One road at a time, London is making cycling progress - and it will change everything!

London has been changing over the summer.  Whilst the city was on holiday, Transport for London's contractors have been out in force building bike infrastructure on a remarkable scale.  Boris Johnson confirmed he would go ahead with his new Cycle Superhighway plans in January of this year, and now we're seeing the first results on the road.

Big construction projects inevitably cause short-term congestion whilst underway, but it is worth remembering the astonishing level of support for the new Cycle Superhighways and the long-term gain they'll bring.  The nine-week public consultation on the plans saw an overwhelming 21,500 responses from individuals and business organisations, with 84% in overall support of the plans. A YouGov opinion poll taken during the consultation found 73% of Londoners supported the Cycle Superhighways, even if it meant taking a lane of traffic away.  Over 160 major employers, including Deloitte, Coca Cola, Unilever and others came out in support of the East / West Cycle Superhighway which is currently being built on the Embankment.  

A quick ride up the finished section of the East / West Cycle Superhighway along the Embankment, courtesy of @CycleGaz

There has been opposition, of course, namely from the old guard of the taxi lobby (hello, LTDA, you scoundrels!) so much of which has been thinly-veiled anti-cycling sentiment.  Construction of the Crossrail train project has seen entire streets closed off in central London for years (as opposed to just months), but no one seems to be complaining about that...

Vauxhall Bridge (2 way track) via @AsEasyAsRiding and segregation wands on the Whitechapel Rd (apologies to whoever I saved this photo from, I can't remember who it was!)

The changes afoot are not just along the route of the East / West Cycle Superhighway.  At Oval, CS5 is being upgraded to provide full segregation, including around the terrifying Vauxhall Gyratory and over Vauxhall Bridge. In East London the killer CS2 is also getting an upgrade, with full or semi-segregation being introduced on a route that was previously literally just dirty blue paint and a lot of wishful thinking.

 Newly Hollandised Waltham Forest village!  Just look at all that anti-driving economic activity going on(!)

Cycle tracks alone can't change a city in to a bike riding paradise.  You also need balanced residential zones where local streets are set free from the tyranny of rat running and speeding traffic.  The Waltham Forest Mini Holland is just such a project and is now beginning to take shape - but only because of the diligent work of local residents in the face of vociferous NIMBYs who wish to retain their right to drive 150metres to the local shops...  There's a street party on Orford Rd today (Monday) from 3PM to celebrate the completion of the first stage of the project, if you're in the area.

As the London Cycling Campaign rightly point out, there are growing pains which need to be resolved in some places, and that's to be expected with innovation and change.  Meanwhile, progress presses ahead with construction of the North / South Cycle Superhighway in central London chalked up to start in autumn (check here for details)

But with summer almost over and the city's streets transformed whilst everyone has been away, the pace of change seems unstoppable.  The old "blue paint and optimism" superhighways - despite their very obvious limitations - still saw a leap in rider numbers of a minimum of 25%.  When these new safe and separated routes open to the public we'll see a torrent, a deluge, a flood of new riders using them, and it's going to change London completely!

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Izzy said...

The site's broken. The pics and texts load for about 300ms then disappear leaving the (horrid) brown background.

ibikelondon said...

Hi Izzy, sorry to hear you're having problems - I've checked our system and everything is looking fine. If you have an ad blocker on your software then that might be it, its a known problem with Blogger which unfortunately we users cant do anything about.

It's me said...

Now you have your precious segregated cycle lanes you can give us drivers back our right turns at Bow Road/ Mile End road seeing as you pay for nothing

Paul M said...

Hi Mark

Of course it is not just public-works construction which leads to road closures in London. You don’t have to walk far in the West End or City to find streets entirely closed, or narrowed to a single lane, for private property construction. Around my office in Shoe Lane, for example, we have had complete road closure for a time and still have road narrowings while a developer overspills onto the road, typically to house plant or site offices. Presumably they have sought agreement from the City of London Corporation for this, so they can build right to the limit of their land boundary and increase the footprint of the building they are developing.

I suppose there is a public interest in maximising the use of this space – a bigger building means more business rates – but unless the City is different from other local authorities, there is no direct benefit to them from more business rates, which are collected locally but allocated centrally. The result is certainly a considerable increase in local congestion, but have I heard any protest from the LTDA about this? Um…

On the North-South superhighway, work appears to have started – at least I hope that is what it is as it is making the crossing of Blackfriars Bridge rather more unpleasant than it used to be. The central median south of the bridge outside the Express building, which used to accommodate a NCN route and provide a way for cyclists to get safely to the junction with Stamford Street, is being ripped up now, and the slip off the bridge northbound down to the Embankment is closed for what looks like some fairly radical remodelling. As three of my four accidents involved taxis left-hooking me at that very junction, I would be happy enough for it never to open again!

Finally, have you seen the report in the Standard about Upper Street traders up in arms about parking restrictions there? How ironic, that restaurateurs who have (presumably) free use of large areas of the pavement for outside dining are now complaining about moves to take space not from them, but from the vehicles which must surely make that outside dining a less enjoyable experience than it could be.

Vicki said...

The CS2 photo is Mile End Road. It's outside my university (Queen Mary).

It's not very integrated to the canals at this point as you need to turn right to the entrance to university grounds, when coming from north, and the tracks are one way.

Anonymous said...

If you can't view the site with an adblocker enabled I would say the site is broken. This page, curiously, works - Mark perhaps you could figure out why and make all your posts work.


ibikelondon said...

@Chris Are you having problems with this page too? Apologies, it is a total technical mystery to me. As I mentioned previously, the problems with ad blockers is a Blogger (host) issue which users can't circumvent. V frustrating!

ibikelondon said...

@Paul Thanks for your comment - you're quite right that no one seems to mind when developers take up huge swathes of road in order to secure their sites. I remember the construction of 1 Hyde Park by the Candy Brothers in Knightsbirdge causing massive tail backs for years because of the way their site hoarding projected in to (and over the top of) a primary London A road, but it seemed to be accepted as just 'one of those things'. It does make one wonder how much perception bias creeps in to some many of these debates...

I hadn't seen the story about Upper Street but thanks for the tip, I will look it up now. There are similar stories in Waltham Forest Village where today people protesting about the changes the scheme has introduced sat around on cafe tables drinking coffee (whilst having a good whinge), on tables and chairs which are only able to be there because of the changes made by the scheme... I'm starting to think that a change management agent is as important as the designers and engineers with these sorts of things!

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