Monday, 7 January 2013

At last: A cycle super highway worthy of the name. Two metre wide fully protected bike track planned to Stratford in 2013. "Re-think in policy from the Mayor" says BBC. Only issue? It exposes how truly useless the same super cycle highway is on the stretch between Bow and The City.


Artist's impression of "a segregated cycle lane" by Transport for London. I'm not sure the
impression does this scheme justice. The plans look much better than this. 


















Earlier today Transport for London published detailed designs for its planned extension to Cycle Super Highway 2, between Bow roundabout and Stratford. And they are - astonishingly - really rather good. You can comment on the scheme by filling out the online survey at the bottom of the consultation page.

BBC News got the messaging completely right. This isn't some half-hearted scheme. This is 2.4km of "completely segregated" cycle track (for the most part two metres wide, so plenty wide enough for faster cyclists to pass slower folk) and as Tom Edwards says in his footage for the BBC "this represents a re-think in policy from the Mayor". That's completely true.

Until very recently, the noises emerging from the Mayor and Transport for London were all about the lack of space for cycle tracks. And then, last June, Boris Johnson made a statement to the London Assembly: "What has become clear to me is that we are now seeing a step-change in both the way that people choose to travel, and also in the way that cyclists are viewed on our streets. In response to this, I firmly believe that we must evolve our thinking and actions on cycle safety." It seems that slowly but surely the first signs of that 'evolution' are coming to the drawing board.

Stratford High Street - plenty of space for a bike track. At last.
Courtesy AsEasyAsRidingABike blog 
As I said back in June, "There is an unbelievable amount of space to build a world-class cycle highway along this route."

If you don't believe me, take a look at this excellent on Cycle Super Highway 2 by AsEasyAsRidingABike blog: This post shows very clearly the masses of space available to create safe, convenient and direct cycling between Stratford and Bow.

The proposed scheme isn't perfect. The Stratford end is very bitty, with some shared pavement that fits in around the giant Stratford one-way system. The track passes behind bus stops (something that is completely and utterly standard in plenty of other countries and you can see examples in this earlier blogpost) but the angle looks a little sharp in the mock-ups. And the section that crosses Bow roundabout is still deeply compromised.

I'm also perplexed by some of the suggestions for right turns across the High Street (you can see the blue explanation sign in the map below at Rick Roberts Way). You'll be able to turn right (across up to eight lanes of motor traffic currently) by swinging left into Rick Roberts Way, then crossing into an advanced stop line facing west and then proceeding straight ahead. This is something not dissimilar to the way Denmark makes cyclists turn left  (their equivalent of our right turn) and is a fairly standard feature on bike tracks in US cities now. But the London version will mean waiting at a centre traffic island. You'll have to wait for two sets of green lights, in the same way you would in Copenhagen or New York, but it feels a bit clunkier.

That said, it looks like you will also be able to turn right by cycling along the Highway and then moving left onto the shared use pavement at the junction which means that you can technically (and legally) avoid having to stop at the first red light by using the shared area and then moving into position to cross over the High Street. This seems a good mix of working around how people already cycle by making it almost as simple (and legal) as crossing the road without necessarily waiting for the lights (as they wouldn't apply to you at this point). This is the way that Japanese and South Korean cities design junctions, allowing cyclists to 'become pedestrians' at traffic lights and cross (slowly, gently) with pedestrians. It gives you an always-green (green if you're with the traffic, green if you're with the pedestrians). It is completely standard practice in those countries in a way that enables older and much younger residents to cycle safely and slowly without the sort of stop-start you get in London. It actually makes cycling MORE convenient than driving and legally so. Hooray.

Cycle Super Highway 2 - Extension to Stratford
But let's look at the positives. Two metre wide bike track with priority over side roads, treated as an extension of the carriageway and not treated like a footpath where you have to give way to every driveway and side road. Fantastic.

