The BikeGrid is a realistic project that could transform swathes of London from noisy, grubby car alleys into open, safe and cheerful public spaces.
The London Mayor is set to announce this week a new network of safe cycling routes in London - see The Ecologist's news story. This represents an astonishing campaign success story for the London Cycling Campaign which set out its BikeGrid plan four years ago.
The new route will be at the least inspired by, and hopefully based on, the vision set in 2009. Here is the original article that introduced the Zone 1 BikeGrid ...
Bike Grid in Zone 1 could transform public spaces
The sad fact is there currently isn't one complete east-west or north-south cycle route that crosses Zone 1 - and central London needs an integrated cycle network now like never before. In response to this serious problem, LCC has produced plans for how a Zone 1 BikeGrid could be built quickly and at relatively low cost.
With the London Cycle Hire there are thousands of bikes and hundreds of docking stations across Zone 1, with many extra bike trips taken per day in that central area by business people, commuters, shoppers and tourists.
According to the Mayor Boris Johnson, the Cycle Superhighways will bring many new cyclists in central London. As it stands, there is no plan to create an integrated route network to meet the needs of this massive influx of new cyclists, or the long-suffering users of the existing road network.
Under current plans, cyclists using these commuter-friendly routes will simply disappear into the 'black hole' that is the current central London 'non-network', often being dumped unceremoniously into dangerous one-way systems like Aldgate or Tower Hill. It's a crazy situation and not one that's likely to help achieve the Mayor's target of a four-fold increase in cycling.
Action needed now!
We've used our cycling infrastructure expertise to minimise the need to build new cycle lanes. Instead, the BikeGrid uses existing road networks, improving them by making them two-way again, with traffic-calming measures designed to prioritise walking and cycling by reducing motor traffic speeds and volumes to levels that all Londoners find comfortable.
Chief Executive Koy Thomson said: "The BikeGrid is a realistic project that could transform swathes of London from noisy, grubby car alleys into open, safe and cheerful public spaces. Remember that 40 percent of households in London don't have a car and Zone 1 is principally an area for commerce, shopping and tourism.
"There's no reason why we can't reallocate space to cyclists and walkers in our public squares, just like they have in Times Square in New York. The Cycle Hire Scheme and the Cycle Superhighways mean now is the time to get this done.
"The BikeGrid would have an extraordinarily positive effect on Londoners' mobility, reallocating streets with low motor-traffic flow into an active-travel network encouraging very high levels of cycling and walking, pushing the capital towards achieving its targets for lowering CO2 and air pollution, reducing road traffic deaths, while boosting public health. The time is right for it now."
Transport for London has recognised there's a need for improvements to accompany the Cycle Hire Scheme, and has allocated £5 million for what it calls "complementary measures".
No coordination between the Boroughs
Despite the money being allocated centrally, there's no mechanism or process for co-ordination. The nine central London boroughs decide independently where the money should be spent and, if they're lucky, TfL can fit the bits together.
The BikeGrid provides the framework within which a new process of co-ordinating investment must fit. It will require the continuation of complementary measure funds and a dedicated delivery team. In other words, this should be a special project.
LCC first proposed a 'Central Area Network' back in 2002 and others have come up with similar schemes since. We argued back then, as we do now, that central London should have a proper, integrated cycle network and a single highway authority.
We know we have backers for the BikeGrid project within TfL and borough councils are likely to welcome the plans if it draws money into their neighbourhoods and improves their streets. What cyclists need now, and what London needs, is the green light from our cycling mayor to make this essential and overdue project a reality.
Background - the London Cycling Network Plus (LCN+)
LCN+ was to be a 500-mile cycle network in Greater London. It started in 2001 but most of the TfL funding stopped in 2010, leaving boroughs a choice whether to complete their sections or not. Unfortunately, only about 60 percent of the project (per TfL) has been completed (to varying standards). The hardest, most expensive and (many would argue) most important sections (often on TfL roads) were left until last. The end result is an incomplete project that is far from being a ‘network'.
In continental Europe most successful cycling cities boast cycle route networks and London still has the opportunity to create a basic network. New cycling projects like the Cycle Superhighways and Cycle Hire Scheme can tackle some LCN+ routes and barriers, while the Greenways programme and borough road improvements can tackle others. LCC suggests that co-ordinating new and old cycling projects could help create a basic London network and make the best of the millions of pounds already invested in LCN+.