Cycling is part of the solution to London’s transport challenge

Mayor Sadiq Khan wants to ban cycling along Oxford Street, yet it is an important route for cyclists connecting east and west London. So why is the London Cycling Campaign asking people to support the Mayor’s plans?

Strava heat map.

Desire line. Oxford Street is an important route through the West End. Source: Strava Global Heatmap.

Transport for London are asking people’s views on yet another consultation for the so-called “transformation of Oxford Street”. This detailed proposal would see bus services reduced and sent through side streets along with taxis that would also be diverted.

But the plans also state that cyclists will be banned from the street along with motor traffic.

TfL claims that “cyclists tend to avoid Oxford Street, and instead use alternative routes, including Wigmore Street, Brook Street or Grosvenor Street. Only one per cent of the trips made on Oxford Street currently are by bike”.

Yet as the latest Strava Heatmap shows, Oxford Street is an important east-west route through the West End connecting Clerkenwell and Holborn to Hyde Park and west London. It is one of the busiest roads for cycling in London.

Oxford Street is a major “desire line” for cyclists who would rather not make numerous turns around a circuitous route through side streets.

But there are no plans for alternative routes — the invisible high-quality parallel routes — only talk. The Mayor, despite his pledge for healthy Londoners and reducing pollution, has sent out a strong signal by asking cyclists to dismount on Oxford Street that enabling more people to cycle is not his priority.

Many cycle campaigners are frustrated that cycling is seen as part of the problem and not part of the solution to London’s transport network.

For people living and working in Fitzrovia cycling is an inexpensive and healthy way to get around. It is far more efficient to cycle than to walk over longer distances. We have the lowest levels of car ownership in London yet some of the highest pollution levels. Enabling more people to cycle would do so much good for our immediate and long-term well being. It would help those living here and the many that commute each day.

But London Cycling Campaign is asking cyclists to support the Mayor’s plans by saying: “Yes, but I have some concerns about certain elements of the proposals.” Rather naively LCC is doing the work of Sadiq Khan’s and TfL’s PR people by getting the public to support the plans on a promise the cycling infrastructure will come sometime in the future.

In the previous consultation, those respondents who said “yes” but expressed often grave concerns about the possibility of banning cycling and diverting traffic into side streets were counted by TfL as supporting the plans.

Only by saying “no” to the plans can we get the Mayor to think again and persuade TfL to come up with plans that enables and encourages cycling. There should be more people cycling along Oxford Street, not less.

* Public consultation: Have your say on the transformation of Oxford Street. Closes Wednesday 3 January 2018.

Linus Rees is a director and trustee of Fitzrovia Neighbourhood Association.

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