'Crossrail for the bike' - Boris Johnson unveils his vision for cycling in London (+ video)

Vision for Cycling includes 15-mile segregated route would run from suburbs in West to Canary Wharf + "'A tube network for the bike"

by Simon_MacMichael   March 7, 2013  

TfL Cycle Boulevard on Embankment

Mayor of London Boris Johnson has published his Vision for Cycling for the capital, the centrepiece being what he has termed 'Crossrail for the bike' - a 15-mile corridor running from East to West across the city. He claims it will be "the longest substantially-segregated continuous cycle route of any city in Europe" and says "It will use a new segregated cycle track along, among other places, the Victoria Embankment and the Westway flyover" - turning one lane of one of the capital's most notorious roads into a two-way, segregated cycle lane.

While much of the Mayor's Vision for Cycling has been applauded by cycling organisations such as the LCC and Sustran as well as London's influential cycling bloggers, praise has not been universal. In it's response the LCC highlights a number of concerns including a seeming drop in funding for cycling after this mayoralty. In her response Caroline Pidgeon Chair of the London Assembly Transport Commitee led with her criticism:

“Far from seeing evidence of a serious commitment to a 'cycling revolution', the Mayor’s vision lacks ambition for his pledges to make London safer and more inviting for cycling. While £913 million may seem an impressive figure, its impact will be diluted over ten years and is not a significant advancement on current funding levels. To have real impact, we’re calling for the investment in cycling to be doubled.

“The Committee has previously highlighted how segregated cycle paths, junction and cycle superhighway improvements and tackling HGV safety would improve safety for cyclists, and we're delighted to see these included in the Mayor's cycle vision. If Boris Johnson is serious about leaving a lasting cycling legacy for London – boosting journeys by bike and improving safety – more ambitious targets, backed by serious funding, are needed."

However, it is undeniable that the Mayor's proposals, which would have been unthinkable 18 months ago prior to a series of high-profile deaths of cyclists in London that led to the issue of cycle safety becoming a key campaigning area in last year's mayoral elections, will involve an investment of £400 million over the next four years, equivalent to £18 per capita per year, which the mayor says is comparable to the leading cities in Germany and nearing the levels spent in the Netherlands.

The Mayor's Vision aims for four key outcomes;

1. A Tube network for the bike. London will have a network of direct, high-capacity, joined-up cycle routes. Many will run in parallel with key Underground, rail and bus routes, radial and orbital, signed and branded accordingly: the ‘Bakerloo Superhighway’; the ‘Circle Quietway’, and so on. A ‘bike Crossrail’ will run, substantially segregated, from west London to Barking. Local routes will link with them. There will be more Dutch-style, fully-segregated lanes and junctions; more mandatory cycle lanes, semi-segregated from general traffic; and a network of direct back-street Quietways, with segregation and junction improvements over the hard parts.

2. Safer streets for the bike. London’s streets and spaces will become places where cyclists feel they belong and are safe. Spending on the junction review will be significantly increased, and it will be completely recast to prioritise major and substantial improvements to the worst junctions, though other junctions will still be tackled. With government help, a range of radical measures will improve the safety of cyclists around large vehicles.

3. More people travelling by bike. Cycling across London will double in the next 10 years. We will ‘normalise’ cycling, making it something anyone feels comfortable doing. Hundreds of thousands more people, of all ages, races and backgrounds, and in all parts of London, will discover that the bike has changed their lives.

4. Better places for everyone. Our policies will help all Londoners, whether or not they have any intention of getting on a bicycle. Our new bike routes are a step towards the Mayor’s vision of a ‘village in the city’, creating green corridors, even linear parks, with more tree-planting, more space for pedestrians and less traffic. Cycling will promote community safety, bringing new life and vitality to underused streets. Our routes will specifically target parts of the Tube and bus network which are over capacity, promoting transfers to the bike and relieving crowding for everyone. Cycling will transform more of our city into a place dominated by people, not motor traffic.

His plans were formally unveiled in London later this morning, when he will be accompanied by London Cycling Commissioner Andrew Gilligan, and former World and Olympic Champion Chris Boardman.

Other highlights of the Vision for Cycling published this morning, according to the mayor, are:

  • A new 'Central London Grid' of bike routes in the City and West End, using segregation, quiet streets, and two-way cycling on one-way traffic streets, to join all the other routes together
  • A new network of 'Quietways' – direct, continuous, fully-signposted routes on peaceful side streets, running far into the suburbs, and aimed at people put off by cycling in traffic
  • Substantial improvements to both existing and proposed Superhighways, including some reroutings
  • Major improvements to the worst junctions, making them safer and less threatening for cyclicsts
  • Work to make HGVs safer.

