2021 New Infrastructure Review

2021 has not been an amazing year for new cycle infrastructure in London. This is largely due to Transport for London’s (TfL) precarious financial situation, with many permanent schemes put on hold or cancelled. On top of this, unlike 2020, the number of new pop-up cycleways delivered has dramatically fallen, while some implemented last year have been removed by apprehensive councils.

In terms of new permanent infrastructure, 2021 was the weakest year since 2015. This is especially infuriating considering the number of schemes promised over the last five years, many of which were shovel ready just as the pandemic began (see my other blog: Where are all the Cycleways?).

This blog will review the permanent infrastructure delivered in London in 2021. It will not include pop-up infrastructure, unless it is part of an already consulted and approved scheme (and has only been built with pop-up materials due to budgetary constraints, such as C9). It will also not include very small interventions such as the short new contraflow on C27/Q2 in Fitzrovia.

Cycleway 4

Cycleway 4 is the capital’s most long-awaited cycleway. First proposed in 2008, only the Tower Bridge to Rotherhithe section has opened. In spring 2021, the Creek Road section was finished, however its official opening has been delayed, with bollards in place to stop cyclists using it. The Evelyn Road section is currently under construction and part of it should be finished by January/February 2022, with the second part coming a few months later.

Overall the quality of this cycleway is high, with smooth surfaces, priority over side roads and additional infrastructure at junctions, allowing those from other main roads to join the cycleway safely. Once complete this will be one of the best cycleways in the capital alongside CS3 on the Victoria Embankment and C6 south of Farringdon Station.

Cycleway 9

Like other cross-borough cycleways in the capital, Cycleway 9 is being delivered in sections. Construction began on the first part at Kew Bridge (a TfL-owned road) before the Covid pandemic. However, this short stretch (from Wellesley Road to the western side of Kew Bridge junction) was only completed in spring 2021. This permanent section is of a high quality, yet until it is extended westwards, only provides a minor benefit. Sadly, alongside these improvements, the carriageway was widened for vehicles across Kew Bridge, a juxtaposing project which makes cycling more dangerous for those travelling south.

In summer 2020, both LB Hounslow and LB Hammersmith and Fulham delivered pop-up sections of the route between Turnham Green and Kensington Olympia. Since late 2021, both boroughs have been making improvements to these pop-up cycle tracks. The biggest can be seen in Hammersmith and Fulham, where the cycle track has been widened and resurfaced, and the water bollard protection has been replaced by wands and curbs. It will be fully complete in March 2022, when the link is made across Hammersmith Broadway.

Cycleway 24 (Forest Road Cycleway)

Although most of Cycleway 24 is complete, in December 2021, LB Waltham Forest made the eastbound pop-up segregated track across the Lea Valley permanent (with the westbound to follow in early 2022). Alongside this, the improvements to Bell Junction will soon be finished.

Taken as a whole (Tottenham Hale – Bell Junction), this cycleway isn’t of the capacity standard seen in central London, but being where it is and with many alternative routes available (protected cycle tracks/LTNs), it doesn’t need to be.

Cycleway 29

Cycleway 29 is one of the primary routes in RB Kingston’s Mini-Holland network. Its delivery was split into three parts. The last section (Oakhill to Tolworth) was partially completed in late 2021 (Tolworth section), with the last connecting part currently under construction.

Although it scores well in terms of paving quality and wayfinding, like much of RB Kingston’s Mini Holland network, the tracks merge with the pavement too often (especially at bus stops), and car parking is too frequently prioritised over the cycle path. 

Cycleway 32

Proposed as part of RB Kingston’s Mini-Holland programme, TfL confirmed funding for C32 in spring 2021. Construction began in early summer and two short sections on either end have opened. Likely due to funding constraints, these have been built with pop-up materials. It is too early to tell however, how much this will affect the route’s paving quality and safety standard.

