London roads turn cycling blue

Today saw the formal launch of London’s Barclays Cycle Superhighways: an initiative of the Mayor of London and his Transport for London agency, and sponsored by Barclays Bank.

London Cycle Superhighways launch

As a cyclist and cycling campaigner who currently spends much of his time in London, I have much to say about the Cycle Superhighways scheme. But I’m somewhat limited in what I can say in public, as I’m contracted by Transport for London via the London Cycling Campaign to lead a number of guided rides over the next few weeks on Cycle Superhighway 3, which runs from Barking in Essex to Tower Bridge, and on to St Paul’s Cathedral in the City of London.

All I will say here by way of editorial comment is that the Cycle Superhighways scheme has considerable merit, and as such deserves the support of London’s cyclists and other road users, whether they be bipedal or be-wheeled and motorised. When it comes to my own role in the Cycle Superhighways scheme, I refer you to an official statement from the London Cycling Campaign…

“LCC has never associated led rides with endorsing the safety of a route. LCC’s Board has made it clear that delivering services of any kind to TfL will not prevent LCC speaking out. However, we will not use the actual led rides as a public campaigning tool. We have been contracted to provide professionally run led rides and we have said to TfL that we will be providing rigorous safety advice to riders and a full evaluation to TfL following the rides.”

For an alternative perspective from a professional cynic and all-round arse, see Andrew Gilligan’s online article for the Daily Telegraph.

Barclays Cycle Superhighways should be seen as a work in progress, and as such will hopefully be improved in the light of evidence and experience. Detailed feedback will be provided to the Mayor of London and TfL by LCC and others, and I would encourage individual users of the Cycle Superhighways to do likewise, in as constructive a manner as possible.

So what are the Cycle Superhighways, and what is the role of guided ride leaders and marshals?

Barclays Cycle Superhighways provide suggested continuous routes on main roads leading into central London from the suburbs. They are not safety barriers, and the bright blue paint which delineates the routes does not in itself protect vulnerable cyclists from motorised transport.

Guided ride leaders and their assistants are responsible for guiding cyclists, whether they be novice or experienced, along the marked routes, and briefing participants on general and particular safety issues as they arise. We may be part of the Cycle Superhighways public relations exercise, but our role goes way beyond publicity.

The first ride this morning on CS3 from Becton to St Paul’s took participants westwards along a busy and noisy stretch of the A13 through Newham, south west through Canning Town, Poplar and Limehouse, and westwards along the Cable Street of anti-fascism renown into the City of London. The punters this morning included a 13-year-old lad and his young adult brother, who at the end of the ride convincingly declared that they enjoyed the experience.

TfL’s guided rides along the Cycle Superhighways are due to resume next week, with rides on Tuesday and Wednesday mornings until 18 August, and possibly beyond, depending on the public response to TfL’s media campaign. Those wishing to join the CS3 guided ride from Becton should assemble no later than 07:15 by Becton DLR station on Woolwich Manor Way. For the other routes, check out TfL’s Cycle Superhighways web page.