Monday, 31 October 2011

New junction at Stamford Street - Pedestrian & cycle crossings only if it doesn't impact motor traffic

Blackfriars / Stamford St junction. New crossings
subject to motor vehicle requirements
Here's the scene at the south side of Blackfriars Bridge. Six lanes of motor traffic in total.

If you are one of the thousands of people who cycle over this bridge to Waterloo, you have to get into the fourth lane to turn right. Not pleasant.

There's a cycle track in the middle of the road. No one uses it because it doesn't really go anywhere you'd want to go.

Plenty of people do cycle across the shared crossing to turn into Upper Ground and head west along the river, though. That means crossing the road twice, waiting in a caged traffic island, along with dozens of pedestrians, also rammed on to the narrow island. It's narrow, inconvenient and thoroughly awkward for everyone who uses it.  You often see people cycle over the bridge, get off their bikes in the middle of the road and walk over the other side just to avoid the ridiculous pedestrian crossing.

Try walking from the bridge further south? You have to cross four lanes of motor traffic on Stamford Street without a pedestrian crossing and traffic is ALWAYS on green from one direction going across that junction.

There's a massive amount of space here. But cyclists and pedestrians are crammed into tiny, inconvenient crossings (where they exist at all) so that as many motor vehicles as possible can get through the junction without being inconvenienced.

Everything about this junction screams priority for the motorist. Even though the motorist is in the minority here and is outnumbered by pedestrians and cyclists.

One Blackfriars - TfL won't build pedestrian crossings until private
developer pays. How wrong is that?
So, here's some news that is the usual Transport for London rubbish. TfL is going to sort out the junction. Hooray.

But only when someone builds One Blackfriars -the shiny tower block pictured left. Because TfL can't spend money on pedestrians and cyclists, can it? No, it has to wait for private developers to give it some cash instead. The problem is that the development is going through various legal dingdongs at the moment. So, no pedestrian or cycle crossings for some time to come.

Here's what TfL has to say about the junction and what it's proposing, part of a letter to Labour Assembly Member John Biggs.

"Unfortunately TfL is not able to provide a formal pedestrian crossing at the Stamford Street/Blackfriars Road junction without significant re-working of the junction layout.  Whilst it is understood that there is support for improvements at the Stamford St junction the costs are significant.  The number and severity of collisions at this junctions are below the Borough average and TfL’s limited funding is directed to the highest priority locations.  Once the developer S106 money becomes available  (subject to a traffic impact assessment) a new pedestrian facility at the Stamford Street junction arm with Blackfriars Road, the provision of a straight across crossing to replace the staggered facility and also the removal of the barriered cycle track in the middle of the carriageway south of Blackfriars Bridge will take place.  "

Notice the words: "subject to a traffic impact assessment".

So, here you have it. Yet again. Under Boris Johnson at the moment, Transport for London's policy means that pedestrians and cyclists come second to motor vehicles, only get safe pedestrian crossings when a private developer pays and this happens even when they are in the majority. Hardly encouraging Londoners to walk and cycle and to reduce road congestion is it?

Sunday, 30 October 2011

TfL admits there is priority for different transport modes on London's streets - the Mayor and Conservatives claim there isn't. The result is more people being killed. Boris, make it safe to cycle. Now!

Cycle lane under the bus. Bow flyover. Courtesy
DiamondGeezer blog
I was struck by an open letter on the pages of the London Cycling Campaign last week, written by a friend of Brian Dorling, the man struck down and killed on his bicycle at the ridiculously-designed Bow roundabout Bow cycle super highway. 

The author made the following point:

"It seems frankly appalling that cyclists are actively encouraged to follow a corporate-sponsored cycle route that leaves them at a junction already and widely known as an accident waiting to happen....Please assure me, and those of us close to Brian, that (without reference to the consequences of interfering with the flow of motorised traffic) cyclists will be warned they are entering a Danger Zone at this location and that alternative routes are provided"

Everywhere you look across London, you see the same theme cropping up again and again, namely that TfL is more concerned about safe and smooth streets for motor vehicles than about safe and smooth streets for pedestrians and cyclists. It is a policy that kills people for reasons that are utterly avoidable.

Bow Roundabout 

"As a very local pedestrian, I remain amazed by how incredibly life-threatening the Bow Flyover roundabout is...TfL's overriding priority at the Bow Flyover roundabout is clearly vehicular traffic. Cars and lorries and buses would be held up if pedestrian crossings were introduced" Diamond Geezer blog

Marylebone Road, pedestrian killed on crossing: 

"How many more dead? ...Pedestrians have warned that these signals give insufficient time to cross and that staggered crossings encourage people to rush across the road.” West End Extra newspaper

Cyclists killed recently in Camden: 

"I’ll list just a few on-the-road design defects on TfL-controlled roads that I’ve been fighting, for years, in vain to remedy for cyclist safety..Camden’s well-meaning officers do pursue TfL persistently but ineffectively.They are being totally disregarded with impunity by TfL. It’s time to press the nuclear button and try to overturn the rot at the top of TfL." Councillor Paul Braithwaite, Liberal Democrat, Camden Council writing in Camden New Journal

