Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Blackfriars - Cycling lane saved! It's a 150cm gutter next to a 1960s motorway and fewer places to cross the road

New Blackfriars. Some changes. And thank you for those. Some of
it's much worse
UPDATE on Thursday:

Update about planned response tomorrow morning by London Cycling Campaign

560 people wrote to Transport for London about its plans to make the northbound junction of Blackfriars Bridge even more of a 1960s motorway than it is already. In addition, we know that nearly 200 people wrote to TfL even before the consultation on this scheme was re-opened.

Everyday Londoners who cycle and walk to work here took to their pens to complain about the removal of pedestrian crossings, about high traffic speeds and narrow cycle lanes for the more than 7,000 cycles that cross this bridge in each direction just between the hours of 7am and 7pm each day. Since the vast majority of people who use this junction are either pedestrians or cyclists, they were rightly fed up with the new designs for the junction being designed exclusively around the motor car.

And for once, with the help of Assembly Members from all four main parties in the London Assembly, TfL has actually listened and come up with an alternative plan shown above. The full details of the plan can be found here.

Big thanks go to Jenny Jones of the Green Party and Val Shawcross and John Biggs of Labour for jumping on this so effusively. Caroline Pidgeon got on board as well from the LibDems and Andrew Boff from the Conservatives.

And there's a lot of good stuff in this plan. A few of the good bits in summary:
Southbound - TfL has retained the southbound cycle lane, which is great news as it gives the thousands of cyclists who use this junction every day much safer conditions than TfL had planned previously.

There's a convoluted bike lane and toucan crossing to allow you to cycle up the ramp from the Embankment and then head south on the bridge. The only problem is the bike lane takes up a chunk of the pavement which is packed at the best of times.

There's also some better provision as you head into Queen Victoria Street with only one lane for motor traffic instead of the current two.



But, overall, TfL has completely missed the chance to make this a civilised, safe space for people to walk and cycle.

Heading northbound, the good news is that the bike lane will be a fraction wider immediately as you come off the bridge. But then 7,000 of you are crammed into a 1.5m wide space heading north into New Bridge Street and smack into a bus stop. No change there then.

And if you're heading to Queen Victoria Street you will now have to figure out how to turn right across three lanes of motor traffic with a higher speed limit (is 20mph now, will be 30mph). There's not even an advanced stop line to help you get out the way of HGVs heading this way. It's way more dangerous than it is at the moment. The irony is that the City of London agreed last week to pursue a policy of 20mph across the Square Mile, just as Transport for London decides the exact opposite here.

If you're a pedestrian and you want to get from KPMG or Unilever House on the west, you'll have to use a subway or take you chances and run across New Bridge Street if you want to get to City Thameslink or the shops. TfL's removing the pedestrian crossings here.

It's a lot better than the last set of plans TfL put in front of people. Much better. But it's still a motorway. And if you're heading to work in the City of London and you're coming from the south, it's way way more dangeous than what's there at the moment.

My own view is that people are starting to show that they want a choice in how they get about London. If they have to wait ages just to cross the road across multiple traffic lights or they have to broker a right-hand turn on a virtual motorway just to get to the office on their bike, well, they'll just be put off cycling or walking more. And the thing is, that the inspectors reviewing the Mayor's transport plans are beginning to say the same thing.

So I see the new Blackfriars plan as a fudge. It's a step in the right direction. And I'm grateful for that. But it's still a motorway. Right in the centre of the City where people on foot and on cycles outnumber people in motor vehicles by some massive ratio.

Ultimately, it's a question about how the politicians we vote for want London to function. And I agree completely with this statement on Londonist.com:

The big issue here is that it should not be necessary to involve members of the London Assembly in individual junction design. There needs to be a clear policy set at City Hall and TfL needs to implement that policy in a consistent and open way. Sadly the Mayor is far from clear about what he wants (‘smoothing traffic’ and a ‘cycling revolution’ are not natural bed fellows) and TfL have not been voluntarily open in this case
What we need is a London Plan that gives proper priority to cycling and walking, but as the Government Inspectors pointed out, what we have now does not.