Mayor of London Boris Johnson has urged the government to change the law to make it easier to implement measures designed to improve the safety of the capital’s cyclists, who are also set to get a ‘Super Corridor’ running along the Embankment from Westminster Bridge to Tower Hill.
The news was revealed today by the London Evening Standard, and a spokesman for Transport for London (TfL) subsequently confirmed to road.cc that the essence of the newspaper’s article was correct.
It comes ahead of the launch later this month – no precise date has been set yet – of the mayor’s ‘Cycling Vision’ for the city, expected to reveal full details of that ‘Super Corridor,’ but TfL says that there are other plan that will be contained in that document that have not yet been reported.
The Standard says that Mr Johnson has written to Secretary of State for Transport Patrick McLoughlin to express his concern over red tape that is proving an obstacle to implement what the newspaper describes as ‘continental-style road safety measures.’
News of the Super Corridor comes nearly three years after the London Cycling Campaign (LCC) urged the mayor and TfL to create a ‘BikeGrid’ throughout Central London to link the Barclays Cycle Superhighways.
The LCC saw the creation of such a network as being vital not only to ensure the route came into the heart of the city rather than finishing on the periphery of the centre, but also because of the impending arrival at the time of the Barclays Cycle Hire Scheme.
Speaking to the Standard, Garrett Emerson, TfL’s chief operating officer of streets and traffic, said: “If you are to make cycling effective you must join the network up and have dedicated high-quality facilities that take routes from A to B, not just three-quarters of the way.”
He added that in drawing up the plans for the Super Corridor, which are still in their infancy, TfL was drawing on lessons learned during the Olympic Games about which types of traffic should be prioritised during which periods of the day.
“Potentially there are things you can do to change the road physically and the lesson from the Olympics is you can make an appreciable difference to demand by asking people to use the network differently such as changing times they travel,” he explained.”
The Standard, which in an editorial today also called for properly segregated cycle lanes, added that Department for Transport (DfT) regulations were hampering plans by Mr Johnson and TfL to pilot certain safety features, including trialling cyclist-only traffic lights which could ultimately be rolled out to 500 junctions throughout the city.
What deters many from using the Embankment at the moment is the fast moving traffic, itself due to the fact the road is wide and with fewer access points from side streets than other routes crossing town, partly of course because of the river acting as an effective barrier to the south.
Many cycle commuters heading towards their desks in the City from the west favour a route that takes them through the Royal Parks, so heading from the Mall and through Parliament Square to pick up the Embankment at Westminster Bridge to continue their journey east would make sense.
Once on the Embankment, side streets, some closed to motor traffic but not bicycles, as well as the more intimidating main routes heading north from the Thames bridges, mean it’s easy to head away from the river towards the final destination.
Even if it doesn’t seem like the most direct route, one from say Paddington to Tower Hill that takes you down through Hyde Park via the Mall and along the Embankment is going to be quicker and a lot more pleasant than taking the Circle Line.
Overlaying what the Standard says is the planned route of the Super Corridor onto the latest version of TFL’s indicative route map for the Barclays Cycle Superhighways (see picture above), it’s clear that even if the Embankment route were built, significant gaps would remain in the major cycle route network in the city centre.
While the BikeGrid proposed by LCC in 2010 would comprehensively join the dots, there’s a particular need for a fast, safe route that follows the Euston Road/Marylebone Road axis from east to west. Likewise, there’s also a lack of planned provision on the north-south axis in the centre of town and the West End.
Provided that the mayor and TfL follow through on their words and make the safety of cyclists the guiding factor throughout the design and construction it would be hoped that the proposed Embankment Super Corridor might represent the first of a new wave of cycling infrastructure in the city centre, rather than the last part of a jigsaw with some pieces missing.
The map published by the Standard also alerted eagle-eyed Twitter users to a change in the proposed route of Barclays Cycle Superhighway CS5, due to open some time next year and which was originally intended to run from Lewisham to Victoria.
Instead, the eastern end will now be a mile and a half or so closer to the city centre at New Cross Gate.
A TfL spokesman told road.cc: “Barclays Cycle Superhighway CS5 was originally planned to run from Victoria to Lewisham town centre.
“As design progressed, it became increasingly apparent that in order to fulfill the Mayor’s commitment to ensure the Cycle Superhighway is of sufficient high quality, physical constraints along this stretch would limit our ability to complete the route to these top standards.
“We are still very much committed to delivering significant cycling improvements on this same part of the A20, East of New Cross. Although they will not be formally branded as part of CS5, the route will still benefit from better cycling facilities, with 0.7km of new mandatory cycle lanes and substantial resurfacing of the roads.”
So far, two of the planned 12 Barclays Cycle Superhighways are in operation, with two more due to come in during 2013.
Originally, all 12 were to have been put in place by 2015 although the programme has been delayed partly by the cessation of major road works in the run-up to and during the Olympic and Paralympic Games, but particularly by TfL’s ongoing junction review process launched at the end of last year.
That was initiated following the deaths last autumn of several cyclists including Brian Dorling and Svitlana Tereschenko, both killed at Bow Roundabout.
Today, four days after the anniversary of Ms Tereschenko's death, LCC is urging cyclists to write to their local councils in London to urge them to adopt its Safer Lorries, Safer Cycling campaign. LCC's plea was made in an article in which it recounts the circumstances surrounding the cyclist's death, and the effect it has had on her friends and family.
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.