Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Easy to use definitions of "Cycle Superhighway" and "Quietway" for Andrew Gilligan, TfL, and local council officials

At the City of London Cycling Forum last month the City officials told us that they had already had a few meetings with Andrew Gilligan, but that these meetings had not been spent discussing any actual cycle lanes. Instead, they had used the time to discuss the definition of the words "Cycle Superhighway" and "Quietway" (which are used in the Mayor's Cycling Vision). It's great to know that our public officials are spending their time so efficiently, but I thought I'd try and make their lives even easier by defining these words myself.

Cycle Superhighway = completely physically separated from motor traffic + wide enough to accommodate the amount of Londoners who would want to use it.

(Using this definition Cycle Superhighway 2 is not a 'Cycle Superhighway' because it is not segregated from motor traffic; which helps explain why 3 people have been killed on it. Nor is the segregated track on Tavistock Place a 'Cycle Superhighway' because it is too narrow to easily contain all those that seek to use it, making it often dangerously busy.)

Quietway = a well-surfaced road with no through-traffic + a 20mph speed limit.

(Using this definition there would be a few 'Quietways' currently existing in Hackney and Islington, but somewhere like Soho which has through-traffic hurtling through narrow one-way systems at 30mph would be anything but a 'Quietway'.)

I know these definitions are somewhat stringent, but they could be used as a template for those at TfL and local councils trying to design and build cycle routes. The relative quality of a Quietway or Cycle Superhighway could be extremely quickly measured by looking at how much of it's route matched up to the two simple criteria.

Cycle campaigners could then use these definitions very effectively to criticise deficient parts of a proposed or build cycle route. One could say for instance that, "this Cycle Superhighway is nothing of the sort because only 50m of it is segregated", or, "this Quietway isn't fit for purpose because most of it contains fast-moving, dangerous through traffic that isn't capped by a 20mph limit. I'd be mad to let my child cycle to school along this route unless the through-traffic was removed and a 20mph limit put in place".

It's not that all roads in London need to be designed along the aforementioned guidelines, but that a route is simply not 'quiet', in any sense of the word, if there are taxis constantly rat-running it at 30mph. It's just a road with a sign on it. Similarly a route is not a 'cycle superhighway' if you're sharing a motor-traffic lane with HGVs. It's just a road with some blue paint on it.


  1. if only they had had your clarity during the meeting!

    two thoughts: a) what would you call a crappy painted line? does it deserve the name cycle lane at all? b) undoubtedly if there was more than one half decent central london east-west lane it wouldnt be so ludicrously busy and dangerous

    1. a) I think you could call a crappy painted line - as long it was an unbroken line and a *mandatory* cycle lane - a cycle lane. It's still lane space dedicated only to cyclists. But it would be a cheap lie on the part of Boris Johnson and TfL to try and say that a crappy painted lane was a 'cycle superhighway', or, even worse, that blue paint in the middle of a general-traffic lane was a 'cycle superhighway'.

      b) Completely agree. TfL need to make sure their CrossRail for bikes lives up the 'Cycle Superhighway' definition I've outlined (completely segregated, wide enough for number of cyclists who'll use it) otherwise it'll be a failure.