Tipping point: London Mayor unveils £913m plan to revitalise travelling by bicycle in London. It's a game-changer for all of UK.

Boris unveils billion pound plan to civilise London

Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London, has unveiled an ambitious, billion pound plan to make London more people-friendly. Roadspace will be taken from cars and given over to bicycles. Separated cycle routes will be installed over the next four years, including in front of the Houses of Parliament. ‘Cyclist dismount’ signs will be removed and with more roadspace given over to cyclists, Transport for London hopes there will be less cycling on the pavement. The new strategy for cycling in London is a shopping list of pretty much all of the things cycle advocates have been championing for many years. If the plan is put into action (bit if, and as always the devil is in the detail), London could become a world-class beacon city for active transport and for a healthier economy and for cleaner air and for public health.

"Over the years ahead the bicycle could save literally thousands of people’s lives," says the new strategy, citing the benefits more cycling has on cleaner, less noxious air.

Johnson appointed Daily Telegraph journalist Andrew Gilligan as his ‘cycling czar’ earlier this year and now Gilligan has helped the Mayor reveal ambitious plans for encouraging more to cycle in London. £913m will be spent over ten years making London more cycling friendly, including providing a 15-mile cycleway seperated from motor vehicles. Parts of the Westway road – now almost an urban motorway and location for London’s first cycle tracks in the 1930s – will be turned over to bicycle use. "The Westway, the ultimate symbol of how the urban motorway tore up our cities, will become the ultimate symbol of how we are claiming central London for the bike," said Johnson.

The new strategy is called "The Mayor’s Vision for Cycling in London." [PDF]

In the new strategy there’s a plan for a major east-west cycle route. Johnson said: "My flagship route – a true Crossrail for the bicycle – will run for at least 15 miles, very substantially segregated, from the western suburbs, through the heart of the Capital, to the City, Canary Wharf and Barking in the east. It will, we believe, be the longest substantially-segregated continuous cycle route of any city in Europe." 

Many of London’s major road junctions will be made safer for cyclists; there will be a series of ‘bike grids’ of safe routes in central London; there will be a network of Quietways; and parts of London will be turned into ‘Mini-Hollands’.

"It’s very impressive stuff," says one of London’s key bloggers.

In the introduction to the plan Boris Johnson said:

"Cycling will be treated not as niche, marginal, or an afterthought, but as what it is: an integral part of the transport network, with the capital spending, road space and traffic planners’ attention befitting that role. "

One of the highlights of the plan is for a separated cycleway between Parliament Square and Tower Bridge along Victoria Embankment. The route will pass in front of the House of Parliament and snake its way towards Hyde Park and over towards the Westway, a 15-mile largely separated route between White City to Canary Wharf and beyond. 

In 1898, The Automotor and Horseless Vehicle Journal wrote that the Embankment was a "very few handsome thoroughfare…" but risked being made "depressingly ugly" by the wrong type of vehicles using it. When the new separated cycle route gets built the Victoria Embankment will be a far more pleasant place, a point that Johnson is keen to stress: making a city bicycle friendly is good for everybody, not just cyclists:

"At the very heart of this strategy is my belief that helping cycling will not just help cyclists. It will create better places for everyone. It means less traffic, more trees, more places to sit and eat a sandwich. It means new life, new vitality and lower crime on underused streets. It means more seats on the Tube, less competition for a parking place and fewer cars in front of yours at the lights."

Johnson added:

"I want cycling to be normal, a part of everyday life. I want it to be something you feel comfortable doing in your ordinary clothes, something you hardly think about. I want more women cycling, more older people cycling, more black and minority ethnic Londoners cycling, more cyclists of all social backgrounds – without which truly mass participation can never come. As well as the admirable Lycra-wearers, and the enviable east Londoners on their fixed-gear bikes, I want more of the kind of cyclists you see in Holland, going at a leisurely pace on often clunky steeds."

