'Crossrail for bikes' set for London

London to get 'cycle Crossrail'

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London is to get a "Crossrail for bikes" as part of a £913m investment plan in cycling, the mayor announced.

The route is expected to open in 2016 and could run for more than 15 miles (24km) through the western suburbs, central London and Barking.

It will use a Dutch-style segregated cycle track along places like Victoria Embankment and the Westway flyover.

But only £300m is guaranteed until 2015 after which Mayor Boris Johnson said the government will review the funding.

Mr Johnson said although he was sure the government will see the "massive economic benefits" of the scheme, funding for all infrastructure projects will be reviewed by the government.

"But that is the case I am afraid to say with the Tube upgrades, it's the case with all our funding post 2014-2015," he added.

In one of the very first meetings I had with the then PR chief of City Hall he mentioned putting a cycle lane on Victoria Embankment.

That was five years ago and it has taken considerable political pressure from many quarters to get to today's announcement.

The plans are hugely ambitious and cycling campaigners are delighted. But the elephant in the room is funding.

Only part of this is budgeted for at present - this and other schemes will depend on the government grant to TfL staying static otherwise cuts will have to be made somewhere - and the Tube upgrade money is ring fenced.

It will also be another mayor who has to implement the lion's share of this idea.

There's no doubting the audacity of the scheme. Now it's all about delivery.

The London Assembly welcomed the plan but the transport committee chairwoman said £913m was not enough.

Separated cycle routes

As part of the "cycling revolution" some dangerous junctions, such as those at Blackfriars and Vauxhall, will also be redesigned.

Over the next four years, the cycle routes will be created and run parallel to Tube lines and bus routes.

Other announcements include:

  • More "semi-segregation" with bikes better separated from other vehicles;
  • A new network of "Quietways" which will be "direct, continuous, fully-signposted routes on peaceful side streets" which will run into the suburbs;
  • One of the six traffic lanes from the Westway flyover will be removed;
  • Substantial improvements to both existing and proposed Superhighways, including some reroutings;
  • Junctions at Blackfriars, Vauxhall, Tower, Swiss Cottage, and Elephant & Castle will be redesigned;
  • More 20 mph zones;
  • A new "Central London Grid" of bike routes in the City and West End, using segregation and two-way cycling on one-way traffic streets, to join all the other routes together;
  • A trial of electric bikes will be conducted, including a small self-contained public electric bike hire scheme, similar to Barclays Cycle Hire which itself will be expanded to Wandsworth, Lambeth and Hammersmith & Fulham.
'De-Lycrafy cycling'

Mr Johnson said: "I want to make it normal, something for everyone, something you feel comfortable doing in your ordinary clothes. Our new routes will give people the confidence to get in the saddle.

"I want to de-Lycrafy cycling," he added.

"I do not promise perfection, or that London will become Amsterdam any time soon. But what I do say is that this plan marks a profound shift in my ambitions and intentions for the bicycle."

Mr Johnson said this would also "fulfil" his aim of making London's air cleaner.

Transport for London (TfL) is currently trialling eye-level traffic lights for cyclists and "Dutch-style" roundabouts.

Additional measures being investigated include encouraging haulage companies to undertake out-of-hours deliveries and monitoring the experience of cities which have banned lorries from certain parts.

Sir Peter Hendy, Transport Commissioner for London, said: "These policies are a step-change in cycling provision, and I commit TfL to delivering them as one of its highest priorities."

'Badgered Boris'

The London Assembly welcomed the improvements, but Caroline Pidgeon, Liberal Democrat chair of the assembly's transport committee said £913m was not enough to finance the changes.

She said: "Its impact will be diluted over 10 years and is not a significant advancement on current funding levels.

"To have real impact, we're calling for the investment in cycling to be doubled."

London Assembly Green Party member Darren Johnson said the plan lacked "coherence and adequate funding".

Val Shawcross, Labour's transport spokeswoman, said: "We will have to monitor the mayor's plans closely to make sure they are actually delivered and don't become another 'Boris Island' that never comes to pass."

However campaigner from IBikeLondon, Mark Ames, said: "This is a real kind of change in the way the mayor is delivering cycling infrastructure and in that sense I feel cycling campaigners feel quite victorious.

"We really persistently badgered Boris in the run-up to his re-election and now he's delivering on his pre-election promises."

The first "Quietways" could open next year, with the improved Superhighways and the central section of "bike Crossrail" expected to be completed by 2016.

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