Sadiq bottles it on Cycle Superhighway 11

The position on Cycle Superhighway 11 was announced to stakeholders tonight. It is a decision effectively not to decide on the key issue.

TfL have committed to removing the Swiss Cottage gyratory; work will begin next year. But they have not committed to the key proposal which turns this from merely a junction scheme into a route – to close four of the eight gates to Regent’s Park to stop the Outer Circle being a rat-run. (Under the proposal, you would still be able to drive into the park at any time through one of the other four gates, but it would be harder to use it as a through route.)

TfL told the meeting that closing the four gates at certain times “remains the default position,” but “consideration will be given to other options to make the park safer for everyone.” A final decision will be made next summer.

This shouldn’t have been a hard decision for Sadiq, so the refusal to commit is a pretty bad sign.

Any decision not to close the gates at Regent’s Park, in response to the shrill falsehoods of a nimby minority, would be an act of defining weakness which would effectively end any serious cycling and walking programme in this mayoral term.

If Sadiq cannot even close four of the eight gates to a park, part of a proposal with 60 per cent support, it is difficult to imagine him doing the much harder things which await – such as constructing segregated tracks on busy arterial roads. This is now the second cycling proposal with clear public support that the Mayor may go back on. (Public support for the specific proposals on the Regent’s Park section was slightly higher than the overall level of support, at 61%.)

If the Mayor does decide that one of the world’s great parks should remain a traffic-choked rat-run, his rhetoric about transforming London for pedestrians and cyclists will be shown to be hollow.

Grand announcements of millions of pounds for cycling mean nothing without the political will to spend it on meaningful schemes.

On CS11 Sadiq may be trying to have it both ways. By continuing with the gyratory removal, he can claim he is “giving something” to the majority. If he does drop plans to close the gates, he can claim he is “giving something” to the nimby minority.

If he does do this, however, he will find that he has created a dog’s dinner of a scheme which angers everybody and pleases nobody.

The closure of the gates in Regent’s Park is the only thing that makes CS11 a meaningful route. The gyratory alone amounts to less than 5 per cent of the route.

For the other 95 per cent of its length, CS11 with the gates left open would be a return to the bad old days when cyclists had to mingle with heavy traffic, protected by nothing more than patches of blue paint. This risks becoming the “new normal” of cycling provision under Sadiq.

But the nimbies, too, would hate the Mayor’s halfway house. They opposed the gyratory removal just as fiercely as the gate closures. Moreover, the gyratory removal and the gate closures were designed to work together. Doing one but not the other would mess up the balance of the scheme, and the neighbourhood.

Our proposal would have kept all the traffic on the A41 because it would have been impossible to enter the park at Avenue Road.

A hybrid proposal would still make it more difficult to enter the top end of Avenue Road – but would allow traffic to enter the park at the bottom end of Avenue Road. This is a recipe for the very rat-running through residential streets in St John’s Wood which the nimbies were against.

I wish I could say it would be fitting reward for the people whose misrepresentations helped land us in this mess, but the rest of us would suffer too.

The deeply troubling role of Westminster City Council in this saga should also be recorded. They opposed the gate closure on the grounds, among others, that it would jeopardise their scheme for two-way traffic in Baker Street.

But Baker Street is a worthless and deeply disliked scheme, with few supporters and few discernible benefits for anyone, not just cyclists. In the first consultation, in 2015, it was rejected by 57 per cent of those consulted, including 70 per cent of residents. It is opposed by many of the retailers it was supposed to benefit.

The council then did a second consultation this year which produced a higher number in favour of the scheme (though still more people against – 46 per cent against to 36 per cent in favour). In this consultation it explicitly announced that it would “exclude” representations made by cyclists (for whom the scheme contains a number of “critical fails.”) Only after excluding these responses was it able to claim that the scheme had majority support! See page 14 of this document.

It is Baker Street that should be scrapped, not the Regent’s Park scheme. TfL has the power to end it, since it is partly funding it. It should exercise that power unless Westminster stops trying to destroy a scheme that people actually want.

Sadiq Khan cycling announcement: my comment

A promised spend of £154m is not a “record” and is less than we spent last year.

But even this level of spending will not be achieved unless the Mayor actually starts building something. So far, most movement has been in the other direction, with shovel-ready schemes delayed or cancelled.

Today’s press release contains no commitment to actually build any segregated cycle route beyond the one scheme (the North-South extension) already announced. This includes only half a mile of segregated track. With the cancellation of the 4.5-mile segregated scheme on the Westway and A40, the net total of new segregated routes so far promised by this mayoralty is minus four miles.

The promise to consult on two cycle superhighway routes (CS4 and CS9) is welcome, though neither will reach central London and I note there is no commitment that they will be segregated. We need a promise that they will be segregated, and also that a consultation result which favours their building will not be ignored, as it was with the Westway.

City Hall will be judged, as we were, by what it does, not what it says. Seven months into the new mayoralty, it is time to stop issuing press releases and get started.