|Approaching Bank junction on a bike|
Hard work on a bike when you've got
taxis scraping past you
Bank is the meeting point of six major roads. In the mornings it is rammed with people caged into cattle pens trying to cross the road. It is a traffic-choked, polluted mess and it is a hotspot for collisions - most of which involve cyclist or pedestrian victims. It is difficult to easily cycle through the junction and yet - being at the hub of the Square Mile - it's very difficult to avoid it. In the morning peak hours, 33% of all road traffic through Bank consists of people on bikes.
In the City's own words: "Bank junction has one of the poorest road safety records in the City, particularly in relation to injuries to pedestrians and cyclists and the junction does not work well for any mode of transport."
The Bank area strategy sets the plan for the next five to 10 years. The City first consulted the public about its plans for the area in 2011 and a whopping 900 people took part (and huge thanks to those of you that did so) Four key themes emerged: too much traffic congestion; inadequate provision for pedestrians; not enough provision for cycling and conflict between the different users.
|51% of all traffic in rush hour on|
Cheapside consists of people on bikes.
But there's now hardly any safe space
left to cycle in, only this tiny gap in the gutter
I'm delighted to see that the revised strategy that has now been approved is of vastly superior quality. It is honest about the challenges faced at Bank and clear about how it might tackle them.
The new plan considers whether it might be possible to do something quite 'radical' at Bank by closing one of the roads: "the project is likely to require the closure of at least one of the arms of the junction in order to reduce the amount of vehicles flowing through...[in order that] capacity could then be redistributed among other users". In other words, the City of London is considering giving proper equality to the vast majority of people who use this junction on foot - and hopefully on bikes as well, rather than in, say, vans or taxis. This could involve diverting some bus routes to make other routes function better for people on foot or bikes. The same approach is being trialled in Hackney, where TfL and the council are planning to divert buses on Mare Street which has the benefit of creating space for walking and cycling.
The initial proposal included plans to widen the pavements on Lombard Street, for example. This would likely have eliminated the contraflow cycle lane on Lombard Street. The problem here was a) very narrow pavements and b) bikes perceived to be going too fast on this very busy bike route. This was causing a perception that there was conflict between pedestrians and cyclists on this street. Whereas in reality, the actual problem is that there are too many motor vehicles - in particular delivery vans parked in the cycle lanes.
Instead of making the road more intimidating to cycle on by narrowing the carriageway, the City has sensibly recognised the need to prioritise this route as a "predominantly safe cycling and walking route", possibly by means of shared space such as the City has implemented with success in some other areas. This may mean making Lombard Street less accessible for through motor traffic; it should make things better for pedestrians by giving them more space and it should ensure that the route remains a useful and safe link for people on bikes - without forcing bikes into narrow carriageways stuffed with idling vans and taxis.
|This is probably the only quarter-decent approach to|
Bank junction on a bike. Source: City of London
Many people who read this blog took part in the Bank area consultation and wrote to City of London politicians. My own view is that this revised strategy works well. It rightly acknowledges the need to make conditions much better for people on foot. And it also now acknowledges the need to improve conditions for [often exactly the same] people on bikes. It concludes: "There is clear evidence that the pedestrian environment needs improving but this will not be undertaken at the sake of cyclists or vulnerable road users safety". I agree with that.