I ended up cycling on one of the new Cycle Superhighways last weekend. I’m not really convinced of how useful they actually are.

What is a Cycle Superhighway? It’s a metre and a half of blue tarmac along the edge of the road, with a route designation (e.g. CS7) marked at intervals.

That’s it, so far.

Are they any good? Well, no. Not really. There are two main problems:

  1. If you take a four-lane road and cover half of one lane in each direction with blue paint to designate it as a ‘Cycle Superhighway’ (as TfL have done), cars still use the entire lane. So the cyclist doesn’t gain any space. In fact, because the gutter is now nominated as the zone for cyclists, there’s now pressure on cyclists not to take any more of the lane than the blue paint allows.
  2. The blue paint is invisible at night under the yellow sodium lights. This is basic physics, but didn’t seem to occur to Boris and crew.

The only useful thing that the Cycle Superhighways provide, as far as I can tell, is that they allow a cyclist to decide to follow a nominated route for a long distance without getting lost. In that respect, however, it’s really no better than painting the route designation alone on the road, along with some clarifying markings at junctions. And, in fact, we already have such things: you might as well follow the A3 and A24 as CS7.

They do feel more like a rushed gimmick and less like a genuinely useful enhancement to cycling in the capital. Superficial Cycleways indeed.