There's been a lot of noise recently about the fact that cycling numbers on London's main roads dropped slightly this year. Frankly, if TfL built something to this standard along Super Highway 7 down to Tooting or out to Wandsworth, I think you'd see a MASSIVE increase in the number of people using bikes.

What makes me say that? It's pretty simple, really. Make it feel safe, make it convenient and people will use it. Look at Montreal, a city that is way ahead of London in delivering bike infrastructure. The city has a serious bike network, much of which is segregated in the way that TfL proposes at Stratford. Montreal's city council points out that only 10% of people who use bikes in the city (and 37% of them cycle weekly outside of the bitter winter months) use roads without bike lanes to cycle on. However, 84% of Montreal residents who use bikes stick to the protected bike network and 87% stick to back streets.

What's the lesson here? Only 10% of the city's cyclists will bike in and around heavy, fast-moving motor traffic. (If you've never cycled in Montreal, here's my review of what it feels like)

If we want to give people the choice to ditch their cars or to stop having to fork out for travel cards, then we have to build a protected bike network along major routes and make it easier to cycle along quieter back streets. That's the only way cycling will ever take off as something that one-third of Londoners do once or more each week. That's the key lesson from Montreal. And every other city that takes cycling seriously.

This new consultation from Transport for London is the first time I've seen anything even vaguely close to catching up on what's already common-place in New York, Chicago, Copenhagen, Montreal, you name it.

It's not all amazing news, however. What this scheme will do, is expose the awful stretch of the same Cycle Super Highway 2 that was opened two years ago and runs from Bow roundabout (where this new stretch will start) to the Square Mile. This early stretch is an utter farce. It's ludicrously dangerous and TfL must upgrade the rest of the route to the same standard as it is planning out to Stratford. If you don't know just how bad the original stretch of Cycle Super Highway 2 is, then have a look at this travel report by Mark Treasure on his blog. It's truly awful. 

@AlterativeDfT has redrawn what the kerb should look like on the
Cycle Super Highway. Note, flushed kerb rather than squared-off
kerb on inside of the cycle track. Better for cyclists & pedestrians
Credit to http://departmentfortransport.wordpress.com/
There are a couple of details that look wrong. The kerb inside the cycle highway should be flushed at an angle rather than squared off edges (see the redrafted image to the left where the kerb is flushed, unlike the picture above where it is a squared drop from the pavement). The track seems (if you assume the mock-up drawings are right) to take slightly sharp angles when it approaches bus stops. And the Stratford end is a real hodgepodge of on road, shared use pavement and bike track.

That said, I'm genuinely surprised. And I'd kill (not literally, thank you) to have something like this on my journey to work. Do you know what really amazes me? It's that, although this scheme does have some faults, it has taken bits from Japan, bits from New York, and bits from Copenhagen. And it's come up with something that works for London. By taking the best bits from the world and stirring them together to fit the arcane rules and regulations that have been used till now to completely surpress cycling in this country. Never thought I'd say this (at least not as soon as 2013) but well done Boris. And well done TfL.

Take a look at the detailed plans in detail on TfL's website. And add your comments to the consultation. 


19 comments:

  1. It's good, isn't it?

    But, as you say, it's only good because Stratford High Street is wide enough to fit these additional safety features in.

    What I find most reassuring is that TfL are entering into a full public consultation to scrutinise these plans - something I don't remember being the case with the lacklustre blue stripe along the rest of CS2.

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    1. Yes, there seems to have been a genuine realisation at TfL that it needs to engage more with Londoners.

      I think some groups will be nervous about the bus stop application. It's well worth having a read of this post http://aseasyasridingabike.wordpress.com/2012/12/21/enough-is-enough/ that shows several examples in the Netherlands.

      They are also standard in Germany where they have worked with bodies that represent mobility impaired/blind people to make sure the designs work for everyone - bike users (who will have to get used to slowing down for the bus stops) and all pedestrian / bus users.

