Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Plans for cyclesafe junctions 'create conflict with motorists and conflict with pedestrians'. Three weeks to respond to TfL's 'better junctions' consultation but only four weeks till they start building.

Transport for London is consulting on plans to make
Waterloo roundabout safer for cycling
. And plans to build the
scheme a week later. 
Something odd is going on at Transport for London. The organisation has recently released plans for a number of schemes as part of its Junction Review.

Let's just remind ourselves what the Junction Review is supposed to be about. Boris Johnson launched the Review early this year when he announced:

"We are seeing a step-change in both the way that people choose to travel, but also in the way that cyclists are viewed on our streets.

'That is why I firmly believe that we must now start to evolve the means by which we plan and manage our extensive network of roads, and why I have asked TfL to review hundreds of key junctions across the Capital to specifically examine safety and provision for cyclists."

My general feeling is that the Junction Review is a good thing. I've seen drafts of other schemes and there are some genuinely bold ambitions. But it's never really been clear whether TfL is really committed to these bold ideas or not.

One issue that has bothered me about the Review process is the way that each scheme is presented showing the possible impact on motor traffic in terms of how many more seconds motorists might need to wait at the junction in rush hour. What unsettles me isn't so much the inclusion of that data, but the fact that there is no additional data to put those valuable seconds in context. So, there's no data to show how many fewer people might be run over and maimed (whether on foot or on a bicycle) as a result of the scheme. And there's no data to indicate how many people might start chose not to drive and start cycling instead if they felt it was safe enough. Interestingly, these are exactly the sorts of things that Danish transport planners think about when they design a new junction or road layout. I can only wish these sorts of things were standard issue in UK road planning too.

Cycle lane in red. London Cycling Campaign publishes
an example from Holland -  What Lambeth Bridge roundabout
 ought to look like
Looking at Lambeth Bridge in particular: Rachel Aldred - Senior Lecturer in Transport at the University of Westminster - has written a fantastic summary of the proposals for the roundabout at the northern end of Lambeth Bridge. Her view (put far too politely in my view) is that: "Cyclists using the road will have less space than at present, due to the carriageway narrowing; cyclists using the pavement facility may a) have trouble leaving the road at a sharp angle b) then come into conflict with pedestrians, and c) experience problems crossing using the zebras". She's completely right. Her view is that the design will actively create 'conflict with motorists and conflict with pedestrians'. So, cyclists lose out to motorists and pedestrians lose out to cyclists. As she says, a high quality Dutch-style solution that does none of these things is entirely feasible here.

Yesterday, TfL announced plans for another scheme. This time for the Imax roundabout at Waterloo Bridge where cyclists make up one quarter of all traffic (and that's using 2009 data so that percentage is probably higher now). There are some good points about the scheme - the plan sees the removal of one lane of motor traffic and there is talk about possibly reducing the speed limit here to 20mph. There's some positive stuff on the southern and eastern sides of the roundabout where there are both new and wider cycle lanes.

Carriageway narrowing in action. This is Cycle Super Highway 7.
Lorries and people on bikes are supposed to share this space,
which has been made dangerously narrow.
But the plans ignore some of the really fundamental problems with the roundabout. The scheme does nothing about the high-speed and dangerous approach to the roundabout from Waterloo Bridge - the carriageway will simply be made even narrower so cyclists will be treated as human speed bumps that slow down (the fast-moving) buses and taxis behind them. Or how about addressing the acres of pointless pavement space around this roundabout such as the eastern side of the roundabout where the road curves in a way that throws cyclists and large motor vehicles together?

Transport for London describes this scheme as as an "interim" proposal. I hope so. I wouldn't want to pedal round here with a 15 year-old and I reckon most people wouldn't think of this as a safe place to cycle. I think my real concern is that the current scheme feels like it's designed for people who already cycle here when it should actually be designed for people who would like to cycle but feel too scared to. There are many, many more of those people and I think the design fails badly on that measure.

The London Cycling Campaign criticised TfL's plans for Lambeth Bridge, saying it is designed to expose "brave" cyclists to danger on the carriageway and plonks "nervous" cyclists on the pavement. Arguably, this Waterloo scheme is designed for "brave" cyclists.

It shouldn't be like this. As the Dutch road safety institute SWOV puts it, the solution is to create a "structural separation" of cyclists and motor vehicles. This is the sort of thing that Rachel Aldred and the London Cycling Campaign are suggesting. It's the sort of thing that allows everyone to get on a bike and cycle safely.

You can find out more about the latest Transport for London 'Better Junctions' schemes on TfL's website and you it's well worth reviewing the London Cycling Campaign's initial responses.

I'd also urge people familiar with these roundabouts to respond to the online consultation, in particular TfL's Waterloo roundabout consultation.  Transport for London is consulting on the Waterloo scheme up to the middle of November. And then the bulldozers move in a week later.