'Cycle lane' under HGV, buses. Thanks Boris
Elephant & Castle - the most dangerous junction in London:

"[TfL] can't allow that [square, that removes the killer roundabout] because it would interfere with the traffic flow too greatly". Eleanor Kelly, Deputy Chief Executive, Southwark Council talking about TfL killing off regeneration plans in favour of motor traffic flow, London SE1 newspaper

Blackfriars Bridge

TfL's initial message about why it was abandoning previously agreed plans to create a safe junction for cycling and pedestrians at the north side of Blackfriars Bridge because it "would greatly restrict traffic movement"

Caroline Pidgeon, current Chair of the Transport Committee on the London Assembly was completely right when she said this earlier in the year: "[TfL] favours smoothing the traffic flow for motorists and worsening conditions for pedestrians and cyclists"

So I was not at all surprised to see this comment from Transport for London last week in a note written to Labour Assembly Member John Biggs about Blackfriars: "It is true that [road] designs will involve some prioritisation of one mode over another."

There we have it. Transport for London finally admits that its streets do prioritise different modes of transport over each other. Something that is has striven to deny again and again since the Mayor Boris Johnson took office. 

In the summer, the Conservative group on the London Assembly published a report on road congestion in London. The report said "Neither the Mayor nor the Government should impose an artificial road user hierarchy as this inevitably has the effect of effect of deliberately slowing down some users. Further to this, the Mayor should encourage cycling by emphasising that it is cheap, healthy and quick, not by worsening conditions for other road users."

It's all smoke and mirrors. The Conservative party claims it does not support the priorities of one road user over another. The reality is that Transport for London knows it is creating a priority on London's streets. It is the priority of the motor vehicle. That's why those cycle lane pictures in this article are full of motor vehicles. They're not cycle lanes. They are bits of blue paint that won't interfere with motor traffic. Which is why more people are being killed in London on foot and on bicycle. 

By failing to enforce a priority on London's streets, the Conservatives in London are tacitly allowing Transport for London to get away with it anyhow. TfL is - in my view - imposing a set of priorities through the back door. The motor vehicle is king. And if you want to cross the road or cycle in safety, you're going to have to fit in as a second class citizen. 

Bollocks to 'encouraging cycling by emphasising it is cheap, healthy and quick'. Make it safe.

For an excellent review on 'encouraging cycling by emphasising it is cheap, healthy and quick' read this review here on VoleOSpeed blog. 

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Cycle deaths on Boris Super Highways - My view: Piecemeal interventions and a few scraps for cycling is utterly irresponsible and killing people

Catriona Patel courtesy Stockwell News blog
"My name is Anish Patel and I am the husband of Catriona. On Monday 29th June 2009 at around 08.20, Catriona died as a result of a collision with a green Tipper lorry at Kennington Park Road, at the junction with Harleyford Street."

This event happened around the corner from my house. I have to pass the spot daily. Several times a day sometimes. 

A few months later, Boris Johnson's Transport for London turned the very spot where Catriona Patel was crushed by a tipper lorry into part of Cycle Super Highway 7 from Tooting to the City. 

The junction design was almost identical after Boris Johnson had launched this Cycle Super Highway as it had been before: Some lane markings were changed. The kerb was changed slightly further up the road. And lots of blue paint was added. That was all. It's still horrible to cycle through and the number of hazards at this junction are just too numerous to mention. It's crap for pedestrians, it's downright dangerous for cycling and it's not particularly easy for drivers either who have to undertake dozens of people cycling - completely exposed to motor traffic on both sides - down the middle of a three lane race track here. 

Then earlier this week, a man in his fifties was killed on his bicycle at another Cycle Super Highway in Bow. Diamond Geezer blog has written an excellent profile of this junction and just how dreadful it is for pedestrians and cyclists alike. And he hits the nail on the head when he says this: "TfL's overriding priority at the Bow Flyover roundabout is clearly vehicular traffic...This is a key London road junction, and the queues that could be caused by a succession of button-pressing pedestrians might have gridlock repercussions. I can fully understand why TfL are quite so reticent, because a significant number of travellers would be disadvantaged by a Bow Flyover slowdown. But the priority surely ought to be safety, rather than piecemeal interventions that deliver merely partial solutions."

A few months ago, I showed how Transport for London is planning yet more of the same at Vauxhall and Victoria. The list of changes is fairly similar to what changed at Oval: A few tweaks of kerbs, a few moves of white lines and some blue paint. The Super Highway planned for Vauxhall is frankly scandalous. It replicates directly the sort of conditions that are killing people at Oval and Bow. 

When you drive, you have a relatively consistent road experience. When you cycle in London, though, what you get is partial solutions, piecemeal interventions, and you're supposed to be able to react immediately to completely inconsistent road conditions that veer between utterly terrifying and semi-sensible every 20 or 30 metres. It's completely insane.

