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Historic day for London cyclists as TfL board approves Cycle Superhighways (+ flythrough video)

Campaigners in capital and beyond hail decision to approve plans for segregated routes

The board of Transport for London (TfL) has today given its formal go-ahead to the two planned Cycle Superhighways that will cross the capital from East to West and North to South. Campaigners have hailed approval of the planned routes as an historic day for cycling in the capital.

The city’s mayor, Boris Johnson, who last week presented the final details of the planned routes after what was said to be one of the biggest consultation exercises ever undertaken by TfL, described the outcome of the meeting as “fantastic news.”

Work on the two routes bisecting the city centre, from Kings Cross to Elephant & Castle and Tower Hill to the Westway, is due to begin next weeks, with the scheme approved by TfL’s board despite the opposition of members including National Express chairman Sir John Armitt who was accused of victim-blaming after claiming cyclists were their own biggest danger on the city’s streets.

He, and others opposed to the infrastructure, were in the minority however, and Danny Williams of Cyclists in the City blog reflected the views of many of the capital’s cyclists when he tweeted: “Today's vote by TfL board for cycle super highways is the work & emotional commitment of 1000s of people over 6+ years. Just wow, London.”

British Cycling’s policy advisor, Chris Boardman, said: “This is a fantastic day for Londoners, as well as the many million people who visit the capital every year.

“This vision for large-scale, properly segregated cycle ways will make cycling a more attractive transport option, creating a more pleasant, healthy and sustainable London for everyone.

“The move brings the capital one step closer to creating a true cycling culture to rival cities like Copenhagen and Amsterdam. But most importantly of all, it will set a standard for the rest of the country.”

That final point was echoed by Cambridge Cycling Campaign, which said in a post to Twitter: “Dear London, THANK YOU for approving proper cycle infrastructure and making our own job easier in the coming 5 years. Yours, the regions.

The meeting was shown a fly-through video of the route of the East-West Cycle Superhighway which gives an unprecedented overview of what cyclists can expect.

Speaking to the Guardian’s Peter Walker for an article published ahead of this morning’s TfL board meeting, Rosie Downes, campaigns manager at the London Cycling Campaign (LCC), highlighted the importance of the mayor’s support for the plans.

She said: “Obviously, there has been some resistance. But the mayor has made it very clear he thinks this is something that should go ahead, and there has been a strong and very clear response from Londoners.”

Last week, Mr Johnson said he expected cycling to feature in the Conservative Party’s manifesto at May’s general election and that nationally, it would be “suicide” for any party to ignore the issue.

Ms Downes said that in London at least, that political consensus already exists, observing that “there’s a recognition now that trying to stop or delay the plans is not going to be a wise political move.”

Andrew Gilligan, the journalist who in 2012 was appointed London’s first cycling commissioner by Mr Johnson, said that he expected today to be “a momentous day.”

Referring to the TfL vote on the issue, he said: “I think it will go through, and for the first time London will be spending really serious money on cycling, and producing a facility which has met with universal praise from cyclists.”

Opponents of the scheme such as Canary Wharf Group, whose managing director of finance Peter Anderson sits on TfL’s board, had warned of traffic chaos if the proposals went ahead, and remain firmly against them, despite Mr Johnson last week presenting revisions including narrowing the cycle lanes at three pinch points.

But Mr Gilligan said: “What I’m hoping is that when this opens people will see that the traffic doesn’t melt down, and the world doesn’t come to an end, and it will open the way to more in the future.”

Meanwhile Green Party politician Baroness Jones, a former deputy mayor of London under Ken Livingstone, accused Mr Johnson of failing to deliver on his promise of building 12 Cycle Superhighways in London and described the progress in introducing safe infrastructure as “painfully slow.”

In a press release issued this morning, she said that TfL board papers showed that by the time Mr Johnson steps down at the next mayoral election in 2014, only six Cycle Superhighways of those original 12 would have been built.

She did acknowledge that one of the reasons for that was that following a number of serious injuries and deaths in 2011, Mr Johnson and TfL had been forced to go back to the drawing board to prioritise the safety of cyclists in the design of the routes.

“The mayor promised 12 superhighways, but will leave office having finished half of that,” she said.

“Boris Johnson thought that a bit of blue paint on the road was good enough protection, but after a dreadful flurry of serious injuries and deaths he was forced to start again and put in some proper safety measures.

“London is now starting to get the cycle infrastructure it needs, but the pace of change is painfully slow and the lack of ambition is criminal.”

She welcomed development of Quietways on less busy routes that take cyclists along roads that are relatively free of traffic and also have traffic free section, through parks for example.

But she maintained that development of those should not be at the expense of infrastructure on busier routes, pointing out that different cyclists have different priorities.

“The Hackney scheme is a great Quietway, but it is not a superhighway,” she said. Giving cyclists the choice of a good route along residential roads is welcome, but the Mayor also needs to fix the main roads and junctions which he controls on the parallel route.

“Many cyclists will enjoy a quieter, less polluted route, but many others want the directness and speed of the main roads. With the deaths of two cyclists on Hackney main roads, so far this year, we have to make both choices safer.”

Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.

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