Big Debate: Is a 15-mile cycle route through East London the best use of our roads?

A cyclist using the Cycle Superhighway in London

A cyclist using the Cycle Superhighway in London - Credit: PA Archive/Press Association Ima

London Mayor Boris Johnson has announced a £913million investment in London’s cycling network branded ‘Crossrail for the bike’ we asked a cyclist and a cab driver if this is the best use of our roads.

Tower Hamlets Wheelers campaigner Terry Patterson

Tower Hamlets Wheelers campaigner Terry Patterson - Credit: submitted

The network will include a 15-mile east London stretch linking Tower Bridge and Barking through Canary Wharf and Stratford.

Steve McNamara

Steve McNamara - Credit: LTDA

Cycling campaigner Terry Patterson said:

“Tower Hamlets Wheelers, the borough group of the London Cycling Campaign, are delighted that the London mayor is taking steps to make cycling safer and inviting for everyone, and is spending money on transport projects that benefit east London.

Most Londoners are currently too frightened to ride a bicycle in our city because the roads are busy with fast-moving motor traffic.

The mayor is proposing to keep bikes and cars separate on the major roads and junctions in London as in cities in Denmark and Holland, where many more people use a bicycle for most of their journeys.

Bike-specific lanes and traffic lights remove the conflicts that could put cycling citizens in danger, encourage more people to cycle, and free up road space. The result is that delivery vans, buses and taxis can flow freely because so many people are riding bicycles, rather than clogging up the roads with cars.

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Less than 40 per cent of the population of Tower Hamlets has access to a motor vehicle but more than 60 per cent of London’s traffic flows through the borough. We will all benefit when more short journeys are made by bike and more commuters cycle to work and college.

People travel by bike when routes are continuous and easy to follow, are safe and inviting, and cycles can be securely parked and stored. We believe good delivery of these schemes will help people get on bikes.

This investment benefits all Londoners. In other European cities the cost benefits of good cycling infrastructure to all citizens are a reduction in transport costs, a reduction in congestion, a healthier population (by increasing fitness, reducing pollution and noise levels), and a reduction in traffic casualties.

The mayor’s new cycle routes will help all Londoners have better transport choices, including cycling, and a population that cycles more is also one that’s healthier and wealthier.”

General secretary of the Licensed Taxi and Drivers’ Association, Steve MacNamara, said:

“London is the greatest city on Earth and because of this unassailable fact everyone wants to be here – it is a mecca for businesses and individuals from all over the world who want to be a part of the hustle and bustle that is London life.

The flaw in the pedalling utopian vision seen by Boris Johnson and the bovver boys of the cycling fraternity is that they fail to realise that this vibrancy is the very reason London is such a fantastic world class city. Their constant whinging about how wonderful everything is for cyclists in Holland and the Low Countries only illustrates their poor grip on reality. London is competing with other major business hubs like New York and Frankfurt – not large villages in quiet parts of Europe. Any attempts to remove road space from commercial traffic and give it over cyclists must and will adversely affect the economic viability of the metropolis.

Of course we need cycle lanes and more of them – but only in proportion to the number of people using them. The theory that if we spend many millions we don’t have building this scheme then we would create thousands more cyclists and relieve pressure on the rest of the transport infrastructure is seriously flawed. When it rains or snows, is windy or cold, the majority of cyclists revert to other transport. We cannot plan a city that only works when the sun shines!

The notion of spending nearly £1billion on blue paint and kerb stones to enable a relatively small number of people to cycle in solitude while east London chokes on the fumes created by stationary commercial traffic queuing for the Blackwall Tunnel is the policy of the madhouse. The £1bn would pay for two new road tunnels and open up the Thames Gateway, creating tens of thousands of much-needed new jobs and homes and regenerating the thousands of unused acres along the river. But instead of the men with vision that London needs, we have men in Lycra whose vision is limited to what you can see from the saddle of a pushbike!”

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