Just when you thought you’d seen every weird, head scratching proposal in the world of active travel, Transport for London go and reveal their plans for a ‘bike bus’ to shuttle cyclists through the forthcoming, and much-maligned, Silvertown Tunnel in London.
And no, I’m not talking about the kind of bike bus that sees children cycle to school in a mini parent-led peloton.
According to TfL, who announced a consultation on the plans yesterday, a “bespoke” shuttle bus could run every 10 minutes under the Thames and carry only cyclists and their bikes, which would either be brought onto the bus or loaded onto a trailer behind it.
Pedestrians would not be able to use the bus, with conventional zero-emission buses set aside for them.
The cycling shuttle bus idea comes after TfL said back in 2019 that it could not afford to build a walking and cycling bridge between Rotherhithe and Canary Wharf, and that it would be “unsafe” to allow cyclists to ride through Silvertown Tunnel, which will open in 2025 and link the Royal Docks and Canary Wharf with north Greenwich.
The new tunnel has been the subject of vociferous criticism over the years, with campaigners and councillors claiming that it will encourage car use, result in more lorries entering London, and increase pollution.
However, TfL says that the shuttle bus is the best option for cyclists crossing the river in east London as services could be tailored to “uncertain demand”. People on bikes can currently use the cable car – which is free in the morning – or walk their bike through the Greenwich or Woolwich foot tunnels, though frequent lift closures often mean cyclists are forced to carry their bikes up and down the stairs.
TfL also says that they are considering in the future a cross-river ferry service which could be used by pedestrians and cyclists, though several attempts at a high-speed ferry service have been dropped in the past due to costs.
Praising the proposals for the Silvertown Tunnel shuttle bus, Will Norman, London’s walking and cycling commissioner, said: “These plans will mean that cyclists will benefit from easier travel between the Greenwich Peninsula and Silvertown, enabling more people to make the switch to active travel and helping to build a better, greener London.”
However, despite Norman’s praise, cyclists on Twitter have been scathing – to put it mildly – of the ‘bike bus’ plans.
— Victoria Rance (@VictoriaRance) July 17, 2023
“This is 2023. The climate is at a tipping point. We must reduce car use by 27-40 percent according to London Mayor Sadiq Khan’s own carbon plan. So putting bikes on a bus instead of creating bike lanes is bonkers. Please repurpose the Silvertown Tunnel, the sooner the better,” wrote Victoria Rance, a local teacher and the founder of the Stop the Silvertown Tunnel Coalition.
“I do also think that bus is ridiculous. It will be a huge disruption to people’s journeys,” added another Twitter user. “If there is enough demand for a bus then there should be enough demand for a bike path.”
“A city which cannot afford to build a dedicated bridge or tunnel for cycles and pedestrians, but dedicates countless billions to new infrastructure for more cars. Embarrassing,” wrote Nick.
It’s pants. Let us walk and cycle through it. Simple. All this ULEZ etc, and this is happening round the back of city hall. Why not build our bridge from Canary Wharf that was cancelled? How do you lot sleep at night if you’re as worried about emissions etc as you say you are?
— Andy Lloyd-Williams (@A_LloydWilliams) July 17, 2023
Some noted that, despite TfL’s claims that the bike bus will cater to all types of cycles, the potential difficulties in manoeuvring cargo bikes, non-standard bikes, and hand cycles off the bus.
“Doesn’t this just have all the same issues as the cable car, which also has a door on one side?” wrote Alex.
Having great fun imagining my cycle with the heavy pannier on it being a pain to get into one of those racks.
It's amazing just how many problems trying to park a cycle to move it across a river creates.
— Alex Ingram (@nuttyxander) July 17, 2023
Others, meanwhile, have referred to the proposals as “deeply impractical” and a “ham-fisted” attempt at “bikewashing” the Silvertown Tunnel project.
“Evidence that whilst you can’t polish a climate turd, you can sprinkle it with active travel glitter,” Jon chipped in (rather poetically, I may add) on the proposals.
