Monday, 3 September 2012

Delivery of 4 new TfL Cycle SuperHighways accelerated to 2013

EDIT (18/1/13) - As is probably abundantly clear now, TfL have quickly scrapped their previous plans (which I outlined below) to open 4 new Cycle Superhighways in 2013. This is obviously disappointing.

However, the plans drawn up for the CS2 extension show that TfL might now be significantly shifting their policy to supporting full segregated cycle lanes instead of the current rubbish 'blue-paint-only' that characterises much of the first 4 Cycle Superhighways.

If this is the case, it is possible that the other 4 Cycle Superhighways that were meant to open this year have been delayed so they can made into fully segregated lanes which - understandably - will require substantially more planning, application, and build time.

Fingers crossed eh? The BBC clearly thinks that cycle blogging has led to real, concrete improvements for cyclists.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

A while ago I was trawling the internet for information on the Boris Bike Scheme expansion which I could then put on wikipedia (because I'm young and cool like that) and I found this article from the London Cyclist: http://www.londoncyclist.co.uk/no-new-superhighways-in-2012-or-2013-but-the-cycle-hire-scheme-continues-to-expand/

As the URL makes clear, the Mayor said back in Dec 2011 there would be no new Superhighways in 2013. But that's strange because if one now checks the TfL website for Cycle Superhighways (http://www.tfl.gov.uk/roadusers/cycling/15832.aspx) the delivery dates have been brought forward and we are now promised 4 new Superhighways in 2013 and another 4 by 2015.

Evidence from TfL website (3/9/2012)!

The most likely explanation for what has happened is that the increased number of cyclists on London's roads, and perhaps the efforts of cycle campaigners, has led to the Mayor and TfL deciding to accelerated their delivery schedule (we do, after all, live in a democracy). The reason the decision has not been widely publicised is probably because the excuse given back in December 2011 for no new SuperHighways in 2013 was 'a restricted delivery window caused by the 2012 Olympic Games'. Suddenly going back on this would make it seem like there was no good reason for not implementing the SuperHighways in 2013 in the first place...

What does this development mean for cycling in London?

Well, firstly its a big positive for everyone that likes cycling in London. TfL clearly listens to us, at some level, and does (sometimes) alter its policy accordingly. Pats on the back all-round.

My second point is much more important. If TfL has accelerated 4 of its SuperHighways to a 2013 delivery date then it can accelerate the other 4. There is no need for us to wait until 2015 for them. Massive flyovers take 3 years to build. Painting a bit of tarmac blue (which is all that much of the current Cycle Superhighways consist of) takes about a week. I firmly believe that if enough pressure was exerted we could see those last 4 SuperHighways implemented well before 2015, especially since the 2013 Superhighways will only further boost cyclist numbers, and therefore public pressure on politicians to do more for cycle infrastructure.

Map showing future Cycle Superhighways (and junctions proposed for improvements). Available on TfL website; click here to view full-size. As can be seen, the routes proposed for 2015 are clearly NOT going take 3 years to build.

Moreover, as many cyclists online have made clear, the standards to which the last 4 Cycle Superhighways were made is simply not good enough compared to international best-practice.

Given that the Mayor pledged the London Cycling Campaign (LCC) to build new cycle routes in-line with international best-practice as part of his 2012 election manifesto, I also believe that with further pressure from Londoners we could see these new Cycle Superhighways being built to significantly higher standards than the first 4 were.

Wider. Better protected. Better signposted. I'm getting excited just thinking about them...

Boris Johnson also mentioned in his election manifesto a vague commitment to build an East-West Cycle Superhighway. It isn't on TfL's map above. We need to put it on the map (literally). This is NOT an infeasible project and if we could use the increasing momentum of utility cycling (no pun intended) to get it built, it could potentially completely revolutionise cycling in Central London. [If London were personified by David Cameron, then building an East-West cycle Superhighway through the centre of town would be the equivalent of branding the words 'I LOVE CYCLING' on Cameron's forehead for life.]

