Get Britain Cycling: London roads in “appalling state”

Cycling growing at same rate Amsterdam and Copenhagen

In the fifth and penultimate Get Britain Cycling session before the All Party Parliamentary Cycling Group, a panel of MPs and peers heard that investment in cycling in London is running at £100m year but that some of the capital’s road surfaces are in an “appalling state.” 

Evidence was given by a number of experts working to help make cycling a safer and more rewarding experience in the UK capital. Names included Nick O'Donnell, assistant director of strategic transport at Ealing council, Caroline Pidgeon, chair of the London Assembly Transport Committee, Tom Bogdanowicz of the London Cycling Campaign, and Ben Plowden, director for better routes and places at Transport for London (TfL). 

The committee heard that extra funding and political will need to be channelled towards making the capital more cycling friendly, but it was O’Donnell who highlighted the perilous state of some of London’s roads in his opening remarks. “One big thing that’s not been touched upon is the incredibly poor ride quality you have in London in terms of roads – they’re in a generally appalling state,” he said.

“Having recently been in Copenhagen and cycling around, one of the biggest differences is just how smooth and how comfortable it is to cycle around. It takes a lot of stress out of the journey. It puts a lot of people off when you’re bobbling around on your bicycle the whole way around the journey.”

O’Donnell said the Borough of Ealing would be trialling an experiment where the 2m of road usually occupied by cyclists would be resurfaced, because “in theory you save yourself enough to do more of it”.   

In evidence from TfL’s Plowden, the panel also heard that the rate of growth in bicycle trips in London is approximately the same as that in Amsterdam and Copenhagen when those European cities began investing heavily in cycling:

“I think the critical issue is to say that significant levels of funding in cycling are vital. Since I joined TfL in 2002, and just after investment in cycling was a shade under £3m a year in total, it’s now running at about £100m a year.”

Plowden said about £1bn is scheduled to be invested in cycling in the current business plan, but couldn’t guarantee that it won’t be eroded by wider government cuts.

The cross party panel, chaired by Ian Austin MP and Dr Julian Huppert MP, will hold a final evidence session on 4 March. A report will be published in mid-April of this year.  

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