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Temporary Cycle Lanes in London

Volume 815: debated on Thursday 4 November 2021


Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what discussions they have had, if any, with (1) Transport for London, and (2) the Mayor of London, in relation to the abolition of temporary cycle lanes in London.

My Lords, decisions on installing or removing cycle lanes in the capital are a matter for Transport for London and the London boroughs. Officials from the department have regular meetings with TfL to discuss this and other matters. The delivery of cycle lanes across London is also overseen by a steering group, which comprises senior representatives from government and TfL.

I thank my noble friend for her response. To clarify, I am a keen cyclist myself and, during the lockdown, I even bought myself a new bicycle. To clarify my concerns, I refer only to the temporary cycle lanes. If they become permanent, they will be even more of a nuisance. In that context, it seems to me that, given that the Government have provided emergency funding to TfL during the pandemic, there is an opportunity to contribute to any debate about their continued existence in a meaningful way. Can my noble friend confirm that the meetings and discussions that she says have taken place have addressed that issue?

I think I can reassure my noble friend that the meetings are taking place. They take place fortnightly, and they discuss a wide range of issues. It is the case that cycle lanes were put in at the start of the pandemic on a temporary basis—indeed, on a trial basis. The vast majority of those have now become permanent cycle lanes; I think that maybe only about 1 mile of cycle lane has been removed, and that was on Euston Road.

The Prime Minister recently announced his desire to invest £1 billion to boost electric car usage. Given the push for cleaner and greener travel, will Her Majesty’s Government first address the number of faulty charging points for electric cars in London and, secondly, promote co-operation among suppliers, so that potential users are not dissuaded by the current requirement to download multiple apps from multiple companies?

The right reverend Prelate has gone a little bit beyond my brief this morning, but I can reassure her that we work very closely with the manufacturers of the chargers—indeed, the operators of the chargers. Of course, we need the chargers to work, and we need to make sure that we work with local authorities to make sure that they do so.

But, my Lords, did not the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea jump the lights by removing so precipitately the successful and popular bicycle lane in Kensington High Street, which was a crucial link in the east-west cycle route? At the next meeting of the Active Travel Oversight Group, on which my noble friend’s department sits, will she reopen discussions with the royal borough to see if the scheme can be reintroduced, with amendments if necessary?

Ah, the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea—that well-known hub and hive of interest in cycling. Indeed, it has about 100 miles of road in the borough, but not a metre of cycle lane. But it is the case that the Active Travel Oversight Group, to which my noble friend refers, has discussed the issue of cycle lanes in that particular council. It is also the case that TfL has thus far not provided any active travel funding from the latest settlement to that council.

My Lords, I congratulate the Minister and TfL on these temporary cycle lanes. As other noble Lords have said, they are really good. Will the Minister confirm that as many of them as possible will be made permanent and that, where there are missing links, which are so important for safe cycling, she will discuss with TfL some cycle routes to link them, which are also safe and will therefore encourage cycling?

Of course, we have discussions with TfL on what the network looks like as a whole. It is, of course, the decision of the local borough, in many cases, as to whether it puts a cycle lane in place, and it must consult the local community. But I am pleased to say that the surveys that we have done to date show that twice as many people support increased cycling and walking as oppose it.

Does the Minister agree that air quality in London remains poor and that, to achieve better air quality as soon as possible, there has to be a modal shift away from cars towards bikes and e-bikes? Does she agree that maintaining cycle lanes is a critical factor in people feeling safe enough to cycle in London?

It is the case that London has an incredibly good public transport system. I found out the other day that, of London car owners, 90% of their journeys are within London. One has to ask some of them at least why that would be the case, when there are very good buses and, obviously, an excellent Tube network. So modal shift does play an important part, not only for carbon emissions but also for air quality improvements.

My Lords, I would like to echo the words of my noble friend. Park Lane, Millbank and other routes across London are permanently clogged up due to the disappearance of bus lanes, which were there for a very good reason, along with taxis. The congestion and pollution caused are appalling. Would my noble friend the Minister use her influence to try to reverse some of these ill-thought-through cycle lanes?

I sense that the House is divided on this topic.

My Lords, well-designed cycle lanes and low-traffic neighbourhoods benefit everybody. Sometimes traffic increases, but evidence shows that the increase is temporary and short-lived as the traffic adapts. Of course, we must be cognisant of increased congestion if it occurs for a prolonged period—for example, as it did on the Euston Road. In that particular case, the cycle lane was removed.

My Lords, given the conflict between the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea and the mayor, and that all new transport schemes have winners and losers, has the Department for Transport provided adequate decision-making criteria for the resolution of interagency disputes?

The Government’s role in this is to ensure that the guidance relating to the network management duty is appropriate. We have reviewed and refreshed that guidance, and it does reflect the Government’s desire for local highway authorities to provide safe space for cyclists and pedestrians. It also sets out that boroughs need to consult and must give any scheme sufficient time to bed in before they think about removal.

My Lords, like my noble friend Lord Young, I am a former chairman of the All-Party Cycling Group in the House of Commons. However, not all measures to encourage cycling, which I have been doing since I got to Parliament in 1992, are worth while. I particularly pick up on Park Lane, where there is a cycle lane in the park not 50 yards away. This is mad—all we are doing is achieving pollution and congestion in Park Lane. I very rarely go up Park Lane but, when I do, I see that it is a shocking waste of money and people’s time and, indeed, it is polluting the atmosphere.

My Lords, there is much focus on Park Lane this morning. Of course I will take the concerns of my noble friends back to the department and it will be discussed at the Active Travel Oversight Group.

My Lords, as another former chair of the All-Party Cycling Group, I would like to invite noble Lords to come with me for a bike ride to discover the joys of cycling in London. They will find that it is good for their health and public health, it cuts congestion and emissions, and it helps to meet the targets that the Government set this week at COP. So I ask the Minister: how do the Government propose to persuade reluctant local authorities to provide more safe infrastructure for cycling, so that they hit the Government’s own target to double the number of trips made wholly or partly by cycling from 2013 figures by 2025?

The route to your Lordships’ House is clearly the chairmanship of that APPG. The Government want to encourage improved cycle lanes and cycling infrastructure and, for those reluctant local authorities, we make it very clear to them that future funding is conditional on historic performance. If they do not put in the sort of measures that we would wish to see, frankly, they will not get any money in the future.

My Lords, the report Cycling Injury Risk in London showed that protected cycling infrastructure reduced the odds of injury on the morning commute by up to 65%, whereas advisory lanes increased injury odds by 34%. Have the Government carried out a cost analysis of increasing protected cycle infrastructure against the benefits to the NHS of increasing the number of cyclists?

The Government expect that new cycle lanes are properly segregated to ensure that cyclists are as safe as possible.