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Mind the Cycling Network Gap

New infrastructure built during the pandemic brings us a big step closer to a coherent cycle network. Aydin Crouch spots the gaps that need plugging.

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Since 2010, London has built some of the world’s best cycle infrastructure. The capital’s cycle network as a whole however cannot be given the same praise. This is because much of London still lacks any decent cycleways and where things have been built, it’s inconsistent. Things however don’t have to remain this way. Since the pandemic began, we’ve seen how pop-up cycleways can be built cheaply and quickly. Utilising this method, councils and TfL need to look at what already exists and work with it to build a more extensive and coherent network.

Legacy Infrastructure

London’s many miles of protected cycle track that pre-date TfL’s network is an untapped resource which, if upgraded, could cheaply and easily expand London’s safe cycle network. This infrastructure, often from the 1930s, is generally of a lower safety/capacity standard, with the most problematic areas being junctions and bus stops.

Some of these routes have already been upgraded and incorporated into TfL’s network, such as Western Avenue Cycleway, which became C34 in 2020. In the short term, to avoid the lengthy consultations to make more permanent changes, experimental measures could very smartly bring these existing routes up to modern safety standards for little cost.

Reviving these old cycleways, in most cases, would result in neither road space, parking nor pavement being lost. This would inevitably garner less opposition, making the changes more likely to stay in place. In most cases it would just be at junctions where new paint and traffic lights would be required. This is certainly true of the A4 cycle path (Gillette Corner-Hounslow West). Despite dating from the 1930s, it is of a remarkably high standard, only falling short at junctions.

A4 Cycle Path (westbound) near Osterley

A4 Cycle Path (westbound) near Osterley

Dangerous junction where at no time is it safe for cyclists to cross

Dangerous junction where at no time is it safe for cyclists to cross

Although creating new cycleways along suburban A-roads is essential and should continue, it only makes sense for TfL to simultaneously pick some of this low hanging fruit. It’s cheaper, requires far less construction work, and due to most of the infrastructure already being in place, has little reason to garner backlash.

Closing the gaps

The other quick way to improve London’s cycle network is to bridge the gaps. There are a number of examples across the capital where two stretches of brilliant infrastructure finish less than a mile apart.

Two examples are:

  • CS5-CS7The section of CS7 alongside Kennington Park was segregated in 2015, the same year CS5 (Pimlico-Oval Cricket Ground) was built. CS5 was supposed to go to Lewisham, but this extension is indefinitely on hold. Unless fixed, CS5 will end just shy of CS7: 0.2 miles away to be exact.
  • CS3-C8 – Since wands were installed between Chelsea and Lambeth bridges along C8, a new gap has emerged between C8 and CS3. This prevents there being a continuous cycleway from Chelsea to Tower bridges. Any upgrade would have to compete for space with the security infrastructure outside Parliament, but protection could at least be installed between Lambeth Bridge and Victoria Tower.

There are many more examples of gaps like this in the network and despite some being fixed, (e.g. CS3-Q1), with London’s cycle network continuing to grow, others are being created.

Safe Cycling in London map

As campaigners, you should search for opportunities to bridge the gaps in the existing network and find where legacy infrastructure can be upgraded. A useful resource for this is the Safe Cycling in London map (produced by @SafeCycleLDN) which allows you to see where the infrastructure exists (legacy and contemporary), see what parts of London are served well, what parts are not, and of course, where the gaps are.

To attract more people to take up the saddle, we cannot wait another ten years for the network to continue to grow at its natural speed. We must act fast. The easiest, and least controversial, method of doing this is to utilise and fix what we already have. The opportunities are there and ready for us to use, they just need to be identified and revived.

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Cycling Infrastructure

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