Westminster City Council once again faces criticism as three new so-called Quietway cycling routes, released for consultation, have been branded 'extremely disappointing' and "nowhere near" the quiet routes that are needed, leaving cyclists exposed to the risk of collision.
Thanks to a reliance on contra-flow cycle tracks, where riders in the other direction will have to cycle with rat-running traffic, the three routes under consultation have only managed to raise the cycling level of service, a measure to assess how close a scheme comes to Dutch standards, by 1% to 39%, according to one campaigner.
Westminster's Quietways will form part of the Central London Grid, a key part of the mayor's ten year cycling vision. Campaigners say the lack of an overarching plan for the Grid means there is little, if any, co-ordination between boroughs in creating a useable network.
The London Cycling Campaign's Rosie Downes, said: "Westminster's Quietway proposals are extremely disappointing. There’s huge demand for a network of low-traffic routes in Westminster that are suitable for all ages and abilities and take people where they want to go, not stopping short of key destinations, giving up at junctions or running out at borough boundaries.
"Without restricting rat running motor traffic or providing the space for cycling that's so badly needed on these routes, we can’t see that they warrant the name ‘Quietways’."
The three routes are from Sloane Square to Belgravia, from Hyde Park to Belgravia and Camden Town to Little Venice, the latter following part of the Regents Canal.
The Sloane Square to Belgravia route is 800m long with 'aspirations' to extend the route to Victoria next year. Westminster's consultation document says: "It will benefit all people who want to cycle in the area, particularly those wishing to avoid some of the busier, highly trafficked main roads in the area."
However in many places plans are little more than cycle logos painted on the ground. Colin Wing, of the Westminster Cycling Campaign, said cyclists "remain at risk of collision" with vehicles parking along the route, and with parked car doors as well as at junctions.
He said: "According to my calculations, the proposals improve the Cycling Level of Service from about 38% to 39%".
Transport consultant Mark Strong, who wrote a cycle strategy for Victoria, where part of the routes run, says the plans, which he calls "piecemeal", suggest his recommendations for a network of high quality bike routes linking places of work, transport and leisure appear to have been forgotten.
He said: "I wrote an area wide cycle strategy for the Victoria area for TfL planning which recommended a high quality approach to the development of routes, which doesn't appear to have been followed. It was supposed to be a master plan to the area, something that all partners signed up to."
He said Westminster City Council never agreed to support the plan, however.
"It is an important destination for cycling, you have Victoria station, the coach station, a new Crossrail station, as well as businesses like Microsoft, the passport office, embassies - so many things in the area, let alone Parliament, and there are no routes for cyclists who aren't prepared to use the main roads. No-one is doing very much about it, and all the stuff that Westminster [City Council] is doing is very, very piecemeal."
The LCC's Charlie Lloyd said the plans are "not consistent with our concept of a Central London Grid".
"You need a network of quiet routes, this is nowhere near that because they haven't resolved the through traffic, the rat runs on the routes they are suggesting and there isn't an overview of network of East-West, North-South routes, which is what we asked Transport for London to co-ordinate."
The consultation asks whether people's enjoyment of the City of Westminster is affected by air pollution, congestion, overcrowded public transport as well as the ability to find a parking space, before asking, perhaps bizarrely, whether respondents think more people cycling will help solve traffic congestion, air quality issues, public transport overcrowding, collisions and casualties, and the ability to find a parking space.
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