Creation of wide, seperated cycle routes won’t come at the expense of the right to cycle elsewhere on the road network, promised Johnson:

"There will be greatly-improved fast routes on busy roads for cyclists in a hurry. And there will be direct, continuous, quieter routes on side streets for new cyclists, cautious cyclists and all sorts of other people who would rather take it more slowly. But nothing I do will affect cyclists’ freedom to use any road they choose."


The £913m investment is part of a ten year plan but many of the engineering solutions included in the Mayor’s announcement will be built within four years. The new, high-quality cycle routes will be parallel to, and named after, Tube lines and bus routes.

Junctions to be tackled in the next three years include Blackfriars, Vauxhall, Tower, Swiss Cottage, and Elephant & Castle. 

Lorry safety will be a major focus of the Mayor’s new plan. TfL will ramp up its work to encourage out-of-hours deliveries, to reduce the numbers of heavy vehicles in the city during peak times, and will now study the experience of other cities where larger lorries are banned from parts of the city or at certain times of the day.

TfL will campaign for better laws that "do not send the wrong message about the behaviour we expect on our roads." Funding will be provided for eight police officers to investigate HGV drivers who intimidate or hit cyclists.

New 20mph speed limits will be introduced on some parts of the TfL-controlled main road network where cycling improvements are planned.

Other work outlined in the Mayor’s vision for cycling include a new pilot scheme allowing communities to design safe routes to school, and a new approach to children’s cycle training, which will be delivered in all London schools. In conjunction with Network Rail, work will be carried out to deliver a massive Dutch-style ‘bike superhub’ at a mainline rail station, with space for thousands of bikes and "very good cycle routes radiating from it."

Sir Peter Hendy, Transport Commissioner for London, who was with the Mayor at the launch earlier today, said: “Across the Western world, forward-thinking cities are investing hundreds of millions of pounds in the bicycle, knowing that well-designed schemes can deliver benefits far greater than their relatively modest cost.

“I believe this is about so much more than routes for cyclists. It is about the huge health and economic benefits that cycling can bring. And it is about helping the transport system meet the enormous demands that will be placed on it.”

British Cycling’s Chris Boardman, the Olympic gold medallist and long-term advocate for safer cycling, said: "This is the most ambitious cycling development and promotion plan in the UK in living memory, perhaps ever."

Johnson promised there will be “mini-Hollands” in the suburbs of London, with up to three outer boroughs chosen for very high spending concentrated in relatively small areas for the greatest possible impact. The aim, over time, is that these suburbs will become every bit as cycle-friendly as their Dutch equivalents; places that suburbs and towns all over Britain will want to copy. 

And this is why an ambitious plan for making London more people-friendly is good for the whole of the UK, not just London. MPs live in London and will be influenced by what they see taking shape in London. Transport planners from across the UK regularly visit London and will be similarly influenced.

Ken Livingstone had the balls to create the congestion charge which kick-started London’s cycling boom; now Boris Johnson has, finally, had the balls to announce what could be a game-changer for cycling in the UK. 7th March 2013: in the future that could be seen as the date when everything changed, the tipping point that made it easier for planners and politicians to reshape cities for people, not cars.



"The Mayor’s Vision for Cycling in London." [PDF]


"Where there is conflict between modes (which there often isn’t) we will try to make a clear choice, not an unsatisfactory compromise. We will segregate where possible, though elsewhere we will seek other ways to deliver safe and attractive cycle routes. Timid, half-hearted improvements are out – we will do things at least adequately, or not at all."

"Routes will be wide enough to cope with higher volumes of cyclists, and designed to reduce conflict between pedestrians and bikes. Confusing shared pavements will be avoided."

"I have asked TfL to work on a new bike and pedestrian bridge over the West Cross Route and railway line, long-desired by local people. My plan is that it will then join a bi-directional cycle track created by removing one of the six traffic lanes from the Westway flyover. Motor traffic on this stretch of the Westway has dropped by 22 per cent in the past decade, giving us ample scope for this change."


"With the proviso that nothing must reduce cyclists’ right to use any road, we favour segregation.


