The long-delayed completion of the £47m cycle superhighway that will pass in front of Buckingham Palace should be completed next year, Britain’s top cycling campaigner has been assured.
Concerns have been mounting that Transport for London would leave a “half-mile gap” in the largely segregated east-west route between Hyde Park and Tower Hill due to funding cuts and logistical headaches.
The route, Boris Johnson’s flagship cycling scheme, had been due to be completed by the time he left office in May. However, TfL only started work on Constitution Hill last month (see pics) and has been unable to set a date for completion of the Spur Road and Birdcage Walk sections.
Chris Boardman, the former Olympic champion who is policy adviser to British Cycling, said he received assurances when he raised the delays with Val Shawcross, Sadiq Khan’s deputy mayor for transport.
He told the Standard: “That is going ahead as planned, is what I was told.” He added: “I had a good meeting with Val. She has always been a supporter of cycling. I’m well aware in politics it’s not always about the person who has the top job. I don’t know the system she has to work with.”
Mr Khan will face questions at Mayor’s Question Time next week about the delay and the extent of his discussions with the Royal Parks, the quango responsible for St James’s Park and Green Park.
Caroline Russell, the Green assembly member who will put the superhighway questions to the Mayor, said she had been assured by Ms Shawcross that the Birdcage Walk section “would be going ahead”, with construction due to begin possibly next month.
“We just need to keep watching it,” she said. “Despite the fact we are seeing really positive stuff in terms of the number of people using these cycle routes, there are an awful lot of people who would prefer the polluted, congested status quo.”
The Mayor’s part-time cycling and walking commissioner is unlikely to be appointed until the new year. Mr Boardman said he was disappointed that TfL had failed to “pick the brains” of Mr Johnson’s cycling czar Andrew Gilligan to keep the “cycling revolution” on track.
Mr Boardman said: “There is knowledge there that isn’t being used. There was no move even to keep him as an interim until they had a replacement. If you want to triple the amount of cycle lanes, you can quickly start to run out of time if there are months when nothing new has happened.”
Yestterday Mr Boardman and Dame Sarah Storey launched a campaign calling on the Government to give £250 tax breaks to people who cycle to work, and to provide £100,000 grants to firms to help them provide showers and locker rooms.
TfL this week revealed £11 million of “slippage” in the amount it had been due to spend on cycling this financial year. New TfL budgets are due to be set by the Mayor later this month. He pledged in his manifesto to make London “a byword for cycling around the world”.
TfL said that cyclists now accounted for more than half of all peak-hour traffic on the Victoria Embankment. More than 7,000 use that section of the east-west superhighway each day in the morning and evening peaks, with 8,400 using the north-south superhighway on Blackfriars bridge.
Nigel Hardy, head of road space management sponsorship at TfL, said: “The busy area around Green Park and St James’s Park hosts many festive and ceremonial events and we are working hard to complete this work in the least disruptive and most cost-effective way. This means that construction will now extend into the New Year.”