We’re hugely supportive of the plan to deliver a tenfold increase in cycling and a fivefold increase in walking, in the rapid roll-out of pop-up cycle tracks, low traffic neighbourhoods, wider pavements and more. Will Norman, the Walking & Cycling Commissioner has called these plans “unparalleled in a city London’s size”, in a clear aim at Paris’ rapid progress ahead of our capital. Paris has plans for 650km of cycle track during the crisis and has already rolled out 50km, leaving London in the dust on pace of progress.
Why we need speed
Progress and pace are so important in a city where public transport will be operating at a fraction of previous capacity for the foreseeable future. People without cars should not have to face a choice between using crowded public transport or dealing with road danger. So, delivering the Streetspace programme rapidly is critical for the thousands of new cyclists who have ventured onto our roads for the first time and for many more still to start.
The Streetspace programme is vital for the effective functioning of our city as well. We face a real risk of higher car use than we’ve seen in decades as people return to work. One study estimates a 22% London-wide increase in car commuting compared to before – that’s a recipe for total gridlock, terrifying pollution levels and a total collapse in cycling levels. Just about everyone agrees on the real risk from increased motor traffic coming out of this crisis – it’s why we’re asking you to email council leaders today to #StopTheTrafficTide here: https://membership.lcc.org.uk/help-london-stop-tide-motor-traffic-returning
The problem is the motor traffic is coming back fast. And with it the opportunities to deliver schemes that enable those without cars to ride without fear, secure a green recovery, and tackle the next big crisis climate change are dwindling. Without core cycle routes that are continuous, feel safe and connect, we simply won’t enable people to start cycling or to continue riding as traffic builds up. If you need to get to work and you don’t have a safe cycle route, most people won’t cycle – they’ll drive, or squeeze onto a bus, or just struggle. And the opportunity to give that person a choice of active travel they might welcome is lost, possibly for years.
As ever, some boroughs are way ahead on their delivery and some far behind, that’s why we’re asking you to email council leaders today to #StopTheTrafficTide. But there’s also a growing concern that TfL and the Mayor aren’t moving fast enough either.
Progress so far
It has been well over a month now since the Mayor announced his Streetspace Plan. Since then he has put in 1km of track on Park Lane and now has begun to upgrade the blue paint CS8 route – although as the pic above attests, as of this weekend, not only was the route far from finished, part of it (in Westminster, unsurprisingly) appears to include painted cycle logos shoved up next to a security barrier. Last night work started on Hampstead Road too. But no sign yet of Euston Road, which was in the original press release and is pictured above – loads of cyclists, no protected spce. We need a lot more, a lot faster.
The worry is the usual forces against change inside and outside TfL and City Hall are slowing down progress – from boroughs not playing ball, to TfL’s teams responsible for keeping buses and private motor traffic moving. Now, however, is not the moment to slow down or get bogged down.
Everyone will need to compromise, schemes will be imperfect, but the pace needs to stay fast – where there isn’t space for tracks, for now, parallel routes or bus gates or 24/7 bus/cycle only lanes with no parking might be the best we can manage. What matters more is getting schemes in, and fast. But also it’s vital to recognise that buses, for now, can’t be a mass mode of transport – whereas cycling can –and that if something has to give between pavement, cycle track and bus lanes, it’s actually the lanes for private motor traffic that need looking at, both for parking and driving.
We need the Mayor and TfL to pick up the pace on their roads. Not just to ensure schemes don’t get stuck as motor traffic levels rise, and not just to provide that space for cycling that represents a real alternative now to the motor car, but also to demonstrate to boroughs that this can be done and must be done. A Mayor that expects boroughs to deliver before he does isn’t showing enough leadership in a crisis. And that’s what’s needed now: a Mayor that achieves fast, despite the obstacles. After all, that’s what’s happening in Paris – Mayor Anne Hidalgo has got 35km of cycle track in Paris at last count, with 650km planned. Sadiq implies he will top that. Well, it’s time for him to get a move on.