London mayor launches "Crossrail for bikes"

Boris Johnson will reclaim car lane for bikes in ambitious scheme

London mayor Boris Johnson today outlined his strategy to double cycling journeys in the capital with a slew of measures including an ambitious, mostly segregated, 15 mile east-west cycling path across the capital.

In announcing how £913m – although only £300m is presently secured – will be spent, Johnson said he wanted to ‘de-lycrafy’ and ‘normalise’ cycling and reach a point where 20 percent of journeys in the capital are made by bike. Currently there are 575,000 cycle journeys a day on bikes.

As well as the flagship east-west corridor – dubbed Crossrail for the bike – plans include the completion of 12 largely segregated cycling superhighways, targeted safety measures at lethal junctions, a network of well-marked routes through residential streets, a grid of partially segregated lanes across central London and the creation of ‘mini-Hollands’ in greater London to promote an ethos of cycling for all ages.    

Announcing his plans Johnson, accompanied by Olympic gold medallist Chris Boardman said: “We are going to be creating a Crossrail for the bicycle, and east-west cycle superhighway 15 miles long. The biggest, most ambitious single superhighway anyway in Europe.

“What we want is a London where people feel that the roads are safe for cyclists. It will also get people out of the tube, out of the traffic. We will improve air quality and make it a more wonderful place to live."

Greater London Authority: Cycle Boulevard Concept

Many of the plans could be completed by 2016 claimed Andrew Gilligan, London’s commissioner for cycling, as £400m of the pot is front-loaded into the projects in the next three years. After that, cycle spending will run at a proposed £145m a year, which is slightly less than what Dutch cities spend on cycling.

Gilligan added that £100m will be concentrated on improving notoriously lethal junctions and efforts reduce fatal incidents involving heavy good vehicles will also be bolstered.  

The cross London route could prove contentious as one car lane of Westway flyover, a busy road on the western approaches to the centre, will be reclaimed for pedestrians and cyclists.  Sir Peter Hendy, Transport Commissioner for London, said he didn’t anticipate a backlash from motorists because the section was where the road was at its widest and it wasn’t a pressure point on the road network.

London mayor Boris Johnson poses with members of the Prince's Trust

Sir Peter admitted that the £913m budget was subject to a spending review which could pare back the proposals. However he said he was confident that the full budget would be realised because he said Johnson would argue ‘very strongly’ with central government to complete projects already started.

He said: “When the government came to power with the scale reductions in public spending the mayor very successfully argued at the most senior level in government that he would like to preserve and increase the money in cycling and he was supported.

“Tactically, it’s extremely helpful to have programmes in the course of delivery with uncertain funding.”   

Boardman, who arrived by bike with Johnson added: “It needs strong political leadership form the top because we’re talking about culture change here and it needs some courage behind it to make big decisions and we’ve got that here.”

Simon Edwards, who specialises in serious injuries to cyclists at specialist cycle injury law firm Prolegal and who was blogging for BikeRadar from the Get Britain Cycling inquiry said:

"The decision to build properly segregated cycle lanes marks a decisive shift in the Mayor’s policy. He has turned away from daubing paint on existing roads toward an acknowledgement that large scale segregation projects are the only way to properly protect cyclists. Unlike previous cycling initiatives, building more Dutch-style segregated cycle lanes will unquestionably save lives and it’s essential these are rolled out across the city – not just in a couple of headline-grabbing projects on the Embankment and Westway.

“There is still a long way to go but today the Mayor has put forward a commendable plan and a serious amount of money for cyclists. The lives of many cyclists depend on him staying the course and delivering on these promises."

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