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London mayor promotes green transport with $1.49 billion investment in cycling

London mayor promotes green transport with $1.49 billion investment in cycling
Commuter hires a cycle from one of London's many Cycle Hire docking points which was launched in the summer of 2010.

London Mayor, Boris Johnson, intends to create a “crossrail for the bike” as part of his plans to invest nearly £1 billion ($1.49 billion) in London cycling.

“The reason I am spending almost £1 billion on this is my belief that helping cycling will not just help cyclists. It will create better places for everyone. It means less traffic, more trees, more places to sit and eat a sandwich,” said Mayor Johnson.

“It means more seats on the Tube, less competition for a parking place and fewer cars in front of yours at the lights. Above all, it will fulfill my aim of making London’s air cleaner. If just 14 percent of journeys in central London were cycled, emissions there of the greatest vehicle pollutant, NOx (nitrogen oxides), would fall by almost a third and over the years literally thousands of lives could be saved.”

The route will span over 15 miles from the western suburbs through the center of London to Canary Wharf and Barking. It will use a cyclist-friendly innovation called “Dutch-style” segregated cycle tracks along, among other places, the Victoria Embankment and the Westway flyover.

This route is touted to be the longest significantly separated cycle route of any European country.

“The Westway, the ultimate symbol of how the urban motorway tore up our cities, will become the ultimate symbol of how we are claiming central London for the bike,” said Mayor Johnson adding that the main cross-London, the physical legacy of Olympic games last year, will be a proper network of cycle routes across the city.

London’s “bike crossrail” will be placed at the center of a new bike “tube network.” Over the next four years, the city is expected to open a series of new cycle routes parallel to, or even named after, tube lines and bus routes, in order for people to know where they go.

The Mayor also plans for more semi-segregation on other streets, with improved isolation from other vehicles, a new network of “quietways” or fully-signposted routes on peaceable side of streets for people put off by cycling in traffic, and a new “central London grid” of bike routes in the city and west end, using segregation, quietways and two-way cycling on one way traffic streets to put together all the other routes.

He also aims to make significant improvements to both existing and proposed superhighways including some rerouting at the worst junctions in the city, making them safer and less perilous for cyclists.

Additionally, there will be trial of electric bikes, including small-self-contained public electric bike hire schemes, similar to London public bicycle sharing, Barclays Cycle Hire.

“I want to de-lycrafy cycling. I want to make it normal, something for everyone, something you feel comfortable doing in your ordinary clothes. Our new routes will give people the confidence to get in the saddle,” said Mayor Johnson. “I do not promise perfection, or that London will become Amsterdam any time soon. But what I do say is that this plan marks a profound shift in my ambitions and intentions for the bicycle.”

Cycling has been a cheaper and often quicker alternative mode of travelling around London. According to The Economist, the number of journeys using bike has doubles between 2000 and 2012 and now averaged at over 540,000 journeys per day. – C. Dominguez

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