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Boris Johnson Commits to a Protected “Cycle Superhighway” Crossing London

London's "crossrail for bikes" will be the longest protected bike lane in Europe. Image: London Evening Standard

London’s “crossrail for bikes” will be the longest urban protected bike lane in Europe, according to the London papers. Image: London Evening Standard

London Mayor Boris Johnson is showing cities what it looks like to commit real resources to repurposing car lanes for high-quality bike infrastructure.

Yesterday, Johnson announced the city will begin building a wide, continuous protected bike lane linking east and west London when the weather warms this spring. When complete, it will be the longest protected “urban cycle lane” in Europe, according to Metro UK, carrying riders through the heart of the city and some of its most famous landmarks. The bike lane will be separated from vehicle traffic by a curb, London-based design blog Dezeen reports.

While bike infrastructure is cheap, London is devoting serious resources to ensuring that this bike lane is as safe, spacious, and comfortable as it can be. The central portion of the bike route, about 5.5 miles, will cost £41 to construct ($62 million).

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London Mayor Unveils Ambitious, $1.3 Billion Bike Plan

Coming soon to one of New York's global competitors. Image: Mayor of London

In some ways, London and New York have each leapfrogged the other when it comes to bike policy in the past few years. London’s bike-share program launched back in 2010, but its bike lanes remain largely sub-standard, with little in the way of physical protection. Here in New York, the bike lanes are gradually forming a safe, useful network, while bike-share is a few years behind London.

If New York’s next mayor doesn’t keep up the pace on bike infrastructure, though, London may soon take the lead on both counts. Yesterday, Mayor Boris Johnson announced an aggressive plan for a comprehensive bike network, including protected bike lanes.

“Cycling will be treated not as niche, marginal, or an afterthought, but as what it is: an integral part of the transport network,” Johnson said. ”I want cycling to be normal, a part of everyday life.”

The plan includes big changes, including new types of bike lanes for the capital:

  • The flagship initiative, a 15-mile separated crosstown route connecting western and eastern suburbs via central London and business districts including the West End and Canary Wharf.
  • A network of “quietways,” akin to bike boulevards, that will connect suburban and central London neighborhoods.
  • Adding physical separation to the existing “cycle superhighways,” which sometimes offer little more than a stripe of paint on some of London’s busiest roads.

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London Mayor: Get Bigshots Out of Cars, Onto Transit “Like Everybody Else”

When was the last time Chris Quinn or Bill de Blasio rode transit to work? Left photo: NYT/Redux. Right photo: NYT.

London Mayor Boris Johnson, whose entertaining quotes about Mike Bloomberg have been ricocheting around New York’s political circles today, could teach a thing or two to the candidates running for mayor here in NYC. Yesterday, “Boris from Islington” called in to a radio talk show with a recorded question for Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg about Parliament’s profligate spending on cars for political leaders. It’s a question New Yorkers can appreciate.

“Get all those government ministers out of their posh limos and on to public transport like everybody else,” Johnson said. “How can we possibly expect government to vote for increases in infrastructure spending, which we need in this city in upgrading the Tube, which we all need, when they sit in their chauffer-driven limousines payed for by the taxpayers?”

Imagine, for a second, if any of New York’s crop of mayoral contenders stood up for transit riders like this. Instead, the NYC hopefuls are driving around the city, trying to convince New Yorkers, most of whom depend on transit to get around, that they feel their pain.

Although residents outside Manhattan struggle with long commutes on pokey buses, the candidates vying for votes in Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn, and Staten Island have yet to mention Bus Rapid Transit on the campaign trail. At the same time, streets where you can walk or bike without fear of getting run over by a speeding driver have apparently become something to campaign against.

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Streetfilms: London’s Campaign for People-First Public Spaces

In 2002, then-mayor of London Ken Livingstone launched the 100 Public Spaces Programme, a campaign to better realize the potential of the city's public realm. With guidance from Jan Gehl, the initiative emphasized reclaiming space for pedestrians and enhancing street life.

Soon after Boris Johnson defeated Livingstone in last year's election, the new mayor shook up the city's public space plans, drawing fire from his predecessor. Some projects, like the pedestrianization of Parliament Square, got the ax, while others moved ahead. Last month, Johnson announced a re-vamped public space campaign, which he's calling "Great Spaces."

In her Streetfilms debut, Alice Shay speaks to Paul Harper, a head urban designer at Design for London who managed the 100 Public Spaces Programme. Here he discusses the origins of the program and guides us through projects currently underway in East London's Aldgate neighborhood, including a one-way to two-way conversion and the creation of a new public park.