The Grid is one of the four main planks of the strategy announced in the Mayor's Vision for cycling in London last year. The others are the Cycle Superhighways and Quietways outside Zone 1, and the Ourter London mini-Hollands. The Grid consists of routes classified both as Superhighways and Quietways, within Zone 1. Within Zone 1, these routes are supposed to form a fairly dense network that will facilitate most cycling journeys in comfort and safety. However, as officials have been keen to tell me, Transport for London cannot impose a plan for the Grid on the boroughs that cover Zone 1, and the other relevant authorities: that is, Camden, Westminster, Islington, The City, Kensington and Chelsea, Lambeth, Southwark, Hackney, the Royal Parks, and the Canal and River Trust. They can only make suggestions and try to ensure coordination, but they cannot force compliance or any particularly standards on local authority roads. Though TfL provides funding, they cannot force consistency (except by withholding funds, which would be a blunt instrument to use). This is a pretty unsatisfactory situation all round, but until the Government or Parliament alters it, there is nothing we can do, and we have to try to get the best result through lobbying. Here are the views on the Grid of London Cycling Campaign and Hammersmith and Fulham Cyclists, and here are those of bloggers As Easy as Riding a Bike, Rachel Aldred, and Sticks and Wheels.
|The fact that the Grid looks inconsistent between boroughs is due to the fact it is effectively 10 separate projects, of 8 councils plus the Parks and the Canals.|
The Grid routes need to be as direct as possible, full stop. Otherwise they will not achieve their potential, and the potential for cycling in the Grid area will not be realised. All cyclists require and deserve direct and prioritised routes, whether they are fast, fit and experienced cyclists, used to handling motor traffic, or those who wish to cycle slowly or who refuse to share space with motor traffic. Frequently, this directness and priority cannot be achieved on minor roads. The Grid is too heavily biased away from main roads. Main roads that I suggest should have been included in the Grid are Euston Road, Marylebone Road, Edgware Road, Park Lane, Piccadilly, The Strand, Fleet Street, Whitehall, and Kensington High Street, amongst others. More notice should be taken of the Copenhagen experience of creating a cycle grid: their early attempts to accommodate cycling on back-streets met with limited success. They realised they had instead to carve out safe space for cycling on the main roads that cyclists showed consistently they wished to use. They have now covered nearly all the main (non-motorway) roads in the city. They did succeed in creating the "new type of cyclist" that the Quietway consultation document speaks of, but they did not, primarily, do it by attempting to shove cycling away on small roads.
The standards that the Grid is built to, as well as its directness and convenience, will determine its success. The standards that should be adopted are those agreed as policy by London Cycling Campaign. Cyclists should not, on any links on the Grid, have to share space with traffic faster than 20mph or with more than 2,000 Passenger Car Units a day. This means that on streets where either of these limits is exceeded, cyclists must have dedicated, physically protected space. On streets where there is insufficient width to create that space, either that space needs to be created by removing lanes of traffic, which may involve the creation of new one-way streets for motor vehicles, or the speed must be lower than 20mph and the flow must be reduced below 2000 PCU per day by traffic-management measures such as mode-filters (closures allowing bikes through), opposing one-way sections for motors, with cycle exception, and no-entry plugs for motors.
The E–W route across Fitzrovia and Marylebone (the Seven Stations Link) that continues Camden's route westward must be more direct than Westminster currently propose. The dotted lines on the TfL map are better than Westminster's actual proposals, which are represented by the solid lines. The route needs to create a direct link to Paddington Station. Conditions in New Cavendish Street are very poor. This street needs either segregated space for cycling, with parking outside cycle tracks, or complete removal of through motor traffic. The signalling of the junctions needs altering, as there are currently too many delays for this to work as an efficient cycle route. Similar remarks apply to the proposed N–S route via Wimpole Street and New Bond Street (or via Harley Street and Hanover Square). New Bond Street in particular would need radical alteration to make it an acceptable route, either segregation or closure to through-traffic. If just these two main E–W and N–S routes are got right, this would be a major useful contribution to the Grid and to cycling in the West End.
Westminster's proposals for the route N–S through St James are an indirect mess, and little different to what cyclists are allowed to do at the moment. The best solution is two-way cycling on Marlborough Road, St James's Street and Albermarle Street, or via Queens Walk and Berkeley Street.
Hyde Park Corner should not be left as it is. The current crossing arrangements for cyclists, pedestrians and horses are a confused mess. Cycle space should be clearly defined, segregated and spacious enough, and signals must afford sufficient priority and allow for the large flow of cyclists anticipated on the Crossrail route without congestion. Movements of and on to the Crossrail route from other major roads need to be allowed for here, in particular between it and Piccadilly and Grosvenor Place. Significant redesign of the whole junction is required. Currently, there is no safe connection between the Hyde Park paths and Piccadilly or Grosvenor Place.
The current routes N and S through Covent Garden and connecting with Waterloo Bridge are poor because they are overloaded with motor traffic. Bow Street is particularly poor. More filtering and/or one-ways for motors are needed. Proper cycle tracks are needed on Waterloo Bridge, with signals to manage the conflict at the north end.
