Farce of the cycle super highways: London transport chief apologises for ‘ill-judged’ expansion that’s blamed for gridlock and increased pollution
Britain’s most powerful transport tsar has now admitted that the the speedy expansion of controversial cycle ‘superhighways’ has actually slowed traffic for motorists.
Mike Brown, the commissioner for Transport for London, criticised the cycle lane expansion in London as ‘ill judged’ and ‘ill thought through’.
He apologised to motorists who say that the segregated cycle lanes are exasperating traffic problems.
Mr Brown, who is a passionate supporter of cycle lanes, said that they had been hurried through under Boris Johnson during his eight-year tenure as London mayor.
Cycling groups, council chiefs and safety campaigners said that the lanes would reduce congestion and pollution - which causes thousands of premature deaths in Britain every year - and that they make the roads safer.
But in practise, the lanes have infuriated most drivers who claim they are stuck in traffic for longer because part of the road has been taken over by bikes.
Now, Mr Brown's attack on one of Mr Johnson’s flagship policies will likely spark more contentious debate about the further roll out of cycle lanes around the country.
LBC Radio host Nick Ferrari – who claims cycle superhighways have caused the biggest slow down in traffic since the Luftwaffe bombed London in the Second World War - was hosting a debate in London where Mr Brown made his controversial comments.
Mr Brown said: ‘I apologise absolutely for the way cycle lanes were delivered in the last mayor’s administration’ .
‘I think it was ill-judged, it was too fast and ill thought through in the speed in which it was done, which I’m afraid is the main downside of living in a democracy – people want to do things in their term.’
But Mr Brown also insisted that that the routes have helped save ‘many, many lives’ and made the roads safer for cyclists.
Fourteen cyclists were killed in London in 2013 but this tragic number dropped to eight deaths in 2016.
Despite his clear concerns, TFL has now insisted that Mr Brown's negative comments about the cycle infrastructure actually referred to the disruption caused by roadworks as too many lanes were built at the same time - and not to any traffic after they were operational.
But the criticism will provide ammunition for those who believe that cycle lanes being built all over Britain are making the roads more congested by reducing space for motor traffic.
Critics claim that this may actually increase air pollution as cars are stuck on the roads with their engines running for longer as they idle in traffic.
Will Norman, Sadiq Khan's new cycling tsar wants to diversify cycling to stop London's cycling routes being overwhelmed by middle class me
And so-called 'mamils' (middle-aged men in lycra) were another target for criticism of a burgeoning British cycle culture.
Mammils are dominating the cycling scene in London, leading to a false perception that cycling is not for everyone, Will Norman, Sadiq Khan's new cycling tsar claimed.
Too few females and people from ethnic minority backgrounds are taking to two wheels around the capital and the Mayor's office could introduce 'diversity targets' to combat the figures.
Despite millions being pumped into the cycling infrastructure in London the majority of those making use of it are middle aged men.
At present, black, Asian and minority ethnic groups account for about 15 per cent of cycled journeys in London – around two-thirds less than Transport for London (TfL) estimates it could be.
Mr Norman told The Independent: 'There is a problem with cycling and the way it is perceived of getting middle-aged men cycling faster around the city, which is not the objective at all.
'It touches on something which is a real challenge for London cycling, which is diversity.'
Too many cyclists in London are middle-aged men according to the city's new cycling chief
London mayor Sadiq Khan said he would make cycling safer around London.
However, members of the London Assembly said it is not being done quickly enough.
Now Mr Norman said more groups should be benefitting from the changes made.
He added: 'Even when we have seen the growth in the number of cyclists, we haven't seen that diversity.
'There are a number of reasons for that. One is that safety is paramount for getting different people from different walks of life cycling: older people, younger people, those from different backgrounds.'
The way in which the gap will be filled, Mr Norman says, is through projects such as promoting electric bikes, cycling courses and grants for community groups who do not typically cycle.
Schemes could be rolled out across London to diversify the cycling scene. (Pictured: One woman cycles among a pack of men)
There was a six per cent recorded rise in female cyclists after the opening of Quietway 1, which links Waterloo with Greenwich, from 29 per cent to 35 per cent.
Mr Khan promised an average of £169m annually for cycling schemes over the next five years.
'Is it ambitious enough in the longer term? I think we need a higher level of change,' Mr Norman told The Independent.
'The target that we have set out in the mayor's transport strategy is over that 25 years we want to shift to 80 per cent of journeys to be walking, cycling or by public transport.
'That is a much more ambitious target and really is fundamentally rethinking the way that we move around our city.'