Thursday, 7 April 2011

Cycle Superhighway is scandalous. Carbon copy of killer bike lane coming to Vauxhall Bridge Road

Last summer, a man called Everton Smith was killed cycling along Vauxhall Bridge Road towards Drummond Gate (turning left).

Sergeant Simon Seeley, from the Met's road death investigation unit, said: “Our traffic management unit has advised me that that cycle lane is not of the required width. It is not the proper width for a cycle lane.”

Seeley pointed out that: Not only was the 1.2 metre-wide cycle lane below the minimum 1.5 metre width set out in government guidelines, but the adjoining traffic lane was only 2.9 metres wide and went on to point out that the lane was only 40cm wider than the HGV that ploughed into Mr Smith killing him.

So, it's fascinating to see how Transport for London intends to resolve that issue when it redesigns the space as part of its new Victoria to Peckham Cycle Superhighway. Here it is on the left with a before and after shot. And click here to see what the area looks like.

Heading along that same direction now, the plan is that what was a 1.2m cycle lane and 2.9m adjoining lane is now a whopping 3.0m lane, with no bicycle lane. So TfL is proposing to simply make that killer lane narrower and hope that sorts things out.

Look on the other side of the street, heading southbound, and there's a deeply cynical 'wide' lane. It's a 3.9m motor vehicle lane with 1.5m of blue paint in it. In other words, if you're a bicycle, you will be expected to cycle along on the narrow strip of blue paint, which is the narrowest possible width for a bicycle lane. There will be no markings on the blue strip so it's not technically a bike lane, which gets TfL off the hook from this point: The actual motor vehicle lane will be only 2.4metres. That'll be fun when a 2.8m wide HGV is trying to get past you.
Look more closely and you can see just how cynically even that appearance of extra space has been achieved.

Head south again, towards Victoria, Mr or Mrs Cyclist, and you will now be expected to head north by cycling along in a perilous 1.5metre bike lane sandwiched between two traffic lanes, both only 3.0metres wide.

So, TfL have basically wriggled out of one dangerous and killer cycle lane by removing the cycle lane into Drummond Gate entirely. And then they've gone and installed a northbound cycle lane that is only 1.5metres wide and will force cyclists to wobble in between two lanes of fast-moving motor traffic with just 3.0 metres to play with, 10cm more than the killer lane that resulted in the death of Everton Smith.

Let's just remind ourselves what these killer middle of the road cycle lanes look like:

Guess how wide this cycle lane was? 1.7metres. In other words, two people were killed in a cycle lane that ran down the middle of two fast-moving motor vehicle lanes. That lane was wider than the one TfL is planning to install on Vauxhall Bridge Road directly next to the spot where another cyclist was killed by a too-narrow cycle lane.

It's utterly scandalous.

TfL is refusing to allocate road space to cycling. It is borrowing space from one side of the street to make the southbound side safer after a cyclist was killed there last year. It is then implementing an entirely insane cycle scheme heading northbound that directly mimics a scheme where two cyclists were killed. The cycle lane is too narrow. The motor vehicle lanes are too narrow. The motor vehicle speeds are too fast. I wouldn't cycle my niece down this. Would you?

TfL is laying out Cycle SuperHighways that bluntly refuse to allocate space to cycling. To me, this is a deeply cynical and flawed compromise that shoves two fingers up at cyclists.

What TfL should be doing is removing a lane and creating enough space for people to cycle here in safety. Instead, it is creating the illusion of bicycle facilities while protecting space and speed for motor vehicles. An illusion that we know is deathly.

Thanks TfL. As the Londonist article stated a few weeks ago: Please stop trying to kill me! 

If you think this plan looks rubbish, then send your thoughts to


  1. Utterly utterly unbelievable that they could even propose to install a cycle lane configuration on the south side of the bridge that has been a proven and high-profile killer on another of the bridges in their control. Aside from you, who monitors their design? It is clear that there are no lessons being learned. Scandalous as you say.

  2. Couldn't they just remove a lane of traffic in either direction? Seems obvious. Then there'd be room for people in cars and people in bikes.

  3. I thought you might like this picture for your blog (see attached) showing the cycle lane on Vauxhall Bridge Road heading south.

    As you can see, the cycle lane has faded to the point of being invisible to motorists and is being conveniently ignored by TfL..
    Val Shawcross has taken this issue up with TfL on my behalf as I am concerned that nothing will be done to reinstate it ahead of the October 2013 go-live date of the super highway.

    This lane is horrendous at rush hour but the proposal for CS5 makes matters worse. The bike lane is currently 1.5m, the adjacent lane of traffic is 2.9m, making 4.4m in total. The proposed design changes this to a single lane of 4m to be 'shared' by cyclists, HGVs and buses. What makes this design even more dangerous is that as the lanes of traffic feed into the lanes approaching the bridge (i.e after crossing John Islip Street) the width of these lanes change quite abruptly. The nearside shared lane drops from 4m to 3.5m. But the far-side lane inexplicably increases from 3.1m to 3.7m (only to drop down to 3.4m within 50 yards).

