Grant Shapps admits too many new cycle lanes are 'unused'

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps admits too many new cycle lanes are ‘unused’ leaving streets ‘backed up’ with traffic as he warns councils over increase in road closures… even though the routes were built using £250m fund HE unveiled

  • Shapps declared he was ‘not prepared to tolerate’ badly designed road closures
  • Also vented fury at cycle lanes that impose ‘sweeping changes’ to communities
  • Comments come even though many lanes were built from fund Shapps unveiled 
  • Councils could apply for cash with projects to entice people away from cars 

Grant Shapps has hit out at ‘unused’ cycle lanes clogging up traffic – blaming some town halls for misusing special funds for ‘green’ transport.

The Transport Secretary declared he was ‘not prepared to tolerate’ badly designed road closures that led to traffic being ‘backed up’. 

He also vented his fury at new cycle lanes that impose ‘sweeping changes’ to entire communities.

Last month, pictures taken around the country showed cycle lanes lying empty or nearly empty while traffic squeezed past on narrowed streets.

Research conducted by MailOnline in London, where Transport for London is leading its own £33million scheme, showed that on Park Lane, in Mayfair, only 21 cyclists used the cycle lane as 400 cars battled past. 

Mr Shapps’ comments, in a letter sent to local councils last week, come despite the fact that many of the cycle lanes were built using money from an emergency £250million fund which he unveiled in May. 

Grant Shapps has hit out at ‘unused’ cycle lanes clogging up traffic – blaming some town halls for misusing special funds for ‘green’ transport

The scheme was intended to promote walking and cycling after the coronavirus lockdown.

Town halls were invited to apply for the cash by devising projects to entice people away from their cars. 

The Sunday Telegraph reported yesterday how critics had complained that some of the money was spent on badly designed road closures and new cycle lanes that increased traffic.

There have also been protests that because the schemes were introduced under emergency Covid powers, disability groups, local residents and businesses were not consulted. 

High streets struggling to recover from the lockdown were also affected as the number of people visiting them was reduced, it was claimed. 

In the letter sent on Friday, Mr Shapps appeared to admit the problems – blaming a ‘notable number of councils’ for using ‘their funding poorly’.

He added: ‘I saw or heard … about far too many instances where temporary cycle lanes were unused due to their location and design, while their creation left traffic backed up alongside them’.

The Transport Secretary explained how he had since ordered his staff to work with local councils, adding: ‘Since then, numerous schemes have been scaled back and revised’. 

Last month, pictures taken around the country showed cycle lanes lying empty or nearly empty while traffic squeezed past on narrowed streets. Pictured: A near-empty cycle lane on Park Lane in central London

Motorists voiced their fury at the delay to their journeys as they sat stationary next to the vacant bike lanes. Pictured: A pop-up cycle lane in Sale, Manchester

Pop-up cycle lanes set up as part £250million plan to get Britain moving again are lying empty while traffic is squeezing onto narrowed streets, bringing the capital to a halt, it can be revealed. Pictured: A pop up cycle lane on West Derby Road, Liverpool

He warned that the second round of funding could involve some town halls receiving ‘considerably less’ if they failed to embrace good design.

His letter came after MailOnline’s investigation into Britain’s near-empty cycle lanes last month.

On the Euston Road in Central London, only seven cyclists used the designated lane during a 15-minute period in which 400 cars drove past.    

In Liverpool, on busy arterial route West Derby Road, just 2 cyclists used a pop-up cycle lane during a 15-minute period in rush hour, compared with 300 cars.

Motorists voiced their fury at the delay to their journeys as they sat stationary next to the vacant bike lanes, whilst cyclists complained that the idling, gridlocked traffic was making air pollution worse.

Research also showed that congestion levels in London were higher in September than before Britain went into lockdown in March.   

The new cycle lanes form part of Transport for London’s government-funded Street Space scheme, which is designed to encourage people to walk or cycle to work and school as an alternative to public transport following the easing of lockdown. 