Cycleway 38

The permanent section of Cycleway 38 opened in early 2021, providing segregated cycle paths along Drayton Park in north London. The tracks are wide, smooth and safely segregated from the carriageway. Sadly, the protected tracks don’t continue north of Drayton Park, although as long as this area’s pop-LTN remains in place, this shouldn’t be an issue.

Cycleway 40

This cycleway first went to consultation in summer 2019, initially being labeled as a Quietway. It is primarily a back-street route, with only one small segregated section on South Street.

The sections through Syon Park and Old Isleworth don’t only go through quiet, filtered streets, but also through a beautiful part of London, making this one of the capital’s most picturesque cycleways. As it meets South Street (the only bit of main road along the cycleway) a short segregated track and safe crossing is provided, both to a high quality and safety standard. Sadly the cycleway then takes unfiltered side roads towards Twickenham. To make matters worse, it abruptly ends north of the busy A316, leaving cyclists heading further south towards Twickenham with no good infrastructure or wayfinding.

Cycleway 42

Cycleway 42 was one of the six cycleways committed to by Sadiq Khan in 2018. Unlike the other six proposed cycleways, this was designed primarily as a back-street route. The section built in 2021 (although still not 100% complete) was the Barking to Barking Riverside section.

It really isn’t very impressive. There are no new modal filters or LTNs, no new segregated cycle lanes and a section which runs along a busy high street. It really harks back to the routes being delivered as part of the London Cycle Network in the 1990s, in that it only provides wayfinding and a few short sections of shared-space pavement.

This isn’t to say that it won’t be useful to residents of the new Barking Riverside development, but it certainly isn’t anywhere near the standard TfL should be aiming for.

Grey’s Inn Road Cycleway

In terms of length, this is the most impressive cycleway delivered in 2021. It connects Kings Cross to Chancery Lane, making a third protected north-south connection in the area. 

However, as this project has been implemented primarily with pop-up materials, the tracks are not of a very high quality. Where new paving has been laid, it’s bumpy. In other places, wands have been installed on the aged tarmac. This luckily is only temporary and LB Camden plans to build permanent and smoother tracks in the near future.

Crofton Road Cycleway (Orpington)

This short cycleway in south-east London is a remarkable achievement considering the lack of infrastructure in the wider area. There are now wide and smooth cycle tracks that go between Orpington Station to just east of Pound Court Drive.

The scheme however falls short for two reasons: firstly, after Pound Court Drive, the cycle tracks rejoin the carriageway until the roundabout with Crofton Lane, where only then can cyclists use the pavement; secondly, it doesn’t connect with any established protected or back-street cycle routes in the area.

Bath Road (Hounslow)

LB Hounslow have been good over the last five years at delivering small schemes across their borough. This small set of cycle tracks by Hounslow West Tube is one of them, consulted on in 2019. 

It was built during summer 2021, and although doesn’t provide the widest tracks, is probably sufficient for the traffic it will receive. The hope with this scheme (and others across LB Hounslow) is that it will one day connect to an extended C9.

Southwark Spine

The segregated tracks at Bellenden Gyratory near Peckham were delivered in early 2021, forming part of what will one day be the Southwark Spine. The tracks are wide and of a high quality, although until they form part of a larger scheme, will only provide a local benefit.

Nine Elms Lane

A short part of the Nine Elms Lane Cycleway going eastbound by Battersea Power Tube was completed in summer 2021. The cycleway is of a very high quality, with wide, smooth tracks, generously separated from the carriageway. Hopefully we will not have to wait too long to see the rest of the cycleway built.

Westminster Bridge

This long-awaited scheme was first proposed following the 2017 terrorist attack. The listed status of the bridge however caused a delay in its delivery. This is because, even though it is owned by TfL, it was the responsibility of Lambeth and Westminster conservation officers to decide the appropriate way to make the changes without causing harm to the bridge. In the end, they agreed to use the City Bollard, which is based on an original ‘William IV’ bollard.

