Approximately £913 million is set to be spent on London’s cycling infrastructure over the next decade, according to Transport for London’s new business plan.
Before cyclists start getting too excited, they should note that the figures are dependent on votes by the TfL board on 12 December and, perhaps more crucially, on current funding levels from Whitehall remaining the same over the coming years and not suffering from budget cuts.
Mayor Boris Johnson says he plans to double spending to £268 million by 2015, then spend a further £640 million on cycling in addition to the £273 million previously set out in TfL’s 10-year plan.
The total £913 million budget is based on government grants and fares staying flat (that is, no budget or fare cuts) and continued efficiency savings of 2.5 percent. Johnson will lobby for London’s funding to be maintained at the next spending review.
TfL said, “This is broadly in line with the levels of per capita investment that have been seen in other cities, such as Copenhagen, to deliver their cycling transformation over several decades, recognising that London is still in the early stages of that process.”
The critical question for many cyclists and lobby groups is whether the money will translate into high quality, safe, fast and wide cycle routes. Existing Superhighways have come in for criticism and recent cycling casualty figures in the UK capital have not been encouraging.
TfL gave an outline of where the money would be heading:
1. Creating a network of principal cycling routes, with upgraded routes and gaps in the network filled, along with improved signage and road markings.
2. Providing a focused grid of high quality, high volume cycle routes in central London, which will facilitate a convenient and easy passage in the centre of town and will include a new East-West Cycle Superhighway.
3. Creating a significantly expanded network of "quiet routes" on quiet residential streets and greenways.
4. Transforming cycle facilities in at least one, and hopefully three, outer London town centres.
5. Delivering the 'better junctions' programme but increasingly integrating these investments into a more route-based approach.
6. Delivering the Cycle Superhighways programme to a revised, higher standard.
The remainder of the funding will go into areas such as the expansion of the biking boroughs programme and trialling of new road layouts and signalling techniques (both at off-road test facilities and on London's road network, subject to approval from the Department for Transport for a number of innovations that are not currently permitted on the UK road network).
There is also likely to be further investment in cycle hire, including the intensification and expansion of the current scheme, and an aim to meet a new target for an additional 80,000 cycle parking spaces by 2016.
Isabel Dedring, Deputy Mayor for Transport, reiterated the idea that higher quality routes might be on the way: “We have seen a very significant increase in cycling and a change in the types of people who are cycling. Therefore we need to see a transformation in terms of the facilities that are being provided.”
More detail has been promised in the form of a forthcoming publication, described by TfL as Johnson's “vision for cycling”, to be published later this year.
While the funding announcement shows that notice has been taken of the recent recommendations form the London Assembly, the latest TfL press release did strike one slightly ominous note, suggesting that not all the headline-grabbing amount of cash might be heading directly into cycle schemes:
“It is important to note that the business plan will also include proposals for investment in the road network more generally, all of which will be aiming to deliver benefits for a range of road users. Many of these will also deliver significant benefit to cyclists, although they are not badged as cycling schemes per se.”