Back in March 2013 we produced this blog about the then Mayor, Boris Johnson’s exciting cycling infrastructure plans for London named ‘The Mayor’s Vision for Cycling in London”.
As part of capitalising on the success of the London Olympics in 2012, the announcement boasted a number of key initiatives aimed at increasing cycling in the Capital and transforming how we get about. At the centre of this was making cycling the mode of choice and signalling a move away from our prioritisation of, and reliance upon, cars.
The initiative promised less road and rail crowding as well as a reduction in noise and pollution. So, seven years on, we wanted to revisit the Mayor’s vision and ask whether this really was a new age for cycling or just another false dawn.
Dealing with the key aspects in turn:-
1. A Crossrail for bikes from Canary Wharf to White City
This plan involved creating a segregated cycle superhighway stretching 15 miles across the heart of London – the longest substantially-segregated city cycle route in Europe. Despite delays and opponents, in 2016 the first part of the cycle route was unveiled and whilst unpopular with motorists who have lost a carriageway to the segregated cycle lane, this project appears to signal a successful move towards prioritising greener modes of transport.
2. A re-think of TFL’s policy on dangerous junctions
Junctions account for only 20 per cent of road space, but as of 2013, were the sites of 75 per cent of cyclist deaths in the previous three years.
Looking back at what has happened since, in June 2019 TFL announced the opening of consultations on major safety improvements at five dangerous London junctions. The proposals include new road layouts, wider crossings, segregated cycle bypasses and closures of some roads to motor traffic.
However, criticising a “lack of progress” in October 2019, thousands of Londoners signed a petition by the London Cycling Campaign (LCC) demanding the Mayor take more urgent action on reducing road danger for those walking and cycling at dangerous junctions in the capital. Clearly, there is a lot more to be done in this respect.
3. A series of ‘mini-Hollands’ in some outer London boroughs
This aspect of the plan was to choose between one and three Outer London boroughs to make into ‘mini-Hollands’, with high spending concentrated on relatively small areas for the greatest possible impact. The idea, over time, was that these areas would become every bit as cycle-friendly as their Dutch equivalents.
The London Boroughs of Enfield, Kingston and Waltham Forest were ultimately decided as recipients of full funding for the proposals.
Several years on and in assessing the impact, many of the schemes are still in delivery but there is, however, evidence of a positive impact on active travel behaviour.
The Guardian reported in June 2018 that the first study of the project found that boroughs with the schemes have boosted walking and cycling rates. Plans are afoot to expand similar projects to other London boroughs which is to be welcomed.
4. A network of Quietways
The creation of Quietways referred to a cross-London network of high-quality guided, direct routes that would be created on low-traffic back streets and other routes so different kinds of cyclists can choose the routes which suit them. The plans were for these routes to be better-surfaced and clearly signed making it impossible to lose your way.
The hope was this would make them more appealing to less confident cyclists but in some areas it appears Quietways are little more than faded paint on tarmac at the edge of a road.
Sadly, the feedback on this project appears mixed. One criticism is that because the vast majority of Quietways are on roads run by different London boroughs, the inception of the project has been varied. Some have described the project as failing and a mess because local councils were hampering their development.
In the Mayor’s 2013 cycling vision is was stated that “…by 2020 the London cycle network will be easily understood and heavily used”. In my view and having taken the time to consider some of the 2013 plans, TFL and the Government ought to be congratulated on what has been achieved so far. That said, for most the ambitious plans have only seen part implementation and success. This has meant that cycling in London remains unduly dangerous and an unattractive mode of travel for many. For example, in 2018, there was a 14 per cent increase in people who were ‘seriously’ injured while cycling.
It is hoped that the e-scooter and e-bikes movement will serve to increase pressure on Government and TFL to re-double efforts to make cycling a viable option for Londoners.
There is certainly a great deal to be achieved if TFL’s ‘vision zero’ – the Mayor’s plan to reduce road danger and have no one killed on London’s roads by 2041 – is to be realised.
Joshua Hughes is a partner and Head of the Complex Injury team at Bolt Burdon Kemp. If you or a loved one has been injured as a result of an accident or sub-standard medical treatment, contact Joshua free of charge and in confidence on 020 7288 4817 or at firstname.lastname@example.org for specialist legal advice. Alternatively, you can complete this form and one of the solicitors in the Complex Injury team will contact you.