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    2. David Hembrow's coverage of Dutch bus stops here - http://www.aviewfromthecyclepath.com/search/label/bus

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  2. looks good, for the most part. but it won't be as well used as it deserves until they rebuild the existing section, aldgate to bow, to the same quality. bow roundabout isn't somewhere many people want to go...

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  3. For heaven's sake can the designers not use both their eyes and plain good practice in designing for safety by eliminating the hazard. CS2 MUST go over the flyover - this is the route the 70% of the cyclists currently using this corridor use and it TOTALLY ELIMINATES I'll repart that it TOTALLY ELIMINATES the hazards posed by vehicles turning left onto the A12 and emerging from the A12 at the roundabout. There is practically NO CYCLE TRAFFIC going on to or off from the A12, and the areas to the North & South can be reached by turning off from Stratford/Bow High Street slightly to the East or West and using the Lea Navigation path or other secondary roads.

    There is no need to fiddle about trying to squeeze in a cycle route with footway space and lanes on the carriageway, not add clutter and extra phases to the traffic signals. Westbound over the flyover one lane is already closed permanently, providing a 3-3.5m ready made cycle route, which could also offer a pedestrian route. Eastbound, the second lane was closed during the London 2012 Olympics, and again saw cyclists as the major part of the traffic most motor traffic goes down the slip roads to join or come away from the A12.

    Basically the proposal fails badly by not recognising the current safe solution being used by the majority of cyclists using this route, and continuing to feed the cycle route through 4 areas where there is significant risk of being driven through by turning motor traffic. In other words its crap.

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    1. 70%? Really? I would have thought most cyclists were too nervous to take the flyover. I know someone who almost got driven off the road by a van shouting at him not to use the flyover.

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    2. 70% is an exageration.

      As one of the "30%" who use the roundabout every day, I completely agree it is poorly designed, but the problem with the flyover route (apart from the gradient which would not be suitable for everyone) is that you have to cross a lane to enter it, and then another lane to enter the cycle lane on the other side.

      I have seen cyclists straddling 2 lanes of traffic as cars speeding past on the left won't let cyclist rejoin the bus/cycle lane, keeping them stuck in the right hand lane.

      It is not as simple as sticking a cycle lane on the flyover to get it working safely. There are probably safe, sensible solutions (with compromises) for having a cycle lane in either the flyover or the the roundabout. But in both cases major changes are needed to make sure the cyclist takes priority, which at the moment doesn't happen.

      Personally I use the roundabout route because I feel slower traffic is safer so long as I avoid the lorrys and buses. The price I pay for this is sometimes being stuck behind the exhaust of a bus and less than 30 seconds added to my journey time.

      The parts of the roundabout that are off the road feel much safer. I don't understand why they haven't put them on all sides of the road.

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  4. For many of us cycling that route, getting in the right lane for the flyover, and maintaining sufficient speed up it, is a far more daunting prospect than slowly and safely navigating the junction.

    Although the two sets of lights eastbound mean I must always stop, I still navigate the junction faster than any motor vehicles.

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  5. I think we should support this scheme, even if some aspects are not perfect - for example, I reckon there is space for the protected cycle track to be a little wider. If this scheme is built and then used, it will then give more weight to a further campaign in the future to make it wider, especially if motorised traffic drops.

    The biggest issue with the extension is, however, that TfL is not the highway authority, London Borough of Newham is and ultimately, it will be Newham which decides if this goes in or not.

    The cynic in me feels that it is easy for TfL to design and consult on a scheme on someone else's road - if it doesn't go ahead, we cannot blame TfL (and the Mayor) for trying??? Oh, and yes, TfL then needs to carry this style into the City on its own roads!

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    1. "The biggest issue with the extension is, however, that TfL is not the highway authority, London Borough of Newham is and ultimately, it will be Newham which decides if this goes in or not."

      Good point - Based on the cycle lanes in Walthamstow, I'm not going to hold my breath. Most of the cycle lanes between The Stow and Leyton don't have yellow lines so are permenantly covered in cars. I doubt some of them have ever been used as anything other than a carpark.

