Boris Johnson promised big changes when he took over as Mayor of London last year. As a committed cyclist, many hoped he would make the capital a safer, more pleasant place to ride bikes. So, what does he have planned? Boris has revealed his vision for cycling in a series of answers to questions raised by London Assembly members.
Plans for cycle ‘super highways’, secure bike parking and more funding for cycle facilities should prove popular, but his decisions to scrap part of the London Cycle Network, allow motorbikes in cycle lanes and close traffic-free routes to make way for the 2012 Olympics have already caused controversy. So, will his projects prove successful or will he have to back-pedal? Here’s what Boris told the Assembly. You can have your say in the comments section below.
London Cycle Network – will it ever be completed?
The previous administration, headed by Labour mayor Ken Livingstone, approved the London Cycle Network (LCN+), a 900km network of cycle routes covering the whole of the English capital which was due to be completed in 2009/2010.
In response to questions from the Green Party’s Darren Johnson, Boris said 171 schemes planned as part of the LCN+ would go ahead this year, but he admitted other parts of the project would be delayed or even scrapped.
He said: “The timetable for completing the LCN+ was set out by my predecessor. My view is that as the final parts of the network increasingly require expensive and unpopular traffic schemes, efforts should be focused on my new direction towards more integrated and targeted interventions to make cycling safer, easier and more appealing.
“This approach is set out in [my transport document] Way To Go! and includes cycle highways along with cycle hire and cycle hubs as the best way to grow and develop cycling in the capital, as well as delivering cycle routes to the Olympic Park.”
Asked by Labour’s Valerie Shawcross whether he wanted to see the LCN+ completed, the mayor would only say: “I want to see a significant improvement in the quality of cycle routes around London, including LCN+ routes, cycle highways and other routes.”
Boris said the “overwhelming majority” of the new secure cycle parking would be free to use, and said TfL was “working on an expansion strategy” for the cycle hire scheme, which is due to begin in May 2010 in the nine central London boroughs and royal parks.
Mr Livingstone had pledged that rental bikes, cycle super highways and cycling hubs would be not be paid for using money set aside for existing Transport for London (TfL) cycling projects, such as completion of the LCN+.
Asked whether he would honour his predecessor’s commitment, Boris said: “From what I gather, my predecessor made this commitment without identifying from where the additional expenditure might be found. I will be delivering the cycle hire scheme within the next 18 months and Transport for London are in the process of identifying routes for 12 cycle super highways, which will span across London and greatly increase the infrastructure for cyclists. I am expediting the delivery of both these key projects, quicker that my predecessor had promised.
“I recognise the importance of maintaining a commitment to existing projects and programmes as these form the base from which future success can be grown. However, you will be aware from previous discussions of the pressure on available budgets and the need in the years ahead for a more focused and integrated approach to better meeting cyclists’ needs.”
Funding for cycling – is it going down?
Boris said TfL had made £24.5 million available to London boroughs for cycling projects this year, down from £26.4m in 2008/09 but up from 23.6m in 07/08. He said the body would also be spending £12m on cycle highways, of which at least £4m was likely to be spent on borough roads.
Asked whether he could guarantee that expenditure by the boroughs on walking and cycling would not “decline rapidly”, he insisted spending on cycling in London was increasing. He said: “In 2005/6, TfL spent £21.7m on cycling. This rose to £28.9m in 2006/07 and £35.1m in 2007/08. TfL expects to spend £44.8m in 2008/9 and £111.3m in 2009/10.”
Boris denied disregarding the views of cycling organisations, and said: “Now that … [Way to Go!] and TfL’s Business Plan are in the public domain I am keen that we begin to more fully engage with the cycle lobby, the boroughs and other stakeholders on how to develop and deliver the new direction for cycling.”
Are roads becoming more dangerous for cyclists?
Boris’s decision to allow motorbikes in bus lanes has provoked a storm of protest. He told Labour’s John Biggs that cyclist groups including Cycling England, the London Cycling Campaign, Sustrans and the Bicycle Association had been consulted about the initiative.
In response to concerns voiced by the Green Party’s Jenny Jones about the safety of other road users, Boris said TfL would assess the move during an 18-month trial and would then make a decision based on “robust and evidence-based data”, including analysis of road casualty statistics.
Mr Biggs asked him for his view on cycle lanes, given that some critics argue they increase risk to cyclists by taking away their choice as to where to position themselves on the road.
The mayor said: “I believe that cyclists should be able to use all of London’s roads in safety and free from fear and that this should not require costly engineering schemes that have significant impacts on other road users. My proposals for cycle highways will provide safe and continuous routes for cyclists that will include cycle lanes where these might be appropriate and of real benefit.”
Boris provided road casualty figures in response to questions from Ms Shawcross. He said that on the Transport for London road network in 2007 (the latest year for which finalised collision data is available) there were 146 collisions in which a cyclist was seriously or fatally injured and 317 in which a pedestrian was seriously or fatally injured, out of a total of 993 accidents.
The mayor said the number of serious accidents involving cyclists and (non-articulated) buses had remained stable, with one death and 16 serious accidents in 2005/06, no fatalities and 18 serious collisions in 2006/07 and one death and 19 accidents in 2007/08.
Ms Shawcross reminded Boris that in September 2007 he had claimed bendy (articulated) buses “wipe out cyclists” and “there are many cyclists killed every year by them”. She said: “Given that there have been no fatal incidents and only four serious incidents involving articulated buses and cyclists since they were introduced, on what evidence did you base this claim?”
The mayor replied: “There is a record of serious incidents involving cyclists and bendy buses. TfL defines serious incidents as those where a cyclist may have required treatment, including in hospital. There was one serious incident involving a cyclist in each of the years 2005/06 and 06/07, and two in 07/08.
“Analysis that was undertaken by TfL earlier this year showed that bendy buses were involved in 32 percent more collisions in total and 36 percent more collisions with cyclists than non-articulated buses serving a similar area, per vehicle kilometre.”
2012 Olympics – are the Games a good thing for cyclists?
The 2012 Olympics in London should be a chance for Britain’s cyclists to shine, but the Games have already caused controversy – a promised 34-hectare cycling centre at Eastway Cycle Circuit in East London now looks to have morphed into a two-hectare site with no mountain bike facilities; the cross-country mountain biking event looks set to take place in Essex, one of the flattest counties in England; and cycle routes have been closed to make way for Olympic developments.
However, in response to questions from Ms Jones, Boris insisted the Games would be a boon for cyclists, with secure bike parking available at Olympic venues both before, during and after the event.
He said “alternatives and diversions” had been identified for cycle routes that might be interrupted by Olympic construction activity and new cycle routes across the Olympic Park would “greatly enhance its connections with the local area and the rest of London”. He also said TfL was looking into improving safety for cyclists and pedestrians at Bow flyover.