Why wait any longer? – Vauxhall and the Superhighways Programme

I noticed after the Vauxhall death earlier this week (the 6th person riding a bike to die this year in London) that changes to that junction had been delayed in being announced. But I hadn’t realised just how much they had slipped.

Back in December of 2013, Andrew Gilligan appeared in front of the Transport Committee at the London Assembly along with others from TfL, Serco and LCC to discuss cycling. At that time, he said this of Vauxhall:

“We are about, I suppose, a month, two months, maybe a little
longer, not much longer, off publishing designs for Vauxhall”

Now, that was December 2013. Then, at the Space For Cycling Ride he spoke of Superhighway 5 on 17th May 2014 saying it would go:

“all the way through the nastiest gyratory in London, Vauxhall gyratory. A completely traffic free route, which will make a significant difference for thousands of cyclists. That’s [plans] coming in July, construction in October”

He said then that plans were due in

 “six weeks time”

And again this week after the death at Vauxhall he said that plans for changes at Vauxhall were due in…

“six weeks time”

I’m sure the plans will come eventually, but I’ve grown tired of waiting for details of the wider Superhighway programme, of which Gilligan said in that same, December 2013 meeting

“We are going to do a whole set of new and upgraded
Superhighways and we will announce the exact scope of the programme, in other words where all the
routes are going to be, in February”

It’s June.

TfL used to have a map on their site of where the Superhighways were set to go, here’s the last version of that they released:

The Cycle Superhighway Map
The Cycle Superhighway Map as last seen before the Mayor’s Cycle Vision

If you go to the TfL website now and look for Superhighways you’ll find only maps for existing routes (Superhighways 2,3,7 and 8) along with  a mention of the forthcoming Superhighway 5. Oh, and a 2011 video which talks of distinctive blue paint and mirrors.

That video also has a very similar map showing the routes gliding easily into London.

As we’ve been waiting so long I’ve been hunting through what’s available online, and what the slow and grinding bureaucracy of TfL has had to say. Now, Gilligan, rather than making the statement he promised before has had a go at those who’ve tried to decipher these documents, but I think I’ve understood them alright. If not, there’s a comment box below.

The details in the infrastructure update to the finance and policy committee for tomorrow, 5th June (labelled p67, actually p121) seem to confirm the state of play – I shall quote them to show what I’m working from:

“Concept design has commenced for the upgrades to the existing routes 2, 3, 7 and 8 and for new routes 1, 4, 5 Extension, 11, East-West and North-South. The EFC of £176.6m now includes the cost of the upgrades, East-West and North-South, plus increased cost and scope on route 2 Extension, as outlined in the Mayor’s Cycling

Current cost estimate indicates that there are significant cost pressures to meet delivery of the overall CS programme due to the higher standard of infrastructure required to meet the Mayors Cycling Vision.”

There is then a complicated table which shows status for some routes, I’ve made a map of what I think is now the case.

Cycle Superhighway Map with some crayoning
Cycle Superhighway Map with some crayoning, Super Corridor the early version of East-West

This map is obviously a guess. I’m pretty sure Superhighway 9 is gone, though nobody wants to declare it gone. That’s not so surprising as the argument over it was between TfL and The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea about segregation on Kensington High Street. More on that in a future post. I’m not convinced all of the outer reaches are likely. Superhighway 2 sounds like it won’t go beyond Stratford, for example.

Also, though they’re not mentioned I’ve assumed that Superhighways 6, 10 and 12 are subsumed by the new East-West (so called ‘cycle crossrail’, the longest route in Europe so they’d claim) and North-South Superhighways.

There are many other questions we can ask at this stage – for example, is it a good sign that they consider the budget challenging or a bad one? Perhaps without seeing the new London Cycle Design Standards it’s hard to say, as better quality build will certainly cost somewhat more. Speaking of which, those standards are late as well, having been expected within weeks since late in 2013. I am left wondering if we will ever get a single clear announcement of the revised plan for superhighways or if there remain further debates ongoing.

I see a lot of hashtags and slogans around on twitter about cycling in London these days, but I reckon GET ON WITH IT sums it up for me. There’s plenty of campaigners itching to review plans and proposals, debate standards and more. Were we waiting for the election, or is there some hidden hand holding things back? Is the task greater than the Mayor realised? We just don’t know. It all needs to be a lot more accountable and better communicated. If a hoped for date to announce is missed, we need to know why. Perhaps better standards are being reached, perhaps changes to rules from DfT are helping, but why not just say so? I’m suspicious, and I don’t want to be.

One thought on “Why wait any longer? – Vauxhall and the Superhighways Programme

  • Thank you for sharing your meticulous research with us. In my opinion the delays must be down to the fact that TfL realise they have lost their way on superhighways. Like so many facilities for cyclists they are an ad hoc, compromised fudge barring a few exceptions. If I were a less experienced cyclist I would have been killed by a speeding lorry on one this very day. I’ve just returned from Berlin where I cycled with my son in a safer environment designed around respect for cyclists needs. It would be good to hear from you what you consider to be obstacles to change and how we can best overcome these over so many disappointments ‘Go Dutch’ (‘Go Flat’) superhighways, LCN – the list goes on.

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