Noting that the number of people cycling in London has nearly trebled over the past decade, the mayor says: “The success of our policies to increase cycling means we must now greatly increase our provision for cyclists – and, above all, for the huge numbers of Londoners who would like to cycle, but presently feel unable to.”

He adds that “Cycling will be treated not as niche, marginal, or an afterthought, but as what it is: an integral part of the transport network, with the capital spending, road space and traffic planners’ attention befitting that role.”

As for the surprise revelation that a lane of one of the busiest roads in West London is to be given over to bicycles, he says: The Westway, the ultimate symbol of how the urban motorway tore up our cities, will become the ultimate symbol of how we are claiming central London for the bike.”

Speaking about the plans, Boardman said: "This is most ambitious cycling development & promotion plan in UK in living memory, perhaps ever."

Sustrans, which published its own blueprint for the future of cycling in the capital, Connect London, welcomed today’s announcement but said that implementation would be key.

German Dector-Vega, the sustainable transport charity’s London director, commented: “It’s great to see cycling being championed by politicians like Boris Johnson, particularly as fuel prices rise and we struggle to find opportunities to live healthy lives.

“The London experience shows that real progress can be made through committed political leadership that listens to the voice of cyclists and creates a long-term vision for cycling.

“The Mayor’s latest plans include a raft of ideas that will help cycling become a genuine choice for getting around, particularly new riders and those in outer London.

“As ever, the devil will be in the detail and Sustrans looks forward to working with the Mayor, local authorities, Transport for London and cyclists themselves to ensure we grasp every opportunity to make our roads safer, our cycle network better and, crucially, train and inspire more Londoners get on their bikes.”

In a blog post this morning, Danny Williams of Cyclists in the City said: "I have never seen a commitment to cycling as ambitious as this in this country. I’ve read countless plans by councils and by other cities and I’m familiar with the strategies adopted in other countries.

"Boris isn’t promising to bring Copenhagen or Amsterdam to London, Williams added. "But he is promising to bring about a better London. And I think that’s the right thing to do. London excels at many things it does. Our bus network is world-class. Our tube network, while some people might grumble, is pretty much world-class. It’s time our streets became first class too. And cycling is going to have to be part of that. A very significant part."

Mark Ames of the I Bike London blog said that the proposals revealed today were a victory for those who had fought for cycling provision in London to be improved, writing: "All-in-all this is a victorious day for cycle campaigners - during his first term we put the Mayor and his office under enormous pressure, and rightfully so. 

"Against the unique background of cycling becoming more dangerous in London the more people who did it, the calls and cries for sweeping action were loud and united in their cohesion. Many of you have taken part in flashrides, bike protests, letter writing campaigns, signed petitions and helped to spread the word, and that pressure is what has helped to lead to today. 

"Boris is "the cycling Mayor" and at times that entire relationship looked likely to turn sour and do him more harm than good. His ambition for all things bicycle has never been under question, but his commitment to real change and to detail was.

"To his credit, he's gone away and thought about his proposals, listened to all of your voices and come back with a proposal delivering exactly what cycle campaigners have been asking for: world class cycling infrastructure, world class streets, more and safer cycling and the opportunity for many more people to ride a bike safely."

Responding to the Vision for Cycling London Cycling Campaing Chief Executive Ashok Sinha said:

“The Mayor’s Vision for Cycling is exciting and ground-breaking, and a just reward for the 42,000 people who supported our Love London Go Dutch campaign. Although it could be improved and we are yet to see the details, which will be critical to its success, the Vision represents a major leap in political ambition and funding for cycling over the next three years, and is an unambiguous commitment to learning from international best practice as called for by LCC supporters.”

The LCC also expressed it's concerns about a number of things lacking from the Mayor's vision including no direction to TfL to priioritise cycling and walking as the general rule in London, what appears to be a sharp drop in funding for cycling from the next mayoralty onwards, and no commitment to further lift cycling's modal share of transport in London beyond the current 5 per cent target - the Greater London Assembly recently recommended it be raised to 10 per cent. 

