London Cycling Infrastructure

London cycling infrastructure has some interesting ideas, but it does not come across as a coherent system. What I saw was a hodgepodge of stuff spread around the city with not much of an overall plan or connection.

For example, I saw a few of these bike signal lights. Oddly, they were in the crosswalk with the walk signal, not with the lights for the cars. Since bikes ride in regular car lanes, I’m not sure the point – anyone have insight?

Bike Signal

Bike Signal

I didn’t see a lot of bike lanes compared to Chicago, but the ones I saw were pretty special.

For example, this one is painted green and cuts through the pavement island, allowing cyclists to avoid the roundabout.



This one is physically separated for a few feet and allows cyclists to go the opposite direction on a one-way street. We definitely need this in Chicago.

Opposite direction bike lane

Opposite direction bike lane

But the markings are a bit mixed up and, as the picture shows, cars end up driving in the middle of the lanes.

Bike Lane

Bike Lane

London is an amazing city (I loved it and hope to return sometime soon!) and could be fantastic for cycling with a more developed infrastructure. I hope London has a strategic plan that it’s working on, because these interesting ideas are not very helpful as a seemingly random smattering across the city.

Tagged , ,

7 thoughts on “London Cycling Infrastructure

  1. anna says:

    About the traffic lights: Generally, different road users have different reaming times (I don’t know if that is the correct term in English though) which depends on the speed, i.e. the time needed to cross the junction at a certain speed. Cyclists would obviously be somewhere in between cars and pedestrians. But if you cycle on the road (with no bike lane) it doesn’t make any sense to put up an extra traffic light for cyclists — image the cyclist has to stop and the car behind it doesn’t. Such traffic lights only make sense on segregated bike lanes and bike paths. And of course, cyclists should have green longer than pedestrians have it.
    We have some of these lights in Vienna as well, but sometimes they are just synchronized with the pedestrians’ lights although they are about 4 times slower.. And that again is just a waste of money.
    But maybe bikes have longer greens than cars. I could image (although I have never seen that anywhere) that right turning bikes (in London left turning, of course) always get green while cars don’t?!
    Or cycling on sidewalks is allowed?

    The bike lanes look cool, but on the green bike lane the curbs are pretty high. No overtaking possible, if there’s a slow cyclist in front of you.. Such high curbs could be dangerous in case of an accident.

  2. unfitbikerchick says:

    Hi from sunny England! I have just stumbled across your blog whilst looking for other womens cylists ad can happily explain the use of these type of lights. You will see these wherever a cycle path intersects with a main road, not where the cycle path is part of the main road. As many cycle paths are path of the national cycle network which encompass alot of routes through parks and low traffic areas. These routes might come out at an intersection but go across to a further section of pavement or other off road marked route, thus the need to ave cycle green lights along with pedestrian lights.

    It does not ean if you are a cyclist using the road, that you would cycle across the predestrian right of way, you would only go if you were crossing alongside pedestrians to the pavement on the other side (and then onto marked cycle route)

    I hope that helps – clear as mud probably!

  3. unfitbikerchick says:

    whoops sorry about the spelling errors! Just wanted to add that the most common cycle lane markings are the green tarmac lanes, there are also green boxes in the front of many traffic light queues to give cyclists first chance when the lights change. are the body responsible for national cycling routes but local councils are the ones who put up all the lanes and markings -hence unfortunately no cohesion and more confusion for cyclists and other road users alike at times!

    Still it IS getting better and with the 2012 olympics alot of funds are going into infrastructure aroud london – a cycle route around all the differant stadia is being considered currently….

    • dottie says:

      Thanks! This explanation is very helpful! I don’t remember seeing separate cycle tracks, though, but I guess I missed them. Separate cycle tracks are a huge step and I wish we could get some in Chicago. Definitely those bike stop lights would be necessary to avoid conflict with right-turning cars. Good to hear about the Olympics improving cycling infrastructure. Chicago is one of the 3 finalists for the Olympics in 2016 and I hope the city gets it, if it would mean improvements for cycling and public transit.

  4. Fred Smith says:

    In London we now also have blue bike lanes which are meant to be bike motorways, but the people who designed them obviously don’t ride so they’re a bit like work in progress. The bike traffic lights are for when cycle lanes without cars need to stop at lights, they aren’t always parallel to pedestrian lights and you don’t cross over the pedestrian bits when they have the green man.

    Some of the bike lanes we have are a bit crazy (two foot wide with a lamp post in the middle etc.) and a lot of them are really good for 100 yards and then disappear – it’s pretty much work in progress. London is split in to about 30 boroughs and they do their roads separately & bike lanes, which is why it’s pretty inconsistent.

    The Transport for London website ( has a handy rout planner which can tell you about cycle lanes on back streets you’d never know about otherwise. Most cycle lanes don’t have kerbs so overtaking is easy.

    Last thing (sorry for the essay) – we have the London Cycling Campaign ( which works with councils & the mayors to help improve cycling. It’s got a lot of discussion about the pros and cons of the different ideas they’ve tried out in London & the lack of a consistency. It’s getting better, slowly – but even though the roads aren’t as great as Holland the number of cyclists is increasing every year (lots at the moment, but maybe it’s the Olympics!).

  5. […] on Bike just before tweeting our way across Europe–or at least, through  London and St. Petersburg. Betty Foy came home to Dottie. And, oh yeah–I finally got to ride my […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: