Saturday, 17 December 2011

Mayor of London's office confirms a 'step change' is coming that will make our streets safer for cycling. More 'computer says no', or will cycling safety finally get some teeth?

Tottenham Court Road will soon look like this. Awful for
cycling. Almost impossible in fact. Courtesy: AsEasyAsRidingABikeblog 
Over at Euston Circus (top of Tottenham Court Road), Transport for London is planning some junction changes (click here to see the StreetView image of the junction as you approach it)

There is much wrong with the new scheme. Tottenham Court Road and Gower Street will both go from one-way to two-way. There will be a strip down the centre. This will turn both into roads like Pall Mall or the Strand - where it is almost impossible to cycle unless there is no motor traffic.

AsEasyAsRidingABike blog has a very detailed critique that explains how this sort of layout makes cycling significantly more difficult and less safe. 

TfL is also planning changes to the junction over the Euston underpass. Basically, nothing much will change there. Six+ lanes of motorway-style conditions over the junction with a couple of Advanced Stop Lines for bikes.

At a site visit with Transport for London, a representative of Camden Cyclists, pointed out that TfL's own design requirements mean that proper and separate bike facilities must be installed through this junction.

Guess what the Transport for London officer at the site visit had to say about that point?

The TfL officer told Camden Cyclists that inserting any sort of cycle lanes at the Tottenham Court Road junction would require the loss of one of four vehicle lanes 'and that if the modelling does not allow that, cyclists won't have any cycle lanes'. 

Transport for London knows that its own cycle safety standards mean it must install proper, safe cycle infrastructure at this junction. Unless it has been in hiding in recent weeks, TfL knows that London politicians agreed a unanimous and firmly-worded motion last week that makes the same point on a more general level. And yet, Transport for London's officers are refusing to consider installing the bare minimum cycle requirements at this junction. Because the computer says no?!

This is the cycle stop box at Bank Junction - the most
dangerous spot for pedestrians and people on bikes
in the City. Feel that taxi is a bit close? That's normal. 
The following day, Kulveer Ranger, the Mayor's Director of Environment issued a blog post on the Greater London Authority website, confirming that the Mayor is undertaking a full review of the way that Transport for London designs major road junctions to make them safer for cycling. Ranger states that: "The Mayor’s desire is that reviewing these junctions leads to a step change in the way engineers think when planning road layouts." 

Specifically (in this related letter to Jenny Jones, Green mayoral candidate), Ranger commits that the junction review will include these actions:

He also points out that, quite correctly, that it is important the process has appropriate governance and management processes. Quite right. 

I think the review deserves a cautious welcome. The risk, of course, is that the junction review is just that. A review and nothing more. There's no mention of whether these designs will ever be implemented. They will be recommended but who knows if they will ever be implemented. 

My sense is that some very good people at Transport for London have drawn up decent minimum standards for cycle safety already. The issue is that no-one's paying any attention to them.

So, I welcome this review. But it needs to hurry up. And it needs to have teeth. Otherwise, Mr Mayor, please don't bother. You'll just end up building things like the junction at Tottenham Court Road - downright bad for cycling.


There will be Christmas vigil on Tuesday at Kings Cross. Relatives and friends of many of the cyclists and pedestrians killed - we think unnecessarily - on London's streets in 2011 will lead a vigil supported by the London Cycling Campaign, RoadPeace and Living Streets. Please join us from 6pm, Kings Cross, Tuesday 20th December. It seems a fitting way to let 2011 go and to wish for a better 2012.