After hearing of the terrible death of a second person at Bow within a few weeks on the cycle superhighway, I tweeted that the thinking behind the scheme needs revisiting. Iain Dale, the consummate Conservative blogger and LBC presenter tweeted back saying it was a ‘knee jerk’ reaction on my part, and sprang to the defence of Boris Johnson and his cycle schemes See: http://bit.ly/sU9Lgn
I think Iain misses the point entirely and I was, frankly, very angry about what I saw was trivialisation of the issue. My tweet was not a kneejerk reaction, but born of concern I already had for the scheme The Supehighways are a bizarre concept. Paint a section of the road blue – though not a continuous section – and encourage cyclists to use it, and simultatenously deter – but with no legal sanction – motorists from going onto those sections. That seems rather flawed from the start because it is based on the idea that no extra space is being given permanently to cyclists, but rather cyclists are encouraged to assume that a piece of road spares is allocated to them, but there are no clear rules about what they are for.
I don’t want to turn this into a political debate but Boris does not ‘get’ cycling. He is indeed a cyclist but he does not understand that given the growth in cycling over the past decade or so in London, the streets, especially in the centre, have to start being reorganised around their needs, rather than refusing ever to ‘disrupt the traffic flow’ in order to make life easier for them. Ken did not really ‘get’ cycling either, frankly, but that’s another issue.
This is all that the TfL website says about them: ‘They give you safer, faster and more direct journeys into the city. We’ve improved road surfaces and improved junctions for a more comfortable ride, and each Superhighway has a clear, unique identity, with blue surfaces to increase driver awareness.’
Note it just says ‘safer’ but does not explain in what way the lanes are safer, except that ‘driver awareness’ is heightened. While the scheme was being developed, I was approached by one of the consultants working on it, who said that their suggestions relating to taking road space away from cars and reallocating it to cyclists were invariably ignored. This person was very dissatisfied with the end result and was worried that the superhighways would, in fact, make things less safe for cyclists. Two deaths do seem to suggest that this has been borne out. I reiterate my point – the superhighway scheme must be looked at again and possibly redesigned or abandoned.