Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Good and very bad on the new Cycle Super Highway to Wandsworth

I decided to take a quick spin home via the new Cycle Superhighway that is stretching its way from Millbank towards Wandsworth. This post covers the section from Vauxhall Bridge to Chelsea Bridge.

I've already covered parts of this scheme, notably at Vauxhall Bridge Road in a previous entry here.

Bicycles go straight on. Cars have to pull across
them and turn left in front of the bicycles.
I'm not going to repeat in too much detail just how weak I think the Super Highways are when it comes to junction design. But here is what they look like. Bicycles that are going straight on are sharing a lane with left-turning motor vehicles, forcing bicycles to wobble along the inside of the motor vehicles to get to the junction and then into a conflict with motor vehicles that want to turn left.

This next section isn't finished yet but I am quietly impressed with it. Here's a shot of what this road used to look like.

As you can see, the hatch markings in the middle of the road have been vastly narrowed, making space to create an obligatory cycle lane. It varies in widty but is frequently wide enough for one bicycle to pass another and still keep within the lane. Yes, it would be great to have more separation from motor vehicles, in the form of some sort of physical barrier. But it's pretty decent. And for the first time ever, I saw a few women in skirts and some older people cycling along in this new lane. In the past, whenever I've cycled or walked along here, the cycling traffic has been entirely made up of younger, faster people cycling in lycra. Admittedly, its only my first observation of the route but it's good to see normal people going about the place in this lane on their bikes.

Slightly less impressive was this moment. As you can see in all the other shots, the motor vehicles stay out of the bike lane. But not this taxi. Admittedly, the full road markings haven't been laid yet. But here's a cab driver deciding the bike lane is just for him. He'd actually jumped the traffic lights and then undertook the 4x4.

 And then things go a bit pear-shaped.

Here's the scene heading south at rush-hour once you cycle over Chelsea Bridge. Some blue paint and lots of motor vehicles parked in the lane.

TfL hasn't finished the bridge yet so the markings aren't laid out properly. But it doesn't look a whole barrel of laughs from what's there at the moment. As usual, what seems to be happening is that TfL is making space for cycling where it's easy. But it's ducking out of genuinely creating safe space for cycling at the junctions where most collissions occur. And this seems usually to be the result of a fear of 'widespread traffic [by which it means motor traffic, not people on foot on on bicycles] congestion'.

Overall, some elements of good. But just when you need it, some elements of really bad. As cyclists in Sydney are finding out (and Sydney is being much more rigorous than London about creating space for cyclists away from motor vehicles), the links needs to be continuous. Not stop and start at junctions.

Mind you, here's a scene of what the Chelsea Embankment looks like just after the bridge, when the new cycle superhighway comes to a halt. Two lanes of motor traffic at a standstill. Hapless woman on very yellow Dutch bicycle, weaving between motor vehicles.

I'd much rather have that white line here as well keeping the cars away from me on my bicycle and push for TfL to sort out its junctions than nothing at all.


  1. Great blog. A very clear explanation of what it feels like to negotiate the patchy cycle provision in our city. I hope people in a position to influence things get to see it. I will certainly point it in the direction of anyone I can think of who might help our cause.

  2. I gave this a try yesterday. The cycle lanes along Grosvenor Road and Millbank are great...but most of them are only in operation Mon-Fri 7am-7pm (according to the signs). So on a Sunday they were filled with parked cars and/or taxis driving along them. Having gone to all the expense of re-configuring the road and installing these lanes, why do they make them part-time?

    I very much agree that cycle lanes along the rest of Chelsea Embankment and Cheyne Walk would be fantastic and an inexpensive way of getting maximum value from the superhighway. This is also suuposedly the National Cycle Network route 4. If you agree, please write to Kensington and Chelsea/TfL/the Mayor.

  3. I commute from Battersea to Holborn, once I've crossed Chelsea Bridge I normally cycle roughly parallel to CS8 on the back streets. This post encouraged me to try CS8 and I agree with all the poster's comments, the good and the bad. It's great on the straight but as soon as things get "difficult" i.e. cars might be inconvenienced, CS8 chickens out and dumps the cyclists unceremoniously in dangerous positions at junctions. However, once the man with the blue can of paint has finished his work things might improve, so I should perhaps reserve judgement for now and try it again in a few weeks.

  4. I've just tried the Vauxhall Bridge to Chelsea Bridge section again... and was pleasantly surprised. The Vauxhall Bridge junction has improved, with a much wide feeder lane into the ASB. Unfortunately though the cycle lane goes advisory at this point to allow left turning vehicles, and motorcyclists still think they have the right to use ASBs. More of the blue paint has been applied along Grosvenor Road, and on this journey the only time I saw a vehicle (taxi again) inside the solid line was where the blue paint hasn't been applied. I also broke my personal best speed (legally, I'm not very fast!) along the smooth new surface. Looking forward to the completion of the Chelsea Bridge junction.

  5. This new route is extremely frustrating- on Battersea Park Road it stop starts to make way for cap parking, whilst at the York Road/Plough Rd junction the lane is completely ignored by motorists vying for position- I've now taken to knocking on car windows and informing the delightful driver that they have parked themselves on the cycle lane.