2. TheLondon Cycle Network did almost nothing for the safety of London cyclists. I therefore look forward to its death.
3. London’spost-2015 Cycle Superhighwayshave proved that segregated cycle lanes are a mass transit system. Cyclists have always known this. Now, London’s transport planners know it too (see map at end of this page).
4. Commuters require aLondon Cycleway Network Plan to build the necessary cycle infrastructure for mass transit. The network will be cost-effective, sustainable and, if well-designed, a delight to use.
The So-Called London Cycle Network was a bad thing dreamed up by good people. The dream was of making a route network. But the London Cycling Campaign, which drew up the plan, did not support the principle of segregating cycle paths from powered vehicules. The signposting of ‘quiet backstreets’ did not attract users and after 40 years the reality on the streets of London is a moth-eaten mess of outdated fragments
Data from the TfL Journey Planner shows that travel from the green zone to the red marker is faster by bike than by train, tube, bus or car (mapping by Findproperly)
The 2018 MTS plan for a Londonwide Strategic Cycle Network (top) is very welcome. But the detail of SE London (centre) shows that it is not even as fully thought-out as my 2016 ‘back of an envelope’ plan for a Cycleway Network in SE London. Seven of the problems with the MTS-LSCN plan are (1) we would have to wait till 2041 to get it (2) the plan is profoundly un-ambitious (3) the plan does not follow the principle of providing superhighway-standard cycleways on most of the TLRN Red Routes (4) the plan is only for a ‘recommended’ network, without either a funding plan, a phasing plan or a benefit cost analysis to support the case for investment in cycle infrastructure (5) the plan is based on a demand survey (of ‘cycling potential’) and does not use supply side data (on where cycleways could/should be built) (6) the plan includes discredited quietways based on the So-Called London Cycle Network LCN+, and I guess the mayor plans to build even more ‘quietways’ as indirect backstreet routes which are too indirect for commuter trips and too unattractive for leisure trips (7) here is an example of the incompleteness of the MTS plan: it does not include Lewisham’s excellent plan for making the A20 both a healthy street and a superhighway-standard cycleway. Conclusion: it’s great to have the MTS-LSCN but IT’S NOT GOOD ENOUGH.
The 2018 Mayor’s Transport Strategy MTS includes a plan for a strategic cycle network. After work on London Cycle Network Plus LCN+ stopped in 2018 TfL published plans for Superhighways and Quietways. The 2018 MTS is a development of these plans and has the caption ‘FIGURE 4: RECOMMENDED LONDON-WIDE STRATEGIC CYCLE NETWORK TO 2041’. It does not classify routes with the Johnson-era terms ‘superhighway’ and ‘quietway’. Instead, it classifies ‘Existing Routes’ ‘Planned Routes’ and ‘Proposed Future Connections (Indicative)’. Neither of the Johnson terms was good. The superhighways, though a great step forward, were not super enough and most of the quietways were not quiet enough or scenic enough. But the character of the two route types was very different and Mayor Khan muddies the waters by bringing them together. The phase 2 Johnson superhighways are genuine strategic links. The Johnson quietways are not strategic: most are badly planned and poorly designed local links. The good quietways, like the Waterlink Way, existed before they were called quietways. Neither the London Cycling Campaign LCC nor any other cycling organisation I know of, is enthusiastic about them. So long as the Mayor’s Transport Strategy includes them as ‘strategic’ routes it must be seen as a Fudged Network rather than a Strategic Network. The quietways are ghostly reincarnations of the utterly discredited Ken Livingstone 1981 London Cycle Network and his 2002 LCN+. London requires, well-planned, well-designed and well-funded strategic network of safe routes for commuter and leisure use. LCN+ did not satisfy this requirement and nor do the quietways. Here is a list of points about cycling and the MTS
1. Network analysis, planning, design and implementation
For the basic Londonwide cycle network outlined in the MTS the year 2041 is way too far in the future. Cross Rail 1 only took 10 years to build, not 23 years. Cycleways can be built much quicker than railways and have very low staffing and recurring expenditure needs. If funded like Cross Rail, a Cycleway Mass Transit system could be built in 5 years and could carry more passengers with much lower capital and maintenance cost per km travelled
investment in London cycle infrastructure should be related to the target mode share for cycling as a proportion of trips (eg 10% of London’s transport £10bn/year budget should be invested with the aim of increasing the mode share of cycling by eg 10%/year. Mode share targets need to be discussed with the London Assembly and put out to public consultation.
