Olympic countdown - Reasons for a London Cycle Map, #67: Multi-speed routes.

#67: MULTI-SPEED ROUTES. The LCC’s Go Dutch campaign is calling for segregated cycle lanes on London’s main roads and major junctions. While such developments would a good thing in some cases (some cases: we can’t, and wouldn’t want to, shove cars and trucks out of the way indiscriminately), there are numerous problems with the LCC’s proposal, which I’ve discussed elsewhere.

The LCC’s main argument for Go Dutch – one which they deem to defeat all criticisms – is that main roads are faster to cycle on. I’m not convinced this is true, especially when there’s traffic congestion (or when red lights are abided by). But let’s admit for argument’s sake that when the traffic is moving quickly and the green lights are smiling, cyclists on main roads can get up a head of steam better than they can on the generally wavier, quieter streets of the London Cycle Network.

The thing is, this would all change with segregated cycling facilities on main roads! Suddenly, cyclists on these roads would be confined to a narrow space where overtaking is harder. Generally, the fastest possible speed would become the slowest rider’s speed.

The speediest cyclists could of course move back into the main flow of traffic, but then they’d be in more danger than they would be if the segregated cycle lanes weren’t there, since there’d be less room on the road.

In other words, segregated cycle lanes on main roads would either slow cyclists down or make them more vulnerable – not the intended result. It always helps to read between the lines: if you really want cycle quickly on main roads, then don’t Go Dutch!

On the routes of the London Cycle Map, a range of cycling speeds would be possible. Because drivers would soon swap their cars for bikes or choose roads with fewer pesky cyclists, the whole road space in any direction would generally be available to stream cyclists according to speed. The fastest cyclists could overtake the slowest ones, like on a motorway.

London Cycle Map routes would be multi-speed routes. They’d almost always be faster than segregated routes on main roads where the slowest rider sets the pace.



Hi Ben, I am not sure that

Hi Ben, I am not sure that this is how I see things. I am not sure about that at all.

"Going Dutch," said LCC's Charlie Lloyd, "is not really about segregation. It is about planning for people to have easy, safe access to wherever they want to go."

Going Dutch is a journey, ultimately, a destination. We start by thinking in terms of a network, and by doing as much as possible at least cost first to get said network up and running. After that, the network would evolve.

For a more considered debate on this issue, please read this blog:


Hi Simon, are you saying that

Hi Simon, are you saying that segregated cycling facilities will not tend to slow cyclists down on main roads?

The LCC's website says of Go Dutch:

"The principles that must be adhered to involve segregated bike tracks where motor traffic is heaviest..."

My point is that the LCC are muddled. They want bike routes on main roads because these roads are faster to cycle on (Mike Cavenett: "many cyclists choose to take the faster, more direct routes on main roads for their regular journeys".) Yet segregated cycling on main roads will slow the fastest cyclists down - to the speed of the slowest cyclists.

This is a very 'considered' point - although obviously the LCC haven't considered it!

Hi Ben,

Hi Ben,

The point is, if there is to be segregated cycle paths - and I believe there should be - these need to be “designed to the highest standards, and suitable for everyone.”

In and of itself, segregated cycling on main roads need not necessarily slow the fastest cyclists down, though other measures, such as 'green waves' or speed limits, may produce that effect.

In a comment on the aseasyasriding blog, I said: "Personally, I do not think too much consideration should be given to the needs of people who regard cycling as an extreme sport. For myself, I would rather live in a city where women and children can confidently make their way around by bike. I do not believe this is possible while the views of [lycra-clad speed merchants] are allowed to hold sway.

"For too long, the cycle lobby has been organised for the benefit of “crazy cyclists” who want to tear around the place at 25mph. If London is to be a more liveable, loveable place, that will have to change."

Thanks Simon - agree with

Thanks Simon - agree with most of that. I think that compared to those 'crazy' speeds you mentioned, I don't see how segregated cycle facilities on main roads can not slow cyclists down.

Unless the new lanes take up the whole road (impossible), the space available to cyclists is going to be more congested. And preumably there will be more cyclists, so the space will be even more congested. More congestion = slower speeds, surely?

If so, then it doesn't make sense for the LCC to say "main roads are faster, so we'll put segregated cycle lanes on them". More cycle lanes will (surely to some degree) slow cycling on the main roads down (regardless of any other considerations like traffic lights, etc).

Which means that the LCC's only argument against the LCM is self-defeating.

(You can take the boy out of philosophy, but you can't take philosophy out of the boy)

By the way, it is worth

By the way, it is worth adding that I agree that Go Dutch SHOULD mean something like "a safe network of cycle routes". Presumably the LCC don't see it quite like this, or they'd be backing your map.

Thanks Ben, congestion on

Thanks Ben, congestion on cycle paths is exactly the problem they are having in Copenhagen ...


I suppose it's a nice problem to have. However, for the foreseeable future, this is not going to be a problem that faces the authorities in London.

I am more concerned about *that first step*. What happens thereafter, only time will tell.

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