Cycle superhighways are the new in vogue public construction project to deal with London’s congestion problem.
The sprawling metropolis cannot fit anymore roads for cars whilst extensions to the underground network remain a costly and time consuming endeavour. More cyclists will ease the burden on these more traditional commuter networks whilst at the same time reducing the city’s carbon footprint and giving Londoners a much needed cardio work out, if the national obesity figures are to be believed.
A cycling superhighway is essentially a cycle lane that separates cyclists from the cars, taxis and HGV’s of London’s roads. How this is done can vary from project to project, ranging from simply painting a blue segment over the road “reserved” for cyclists to building a central reserve between the regular road and cycle lanes. The reasoning behind the idea is that separating cyclists from other cars and buses will make it safer for all road users, especially cyclists who are for obvious reasons more vulnerable in the event of a collision.
The most recent superhighway to open has been along the Victoria Embankment. Not yet fully finished, it will eventually present an 18 mile “straight run” for cyclists. It was recently opened by former London Mayor Boris Johnson, who himself cycled merrily along the stretch to rapturous applause from cyclists accompanied by jeers and expletives from taxi and HGV drivers. Mr Johnson’s successor Sadiq Khan has recently given the go ahead to a new superhighway that will connect Brent to the West End. Outside the capital, new projects have been proposed in both Leicester and Glasgow.
Superhighways ease the safety concerns of those who haven’t yet followed the GB cycle team’s lead to don lycra and take up pedalling. Recent high profile collisions in the news have given the impression London’s roads are increasingly dangerous. However, the opposite is true with now more than 10 times fewer accidents per cycle journey then there were 30 years ago. Perhaps these new separate lanes, free of lorries and buses, will continue to convert Tube goers to take to the roads.
However, whilst it is likely these new cycle highways will improve safety for cyclists, there are still risks. The flagship project along the Victoria Embankment is not a uniform carriageway, with a confusing array of road signs and crossovers that still put cyclists at risk of collision. Moreover, the lanes will not take most commuters to their final destination, unless you happen to work in the Houses of Parliament. London’s narrow, windy roads are not ideal for cyclists and accidents will still happen around the capital’s sharp bends.
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