Boris Johnson today pleaded with cyclists not to turn his new cycle superhighways into “racetracks” as he expressed amazement at the “Beijing-style” number of riders flocking to use them.
As votes were being counted today to choose his successor, the outgoing Mayor used one of his final appearances in office to officially open the central section of his £47 million segregated East-West “Crossrail for bikes” between Parliament Square and Tower Hill via Victoria Embankment.
He told the Standard he was astonished how many cyclists had flocked to the route and the intersecting North-South superhighway, which opened last week and runs between Elephant and Castle and Ludgate Circus.
He said: “I cannot get over the number of people I saw just going northbound on the new North-South [route]. It’s absolutely astonishing. There are cycle traffic jams now – it’s like Beijing.
“It’s very important to recognise this is a facility for everybody, for all cyclists. It’s very important for people who are very experienced and very proficient not to be bullying or too assertive about the way they cycle on the cycle superhighways. I have come across people who feel a bit intimidated by the speed at which some people are using it. There is no need to try and break the land-speed record on this. This is a way to get easily to work or around town. This is not a racetrack.”
He urged his successor as Mayor to continue to improve cycle safety, noting it had been almost a year since a cyclist had been killed in collision with a vehicle in London. The last fatality was on June 22 last year, when Oxbridge graduate Ying Tao, 26, was killed in a collision with a HGV at Bank.
Mr Johnson said: “Normally we are running about 20 [fatalities] a year, 15 a year. That is a positive early indicator but it is far too early to be complacent.”
Police were today patrolling the new junctions around Parliament Square. Some cyclists struggled to work out how to access the new route at Big Ben and obey the cyclist-specific traffic lights.
Mr Johnson added: “It’s fantastic, and it’s obviously been a huge struggle because we have had all sorts of opposition, not least from within my own organisations [Transport for London] – there have been certain people who have felt it’s too much space to consecrate for cycling.
“But in the end you have got to take a decision, you have got to lead it. I think there is no way on earth this will be reversed, I think it will be a magnificent thing for the city and what I hope very much that whoever is Mayor by tonight will commit to continuing with the programme. There is so much more to be done in outer London.”