Essentially the voice of the utility cycling community is clearly being heard (at last!) by London's political leaders. But that is only more reason for us to shout both louder and clearer about exactly what improvements we want to see over the next few years, especially since idiotic local councillors have the power to do so much to obstruct TfL's efforts to build cycle Superhighways through their boroughs.

I've written extensively in this blog about the window of opportunity for cycling in London created this year by the Tour de France, followed by the 2012 Olympics and Paralympics, and finally the Tour de Britain to finish off (over a million spectators were recorded in 2011 - how many will it be this year with Wiggins involved?).

This window of opportunity has been widened by the AA's call for more cycle lanes (along with Carol Ann Duffy's), and the strong campaigning by British Cycling - a group which has itself more than doubled membership since 2008 to over 50,000 - for both a justice review for when people are hurt or killed on the road, and international-standard protected cycle infrastructure.

Right now, this window has been widened further still by George Osborne's, and the rest of our Government's, calls for investment in infrastructure to help tackle the recession.

Cycle infrastructure certainly isn't as expensive as the Thames Hub Airport would be (which we should build, by the bye). However, it certainly isn't that cheap either, especially in a city as complex as London. If cycle infrastructure could be made part of the national infrastructure-investment 'picture' that would help secure the kind of money necessary to fund the radical road engineering projects which will inevitably be necessary to create uniformly great cycling infrastructure across London, not just blue paint.

So, if you are reading this, please take a moment to have your voice heard at this critical time by:

1. Writing to your local MPs and Councillors (www.writetothem.com)
2. Writing to your MP through this contact detail too, some of them can be very reticent (http://findyourmp.parliament.uk/)
3. Writing to TfL at londonstreets@tfl.gov.uk
4.. Writing to Cameron, Osbourne and Clegg (http://www.number10.gov.uk/contact-us/http://www.dpm.cabinetoffice.gov.uk/content/contacthttp://www.hm-treasury.gov.uk/contact_index.htm)
5. Encouraging your friends and family to get on their bikes to get around London. The higher the recorded number of cycle journeys around London is the more the Government and TfL will do to make cyclists safer and better accommodated (they want votes; UK is a democracy).

6. Finally, like charity, good cycle infrastructure begins at home. Making as many journeys as you can by bike is another effective way of creating change in our city. Drivers see you cycle, making them more aware of all cyclists. People see you cycle, making them jealous that you can filter traffic and encouraging them to cycle themselves. The government registers you cycling, and does that little bit more to represent cyclists at a national level as numbers increase.

If you usually undertake a long commute sans-bike, why not try it by bike a few times a week when the weather is good? Or if you're tootling around Central London and left your regular bike at home, consider getting a £1 day registration for the Boris Bikes instead of using a tube, bus, or taxi to get somewhere.

(comments welcomed)

More user-friendly map of proposed Cycle SuperHighways. Remember that strong local support in every borough will be essential if the new Cycle SuperHighways are to be built, and built to a high standard of safety. Full-size map available to view here.


Footnote

For those interested in the Boris Bike scheme, the 2013 expansion shows all the signs that it is going ahead although obviously voicing your support locally (and nationally) will help make sure funding does not fall through, which might still be a potential problem. Moreover, if your Borough is not included in the scheme currently, nor in the planned expansion, the 2013 increase clearly demonstrates that TfL and the Boris Johnson are open-minded about further expansion - the Mayor has said publicly he sees it's expansion as an 'ongoing project' - so if you want Boris Bikes near your house write to TfL and let them know (email: BarclaysCycleHire@TfL.gov.uk)!

A further increase in the Boris Bike scheme can also be tied in with the Government's proposed plans for overall investment in transport infrastructure, so now is the perfect time to ask TfL and your local MPs for Boris Bikes to come to your Borough.

Furthermore, for any Hammersmith and Fulham residents, or regular visitors, visit the H&F website here to suggest potential Docking Stations and influence the future shape of the BCH expansion in 2013. The more local support gets heard, the greater the expansion will be. Simples.