Will NormanMon 31 Dec 2018 12.25 GMT
I reject the suggestion that the capital’s action plan contains nothing new
Two weeks ago, the mayor of London and I spent a morning cycling with the leader of Enfield council looking at their excellent new protected cycleways and secure bike parking hub at Edmonton Green station. Together we unveiled Transport for London’s new cycling action plan, which aims to make London the world’s best big city for cycling and to double the number of cycle journeys in five years.
The launch follows the publication of this year’s TfL business plan, in which Sadiq Khan demonstrated his continuing commitment to cycling by not only protecting the record level of funding for cycling, but increasing it from an average of £169m to £214m a year. This commitment is despite central government’s complete withdrawal of the £700m annual operating grant, which has left TfL in a tough financial position, compounded by the delay and increased cost of Crossrail.
There have been some suggestions that our cycling action plan contains nothing new. This is a claim that I completely reject. We are progressing with the biggest ever expansion of London’s cycle network, with a 280-mile network of high-quality cycle routes to be delivered by 2024. The plan speeds up construction of our planned cycle ways. It confirms the alignment of two major new routes, from Tottenham to Camden and Hackney to the Isle of Dogs. And it announces the funding of another two major routes from our pipeline of 25: Greenwich to Woolwich and Oval to Streatham, via Brixton.
Our new approach is built on solid evidence. The strategic cycling analysis, released last year, is a new tool that uses growth forecasts, population information, safety data and existing demand to identify where investment in high-quality cycling provision can make the biggest impact and deliver the best value for money. This action plan translates the analysis of links into a delivery pipeline of routes and lets people know when spades go into the ground.
Where I agree with our critics is on the quality of some of what TfL has funded and built in the past. The mayor and I inherited Quietways of limited ambition and no defined standards. That, combined with the lack of political will in some councils, is what led to some not being good enough. Too many plans have been watered down and intentions to reduce traffic dropped. It’s been my priority to change that and in the plan we share brand new quality criteria for any type of cycle infrastructure. In future, TfL simply won’t fund routes that aren’t good enough – for example Quietway 6 in Tower Hamlets, where the plans were substandard. We will not fund this section unless it is improved.
The new quality criteria include limits on the volumes and speed of motor traffic, numbers of HGVs and collision risk at junctions. The full detailed criteria will be included as an update to the London cycle design standards in spring 2019, and will be regularly reviewed as part of the continuing development of cycling infrastructure design. The aim is that, where traffic levels are high, cycle routes will either need to reduce traffic below the new acceptable threshold, or provide segregation.
But don’t think increasing quality means we won’t be able to build. The majority of councils understand the need for safe cycling and more communities are standing up and demanding it. As even more neighbourhoods are improved, with safer streets and cleaner air, this demand will only increase. Those boroughs who don’t share our ambitions will be left behind, residents will notice and demand change from their local politicians.
The new high-quality routes will be part of a single unified network, dropping the existing Cycle Superhighway and Quietway brands. Londoners have told us that the distinction can be misleading and confusing. We intend to use a single brand for all routes, in line with international best practice, making it easier for people to plan their journeys and navigate the network. Of course, this doesn’t mean less separation from traffic. Segregated cycle tracks on main roads and through major junctions are the backbone of our emerging network. The mayor has already doubled the amount of protected infrastructure that was built by his predecessor and is on track to triple it by the end of his term.
Make no mistake, Sadiq Khan is fully committed to enabling more Londoners to cycle in London. The cycling action plan demonstrates his ambition and sets out how it will be delivered. Please read the plan (pdf) and let me know what you think. More importantly, talk to your local community and councillors. By working together, we can improve what’s already there and make sure future routes are as good as they can be, and are on the ground without delay.
• Will Norman is London’s cycling commissioner