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London Cycling Action Plan

17th December 2018

Santander bikes, London
Hire bikes, London

TfL and Mayor of London Sadiq Khan today published a Cycling Action Plan, subtitled 'Making London the world's best big city for cycling'.

Is it a plan that will result in real improvements in conditions for cycling in London, or just more warm words from the Mayor without action to back them up?

Gilligan says Mayor's claim to have built 140km of cycle routes are false

In an article for the Guardian's Bike Blog, former London Cycling Commissioner Andrew Gilligan says that Mayor Sadiq Khan's claims to have built 140km of cycle routes are false.

Gilligan says that the Mayor is trying to claim credit for an 'entire fake cycle network'. The former Commissioner has been out to ride the routes Khan says he has built, and found that they are existing cycle routes with no new work done on them. 'In a few places, I found, new Quietway signs have indeed been painted on the road...The last thing many of these routes are is quiet.'

26km of the claimed routes are decades-old cycle paths, with new Quietway signs on them. A further 30km comes from re-branding unsegregated routes on busy streets. On much of the rest of the 'new' routes claimed by the Mayor, Gilligan found no trace of any work at all.

'The mileage of meaningful new route proposed and built by the Mayor remains at nil...'

London Cycling Action Plan: Will Norman's foreword

London's Walking and Cycling Commissioner Will Norman wrote a foreword to the Plan. It says:

For too long we've heard that people cycle more in countries such as Denmark and the Netherlands because it's part of their culture, or because it's flat, or because the cities there are compact. But none of those are the reason why cycling is more popular in these places. In truth, these cities see more cycling because their streets prioritise people, not cars.

Norman's foreword accepts that London's streets are too hostile for most people to consider cycling. He promises 'a pipeline of new cycle routes stretching into the future', and new quality criteria.

London Cycling Action Plan: the plan

London Cycling Action Plan
London Cycling Action Plan

The document says in Chapter 1 that without a big increase in cycling, it won't be possible to address London's congestion and air quality issues. It notes that by 2041, there will be an estimated 6 million more journeys made every day.

Chapter 2 is about the authors' 'vision' for cycling in London. It is that everyone who wants to cycle for their journeys in London will be able to do so confidently and comfortably.

In Chapter 3, TfL and the Mayor tell us what they have learned about cycling from 'customer research'. It includes the fact that 'where we have invested in new and upgraded infrastructure, cycling growth has been extremely strong.' An example is the protected cycle lane on Blackfriars Road, which resulted in a 127% increase in cycling. Cycling is concentrated in central and inner London, and white men are most likely to cycle.

Fear of collisions is the biggest factor putting people off cycling.

Chapter 4 sets an ambition to double the number of cycle trips made in London in 2017, by 2024, and to expand the cycle network.

Chapter 5 concerns 'streets that enable cycling', and refers to updated design guidance and new quality standards for cycling infrastructure. It says that 450km of new routes are planned by 2024, tripling 'the reach of the network'.

The network is to be re-branded, with a single identity instead of Cycle Superhighways and Quietways. The details will be revealed early in 2019.

The 'pipeline' of 25 cycle schemes is being worked on with the London Boroughs. Five consultations are to take place in 2019, including Camden and Tottenham Hale, and Hackney and the Isle of Dogs.

London Cycling Design Standards (LCDS) were published in 2015, and will be updated in 2019. The new LDCS will include quality criteria. Those criteria concern the speed and total volume of motor traffic cyclists can be expected to mix with on a cycle route, width of cycle lanes, minimising disruption to cycle routes from parking and loading (kerbside activity), minimising interaction with HGVs, and reducing risk of left hooks.

The plan's authors hope to stimulate the private sector to launch digital cycle maps and other wayfinding tools. TfL's Cycling Infrastructure Database will be made available to everyone free of charge, so it can be integrated in journey planning services.

The next generation of Santander bikes, currently being rolled out, are British made.

London Cycling Action Plan: a point of view

Sadiq Khan
Sadiq Khan, by BreakingTravelNews, Licence CC BY-ND 2.0

Sadiq Khan was elected Mayor of London in May 2016, having made promised to be pro-cycling, and to triple protected infrastructure.

It's now two and a half years later, and his term has been characterised by loss of momentum on cycling. He has appeared to be so desperate not to upset anyone, that he has ended up doing little or nothing.

The positive talk in this plan is welcome - better a Mayor who says he wants to do something for cycling than one who says he doesn't. But as Andrew Gilligan has commented in the past, what matters is deeds not words.

There's not much sign of deeds in this plan. It recognises the obstacles to cycling, and how to remove them, but if it isn't backed up with action, it's just waffle that doesn't get us anywhere.

It has come to the point where we don't need any more glossy documents with nice pictures of people on bikes. Mayor Khan, please just get on with it.

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