"Most main roads in London are…also bus routes, with frequent bus stops and a far denser service than in, say, Amsterdam. The cycle lane would have to go between the bus and the pavement. Everybody getting off or on a bus would step straight into the lane, risking being hit by a cyclist.

"We will install Dutch-style full segregation on several streets without bus routes, such as the Victoria Embankment. We will install it on several streets which are wide enough to put bus stops on ‘islands’ in the carriageway, including Stratford High Street, with the bike lane going between the bus stop and the pavement. We will put Dutch-style segregated lanes on several one-way streets where the bus stops are only on one side of the road, such as part of Harleyford Road in Vauxhall. We may also be able to fit segregated lanes into some narrower roads by narrowing median strips, bi-directional cycle tracks, bus priority measures, and other such means."


"We will segregate approaches to cyclist advanced stop lines (ASLs) at selected busy and difficult junctions so cyclists can get through stationary traffic to reach the ASL box at the front."

"A cross-London network of high-quality guided Quietways will be created on low-traffic back streets and other routes so different kinds of cyclists can choose the routes which suit them. Unlike the old London Cycle Network, Quietways will be direct. They will be better-surfaced. They will be clearly signed, mostly on the road itself, making it impossible to lose your way. Each route will be delivered as a whole, not piecemeal. And they will not give up at the difficult places. Barriers and ‘Cyclists Dismount’ signs will be removed as far as possible. Quietways will be particularly suited to new cyclists."


"Segregation is not always necessary or appropriate. In some places we will prefer filtered cycle permeability, a method used to great effect in the London Borough of Hackney, where the number of cycling trips is the highest in London and more people commute by bike than by car. Permeability means not completely separating bikes and cars – there is very little full segregation in Hackney – but making the existing streets join up better for cyclists (and pedestrians) than they do for cars. It means blocking rat run-type streets as through-routes for motor traffic, while still allowing through journeys by bike. It means making bike journeys easier and more direct by removing one-way streets, gyratories and complicated crossings of big roads."


"We are working closely with Government to press for changes to Department for Transport regulations which prevent us from trying new and innovative approaches to cyclist safety, such as eye-level traffic lights and various forms of segregation. We will ask for new powers to carry out camera enforcement of mandatory cycle lanes, to stop cars driving in them, as we already do for bus lanes. We will lobby for the general and HGV driving tests to include more cycle awareness, and for higher standards for HGV operators. We will ask that the Government follows our successful approach to HGV safety, with courses for lorry drivers and regulations to install cyclist safety devices…No lorry should be allowed in London unless it is fitted with safety equipment to protect cyclists, and driven by someone fully trained in cycle awareness…We want the Government to be more specific on the content of driving tests for all drivers to maximise cycle awareness training. They should also ensure Commercial Driver Certificate of Professional Competence (CPC) training includes a mandatory element addressing cycle safety. Currently there are no definitions as to content of training and our view is very clear: training must include much greater awareness of cyclists and other vulnerable road users as a basic part of the CPC for any driver in urban areas…We will lobby Government for more cycle awareness to be included in the standard driving test and in tests for bus and lorry drivers."

"We have begun off-site trials of a Dutch-style cycle roundabout, with segregated lanes protecting cyclists, and other novel interventions such as eye-level traffic lights for cyclists. If these trials are successful, and the DfT allows, we will roll them out on the road network."


"We will also act more vigorously against cyclist violations, such as failure to show lights at night and riding on the pavement. We will launch a public campaign to explain the specific sorts of cyclist provision to road users, such as the difference between a mandatory and advisory cycle lane. We will launch major safety education campaigns, informed by research, which will address road user behaviour and encourage Londoners to share the road safely."


"We will introduce novel tools such as online calorie maps, showing not just distance and time taken but fat burned. We will promote cycling to people who are concerned about their fitness, such as gym users. We will promote cycling as an alternative to public transport with signs and notices at bus stops and Tube stations detailing how easily you could have made the same journey by bike. We will conduct an annual spring marketing campaign to exploit the surge of interest in cycling that comes with the warmer weather."


