September 9th, 2014
The Mayor of London’s ambitious ‘Vision for Cycling’ project looks to secure £931 million for investment in cycling infrastructure in the capital. The proposal has been welcomed by cycling advocates and campaigners, and if successful could secure Boris Johnson’s legacy in London before his 2015 Parliament bid. Yet issues surrounding funding, and Boris’s likely departure, may mean the project never comes to fruition.
Since assuming his Mayoral role in 2008, Boris Johnson has taken significant steps to promote cycling in the capital. From the introduction of the ‘Boris Bike’ hire scheme to the banning of HGVs in the M25 region, the current Mayor has been considered by many as a true progressive when it comes to promoting cycling.
In a bid to keep the ‘cycling revolution’ rolling, the Mayor unveiled in 2013 his most ambitious cycling project to date. The ‘Vision for Cycling’ project aims to invest close to £1 billion over the space of a decade, with the intention of the capital securing the cycle-friendly status of many of its European brethren.
The centerpiece of the proposal is the creation of a genuine “Crossrail for Bikes” – a 15mile, fully segregated cycling route, running from the Western suburbs through Central London to Barking in the East. In a system reminiscent of the London tube network, smaller segregated cycle paths will link up with the main bike Crossrail, creating an intricate system of safe cycle paths throughout the city.
Other measures include; establishing more semi segregated cycle paths throughout the city, and the development of a network of ‘quietways’, providing direct and fully signposted routes through London’s quieter streets into the suburbs.
Cycling advocates will no doubt applaud the allocation of £300milion to redesign 33 of London’s most dangerous and ill adapted junctions, including the infamous Elephant & Castle junction. The re-designed junctions, one of which is shown above, will be more cycle friendly by creating segregated cycle paths and two-way roads.
Ashok Sinha, manager of London Cycling Campaign, praised the mayor and the TfL (Transport for London) for the move, arguing it indicated a true commitment to respond to the needs of cyclists in the capital.
Should the project come to fruition, the Mayor will secure his legacy as a true cycling advocate, and convince increasing numbers of Londoner’s to commute by bike. The project’s completion will no doubt help to achieve the aim of doubling the number of commuters by bike by the year 2020.
The ambitiousness of the project cannot be understated, yet there are grave concerns over its feasibility. The Mayor at present has only secured £300million of the proposed £931million, with funding reviews scheduled for 2015. If cuts are to be made to the TfL’s budget it is likely that the ‘Vision for Cycling’ project will take the hit, given that the allocation of funding for London’s tube network renovation is all but watertight.
Even if the proposed funding is reached, Liberal Democrat Caroline Pidgeon, and Chair of the London Assembly’s transport committee argued that the proposed budget falls way short of what is necessary, and that ‘its impact will be diluted’ over its 10-year implementation period.
Besides funding, the project has also experienced a number of initial setbacks. In December 2013, Barclays, the proposed official sponsor of the project till 2018, withdrew.
To further compound the issue, in August 2014, Boris announced, somewhat inevitably, that he would run for Parliament in 2015.
Boris’s immanent departure as Mayor of London has further called into question the projects feasibility. By 2015 Boris will head to Westminster as an MP, and become embroiled in political leadership battles. Consequently, it will be his successor that will carry the majority of the burden of the ‘Vision for Cycling’ project.