Just the first step

Last week saw the approval of the high profile East-West and North-South Superhighway routes in London, along with upgrades to the dangerous Superhighway 2 and more.

The Embassy welcomes these advances. We have, since we formed just over four years ago, championed the need for radical step change in design, and political leadership to deliver truly safe cycling for everyone, and this is a major step towards those goals. However, there is so much more that needs to be done in London, and, just as importantly, across Britain.

London continues to see issues with delivering quality cycle routes. The east-west Superhighway itself appears to have been abandoned around Buckingham Palace following objections from the Royal Parks, while a crucial vote will take place this afternoon on Waltham Forest’s Mini Holland proposals - the most ambitious of the Boroughs to have been awarded funding.

Across Britain, some towns and cities have seen increases in cycling. But this is against a backdrop of cycling rates that are stagnant or even declining across the country. Either way, this brings with it a responsibility on the part of highway authorities to make cycling genuinely safe, and to truly start the 'revolution' for mass cycling. 

More attention than ever before is being paid to collisions and their effects, both deadly and terrifying. But for every one journey that is unpleasant or off-putting, there are hundreds more that simply aren’t made by bike because people don’t feel they have the choice. It is vital that other towns and cities, and less central boroughs in London, heed the example in the centre of London of the need to separate cycle routes from other traffic.

In Scotland a mere extra £4.5m has been found for infrastructure, and the “exemplar” cycle route on Leith Walk has turned out to mostly be a bus lane that the council are now proposing to suspend outside the rush hour. In Cambridge the Local Enterprise Partnership don’t believe cycling can cater to journeys above 2-3 miles, despite years of local lobbying and the highest cycle levels in the Britain. In Newcastle, nearly two years into the Cycle City Ambition programme, and despite plenty of talk, no spade has actually been sunk in the ground yet to transform even just a short stretch of the agreed Strategic Cycle Routes. Elsewhere across Britain, where little or no progress is being made, what cash that is available is being spent on schemes of questionable merit. That includes the two sole 'cycle proofing' schemes in 2014.

The level of ambition for cycling should be so much higher, and the focus needs to be on creating safe, attractive and inviting conditions, with clear leadership from central government on design and planning. We can have a radically healthier, happier and more pleasant country, if we simply choose to provide the conditions for it. London has taken the first step in that direction. Let's see the rest of the United Kingdom follow.