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Anti-cycling campaigner claims bike lanes cause pollution

Councillor questions CS11 opponent claims cycle lanes will increase pollution levels and suggests focusing on motor traffic instead

A campaigner lobbying against a Cycle Superhighway has been accused of using air pollution concerns to prioritise private cars over walking and cycling.  

Jessica Learmond Criqui, a specialist employment lawyer who lives and works around Hampstead, has repeatedly raised concerns the introduction of Cycle Superhighway 11, which is proposed to run from Swiss Cottage to the West End, will “act as a cork” to traffic and force cars onto narrow residential roads, worsening air pollution.

However, at a meeting in Hampstead where Learmond-Criqui told Camden Council it was breaching its own guidelines on air quality and that it shouldn’t approve any more planning applications that could exacerbate the problem, a local councillor told Learmond-Cirqui she is addressing the right issue with the wrong strategy.

Ms Learmond-Criqui, quoted by the Ham & High, said: “Finchley Road is used by 35 million vehicles, and CS-11 will see more than 200 more vehicles per hour being funnelled through the streets of Hampstead because Tfl are trying to narrow five lanes to three at Swiss Cottage. Hampstead has 12,500 children and 55 schools and pollution is a danger

“Hampstead is exceeding safety levels for pollution."

However, Cllr Lazzaro Pietragnoli questioned Ms Learmond-Criqui's approach to the problem.

He said: “I think you are addressing the right issue with the wrong strategy – the pollution in Hampstead is mostly caused by motor vehicles and you object to new cycle lanes which will reduce the no of motor vehicles.

“You want essentially to prioritise private cars against over walking and cycling – why aren’t you campaigning for restrictions against motorists instead of against the creation of new cycle lanes?”

Learmond Criqui runs a Facebook page, I love Hampstead NW3, which posts regularly about CS11, air pollution and local planning issues. She has also written a letter to the Financial Times voicing her concerns.

While some have questioned claims Finchley Road carries 35 million vehicles per year, last month Andrew Gilligan, Boris Johnson’s Cycling Commissioner, told opponents to the CS11 proposals had often "fundamentally misunderstood" what was being planned. 

He says opponents have said, “among, other things, that we’re going to take the cycle lane down Finchley Road, take out traffic lanes - that’s not true, and I worry that people are being led to oppose this scheme under false pretenses."

In a recent Evening Standard article he wrote the notion reducing motor traffic capacity worsens congestion is incorrect. 

He wrote: "Some people think traffic is like rainwater and the roads are the drains for it. If you narrow the pipe, they say, it will flood. If you block one road, they say, the same amount of traffic will simply spill over to the nearest easiest routes.

"That’s the sort of argument made against our cycle superhighways, or our current proposal to cut rat-running through Regent’s Park by closing some of its gates.  

"But in real life, once the builders have finished, the spill never actually happens. The pipe doesn’t flood; some of the water goes away instead. Because traffic isn’t a force of nature. It’s a product of human choices. If you make it easier and nicer for people not to drive, more people will choose not to drive." 

On the first Cycle Superhighway (CS%) to be completed, there has been a 73% increase in cyclists across Vauxhall Bridge since the route opened in November. According to the Mayor and Andrew Gilligan’s legacy document, Human Streets, traffic levels along the route are back to normal since completion of the cycling infrastructure building works. Several more Cycle Superhighways are due to be completed in London in the coming weeks.

Meanwhile TfL’s traffic modelling for CS11 predicts return journey times by car along Finchley Road will improve by approximately eight minutes if work goes ahead.

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