Gilligan was London’s cycling commissioner from 2013 to 2016
Tuesday 7 November 2017 11.37 GMT
Sadiq Khan’s proposal to ban cyclists from Oxford Street, published on Monday, is an unqualified disaster for cycling in London, perhaps the single biggest blow it has suffered in years. And he’s sending an even more dangerous signal to the rest of the country.
More than 2,000 cyclists a day, according to Department for Transport figures, use the first section proposed for pedestrianisation next year, between Selfridges and Oxford Circus. More than 5,000 a day use the section between Oxford Circus and Tottenham Court Road, which is proposed to be pedestrianised in 2019.
These numbers make Oxford Street one of the busiest cycling roads in London. But while yesterday’s announcement includes pages of detail on what happens for taxis, buses, access, and motorists, the alternative arrangement for all those thousands of cyclists gets three sentences.
Transport for London, you’ll be relieved to know, is “developing proposals” for a “high-quality east-west cycle route to the north of Oxford Street”. No further particulars are given, perhaps because a glance at the map would show that the promise is impossible to deliver. East of Oxford Circus, and for almost half a mile north of Oxford Street, there are simply no parallel roads on which such a route could run. None of the east-west roads link up at all directly with those taking you further east.
West of the Circus, travelling in the other direction, parallel roads do exist. But they are controlled by Westminster City Council, meaning the chances of anything serious being done for cyclists on them are about nil. These roads are already busier than Oxford Street is now. They will be busier still once all the taxis and some of the buses move on to them. Even reaching them will require time-consuming diversions and hazardous right turns in traffic.
What will almost certainly happen, therefore, is that large numbers of cyclists will ignore the ban. Oxford Street will become London’s biggest unofficial example of the notorious failure that is “shared space”. That won’t be good for pedestrians, or for the image of cycling. There will be near-misses or worse, arrests, fines, stories in the Daily Mail. For the avoidance of doubt, I do not approve of anyone disobeying the rules. But it’s what happens when you make proposals for a road that totally ignore one of its main user groups.
- Have your say on the Oxford Street plans here.