Cyclists could soon be able to get a ‘bike bus’ under the Thames

If you’re a cyclist looking to cross the Thames in east London, your current options are pretty limited. The Blackwall Tunnel bans bikes (sensibly, given the grim air pollution and congestion levels down there). So that leaves you with the option of jostling past tourists on the cable car, cramming onto the Woolwich ferry or wheeling your bike through the dimly lit Greenwich and Woolwich foot tunnels, praying that the lifts are working. 

Now, all that’s set to change with the £2 billion Silvertown Tunnel, which is slated to open in 2025. It’s been controversial with locals, who worry that it’ll make it easier for noisy, polluting HGVs to make their way right into the centre of town. But it’ll be an undeniable improvement for anyone crossing London on four wheels, offering an alternative to the crowded Blackwall Tunnel as it takes traffic from Canary Wharf to north Greenwich.

Alas, cyclists can’t zip straight through this massive feat of engineering, which won’t have dedicated cycle lanes. But Transport for London has thrown a lifeline to this city’s two-wheeled elite by announcing plans for a shuttle bus that’ll run every 10 minutes, escorting bikes and riders under the Thames in safety. 

Of course, the dream would be a pedestrian and cycling bridge from Rotherhithe to Canary Wharf where riders could enjoy Thames views in the glorious fresh air, but TfL ruled out that idea in 2019 on cost grounds after the estimated budget rose to £463 million. This shuttle bus is the next best thing, standing out from existing options as a mode of transport that’s specifically designed for cyclists, rather than reluctantly accommodating their needs. 

Some of the details have yet to be fleshed out, including whether riders will have to pay for this new addition to London’s cycling network, whether it will be timetabled or on demand, and whether bikes can be wheeled straight onto it, or will be loaded onto an attached trailer.

Have you got opinions? Share your views as part of TfL’s public consultation. Whether you’re a bus fan or not, this new scheme’s got to beat the unique awkwardness of manoeuvring your prized set of wheels into a crowded gondola.

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