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London businesses threaten legal action over 'Crossrail for the Bike' plans

Major employers predict traffic chaos - but evidence from NYC suggests segregated cycle lanes reduce congestion

Major businesses in London are reportedly considering taking legal action against the city’s mayor, Boris Johnson, because they do not believe they have been given enough time to respond to proposals for planned segregated cycle routes across the capital – with the head of one describing the process as “an absolute mess.”

Consultation on the two routes dubbed ‘Crossrail for the Bike’ – one running from east to west from Tower Gateway to the Westway, the other from King’s Cross in the north to Elephant & Castle in the south – opened earlier this month, and remains open for six weeks.

According to the London Evening Standard’s transport editor, Matthew Beard, the mayor is accused of attempting to push the scheme through by the time he stands down in 2016.

While business leaders say they support the £48 million scheme, they are also said to be concerned that not enough information has yet been made public about the plans.

The unnamed head of what the newspaper describes as “one of the city’s biggest employers” said: “This is an absolute mess. We all support the policy but we can’t get behind it when the whole thing is designed to block out any external views.

“It’s simply not good enough to put pictures of an empty road on the Transport for London website and promise everything will be okay. Boris needs to get a grip because at the moment [London’s cycling commissioner] Andrew Gilligan’s plans will cause gridlock.”

The London Chamber of Commerce and Industry [LCCI] also warned that the plans may cause more congestion. Its director of policy and public affairs, Sean McKee, told the Standard: “LCCI agrees that investment in cycling infrastructure is necessary.

“However, the two proposed cycling routes could lead to a significant increase in traffic for other road users.”

Blogger Danny Williams of Cyclists in the City points out that London First, an organisation representing major employers in the city including law firms, banks and accountants, has also made similar comments about the consultation and expressed fears the plans will lead to more traffic jams for other road users.

But he highlights a report published last week by New York City’s Department Of Transportation which found that far from causing more congestion for motor vehicles, implementation of segregated cycle lanes there had actually smoothed traffic flow – a key aim of Transport for London.

The DOT’s report found that average speeds were higher, casualties among all road users lower, and shop takings had increased on routes where the cycle infrastructure had been installed.

Meanwhile Gilligan, appointed London’s cycling champion last year, countered criticism of the consultation, saying: “Our ‘Crossrail for the Bike’ was first announced 18 months ago with a description of the route and a picture of the scheme, widely published in the Evening Standard and on TV.

“The north-south route was announced 10 months ago. The statutory consultation published last week explains our plans in great detail.”

Williams is urging cyclists working for big employers in the city to not only respond to TfL’s consultation, but also to take action at their workplaces.

He says: “Maybe you work for one of the big businesses that is represented by a group that opposes these cycle super highways?

“That's you if you're an employee of HSBC, Citibank or Merrill Lynch. Or if you work at J Sainsbury, John Lewis, M&S or even the Ministry of Sound. Or perhaps you work for a London university or college. Or maybe you work for the NHS. You could even work at Allen & Overy, or Deloitte or EY or KPMG.

“If so, get your pens out and get writing. You can either write in as an individual or maybe as a bicycle user group, or ideally, encourage your corporate social responsibility team or board members to write in. I know plenty of firms and companies that have done this in the past. Time to do so again, I'm afraid.”

Simon joined as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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