Anger against Swiss Cottage 'cycling superhighway' grows as petition takes off
PUBLISHED: 17:13 26 February 2016 | UPDATED: 17:13 26 February 2016
More than 1000 people have signed a petition in just five days opposing what they say is a “catastrophically ill-planned” cycling superhighway, which they say will cause traffic gridlock in Swiss Cottage and the surrounding area.
Transport for London (TfL) is consulting on the plans which will create dedicated cycling lanes between Swiss Cottage and Portland Place in the West End.
But critics say the scheme is a “vanity project” to enable Mayor Boris Johnson to leave London a “cycling legacy”, and claim there are not enough cyclists using the roads to warrant the upheaval they believe it will cause.
The petition was started last weekend by Childs Hill resident, David Howard, who claims the scheme will wreak havoc for drivers and public transport users in Finchley Road, Swiss Cottage, Avenue Road, Regents Park, St John’s Wood and Baker Street.
The scheme will see the gates to Regent’s Park closed to motorists and the gyratory system at Swiss Cottage rerouted.
Mr Howard said: “This plan beggars belief, and what makes me really angry is that TfL workers have admitted to me that it will create more pollution, far from creating a cleaner city.
“The scheme will cause the traffic in the area to back up, which will make pollution much worse. I’ve studied the plans in detail, and the trouble is, it’s been designed without the knowledge of local people, who don’t need a PhD in Urban Planning to see that the traffic restrictions it will impose will cause gridlock.
“Of course there is nothing wrong with safer cycling, but this scheme, in my opinion, is maliciously designed to force drivers off the road by making their lives a total misery - and TFL workers have admitted that to me as well.
“I absolutely believe this is a huge vanity project so that Boris can leave Londoners a cycling legacy.”
Mr Howard, who used to work as a special constable in Camden, said he also believes the scheme will cause emergency vehicle response times to increase.
He has now written to the transport secretary, Patrick McLoughlin, to outline his concerns, but he said: “The cynic in me thinks that once they have reached the consultation stage, they are going to press ahead with whatever it is they want to do. But there is very strong public anger about this, so and we intend to make it known.”
However, many cyclists have welcomed the proposals and say the end result will justify the disruption caused during the construction.
Angela Hobsbaum, chair of Camden Cyclists said: “It’s a huge improvements for cyclists and for pedestrians to have most rat-running kept out of Regent’s Park. It’s not perfect, we’ve still got to get as far as Swiss Cottage to get the benefit, but it is a welcome development.”
Mr Johnson said: “Almost one million more Londoners will be given easy access to safe cycling routes under these plans. That’s vital if we are to meet the challenge of London’s population boom.
“By careful planning we have also been able to deliver a balance of benefits for pedestrians and motorists.”
TfL said it would try to mitigate the impact of the construction work on road users.
It said: “We would take a number of steps to ensure that the changes made along the route are balanced. TfL is investing in advanced traffic signal technology to allow us to better manage traffic depending on differing conditions at any given time, and we are working to improve road user information so people can make informed journey choices before they travel.”
Consultation closes on March 20 when City Hall enters “purdah” before the mayoral election. TfL is holding a consultation at Swiss Cottage Library in Avenue Road this Saturday February 27, and a public meeting is planned in St John’s Wood Church hall on March 7..