Diamond Geezer is absolutely right: TfL is dealing with cycling through 'piecemeal interventions'. Those piecemeal interventions are wrong. Morally wrong, in my view.

And here's the real rub. I think lots of people at Transport for London knows what needs to be done at junctions like Bow and at Oval. But their voices aren't being heard. 

None of these junctions need particularly complicated solutions. These junctions need solutions that give cyclists and drivers ways to flow through them without coming into direct conflict with each other. At Bow, in particular, there's plenty of space to make that happen. There's plenty of space at Oval and Vauxhall too. But Transport for London is repeating the mantra of 'traffic flow' and concerns about gridlock for motor traffic and using that justification to design high-speed junctions designed for motor vehicles, that do virtually nothing for cycling or pedestrians, in my view.

Can you imagine cycling with your children to school through Oval junction, or Bow flyover or Blackfriars Bridge? Not really. So, from my perspective, that's a massive fail. 

Motor traffic does need to get through London relatively smoothly. But I think Transport for London is prioritising motor traffic in its streets while also encouraging more people to cycle. But it is not taking any serious steps to make its roads safe enough for someone to cycle with their children to school. The marketing message will continue to promote cycling as a safe, convenient way to get around and there will be more investment in cycle training and in fluffy marketing to promote cycle trips. But the reality is cycling will remain a niche category, quite literally squashed in among motor vehicle, unless and until Transport for London starts to make its roads and its junctions the sorts of places that PEOPLE can travel through safely, not just people in motor vehicles. A mother with two kids needs to look at Oval junction and feel safe enough to cycle through it with them. Until that happens, TfL, I reckon you've completely and utterly failed. 

The recent cycle deaths are just the start, I fear. The plans that TfL has for its future Cycle Super Highways suggest that things are not going to change in the near future. And what's worse is that TfL doesn't even seem to be  engaging with how to make roads work for Londoners unless they're in motor vehicles.

That's why some of us are organising a ride around the 10 junctions that are most dangerous for cycling in central London on November 12th. If you live in London and you want to cycle, you have no choice but to get through most of these junctions at some point. We're riding to highlight the need for change and for proper interventions not tiny piecemeal changes here and there. Cycling needs to be made an experience that is consistently safe and sensible. Do that and more people will take to two-wheels. Don't do that and more people will die each year than need to.

I pay for Transport for London. But it doesn't represent me. Not yet. 

Monday, 24 October 2011

Cycle through Bank junction? Tell the City what you think about it

I've always hated cycling through Bank junction.

My pet hates include:

If you use the new cycle route towards Bank from Lombard Street- turning towards Bank means you're forced to weave between queuing motor vehicles

Exiting the junction into roads like Prince's Street (next to Bank of England) is nasty. It's narrow, there are usually a couple of very impatient buses and taxis trying to beat you there

Some of the manoeuvres are just plain horrible. There are traffic flows in every direction and you're stuck there on a bicycle trying not to get hit by buses, HGVs, taxis.

And, finally, it is often very difficult to actually get to the junction on a bicycle. At rush hour, queues of motor traffic take up so much space you have to either whizz round the outside of the motor traffic on the opposite side of the road or get off and push.

All in all - nasty place, designed around motor vehicles above all else. It's rubbish to cross as a pedestrian (Cheapside to Royal Exchange involves crossing FIVE roads and waiting forever), it's dangerous for cycling and is one of the most dangerous places in the City. This map here shows all collisions with pedestrians and cyclists to 2007.

The City of London sent me an email over the weekend. It wants feedback on the junction from cyclists, pedestrians and other people who use the space. There's an online form. It takes 2 minutes to fill out.

My own view?

Turn Bank junction into something like Times Square, New York. This idea was first floated on twitter. Essentially, Times Square was remodelled, with bike lanes and pedestrian areas taking the place of some of the roads. And it's about to get another update, with yet more motor traffic diverted away from it. Perfect.

Private motor traffic should be diverted away from the junction as much as possible. Something rather like they've done in this town in the Netherlands:

Works for pedestrians by makingt the streets calmer, easy to cross and brings some life back to an otherwise nasty place. Works for dirvers by giving them a route that is sufficiently useful. Works for cyclists by giving them safer routes that they can actually access. But you have to actually force private motor vehicles to take another route. Thus far, the City has been shy of doing that. If you look at Cheapside, which is a feeder road into Bank junction, the concept was to make Cheapside 'greatly benefit cyclists and pedestrians'.
Improve Bank junction? Maybe start by closing
Cheapside off to private motor traffic
Private motor vehicles would be 'encouraged' to avoid Cheapside. In reality, all that's happened is it's even worse for cycling. There's just as much motor traffic as there was before but now the road is narrower, so you get 'buzzed' by HGVs and buses (like the chap on his bike in this picture). Or you get stuck behind a queue of motor vehicles going nowhere, taking up the whole street and unable to access the traffic lights. Even on Queen Victoria Street, which is wide enough for 2 x bus lane, 2 x proper cycle track and motor vehicles lanes, the road is designed so you're basically stuck on your tod between two buses at rush hour. Completely motor-centric design.