The LCC has produced it's own analysis fo the Mayor's plan highlighting what it sees as its strengths and its weaknesses which can be accessed here

22 user comments

Oldest firstNewest firstBest rated

I will believe it when I see it

Get out and ride

posted by davidtcycle [62 posts]
7th March 2013 - 9:29


the part of embankment that they are showing isn't too much of a problem, however Parliament square is nightmare, as is Waterloo on the other side of the river. It will be interesting to see how they deal with this.

posted by Cervelo12 [78 posts]
7th March 2013 - 9:57

1 Like

Certainly heading in the right direction, how about the rest of the country though, WE DONT ALL LIVE IN LAHHHNNNDAAAAHNNN, don't you know ..

Me, Myself and I

posted by phax71 [319 posts]
7th March 2013 - 10:03


phax71 wrote:
Certainly heading in the right direction, how about the rest of the country though, WE DONT ALL LIVE IN LAHHHNNNDAAAAHNNN, don't you know ..

To be honest, there's not much London's mayor can do about that - but hopefully local authorities elsewhere will take notice.

Simon_MacMichael's picture

posted by Simon_MacMichael [8872 posts]
7th March 2013 - 10:08


I live in Northern Ireland and even I like to see things like this - at least your Lord Mayor seems actively trying to do something - fair play to him.

posted by bfslxo [140 posts]
7th March 2013 - 10:21

1 Like

Check out the LCC's proposal for Parliament Square - hopefully Boris will pay heed...

posted by Yennings [230 posts]
7th March 2013 - 11:19


Being a politician's promise, clearly the reality won't live up to the soaring rhetoric. This announcement has still put me into a really optimistic mood, though. Big Grin

posted by Yennings [230 posts]
7th March 2013 - 11:20


Looks a great plan. Big Grin

Now we just need it implimented as well as the plan looks.

posted by thereverent [331 posts]
7th March 2013 - 11:34


Sigh... I don't want to be negative. I really don't. (But...)

1. A major problem with segregated cycleways is that there's no escape: you get stuck behind someone on a Boris bike doing 8-10mph (as is their right) and you're forced to follow. Now, I understand that it's not a time trial and when I'm in my car I can only go as quickly as the car in front of me. But the whole point of cycling in London is to slip easily through the traffic.

2. Segregated lanes increase the perception of car/taxi/HGV drivers that bikes don't deserve to be on the road. And any swift-moving cyclist who chooses not to use the segregated lane will undoubtedly be told to get out of the road...

3. On the positive side, it'll encourage more people to ride...

Boardman CX Team '14 | Cannondale CAAD8 '12 (written off, SMIDSY) | Scott Sportster '08

Gizmo_'s picture

posted by Gizmo_ [1086 posts]
7th March 2013 - 12:37


If the segregated lanes are wide enough (that Embankment one for example should be) then overtaking shouldn't be an issue, though setting Strava KOM times might still be tricky Wink And for those that still inist on mixing with motor vehicles? Helll, the Forrester/Franklin-ites are always banging on about how cycling the true "cyclecraft" way will leave unmolested. Let them get on with their practical experiment whilst the majority enjoy smooth, safe journies.

if this whiole radical, ambitious plan comes to pass, that is. I really hope it doesn't get chipped away at to nothingness.

posted by Al__S [746 posts]
7th March 2013 - 12:45


What Gizmo said. Plus, of course, as lousy as on-road cycle lanes can be, at least there's a small chance they will get swept occasionally. Segregation just gives the council another reason not to bother. I regularly ride Alan Turing Way in Manchester, that has segregated lanes....filled with half bricks, glass, syringes, snowmen and huge piles of leaves in autumn. I'll mix with the traffic, thanks.

posted by andyp [1281 posts]
7th March 2013 - 12:58


From the article:
"While £913 million may seem an impressive figure, its impact will be diluted over ten years and is not a significant advancement on current funding levels."

The way I read this, is that there's no (or very little) new money to fund this and it'll be achieved by diverting money from other cycling related projects.

If that's the case:
1) Has this vision been costed and planned - even at a high level?
2) What the hell are they currently spending £90m a year on?

posted by VeloPeo [222 posts]
7th March 2013 - 13:01


What Gizmo and andyp said. Segregation is not automatically a Good Thing. Don't bank on your 'smooth, safe journeys' either, AI__S. In addition to the detritus that andyp mentions finding its way onto the segragated land in Manchester, one of the main hazards to cyclists - pedestrians - also see anything that's not the road as part of the pavement.

dullard's picture

posted by dullard [140 posts]
7th March 2013 - 13:10

1 Like

I'm sorry mate, but is that the best you can come up with in regards of negativity?