"We will work to promote cycling for short journeys that are currently done by car, such as to the shops. We will work with the major supermarkets and retail parks to improve cycling access and provision. We will closely monitor all major new planning applications, schemes and developments..to promote meaningful pro-bike content and discourage anti- bike content."


"We will monitor roadworks and building schemes to avoid unnecessary disruption to cycle routes. We will try to ensure that even when a road is closed to motor traffic, passage is still provided for bikes…We will monitor road surface conditions on the Quietways and Superhighways and ensure, encouraging the boroughs where necessary, that they are in good repair and free of debris."


"Central to our vision is the belief that more cycling will benefit everyone, not just cyclists. A classic ‘cycle permeability’ measure, such as blocking one end of an inner-city residential street to cars, improves life for all who live or walk on that street. It makes children safer when they cross the road. It cuts traffic, noise and pollution. It makes room for new green space, tree-planting or pavement. It may increase property values.

"Quietways will be accompanied by streetscape improvements, such as tree-planting to create green corridors and linear parks. More dropped kerbs will help older and disabled people. Road surfaces will be improved. Along the routes we will promote community safety initiatives, including better lighting on some streets, CCTV and security patrols along canal towpaths and through parks. Streets will be de-cluttered, making them more attractive. By creating better places, we make people want to visit. Fifteen years ago, Broadway Market in Hackney was in decline. Now, thanks in part to car restrictions and a busy cycle route, it is full of life and its businesses are thriving."

"More prosperous places for everyone…The economic benefits of cycling, particularly to neighbourhood shops and businesses, are increasingly well documented. Studies in the US cities of Portland and New York find that cyclists visit a neighbourhood’s shops more often than drivers or public transport users, and spend more overall. Cyclists travel shorter distances to shop than drivers. Cycling can help save precious, but endangered, pubs and small shops.

"Cycling can save people dramatic amounts of money. The average London cyclist, using his or her bike 150 days a year, saves just under £800 a year in transport fares, even after the cost of the bike, maintenance and equipment are included, according to research by the Par Hill consultancy. A commuter cycling every day from Outer London will save up to £2,000 a year.


"We will take steps to improve people’s perceptions of cyclists. We recognise the real problem of antisocial cycling, though we also believe that it can be overstated. Most people cycle responsibly. Cyclists cause only about three per cent of injuries to pedestrians in London, roughly in proportion with their share of overall road traffic…Most cyclists are also motorists and pedestrians; we reject attempts to set groups of road users against each other. We will increase enforcement action against illegal and intimidating cyclist behaviour, which often occurs in particular places. Just as importantly, though, we believe that the policies in this Vision will reduce illegal behaviour of their own accord. Removing one-way streets and gyratories will cut the incidence of cyclists travelling the ‘wrong’ way or on pavements. Giving cyclists defined space of their own will reduce conflict between them and other road users. Quietways will attract new types of cyclists, making London cycling calmer, less Darwinian.

"In short, one of the best ways of stopping people cycling on the pavement is to give them better places to cycle on the road."

"More people cycling will also benefit motorists – especially in Outer London – by taking thousands of cars off the roads. Like a car, a bike is personal, on-demand and door-to-door, so it has significant potential to attract drivers to whom public transport does not appeal. TfL’s London Travel Demand Survey supports this view, showing that car-drivers take public transport much less than other people, but cycle just as much as non-drivers do. A healthier city for everyone.

"Cycling, which of course has zero emissions, improves air quality for everyone. Last June, a report for the Central London Air Quality Cluster group of local authorities analysed ‘cost-effective actions to cut air pollution’. It made a number of striking findings. If just 14 per cent of journeys in central London were cycled – emissions there of the greatest vehicle pollutant, NOx, would fall by 30 per cent, or 453 tonnes a year.
Emissions of the other main vehicle pollutant, particulate matter, would fall by 24 per cent, or 33.8 tonnes a year. According to the Massachussetts Institute of Technology, air pollution from vehicles prematurely kills 2,200 Londoners every year, many of them in central and inner London. Over the years ahead the bicycle could, in short, save literally thousands of people’s lives."

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