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Westminster City Council's Baker Street plans mysteriously lacking cycling provision

London Cycling Campaign calling Westminster's Baker Street plans "the case of the missing space for cycling"...

Westminster City Council's latest stab at public realm improvement, this time on Baker Street, has been dubbed "the case of the missing space for cycling" by the London Cycling Campaign, with part-time cycle lanes that disappear at junctions, while Cycling Commissioner, Andrew Gilligan, has said he does not support the scheme.

Sherlock Holmes may be baffled at sketches of the scheme, which depict the one-way Baker Street made two way, with almost no traffic on it, despite the fact the council has said the current high traffic levels must be maintained.

The LCC called the Baker Street Two Way project "a token effort", with cycle lanes that only operate part time, and give up at junctions where cyclists most need protection. The Campaign says Baker Street, a popular shopping street, should be for buses and cycles only, whereas at present cycle lanes are only proposed on the parallel street, Gloucester Place, which is also being made two way.

Baker Street - the reality

The LCC's Rosie Downes told she is seriously concerned about the quality of the plans.

She said: "These plans could and should be a great opportunity to transform this polluted and traffic dominated part of Westminster into somewhere that’s great to visit on foot or by bike. But making Baker Street two-way won’t reduce the volume of motor traffic – and part-time painted lanes don’t make for safe and inviting space for cycling.

"Good quality cycling provision that’s suitable for all ages and abilities can and should be provided along both Baker Street and Gloucester Place – the current plans simply aren’t good enough."

Westminster Cycling Campaign, the local branch of the LCC, say the council told them the cycle lanes can’t operate 24 hours a day, because of the need to allow loading and parking at certain times. However, it says this will expose cyclists to the risk of dooring while they share the road with heavy motor traffic.

Dominic Fee, from Westminster Cycling Campaign, said: "This is a once in a generation opportunity to improve Baker Street and Gloucester Place, and we’ve met with the Council’s cabinet member to express our concerns. But we know from experience how the Council will evaluate the results of the public consultation: they will simply use the results of their online questionnaire. We need cyclists to take 2 minutes to complete the multiple choice questionnaire, or their voice won’t be heard!"

Plans boast the introduction of Advanced Stop Lines and bike parking, as well as "easier vehicle access to local businesses, which in turn will help them grow and serve the community".

LCC urges people to respond and has put together some suggested responses to the consultation, which ends tomorrow.

Westminster Cycling Campaign released some footage of Baker Street, showing the current traffic volumes.

Councillor Robert Davis, Deputy Council Leader and Cabinet Member for Built Environment at Westminster City Council, says the plans will help smooth traffic flow and reduce journey times.

"Using modern traffic engineering techniques, under the proposed project vehicle flow should be smoother and less congested, without attracting more traffic to the area.

"This would reduce the dominance of vehicles along both streets and provide greater access, connectivity and useable space for local residents, businesses, workers and visitors. The proposals would also reduce the impact of convoluted journeys that are caused by the current one way system."

Andrew Gilligan has been contacted and we will provide an update from him soon.

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severs1966 | 8 years ago

Learn from this that legislators promising "cycle-proofing" are not promising anything of any use to bike riders.

Learn that a "cycle-proofed" design, under their understanding of the term, does not mean "safe for riding a bike".

Learn that those who promise to improve cities for bike riders do not care if bike riders live or die.

Learn that politicians are the most ingrained, compulsive, inveterate liars you will ever communicate with.

kie7077 | 8 years ago

Improved traffic flow will help with pollution

No it absolutely does not, the more traffic you can fit on to the roads the more pollution you get.

If it were up to me Greater London would be the zero emissions zone.

To reduce pollution make a network of roads that cycles can use but aren't through roads for vehicles, make cycling fast and pleasant at the expense of motor traffic.

redhanded | 8 years ago

Baker Street really is a traffic sewer... they are just changing it from a one way sewer into a two way sewer.

the little onion | 8 years ago
1 like

Heather Acton is the Westminster council cabinet member for sustainability and parking. Surely a most contradictory brief?

severs1966 | 8 years ago
1 like

Just lately, we have been told that the law has been changed so that all road developments must include plans to "cycle-proof" the scheme.

Here, no such provision has been made, just ASLs.

I assume that this is the level of provision we can expect in all road developments from now on? That this is what the compulsion of law entails (i.e. the minimum possible) ?

Or is the compulsion in law so weak as to be irrelevant, because it only applies to roads that are so big and fast that nearly all road developments exclude the obligation?

Our lords and masters letting us all down again… I continue to believe that they do not care whether we live or die.

congokid | 8 years ago
1 like

"vehicle flow should be smoother and less congested, without attracting more traffic to the area"

Did you say smoother vehicle flow and less congested? Couldn't be a better time to hop in the car and do some shopping...

The response from Westminster Council is par for the course and underlines its unwillingness to properly consider the needs of vulnerable road users.

Some months ago, in reply to a letter to ES, Westminster's Cllr Heather Acton wrote:

"Under our City for All programme, we are spending up to £40 million over the next two years on improvements to create a better and safer pedestrian and cycling environment."

But from the City for All document:

"Over the next three years we will invest £7 million, with our partners, in new public realm schemes, including walking and cycling improvements, and road safety schemes."

Just a bit of a discrepancy there, then. Goes to show that liars need good memories...

Housecathst | 8 years ago

If Andrew Gilligan doesn't support it is must be REALLY bad !

racingcondor | 8 years ago

Strange thing is that even for cars I can't think what benefit there is from moving to two way traffic on these roads. For cars the current one way Baker St works pretty well (given the huge traffic volumes). Guess there must be a junction that can be improved by the scheme but I can't think of it.

Now if WCC could find a neighbouring two way road, make that one way (for local traffic) and turn the rest into a well signposted bike route / bypass of Baker St, that might work. Shouldn't be hard given the grid pattern of roads in the area.

In the mean time, I'll just take the lane and it'll be businesses as usual (essentially sprinting practice).

zanf replied to racingcondor | 8 years ago
racingcondor wrote:

Strange thing is that even for cars I can't think what benefit there is from moving to two way traffic on these roads. For cars the current one way Baker St works pretty well (given the huge traffic volumes). Guess there must be a junction that can be improved by the scheme but I can't think of it.

Surely, the aim with central London is to reduce vehicular traffic numbers, not accommodate them?

I will not go to that area of town because the air quality is so polluted. Shame because there are some really good cafes/restaurants around there.

racingcondor replied to zanf | 8 years ago

I'd like to see roads that support what they need to (yeah, not realistic) but it's the middle of a big city so it's going to be full of cars whatever you do (short of a total ban).

Improved traffic flow will help with pollution but I don't see it happening in zone 1 so someone (Boris presumably) needs to do ban diesel in zone 1 during the day (night delivery, busses that actually use the electric part of their hybrid engines and so on).

bikebot | 8 years ago

Just to add to my depression about Westminster, it's seems the opposition to the Cycling & Walking Bridge between Nine Elms and Pimlico is being lead by the Labour councillors.

So there you have it, if you support active travel and you live in Westminster you're stuffed.

Argos74 | 8 years ago

No bike lane, or crap bike lanes? Take the whole thing. Take the lane. Especially if you're a confident cyclist, and there's a not so confident cyclist in front of you hugging the kerb. You'll get tailgated and beeped at. I have, lots. Share the road goes both ways.

I'm having to self-censor my posts too much these days.

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