A turning point for London

By Matt Winfield,
people cycling in London

Today marks a turning point. Transport for London’s board gave the green light for construction to start on the East-West Cycle Superhighway – the so called Crossrail for the bike.

Last week, I stated that I looked forward to seeing the roads starting to reflect the way Londoners travel and want to in the future and that’s exactly what this is about.

There are clear signs that more and more Londoners are taking to their bikes.

Stand by Clerkenwell  Road in the morning and you’ll lose count. Off the main roads a growing number of parents are riding their offspring to school – an image usually associated with Copenhagen. 

Having doubled in the last decade, cycling levels once again broke recent records this Monday. This is the first step toward providing those record numbers already cycling with safer conditions. But even more importantly, this is the first step toward giving more Londoners a genuine choice over how they travel.

When Cycling Works asked Londoners what would make them cycle, a clear 74% favoured physical separation from traffic. This cycle superhighway will do just that with protected space for cycling along its length.

It will enable a much broader variety of Londoners  - families, older people, and those with adapted bikes - to cycle across the centre of town, confident that they can get safely from A to B.  

Over 170 major employers, including the Royal Bank of Scotland, Microsoft and Unilever alongside a number of global Architects wrote in their support. Those in the business of rethinking cities were keen to get behind a cycle route, while employers knew that this would mean better journeys for their employees, clients, customers, family and friends.

Indeed, a new European study published last week showed that the most achievable and realistic way to cut air pollution from transport is getting more people out of cars and onto bicycles, and that’s ignoring the background exercise a lot more of us would get by peddling a little more.

With this East-West route at its core, other Superhighways coming forward and the first Quietways connecting inner and outer London, we can start to imagine a London brimming with the sound of conversation rather than that of the combustion engine.

Through streets that are better designed for people on bikes and on foot, London can start to become a liveable, affordable 21st century city - a place ready to absorb growth in housing, without growth in roads.

There’s a marathon of work ahead to redress the balance of our roads, but this is an important starting point – a real signal of intent. 

Find out more about how Sustrans' are delivering London Quietways - quiet, direct cycle routes, which follow back streets, and run through parks or along waterways.

Find out more about how Sustrans influences official walking, cycling and public transport policy and guidance in London.

Read more blog posts and news stories relating to London.