After criticism that he has not been as forceful in promoting bike infrastructure as his predecessor Boris Johnson, London Mayor Sadiq Khan has promised to spend £770 million ($980 million U.S.) on cycling initiatives over the course of his term, reports the Guardian.
Saying he wants to make biking the “safe and obvious” transportation choice for Londoners, Khan’s office is now proposing an agenda that includes two new bicycle superhighways, traffic-calming initiatives and other projects that would increase spending to levels near those of bike-friendly nations like Denmark.
With proposed spending of about £17 ($22 U.S.) per person per year on cycling infrastructure, the administration hopes to open one new bicycle superhighway from Tower Bridge to Greenwhich in southeast London, and another from Olympia to Hounslow in west London. The superhighways — routes that largely separate cyclists from vehicle traffic — were first built under Johnson and have proven very popular.
Last week, Transport for London released a report showing that bike traffic on the first two major bicycle superhighways has risen 55 percent in six months. The £770 million committed by Khan represents 5.5 percent of the Transport for London budget, and will also go toward fulfilling new routes already planned under Johnson’s administration.
Khan has faced criticism for being slow to push through new bike routes since he took office. Andrew Gilligan, commissioner for cycling under Johnson, said the commitment of funding means nothing without actual construction.
“So far, most movement has been in the other direction, with shovel-ready schemes delayed or canceled,” he said. “Today’s press release contains no commitment to actually build any segregated bicycle route beyond the one scheme (the north-south extension) already announced. This includes only half a mile of segregated track. With the cancelation of the 4.5-mile segregated scheme on the Westway and A40, the net total of new segregated routes so far promised by this mayoralty is minus 4 miles.”
Other groups, including the London Cycling Campaign, praised the announcement. In a statement, Khan said, “With record amounts of money now committed for cycling in London, we will continue to work over the coming months developing further detailed plans for making cycling a safe and obvious choice for Londoners of all ages and backgrounds.”
Jen Kinney is a freelance writer and documentary photographer. Her work has also appeared in Philadelphia Magazine, High Country News online, and the Anchorage Press. She is currently a student of radio production at the Salt Institute of Documentary Studies. See her work at jakinney.com.