While We Are Trying To ‘Nix The Flyover’ The Brits Are Doing Things Right

Background Reading


While we Yanks are busy trying to throw a spanner into a world class solution to the traffic problems surrounding Navy Pier the Brits are biting the bullet and welcoming the spending of money to create bicycle infrastructure that merits the expense and is adapted to their climate. Why the disconnect?

it would seem that we Yanks are very big on building weapons that can kill and maim but have no stomach for truly useful infrastructure that looks as if it were shoe-horned in to keep the costs down.

London bikes photo from Shutterstock

London bikes photo from Shutterstock

London is about to get a Holland-style bike-ability makeover, as Mayor Boris Johnson just announced a $1.51 billion master plan to improve the city’s bicycle network. The safer bicycle network is designed to relieve pressure on inner-London’s roads and public transportationsystems. The plan also includes an ambitious “Crossrail for Bike” – a 15-mile bicycle highway segregated from road traffic that will connect the suburbs of East and West London.

$1.36 billion of the master plan money will go towards semi-segregated bicycle paths on certain streets that will be called “Quietways”. In London’s busiest areas, like in the City and in the West End, all bicycle paths will be connected to create what will be called the “Central London Grid”. The new network will follow along and be named after existing underground rail lines and bus routes to make it easier on Londoners to adapt to them.

The master plan will also make London’s most dangerous intersections safer for bicycles.  A comprehensive policy will focus on bringing targeted intersections up to higher safety standards rather than just making token improvements. Funding for the “Safer Intersection Review” has been increased from $28 million to $149 million. Part of this money will fund 8 police officers dedicated to addressing accidents involving cyclists and heavy goods trucks.

In outer London, more than $1.51 million will be spent to improve the bicycle network of three boroughs to create bicycle-friendly “mini-Hollands”. It is hoped that the improvements in these three boroughs will be examples for other suburbs of outer London to follow.

The drawings posted last year show an elevated cycletrack with weather protection. This is exactly the kind of approach which might draw the less hardy out into the winter weather. It also addresses something Chicagoans know a great deal about and that is strong and gusty winds.

Are we not as worthy as London of a world class cycle track? We have already tossed nearly a half million dollars into the sink hole of Chicago bicycle infrastructure end up with green painted lanes which are constantly being the targets of cabbies, truck drivers and snow shovelers. What if we were riding through the Loop on a cycletrack that simply avoided interaction with traffic intersections full of pedestrians who stand in the bike lane and we could get to our destinations reasonably dry, and safe? Would that not be worth the extra monies?

In building the Chicago Lakefront Trail Flyover we have a proving ground for an elevated cycletrack that could connect with other venues like the Bloomingdale Trail. This is very bold stuff and is lightyears ahead of the archaic PVC bollards and green paint that we are currently trying to spend more money on.