“Crossrail for the bike” in Mayor’s £913m cycling plan

7 March 2013

The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, will create a “Crossrail for the bike” as part of his plans for a nearly £1 billion investment in London cycling. The route will run for more than 15 miles, very substantially segregated, from the western suburbs through the heart of London to Canary Wharf and Barking.

It will use new Dutch-style segregated cycle tracks along, among other places, the Victoria Embankment and the Westway flyover. It is believed to be the longest substantially-segregated cycle route of any city in Europe.

The Mayor said: “The Westway, the ultimate symbol of how the urban motorway tore up our cities, will become the ultimate symbol of how we are claiming central London for the bike.”

The Mayor today announced that the main cross-London physical legacy of the 2012 Olympic Games will be a proper network of cycle routes across the city. As in the public transport system, London’s "bike Crossrail" will lie at the heart of a new bike "Tube network." Over the next four years London will open a range of high-quality new cycle routes parallel to, and named after, Tube lines and bus routes, so everyone knows where they go.

Other elements in the “Mayor’s Vision for Cycling” include:

  • more Dutch-style fully-segregated lanes;
  • more “semi-segregation” on other streets, with bikes better separated from other vehicles;
  • a new network of “Quietways” – direct, continuous, fully-signposted routes on peaceful side streets, running far into the suburbs, and aimed at people put off by cycling in traffic;
  • substantial improvements to both existing and proposed Superhighways, including some reroutings;
  • a new “Central London Grid” of bike routes in the City and West End, using segregation, quiet streets, and two-way cycling on one-way traffic streets, to join all the other routes together.

The Mayor added: “I want to de-Lycrafy cycling. I want to make it normal, something for everyone, something you feel comfortable doing in your ordinary clothes. Our new routes will give people the confidence to get in the saddle. I do not promise perfection, or that London will become Amsterdam any time soon. But what I do say is that this plan marks a profound shift in my ambitions and intentions for the bicycle.

“The reason I am spending almost £1 billion on this is my belief that helping cycling will not just help cyclists. It will create better places for everyone. It means less traffic, more trees, more places to sit and eat a sandwich. It means more seats on the Tube, less competition for a parking place and fewer cars in front of yours at the lights. Above all, it will fulfil my aim of making London’s air cleaner. If just 14 per cent of journeys in central London were cycled, emissions there of the greatest vehicle pollutant, NOx, would fall by almost a third and over the years literally thousands of lives could be saved.”

Today's plan includes major and substantial improvements to the worst junctions, making them safer and less threatening for cyclists with measures such as segregation and cycle-only paths or phases. Junctions to be tackled in the next three years include Blackfriars, Vauxhall, Tower, Swiss Cottage, and Elephant & Castle. The budget for TfL’s safer junction review has been more than quintupled, from £19 million to £100 million, and the money will be focused on fewer sites.

TfL is conducting off-site trials of new, cyclist-friendly innovations, such as "Dutch-style" roundabouts and eye-level traffic lights for cyclists. If these trials are successful, and the Department for Transport allows, they will be rolled out on the road network.

There will be “mini-Hollands” in the suburbs, with between one and three outer boroughs chosen for very high spending concentrated in those relatively small areas for the greatest possible impact. The aim, over time, is that these suburbs will become every bit as cycle-friendly as their Dutch equivalents; places that suburbs and towns all over Britain will want to copy. Funding specifically earmarked for outer London will rise from £3 million to more than £100 million.

Lorry safety will be a major focus of the plan, as they disproportionately kill and seriously injure cyclists. This work will build upon TfL’s successful work with the haulage industry and they will continue to work to encourage out-of-hours deliveries, to reduce the numbers of heavy vehicles in the city during peak times, and will closely study the experience of other cities where larger lorries are banned from parts of the city or at times of the day.

The vision flags that the Mayor’s team will campaign for better laws that do not send the wrong message about the behaviour we expect on our roads. In the meantime, there will be funding for eight police officers to investigate cyclist collisions with HGVs, vigorously gather the best possible evidence and press for the toughest possible action under existing law.

Transport for London will work to pinpoint the most dangerous places using "Compstat"-style near-realtime monitoring of casualties. And new 20mph speed limits for all traffic will be introduced on several parts of the TfL-controlled main road network where cycling improvements are planned.

