TfL has released details outlining the latest expected levels of provision for all proposed signed cycle routes in London. A New Cycle Route Quality Criteria tool spreadsheet, along with an accompanying Technical Note, was revealed by the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan during a keynote speech at the London Walking and Cycling Conference on 24 May 2019.
According to a report from Bike Biz (Sadiq Khan doubles protected cycle routes) the Mayor of London reiterated his commitment to this new ‘quality criteria’ at the conference, saying TfL will not build or fund new routes that aren’t ‘up to scratch’. In Sadiq Khan reveals quality criteria for new Cycleways and criticises boroughs ‘wedded to the status quo’, road.cc reports that the Mayor went on to criticise several boroughs who he said were ‘wedded to the status quo,’ and as a consequence were ‘harming the health of Londoners’.
The release of new quality criteria for cycle routes had been expected. In ‘Cycling Action Plan: making London the world’s best big city for cycling‘ (TfL, December 2018), TfL announced “a move towards a more inclusive identity for the cycle network’, with “an aspiration for all new sections of the network to meet strong quality criteria”.
More information on the new cycle route quality criteria, along with the spreadsheet tool and the accompanying note, can be found at TfL Publications and reports for cycling. Also see Mayor of London confirms doubling of protected cycle routes (GLA, 24 May 2019).
The New Cycle Route Quality Criteria Technical Note provides details of six, interrelated, Quality Criteria. These six Quality Criteria each have a required level of provision and a target level of provision, with a review process that is structured such that schemes should be aspiring for a high target level of provision across the range of criteria (and are not just meeting a minimum required quality level).
- Criteria 1: The degree of separation for people cycling is appropriate for the total volume of two-way motorised traffic
- Criteria 2: The speed of motorised traffic is appropriate for people cycling
- Criteria 3: An appropriate width for cycling is provided to suit the local context
- Criteria 4: Collision risk between people cycling and turning motor vehicles is minimised
- Criteria 5: Kerbside activity has a minimal impact on people cycling
- Criteria 6: Interaction between HGVs and people cycling in mixed traffic is
minimised along a link
As LCC’s Infrastructure Campaigner, Simon Munk, notes in his initial assessment of the published Quality Criteria (Mayor doubles London’s cycle tracks), there is particular concern with Criteria 1 (traffic volume). Although the stated preference for the design of new cycle routes, where people cycling are to mix with motorised traffic, is that these routes should carry fewer than 200 vehicles per hour (two-way) at peak times, the criteria review process can produce an acceptable output for proposed designs where traffic volume is up to 500vph (or in some cases up to 1,000vph), dependent on the outcomes of the other criteria. In terms of enabling people “of all ages, all abilities” to cycle in comfort, a level of 500vph falls considerably short of LCC policy (based on the Dutch CROW manual guidance).
The total number of vehicles recorded during the peak hour does not tell the whole story, of course. Our traffic counts, carried out across the borough during the late spring and early summer of 2017 (some details of which were provided in our December 2017 Newsletter), found that a considerable proportion of the total traffic recorded in a sixty-minute period could actually occur during just fifteen minutes. One example was Church Hill Road (Cheam), just south of the intersection with Priory Road and Abbotts Road [Open Street Map | Google Streetview]. Here, 471 motor vehicles were recorded between 07:52 and 08:52 on a weekday morning in July (term time). Of these 471 vehicles, 164 (or 39% of the total) were recorded during the 15 minutes between 08:15 and 08:30. Although the hourly rate of 471vph may pass the traffic volume criteria threshold, the 656vph equivalent rate would not. Another stark example was in Grove Road (Sutton West) [Open Street Map | Google Streetview], where a total of 296 vehicles were observed in the peak hour, of which 74% (129) occurred in just fifteen minutes. This fifteen-minute rate equates to 516vph.
Despite these concerns around traffic volume, there is the expectation that TfL’s new cycle route Quality Criteria, even as it currently stands (and better still when revised), will help ensure that all future schemes for cycling in the borough will be designed to a much higher standard than has been the case up to now. It is highly likely that much of the borough’s existing London Cycle Network routes would fail on the new criteria. If not on traffic volume alone, then certainly on a combination of traffic volume, and/or speed, and/or carriageway width and kerb-side activity. The interrelated aspect of the criteria could be its saving grace.
Meanwhile, it has to be goodbye to ‘footway conversion to shared-use’ schemes like Green Wrythe Lane, it has to be goodbye to thinking that provision for cycling is of little consequence when it comes to major projects such as Heart of Hackbridge, and, surely, proposals such as that currently under discussion for the introduction of one-way working on a section of the London Cycle Network in Beddington on a street which is too narrow and parked-up for a cycling contra-flow (No room for bikes: how Tharp Road could show borough-wide failure over cycling) have to be thrown out too.
It is certainly good to know, from the technical note accompanying the New Cycle Route Quality Criteria tool spreadsheet, that “all design teams should aspire to deliver a high level of provision for cycling” across a range of criteria. Given that TfL Sponsors are to review the criteria for all cycle routes on a signed cycle network; given that all proposals are to continue to go through due TfL approval processes, including the application of the Healthy Streets Check for Designers tool; and given that TfL will not build or fund routes that are “not up to scratch”, the task of responding to consultations should, in theory, be a lot easier from now on. Let’s hope so. Let’s hope that the bar has been raised.
v1: 03/06/2019, minor update, including link to the Cycling Action Plan, 21/06/2019