Give motor vehicles proper routes and give pedestrians and cyclists proper routes too. At the moment what you've got is proper routes for motor vehicles, nice paving for pedestrians but the fundamentals are still crap for pedestrians and cyclists.

I'd urge you to spend two minutes filling out the questionnaire linked below:

"The City of London is preparing a strategy for improving the streets and spaces in the Bank area and is seeking your views. We want to know what works well in the streets and spaces, what doesn't and what would make the area work better for you?

We would like views from all users of the area, whether you walk, cycle, take the bus, or drive through Bank. Your comments will be used to focus the direction of the emerging strategy to help improve the area for you."

Choose how to respond:

> Take a few minutes to complete a short online questionnaire Here

> Leave your comments and upload your photos and videos at

> email your comments to

Comments to be received by 28th November 2011

Friday, 21 October 2011

12 November: A tour of Transport for London's 10 most dangerous junctions for cycling in central London - in honour of Elephant & Castle roundabout

Elephant & Castle master plan. Cycling around here is not
going to get any easier

Today is the last day of the public consultation to transform the Heygate Estate at Elephant & Castle.

Pictured left, is a picture from the Concept Masterplan on display today and showing facilities for cycling around the northern junction at Elephant.

As a colleague pointed out, you will have to cross eight lanes to go from south to east. Eight lane changes. On a bicycle. Surrounded by HGVs, buses, minicabs all weaving around you, undertaking, overtaking.

Here's what Peter Hendy, London Transport Commissioner said earlier this month about how Transport for London designs London's roads these days:

"cycling is now part of transport planners' 21st century lexicon of solutions for improving urban spaces - giving town and city centres back to the people as shared and green space, instead of more roads for more cars, 'bringing the village back into the city'".

Well that's clearly pure wishful thinking in south London. Elephant & Castle is THE top danger spot for cycling in London. And it looks like it's not going to get any better. Ever.

Southwark Council decided in 2002 that the only way to improve the Elephant and Castle was to remove the physical barriers blighting the area by resolving the following points:

•a community physically divided by the area’s layout;
•heavy volumes of traffic;
•high levels of pollution;

In other words, time to get rid of the killer roundabout. But if this is anything to go by, then nothing is going to change.

I have decided a ride around London's top 10 killer junctions is in order. I am asking as many people as possible to join me. It is an informal ride, to take in these horrific junctions we all have to cycle through every day and to stop and take photographs and film just how awful they are.

I don't really fancy taking on the might of Transport for London's killer road designs all on my own. So I am asking for people to join me. I hope perhaps 40-50 people will turn up.

If you fancy joining, here are the details:

A tour of Transport for London's 10 most dangerous junctions for cycling in central London - in honour of Elephant & Castle roundabout

10.30am Saturday 12 November

Meet by the stairs at the front of St. Mark's Church, The Oval, Kennington, SE11 4PW

And we'll take in the following sites, en route to a late lunch for those so inclined finishing up at Clerkenwell.

Further info?

It won't be a massive distance and I suspect we may stop regularly to enjoy the quality cycling infrastructure, take photographs and films that show just how hazardous these junctions are. The purpose is to highlight that Transport for London isn't 'bringing the village back into the city'. Transport for London is building massive obstacles to people cycling in the city.

1. St. George's Road/London Road/ Elephant & Castle Junction Southwark
2. Clapham Road/ Kennington Park Road/ Camberwell Road Junction
3. Strand/Northumberland Avenue/Whitehall Junction
4. Waterloo Road/ Stamford St/ York Road Junction
5. Mansion House St/Princes St/ Threadneedle St
6. Elephant & Castle/Newington Butts Roundabout
7. Hyde Park Corner Westminster
8. Millbank/Lambeth Bridge Junction
9. Clerkenwell Road/Farringdon Road Junction (via Kings Cross)
10. Albert Embankment/Kennington Lane/ Wandsworth Road Junction

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Lord Mayor of London: "Cycling is the way to travel". But how many more of us need to die before Boris Johnson's TfL designs separate traffic flows for cycling, keeps us away from HGVs and buses?

I tweeted the City of Westminster earlier this week. My tweet was triggered by them suggesting parents should encourage their children to get out and about more. My comment was: "@CityWestminster wants children to lead active/healthy lives. Try asking child to cycle on your streets to school? Cycle-unfriendly policies".

Westminster's response was drivelling, in my opinion: "@citycyclists We have lots of free educational schemes to help cyclists get the best out of the city - see here…" Right, so some training will help kids cycle around Parliament Square, will it? Or around Aldwych? Or down the Edgware Road. No, frankly Westminster council, it won't. It hasn't yet and it never will.

I truly believe Westminster Council dislikes bicycles and that provision for cycling is almost non-existant in Westminster.

