Cycling London

An East-West and North-South Cycle Superhighway for London?


TfL is currently consulting on a couple of proposed “Cycle Superhighways” – an East-West route from Paddington to Tower Hill and a North-South route from St Pancras to Elephant & Castle. The consultations close on 12 October.

The Cycle Superhighways punch right through the centre of London, they are generally wide and properly segregated from traffic. The space is often being made available by reclaiming a traffic lane. The Mayor has referred to them as a “Crossrail for Bikes”, which is a fair description. The two routes meet at the Blackfriars junction.

The east-west route has some curious quirks – it takes a circuitous route around Hyde Park, whereas a new lane going right through the park, or the existing cycle track in the north-east, would surely work better. I expect this is thanks to a lack of cooperation from the Royal Parks authorities – they really should travel to Central Park in New York City to see how world city parks are done properly. It also has a strange section where it takes another tunnel alongside the Blackfriars Tunnel, even though the latter is having one lane closed anyway to keep the traffic lane count consistent. But overall it is a well planned route. Cyclists retain right-of-way over most of the side streets, they don’t have annoying chicanes around the “floating” bus stops, and the “early start” lights (which actually simply act to ensure a cyclist will never get a green light right through) are few and far between.

The north-south route is less completely planned – the core section from Farringdon to Elephant & Castle however is ready for the detailed consultation. A strange dogleg on the approach to Elephant & Castle is unfortunate – “Superhighway” cyclists are always going to be looking for the fastest route, which the route does not take here – but apart from that it is a good, and straight, route.

I very much hope these two routes get built in their planned form and the proposals don’t get watered down. But also I would like Transport for London to focus on improving the busiest existing infrastructure too. Today on my research blog I publish a map showing estimated routes for 12 million bikeshare trips earlier this year. It shows the “Route 0” cyclepath, south of and parallel to Euston Road, as being the busiest of all. There is a good section of segregated two-way cycleway, but it’s horribly cramped, with queues of cyclists at rush-hour often so long that they back onto the next junction. The roadway alongside is normally less busy and therefore often makes for a quicker cycle route. I would also like many more one-way streets to be made two-way for cycles only – the “Sauf Vélo” popular in France, but for London. This can be done on a “lightweight” basis with minimal signage change, so there should be many, many more streets allowing such flows. After all, we don’t make pedestrians walk in a single direction!

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