Another email has arrived from the Transport for London consultations team about the special lane for bicycles that was added to Park Lane near the start of the pandemic – a provision which has become a prominent focal point of arguments about the re-allocation of London road space and how effective London’s new cycle lanes have been in bringing about more cycling in the capital.
The email, which follows one sent in June, says that following adjustments to “help buses run more reliably in the vicinity of the scheme” further changes are planned ahead of this year’s Winter Wonderland event in next-door Hyde Park, which will see coach parking reinstated and some bus stops extended. It adds:
“We have not yet decided on what the longer–term future of the Park Lane scheme should be. In doing so, we will bear in mind what we have learned so far in terms of the effects of the scheme on traffic and cycling, and we will also take the feedback we have received about the scheme into account.”
A curiosity about the scheme was that although it was described as temporary and part of an emergency response to the pandemic, it had, to my eyes at least, a rather permanent look when I paid it an early visit (see photo). Although some parts of the lane were marked off with moveable fencing, one section was created with hard new road infrastructure which will presumably have to be dug out again should TfL decide to dispense with the lane.
How likely is it that the lane on the Lane will disappear? TfL’s email says, in effect, that they are still thinking about it. Sadiq Khan’s cycling and walking commissioner Will Norman has been tweeting up its popularity. This brought forth howls of derision from sceptics and also added to my (admittedly cynical) view that the Park Lane bike lane was always going to be here to stay. If so, it will be a target of the fury of drivers caught in Park Lane’s not uncommon traffic jams, who, rightly or wrongly, already regard it as nearly always vacant space that would be better used to ease their pain.
Assuming the bike lane stays, it will be but a modest incursion on a famous (and infamous) Central London road compared with much bolder recent ideas for altering it that have yet to come to pass. A small but much-publicised feature of a Boris Johnson direction of travel document (pun intended) called Way To Go, published in November 2008, included the radical suggestion of putting a tunnel under Park Lane, thereby “releasing land for development and green space”.
Johnson wasn’t the first to think along such lines: the notion of sinking Park Lane below ground has been around for at least 30 years. For the property trade, the cost of the tunnel might well be worth paying if it meant being able to build a glamorous boulevard in place of today’s traffic jams. Maybe, one day…
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