    This section could be improved by removing the central reservation - which is what TfL are proposing to do elsewhere, for example on Euston circus.

    Crossing onto the bridge itself these three lanes then merge into two. Given that the cycle highways are advisory (there's not even a continuous coating of blue paint along the length of the bridge) it's not hard to envisage cyclists being pushed into the kerb whilst motor vehicles speed onto the next set of traffic lights, enjoying the extra width afforded to them . The lanes on the bridge are currently 2.5m and 2.9m. The proposal changes this to 3m and 3.4m. Why do motor vehicles need this extra width? Why aren't they both the same width? What is equally baffling is that the 3.4m lane is actually wider than the bus lane.

    I firmly believe that we need a blanket 20mph limit on the Thames crossings in central London and I urge London Cyclists to take this issue as seriously as it is doing with its HGV campaign.

    There is an FOI in with TfL at the moment ( which is due on 14th April:

    "Dear Transport for London,

    In December 2008, the London Road Safety Unit published a report
    'considering the benefits and feasability of implementing a 20mph
    speed limit on London's Bridges'

    The study found that the 85%ile speeds were well in excess of the
    30mph speed limit and, as a result, that the number of road
    accidents on the Thames Crossings were higher on average than
    elsewhere on TfL roads.

    The report concluded that the speed limit on the four Thames
    bridges (Putney, Vauxhall, London and Westminster) should be made
    20mph and fitted with time-distance cameras to enforce the lower
    speed limit and that this should go hand in hand with a suitable
    stakeholder communication and public information campaign.

    Can you please confirm that this report was read by the Mayor. What
    decision was made as a result? Please provide copies of any emails,
    minutes or other records of conversation that arose relating to
    this report.

    Can you please provide any monitoring data that has been collected
    to measure speeds on these river corssings since this report was

    Can you please summarise any STATS19 data that has been collected
    for accidents occuring at these river crossings since this report
    was written."


  4. Ah, but TfL aren't quite as stupid as you think. They realise that a 1.5 metre wide cycle lane next to a 2.5 metre wide traffic lane is inadequate for the southbound carriageway, therefore the plan merely shows a 1.5 metre wide blue stripe within a 4 metre wide traffic lane. Legally it's nothing more than a coloured strip of tarmac.

    Looking at the plans, the total width of Vauxhall Bridge Road between property boundaries is about 28 metres. This is certainly wide enough for 2.5 metre wide cycle paths in each direction, but that would mean reducing the number of traffic lanes, something TfL won't do due to their "Network Assurance"...

  5. "Couldn't they just remove a lane of traffic in either direction?"

    They'd only need to remove one lane of traffic - i.e. 3m of road width - to allocate an extra 1.5m of space to each 'cycle lane', i.e. creating two cycle lanes that would be nearly 3m wide, one in each direction.

    The fact that TfL seem to view this as an utter impossibility speaks volumes. They are so wedded to keeping the current allocation of road space for motor vehicles, they have actually made the site of a cyclist's death more dangerous for cyclists.


  6. "Last summer, a man called Everton Smith was killed cycling along Vauxhall Bridge Road south towards Vauxhall Bridge."

    On a point of information, I thought (and I could be wrong) that Everton Smith was cycling northbound, and was left-hooked by an overtaking vehicle turning left into Drummond Gate.

  7. Someone at the TfL design department really needs to update their planning skills (or get the sack)

    Is this what we get when we're a so-called cycling city? The bridges are so important because of the hour-glass effect they have on traffic - you get tonnes of cyclists on all of them.

    This makes my blood boil!

  8. @aseasyasridingabike - ooops. I thought it was northbound. I'll double check

  9. I would suggest another email campaign. It's great you are keeping track of those things. I feel that they either should make the CSs great or don't bother at all. What's the point of having 12 substandard pieces of "infrastructure" if for this money you could have an excellent one where it really matter.

  10. Lets claim a third of the road! a simple and obvious campaigning point... if cyclists are a third of the flow over bridges in the existing miserable road conditions then its only fair to remove the third motorists lane lane to make safe and convenient conditions for cycling.

    No more emails no more petitions, TFL are now proposing plans that will kill cyclists, enough is enough! especilally looking at how shockingly crap and substandard CS8 is as well.

  11. from here:


    "The time has surely come to start applying some pressure to TfL with a cyclists’ protest outside the appropriate TfL office. A ten minute sit-down in the road outside, one weekday lunchtime? Bring the traffic to a halt. Get the media along. The message need not be a particularly contentious one, because surely everyone agrees that cyclists need to be treated as equals not inferiors. There's nothing wrong with sending an email but this kind of thing keeps dissatisfaction within a very narrow section of the cycling community. We need consciousness-raising publicity stunts as well as using the conventional channels. And those stunts are going to have come from the Critical Mass end of the London cycling spectrum, because they'll never come from the timid world of orthodox cycle campaigning."