London's transport supremo has characterised the debate over two new 'cycle superhighways' across the capital as setting cyclists against businesses, despite the support for the scheme from a large number of London companies.
Speaking to Matthew Beard of the Evening Standard, Transport for London (TfL) commissioner Peter Hendy revealed that there have been 20,000 responses to consultations on the plans and it will take TfL two months to go through them all.
Hendy spoke about the strong feelings that have emerged in the debate about the planned cycleways.
He said: “It’s really unhelpful to describe the objectors as being politically-motivated and the adherents as being unrealistic. It’s our job to try to sort something that works for everybody.
“One of the characteristics of this is that it’s highly emotional. I think the support for the scheme from the cyclists and the objections from the businesses are both heartfelt.
“For one side to represent that the other has no case is false.”
However, campaigners have already pointed out that it's false to characterise the row over the planned routes as being between cyclists and businesses.
Over 170 businesses, employing more than 100,000 Londoners have backed the scheme, including Unilever, Orange, The Financial Times, Microsoft, Royal Opera House, the Globe Theatre, RBS, and Deloitte.
Chris Kenyon of campaign group CyclingWorks.London, which has mobilised employers in favour of the scheme, said: “Rarely if ever has a scheme by TfL gathered so many CEO level signatures of support. Surely that is the big story.
“The backers represent every major industry sector and show that Londoners are in it together and believe that it's time for kerb protected lanes in the heart of the city.”
Objections from business representatives have centred on the stretch of the proposed East-West cycleway that passes through the City of London and along Victoria Embankment.
A briefing from Canary Wharf Group claimed this would cause delays in motor traffic, while the City is concerned about effects on pedestrians at Ludgate Circus.
Last week London mayor Boris Johnson dismissed a request from London Chamber of Commerce and Industry to make the east-west route partially segregated. A spokesman for the mayor's office said: “The Mayor is of the strong view that segregation will save cyclists’ lives and that semi-segregation would not save any more road space.”
Another business group that initially opposed the plans, London First, is believed to have softened its stance on discovering just how many businesses were in favour of the new cycleways.
The mayor's cycling commissioner, Andrew Gilligan, recently said that 80 percent of the responses to the consultation had been in favour, though Gilligan put the total number at 14,000.
Nevertheless, Hendy says that TfL has a hard task. He said: “Our job is to balance a scarce resource against a whole variety of claims... and it’s difficult.”
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