Why do I feel so strongly? Because this time last year I met Councillor Lee Rowley, who is responsible for transport in Westminster. What did he tell me? He said this: "You lot are getting more attention than you deserve...You should be allowed to cycle but you shouldn't need anything from us to help you do it.."If you don't think [the cycling facilities are good], you should drive." Context is important here. This was at a party and he was off-duty and relaxing. But he wasn't joking. We were discussing this very much in the context of him knowing I write this blog and him having told me about his councillor role.

Let's compare and contrast. A couple of years ago, the City of London felt like somewhere that was fairly anti-cycling. A lot of dangerous junctions and policies that didn't help at all.

A lot of the junctions are still there. But they're improving. And the City has at least had the foresight to put together a strategy that might just start to reverse some of the anti-cycling policies of the past. There's more on that strategy on this page here.

Just as significantly, cycling is starting to be seen as something, 'normal' in the Square Mile. Have a look at the video above. This is an event earlier this month - the City Cycle Style event - run by the Lord Mayor of London for his charity in which the Lord Mayor of London says this: "" today's congested traffic environment is the way to travel". Compare and contrast with Westminster.

And yet Transport for London thinks that cycling is an activity that should be specifically undertaken in that congested traffic and seems to believe that junctions should be designed for maximising the flow of more and more motor traffic. It dithers for four whole years about putting in a couple of advanced stop lines at Kings Cross, and rejects a design that might actually make this a safe place to cycle. It rejects calls by people to make Blackfriars a place where people can cross the street in one go or make safe turns on their bicycles. It threatens to reject a plan to remove the horrendous roundabout at Elephant & Castle that would benefit tube passengers, businesses, pedestrians, bus passengers and cyclists. Why?

A few weeks ago, a young woman cyclist was hit by an HGV at Kings Cross and killed. Today, another woman cyclist was hit at Kings Cross. This time by a bus. Earlier this week a woman was knocked off her bike on Parliament Square. She just told me she has a broken back. The Kings Cross Local Environment site is doing an amazing job pushing for change at Kings Cross. But in my view, the 'safety' benefits that Transport for London is proposing at Kings Cross are derisory. Some paint. That's it. Likewise at Blackfriars. And all over London. These aren't isolated incidents. The increase in cycle deaths and collisions is a result of a policy of encouraging more motor vehicles through London's streets and encouraging cycling to mix with that heavy congestion. What should be happening is the creation of separate flows of traffic for motor traffic and cycling traffic. If you want to see something inspiring, a vision of what London could be like, then look at this page here.

Boris Johnson is at the head of Transport for London. According to the City of London video, he wants a 'cyclised London'. I agree with the Lord Mayor of London (Mayor of the City of London/Square Mile) - cycling is the way to travel. So what the hell is Transport for London thinking and why is it not designing London's roads so people can walk and cycle safely. Roads like those in the Netherlands, or New York or Paris?

Transport for London - how many more of us need to be killed before you start designing roads with separate flows for cycling and motor vehicles?

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

TfL at Kings Cross: plans for safer cycling much delayed and almost pointless. They won't make a difference. Time that TfL changed its tune and caught up with New York

Yesterday, Tom Edwards at the BBC covered the death of another cyclist, crushed by an HGV at Kings Cross. It's an excellent video and you can watch it here.

If you scroll right to the end of the piece you'll hear the TfL representative (Garrett Emmerson, chief operating officer of Streets) talking about how TfL is consulting on schemes to represent the needs of 'all road users' and 'deliver schemes on site very soon'.

What are those schemes? Well, those are shown in detailed maps on this PDF here. I wouldn't get too excited. They consist of a couple of advance stop lines and some tactile paving.

What does the 'needs of ALL road users' mean? I think it means the junction will be designed, just like every other central London junction. It will be designed to 'smooth the flow' of motor vehicles and some paint will be put on the road so that you can stop in front of the HGVs at the traffic lights. Which is seemingly what another woman who was run over by an HGV yesterday did at London Bridge. And the HGV seems to have just driven straight into her, nearly killing her.

Typical bike lane in New York
It's taken four years of obfuscation just to get a handful of advanced stop lines at Kings Cross. During that same period, New York has built 250 miles of bicycle lanes, most of which are kept apart from motor vehicle lanes.

Compare and contrast: a) New York implements wide, separate paths for cycling with separate phases at traffic lights. b) In the same period, TfL builds four Super Highways which consist of bus lanes, some blue paint and almost no thinking about how to keep motor vehicles and cyclists separate at junctions. And it takes four years to deliberate about putting in a few advanced stop lines at Kings Cross.

The TfL spokesman actually continues to say he thinks that a three year time period 'is a pretty typical time' period to build a few small changes like this. Three years to build three advanced stop lines?

TfL doesn't seem to get it. What people want is proper, safe facilities for cycling. Especially at junctions. At places like Kings Cross, Blackfriars, Vauxhall, Oval. There seems to be a swing among more and more people who are realising that cycling isn't about using the roads the same way as a motor vehicle. And that at junctions, the flow of cycle traffic should be kept apart from the flow of motor traffic. At junctions in particular.

