Christmas has come early for cyclists in West London today as the section of Cycleway 9 – the full route announced more than a decade ago – finally opened, and as one of those cyclists, it’s a very welcome present, but one that has been years in the making.
And that's a very Merry Christmas to cyclists passing through Chiswick ... Cycleway 9 finally open along the High Road 🥰 pic.twitter.com/k6A10ioklC
— Simon MacMichael (@simonmacmichael) December 21, 2020
I live in West London now – less than a 10-minute bike ride from Turnham Green, in fact, the western end of the segregated cycleway that finally opened this morning – but I have been following the development of it for road.cc for years before I moved back to the capital.
When, as Mayor of London, Boris Johnson announced his ‘lick of blue paint’ Cycle Superhighways back in 2010, one was supposed to run from Heathrow Airport to Hyde Park, where it would link to another route running all the way to the Tower of London.
Plans have changed in the intervening decade. Under Johnson’s administration, pushed by Andrew Gilligan whom he appointed the city’s first cycling commissioner in 2013, kerbed rather than painted cycle routes are now the gold standard for major cycleways in the capital.
The route itself was changed. Current plans are for it to run initially from Brentford to Keninsgton Olympia. Eventually, it is planned to extend westwards to Hounslow, but the Heathrow extension – unlike the Third Runway, apparently – is very much on the back burner.
And at the eastern end, for a month or two this autumn, we had an emergency bike lane along Kensisgton High Street which together with similar infrastructure in Hammersmith could have meant a safe route all the way from Tower Hill to the City.
But that section of the route, as we’ve previously reported, was chopped down last month by the Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea when it had barely popped up, far less had a chance to blossom.
Returning to Chiswick High Road, however. Hounslow Council is controlled by Labour, but the southeastern corner of the borough – Chiswick – returns Conservative councillors, and the war they have waged against the cycle lane has been incessant and, quite frankly, bonkers at times.
Unlike pop-up infrastructure elsewhere in the capital, however, they can’t lay accusations of this one not having gone out to consultation.
In fact, this route has been consulted upon twice, with the original plans refined following concerns from some local residents and organisations, and passing a second consultation.
The segregation may be done by wands rather than kerbs, but the long-term planning of the route and associated consultations, and the bus stop islands, suggest that it’s here to stay.
The route itself has been in place for several weeks now, but barriered off while traffic signals were changed to include cyclist-specific lights.
It had been due to open last Friday, but works were still ongoing, with the cycleway finally opening earlier today.
Is it perfect? Well, no. Especially at this time of year, there is leaf mulch everywhere, and when it rains, is it has done today, there is standing water, an issue that needs to be resolved.
Some motorists driving onto Chiswick High Road from side streets to the south – and pedestrians crossing to the bus stop islands – will start looking both ways for cyclists rather than crossing without doing so (in the meantime, ride slowly when approaching junctions and bus stops, and be ready to hit the brakes).
Is it an improvement on the provision for cyclists on the road before, though? Undoubtedly, and I and other local cyclists will use it day-in, day-out, and credit is due to Hounslow Council and Transport for London for making it happen – it has been a hard-fought victory.
And who knows? In another decade or so, we may end up getting that safe route all the way to Hyde Park, and onwards to the Tower of London aneading eastbound towards Hammersmith...
... and another, going the other way back to Turnham Green.
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.