After reading the plans for Lower Regent Street, Haymarket etc., and Danny Williams’ excellent summary and critique, I’ve written the following letter to Westminster Council. If you live in, work in, or visit the area, you may wish to do likewise. Very disappointing not to see good cycling provision planned somewhere so important, where there’s so much road space.
FAO Mark Allan, Project Director, firstname.lastname@example.org
CC Martin Low, email@example.com
Re: Piccadilly Two Way
I am emailing about the Piccadilly Two Way plans. I’m a Senior Lecturer in Transport at Westminster University, and, like 12% of my colleagues across all sites (it is higher for our Central London campuses) I cycle to work. I also sometimes cycle within Westminster for work meetings, including to our campus on Regent Street, and my own area of research expertise is cycling.
According to our 2013 staff travel survey, improvements to local cycle routes is a key priority of colleagues who cycle, with 55% citing this as one of their top three measures to encourage cycling. So I was keen to review the Piccadilly Two Way plans, as this area is currently rather problematic for cycling. Unfortunately I am convinced that the plans will not help cycling, but will in fact worsen cycling conditions further.
Details that are particularly detrimental to cycling include the expectation that cyclists will mix with general motor traffic in what look to be narrow lanes that do not meet the space guidelines in LTN 2/08 Cycle Infrastructure Design (or, on Lower Regent Street, wide lanes that will become two very narrow motor traffic lanes), and the cycle lane on Haymarket in the middle of several motor traffic lanes. (There are also potential disbenefits for bus passengers stemming from the bus lane removal.)
However, my concerns for cycling are not limited to the details. Much research evidence from a range of sources (from my own and others’ academic work to TfL and DfT reports) demonstrates that most people will remain reluctant to cycle when it involves sharing space with fast moving or high volume motor traffic. I myself sometimes use public transport to travel to work meetings in Central London for this reason, and I have cycled in London for many years. The streets being re-designed are spacious; they could easily accommodate two-way cycling on dedicated, protected tracks. We know that ASLs and lead-in lanes are imperfect, and build in hazards (e.g. the risk of left hooks) so I am hugely disappointed that this is the standard of provision proposed here.
Has the Council considered instead a design influenced by the higher standard provision we see in higher-cycling countries such as The Netherlands (and now increasingly implemented in other countries, including proposals in the UK)? I would personally be happy to advise on such a design. If the current plans are implemented, I fear many potential and current cyclists will be discouraged by the conditions they will encounter. This will put more pressure on already overcrowded alternative transport systems, making the City slower and less pleasant for shoppers, residents, and employees.
I hope these plans can be reconsidered.
Dr. Rachel Aldred
Senior Lecturer in Transport
Department of Planning and Transport
School of Architecture and the Built Environment
University of Westminster
35 Marylebone Road