MailOnline visited some of the key cycle lanes at the height of the rush hour to gauge how busy they are, only to find them chronically under-used with cyclists criticising them as well as motorists. Pictured: a pop cycle lane on Tooting High Street, London

Our research shows that on the Euston Road (pictured), just 7 cyclists used the designated lane over a 15-minute period in September, while 420 cars fought their way through traffic

Similarly, the pop-up cycle lane on West Derby Road, in Liverpool, was seen empty while cars queued up bumper-to-bumper in traffic

Here’s what MailOnline found when we visited streets with cycle lanes under the Street Smart scheme 

Wednesday, September 9

Park Lane (Hyde Park Corner to Marble Arch), London SW1X

4.45-5pm: 21 cyclists in lane

2 cyclists on pavement 4.45-5pm: 400 cars

Thursday, September 10

King Street, Hammersmith, London W6

8am-8.15am: 18 cyclists in lane 8 cyclists in road and 2 cyclists on pavement 8-8.15am: 280 cars

Uxbridge Road, Ealing, London W5

10-10.15 am: 3 cyclists in lane

1 cyclist in road

10-10.15am: 45 cars

Euston Road, London NW1

8-8.15am: 7 cyclists in lane

8-8.15am: 420 cars crawling in nose to tail traffic

Goods Way, Camden, London N1

10-10.15am: 40 cyclists in lane

10-10.15am: 360 cars

Tooting High Road, London SW17

7.30-7.45am: 100 bikes

Traffic completely gridlocked

In Manchester, where a similar scheme was set up, a pop-up lane lasted just 48 hours before it was removed by the council after outrage from drivers.

In the capital, the busy Euston road – one of the main arterial routes cutting through the middle of London – has been reduced to a single lane to accommodate the cycle lane, resulting in gridlock misery.

Richie Clea, who drives around London fixing gas pipelines and was stuck in traffic along Euston Road told MailOnline in September: ‘Driving in London is getting worse. There are too many cycle lanes that nobody is using.

‘Since the end of the lockdown my journey times have trebled. It’s a nightmare.’

Cyclist Graham Robinson added: ‘The cycling lanes schemes has not been properly thought out. It’s led to more traffic congestion and the air quality is getting worse. It’s quite common to be cycling along and get hit by a big cloud of car or bus smoke. Cycling in London is not for the faint hearted.’

George Peach, who cycles almost 12 miles each day to his job in advertising said: ‘They need to improve the roads not narrow them. Traffic fumes are getting worse and where there are no cycle lanes, you’re fighting motorists for space. This scheme is meant to get us healthy, but my worry is that you could be causing more damage because there’s more pollution.’

During a 15-minute period at Park Lane, another of London’s major roads, 400 cars were counted compared with only 22 cyclists.

Builder Norman Adams said the designated cycle lanes being introduced by Transport for London had ‘ruined London’.

He fumed: ‘What is the point? London mayor Sadiq Khan keeps banging on about air quality, but how does that stack up when cars are sat for ages with engines idling. He just hates motorists and wants to make them pay.’

What is supposed to be one of the major cycling lane intersections at the junction of York Way and Goods Way, close to Kings Cross Station, 40 bicycles were counted over 15 minutes but that was dwarfed by 360 cars and vans that went past at the same time.

Further out from central London, things were not much better with traffic piling up alongside empty cycle lanes with some cyclists opting not to use them at all.

In Hammersmith, West London, MailOnline counted 18 cyclists with more than half not even using the lane, opting for the road while two others hogged the pavement. At the same time, 280 cars were jostling for space along a busy main road.

Just past rush hour in Ealing, West London, 45 cars were counted going past in a quarter of an hour but only three cyclists using the dedicated lane and one on the road. 

Ironically, the local council has been one of the biggest beneficiaries of Street Space funding and recently received almost £440,000 for cycling provisions.

The only location to buck the trend was Tooting in South London, where 100 bicycles were counted in the bike lane.

Unfortunately, the number of cars going past could not be calculated because they were all stuck in horrific gridlocked traffic.

Across the country, councils have started receiving funding from a total £250million pot of money to spend on cycling, to get people fit and out of their cars as part of the war on coronavirus.

The outcome however is that it is not just drivers in London who have been suffering.

A pop-up cycle lane was scrapped in Greater Manchester within 48 hours after huge uproar from motorists over long queues.

