Finally, after one of the longest, and certainly the largest, public consultations in TfL history - Boris Johnson today announced that the proposed ‘Crossrail for Bikes’ Cycling Superhighways would go ahead as planned. Both the East-West (from Tower Hill to Paddington) and the North-South (from Elephant to Farringdon) routes will be genuinely kerb segregated dedicated cycling infrastructure – a massive improvement for cyclists on the dangerous patches of irregular blue paint which bear the ‘superhighway’ name at present.
This announcement comes just days after the first cycling death in London of the year on the notorious Blackfriars bridge – which just goes to emphasise how urgently and long overdue provision of proper cycling infrastructure in London is. As a city London is ideal for cycling but we need to put the infrastructure in place to allow it – it shouldn’t be a case of cycling being only for lycra clad messenger bikes and those willing to take large perceived risks in order to travel about.
We need to get to the place where cycling as a travel option in London is as normal as jumping on a bus or going on the tube. This means cycling provision that is safe enough to allow our children to cycle to school on it – infrastructure that separates cyclists from heavy motorised traffic and removes conflict at junctions. It means cycle lanes that are kerb separated from traffic lanes, it means specific cycle stages of traffic lights at junctions and it means using permeable filtering to allow cyclists to use quiet streets without them turning into rat runs for cars. What we need to do is known – we just have to look to Copenhagen or the Netherlands – and if we build the infrastructure then people will use it. We just need to will to do so.
Clearly it means that this must only be the very beginning, but one of the great positives from the consultation has been the massive amount of backing that this cycling infrastructure has had from across London. Employers as varied as NHS England and Barts’ hospital through to Deloitte, RBS and Unilever have committed there backing through the Cycling Works website. Given the strength of opinion (84% in favour at the consultation) it shows how much London is crying out for this and how urgently we need to build it.
Obviously the scheme has its detractors from those businesses and organisations which don’t see the benefits that cycling will bring, and only see them as ‘losing’ a lane of traffic. In particular the LTDA has announced that it is planning to put through a judicial review of the process in order to attempt to prevent the scheme going ahead. This means that it is not inevitable, and that the arguments still need to made.
Please challenge your General Election candidates from all parties about cycling provision and see how committed they are to seeing London transformed. We can see from the backers of this scheme that cycling provision is no longer niche, but necessary for all – so let’s make it an election issue as it needs to be.
We also need to make sure that this is genuinely the beginning – we need to campaign for far more than this both in London and across the country.
But it is a good start – and we can roll forward from here.
Mark Chapman is the Pirate Party Candidate for Vauxhall and a member of the London Cycling Campaign.