Claims that two planned Cycle Superhighways across Central London will cause traffic chaos and significantly increase journey times for motorists across the capital are "unfounded," says the London Cycling Campaign. Analysis of the figures released by TfL suggests that some critics and media outlests have been rather selective in their reading of the data.
The group was responding to a press release from Mayor of London Boris Johnson yesterday containing Transport for London (TfL) modelling of the predicted impact of the schemes on traffic in the city.
The proposed routes run from east to west from Tower Gateway to the Westway, the other from King’s Cross in the north to Elephant & Castle in the south, and a six-week consultation period has now been extended by a further three weeks to 9 November due to “the complexity of the modelling and the amount of data under consideration.”
The most extreme forecast for part of the routes was seized on by the London Evening Standard, which in an article yesterday warned that journey times for motorists in London could increase by up to 16 minutes.
That only applies in one instance, however – a journey from the Greater London boundary to Hyde Park Corner – and the only other example the newspaper cited was an increase of up to 7 minutes 38 seconds to a journey from Hyde Park Corner to Limehouse Link.
In both those instances, the mayor is asking his staff to review options to try and bring the predicted changes in journey time down, but what the Standard did not mention was that in a quarter of the modelled routes, journey times for cars in Central London were forecast to reduce.
Nor did the Standard mention that the predicted increases in trip duration on the actual routes in question were much less – 1 minute 26 seconds on the east to west route, and 2 minutes 43 seconds for the north to south one. In both cases, those are at peak times and according to TfL, “average delays at other times will be less.
Routes "essential to keep London moving"
LCC says that flagging up the longest potential delay gives ammunition to opponents of the project, and doesn’t take into account any change in travel habits that may result from the two schemes. Instead, it says that the mayor and TfL should be highlighting the benefits.
The organisation’s chief executive, Ashok Sinha, said: “There will be a 40 per cent increase in people working in central London boroughs over the coming decades. Promoting cycling will not be the cause of congestion, it will be essential to keeping London moving."
He also pointed out that the traffic forecasts had been published during a week in which TfL commissioner Sir Peter Hendy had warned of potential civil unrest in the future as a result of London’s increasingly crowded public transport system.
“Sir Peter Hendy has warned that overcrowding on London’s public transport system could lead to riots,” explained Sinha. “If we want to avoid disorder or people taking to their cars to get to work – causing even more congestion – then investing in cycling superhighways like these is an absolute must.”
LCC acknowledged that “whilst the cycling brings overall benefits to London through reduced congestion, improved air quality, and a healthier workforce, there will be traffic delays to some in the short term.
“But,” it added, “making cycling through central London safe, including by installing the new superhighways, will bring immense long term benefits – as businesses and business leaders are queuing up to say.”
NYC sees journey times reduce thanks to bike lanes
The campaign group also highlighted that the New York City Department of Transportation has recently revealed that after segregated bike lanes were installed there, journey times actually improved due to people switching to other modes of transport, including bicycles.
Meanwhile London-based cycling blogger Danny Williams of Cyclists in the City has shared a briefing note that he says has been sent to businesses and journalists in the city by opponents of the schemes, who have been pushing for a judicial review of them.
The anonymous note, which Williams says according to two separate sources has come from Canary Wharf Group, claims that the two routes, dubbed ‘Crossrail for the Bike,’ will "be extremely damaging to London,” cause "significant increase in traffic in outer London," and "put the safety of cyclists, pedestrians and drivers at risk."
Employers pledge support
However, a number of major employers have publicly pledged their support through the CyclingWorks website set up in support of the two routes, with more expected to follow.
Current supporters include the accountancy and consultancy firm Deloitte, property firms Jones Lang LaSalle and Knight Frank, the Barts Health NHS Trust, and publishing and events company Euromoney Institutional Investor.
Releasing the traffic modelling figures yesterday, the mayor said: “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.
“I want to stress two things about these figures and the East-West Superhighway in particular. The first is that the design is by no means set in stone. Some journey times for cars are predicted to be shorter, some would be longer under current plans.
“We will work hard with all parties to improve the design and to cut these notional delays, and to get the right result for London.
“The second point is that we would be failing as a city if we were in any way daunted by the difficulties. We can and will produce a fantastic scheme that will benefit the whole city,” he added.]
Safer space will mean more cyclists
LCC meanwhile countered criticism of the two proposed routes, saying: “We are aware that some are mounting opposition to the cycle routes, even threatening to start a judicial review that would prevent any improvements for cycling being delivered on these routes.
“Overstating the scale of the changes in traffic capacity leads to predictions of congestion far wider and more severe than even those produced by TfL’s modelling computers.
“The opponents are proposing a comprehensive re-design providing four lanes of motor traffic, a cycle way and safe pedestrian access. Fitting this along the Thames Street alignment would require bulldozing much of the existing road and bridge infrastructure as well as a few of the City’s historic buildings.
“Both the East-West and North-South cycle superhighways each have a capacity of around 3,000 cyclists an hour in both directions – the equivalent of the capacity of 10 London Underground train loads.
“Cyclists already make up between 30 and 50% of traffic at points on these routes. We know that thousands of Londoners would like to cycle, but don’t feel able to because of fear of danger from motor traffic.
“By providing safe space for cycling, more and more people will choose cycling over other congested modes of travel,” the group added.
Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.