London Mayor, Boris Johnson, today opened London’s “Crossrail for Bikes”, a major new protected cycle route, in his last day in office before the new Mayor is declared this evening.
Cycle campaigners greeted the Mayor to celebrate the opening of the centrepiece of Johnson’s 2013 Vision for Cycling, and Johnson hailed a ten month period without a cyclist fatality in the capital and urged London’s next mayor to continue the cycling programme.
Andrew Gilligan, Boris Johnson’s Cycling Commissioner, said the cycle routes have “changed the face of London” and proving opponents wrong as cyclists were seen using the East-West in large numbers less than 24 hours after opening. He believes the cycle routes will be recognised as one of the outgoing mayor’s most important legacies.
The Mayor, Boris Johnson, said: “As one or two people might know, I am a passionate supporter of cycling and I have worked hard to make London a cycle-friendly city. So I think it’s fitting that the last thing I do as Mayor is to inaugurate these spectacular new routes, and a new era of cycling in London.”
Johnson also hailed what is believed to be the longest period without a cycling fatality in London. He said: “It’s too early to be complacent or crow about this but one of the things that really drove us was the fatalities the serious injuries we’ve seen, particularly female cyclists. I think since June last year we’ve not had a fatality involving a motor vehicle and a cyclist, which is a very long period for us.”
The “Cycle Crossrail” is a fully protected bike route running for just under three miles from Tower Hill to Parliament Square, that will eventually run past Buckingham Palace and through Hyde Park to Acton, in West London. At Tower Hill it links to an existing cycle superhighway that runs East to Barking.
At the opening of the route Boris Johnson’s Cycling Commissioner, Andrew Gilligan, said he and the Mayor were among those who doubted plans would come to fruition, due to the political challenge of replacing space for motor traffic with cycle lanes on London’s busy roads.
Gilligan told road.cc in an interview at the junction of the new East-West and North-South Cycle Superhighways (a podcast of the entire interview is here): “It’s going to be a permanent part of London, we’ve changed the face of the city, and I think it’s going to be recognised as one of Boris’ most important legacies ... it genuinely would not have happened without his commitment.
He said while the schemes themselves are fairly straightforward, the politics was “by far the hardest part”.
“It came very close to not happening on several occasions," he said. "It was a pretty big fight. The reason it was worth having is, it’s only been open less than 24 hours and in the time it’s taken me to say this sentence about six cyclists have cycled past me and it’s already showing why it will work and why we should do more. It’s already proving the naysayers wrong 18 hours after it’s opened.”
“The most important thing any cycling scheme needs is political leadership,” he said.
Gilligan had his "pope" moment at the opening, and kissed the ground where the E-W and N-S routes meet.
Johnson said his next successor needs to keep investing in cycling and lobbying central government for transport funding and said the “big wins” in terms of getting more people on bikes in the capital are the outer London boroughs.
“There’s so much to be done in outer London, too many journeys are being made by car that could be made by bicycle,” he said.
He also urged faster cyclists not to "bully" less experienced riders on the new routes.
He said: “It’s very important to recognise this is a facility for everybody. I have come across people who have been intimidated by the speeds at which some people are using it. There’s no need to break the land speed record on this, it’s a way of getting easily to work or getting around town, it’s not a race track.”
He said: “We’re not the number one city for cycling yet, but we’re on our way.”