First time visitors to London will have been warned about the Capital’s chronic traffic congestion but won’t – probably – have been told that Transport for London (TfL) is building a new road system on top of the existing one.
This apparent trick, worthy of Harry Potter himself, is not an illusion, but a new dedicated ‘cycle superhighway’ that, when completed, will stretch for over 18 miles from Barking in the East to Acton in the West and three miles from Kings Cross in the North to the Elephant and Castle in the South.
Visitors in London today will see the highway already taking shape. And a pretty impressive sight it will be. When officially opened next summer, it will be a world first. Something that TfL’s ultimate boss, soon-to-stepdown Mayor of London, Boris Johnson will no doubt be pleased to capitalise on. It will probably also be the first time that a personal initiative of his aroused relatively little opposition. A nine week consultation amongst Londoners regarding the scheme recorded 84% in favour of it. If Boris wants to leave the Mayor’s office on a high note, this might be the scheme that helps him do it.
Given the Capital’s astonishing population growth rate (8.6 million today and climbing fast), every new cyclist that uses the new Highway represents one less passenger on the Capital’s creaking public transport system. Although that’s not the primary reason for building it. With the number of cyclists on London’s main roads tripling in the last decade – representing approximately 64% of traffic at peak times – an increase in the number of accidents was inevitable. (Eight cyclists have already died on London’s roads since the start of this year). The new highway will therefore include dedicated cycle lanes and much improved road junctions. The new highway will also have a beneficial effect on London’s streetscape; numerous new trees are being planted along the route too.
London has several cycle routes in place already, notable by their bright blue road surfaces. And by the numbers already using them. According to a study carried out by the TfL, the number of cyclists on its CS2 route increased by 32 per cent in the year after it first opened and it estimates that on average 2,000 cyclists use the route per day. (The CS2 route is about 4.3 miles and runs from Stratford in the East into Aldgate in the City).
So. Could we see London’s roads being congested all over again, only this time with cyclists?