The routes from the Hyde Park Corner area north-west towards Camden and Brent are too indirect. This is a consequence of the A5 not being dealt with; it forms the only direct route in this direction. In particular, the junction of the A5 and the A501 actually needs tackling. The loop via Old Marylebone Road and Cosway Street is silly, and the route via Norfolk Cresent, W of the A5, needs to connect with Hyde Park. There is a large unsolved gap around Paddington with no crossing of the A40/A501 and canal between Cosway Street and Westbourne Bridge. The canal towpath and connecting paths could, with work, solve this gap.
|Hamilton Terrace is a massive boulevard devoted to too much parking and through traffic, on which, on a bike, you get passed far too closely, as this cyclist is finding. It's no good as a Quietway as it is.|
3. Kensington and Chelsea
A route is obviously needed E–W through Kensington. This should be via Kensington High Street, which needs segregated cycle tracks. Holland Walk should be included in the network, properly connected with the roads. Alternatively, Campden Hill Road could be used, with filtering. But there really must a a route connecting Notting Hill Gate with Kensington High Street. There should also be an E-W cycle path through Holland Park. Ladbroke Grove is an example of a semi-main road that is the only satisfactorily direct connection between many places, and it should be part of the Grid. Semi-segregation in the manner of Camden's Royal College street might be appropriate here, with parking outside the cycle tracks. The current arrangement of advisory cycle lanes outside the parking is no good. Kensington and Chelsea's current proposals for the Grid are particularly bad, the worst of any of the relevant boroughs. The Royal Borough must try far harder to find appropriate routes for cyclists and to create connections.
The grid of cycle routes in Camden is already better than in adjacent boroughs, and Camden should be congratulated on proposing some more useful steps here. I would particularly support the connection from Royal College Street to Gloucester Avenue, via Delancey Street, if done to the same standard as Royal College Street, and the proposed extension of the Royal College Street route southwards via Midland Road. I'd also particularly support development of a Clerkenwell Boulevard via Theobalds Road and Bloomsbury Way, one of the most cycled routes in London, with a good standard of two-way, dedicated provision for cyclists, separated from the buses. Where Camden's proposals particularly fall short are in the treatment of the N-S route on Tottenham Court Road or Gower Street. One of these should be prioritised for cycling, with good-quality, ample dedicated space not shared with buses. Taking the totality of width available on these two roads, this must be possible. The concept of making them both two-way should not be elevated in importance over providing dedicated space for cycling on one of them.
The highest priority in Camden must be the improvement of the Bloomsbury E-W route, or Seven Stations Link. This is now massively over-capacity, and a whole lane of the road needs to be reallocated, with a consequent readjustment of the one-way system. Though-traffic on this axis needs to be forced back to Euston Road, where it belongs. Alternatively, a series of mode-filters or opposing one-ways for motors would exclude through-traffic and allow a continuous cycling boulevard using the whole width of the road.
The network in south Islington is, like that in Camden, already relatively good. However, St John Street needs sorting out. The current cycle lanes do not work, and it needs turning into a cycling boulevard. It does not need through-traffic as it is an exactly parallel alternative to the A1 Goswell Road. The Seven Stations Link route needs clarifying in Islington and bringing up to the same capacity and standard throughout. Priority needs improving and unnecessary stops at traffic signals eliminated.
6. City of London
The northward connection from Southwark Bridge needs improving through to Gresham Street. There is a chain of unsatisfactory shared-space type crossings which engender confusion a with pedestrian flows. The cycle route here should be clearly defined and properly signalised and separated from pedestrians. Cycling should be permitted through Smithfield Market. There needs to be a two-way route between St Pauls, Smithfield and Farringdon via Aldersgate Street, which is very wide, also connecting with Gresham Street. This would achieve a direct connection between Bank and the St Pauls area and the Seven Stations Link route in Islington.
The Superhighway across London Bridge needs connecting northwards. Both Blackfriars and London Bridges need segregated cycle tracks. A route needs to be taken through Bank junction, which needs simplifying and some roads closing off. Cycle tracks are needed on Blackfriars Bridge, with signals to manage the conflicts at the north end.
7. The Royal Parks
The routes through the parks need to be open 24 hours a day for the whole year. They cannot be allowed to be disrupted by arbitrary events such as entertainments in Hyde Park, which regularly cause the closing of the southern end of the Broad Walk. The cycle and pedestrian and horse paths along Rotten Row need to be redesigned, with enough capacity for all traffic. Currently far too little space is allocated to both cycling and walking. The conflicts around the Rotten Row - Broad Walk - South Carriage Drive junction need sorting out rationally. Some of the gates into the parks probably need widening. The current infrastructure in Hyde Park and Green Park will not be able to cope with the flows that the East-West "Crossrail" route will generate. The cycle path along the south side of Green Park needs massively widening. Cycling N–S via Queens Walk needs to be permitted. There needs to be a route diagonally across Hyde Park from the Serpentine Bridge to Albion Street.
That's enough. I'll leave other people to deal with Hackney, Southwark and Lambeth. The main point is to get your responses in today, welcoming the principle of the Grid, but pointing out some of the flaws and gaps in the current proposals.