1. Those who 'slip easily through traffic' on a road, will surely do so on a cycleway.
2. Surely such communication from other road users is 'water off of a ducks back' now-a-days?
3. Couldn't agree more, and easily outweighs your points from 1 & 2.

As other posters have said, there's a long way to go before we get these proposals delivered, but I think this proposal is good news for all London cyclists.

They're gonna hit the line almost together!

daloriana's picture

posted by daloriana [13 posts]
7th March 2013 - 13:21


Looks great, and as others have said, if it happens ....

posted by Karbon Kev [682 posts]
7th March 2013 - 13:48

1 Like

Thinking in a bit more detail about the Westway would be very interested to see some more detail in these plans. It's a 40mph speed limit with no speed cameras meaning practically people drive at 50-60mph.

Can see some real problems dealing with the cycle lane and junctions. Taker this one for example

How would a bike lane continuing along the road be able to cope with the needs of traffic coming across it to exit onto the roundabout (for clarity, the roundabout pictured is below the Westway which goes over the top on a flyover)

posted by VeloPeo [222 posts]
7th March 2013 - 14:15

1 Like

Maybe those people (including myself) who think that segregating cyclists isn't quite the right thing to do are missing something.

Obviously, for the meantime, there will be car/hgv/taxi/bus drivers that think we shouldn't be using the roads. But they already think that.

However if some people are encouraged into cycling and away from the tube, bus, taxi or car, then perhaps we will get to the point where so many people are cycling and much fewer people are driving that we'll all be much more widely accepted on the road.

A man can dream eh?

Municipal Waste's picture

posted by Municipal Waste [232 posts]
7th March 2013 - 16:24

1 Like

I notice, in the report, that all this is "subject to the agreement of the boroughs" so I wouldn't put all my life savings on it being as integrated and complete as promised.

As for the quality of the bike lanes themselves, obviously the mockup and video represent the best possible scenario, in the easiest location to deliver it. There aren't many reasons for a delivery van to stop on the Embankment, except maybe to drop off a weekly shipment of Union Jack underpants to one of the riverside stalls for tourists. Almost every other street in London that this may utilise, however, will have businesses demanding 24/7 just-in-time deliveries. So, unless enforcement of no stopping is as strict as on red routes, that could spoil such a scheme.

posted by ubercurmudgeon [168 posts]
7th March 2013 - 16:29


Does anyone else think the cars, buses, trucks etc in those artist's impressions are never to scale?

They make it look as if cars fit comfortably, but seem to have modelled them on the original Mini, rather than the 4x4 or executive saloon that everyone knows you need to get around London these days.

PJ McNally's picture

posted by PJ McNally [591 posts]
7th March 2013 - 18:09


I am afraid I have to agree with those above who have expressed reservations about segregation, particularly in the case in the video. If I am a pedestrian trying to get from the river across the road I am now having to negotiate two lanes and then three lanes of motor traffic which is likely to be going much faster, unimpeded as they will be by cyclists bar the occasional "Franklinista" (who will no doubt be told to use the f***ing bike lane by passing Highway Code experts). Otherwise I will have to go out of my way to cross the road.
Personally I would prefer to see more schemes like Exhibition Road or, for the non-Londoners, Poynton in Cheshire.

posted by CotterPin [64 posts]
7th March 2013 - 20:39


CotterPin wrote:
Personally I would prefer to see more schemes like Exhibition Road or, for the non-Londoners, Poynton in Cheshire.

Seriously, you think that major routes across London should be modelled on a confusing "not really a roundabout" in sleepy Poynton?

How will people cross? At the crossing, as they do at the moment. And I really don't think suggesting that cyclists should be employed as traffic calming devices is helpful. That's how it feels at the moment and it's the reason most people wouldn't dream of cycling.

Slightly surprised to see the anti-segregationists are still lurking around. I thought we'd been through all this.

posted by pmanc [163 posts]
8th March 2013 - 13:54


Of course implementing this will be handed over to the same traffic engineers who came up with the new Blackfriars, Bridge layout, the Kings Cross gyratory and Bow Roundabout. Given their track record does anyone seriously think TfL have a clue how to design what is being asked for here?

posted by Tony [89 posts]
8th March 2013 - 23:18