Whatever one thought of Boris Johnson, he certainly was big and bold on bikes. There has been some worry that his successor was not quite so committed, but London Mayor Sadik Khan has now promised to invest a pile of money in cycling infrastructure. From his press release:
I said in my manifesto that I’d be the most pro-cycling Mayor London has ever had. Today I’m delighted to confirm that TfL will be spending twice as much on cycling over the next five years compared to the previous Mayor. Making cycling safe and easier can provide huge benefits for us all – improving our health, cleaning up our toxic air, and helping tackle congestion. By spending £770 million over the course of the next TfL Business Plan, we’ll now be spending the same per head as Denmark and the Netherlands – places famous around the world for their cycling.
He also nods to the car people by saying he is going to do it differently than Boris did:
Our plans include consulting on two new Cycle Superhighways next year, in addition to a new East-West Route. And unlike the previous Mayor, we will continue to focus on how we can minimise disruption and congestion as we push ahead with the construction of new cycling infrastructure.
But that is always the problem, isn’t it; how do you add a bike lane without subtracting a car lane and making the drivers go medieval on you like they did over Boris’s bike lanes. How do you have a consultation about cycle superhighways without it turning into a war on the car. Peter Walker notes in the Guardian:
Khan has faced criticism that he has been slow to push through new bike routes, amid vehement if largely unfounded criticism from some driving groups, notably London’s taxi trade, that cycle lanes increase traffic congestion.
Walker quotes former cycling commissioner Andrew Gilligan, who worries about this “consultation”: “We need a promise that they will be segregated, and also that a consultation result which favours their building will not be ignored, as it was with the Westway.”
I asked Mark Treasure, Chair of the Cycling Embassy of Great Britain, for his thoughts:
Investment announcement is encouraging, but the devil will be in the detail, of which there is very little at present. No specific plans as yet, beyond the announcement of two new ‘superhighway’ routes, and not much information on what they will look like. Problematically, both of these routes will finish away from central London and will not connect with the high-profile infrastructure opened this year.
But it is a lot of money, £17 per head per year, as much as is spent in Denmark or the Netherlands. It is 5.5 percent of the Transport for London’s budget, and TfL runs all public transit and manages London’s main roads. In New York, that would be $184.68 million per year, close to a billion bucks over 5 years. In Toronto, it would be C$ 75 million per year; the city currently spends $14.5 million per year on bikes.
'Congestion' people-style. Blackfriars Bridge cycle highway this morning. PS it's quite chilly pic.twitter.com/L51Bvxt7LM— cyclistsinthecity (@citycyclists) December 5, 2016
Notwithstanding the complaints of the guys in the black cabs about congestion, the existing cycle superhighways are carrying a lot of traffic that would otherwise be crowding the tubes or the roads. Khan says that “ Making cycling safe and easier can provide huge benefits for us all – improving our health, cleaning up our toxic air, and helping tackle congestion.” It will be interesting to see how it’s spent.