Cycle Superhighways could be key to avoiding transport turmoil. Nick Brown, MD of havebike, explains.
Construction on London’s highly anticipated Cycle Superhighways is now in full swing. Nicknamed “Crossrail for bikes” the two segregated cycle lanes, running north to south and east to west, are set for completion just in time for Boris Johnson to cycle off into the sunset at the end of his tenure as Mayor early next year.
Despite small but vocal opposition, the highways could be amongst Boris’ least controversial legacies. According to a poll by Transport for London (TfL), an estimated 84% of Londoners backed the creation of the highways, along with a huge list of city employers including City of London Police, Crown Estate and Jones Lang Lasalle.
A significant part of the most extensive road modernisation in TfL’s history, the routes will stretch for three miles, from Elephant & Castle to Farringdon, and seventeen miles from Lancaster Gate to Tower Hill. Almost entirely segregated from other traffic, the new lanes are TfL’s most demonstrable endorsement of cycling safety to date.
So far the only outspoken detractors of the lanes are parties who have a vested interest in stopping cycling in the city, as opposed to any decent argument against it. Unsurprisingly, those parties have consisted mostly of taxi groups, automobile clubs and anticycling City executives, who have raised concerns over public costs, pedestrian panic and traffic gridlock, not only during construction but once the highways are in use.
Yet those concerns can seem trivial compared to the growing number of cyclists on London roads approximately 64% of traffic at peak times and the necessary relief that cyclists are set to provide for TfL’s train, tube and bus services.
TfL anticipates that by 2031, London’s population will have grown by 13%, with the creation of an additional 800,000 jobs in the city. Considering the strain already felt by London’s most prominent modes of public transport, existing systems would buckle under the stress of 800,000 additional daily commutes. These Cycle Superhighways aren’t just symbolic of TFL’s support for cycling in the city; they represent an important and necessary change in London’s transportation infrastructure that will help change the perception around cycle safety.
When it comes to cycle safety, I agree with Sergeant Simon Castle from the Metropolitan Police’s Cycle Safety Team, when he says, “it’s important to remember that cycling, statistically, is a pretty safe activity but of course it doesn’t always feel that way”.
Giving this space to cyclists will be a huge boost to cycle safety in London, and segregated lanes have the potential to encourage commuters looking to get on their bikes. Yet as much as segregated cycle lanes will improve cycling safety, it’s important to remember that even if cyclists plan their routes around the highways, the likelihood is that they won’t be cycling in segregated lanes from door to door. Cyclists need to know that whatever route they take, they will come into contact with traffic.
As Sgt Castle reminds us, “there is no single way to make Londoners safer when cycling. Free cycle training is available to everyone who lives or works in London. Police enforcement, the Safer Lorry Scheme and compulsory lorry driver training are all making vehicles safer. The new Cycle Superhighways and the forthcoming Quietways will make our city more cycle focused. It is this combination of measures that must get cyclists cycling more and, more importantly, get more people cycling.”
Another issue often excluded from debates over cycle safety is the roadworthiness of the bike itself. Over the winter, especially, cyclists should remember to make sure that their bike remains roadworthy, with tyres checked for damage/wear and inflated to correct pressure, effective brakes and proper illumination. Although the Highway Code does require a bicycle to be in a roadworthy condition, unlike a car, there’s no legal requirement for bikes to have an ‘MOT‘. However, dropping a bike in for a service every six months or so can really improve how it handles, which is just as important whether you’re sharing road space with buses and cars or thousands of other cyclists on the Superhighways.
Nick Brown is Managing Director of London bike service specialists havebike
Image and article republished with permission from London Loves Business. Original article can found here.