3. Cycle infrastructure terminology
the terms ‘superhighway’ and ‘quietway’ are not good. Excluding them from the MTS was a wise decision. But alternatives, with definitions, are necessary
the suggested alternatives are Commuter Cycleway and Leisure Cycleway . Both must look safe and be safe, so that parents permit and encourage children to use them
Commuter Cycleways should be the shortest paths from origins to destinations.
Leisure Cycleways should go through attractive environments. Recreation routes can be linear or loops. They should be linked to Commuter Cycleways and available for dual use, as feeders to TfL’s Strategic Cycleway Network.
work on the quietways should be discontinued. They are not direct enough for commuter use and they are not attractive enough for leisure use. See review of Quietway 1.
4. Points about the MTS-LSCN cycle strategy in SE London
It includes the proposed Rotherhithe cycle bridge but (1) does not include a strategic cycle route connecting the bridge to its SE London hinterland (2) does not serve the flow of cycle commuters from east of Greenwich to Central London, despite Strava showing a large number of cycle commuters converging on the Greenwich Foot Tunnel
It includes Lewisham’s high quality leisure cycle route: the Waterlink Way, which also attracts some commuter use, because it is such an attractive place to ride a bike
It classifies Quietway 1 Q1 as a strategic cycle route, which it is not (see review of Q1)
Conclusions: (1) TfL’s plan for a strategic cycle network is a welcome start on providing London with a sustainable mass transit system (2) the MTS-LSCN looks like a rush job and is not good enough (3) too little work has been done on the necessary survey, analysis, planning and design work (4) the funding, budget and phasing proposals are totally unsatisfactory (5) please see links to 18 video reviews of cycle infrastructure in SE London for additional commentary (6) TfL should make more effort to involve local cycle groups in cycle infrastructure planning (7) I see no reason to make London cyclists wait 23 years for a half-decent cycle network that could be built in 22 years or, better, in 2 years.
Parts of Lewisham’s cycle network are excellent. But …
I did the below Tweet after a bad experience at Lewisham Gateway. Then I read its 2017 Cycle Strategy and cycled more of the ‘Network’ cycle routes. My conclusions are set out in this video.
Here is a video review of Lewisham’s cycling strategy with comments on the network as it exists in 2018
The strategy itself and some of the cycle paths are better than one could ever expect from the benighted ‘Lewisham Gateway’
the outstanding feature of the 2017 Cycle Strategy is the plan to redesign Lewisham High Street) the A21 to make it a Healthy Street with a superhighway-standard cycleway. Alas, the plan is ‘unfunded’
most existing Lewisham cycle routes are just signposting through suburban streets (which is not far removed from being a waste of time, money and paint)
too much of the Lewisham Cycle Strategy is too similar to the largely-fraudulent London Cycle Network and its LCN+ successor
the Waterlink Way is often very good and can be seen as a landscape urbanism approach to cycleway planning
as throughout London the greatest problems for Lewisham cycling are shortages of funds and of political will
All who ride bikes through Lewisham should send their views to its councillors
I heard the head of a London bus company on the radio this week saying that cycle lanes should be de-segregated because they were only used during the morning and evening rush hours. He should have a look at the bus occupancy on the south side of Trafalgar Square. The number of passengers could be fitted into one or two bike rickshaws. The only busy buses are the tourist buses. The clips were taken on a sunny day (5th October 2018).
