Cycle lanes are short term pain for longer gain, says minister

Congestion caused by cycle lanes is a short-term pain for the long-term gain of reducing traffic levels in London, DfT minister Andrew Jones told the Transport Committee hearing on urban congestion this week.

Asked by committee member Rob Flello MP why the DfT continued to fund bus and cycle lane schemes in London when research suggested the schemes had contributed to congestion, the minister said: “I am aware that bus and cycle lanes have caused a degree of controversy – I suggest TfL is thinking of how it can encourage a modal shift and is thinking a long way ahead by trying to provide the right infrastructure.”

He added: “Cycle lanes encourage a modal shift to public transport, or a more active mode of travel, so TfL is thinking long term and we should be encouraging local decision making. Our role is to provide financial support, ideas and best practice.”

Asked by Flello if the DfT would continue to support local decision making if TfL continued to ignore the evidence that cycle and bus schemes were creating more congestion, Jones said: “This is a local decision and the people of London can chose their representatives and express that choice via the ballot box.”

Jones said the government had the “ultimate nuclear option” of suspending a local authority department if it was not performing but added: “TfL is a world leader in making maximum use of a finite, historical urban realm for transport and it is good at it, so it is not my job to say ‘no’.

“TfL is responsible to the mayor and it is up to the people who elect the mayor to have the final say.”

Iain Stewart MP asked what measures are being taken to measure the cost benefit of some cycle schemes, pointing to a road in his area of London that he claimed had seen congestion rise since the introduction of a cycle lane, resulting in “HGV’s sitting stationary and emitting NOx”.

Jones said local authorities are responsible for monitoring these schemes. “We don’t plan these schemes, these are local schemes – it comes down to local authorities planning and implementing to meet demand, not just now but in the future to cater for what will be significant cycling growth.”

DfT deputy director of traffic and technology Anthony Ferguson added: “If an HGV is sitting in static traffic it is probably an issue about freight strategy rather than whether cyclists are taking too much road space.”

He added that for this reason Tfl is better placed to deal with local issues than the DfT.