The TfL 2018 London Cycle Strategy is welcome but has 7 problems


mts london cycle strategy
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
  • the recommended MTS Strategic Cycle Network is based on TfL’s 2017 Strategic Cycling Analysis and TfL’s 2016 Analysis of Cycling Potential
  • a Survey of Potential Cycleway Routes is also necessary
  • the two types of input, on demand and supply, should then be used to design a Strategic Cycle Network which can be costed and phased, with a target completion date  and an appropriate budget
  • as with any mass transport system the full benefits are realised only when individual routes are combined into a network
  • the MTS objective of most Londoners being within 400m of a cycleway is reasonable. TfL should fund strategic cycleways. Local councils should fund feeder paths and leisure paths
  • commuters require short fast routes. Since these will very often be Red Routes, most of TLRN Red Routes should be re-designed to accommodate segregated cycle lanes.

2. Network budget and phasing

  • the Benefits and Costs of investing in a Strategic Cycle Network should be subject to economic analysis
  • cycling network investments should be compared with similar levels of investment in rail projects (including Cross Rail 2 and the Bakerloo Line Extension)
  • 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 does not include Lewisham’s excellent plan for making the A20 both a healthy street and a superhighway-standard cycleway
  • It does not include a strategic cycle route on the A2 Old Kent Road (despite discussing its feasibility in the TfL 2017 Strategic Cycling Analysis)
  • It does not include a proposal for making a strategic leisure cycleway beside the Thames in South London
  • It does not include a proposal for extending CS4 from Greenwich to Woolwich (see review of CS4)
  • It does not include a proposal for an Isle of Dogs Cycle Superhighway
  • 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.

Tom Turner