Other work outlined in the Mayor’s vision for cycling includes a new pilot scheme allowing communities to design safe routes to school, and a new approach to children's cycle training, which will be delivered in all London schools. In conjunction with Network Rail, work will be carried out to deliver a massive Dutch-style bike superhub at a mainline terminus, with space for thousands of bikes and very good cycle routes radiating from it. The aim is that thousands of commuters switch from Tube and bus to bikes for the last stage of their journeys to work, significantly relieving pressure on the public transport networks in central London. Work will also take place with the train operators to deliver smaller superhubs at some key suburban stations.

A trial of electric bikes will be conducted, including a small self-contained public electric bike hire scheme, similar to Barclays Cycle Hire.

Work will continue to expand the Mayor’s flagship Barclays cycle hire scheme later this year into parts of Wandsworth, Lambeth and Hammersmith & Fulham.  But the Mayor’s vision also flags how he will investigate further incremental expansion of the network and integrate it into contactless payment, TfL's future ticketing system, to make it a fully joined-up part of the transport network.  Companies, hotels and universities will be encouraged to install docking stations in their premises at their own expense for their staff, guests and students.

As announced in the TfL business plan the overall budget for cycling will rise to £913 million, two and a half times more than previously planned, with almost £400 million spent in the next three years alone. Cycle spending will rise to £145 million in 2015, or around £18 per head, up with the best in Germany and almost on a par with the Netherlands.

Sir Peter Hendy, Transport Commissioner for London, who was with the Mayor at the launch, said: “Across the Western world, forward-thinking cities are investing hundreds of millions of pounds in the bicycle, knowing that well-designed schemes can deliver benefits far greater than their relatively modest cost.

“These policies are a step-change in cycling provision, and I commit TfL to delivering them as one of its highest priorities. But I am committed, too, because I believe this is about so much more than routes for cyclists. It is about the huge health and economic benefits that cycling can bring. And it is about helping the transport system meet the enormous demands that will be placed on it.”

British Cycling's Chris Boardman, the Olympic gold medallist and long-term advocate for better cycling, who joined the Mayor and Sir Peter, said: "This is the most ambitious cycling development and promotion plan in the UK in living memory, perhaps ever. I'm delighted to have been involved and look forward to the great changes it will bring to London."

The first Quietways will open next year, with the improved Superhighways and the central section of "bike Crossrail" complete by 2016. All outer London boroughs are invited to apply for the "mini-Hollands" programme. The successful candidate(s) will be chosen later this year and work will begin in 2014.

TfL will work in close partnership with the London boroughs, who own the vast majority of the capital's roads, to deliver the new cycle routes. The first planning conference for the Central London Grid, with the seven central boroughs, the Royal Parks and the City, will take place next week. Routes for the Grid, and Quietways, will be announced as soon as they have been agreed with the boroughs.

Baroness Jo Valentine, Chief Executive of London First, said:  “The is a visionary proposal from the Mayor to improve cycling infrastructure in London.  It should be part of a wider debate about how we use scarce road space and accommodate all those who need to get around the city, whether for pleasure, on business or to make deliveries. London has long needed a joined up transport strategy that effectively integrates all modes of transport and this move to encourage more people to cycle is a welcome first step.”

Councillor Ed Argar, cabinet member for city management, transport and environment at Westminster City Council, said: "I share the Mayor's vision and ambition. We will work with him to make a real step change a reality on our streets."

Councillor Sarah Hayward, Leader of Camden Council, said: "Camden is prioritising and delivering excellent provision for cyclists in the borough, from commuters to weekend enthusiasts. We welcome further investment in the network, and a linking up of the cycle routes across London, improving air quality and reducing congestion. Camden will be at the heart of the plans so we are looking forward to working with the Mayor to get the best cycling facilities for our residents and businesses."

German Dector-Vega,  London Director of Sustrans, said: “It’s great to see cycling being championed by politicians like Boris Johnson, particularly as fuel prices rise and we struggle to find opportunities to live healthy lives. The London experience shows that real progress can be made through committed political leadership that listens to the voice of cyclists and creates a long-term vision for cycling.

“The Mayor’s latest plans include a raft of ideas that will help cycling become a genuine choice for getting around, particularly new riders and those in outer London. As ever, the devil will be in the detail and Sustrans looks forward to working with the Mayor, local authorities, Transport for London and cyclists themselves to ensure we grasp every opportunity to make our roads safer, our cycle network better and, crucially, train and inspire more Londoners to get on their bikes.”

For copy of the plan go to

www.london.gov.uk/publication/mayors-vision-cycling