We heard that Westminster City Council didn’t get the full £100,000 it bid for in the first tranche of the Department for Transport’s Emergency Active Travel Fund. While there are no details of their bid, the most likely reason for any council not receiving the full amount is a lack of ambition in reallocating road space to walking and cycling - the DfT’s invitation to bid was very clear that “Anything that does not meaningfully alter the status quo on the road will not be funded.”
We hope that Westminster will be more ambitious in bidding for the second tranche of funds - the deadline is 7 August. We’ve written to the council with our review of the temporary cycle infrastructure so far, urging them to upgrade it, as well as bid for measures like low traffic neighbourhoods which are missing in action so far. Here are some of our thoughts...
Why no wands or barriers? We asked the Movement Strategy team this question and were told “it is not possible to introduce pole cones/wands without having a potentially significant detrimental impact on kerbside operations”, which they defined as parking, loading and taxis picking up and setting down passengers.
Sadly, then, Westminster are prioritising motor vehicles’ access to the kerb over safe active travel. Here is our reply:
London Street is an important cycle link from Paddington Station to Quietway 2 and Cycle Superhighway 3. But the lane widths need to be adjusted so that motor vehicles do not have to encroach on the cycle lane.
The mandatory lanes on Bayswater Road, Kingsway and Victoria Street are very welcome. Making them full time with wands and double yellow lines would open them up to all-age cycling.
The cycling provision on Harrow Road has no protection, is sometimes mandatory and sometimes advisory, is part time and sometimes disappears altogether where the road narrows. This won’t attract new people to cycling. Most people need the safety of protected, continuous bike lanes (or bus lanes) to choose to travel by bike. While we appreciate that the need to implement something “quick” on this road made it difficult due to the mixture of uses, there now exists an opportunity to spend time designing a high quality scheme (and receive the funding to match), which would open up large areas of north Westminster for access by bicycle by those who otherwise wouldn’t consider this an option.
While we’re pleased to see that the Harrow Road gyratory has some wand-protected space for cycling and a new bus lane, attention needs to be given to any remaining ‘hook’ risks from motor vehicles turning across the path of cyclists. See our video about the gyratory:
The mandatory lanes on the route that includes Westbourne Bridge are a very welcome start to reallocating road space and the junction with Bishop's Bridge Road has also been improved from the original version of this scheme. But there are still some issues north of the bridge. In particular we are waiting for a traffic management order to be made allowing cyclists to come onto the bridge from Westbourne Terrace Road.
As we’ve previously reported, the Portland Place bike lanes run between parked cars and moving/turning traffic without protection, making them off-putting for both confident and new/nervous riders. The lanes should run between the kerb and the parked cars (floating parking) with a 1-metre buffer for the ‘door zone’ - much safer.
We welcome timed closures of streets to all traffic except buses and bikes, and we would like to see more of them. Our only suggestion for the Millbank/Abingdon Street/St Margaret Street scheme is better signage, as drivers seem to be routinely ignoring the restrictions, and camera enforcement if there isn’t any already.
We’re delighted to see the restrictions to motor traffic in Soho and Covent Garden to aid the hospitality industry in its urgent need for recovery. We hope this will form the basis for permanent schemes in the near future that close streets to motor traffic, whether timed or full-time, and that in Soho more streets will be included and closed for more hours than at present. We would also like to see cycling retained where possible on these streets to create routes that avoid busy main roads.
LTNs have been shown to boost walking and cycling by creating low traffic routes, reduce motor traffic and lower air pollution significantly - but while they are popping up all over London as emergency measures, Westminster is conspicuously lacking them.
The DfT funding represents Westminster’s opportunity to put in their first LTNs on an experimental basis. Resident Associations and Neighbourhood Forums in some areas of Westminster are already pushing their own provisional plans for LTNs, having endured decades of motor traffic domination through their local neighbourhoods. We urged the council to implement schemes in these areas that already have enthusiastic support from residents. These LTNs could act as pilots for the borough and help to evaluate potential opportunities for traffic reduction elsewhere in Westminster.
An easy win for a new scheme would be the installation of a cycleway with light protection on Kensington Road between the border of Kensington & Chelsea and West Carriage Drive. This would provide a link between Kensington & Chelsea’s proposed cycleway on the same street and the cycleway on South Carriage Drive, in effect creating a continuous safe cycle route from Hammersmith to the City. The road is very wide at this point and doesn’t contain as much traffic volume as other stretches of the road. While there is a potential alternative route via Mount Walk in the park, this route is already at capacity as a shared walking route - and is closed after dark.