A pop-up cycle lane on Tooting High Street was also seen empty as traffic crawled past

Similar schemes are being undertaken across the country, including in Liverpool, where there is a pop-up cycle lane on West Derby Road (pictured)

The road is a major arterial route to and from the city centre and is always busy with traffic, particularly around rush hours

In London, the new cycle lanes (pictured here on Park Lane) form part of Transport for London’s government funded Street Space scheme, which is designed to encourage people to walk or cycle to work and school as an alternative to public transport following the easing of lockdown

Builder Norman Adams said the designated cycle lanes (pictured: Park Lane) being introduced by Transport for London had ‘ruined London’

What is supposed to be one of the major cycling lane intersections at the junction of York Way and Goods Way, close to Kings Cross Station, 40 bicycles were counted over 15 minutes but that was dwarfed by 360 cars and vans that went past at the same time. Pictured: A new pop-up cycle lane on Park Lane

Across the country, councils have started receiving funding from a total £250 million pot of money to spend on cycling, to get people fit and out of their cars as part of the war on coronavirus. Pictured: A new cycle lane on the A56, Sale, Manchester

A pop-up cycle lane was scrapped in Greater Manchester within 48 hours after huge uproar from motorists over long queues

The lane was removed in June by Trafford Council on the A56 between Sale and Altrincham after drivers complained of being stuck in a queue for an hour to travel just two miles. Bollards had been put down to give cyclists one lane of the road.

Councillor Nathan Evans said at the time: ‘We certainly need safe cycle routes but at a time when we need maximum opportunity for access to work and limited use of public transport, simply halving the main route into Manchester, without proper consideration or any consultation with local residents, is the wrong decision.’

In London, a Tfl spokesman previously defended the Street Space scheme as a way of providing a healthy alternative to using public transport.

‘We need to urgently reconsider use of Street Space to provide safe and appealing spaces to walk and cycle as an alternative to car use in the context of reduced capacity on the public transport network.

‘Suppressing motorised traffic while allowing essential journeys to take place is key to ensuring we manage our road and public transport networks to maximise our ability to keep people moving safely.’   

Here’s what MailOnline readers have had to say about Low Traffic Neighbourhood schemes in their areas 

Katie Taylor, Brixton, London

‘I live on Shakespeare Road and have been on the wrong end of a newly imposed LTN implemented by the Lambeth council. 

‘We received less that one week’s notice of the changes (as did Network Rail and many other local businesses which have now been detrimentally impacted by the scheme). 

‘The scheme continues to be extremely polarising and is causing HUGE levels of upset to many residents who are concerned about a wide ranging number of issues: Disability access, access for care workers, concern for local businesses, increased pollution on neighbouring road, impact on house prices on those who have been cut off from their own neighbourhoods, delivery services, Uber trips, additional journey times for work journeys, safety (Roads are now dead!) There are huge fractures emerging and a growing sense of hostility between different groups.

‘We are now working on local movements like ‘One Railton’ and ‘One Oval’ to try to push our local councils to listen, but so far they are refusing to engage with us in a meaningful way.’

Samantha Cooray, Oval, London 

‘I live in the Oval and we were the first to be subjected to ‘LTNs’ in Lambeth in June with no notification or consultation (under ‘Emergency Covid legislation).

‘We are right on the congestion charge boundary too with 5 schools along the boundary roads.


Samantha Cooray says Clapham Road, Brixton Road and South Lambeth Road are all affected. Pictured left: Congestion on Landsdown Way. Pictured right: Traffic on Harleyford Road, Oval

‘Self-employed, disabled, those with elderly relatives, local businesses all affected – all so a few wealthy residents can have their private (B road – Fentiman) on enclave. 

‘Clapham Road, Brixton Road and South Lambeth Road all connect Guy’s and St Thomas’, King’s and George’s hospitals and ambulances, the fire bridage and police are frequently stuck in displaced traffic.

‘Those of us ‘outside’ the LTN are now breathing in lots more pollution, with no more people cycling in reality.’

Morgan Douglas, Bowes Park, London

‘Enfield council have decide with pressure from cyclist lobby groups to close off access to the Bowes area so that we can only access our homes via the most congested roads in the UK – the A406 north circular.