TfL thinks that by putting some advanced stop lines at the junction that will sort things out. It won't. It won't make the junction any safer than the advanced stop lines at Blackfriars or at Vauxhall. Or at London Bridge.

Have a look at this video, first featured yesterday on Vole O'Speed's blog. It's fascinating. It shows the evolution of one bridge, how it goes from London-style 'designed for all road users', ie for motor vehicles, to 'designed for each type of road user'. They're very different concepts.  Towards the end, the commentator makes one very important point:

'This way no flow of traffic interferes with the flow of another type of traffic', says the commentator. 

Transport for London doesn't understand this exact point. New York does. Paris does. Berlin and Frankfurt do. Rotterdam does. In London, the Mayor and his Transport for London bureaucrats choose not to. I think there's every case for increasing the heat on TfL and the Mayor about this.

If you want to contribute to changing Transport for London and the Mayor's minds, spend two minutes reading about Kings Cross here and adding your story about why you hate cycling there.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Top 10 dangerous junctions for cycling in London - and TfL's complete denial of reality. It needs to build safer junctions instead of fobbing us off with whitewash

Transport for London releases information about the fatalities on its roads.

One such fatality was Min Joo Lee, a student killed at Kings Cross - scene of multiple recent collisions where cyclists have been killed by HGVs. The Kings Cross Local Environment blog described what happened: "A young woman cyclist on her second day of term at CSM was brutally mown down by a lorry at the York Way,Pentonville Road junction complex.  This excellent un-nerving post by Olaf Storbeck over at Cycling Intelligence covers it from a cyclist perspective, The Guardian also covers it. TfL is well used to cyclists being killed at its badly designed junctions."

Kings Cross Local Environment is following the case. More specifically, the authors of the blog are preparing to consider raising a case of corporate manslaughter against Transport for London at this particular junction. They have my complete support.

Earlier this week, I saw a copy of Transport for London's fatalities spreadsheet. The case of Joo Lee is included in the spreadsheet and described like this: "Cyclist in stream of traffic and apparently weaving in and out of lanes, is struck by front of tipper lorry."

New Cycle Super Highway - full of motor vehicles
Does this encourage safe cycling?
 To me this reads like victim-blaming. You get killed by an HGV? Your fault for weaving in and out of the lanes.
But to be honest, it's almost impossible not to 'weave' in and out of motor traffic in London, isn't it? In fact, I think Transport for London actively forces you to 'weave' in and out of motor traffic on a bicycle. Here's why:

Pictured left, is the a newly-designed junction on a Boris Johnson Cycle Super Highway in Pimlico. Back in April, I wrote how this Super Highway was a death waiting to happen. Transport for London objected. They sent someone to accompany me on a visit to the junction. I distinctly remember the man from TfL looking at the scene in the picture and saying it's fine for cycling because there won't be many motor vehicles in the cycle lane. But just look at it. Other people have called these cycle lanes 'ghost cycle lanes' before. For the simple reason that they are actually motor vehicle lanes painted blue. Just look at the scene - there are loads of motor vehicles in the cycle lane. The motor vehicles are turning left and the cycles generally going straight on. There's actually no space for you to cycle in the cycle lane. So, if you don't want to get knocked over by a motor vehicle turning left, you're safer to cycle between the lanes of motor vehicles. So, this TfL cycle lane actually makes you 'weave' between motor lanes, the same way Min Joo Lee had to 'weave' between motor vehicles before she was killed. Yet, this is what the road layout forces most cyclists to do here.

As I wrote back in the spring, what flummoxes me is that TfL knows that accidents happen mainly at junctions. And junctions are where the Cycle Super Highways are a consistent let-down.

Another 'ghost cycle lane' filled with HGV and bus.
How is it possible to cycle here without 'weaving' between
motor traffic?
Here's the scene (picture left)  at another completely useless piece of cycling infrastructure - the Cycle Super Highway into the City of London on Southwark Bridge Road. The blue lane is the cycle lane. It's underneath an HGV and a bus. Where exactly are you suppoed to cycle? The only option is to a) get off and walk of b) keep moving by 'weaving' between lanes? Get killed here? It will be your fault.

The fact is, Transport for London is designing facilities for cycling that are completely and utterly unusable. Which is why cyclists don't use them. They simply can't. So they are forced by Transport for London to 'weave' in between streams of traffic, just the same way Min Joo Lee might have been when she was killed by an HGV. And if they happen to get killed by an HGV, TfL will issue a fatality statement that suggests the cyclist was at fault.

I'm absolutely fuming about this. I think TfL should be held to account for its policy of 'smoothing the traffic flow' - bureaucracy-speak for making London's junctions into places where motor vehicles get through as efficiently as possible but screws everyone else whether they are on foot or on a bicycle - that I believe is killing people. And so I fully support the moves by the authors of the Kings Cross Local Environment blog to do just that. But the issue is London-wide, not just at Kings Cross.