They’re not so easy to photograph but if you look at the buses in The Strand outside rush hour the occupancy is similar and the conditions for cyclists are worse than vile. The mid-day buses in Oxford Street have a higher occupancy, because it is a shopping street, but it is well under 50%. So TfL is 100% right to reduce the number of buses in Central London and the London Cycling Campaign is right that the space should be allocated to cyclists and pedestrians.
Busy buses make a good contribution to mass transit in London. But at quiet times, empty cycle lanes are much better than empty buses. Cycle lanes don’t waste fuel, make no noise and cause no pollution. Empty buses do all these things.
BBC report on bus service reductions in Central London
The garden works well, because of a thoughtful design, but would be spoiled by raising the height of the residential blocks. The Corbusian towers beyond Dolphin Square show how raising the height of the blocks would damage the garden space. (Above photo courtesy Pamela Preller)
Sadly, a US property company Westbrook wants to spoil one of the most significant housing projects in London. Its central importance in the history of residential site planning comes from:
Dolphin Square’s use of high residential terraced blocks to create an enclosed garden, very much in the tradition of London squares
Dolphin Square’s great superiority to Le Corbusier’s thoroughly bad Plan Voisin habit of arranging tower blocks like an array of tomb stones
Dolphin Square’s excellent roof garden, beneath which there is a car park
The design was characterised, in 1935, as ‘a city of 1,250 flats, each enjoying at the same time most of the advantages of the separate house and the big communal dwelling place’. Very good that Dolphin Square was conceived as a city within a city. Some developers have been using this pattern in the past 20 years. There are examples on the Greenwich Peninsula and the developers hope to use it for Convoys Wharf. It’s a really good approach to site planning and I wonder why it is not used more widely. Two possibilities are:
architects hero-worship Corbusier and ape his approach to the design of ‘sculptural’ blocks with a significant starchitectural impact on the local environment. This can make them famous and get them work.
planners’ education is dominated by social and economic theory so that spatial and urban design have become frills attached to core professional skills
Dolphin Square has far stronger connections with English practice, with what people want, with urban design and with landscape architecture. Despising the Corbusian approach, and seeing its appearance in London, Steen Eiler Rasmussen, finished the second edition of London the unique city by writing with grit in his mouth that ‘This is the bitter END’. Loving our green space, I’m sure he would have admired Dolphin Square’s roof gardens. But he might have thought the enclosing buildings on the high side and, like me, I’m sure he would have been in bitter opposition to Westbrook raising their height. If you agree, please add your name to the petition https://www.change.org/p/westminster-city-council-save-dolphin-square-and-its-beautiful-listed-grade-ii-gardens
The roof garden was designed Richard Sudell. Spanning the worlds of garden design and landscape, and a prominent figure in the Institute of Landscape Architects, his design made a useful contribution to lessening the bulk and height of the buildings. This was done with large healthy trees and an extensive pergola. As in a deep gorge, their canopies frame views of the sky and protect users from intimidation. Sudell wrote that:
‘There will be nothing in London to equal the Square when it is completed. A stroll round the Square will, as it were, enable you to make a tour of the whole horticultural world. London’s eighteenth-century squares are beautiful indeed, but Dolphin Square will surpass them all in brightness, variety and originality. We shall require about 30,000 more bulbs and plants and nearly 3,000 shrubs and trees to complete our work. We are also going to recondition the whole surface of the lawns, which will be as fine as the central court at Wimbledon – if residents will only assist us!’
There are two roof gardens. One is at ground level, with fountain and roses and lawns in raised beds, plus the two pergola gardens between the terrace bays. This is above the 1930s car park (for 300 cars). The other is the Spanish/Mexican garden. It is at a higher level, above the sports building, and is accessed through the loggia.
