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 road.cc 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.