Tuesday, 4 June 2013

A brand new bike track - blocked entirely by a parking meter: The Tower Hamlets teams responsible for this waste of taxpayer money could have done this so well by copying proven solutions. Instead they reinvented the rules and got it horribly wrong.

Just look at this. It's simply unbelievable. This slide show was made by Alex King who quite rightly calls it a 'new contender for the worst bike lane in London'. Acutually, it's worse than that. This bike track was built only weeks ago and it is an utter scandal.

Sofoklis Kostoulas - killed cycling on
Bethnal GreenRoad last year
Before we look at the details of the scheme itself, let's just look at the location. This is Bethnal Green Road - an extremely busy route for people travelling by bike and packed with buses, lorries, vans and cars. It's a nasty place to cycle but a critical link between the City of London and the various hubs in Hackney and the rest of Tower Hamlets where more people now cycle to work than drive to work. You'd think that Tower Hamlets might realise that if it's going to tinker with an important bike link, it has to get it right. It has known from the outset that this scheme is insane. Tower Hamlets Wheelers, the local group of the London Cycling Campaign, warned the council in the planning stages that this scheme was a "waste of money" and that it was "unclear who was meant to be benefiting" from the work. 

What makes this worse is that the road is a known danger hotspot. Last year, actor Sofoklis Kostoulas was killed further along this road in a collision with a lorry. The collision took place at a pinch point where the council has chosen to put cyclists between parked cars and a traffic island that is not wide enough for a lorry to pass a person on a bicycle.

The crazy design in detail. Courtesy Tower Hamlets Wheelers
With so many people using this route and the clear evidence that the road needs to made safer to cycle along, Tower Hamlets has absolutely no excuse to get this wrong. As my good pal Mark Ames of ibikelondon blog pointed out earlier this year "the planners and designers here have tried to do right by the bicycle; they're installing some separated cycle paths that run along the inside of parked cars".

But, as ibikelondon quite correctly says "there simply isn't room enough for wider pavements, two separated cycle lanes, two lanes of traffic and two rows of parking.  The cycle tracks being built are woefully inadequate; narrow, within the dooring zone of the parked cars, and ridiculously short before they spit you back in to the road from behind some parking."

What Tower Hamlets could have built. Bike track in
Brighton with priority over side roads AND no
parking meters taking up the whole track
Actually, now the thing has been built, it's even worse than that. There's a sodding great parking meter taking up the entire bike track at one point. Just imagine if the council had built a new road and installed a bike parking lot across the entire road. "Drivers" (and by the way, I'm a driver too but I also use a bicycle for most of my London trips) would be outraged and heads would roll.

What's worse is that the road itself is now so narrow that if you don't want to use this dangerous cycle track (and, frankly, why would you?), you will find cycling on the main carriageway highly intimidating and more dangerous. What Tower Hamlets has done here is made a bad situation even worse for who knows what intention.

The bike track dumps you back onto the road
at a right angle, just as the road narrows
at a pinchpoint. This is insanely dangerous. 
The bike track itself is unbelievably narrow. It gives way to a side road but with no clarity about why or how. And it dumps you back on to the main carriageway at a right angle straight into a pinchpoint where the carriageway narrows as if to say that Tower Hamlets couldn't care less about your safety on the road.

To be fair, the real culprit here is the eastbound bike track. Westbound is definitely more usable and people are using it as intended. But this eastbound track is a scandal.

Frankly, heads should roll on this scheme. You can't get away with making conditions more dangerous for people on bikes any longer. What's more, why on earth should Londoners pay good tax money for utter junk like this scheme.

Tower Hamlets should rip this up and start again. Either create wide carriageways where there's enough room for bikes and heavy goods vehicles or create a proper bike track inside the parked cars, like they do in New York, the Netherlands, Germany, France, you name it.

Brighton's Old Shoreham Road has a bike track these days. It is wide, straight, has priority over side roads and, what's more, does not have a ridiculous parking meter taking up the entire lane. Your kids could use it. The exact opposite of what's been built on Bethnal Green Road.

Bike track and car parking in the Netherlands. Courtesy
AsEasyAsRidingABike blog
Tower Hamlets has tried to re-write the rule book here. It has tried to put cyclists out of the way of motor vehicles, which is good in theory. But as AsEasyAsRidingABike blog quite rightly says: "We don’t need ‘innovative’ solutions – just copy what works". Just look at the thousands of schemes that do this successfully and copy them, in other words. Don't create something that fails on every single count. 

Tower Hamlets deserves a serious rap over the knuckles and the councillors should be taken to task for their utter abuse of common sense