Penge’s Cycle Superhighway cancelled

Boris Johnson has confirmed that TfL have canned the planned Cycle Superhighway 6, which would have run from Penge up to Dulwich, through Camberwell and Elephant and Castle, and to the City. This just a couple of months after he re-dropped the tram extension, and a year after he announced plans to build a hotel on our park. Does he have something against us?

The news was revealed by one of our London Assembly Members, Darren Johnson, who said:

The Mayor has dithered, delayed and dropped so many of his promises on cycling. I have a real worry that Boris Johnson will leave office having failed to build the safe cycle lanes that are so desperately needed.

Up on the hill, we’re far from the glamour of the central London superhighways and cycle hire scheme (brought to London by another Green, Jenny Jone, by the way). We’ve had very little going on for cyclists in Crystal Palace and Penge under Boris.

Croydon, Southwark and Lewisham are bringing more 20mph areas to make the streets safer for anyone who might get hit by a vehicle. Our local Transitioners are also talking with Croydon about plans to improve cycling routes to schools in Upper and South Norwood.

But with the Superhighway plans now dropped, that’s really it.

Why was it dropped?

We don’t know for sure. TfL blamed “deliverability constraints within TfL and its supply chain”, which is about as clear as mud.

Here are two guesses as to what the real reason might be.

First of all, despite all Boris’ boasts, TfL haven’t put enough money into the cycling budget to deliver his manifesto promises and Cycling Vision. Green Assembly Member Jenny Jones warned about this during the budget debates in January and February, pointing to TfL board papers that said the routes might need to be cut short or cut altogether to plug the hole in their cycling  budget. She tabled an amendment that would have added another £66m to avoid this and other problems. But without any Conservative support it didn’t reach the required two-thirds majority to go through.

The second reason may be that there just isn’t the political will for the changes it would require.

Back when Cycle Superhighways were just the odd splodge of paint, the route looked like a good idea. But now TfL know they have to deliver high quality routes with protected cycle lanes, they probably realised they’d have a hard time persuading Lewisham and Southwark councils to go for it.

Look at these sections of street in Penge, Forest Hill, East Dulwich and Camberwell:


They would need to remove lots of car parking, and possibly bus lanes, to create the space for proper segregated cycle lanes. Southwark Council in particular have a terrible record of removing cycle lanes and have been pretty anti-segregation in the past. So it would have been a long shot to do this route to ‘Go Dutch’ standards.

What next?

If the Cycle Superhighway is off the cards, there is another way to bring big improvements for Crystal Palace residents cycling into town.

Look at these two maps. On the left you see the existing cycle network, with the two LCN routes 22 and 23 heading from the Triangle and Catford into town. On the right is the route of the doomed Cycle Superhighway.


You may be able to make out that, with LCN routes 22 and 23 and the various other blue lines linking them, we already have pretty decent and fairly direct cycle routes from Crystal Palace and Penge to Dulwich, Camberwell, Peckham, Elephant & Castle and on to central London.

The simplest thing would be to improve LCN22 and 23, sorting out the many small issues and junction flaws so that these routes become really safe and pleasant.

Alongside the Superhighways, TfL also have a programme called Quietways. This is also suffering from delays and budget concerns, and cycling groups aren’t universally impressed by the process nor the results so far.

But given a big push by the Mayor, TfL and each of our boroughs, working closely with cycling groups, we could be well on the way towards a better experience cycling north by the time Boris leaves office in May 2016. How about it, Boris?