This short stretch of protected cycleway now allows for complete segregation for cyclists from St Thomas’ Hospital and London County Hall to the wider cycleway network (CS3 & C6). The scheme’s one issue however is its width, which is only 1.2m at either entrance, making it impossible to use for non-standard cycles. 

North Circular Road (Stonebridge Park)

This small scheme in LB Brent transformed an existing, narrow, shared-space pavement into a properly segregated cycleway with a parallel pavement. This was done by reducing the width of the adjacent road from four lanes to two. This has surely been a welcome improvement to those who use this part of the existing Park Royal and Stonebridge Park cycle route.

Old Street Roundabout

TfL held a public consultation between 2014 and 2015 to transform Old Street junction, as part of their Safer Junctions programme. With works starting in 2019, this scheme includes the implementation of segregated cycle tracks around the junction. Works are now partially complete, with the whole project set to be finished by spring 2022. 

In its incomplete state, it is still quite dangerous to use, however, the parts that are finished, are visibly of a high quality in terms of protection and surface quality.

Grove Green Road

This western extension to the existing Grove Green Road cycleway, provides a wide, bi-directional track with a high surface quality. It falls short however in its proximity to parallel car parking, creating a hazard for cyclists and those coming out of cars.

Kingston Station Riverlink

This small scheme replaced a narrow existing footbridge connecting Kingston Station to the river. The new shared-space footbridge is wide, well lit and has a smooth surface. This is certainly one of the most useful additions to RB Kingston’s Mini Holland network.

Green Lanes Cycleway

This cycleway was consulted on in early 2020. The scheme was given the go-ahead soon after, although due to funding constraints, it was only built with temporary materials. For the meantime, it is a vast improvement to what was there before. However, hopefully when there is more money available, it will be turned into a permanent cycleway.

Sutton to Colliers Wood Cycleway

In 2019 and 2020, LB Sutton and LB Merton held consultations for the primarily backstreet Sutton to Colliers Wood Cycleway. In 2021 they delivered the first sections, one part around St Helier and another within Morden Hall Park.

The interventions around St Helier are sadly of the quality one would have expected from a London Cycle Network route of the 1990s, although it should be said that any improvements within the car-dominated London Borough of Sutton are welcome. The part within Morden Hall Park is far more useful, providing hard paving for the path connecting Morden town centre with Wandle Path, which heads north towards Colliers Wood and CS7. This will allow for far more bike types to use the route. 

Thessaly Road

This borough-led scheme provides a segregated cycleway from Nine Elms Lane, south towards the borough border with LB Lambeth. The track is 60% complete and what has been built is smooth and well protected from the carriageway.

People may question the purpose of this cycleway, as Thessaly Road is already within a low-traffic neighbourhood. What seems likely is that it was funded with S106 money from the new developments around Battersea Power Station. What’s disappointing, is that there are not only far more dangerous roads in the borough that they could have improved first, but that they didn’t even coordinate the cycleway with LB Lambeth, resulting in it ending abruptly, about 100m before the end of the road.

Conclusion

As the accompanying map shows, 2021 hasn’t seen many great improvements to London’s safe cycling network. This has been primarily due to TfL’s financial situation since the beginning of the pandemic, with central government refusing to provide the transport authority with any long term financial settlement. This has understandably led to TfL to hold back on many new projects. Moreover, as 2021 turns to 2022, central government are now seeming reluctant to even provide more funding in the short term.

This newfound reluctance has led TfL to recently announce that if the government doesn’t provide any more funding, only the cycleways under construction will be completed (unless they are wholly funded by councils or the DfT). This means, year-on-year, the growth of the network will slow down, until 2024, when the speed of delivery will likely reduce to what it was before 2010. This would not only mean no new projects, but even those such as C4, might never be completed.

Hopefully this will not happen, and 2021 will merely be seen as a bad year in what has otherwise been a great decade in making London a safe place to cycle in. In the meantime, we need to continue to push TfL, councils and central government, to prioritise cycle safety by funding new routes and improving existing ones. 

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