The London Cycle Network was planned by the London Cycling Campaign shortly after it was formed, in 1979, and approved by Ken Livingstone when he became leader of the Greater London Council in 1981. This led to some minor improvements in London’s cycle facilities, like some contra-flow lanes on one-way streets.
No ‘network’ of cycling infrastructure was planned or built. Most of the money was spent on signposting routes on backstreets. Because so little infrastructure was built, the LCN attracted few users and cyclists came to see it as a time-wasting attempt to make more space for motorists on busy roads. Looking back, I’m grateful for some small improvements, as a starving man is grateful for bread crumbs. But I’m still as angry about it being called a ‘London Network’ as I would be about 3 bread crumbs being called a Three Course Meal. The below video may have a nostalgic charm for those who biked London in the 1970s and 1980s, as I did.
Four stages in the life, and hoped-for death, of the London Cycle Network can be identified:
Conception 1978-1981. The London Cycling Campaign (LCC) was founded in 1978 and helped plan a 3000 km web of signposted cycle routes
Design 1981-1986. Ken Livingstone became leader of the Greater London Council (GLC) in 1981. He set up a cycle planning unit in the GLC and allocated 1% of the transport budget (£2m/year) to cycling. Its work ended when the GLC was abolished in 1986.
Implementation 1981-2008. The GLC’s work on implementing the London Cycle Network was transferred to the London Boroughs after 1986. Some, like Camden, were fairly active. Others, like Westminster, developed a hatred for cyclists. In 2001 LCN Plus (LCN+) replaced the earlier London Cycle Network project with the aim to producing a ‘higher quality’ network to link strategic centres. Since its length was reduced from 3000 to 900 km it should have been called LCN Minus.
Afterlife 2008-2018. Active promotion of the London Cycle Network drew to a close with the election of Boris Johnson in 2008. Focus shifted to the two phases of the Cycle Superhighway programme, with the LCN winning an afterlife in the form of the Quietways programme. The length was much less than LCN+ so it could well be called ‘LCN Minus Minus’. See LAA Review of Quietway 1.
John Grimshaw, in a book on the National Cycle Network (Sustrans, 2000) wrote, in a fit of insanity, that the 3000 km of the London Cycle Network ‘provide direct access to all major centres of employment, education and leisure in addition to all of London’s railway stations’ (p.64). As a marketing stunt for Sustrans (which Grimshaw founded) he might as well have put up another signpost and added 54.6 million kilometers so that cyclists knew the way to Mars. As Rachel Aldred says in the below video: ‘historically cycling policy has focussed on encouraging people to cycle, rather than changing a road environment that’s frequently scary and intimidating’.
The first ‘Blue Paint’ phase of Boris Johnson’s Cycle Superhighway programme, launched after his election in 2008, looked more like a network but the quality was indifferent (see History of cycle infrastructure planning in London). The second phase, which began to open in 2016, was of higher quality and some sections, like the Embankment section of CS3, are a joy to ride. By London standards, it can be described as a ‘gold standard cycleway’. By Dutch and Danish cycling standards it would not get a bronze medal (because it is bi-directional).
The Transport for London TfL website has legacy references to LCN but, thankfully, there is no more talk of completing the atrocity. In the interests of sanitization and repentence the TfL website needs a new page, (1) explaining why the name London Cycle Network is being dropped (2) explaining what was wrong with it (3) explaining what will take its place. Also, the LCN signage and road markings, implying the existence of cycling facilities that do not exist, should be removed. Also, TfL should stop using LCN data in its Journey Planner. Useless cycle maps have no use. Routing advice should take account of the safety data mapped by Rachel Aldred and I support her call for a map of the London Cycleable Network.
