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Former cycling commissioner says delay in decision on closing gates at Regent's Park “is a pretty bad sign”...

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan says that work on Cycle Superhighway (CS) 11 from Swiss Cottage to the West End will begin next year, to the disappointment of opponents of the scheme. However, London’s former cycling commissioner, Andrew Gilligan, says the mayor risks creating “a dog’s dinner of a scheme” by not closing Regent’s Park to through traffic.

But in what is becoming an increasingly bitter war of words between Khan and his predecessor Boris Johnson’s cycling commissioner, the mayor accused the previous administration of leaving the plans for the route “in an absolute mess” and had left “the community divided.”

Khan said: “We’ve worked hard to listen to the concerns raised and taken these into account, while still delivering significant improvements for pedestrians and cyclists.

“We will also be working with the Royal Parks to see what further improvements could be made in Regent’s Park to make a real difference to safety for everyone, at all times of the day.

“Together such improvements will make cycling safer and easier for all Londoners in the area, helping to make cycling a part of their everyday lives.”

This morning’s announcement is accompanied by Transport for London’s publication of its response to a consultation that closed earlier this year.

> Respondents to CS11 consultation back plans by two to one

It confirms that the Swiss Cottage gyratory, and intimidating junction for cyclists and pedestrians, will be removed, with some tweaks to the original plans, including a wider segregated cycle lane on Avenue Road and changes to minimise traffic being displaced onto nearby residential roads.

Discussions will continue with The Royal Parks about the final form of the section of CS11 that passes through Regent’s Park will take, with City Hall saying that “while closing fur of the eight perimeter gates to reduce through traffic at the busiest times of day remains the default position, consideration will be given to other options to make the park safer for everyone, at all times of the day.”

Final plans for Regent’s Park will be unveiled next summer, with one proposal being that the speed limit within the park be reduced to 20mph.

But Gilligan, a fierce critic of Khan’s plans for cycling since he replaced Boris Johnson as mayor in May, said on his blog that “the refusal to commit” to closing those four gates, and thereby make it much more difficult for drivers to use the park as a rat run, “is a pretty bad sign.”

He said: “Any decision not to close the gates at Regent’s Park, in response to the shrill falsehoods of a nimby minority, would be an act of defining weakness which would effectively end any serious cycling and walking programme in this mayoral term.

“If Sadiq cannot even close four of the eight gates to a park, part of a proposal with 60 per cent support, it is difficult to imagine him doing the much harder things which await – such as constructing segregated tracks on busy arterial roads.”

Gilligan also criticised Westminster City Council, which in October was accused of ignoring cyclists’ concerns over safety in its proposals to remodel Baker Street after it claimed its plans were supported by respondents to a consultation.

That support, however, was only achieved once responses from cyclists had been excluded.

> Westminster City Council "ignoring cycle safety concerns"

Gilligan wrote: “The deeply troubling role of Westminster City Council in this saga should also be recorded. They opposed the [Regent’s Park] gate closure on the grounds, among others, that it would jeopardise their scheme for two-way traffic in Baker Street.

“But Baker Street is a worthless and deeply disliked scheme, with few supporters and few discernible benefits for anyone, not just cyclists,” he said. “It is opposed by many of the retailers it was supposed to benefit.”

London Cycling Campaign welcomed the news about CS11, however. Chief executive Asjok Sinha said: “CS11 will be another vital addition to London’s cycling routes, and it’s great news that its construction will finally begin next year.

“Increasing numbers of Londoners are attracted to the convenience of cycling and CS11 will help make it safer for them to do so. LCC particularly welcomes the long overdue redevelopment of the dangerous Swiss Cottage gyratory and the Mayor and Royal Parks’  commitment to ensuring the safety for people walking and cycling through Regent’s Park.”

Today’s announcement received a frostier reception from opponents of the scheme, whose concerns included that the construction of CS11 would result in greater traffic congestion in areas such as Hampstead.

A tweet from the Stop CS11 account on Twitter referenced councillor Phil Jones, the London Borough of Camden’s cabinet member for regeneration, transport and planning.

It said: “We are extremely disappointed in meaningless tweaks @TfL have made to #CS11. @philjones79 you are condemning Camden residents to congestion.”

> London Cycling Campaign appeals for funds to halt 'NIMBYs and taxi drivers' spoiling cycle schemes

Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.