Central London Cycle Grid

Transport for London have now published a complete draft plan for  Central London Cycle Grid. This initiative follows many years of the London Cycle Campaign demanding a grid of cycle routes in central London.

The need for a grid is clear to anyone who regularly or even occasionally cycles in London and simply aims to get between any two points within it. The routes are complex, often of poor quality and rarely joined up. So, we have a network proposed, of superhighways (in blue) and quietways (in purple). Broadly speaking the idea is that superhighways are on main roads and involve more seperation from traffic, whereas quietways are in quieter areas. Except of course, where a quietway crosses a busy road or a superhighway is routed away from a major road. The quietways will be using bollards and other measure to help reduce some through motor traffic, and naturally will be more sophisticated than merely closing whole roads with posts. All modes should retain access but the route for that access may change. Broadly speaking the accompanying strategy is at least aware of these issues, and probably the main issue with this grid is about density and coverage.

Here are a few images to give an idea of the level of change and intervention envisaged to make these routes work.

Example of Superhighway (blue routes)

There is only one example of a superhighway in the document which is the new North-South Superhighway:

An example of segregation that could be used on Kensington High Street - at risk due to the council objecting
An example of a superhighway as Transport for London now envisages them

This is quite a change from how this road looks today:

TfL image of
TfL image of the same road above today, taken from the Cycling Vision video
Examples of Quietways (purple routes)

For quietways, use is made of photos of a couple of existing routes. There are no mock ups used, so harder to compare before and after.

Goldsmiths Row in Hackney, one cited example of a quietway. Through motor traffic is blocked by bollards.
Goldsmiths Row in Hackney, one cited example of a quietway. Through motor traffic is blocked by bollards.

There is a before shot of Goldsmiths Row on Hackney Cyclists blog (not the local campaign, but a local blogger) if you’d like to compare. Note that as to the rest of that blog, it’s worth reading Buffalo Bill’s comments on Goldsmiths Row for another local view on some of the issues raised about bollards versus segregation in the whole piece. These issues are important to the idea of the cycle grid. There are places where cycling can be given a good through route with bollards and paint it may make for higher capacity and better conditions than segregation. No one tool will work everywhere.

Black Friars Lane, City of London - another example of a quietway cited.
Black Friars Lane, City of London – another example of a quietway cited. Again, bollards mean only cycles can use it as a through route.

For full details of the current thinking about execution it is best currently to refer to the full PDF on the Central London Grid written by Transport for London (5.6MB) and the TfL video on the Mayor’s wider Cycling Vision (5:25 long). In a few weeks/months we should also see the new London Cycle Design Standards which will give more detail. If you’re very curious the Nine Elms Cycle Strategy draft gives a nice preview of the current thinking applied to a complete area of London.

TfL’s map of the Central London Grid with borough boundaries. The bulk is in Westminster but as can be seen it covers 8 boroughs in all.

None of the Central London Cycle Grid is in Hammersmith and Fulham but elements of it reach towards our borough. More importantly there is a lot of concern to be expressed at what is not on the map. There is no Cycle Superhighway 9. It is either cancelled, or off the table at present. If you’re wondering why, you might want to look at what Kensington and Chelsea are proposing in the area of Kensington High Street…

Screen Shot 2014-01-06 at 18.04.09

…basically, nothing. Superhighways are marked in blue. You can see there aren’t any. On the map you can see the wide main roads in Kensington and Chelsea, both High Street Kensington and the A4 in white with almost nothing happening to them. The network in purple are the new quietways. It way be that these can use some quiet streets and make successful routes, but not east west as clearly Holland Park have refused cycling through their green space! We know that such things can work on the continent and we know that they can work in Hackney.  What’s wrong with West London? We are also puzzled by the quietway that appears to be on the A4 just to the left of the text saying Earls Court.

Now, that’s not to say that there won’t be any superhighway reaching Hammersmith at all. No, thanks to TfL we do get a new East-West route along the Westway. You can see this blue route escaping from Hyde Park then jumping onto the Westway somewhere near Royal Oak. Given that this will be some distance up in the air, it will be of little benefit for local journeys in the area between White City and Paddington, unless a lot of ramps are provided. This superhighway, known also as Cycle Crossrail does have many merits on its own, but it is not enough for the whole of West London. There is no other superhighway planned between it and the Thames.

Screen Shot 2014-01-06 at 18.03.49

We have been informally discussing this issue with local officers for some time. It would be best if Cycle Superhighway 9 were built, and improvements were made to Kensington High Street. Not all is lost without it, and indeed we know that Hammersmith Broadway is set to be reviewed perhaps as a replacement for Superhighway 9 addressing some of the issues there. However, there is no plan within Hammersmith for addressing any shift that might occur from people altering routes to utilise the new Cycle Crossrail Superhighway.


This is just a quick overview of the Central London Grid. We continue to review the proposals and will make our response in due course. We encourage further discussion here and elsewhere and hope many others will respond to the consultation. The closing date is 14th February 2014, and we’d like to see proposals we can love and will genuinely change the culture of cycling in all of London. As it stands, West London is not seeing the changes or benefits it should, and the gap is political will in boroughs like Kensington and Chelsea.


Update  – Joining the Central London Grid up to Outer London

As we made clear when we first wrote this, a key concern for us was how the new grid of cycle routes in Central London would join up with existing routes in Hammersmith and Fulham. Well, we’ve now had a go at looking at that. And we’ve had a look at how things are on the East side of town to compare.

West London Combined Map
LBHF existing routes on the left, new Cycle Grid on the right, click through for full size

As you can see, none of the new routes proposed in Kensington and Chelsea link to any existing East-West route. It is plausible that new routes will be made in Hammersmith to join them, but it means a number of routes sensibly placed on main roads in Hammersmith will continue to stop at the borough boundary.

East London Combined Map
new Cycle Grid on the left, with existing routes in Islington, Hackney and Tower Hamlets linking in, click through for full size

Somehow East London has less of this problem, you can easily see how the Central London grid will link into their boroughs.

Now, if you’d also like to explore these issues yourself, we have a few tools to share. We’ve used Google Earth to make the maps above (along with some neat cropping in some image software). So, in addition to the TfL hosted details on the Central London Grid (which we urge you to look at first) you can also install Google Earth, then download our ‘kmz’ file of the Central London Grid and add it to your map (File–> Open in the Google Earth app). You can also add OpenCycleMap to Google Earth using the files at this site (free registration necessary).

All of this lets you look at the Central London Grid as an overlay and explore on Google Street View. Which obviously means we have yet more to report and that will probably go into a different post.