2002 map showing part-completed and proposed sections of the London Cycle Network map
2002 map showing completed sections of the London Cycle Network map
The LCN belongs with the living dead and the most recent LCN map I could find was published in 2002. The key (left corner of above map) classifies Cycle Routes, Part-Completed Routes and Proposed Routes. The preposterous deceitfulness of this data is revealed by looking at any part of London you know. See for example, my the video clip of cycling on London Bridge at the top of this blog post. It was classified as ‘Part Completed’ in 2002 and the clip (from 2:60 to 4:26) of the LCN17 cycle route on the Isle of Dogs (shown on the above map in blue, as a completed route). The Sustrans N1 Route and the TfL Olympic Cycle Route are just as bad. Red eyes is what they give you.
“I used the London Cycle Network”
‘Cycleways’ are facilities in the sense of ‘physical infrastructure designed for cyclists’. Most elements of the LCN were signposted routes on backstreets for travel between town centres. Signposting a backstreet route from Barking to Ilford does no more for cyclists than signposting a route to Mars does for astronauts.
The term ‘network’ refers to an interconnected system, Cyclists want safe routes which follow their desire lines from origins to destinations. The LCN provided little physical infrastructure. Mainly, it was a paint job which road markings and signs on posts to try and make cyclists feel cared for.
The term ‘plan’ means that there is an intention, and funding, to create a connected network of facilities. This would give London a sustainable mass transit system.
So-called London Cycle Network had a few kilometres of useful cycle infrastructure. They and should be used in the London Cycleway Network Plan. As well as providing a segregated cycle network, all London streets (except major highways) should be cyclist-friendly.
Cycling infrastructure costs about 1/30th as much as railways and produces three times as much benefit/£1bn invested.
Here are some figures
£11m for 5km of CS6 (from Elephant and Castle to King’s Cross) = £2.2m/km
£47m for CS3 (9.2 km from Tower Hill to Lancaster Gate) = £5.1m/km
£70m for 6km of CS9(from Olympia to Housnlow) = £11.6/km
£55m for the 4km of CS4 (from Tower Bridge to Greenwich) = £13.7/km
Cost of Bakerloo Line Extension will cost £3.1bn for 7.5km = £413.3m/km. The capacity would be 21,000 passengers/hour in one direction during the rush hour.
The London Underground carries 1.37 billion passengers/year on its 402km network = 3.4m/km
The DLR Gospel Oak to Barking Extension (BRE) will cost £263 million for 4km = £65m/km forecasting 2,400 passengers/hour in the AM peak
The Embankment section of cycle superhighway CS3 carries 340,000 cyclists in 6 weeks (3m/year) and since there is only one counter this can be taken as 3m/km. Traffic is on a steep upward curve and will soon rise above the passenger volume of an average km of underground. So let’s reflect:
construction costs are 30 times greater for a kilometre of Underground than a kilometre of cycleway
The London Cycle Network LCN is a prime example of tokenism (‘the practice of making only a perfunctory or symbolic effort to be inclusive to members of minority groups’). It was an advertising stunt and a fraud. When mapped, it created the appearance of a cycle network. The reality was a plague of signposts on backstreets that got a few cyclists out of the way of motorists. In case anyone does not know it, the examples in this video show that cyclists prefer main streets to back streets. This is because bicycles are human-powered and their owners want short A-to-B routes. They prefer fewer junctions to the more junctions found on back streets. Junctions are where most cycle accidents happen. The extraordinary thing about the LCN is that it still exists. When a bridge fails it disappears. The LCN lives on – and for every mile ridden London cyclists are three times more likely to have an accident than cyclists in Copenhagen or Amsterdam. There would be emergency debates in the House of Commons if similar numbers of people died from other instances of dreadful design or pitiful planning.
Cycle routes must be assessed before they are re-planned and re-designed
Please come and please invite your friends to come. Dreadful design and pitiful planning of the UK’s cycle infrastructure results in a per/mile injury rate that is four times higher than that in Denmark and Holland. Something must be done: the UK needs world-class cycle infrastructure – and this requires Cycleway Network Plans (NCPs).b
13th October 2018: National Funeral for the Unknown Cyclist