Cyclists are being urged to voice their support for one of London’s busiest cycle routes before the end of the week, after campaigners warned the route is under threat from lobbying by the Licensed Taxi Drivers Association.
The Tavistock Place cycle route in Camden, which is used by thousands of cyclists per day, was doubled in width in November 2015 for a 12 month trial period, making the road one way for motor traffic after the existing two-way bike track became overcrowded.
A consultation on the future of the route ends this Friday, and the Licensed Taxi Drivers’ Association is campaigning to return the road to two-way for motor traffic, claiming it is creating congestion and pollution on surrounding roads and slowing taxi journeys along the route.
The London Cycling Campaign’s Infrastructure Campaigner, Simon Munk, said although Camden Council proposed the scheme and support it, if the overwhelming majority of people are against the scheme, “that’s going to be very hard for them to move forward.”
“I think everyone should be worried about it, I absolutely think there is no foregone conclusion here,” he said.
The cycle route, which runs East from Tottenham Court Road towards Islington, was doubled last year from a 2m wide two-way cycle track (1.75m at its narrowest) to two 2m temporary tracks, one in each direction. Before the trial around 43 per cent of traffic was cycles, 13 per cent motor traffic, and there were a high number of collisions on the route, between motor vehicles and both cyclists and pedestrians, which Camden Council hoped the changes would improve.
Since the new layout was introduced there was a 65 per cent increase in cyclists on parts of the route, and up to a 21 per cent decrease in Nitrogen Dioxide levels, one of the key air pollutants of concern in Central London.
However, taxi drivers have vociferously protested the changes, which they say are exacerbating congestion and pollution on surrounding roads. They set up a petition, which has received just over 200 signatures.
The LTDA petition states: "We would like to see congestion and pollution reduce across the whole area rather than transferred from one street on to another, as the measures currently do.
"Besides submitting a formal consultation response we have launched a petition to ask Camden Council to reconsider their proposals in order to provide a two way motor route on Tavistock Place and Torrington place."
Munk, who is critical of the LTDA's stance, said: “It’s not the scheme that’s causing the issue, it is the huge amount of through traffic. Tavistock Place [cycle scheme] isn’t the cause, of that, it is part of the solution.”
“The idea that the way it was before is better is ludicrous, the idea that we can fit thousands more cyclists into half the space.”
“What seems to be happening is the LTDA and cabbies are basically saying improvements to cyclist and pedestrian safety to a hugely popular route are trumped by cabbies having a minor inconvenience.”
Munk called the LTDA “duplicitous” last week after General Secretary, Steve McNamara, publicly said, at the launch of a joint LCC and LTDA statement to reduce cyclist casualties, the organisation did not oppose bike lanes, hours before LTDA launched a campaign against the route.
“It’s time for them to be clear and honest: if they support cycle tracks they need to get behind Tavistock Place, and if they don’t they need to come out and say it,” said Munk.
Members of Camden Cyclists are out on the route daily talking to cyclists and pedestrians, as well as universities, residents associations and businesses. Munk said there is “an awful lot of support” from “people who use it and recognise day in day out the benefits”.
“It’s not a done deal that the scheme will happen,” he said. “It’s really important for people to respond to the consultation.”
The LTDA told road.cc it believes the LCC is misrepresenting the LTDA position on Tavistock Place and another route its drivers are protesting in North London, Cycle Superhighway 11.
Richard Massett of the LTDA, said: “The LTDA remains committed to the Safer in the City campaign and the wider work the LTDA is doing alongside the LCC such as the campaign launched earlier this year regarding air pollution.
"At Tavistock Place and on CS11 the LTDA believe a better balance can be reached between space for cycling and the needs of residents, businesses and other road users at these locations.”
However, Massett has not responded to a request to clarify how the LCC misrepresented the LTDA's stance or what he means by a better balance.