Last week, Labour Assembly Member Val Shawcross asked the Mayor why there had been a 9.2% increase in cycling accidents last year. TfL listed the 10 most dangerous junctions for cyclists in London. And then published some completely withering twaddle about how they're being made safer for cycling.

Read the list below. See if you think TfL is really making London's killer junctions safer for cycling?

I think this reads like a list of feeble platitudes. Most of these safety changes are just tiny bits of tinkering here and there. And the design of some fo the new cycle super highways is simply farcical. For example, at Vauxhall, you'll be expected to cycle directly across five lanes of traffic into the far right lane. Hardly safe cycling design is it?

Nothing is really being done to make it safer to cycle through London's killer junctions. Have a read of the Mayor and TfL's responses. Do these answers make you feel that the Mayor is taking cycling seriously or does it make you feel you are being fobbed off with whitewash and that nothing is going to change?

Question No: 2996 / 2011 Valerie Shawcross:

When asked at MQT about the 9.2% increase in cycling accidents in the previous year you referred to the TfL Cycle Safety Action Plan. Has TfL identified within the Cycle Safety Action Plan where and when collisions involving cyclists are most likely to occur? Please publish a table showing the ten most dangerous locations to cyclists in London, say which is the highways authority at that location and what actions TfL are taking to reduce the dangers to cyclists at each?.

Written response from the Mayor:
The locations with the highest number of cycle collisions in the GLA area between 2008 and 2010 are shown in the table below. These are on some of the busiest cycle routes in London and, as such, the number of collisions is generally proportionate to the number of cyclists in these locations. No fatal collisions occurred at any of these locations and at least 85 per cent of the collisions at all ten locations resulted in slight injuries, which did not require hospital treatment.

The table below indicates the specific infrastructure improvements which are taking place at each location. However, infrastructure improvements alone are not enough to improve cycle safety as collisions involving cyclists are not always concentrated at particular locations. TfL is therefore working with the London boroughs and the Cycle Safety Working Group to deliver other safety improvements such as education campaigns, better vehicle safety technology for freight vehicles and cycle training.

Location Borough Highway Authority Action being taken

1. St. George's Road/London Road/ Elephant & Castle Junction Southwark TfL An alternative route for cyclists was implemented at this location as part of Cycle Superhighway 7.

2. Clapham Road/ Kennington Park Road/ Camberwell Road Junction Lambeth TfL Safety improvements were introduced at this junction as part of Barclays Cycle Superhighway Route 7 (CSH7). Barclays Cycle Superhighway Route 5 will run east-west through Oval junction on the A202, and will deliver further safety improvements for cyclists.

3. Strand/Northumberland Avenue/Whitehall Junction Westminster Borough Westminster City Council has identified £878,000 of Local Implementation Plan funding for safety schemes throughout Westminster. I have asked TfL officers to engage with the borough to ensure that this location is considered for improvements.

4. Waterloo Road/ Stamford St/ York Road Junction Lambeth TfL Plans are being developed to improve signage in this area in order to provide cyclists with information about safe routes to Waterloo station that provide an alternative to navigating the roundabout at this junction.

5. Mansion House St/Princes St/ Threadneedle St Junction City of London Borough The City of London has three funded programmes in its Local Implementation Plan which will contribute to improving safety for cyclists throughout the ‘Square Mile’. I have asked TfL officers to liaise with the City of London to determine whether this location should be prioritised for improvements.

6. Elephant & Castle/Newington Butts Roundabout Southwark TfL Works to convert the roundabout to a signalised junction were undertaken between June 2010 and May 2011. Advance Stop Lines, Toucan crossings and shared use pavements were provided on all arms of the junction.

7. Hyde Park Corner Westminster TfL As part of the Barclays Cycle Superhighways (CSH) Programme, cycling improvements are being considered at Hyde Park Corner, which will see Route 9 terminating at the roundabout. These proposals are still in the early stages of planning and are not yet confirmed.

8. Millbank/Lambeth Bridge Junction Westminster TfL CSH 8 has been implemented on Grosvenor Rd and Milbank, and mandatory cycle lanes installed on entry and exit at the Millbank arm with Lambeth Bridge to improve cycling safety at the roundabout. In addition cycle measures were incorporated in the recently resurfaced Lambeth Bridge. These included widening the westbound mandatory cycle lane.

9. Clerkenwell Road/Farringdon Road Junction Islington TfL Cycle measures have been implemented at this junction primarily by London Borough of Islington catering for the heavy east to west cycle movement.

10. Albert Embankment/Kennington Lane/ Wandsworth Road Junction Lambeth TfL CSH 5 will run through Vauxhall Gyratory on the A202 and will provide a safer route for cyclists. Planned improvements include new sections of cycle lane, blind spot visibility mirrors, and changes to traffic islands and kerblines to reduce traffic speeds and improve safety.

