London’s streets not wide enough to give space for cyclists

Victorian street layout rules out complete cycle lane segregation

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The hope for Continental levels space for cycling to cut down on serious accidents and fatalities in London’s growing population of commuter riders has been ruled out.

Andrew Gilligan, London’s commissioner for cycling, said today that the city’s narrow Victorian roads prevented such a complete reworking in favour of space for cyclists.

However, planned revisions to London’s Cycle Superhighway (CS) network were announced, with £35m to be spent improving existing tracks and building a new largely segregated north-south route from Elephant & Castle to Kings Cross.

Also included in the plans is a major overhaul of the notorious CS2 section between Bow roundabout and Whitechapel. The eastern end of existing superhighway CS8, from Wandsworth to Westminster, will be relocated south of the river added Gilligan.

And plans for CS1 from Tottenham to the City – a route still to be built – will be revisited. It will use backstreets rather than a narrow main road.

The new £10m north-south track from Elephant & Castle to Kings Cross will be given dedicated carriageway space for most of the route – including over Blackfriars Bridge – though it will likely divert into backstreets after Farringdon to avoid busy – and narrow – main roads.

Alterations to the characteristic blue network are scheduled to finish by the end of 2015.

“We can’t do full segregation on all our narrow Victorian high streets but we are going to improve all our existing highways,” Gilligan said. “Where we can’t improve them to a sufficient standard we’re going to move them off onto other streets where we can do better. All the existing superhighways are going to be upgraded before 2016 and all the new ones we’re announcing will be before 2016.”

Meanwhile, at today’s launch of the fully segregated CS2 extension from Bow to Stratford, a Royal Mail van driver was photographed driving in the mandatory cyclist only lane. Minutes later, a Virgin Media works van drove over the high curb and parked in the superhighways next to a junction box, as London Mayor Boris Johnson launched the new route.

Commenting on the infractions, Gilligan said it “would take a while” for road users to get used to the new road layout.

“What we saw there was a Virgin van drive right over the concrete which takes a certain amount of brass neck I think. You won’t see much of that,” he said.  

Virgin Media last night apologised on social media for the infraction and said it would not happen again.

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 Last month Roger Geffen, campaigns and policy director at the CTC, said the complexity of regulations over mandatory and advisory cycle lanes was confusing for drivers and called for more physical segregation and law changes to give cyclists right of way at junctions.