and are lying through their teeth. The failed to share a safety audit hiding behind it being the property of Leeds City Council and advised to use a FOI request.

...

Compare this to Cycle Superhighways in more progressive countries.

...

Wouldn't be surprised it this ends with someone going to the local authority ombudsman.

The most recent (and worst) lie from CityConnect is that they are basing their designs, particularly at the Dick Lane junction reported on this site, on Transport for London guidelines for best practice. Unfortunately for CityConnect, the Transport for London guidelines explicitly recommends NOT putting in the kind of design being used on the Leeds-Bradford superhighway and the canal towpath.

The TfL guidelines themselves aren't actually that bad, although there is room for improvement. The problem is clearly getting local councils to care about cycling.

Avatar
ChairRDRF [357 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

Laura, It's not just that TfL could "go back to being just about buses and trains" - it's TfL's position with regard to motor vehicular traffic. That's the problem: and it exists in the practices of transport professionals and of course in a car-centric society as a whole.

I should also say that there are plenty of transport practitioners (and some Councillors) who are pretty switched on. I was lucky enough as a local authority professional to push through some projects in some environments which favoured what I thought was supportive of cycling.

However, there are numerous obstacles in the bureaucracies - and fear of backlash from voters scared of losing car parking etc. Above all there is a general cultural problem of unquestioned dependence on car usage and uncritical acceptance by too many of the ways in which motor vehicles are used.

Avatar
Laura Laker [20 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

Yup, I didn't say that was the only problem, just saying the article hadn't ignored that aspect of the problem. Also, it's Gilligan's speech, not my own personal blog, so those are his words, not mine. I think we're both aware of what the problems are.

Avatar
ChairRDRF [357 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

I wasn't criticising you Laura, just trying to fill in for everybody what I think the problems are.

There are all sorts of issues which crop up when you have a particular kind of overall culture and various bureaucracies which operate in it, which most non-professionals aren't aware of.

Also, when something is cultural, by definition it tends to go unexamined because we are all brought up in it.

Avatar
bikebot [2119 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

If anyone is taking bets on the unnamed borough, I'm taking Westminster.

I should imagine there's a few good stories about the Royal Parks as well, which he will save for another time.

Avatar
Olionabike [42 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes
bikebot wrote:

If anyone is taking bets on the unnamed borough, I'm taking Westminster.

That was my instant thought as well.

Avatar
Tony [127 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

Can you ask him why he's calling cycle lanes that are only 1.5m wide in places, 2m at best, per direction a Superhighway? That's just an ordinary cycle lane at the usual inadequate width.

And now they are building them they want to fine us if we don't use them http://www.itv.com/news/london/2015-06-09/cyclists-who-fail-to-use-dedic...

Avatar
ConcordeCX [335 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes
Tony wrote:

And now they are building them they want to fine us if we don't use them http://www.itv.com/news/london/2015-06-09/cyclists-who-fail-to-use-dedic...

"They" appears to be just Boris, a 'here today, gone tomorrow' mayor, to paraphrase Robin Day. Anybody who tried that would have a difficult fight on their hands from the likes of the CTC at least, I'd guess. I'd certainly see it as a case for civil disobedience since I loathe segregated cycle lines.