London Cycling Campaign (LCC) has warned that London will be “in real trouble” if plans for emergency safe cycling infrastructure are not implemented quickly to give people returning to work an alternative to driving or using public transport. The alarm has been sounded after road.cc took a look earlier this week at progress on the first of the pop-up bike lanes being introduced by Transport for London (TfL), on Park Lane.
Simon Munk, infrastructure campaigner at LCC, told road.cc that a “race” was on because “the cars are coming back every day” and that “if we don’t give people a genuine alternative to driving and fast, London is in real trouble.”
As of Tuesday, a stretch of a few hundred metres of the carriageway, adjacent to the eastern boundary of Hyde Park, had been turned into a bike lane. The southern end, which starts just north of Hyde Park Corner, is fenced off from motor traffic and carries the Streetspace for London branding that TfL has given to the project. Heading towards Marble Arch, the segregation is lighter, taking the form of wands.
Ultimately, the lane will connect Hyde Park Corner with Marble Arch, but from what we saw, we do have some reservations that hopefully will be resolved once it is completed, including the fact that (unless we missed it) there does not appear to be any signage directing people using the East to West Cycleway, which enters the park at its south-eastern corner, towards the new bike lane.
The shared path inside the eastern perimeter of the park itself, from Hyde Park Corner past Speaker’s Corner towards Marble Arch, remains busier than the temporary lane. Much of that is accounted for by people using the park itself for leisure, but it’s also a busy route for commuters – albeit, one shared with pedestrians.
It needs to be emphasised that the new infrastructure is being deployed due to forecasts of levels of cycling being 10 time higher in London compared to pre-lockdown levels once restrictions are fully eased, making it impossible to maintain social distance on the shared use path through the park, and on the footway on Park Lane.
Turning to the pop-up bike lane itself, entry at the southern end is less than ideal – you have to cross the footway on Park Lane, then enter the route right where there is a bus stop, often with people waiting or buses picking up or setting down passengers.
An adjacent pedestrian underpass also takes up space, making this a less-than-ideal location to maintain social distancing.
Once on the bike lane, however, there is ample room for cyclists, and the barriers on the first few hundred metres do provide a strong sense of security.
Other than the north-facing bicycle signs painted on the surface at either end, however, there’s nothing to suggest whether the lane is northbound only, or bi-directional; almost all the cyclists we saw were heading towards Marble Arch, but some were riding the opposite way.
The section where wands have been employed does feel less safe than the one that precedes it, and runs out very quickly – at which point, it’s back to the footway, or stay on the carriageway and risk having buses pull across you.
If the branded section is an indication of what is to come for the finished lane here, and for similar facilities across the city (see the TfL map below for planned interventions), we’d imagine that pop-up infrastructure of that quality would encourage many new or returning cyclists overcome fears regarding safety and take to their bikes.
They do, however, need a safe way of getting on and off these lanes and – crucially – to know that they are there in the first place.
Full details of current Streetspace for London plans can be found here – and they include making Park Lane a 20mph zone, so commiserations to this driver we spotted when we were out and about.
Munk said: “Obviously we’re all waiting for the Park Lane scheme to be finished – and I’m looking forward to it being done well enough it can relieve the pressure from the shared and cobbled route inside the park. And we’re also waiting eagerly for all the other schemes coming including Euston Road.
“Because, let’s be clear, the cars are coming back every day – and likely will come back more after 1 June.
“So this is a race to enable as many people across London to cycle as much as possible, or we face the very real prospect of both overcrowded public transport where social distancing fails and more cars on our streets than we’ve seen in decades – and what comes with them: congestion, inactivity, climate-changing emissions, road danger and high pollution levels, which it is likely exacerbate the spread and mortality rate of Covid-19.
“If we don’t give people a genuine alternative to driving and fast, London is in real trouble,” he added.
Here is TfL's Streetspace for London map; planned cycle routes are shown in purple and existing Cycleways in green (the other colours denote the tube and Overground networks).
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.