A City billionaire controversially elevated to the peerage by Boris Johnson last year has called for the removal of temporary cycle lanes in London.
Lord Peter Cruddas told the House of Lords today: “I am a keen cyclist myself and, during the lockdown, I even bought myself a new bicycle.”
Unlike the Prime Minister, however, who was said to have “gone ballistic” when the Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea ripped out a temporary protected cycle lane last December just weeks after it had been installed, Cruddas seems determined to get rid of them.
He had asked the government what discussions it is having with Transport for London (TfL) and Mayor of London Sadiq Khan “in relation to the abolition of temporary cycle lanes in London.”
Transport Minister Baroness Vere of Norbiton said it was a matter for TfL and London boroughs, although she added that Department for Transport (DfT) officials regularly met with TfL to discuss cycle lanes and other issues.
She also said that “the delivery of cycle lanes across London is also overseen by a steering group, which comprises senior representatives from government and TfL.”
Clarifying that he was only referring to temporary cycle lanes, Cruddas said: “If they become permanent, they will be even more of a nuisance.
“In that context, it seems to me that, given that the government have provided emergency funding to TfL during the pandemic, there is an opportunity to contribute to any debate about their continued existence in a meaningful way,” he said.
He asked Baroness Vere to confirm whether meetings between DfT and TfL staff “have addressed that issue.”
Confirming such meetings take place every two weeks, she replied: “It is the case that cycle lanes were put in at the start of the pandemic on a temporary basis – indeed, on a trial basis.
“The vast majority of those have now become permanent cycle lanes; I think that maybe only about one mile of cycle lane has been removed, and that was on Euston Road.”
Other peers speaking in this morning’s debate were more supportive of the temporary infrastructure.
The Conservative peer Lord Young, a former chair of the All Party Parliamentary Cycling Group (APPCG, now the All Party Parliamentary Group on Cycling & Walking), said: “Did not the Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea jump the lights by removing so precipitately the successful and popular bicycle lane in Kensington High Street, which was a crucial link in the east-west cycle route?”
He asked the minister whether, when the Active Travel Oversight Group next meets, she would “reopen discussions with the Royal Borough to see if the scheme can be reintroduced, with amendments if necessary?”
“Ah, the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea – that well-known hub and hive of interest in cycling,” Baroness Vere replied. “Indeed, it has about 100 miles of road in the borough, but not a metre of cycle lane.”
She confirmed that the Active Travel Oversight Group “has discussed the issue of cycle lanes in that particular council,” and added that “TfL has thus far not provided any active travel funding from the latest settlement to that council.”
Another former co-chair of the APPCG, the cross-bencher peer Lord Austin of Dudley, asked: “How do the government propose to persuade reluctant local authorities to provide more safe infrastructure for cycling, so that they hit the government’s own target to double the number of trips made wholly or partly by cycling from 2013 figures by 2025?”
Baroness Vere replied: “The government want to encourage improved cycle lanes and cycling infrastructure and, for those reluctant local authorities, we make it very clear to them that future funding is conditional on historic performance.
“If they do not put in the sort of measures that we would wish to see, frankly, they will not get any money in the future.”
Lord Cruddas, who tabled the debate, is a former co-treasurer of the Conservative Party, resigning from that position in 2012 due to the cash for access scandal.
He was made a life peer last December, despite not passing the Lords Appointment Commission’s vetting process – the first time a prime minister has defied the independent body’s decision – and three days later donated £500,000 to the party.
Simon joined road.cc as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.