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London Pushes Through Stiff Resistance to Cycle Superhighways

posted Aug 15, 2015, 6:38 AM by Peter Campbell
Two new segregated bike paths will crisscross the city and open up speedy, safe cycling that will ease pollution and traffic for everyone, non-cyclists, too, Boris Johnson says.

London is a big huffing puffing city, so Mayor Boris Johnson’s success in pushing ahead with his plan to build cycle superhighways right through the heart of it seems nothing short of a small miracle.

They won’t be finished before May of next year, but the concept, as Boris Johnson said in March at the inauguration of the building, goes far beyond simply smoothing the ride for cyclists: “Getting more people on their bikes will reduce pressure on the road, bus and rail networks, cut pollution and improve life for everyone, whether or not they cycle themselves.”

Artist’s impression of London’s new Cycle Superhighway – Transport for London
The “Crossrail for the Bike” will be 21 miles long and almost completely separated from motor traffic: 18 miles travelling east-west (from Barking to Acton) and 3 miles running north-south (from King’s Cross to Elephant and Castle). When completed in 2016, it will be Europe’s longest segregated bike path.

Transport for London’s superhighways are not without their detractors, however. The Licensed Taxi Drivers Association (LTDA) had threatened legal action, but ultimately backed away when it became apparent that a judicial review of TfL’s plans would simply delay rather than stop the new routes. Property firm Canary Wharf Group had also been vocal, producing an anonymous briefing (which it later acknowledged) that called the planned route “extremely damaging for London.”

Their complaints hinged on concerns over gridlock, increased congestion, restricting delivery vehicle access and adversely affecting business in general.

Also, some of London boroughs have been fierce opponents only caving under huge pressure and, in one case, threats to seize control of its roads, says London’s cycling commissioner, Andrew Gilligan, who characterized the city as “still in the foothills” of being cycle friendly.

Although Johnson has been a huge booster of cycling in London, putting £900 million ($1.4 billion) toward the project, the original idea has been a long time in the making. His predecessor Ken Livingstone, who became mayor in 2000, was vocal and active in pushing the cycling agenda and in 2008 announced £400 million ($624 million) in initiatives. Even before that, there was a long and steady campaign to raise the profile and the possibilities for cycling in the city.

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