“Silvertown Tunnel will likely increase, rather than decrease, greenhouse gas emissions, will, at best, redistribute air pollution rather than decrease it, will cause induced traffic, and is incompatible with the targets for climate action linked to the 2015 Paris accords.”
But otherwise, it all sounds great, yeah?
So, what’s the alternative?
If this administration genuinely cared about creating a cycle crossing here, and genuinely thought a bike bus was a good solution, they'd already be running a bike bus through the existing Blackwall Tunnel. And maybe the Rotherhithe Tunnel too. 2/n
— Stop the Silvertown Tunnel Coalition (@SilvertownTn) July 17, 2023
“Repurposing the tunnel would be so much better. Or building the cycle bridge,” argued the Greenwich branch of the London Cycling Campaign.
“All Silvertown will bring is more pollution and more congestion. It is incompatible with a responsible climate policy in its current form.”
As hutchdaddy pointed out in the comments, Transport for London’s controversial Silvertown Tunnel bike bus idea isn’t even an original one – it seems as if someone at TfL has been copying the homework of whoever was behind the Dartford Tunnel Cycle Service in the early 1960s…
And it looks as if the 2023 model could turn out to be as ill-fated as its 1963 counterpart.
The Dartford bike bus was riddled with safety concerns from the outset: There were no doors to the upper deck, putting passengers in danger of falling off the bus (yes, really), special platforms had to be built at each entrance to help cyclists onto the bizarrely raised staircase, and the tunnel’s walls protruded to within inches of the bus, with the driver unable to stop if anything happened.
Unsurprisingly, the whole thing didn’t last very long, and the service was dropped by 1965, to be replaced by Land Rovers with trailers.
Though, the ways things are going, two years would be seen as a success for TfL…
— Tour de France™ (@LeTour) July 18, 2023
Monstrous, stunning, alien, on another planet – whatever way you want to describe it, after two weeks of a Tour de France of the finest of margins, a rampant Jonas Vingegaard took just 22 kilometres to completely blow the race to pieces, putting a whopping 1.38 into Tadej Pogačar to place at least one foot (and maybe a couple of toes) on the final podium in Paris.
Questions may be asked this evening about Pogačar’s decision to change bikes at the foot of the Côte de Domancy, but it was clear throughout today’s eagerly anticipated time trial that Vingegaard – extremely aggressive from the start ramp – was in the midst of delivering one of the Tour’s all-time great individual performances, the first WorldTour TT victory, remarkably, of his career.
Because, it must be pointed out, the Slovenian was on fire too – he beat third-placed Wout van Aert (a rider perfectly suited to today’s demanding route) by 1.13, and almost caught his two-minute man Carlos Rodríguez, who finished 12th himself.
One of the greatest time trials in Tour de France history 🤯
— Velon CC (@VelonCC) July 18, 2023
But, just like when Pogačar blitzed his way up La Planche des Belles Filles almost three years ago, it really didn’t matter what anyone else was doing today. Vingegaard, who chose to remain on his TT bike throughout the 22 kilometres, was all-action on the climbs, electric on the flats, and riding like he was on rails on the sweeping descents.
He was simply unstoppable. And the 1.48 that separates the Dane and Pogačar now seems insurmountable.
Of course, there are still days to race and mountains to climb (not least tomorrow’s Col de la Loze, the ‘roof’ of this year’s Tour), and Vingegaard’s first haymaker at this year’s race, on the Marie Blanque, was almost undone just a day later by a resurgent Pogačar.
But after two weeks of jabs and shadow boxing, it’s hard to see how the Slovenian can recover from such a devastating – and morale-killing – blow.
“I was feeling great today, I think it was the best time trial I’ve ever done. I’m very proud of the victory,” the yellow jersey said after the finish. “I think even today I surprised myself.”
You’re definitely not the only one, Jonas.
So, after Jonas Vingegaard’s destruction job on the Tour de France, here’s how today’s results and the new GC shape up…
Results powered by FirstCycling.com
— Mathew Mitchell (@MatMitchell30) July 18, 2023
Almost nine minutes to third place? If Tadej Pogačar – one of the greatest all-round riders the sport has ever seen – is on another planet, what solar system is Vingegaard on?