‘The scheme’s masters openly admit that traffic on the main roads surrounding the are will increase.

These roads are the locations for our primary school, which already has some of the worst pollution measurements and even has its own measuring facility.

‘We are on the border of TFL controlled roads, two councils and three voting wards and so no one really has any say so a proper area wide solution can not be sort as all the groups cants seem to sit down and find a solution.

‘Many smaller roads are now taking the brunt off this ill-thought-out plan with stationary traffic.

‘Today an ambulance was parked up at one of these barriers and the police chased someone up to the barrier for them to whizz through and leave the police banging their wheel in frustration.’

Sarah Johnson, Paulsgrove, Portsmouth 

‘After reading your story about the road closure in Poole it hit a nerve with what we are experiencing here in Paulsgrove, Portsmouth.

‘The road in question is called Portsdown Road and is shared with both Fareham and Portsmouth City Council’s but apparently is under Hampshire county council in regard to highways. 

Sarah Johnson, who lives in Paulsgrove, Portsmouth, said Hampshire County Council is closing off Paulsgrove Road in Portsmouth

She says that residents were only give two days notice that the road would be closed under a new scheme to encourage more people to cycle and walk

‘It has been decided by Hampshire to block Portsdown Road to cars as it will stop the spread of Covid-19 to pedestrians.

‘They only told the residents on the Fareham side two days before the closure and ignored the Portsmouth residents completely, not even informing Portsmouth City Council.

‘This road has a railway bridge over it and there is no pavement when walking under it.

However it is not exactly heaving with people I use the road regularly and barely see anyone else.’

Mike Turton, Liverpool

‘My commute to work at the largest of the city’s hospitals has had to change a number of times since I started work there in 2016. 

‘Work to widen the dual carriageway on Derby Road has been ongoing for over four years and is not even halfway completed, the Dock Road has been reduced by half to incorporate a large cycle lane and work has commenced on the main road into Liverpool city centre and is expected to last a couple of years.

‘These were all main commuter routes in Liverpool which has forced the traffic onto inner roads.

‘The local council In its wisdom has now reduced the large dual carriageway on Stanley Road, Bootle, down to one lane to allow for cycle lanes.

‘Pre-Covid this route was nose to tail in both lanes for the rush hour traffic and this has now been reduced down to one lane which incorporates a right turn, all to accommodate cyclists. 

‘These are not areas where you would cycle for a gentle bit of exercise, they are commercial areas and major commuting routes.

‘The pavements, particularly Stanley Road are wide enough to accommodate a car and are virtually empty as this is not a residential area, the cycle lane is also empty, as is the one on the dock road and the one or two cyclists we do see are still riding on the roads.

‘For the small number of cyclists commuting to work through these areas could the council not have created a cycle lane with the wide pavement area? If these measures are inconveniencing motorists in this way, how on Earth are the emergency services supposed to get through?’

Meanwhile, a local councillor named Steve Radford, who represents the Liberal party, has started a campaign to  ‘Scrap the West Derby Road Congestion Scheme’.


Cllr Steve Radford says a pop-up cycle lane scheme in West Derby Road in Liverpool is causing major traffic problems on the arterial route 

Cllr Radford said: ‘The West Derby Road is one of the major arterial roads into the city and, unlike others, does not have a rail link as an alternative to motor traffic

‘We have sent in over 500 residents’ and traders’ statements against the pop-up cycle lane scheme. The online petition has exceeded 2,000 signatures.  

‘Every day we have our local ambulance station and police cars blocked in, including on the feeder Road Lower Breck Road blocked and Millbank tailback.’  

Leanne Bell, Lee Green, London

‘I am a Greenwich council resident, however across the road is Lewisham Council.

‘Lewisham council have closed off so many road in the local area. The impact on the traffic now outside my home which is a main road (A20) is becoming unbearable.

‘I live in a flat with no garden or outside space of my own.

‘There is also a bus stop and traffic camera directly opposite my home which bring much more of the noise and traffic fumes into my living room.

‘It seems so unfair that I live in a very small flat and the large homes with gardens opposite now also have the roads to do as they please!’

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