Cycling Superhighways: Compromise and change

An artist's impression of part of the planned segregated cycle scheme Image copyright Transport for London
Image caption There would be two routes running from north-south and east-west London

Last week I chaired a debate at the Centre for London on segregated cycle superhighways.

A number of groups including the Freight Transport Association, Federation of Small Businesses and Canary Wharf Group were there to voice some concerns.

Other groups like Cycling Works and the mayor's cycling commissioner also argued that Londoners deserved safer cycle lanes.

There were lots of people there on both sides of the debate. You can see a recap of the debate here.

This was my opening where I summed up a few moments that have stuck in my mind from covering cycling over the years:

"The first time I heard about cycle lanes being put on the Embankment was in 2008, I was at a briefing with one of the mayor's aides. He said something along the lines of there's "plenty of room on the Embankment pavement for some cycle lanes".

That was six years ago so it shows you how long these things take and that this idea is not new.

Father's grief

The other image that sticks with me is when Mayor Boris Johnson appeared in front of the cycling hustings in 2012 just before the mayoral elections when the Times and London Cycling Campaign had started campaigning for segregated lanes.

He thought he was amongst friends but the reception was hostile.

The mayor looked visibly shocked. Shortly after that he changed his cycling policy to join the other candidates to push segregation.

The other thing that sticks in my mind is the coroners' hearings of cyclists killed that I have sat through; you don't forget the dignity of someone like Debbie Dorling whose husband died at Bow roundabout.

It was also in a coroners' court that I saw the father of a girl who died cycling.

He walked over to the HGV driver who had unwittingly killed his daughter. He looked him in the eye, shook his hand and walked out.

In my experience all those involved in cycling deaths are devastated. In my opinion something needs to be done. So what is the answer? Is it segregated cycling superhighways?"

Common ground

What was striking to me chairing the debate was how there is quite a lot of common ground between the groups. There was talk of working together between Canary Wharf and the mayor's cycling commissioner.

What was also striking is there will be compromises on the east/west cycle superhighway. They will be changed to take on board the concerns over increases in vehicle congestion.

We don't know what the mitigation will be (Cycling Commissioner Andrew Gilligan wouldn't tell us) but expect changes. Transport for London is now going through every one of the 20,000 consultation responses. That has slowed down the process.

The new plans when they emerge next year will face huge scrutiny from both sides of the debate.

Will cyclists be satisfied? Will business?

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