Mixed reaction for London’s superhighways

Cyclists for and against the new superhighways speak out

by Martin Thomas   July 21, 2010  

Barclays Cycle Superhighway Mayor and Barclays

The Barclay’s Cycle Superhighways, launched by Mayor Boris Johnson this week, have met with a mixed reaction from London’s cyclists.

The BBC sent a reporter to gauge reaction on the opening day of the scheme by speaking to cyclists on the CS7 route. Perhaps unsurprisingly, she found strong opinions on both sides of the argument.

Liza Houghton was cycling her one-year-old son in a child seat to his childminder before commuting to work on the superhighway. She said, "They're absolutely brilliant, anything that helps cyclists and makes it safer has to be a good thing. Cars are being forced to become more aware of cyclists. It's not that safe, you have to be really careful - the close shaves I've had have been with people on their mobile phones."

But former cycle courier Tony Dann was less impressed. He said, “I can't really see the point. They're on the main roads, the traffic's exactly the same as it always has been, there's nothing to stop cars from going in the lanes. I think it gives inexperienced cyclists a false sense of security.”

Tony described the £23m spent to research the scheme and set up the first of the 12 lanes as "a waste of money".

But these mixed feelings are hardly surprising – and certainly nothing new. Way back in October last year Transport for London offered this rather utopian vision of the scheme.

 

Compare the blue swooshes of TfL’s vision with the London Cycling Campaign’s slightly more sober assessment from April this year– complete with footage of encroaching vans and buses, and cars stopped on advanced stop lines.

 

Opinion on road.cc has been divided too. Benskii noted, “Not sure if anyone else has noticed, but drivers – in particular buses – choose to ignore bike lanes and I doubt the super highways will be any different.”

But road.cc’s man in London TR said, “I must say that by and large, motor vehicles tend to keep out of the blue lane but where the 1.5m of blue track shares an already narrow carriageway that van would normally be driving near the kerb. I cycle this route everyday and without it being a segregated route, it has made that busy bit of road safer.”

Meanwhile, back with the BBC, David Routledge from Derby wrote, “Unenforced cycle routes are completely pointless – about as ridiculous as an 'advisory' congestion charge. In most cities, people park in the cycle lanes, forcing cyclists out into the middle of heavy traffic. The only thing that would keep motorised vehicles out of cycle lanes would be to install a curb between the cycle lane and the road or have cameras like they have for bus lanes.”

Ben Vost from Pessac in France wrote that in Bordeaux “the cycle lanes are either separate roads with their own signals and kerbs, or if in the main road, often have an extra kerb separating them from the rest of the traffic – that would stop other vehicles from encroaching on lanes designed for cyclists and give cyclists better security and more encouragement.”

But Geoff from Milton Keynes suggested looking closer to home. He wrote, “Go to Milton Keynes to see how a proper cyclepath system should be done – completely separate from the cars but shared with pedestrians on a extra wide 'redway' path. The paths use underpasses to cross busy grid roads and cover the entire city.”

The last word goes to the eminently sensible Raymondo from London, who wrote on the BBC site, “I am a regular cycle commuter along the CS7 route and have watched as the road has gradually turned blue along the length of the 'super-highway'. In many ways cyclists create some of their own problems, with a lack of respect for the rules of the road and other road users.

“My daily commute (28 miles total) is generally OK – if you show respect to others you usually get it back – most of my problems are from pedestrians just stepping out in the road (or 'lemmings' as we call them around here!) and other cyclists who seem to be unaware of all other road users.

“The vast majority of car drivers, taxis, even lorries and buses seem to be willing to give me space. Yes it is dangerous and I wouldn't advise just anyone to commute but the road belongs to all of us - we just have to share and show respect to others.”