Superhighways, Crossrail and Quietways: A complete guide to London cycleways

Everything you need to know about the latest cycling infrastructure developments in London, including Superhighways, Quietways and the proposed 'Crossrail' scheme

Cycling is being fast forwarded in London which, it’s fair to say, unlike most of the UK, appears genuinely committed to a cycling revolution. Plans are coming thick and fast for a network of segregated cycle routes across the city, as well as improved cycle links through back streets.

Don’t know your cycle superhighway from your crossrail for bikes? Don’t worry, we’ve got the answers.

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Cycle Superhighways


What are they? 

Cycle superhighways (CS) have been around in London since 2010, and vary from blue paint in a traffic lane, like CS2 from Aldgate to Bow (criticised for lulling cyclists into a false sense of security),  to a segregated two way cycle track on a quiet street, like CS3 from Barking to Tower Gateway.

Most of the first generation routes offered little to no protection to cyclists. What we are seeing now are the cycle superhighways upgrades – largely segregated cycle tracks along some of London’s busiest roads, including a two-way North-South route from Elephant and Castle to Farringdon.

Think a traffic lane replaced by kerb segregated cycle tracks, bus stop bypasses with “islands” where passengers wait, so cyclists aren’t forced into moving traffic when buses stop. Separate traffic phases and banned turns to motor traffic help ensure turning traffic doesn’t come into conflict with cyclists going straight ahead.

Has work started? 

The segregated CS2 extension from Bow to Stratford was completed in November 2013, but this design offers little protection at junctions.

Consultation on the newer upgrades, with safer junctions, have now been completed and 80% came out in favour of the plans. These plans will not be delivered until 2016.

Improvements to the Oval junction, on CS7, are due to start imminently (late October/early November 2014).

When will they be finished?

 The CS2 upgrade from Aldgate to Bow, and CS1 (City to Tottenham), will be completed by 2016, as will the Vauxhall Cross upgrade on CS7 – across the Vauxhall gyratory and Vauxhall Bridge.

CS11, from West Hampstead to Marylebone, is expected to be completed by the end of 2016. Timings of other superhighways are less certain as they are up to individual boroughs, who manage 95% of London’s roads.

Will they work?

The purpose of the superhighways is to improve safety on main roads and encourage people to cycle by separating cyclists from motor traffic. The main barrier to people cycling is fear of traffic, while of 24 London cycling fatalities since March 2013, 11 were at locations earmarked for segregated cycle tracks. By protecting people on bikes from motor traffic more people will feel – and be – safe cycling.

View Cycle Superhighway maps:

CS2 Stratford to Aldgate 

CS3 Barking to Tower Gateway

CS7 Merton to the City 

CS8 Wandsworth to Westminster

Cycle Crossrail


Artists impression of what the Parliament Square section of the ‘crossrail for bikes’ would look like

What is it?

Like the other superhighways in all but length, this is the longest largely segregated urban cycle route of its kind, possibly in the world, spanning 18 miles East-West across London.

This figure includes the existing section of CS3 from Tower Hill to Barking. The new section runs West from Tower Hill to Westbourne Terrace, and eventually on to Acton via the Tower of London, Parliament Square, and Hyde Park Corner.

The scheme is highly ambitious, with designs showing an entire slip road, where the cycle crossrail meets the proposed north-south cycle superhighway, given over to cyclists. The crossrail reference is of course to the east-west rail scheme, which is currently being built in London.

A notable difference is the price – £14.5bn for the rail project, £47m for the cycle version. The cycle route will carry the equivalent of 10 extra tube trains worth of people per hour – so not bad value for money.  

Has work started? 

The consultation period ended on November 9 and results show strong support for the schemes. Work should start early 2015.

When will it be finished?

Transport for London says 2016

Will it work?

One route doesn’t make a network, but it will help people feel safe riding along Victoria Embankment, which is at the moment much like an urban motorway, Parliament Square, at present a fast-moving roundabout of traffic, and Blackfriars, which is like a motorway junction.

View proposed route maps:

North-South Superhighway | East-West ‘Crossrail’



What are they? 

Quietways are back street cycle routes across London following canals, parks and quiet residential roads.

These will be ‘low intervention’ routes – think cycle-only through access on some roads, contraflow cycle lanes on one-way streets, armadillos and planters, and kerb segregation on busier segments.

These are being billed as direct routes, but are aimed at less confident cyclists or those who don’t want to travel fast. They will link with the cycle superhighways, providing safe routes to and from the main cycle thoroughfares.

In countries like the Netherlands many of these quietway features are found on residential roads where traffic speeds and volumes are slower and cycles and motor vehicles coexist. The first two pilot routes are from Waterloo to Greenwich, and from Bloomsbury to Walthamstow.

Has work started? 

Phase one – seven routes across 15 London boroughs, has already begun. Delivery of phase two, which extends to all 32 London boroughs, depends on individual boroughs.

When will they be finished?

The first routes will be open in Spring 2015. Phase two completion depends on the individual boroughs, but Transport for London hopes “a significant number will be delivered, or be in process of delivery, by 2016” 

Will they work?

If completed to a high standard by each borough – where standards could vary greatly – they should work. That means creating safe, continuous, direct routes that cyclists of all ages and abilities feel safe using. The quietways, in order to fulfil Boris Johnson’s ambition to ‘de-Lycrafy’ cycling, need to allow people to cycle their entire journeys on roads designed to protect cyclists, and not disappear and reappear where things get tricky.

Proposed Quietways routes map

More about London cycling