Early/late starters Sam Welsford and Alex Edmondson have claimed that it was a barrage of vehicles which prevented them from reaching the start ramp of today’s Tour de France time trial on time.
“I was taking off my ice vest and I rolled up and they said ‘go go’,” Welsford, whose embarrassment was compounded by his crash on the first corner, explained after the finish.
“We rocked up and it was a long way to get to the start from the paddock. There were lots of cars in the way and that slowed us down.
“We got there and it was okay, and next thing you know they were calling us to the start line and we had to take off our ice vests and put on our helmets and go. I think we just missed it by a couple of seconds but it’s not ideal for this kind of time trial.”
Follow Australian Edmondson added: “The special thing is though that the crowds are unreal. It’s the biggest bike race in the world for a reason.
“It’s obviously not the best to miss your start on a time trial, especially at the Tour de France, but we didn’t do it on purpose.”
Don’t worry too much lads – as I noted earlier, you’re in good company when it comes to mucking about and missing your start time at the Tour:
Sam Welsford was a few seconds late for his start today. It happens, in 1989 the previous year's winner Pedro Delgado turned up 2m40s late to the prologue in Luxembourg pic.twitter.com/RVgQka8x7o
— the Inner Ring (@inrng) July 18, 2023
The Spectator is certainly churning out the, ahem, interesting cycling takes lately, isn’t it?
Less than a month after the paper’s assistant features editor Robert Jackman told its readers to beware of the “vigilante cyclist” and “lycra-clad informant” who is “out to get you” (“you” in this instance referring to law-breaking drivers), columnist Jake Wallis Simons has claimed that, actually, there really isn’t any need for camera cyclists such as Cycling Mikey reporting instances of dangerous or distracted driving – because, apparently, “cyclists already own the roads”.
Wallis Simons, who self-describes as “one of those awful cyclists” wearing Lycra and riding Bromptons, focused the attentions of his latest column on a recent, expletive-filled Mikey video (you know, the one with the foul-mouthed, football and innuendo-obsessed phone driver), which he claims saw the famous camera cyclist pull up the motorist for a “hollow supposed offence”.
“Who exactly was the motorist endangering by texting in stationary traffic?” he asked.
Wallis Simons then questioned, after recently beginning to commute in London again on bike, “Why on Earth would anybody be a van Erp-style cycling vigilante?”
He continued: “As I’ve discovered for myself these past few weeks, cyclists already own central London.”
“My preconception before going full Brompton was that London would be a hellhole of danger,” he writes. “Cyclists, I thought, would be disparaged and disregarded by motorists, and squashed by oblivious HGV drivers while turning suddenly left.
“What I discovered was a different world… London is a different place compared to 15 years ago. There are far more cyclists now, moving in great swarms and chevrons and phalanxes, and there are established rat-runs along cycle lanes that sometimes evoke the spirt of the peloton.
“Drivers seem hyper-aware of us, accelerating considerately, behaving courteously, crawling along behind without pounding the horn and even giving way on occasion. Once you get the hang of your regular route, and learn to predict where the traffic will come from, it feels… well, maybe not safe, but certainly not unsafe.
“All of which is to say that in central London, cyclists rule the road. Most of us don’t bother obeying red lights when there’s no reason to do so, channelling the spirit of the driver with his phone out in a traffic jam perhaps. Personally, I always observe the Highway Code, of course. But it’s bliss.”
I knew a red light would pop up eventually…
Anyway, Wallis Simon, continuing on with his anti-cycling bingo game, but with the clever trick of referring to himself when relying on those tropes, concluded that London is now “the cyclist’s playground: we ride the wrong way up one-way streets, cruise along the pavements, ignore zebra crossings, and flex our speed in the plentiful cycle lanes.”
“So, van Erp, why bother with the vigilantism? Face it: we’ve won. Motorists have lost. The handlebar is the new symbol of our era. Truly, Britain has arrived in the age of the bicycle.”
Hmmm… Thoughts? Comments?
It’s fair to say that Sam Welsford’s first ever time trial at the Tour de France couldn’t have got off to a more inauspicious start if he’d tried…
The Team DSM sprinter, and his teammate Alex Edmondson, somehow managed to rock up late to the start ramp (a trick known in pro cycling circles as ‘pulling a Delgado’), the countdown timer beeping down as Welsford made his way up the steps, with the race officials simply waving him off on his merry, and slightly embarrassed, way.
😅 @sam_welsford a bit late for the start...
— Tour de France™ (@LeTour) July 18, 2023
And if that wasn’t bad enough, the Australian – finally underway – immediately crashed on the very first corner, a slippery bend that brought down three of the first ten riders down the ramp.
— Mihai Simion (@faustocoppi60) July 18, 2023
Of the non-tardy members of the peloton, Soudal-Quick Step’s TGV Rémi Cavagna is currently in the hotseat, covering the 22.4km hilly course in 35.42, 24 seconds clear of former world champion Mads Pedersen.
Now, Tadej and Jonas, please, please, please, turn up on time, okay?
Ah, the old Failing to Supply Driver Details trick, and then not pleading guilty despite all the evidence pointing to the contrary… Looks like it’ll just end up with you having an extra six points on your licence and forced to cough up over £1,200 in fines and costs.
This driver was reported for Without Due Care but the registered keeper (RK) failed to respond & was reported for Failing to Supply Driver Details.
RK then entered a Not Guilty Plea but found guilty at Trial 5/7/2023 Taunton Magistrates
£66 VS pic.twitter.com/VyD9ehHpGA
— ASPolice Roads Policing (RPU) (@ASPRoadSafety) July 18, 2023
But don’t worry, because anti-cycling Twitter will claim you left “plenty of room”, so that’s some consolation…
Plenty room there.
— Sean Kelly (@89skj) July 18, 2023
— obey the master (@scamdestroyer20) July 18, 2023
Typical entitled cyclist I want the whole road and nothing but. Their is nothing wrong with that pass. Cyclist got well over a handle bars width to the car. Yet another anti car policing unit who get their promotions through how many people they prosecute. Police then wonder why
— Paul Wright (@PaulWri89662714) July 18, 2023
Some of the replies to this really worry me. The amount of idiots who don't understand what's wrong here is simply horrifying.
— Liam Tucker (@LiamTucker) July 18, 2023
Is Opi-Omi Part Two also set to go down the legal route? Not that the first court case put an end to questionable roadside antics from fans, mind you…
AusCycling, the governing body of cycling in Australia, says today’s announcement that the 2026 Commonwealth Games won’t go ahead in the state of Victoria as planned puts in doubt “crucial pathway opportunities” for young cyclists in the country.
This morning, Victoria’s Premier Daniel Andrews announced that the state was cancelling its plans to host the 2026 edition of the Games, which took place last year in Birmingham, amidst escalating costs, raising concerns about the future of event.
The Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) had initially struggled to find a host for 2026, before Victoria volunteered in April 2022. However, Andrews has now said that Victoria had been “happy to help out”, but “not at any price”.
And now AusCycling, which boasts gold-medal winners from last year’s Commie Games such as Rohan Dennis and Georgia Baker, says it is “disappointed” by Victoria’s decision to cancel.
“Victoria 2026 offered an opportunity to inspire and unite Australia in a way that only a home Games can: bringing together a nation through sporting excellence and a shared celebration, and showcasing the best of Australia to the world across a wide range of sports,” a statement from the governing body said.
“This event was especially important to the sport of BMX Racing, which was to make its Games debut; and to para-cycling, whose integration into the Commonwealth Games programme alongside able-bodied competition is not seen in other events at this level.
“Today’s decision puts in doubt crucial pathway opportunities for young and developing athletes, for whom a home Commonwealth Games would have been a key milestone and a career highlight.
“It also means the loss of significant opportunities for developing Australian coaches, officials, volunteers and staff. Particularly, our thoughts are with the staff of the Organising Committee and everyone involved in the planning of the Games, for whom today’s news will be especially difficult.”
