Laura LakerFri 21 Sep 2018 12.24 BST
The mayor of London is proud of his work boosting cycling in the capital, but his critics say too little is being done
Sadiq Khan, and London’s walking and cycling commissioner, Will Norman, open a major extension to Cycle Superhighway 6 between Farringdon and King’s Cross on 20 September. Photograph: Stefan Rousseau/PA
On a blustery September day two years into his mayoralty of London, Sadiq Khan appears atop a Santander cycle to open a stretch of kerb-protected bike lane – the 2.5km extension of cycle superhighway 6, from Farringdon to Kings Cross. It may be the first time he’s appeared officially on a bike since his 2016 election campaign but he seems genuinely passionate about cycling and walking, and has clearly done his homework – even if some of his stats don’t tell the whole story.
Flanked by his deputy mayor for transport, Heidi Alexander, and his walking and cycling commissioner, Will Norman, Khan is bullish about his cycling record. This despite ongoing criticism over delays, and a bruising exchange with Westminster city council this summer – the council he brands “anti-walking, anti-cycling” after it blocked cycle superhighway 11 and Oxford Street pedestrianisation in quick succession.
Given the time it’s taken to get this far, many Londoners wonder how he will meet his pre-election pledge to triple to 36 miles the length of protected cycle routes built by his predecessor, Boris Johnson.
With commuters on bikes streaming past on the new cycle tracks and pedestrians using the improved crossings, Khan talks quickly, sweeping away criticism of slow progress.
“In the first two years – you mention the previous guy – we have built 140km of new cycle infrastructure,” says Khan. “This is 5km of a cycle superhighway. It took the previous guy six years to do one mile, so I’m happy to compare myself to Boris all day long.”
Although Khan is correct (he’s counting cycle tracks in both directions), the London Cycling Campaign (LCC) argues he should be averaging out mileage completed in Johnson’s last two years of mayoralty– not least given that most, if not all, of the schemes Khan is counting for himself were started by the previous administration.
Then there’s the fact that about 120km of the routes Khan is claiming, are cycle quietways, some of which are problematic to the point that Johnson’s cycling commissioner, who started them off, has branded the scheme a failure. Although some sections of routes are good, the LCC says “just about every single quietway we have seen has major issues”, from dangerous junctions to high traffic volumes and speeds, because boroughs are unwilling to restrict motor traffic.
CS6 is popular, though, even if imperfect – leaving the main road a couple of times to zig-zag on back streets – and huge numbers of people on bikes accumulate at each phase of the traffic lights. Khan seems to “get” cycling as a viable method of mass transport, and recognises that things need to get moving.
“Look at the evidence”, he says. “The fastest form of transport in London is cycling. In central London there are more than half a million kilometres cycled each day.