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    2. The local Newham mag (the council's propaganda maG) has a full page mentioning these proposals and encouraging people to complete the consultation. It claims Newham council was involved in the design so looks like it has Newham's support.

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  6. I was dropping a rental van off yesterday morning (bike in the back to continue my journey to work) and coming through Clapham Common at about 815 there were 32 cyclists on a single change of the lights heading east on CS7. The entire length of Clapham Common is wide enough for segregated cycle lanes - currently 4 lanes of traffic plus wide pavements - yet the CS here was just blue paint. Notably, right next to where Boris opened CS7 as the first of the superhighways the paint is nearly worn away - proof that the middle of the blue paint is the default position for the wheels of the left lane of traffic.

    This is great progress but strangely inconsistent with the simple blue paint proposed for the junction upgrades. Interesting times.

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  7. I seem to recall that a year or so ago the Council Leader of Newham, got quite a lot of stick for refusing to allow CS2 to extend into his borough. There was considerable cynicism about his explanation – that he wanted to wait to get it right.

    Perhaps, just perhaps, we should now admit that he did get it right after all?

    I commented on the proposals with an “agree” or “mainly agree” on all five sections, and commented mainly along the same lines as you: smooth out the direction changes behind the bus stop; slope the kerbs at 45% to avoid “tripping” of cyclists who stray too close to the edges. I also queried why the initial mandatory lane section could not be segregated properly, either by a half-height level between road and footway, or by intermittent kerbs like you see in, for example, the Seville and Barcelona on-road systems, and finally was the contraflow bus-lane already open to cycle and if not, why not?

    The provisions for crossing the roads at the gyratory remind me somewhat of the situation at Hyde Park Corner, where you pass through the Wellington Arch en route between Hyde Park and Constitution Hill – slightly irritating dealing with the phasing of the lights, but overall easier, and certainly less scary, than going around the roundabout.

    We should give credit where credit is due – and, as I say, I do wonder whether Sir Robin might be entitled to share something here in that I wonder whether implementation a year ago would just have been an extension of the crap to the west of Bow roundabout – but others have remarked that the road here is wider than the amazon, it would look very odd indeed if they argued that there was not enough space. Doesn’t mean that they Boris admit the same for the rest of the city.

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  8. I wouldn't go over the flyover. I'm slow and not very fit and I ride a steel-framed bike. I can't imagine anything worse than running out of puff halfway up the flyover, I'd rather stay on the flat.

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  9. This CS looks great - so why are the plans for CS5 nowhere near as good, when they've been released at pretty much the same time?

    Although CS5 is an improvement on the earlier CSes, there's almost no segregation - most of the way through Peckham and Camberwell it's bus lanes and blue paint.

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  10. At least something seems to be happening in the east. We live in South-West London. My wife would love to cycle to work in the city but there is no way she will do so until the whole question of segregated cycleways is actually tackled ie implemented. Her route, which would basically follow the river, is currently a complete mish-mash with bits of Thames Cycle ways and blue lanes and lots of heavy traffic. Potentially it would be a very attractive one for many would-be cyclists, not just confident road-warriors. It's flat, direct and would not require a huge amount of structural change. If nothing else it would be a useful option for tourists. We tried it once, as it currently is, and gave up. We simply did not feel safe. So the overcrowded District Line it continues to be. This is not a general rant as I cycle into town and I'm perfectly happy with my route which takes me along backstreets and through Hyde Park. On the whole it's safe requiring no more than normal road awareness and without any sections where you feel like you're taking your life in your hands - which is how it should be. It's only getting from A to B and back again for christ'ssake!

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  11. I hope this catches on in london and arond the UK. I saw this for the first time 12 years ago in Eindhoven. Why it wasn't built here before I don't know.

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  12. is it wide enough for me to overtake Boris bikers?

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