Marne Fechner, the Chief Executive Officer of AusCycling, added: “Today’s announcement that Victoria will not host the 2026 Commonwealth Games is an extremely disappointing outcome for our athletes, coaches, sport and for those who have been working tirelessly to deliver the Games.
“We acknowledge the difficult economic environment. However, the decision to withdraw, rather than adapt the delivery model, represents a missed opportunity to showcase our amazing athletes and inspire the next generation of cyclists and riders across Victoria and Australia.
“We welcome the Government’s commitment to funding regional housing and to investing further in sporting communities and events in regional Victoria.”
CPA riders’ union president Adam Hansen has called on broadcasters to give riders and sponsors the “exposure they deserve”, after stage 15 winner Wout Poels got around two seconds of airtime as he celebrated crossing the line on Sunday in Saint-Gervais – before the television director abruptly cut back to the GC group.
What do you reckon? Would split screens – showing both the breakaway and the GC battle, as Hansen suggests – solve the problem and provide fans with a better viewing experience?
Or is the sometimes chaotic nature of watching pro cycling on television, and the inability to cover every aspect of the action as it unfolds on the road, part of its charm?
For example (and I know this doesn’t apply to the Wout Poels case), how many times have you excitedly shouted at the TV ‘Where did they come from!’, when a rider seemingly appears from nowhere at the pointy end of a race?
Or what about bringing in, at least on online platforms like GCN, a choice of which group you want to watch, like the old ‘Player Cam’ function on Sky Sports’ football coverage.
What’s the UCI’s number again?
Right folks, it’s time. After yesterday’s much-needed rest day, one of the tightest and most hotly contested Tours de France in years returns this afternoon, with a tough, complicated 22.4km time trial in the foothills of the Alps.
It may be the only effort against the clock in this most rouleur-phobic of Tour routes, but they don’t call it the Race of Truth for nothing. Today, Tadej Pogačar and Jonas Vingegaard will take a break from their two-week-long roles as each other’s shadows, tactics and bonus points set aside, and leave everything out there on the road, the yellow jersey on the line.
And, if I’m honest, I have no clue who’s going to come out on top.
Because, as Simon noted in his Tour preview, time trials may be the race of truth, but today’s mix of short, sharp hills and fast rolling terrain proves that the truth can often be complex.
The early climb on today’s course, the Côte de la Cascade de Coeur – 1.5km at eight percent – will precede around 12km of flat-out effort on wide roads with sweeping bends, until the main event, the Côte de Domancy, which the riders will tackle in the last six kilometres of their TT effort.
At 2.5km and an average gradient of 9.4 percent, with sections of more than 15 percent, the Côte de Domancy is roughly the equivalent of tackling Belgium’s famous Mur de Huy twice, and raises arguably the all-important question of today’s time trial – to change bikes or not to change bikes?
For cycling fans of a certain age, the Domancy is also synonymous with five-time Tour winner Bernard Hinault’s dominant victory at the 1980 world road race championships in Sallanches, when it was climbed a staggering 20 times over the course of a brutal 268km that saw only 15 riders finish. So you know it’s going to be hard.
In many respects, today’s mixed terrain time trial has echoes of that Tour-upending final TT at La Planche des Belles Filles in 2020, something which may fill white jersey Pogačar with confidence as he heads to the start ramp this afternoon, and the whole of the Jumbo-Visma crew with dread…
‘Alright Tadej, take it easy on the rest day, just keep the legs spinning, focus all your energy on the big time trial coming up, this is where we could win the Tour de France… Or do a backflip into the pool, it’s up to you…’
Bonus rest day shenanigan points, by the way, go to larker-in-chief Marc Soler, for channelling his inner Bukayo Saka. Never change, lads, never change…
Ryan joined road.cc as a news writer in December 2021. He has written about cycling and some ball-centric sports for various websites, newspapers, magazines and radio. Before returning to writing about cycling full-time, he completed a PhD in History and published a book and numerous academic articles on religion and politics in Victorian Britain and Ireland (though he remained committed to boring his university colleagues and students with endless cycling trivia). He can be found riding his bike very slowly through the Dromara Hills of Co. Down.