Friday, October 17, 2014

What's being said in Parliament about the Cycle Super Highway.

Jim Fitzpatrick (Poplar and Limehouse, Labour) 

I received an e-mail this morning from Owen Pearson of Tower Hamlets Wheelers. He said that his local cycle campaign supports

“the proposals put forward by Transport for London to upgrade Cycle Superhighway 2 between Aldgate and Bow”,

which is a dangerous stretch of road. The e-mail acknowledged the local concerns of the council and others, especially with regard to Whitechapel market, but said that the group believed that

“with adjustments to the TfL plan these issues can be overcome.”

I have some concerns about what I call the Mayor’s plans, although they are probably primarily the tsar’s plans—Andrew Gilligan’s plans—especially with regard to the stretch from Tower Hill to Westminster. The key criteria for cycle lanes is to get people out of cars and to improve the environment by reducing congestion. However, the proportion of cars on that stretch of road is already less than 9%, and many of those 9% are private hire vehicles or minicabs. There are few people to be taken out of cars as the vast majority of the traffic on that main artery through London is made up of public transport, taxis, coaches and commercial traffic, such as white vans delivering to businesses and HGVs. TfL plans to prevent 80% of that traffic using the road. I do not know where it will go. For the 20% that will be allowed to use it, there will be a 16-minute delay. That simply does not seem workable, and it will give the cycling community a bad reputation, because it is just bad planning.

My understanding is that the Mayor’s plans will be subject to an extensive consultation, which would be very welcome, as would publication of all the background data, including environmental impact assessments, the economic assessment, alternative routes and alternative designs.

There is also a problem with the waiting times for pedestrians, because in some areas they will have to wait up to two minutes before getting a green light, and in London people will simply not wait that long to cross the road. Also, having to cross three lanes of traffic and four lanes of cyclists, with a fast lane for the Lycra brigade—we know that they take no prisoners—will be pretty difficult. Another observation about the plan that the Department for Transport published this morning is that its title makes no mention of walking, which is a big element of the promotion, so there are questions to be answered about the route from Tower Hill to Westminster.

We all want to see cycling become mainstream. As a cyclist myself, I know that we are not above criticism. The tiny minority who cycle without lights at night, ignore pedestrian crossings, ride on pavements or cruise through red lights greatly annoy the rest of us, because they give us a bad reputation and irritate the rest of the

public. The Transport Committee heard in evidence that when the Metropolitan police blitzed London’s roads earlier this year, following the spate of five deaths in November 2013, they issued 14,000 fixed penalty notices for transgressions at major junctions in London—10,000 to vehicle drivers and 4,000 to cyclists. That demonstrates that there are drivers and cyclists who break the law.

However, what we need is enforcement. CTC makes the point that the reduction in the number of traffic officers in all constabularies across the country is moving in the wrong direction. As I mentioned earlier, cyclists are the most vulnerable. The Transport Committee’s third report of the Session, entitled “Cycling Safety”, makes recommendations for improving safety for cyclists.

Right hon. and hon. Members have made the case well for cycling and cycling safety. The Minister is very much pro-cycling. It is even more disappointing, therefore, that we have not heard a commitment on funding. The Prime Minister promised a cycling revolution and the Department for Transport is promising to support cycling, so No. 11 is the roadblock. Somehow we have to get underneath No. 11, turn theChancellor around and then use the autumn statement and the Budget to commit to that funding. All parties can use their manifestos next year to commit funding for cycling, because without funding it simply will not happen.