Transport chiefs have vowed to “supercharge” the delivery of new cycle routes in a bid to get more Londoners out of their cars and leading more active lives.
They promised to deliver three long-delayed cycle superhighways in the next two years after being urged to follow the lead of New York, whose mayor Bill de Blasio last week banned cars from Central Park.
Mayor Sadiq Khan has faced criticism for failing to start construction on the CS11 route linking Swiss Cottage and Oxford Circus via Regent’s Park, the CS9 route between Hammersmith and Brentford via Chiswick and the CS4 linking Tower Bridge and Greenwich, despite all being backed in public consultations.
But Heidi Alexander, his new deputy mayor for transport, made clear her determination to “crack on” with the new routes as she declared getting people out of cars to be her “number one priority”.
She told a Centre for London transport conference at King’s College London: “I’m clear that the focus on encouraging more people to walk and cycle more often, getting us out of our cars and pursuing a more active lifestyle, has to be our number one priority.
“We have an inactivity crisis in London, with only a third of Londoners doing the 20 minutes of walking or cycling a day they need to stay healthy.
“Added to that, we have a serious air quality problem. If we could see the nasty things in our air, in the same way as we see cigarette smoke, people would be up in arms.
“Our over-riding objective must be to create places that work for people rather than streets that are planned for cars.”
She added: “It can’t be right we have people being killed on London’s streets because trucks designed for quarries are driving our residential roads with the drivers unable to see everything around them.”
Ms Alexander said she wanted to extend the CS4 to Woolwich, potentially offering safer cycling on the A206, on which cyclists Oliver Speke and Edgaras Cepura died in separate HGV collisions in May.
She said a recent visit to Swiss Cottage to cycle the proposed CS11 route had convinced her that the amount of speeding traffic in Regent’s Park “does need to be tackled”.
However she admitted it was beyond City Hall’s powers to close four of the park’s gates to restrict traffic.
“The width of the roads in Regent’s Park and the level of speeding traffic you get through there does need to be tackled,” she said.
“The problem that we have in terms of sorting out the gates around Regent’s Park is that we are not the people who have the keys to those gates. We have to work with the Royal Parks and the Crown Estates Paving Commission.
“We have to get all the sections of CS11 right. We have received the judicial review challenge on us starting work to remove the gyratory at Swiss Cottage.
“As soon as I got out of the Tube up there, I was confronted with four or five lanes of traffic. You don’t have to be a transport expert to know that gyratory at Swiss Cottage needs to be replaced with something that is safer for cyclists and pedestrians.”
She continued: “We need to supercharge the delivery of cycling infrastructure… crack on with the superhighways and Quietways, expand the network of protected cycle lanes out to parts of London that have yet to be reached.”
Asked by the London Cycling Campaign‘s Tom Bogdanowicz whether London was being outshone by New York, she said: “I can say to everyone sat here in the room today that we are determined to crack on and deliver the cycling infrastructure.
“It’s not just about CS11, it’s about CS4, which runs from central London out to Greenwich – and we would like to see if we can extend that further to Woolwich – it’s about CS9 out to Hounslow.
“I have done my homework and I am quite passionate about getting these delivered in the next two years.
“If we are going to change behaviour, people need to see changes in the way streets look and feel.”
Westminster council is seeking a judicial review of the plans to remove the Swiss Cottage gyratory. However, as there is no court injunction in place, the Standard understands that construction work will start within weeks.
TfL commissioner Mike Brown said: “I think it’s absolutely ridiculous it’s being challenged. Every cycleway that we create that reduces the potential for anyone to be killed or seriously injured is absolutely slam dunk a solid reason for doing it.”
He added: “Where we get strange decisions being made we will challenge them appropriately.
“The CS11 in Swiss Cottage is another example of a new route that will provide quicker and safer access to the West End.”
- An edited version of this story appeared in last Friday’s Evening Standard.