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Did Boris and Gilligan really deliver for London’s cyclists?

Rik Andrew (Chair, London Cycling Campaign’s junctions/infrastructure review group 2011-2015) London SE6
02 February 2018

Given that nothing really happened for the first seven Boris years, except endless ‘consultation’, and there was then a mad rush to implement a few schemes in his final year (not all of them high quality) it seems a bit rich for Andrew Gilligan to criticise Sadiq Khan for “letting cycling stagnate’’ but he does have a point (‘Khan has let capital’s cycling agenda stagnate, claims Gilligan’ LTT 19 Jan). 

Val Shawcross and Sadiq Khan stated very early on that more good quality segregated cycle tracks would be built and that their priorities were cycle superhighways 9 and 4 (CS9 & CS4) – both were obviously needed and both clearly viable, and CS4 had already been designed –  so, there was no need to wait for Will Norman’s appointment, just get on with it!

However, one has to ask: why did Gilligan not expedite work on these high demand (but still poor quality, high risk) radial routes? And why were so few of the capital’s 33 worst junctions made ‘Better’ by Boris and Andrew? 

Bow Roundabout, King’s Cross, Lambeth Bridge, Camberwell Green, etc. are indeed very high priorities for action, but why were they not fixed under the previous administration? All were redesigned two or three years ago. It is not necessary to waste six months modelling, nor another six months consulting every possible objector. Now Will Norman says 73 hazardous junctions need to be made safe – how long will that take?

Mr Gilligan is right to highlight that Will Norman is only a Transport for London middle manager. The walking and cycling commissioner should be independent of Transport for London – and be prepared to employ another supplier to do the job, properly, if TfL fails to deliver. But, it would be easier for Mr Norman to get things done, had Boris Johnson and Andrew Gilligan not gone along with TfL’s painfully slow and often unnecessary processes/delaying tactics; and had they challenged the borough veto, or reclassified strategically important London borough roads as part of the Transport for London Road Network (TLRN) e.g. the A315/A200.

Boris and Andrew Gilligan also failed to stop TfL using bad old unsafe designs e.g. early start traffic signals for cyclists, also known as early death. These have meant that no two-stage right turns are safe, as either the 1st stage or 2nd is a left hook. Cyclists clearly avoid using these dangerous ‘facilities’ yet TfL persist in implementing them. Mr Norman is too naïve and inexperienced to challenge TfL on design issues – Andrew Gilligan and Boris Johnson knew better but did not intervene. 

As Andrew says, only 20% of the boroughs are committed to improving cycling infrastructure, but that is no excuse for giving up work at borough boundaries, e.g. the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea). It is absurd that CS9 will not continue along Kensington High Street – one of seven east-west main roads in the borough, none of which have cycle facilities. 

Boris and Andrew failed to tackle this major problem, and it looks like Sadiq and Will will duck this key issue too. Cycle routes often pass through three or four Londoin boroughs – there is no reason any should have a veto, and no reason why the TLRN cannot be changed. Radial cycle routes are strategic, regardless of which roads/paths they use. Passengers on the number 10 bus aren’t asked to dismount and walk through Kensington! 

Andrew Gilligan also failed to implement Boris Johnson’s promise to upgrade all four of the sub-standard phase 1 cycle superhighways. CS7 and CS8 are still just as bad as CS2 used to be; and although CS2 is now segregated, it still has ‘left hooks’ at many junctions, and it still ends short of Aldgate – not a ‘workplace destination’. It was supposed to go to Ilford. Nine Elms Lane could and should have become a cycle superhighway under Andrew Gilligan.

Yes Andrew did leave several schemes ready to be implemented, and Sadiq Khan has done nothing to progress them, but Gilligan’s on-street legacy could and should have been so much better – making it much easier for Sadiq and Will to continue. The Zone 1 cycling grid (the centrepiece of Boris Johnson’s Cycling ‘Vision’) has not materialised at all; only one Quietway was implemented; CS3 got diverted around The City via a polluted under-pass; and CS5 & CS6 are absurdly short.  

The reality is that, despite eight years of a cycling mayor, good quality cycle infrastructure is still very much the exception in London and it takes too long to deliver – Sadiq and Will Norman have very few good exemplars on which to build. 

Under Boris, time was wasted on a pointless vanity project: installing cycle lanes on the elevated Westway in west London – now rightly cancelled. And money was wasted building segregated tracks where they are least needed, such as Hyde Park – it’s much simpler and cheaper to filter out through traffic as Sadiq and Will Norman now propose in Regents Park. 

Cancelling Quietways and London Cycle Network upgrades would make no sense. But mayor Khan does need to do them – and the cycle superhighways – better, or not at all.

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