The Euston Road is, in normal times, horrible: the closest thing central London has to a motorway, a traffic-choked six lane highway skirting the northern edge of the city centre. But these aren’t normal times, the pandemic and the lockdown mean that traffic has fallen to levels last seen in the early 1970s, and cities are rethinking their transport systems and use of space.
So this morning Transport for London (TfL) announced that the Euston Road was to get a cycle lane. The agency said that its modelling suggested that the crisis could lead to a ten-fold increase in kilometers cycled, and five-fold one in walking, as commuters return to work but prefer to avoid over-crowded spaces like public transport. So the centrepiece of its “Streetspace” plan will be “the rapid construction of a strategic cycling network” using “temporary materials”. At a guess, this means using plastic wands to carve out chunks of existing road space, rather than fully separated space.
Euston Road – which parallels the northern side of the London Underground’s Circle Line – is the only brand new route listed in the press release. But Park Lane – another urban motorway – could follow suit, and delivery of already planned cycleway schemes, between Brentford and Kensington, and Greenwich and Tower Hill, will be accelerated. More details of these and other proposed schemes here.
All this, of course, is exactly the sort of reallocation of space from cars to bikes and pedestrians, that Will Norman, the mayor’s walking and cycling commissioner, has been hoping to achieve anyway. And once new cycle routes exist, the path of least resistance may turn out to be to leave them as they are. As the release notes: “The temporary schemes will be reviewed by TfL – and could become permanent.”
So perhaps the Euston Road cycle path will become an established part of the London streetscape – though how much fun it’ll be to cycle in a place with that much air pollution remains to be seen.