Mayor of London Boris Johnson has given the misleading impression that the city’s Barclays Cycle Superhighways are “for indicative purposes,” suggesting that motorists are free to use them without breaking the law. Mr Johnson made his comments yesterday in an interview with Dermot Murnaghan of Sky News.
Quizzing the mayor about London’s readiness to host the Olympic and Paralympic Games and forecast traffic chaos, Murnaghan, a committed cyclist who rode from Land’s End to John O’Groats last year, said: “I came in to work today… and there is an Olympic lane there which I know isn’t operational yet, there is an Olympic lane, one of your blue bike lanes and nowhere discernibly for cars to go. Are you really saying to people, just don’t drive in London?”
“Well the Olympic lanes, as you just rightly said Dermot, are not yet operational and as for my blue bike lanes, they are perfectly … there is no ban on allowing your wheels to stray into them, they are there purely, as you know they are there for indicative purposes.
“What we are saying to people is yes, come the middle of next week we do expect quite a lot of pressure on the road network and yes, from now on in my strong advice to people is if you can plan your journey differently, get on the web, get on to GetAheadOfTheGames.com and think about using public transport and yes, probably don’t drive through central London in Games time is my advice,” he added.
In fact, Mr Johnson was incorrect in stating that the blue-painted lanes, which were criticised by many cyclists when they were first introduced and particularly since the death of Brian Dorling at Bow last October, are indicative; some sections of them are, but others, marked with a solid, unbroken white line separating them from the main carriageway aren’t.
Mr Johnson has in fact addressed the topic of motorists infringing on cycle lanes on more than one occasion in the past.
In a written answer to Labour Assembly Member John Biggs in November 2011, he revealed that “Over the most recent 12 month period 112 motorists were penalised for the specific contravention of encroaching in a mandatory cycle lane.”
In reply to a separate question asked by Mr Biggs, Mr Johnson confirmed that during the same period, 8,027 cyclists in the capital had been penalised for “cycling on the footway.”
He also specifically addressed the distinction between mandatory and advisory cycle lanes in a letter sent to Labour Assembly Member Val Shawcross in March last year.
Ms Shawcross had sent the mayor a copy of a report published by the Transport Committee of the London Assembly, which she chaired at the time, the previous November called Pedal power: the cycle hire scheme and cycle superhighways.
A survey commissioned for that report found that of 700 respondents who had used the Barclays Cycle Superhighways at that point, 60 per cent said they did not feel safer using them and two thirds agreed that they felt that other road users did not respect them.
The report put forward a number of recommendations, including one that “all the blue cycle lanes will be 2 metres wide and mandatory.”
In response to that, Mr Johnson wrote: ‘Where lanes of any type are introduced, they are at least 1.5m wide. This is an accepted minimum standard within TfL’s design guidance documents, which have also been shared and promoted to Boroughs. Wherever there is enough space to introduce 2m mandatory lanes without a significant detrimental impact on other road users, TfL is doing so. In some cases, capacity is being reallocated from general traffic to provide good cycling facilities, as can be seen on the Barclays Cycle Superhighway (BCS) route 7 and the future route BCS8.”
In his letter, Mr Johnson also acknowledged concerns expressed in the report about the presence of vehicles in the lanes.
“I know the Committee was concerned about parking within the Barclays Cycling Superhighway routes, or that vehicles might encroach on these,” he wrote, going on to explain about how much of the parking and unloading on the routes took place outside peak cycling traffic times.
He did not specifically address the issue of vehicles encroaching on the lanes as part of a journey that did not necessitate actually stopping on them, however.
Currently, TfL is reviewing the safety of cyclists at junctions on existing and planned Barclays Cycle Superhighways after being asked to do so by Mr Johnson himself following pressure brought to bear on him by cycle campaigners and opposition politicians after the death of Mr Dorling and other cyclists last autumn.
The Barclays Cycle Superhighways FAQ on the TfL website, in response to the question, “Can motor vehicles enter Barclays Cycle Superhighways?” states:
“On-road Barclays Cycle Superhighways comprise a mixture of mandatory cycle lanes, advisory cycle lanes, blue surfacing in bus lanes, and blue surfacing in general traffic lanes.
“Mandatory cycle lanes must not be entered by motor vehicles (including motorcycles). They are shown by a solid white line separating the lane from the general carriageway and by roadside signs, which also display the operating times of the lanes.
“Advisory cycle lanes are not designed to be used by motor vehicles, as stated in the Highway Code. However, motorists can enter the lanes if necessary. Advisory lanes are usually provided where there is not enough space for a sufficiently wide mandatory lane, and are designed to highlight to other road users that there will be high number of cyclists along the route, and to show where on the road to expect them.
“Blue surfacing in bus lanes is designed to remind users that the lane is shared by buses and cyclists (and also in some cases by motorcyclists and taxis). It reminds drivers that they are likely to encounter cyclists and provides cyclists with route continuity.
“Blue surfacing in general traffic lanes is designed to remind motorists that they are likely to encounter cyclists and to provide cyclists with route continuity.”
In all cases, the blue surfacing is designed to guide cyclists, and they are not obliged to ride on it.”
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.