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Mayor of London proposes $1.4B cycling plan for the city; “Crossrail for the bike”

The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, will has outlined a vision for a £913-million (US$1.48-billion) investment in cycling infrastructure for the city.

Among other features, the plans would create a “Crossrail for the bike”—a route that will run for more than 15 miles (24 km), very substantially segregated, from the western suburbs, through the heart of London, to Canary Wharf and Barking. It would use new Dutch-style segregated cycle tracks along, among other places, the Victoria Embankment and the Westway flyover. It is believed to be the longest substantially-segregated cycle route of any city in Europe.

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.

—Mayor Johnson

(The Westway is a 3.5-mile (5.6 km) long elevated dual carriageway running from Paddington to North Kensington. The road was constructed between 1964 and 1970 to relieve congestion.)

The Mayor tay announced that the main cross-London physical legacy of the 2012 Olympic Games will be a proper network of cycle routes across the city. As in the public transport system, London’s “bike Crossrail” will lie at the heart of a new bike “Tube network.” Over the next four years London will open a range of high-quality new cycle routes parallel to, and named after, Tube lines and bus routes, so everyone knows where they go.

Other elements in the “Mayor’s Vision for Cycling” include:

  • more Dutch-style fully-segregated lanes;

  • more “semi-segregation” on other streets, with bikes better separated from other vehicles;

  • a new network of “Quietways”—direct, continuous, fully-signposted routes on peaceful side streets, running far into the suburbs, and aimed at people put off by cycling in traffic;

  • substantial improvements to both existing and proposed Superhighways, including some reroutings; and

  • a new “Central London Grid” of bike routes in the City and West End, using segregation, quiet streets, and two-way cycling on one-way traffic streets, to join all the other routes together.

I want to de-Lycrafy cycling. I want to make it normal, something for everyone, something you feel comfortable doing in your ordinary clothes. Our new routes will give people the confidence to get in the saddle. I do not promise perfection, or that London will become Amsterdam any time soon. But what I do say is that this plan marks a profound shift in my ambitions and intentions for the bicycle.

The reason I am spending almost £1 billion on this 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 more seats on the Tube, less competition for a parking place and fewer cars in front of yours at the lights. Above all, it will fulfill my aim of making London’s air cleaner. If just 14 percent of journeys in central London were cycled, emissions there of the greatest vehicle pollutant, NOx, would fall by almost a third and over the years literally thousands of lives could be saved.

—Mayor Johnson

The plan includes major and substantial improvements to the worst junctions, making them safer and less threatening for cyclists with measures such as segregation and cycle-only paths or phases. Junctions to be tackled in the next three years include Blackfriars, Vauxhall, Tower, Swiss Cottage, and Elephant & Castle. The budget for TfL’s safer junction review has been more than quintupled, from £19 million (US$29 million) to £100 million (US$150 million), and the money will be focused on fewer sites.

Transport Committee says £913M inadequate
The Transport Committee of the London Assembly said that the proposed £913M investment is insufficient to meet targets for safer cycling and increasing journeys by bike and, per year, only matches the budget provided for cycling in 2010.
“Far from seeing evidence of a serious commitment to a ‘cycling revolution’, the Mayor’s vision lacks ambition for his pledges to make London safer and more inviting for cycling. While £913 million may seem an impressive figure, its impact will be diluted over ten years and is not a significant advancement on current funding levels. To have real impact, we’re calling for the investment in cycling to be doubled.
“The Committee has previously highlighted how segregated cycle paths, junction and cycle superhighway improvements and tackling HGV safety would improve safety for cyclists, and we're delighted to see these included in the Mayor’s cycle vision. If Boris Johnson is serious about leaving a lasting cycling legacy for London—boosting journeys by bike and improving safety—more ambitious targets, backed by serious funding, are needed.”
—Caroline Pidgeon AM, Chair of the London Assembly’s Transport Committee

TfL (Transport for London) is conducting off-site trials of new, cyclist-friendly innovations, such as “Dutch-style” roundabouts and eye-level traffic lights for cyclists. If these trials are successful, and the Department for Transport allows, they will be rolled out on the road network.

There will be “mini-Hollands” in the suburbs, with between one and three outer boroughs chosen for very high spending concentrated in those 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. Funding specifically earmarked for outer London will rise from £3 million (US$4.5 million) to more than £100 million.

Truck safety will be a major focus of the plan, as they disproportionately kill and seriously injure cyclists. This work will build upon TfL’s work with the haulage industry and they will continue to work to encourage out-of-hours deliveries, to reduce the numbers of heavy vehicles in the city during peak times, and will closely study the experience of other cities where larger lorries are banned from parts of the city or at times of the day.

Transport for London will work to pinpoint the most dangerous places using “Compstat”-style near-realtime monitoring of casualties. New 20 mph (32 km/h) speed limits for all traffic will be introduced on several parts of the TfL-controlled main road network where cycling improvements are planned.

Other work outlined in the Mayor’s vision for cycling includes 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 terminus, with space for thousands of bikes and very good cycle routes radiating from it. The aim is that thousands of commuters switch from Tube and bus to bikes for the last stage of their journeys to work, significantly relieving pressure on the public transport networks in central London. Work will also take place with the train operators to deliver smaller superhubs at some key suburban stations.

A trial of electric bikes will be conducted, including a small self-contained public electric bike hire scheme, similar to Barclays Cycle Hire.

Work will continue to expand the Mayor’s Barclays cycle hire scheme later this year into parts of Wandsworth, Lambeth and Hammersmith & Fulham. But the Mayor’s vision also flags how he will investigate further incremental expansion of the network and integrate it into contactless payment, TfL’s future ticketing system, to make it a fully joined-up part of the transport network. Companies, hotels and universities will be encouraged to install docking stations in their premises at their own expense for their staff, guests and students.

As announced in the TfL business plan the overall budget for cycling will rise to £913 million, two and a half times more than previously planned, with almost £400 million (US$602 million) spent in the next three years alone. Cycle spending will rise to £145 million (US$218 million) in 2015, or around £18 (US$27) per head, up with the best in Germany and almost on a par with the Netherlands.

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.

These policies are a step-change in cycling provision, and I commit TfL to delivering them as one of its highest priorities. But I am committed, too, because 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.

—Sir Peter Hendy, Transport Commissioner for London

The first Quietways will open next year, with the improved Superhighways and the central section of “bike Crossrail” complete by 2016. All outer London boroughs are invited to apply for the “mini-Hollands” program. The successful candidate(s) will be chosen later this year and work will begin in 2014. TfL will work in close partnership with the London boroughs, who own the vast majority of the capital’s roads, to deliver the new cycle routes. The first planning conference for the Central London Grid, with the seven central boroughs, the Royal Parks and the City, will take place next week. Routes for the Grid, and Quietways, will be announced as soon as they have been agreed with the boroughs.

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