The Landscape Guide

Cycle planning in London

London Landscape Plans: 1829, 1900, 1929, 1943, 1951, 1969, 1976, 1988, 1990, 1992, 2000, 2004, London landscape architecture,

As capital cities go, London in the first decade of the twenty first century was not too bad for the cyclist: better than in the capitals of the Latin countries (Rome, Paris, Madrid etc) but not as good as in most of the capital cities of North Europe: Berlin, Amsterdam, Copenhagen etc.

But judged by the designated cycle routes, it would be difficult to find a worse capital than London. See, for example, our comment on cycling in the Isle of Dogs, where the cycle paths are short, cheap, dangerous, ugly and altogether ridiculous. One might assume the qualifications for the job of cycleway designer to have been extreme parsimony, profound ignorance, wickedness or a deep hatred of cyclists. It is more probable that the problem was lack of support from local politicansTransport for London and (TfL). A London Assembly Report in 2005 noted that “Unlike bus priority schemes and the congestion charge, LCN [Lodon Cycle Network] has not benefited from determined central direction by high ranking TfL officers with substantial powers to implement projects.' At a local level the work is 'outsourced to consultants who frequently have scant experience or knowledge of cycling'. The ugly deathtraps they design are then found to have little usage - justifying a policy of lower future expenditure.

The trouble began with the London Cycle Network. A 500 mile (800 km) strategic network was planned but:

  • it was too ambitious, with the emphasis on quantity rather than quality
  • in the absence of information about origins and destinations, it was too often assumed that people wanted to cycle from one borough high street to the next borough high street
  • more money was spent on consultancy fees, signposting and road-marking than on the creation of useful cycling routes
  • many sections of the network are too dangerous or indirect for cyclists to use
  • the London Cycle Network was grossly under-funded

The design principle was to find areas of roadspace not much in demand for vehicular traffic, or parking, and mark them as cycle routes. There was a reluctance to:

  • take land from pedestrians, as is done in Berlin
  • reduce the capacity of roads to carry motor vehicles
  • spend money on well-designed cycle tracks on known desire-lines