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Network Rail supports current anti-walking, cycling junction at Blackfriars. Expect more of the same at Paddington, Moorgate, Tottenham Ct Road

One of the main exits from Blackfriars. Note how people walk outside
the barriers rather than use subway. Then leg it across slip road.
Not very pedestrian-friendly.  And staying that way.
Yesterday, 2,500 people cycled and walked across Blackfriars Bridge to protest about the scheme designed by the Mayor's Transport for London. They were supported by politicians from Labour, the Conservatives, the LibDems and the Green Party. Full-party support, in other words. All of them on bicycles.

For excellent images of the evening, look at the London Cycling Campaign pages here.

Today, the LibDem's transport spokesman re-iterated the views of the LibDem party: "I feel that the proposal is not fairly balanced. It favours smoothing the traffic flow for motorists and worsening conditions for pedestrians and cyclists".

Latest news just in from Network Rail. And, more specifically, from Simon Kirby, Director, Investment Projects. Network Rail is funding much of the junction that is designed by Transport for London.

Read the following email exchange. Then think what sort of cycling and walking infrastructure you won't be seeing at other Network Rail investment sites elsewhere in London. And there are dozens of them at the moment. In other words, expect more anti-cycling thinking of this kind of thing at Crossrail and Thameslink stations near you - Paddington, Moorgate, Liverpool Street, Tottenham Court Road:

Politicians line up last night to condemn Blackfriars scheme:
source LCC and Ben B
Letter to Network Rail

Dear Mr Kirby,

This is just to make you aware of the alternative design for the junction North of Blackfriars bridge that has just been produced by LCC

As you see, it is significantly better for station customers, offering easier and faster ways of crossing the road, better (and much safer) cycle access, and a better road environment, than the design that TFL intends to build.

I wonder, given that Network Rail is funding most of the works on this junction, whether you might be prepared to contact the Mayor to express your support for this improved design?

Thanks very much

Response from Simon Kirby, Director, Investment Projects, Network Rail
From: Kirby Simon
Date: Thu, Oct 13, 2011 at 12:30 PM
Subject: Re: blackfriars
Thanks for your email. As you’re aware we’re currently rebuilding Blackfriars railway station to provide for growing passenger numbers, longer trains and more frequent services.
The coming years will see substantial growth in the number of people using Blackfriars station, and changes need to be made to the road network around the station so that it can cope with an increased volume of pedestrian traffic.
The road junction north of Blackfriars bridge is owned and maintained by TfL. As such they have taken the lead in designing and delivering a new road layout to accommodate all road users over the coming decades.
We’ve worked closely with TfL to ensure their road layout is compatible with our station designs and we fully support their plans.
Simon Kirby 
Network Rail vs the people of London and their representatives? Make what you will of this exchange. It certainly set me thinking.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

All four political parties on their bicycles at Blackfriars. We're beginning to make clear we want a proper agency to make proper routes for cycling

Blackfriars Bridge 12 October, by zefrog on flickr
The policeman said it: "No, thank you. If we weren't in uniform, we'd have joined you tonight".

That's before another policeman confirmed that over 2,000 people joined the Blackfriars flashride this evening, probably nearer to 2,500 people.

A quiet procession of people on their cycles, a few children, some dogs as well. All calm, good natured. And stopping at red lights, no less.

A line up of political parties on Blackfriars - courtesy zefrog

And, fascinatingly, the evening included a politician from each and every party on a bicycle. The line-up included:

From the LibDems - Brian Paddick and Caroline Pidgeon

From Labour - Val Shawcross

From the Conservatives - Andrew Boff

From the Green Party - Jenny Jones

I'm flagging up the politicians because I've never seen a cycling-related protest before that included cross party and senior political support. And the common topic among the politicians seemed to be this: Boris isn't listening. It's a non-issue. Or words to that effect.

Which is a shame really. A very big shame. Slowly but surely cycling is becoming mainstream. It's just a bicycle. It's something that people do to get to work or the shops. It shouldn't be a big deal to have safe, sensible infrastructure for cycling. There's plenty of space and there's plenty of capacity to build it. But there seems to be a real lack of political will from the Mayor to really get behind a movement for Londoners who want cycling to be given proper consideration on London's roads.

I was sent this email earlier from someone writing to Peter Hendy, London's Transport Commissioner. He wrote: "I think it's fair to say that the utter uselessness of Cycle Super Highway 2 would have Dutch and German cyclists in hysterics...It cuts and turns in the most random manner. One moment it is in the bus lane...the next I'm told to move from lane to lane. [In many places] cyclists literally have nowhere to go on the street. What is the point of building a cycling lane and letting people park in it...If TfL was in charge of the Highways Agency, the M4 would be full of potholes and would suddenly change into a country lane with no warning". 

Not my words but I agree with most of them. Many of us who cycle in London are also 'motorists'. We know what good road design looks like because we use it when we drive. Blackfriars isn't about just one bridge. I think it's about people saying they want a proper agency to design proper routes for cycling - something like the designs coming out of the London Cycling Campaign this week. And it's very encouraging to see London's politicians giving their support. It's a start but a good one.

For a full series of images from the 3rd Blackfriars Flashride, click here. 

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

If you like cycling and walking through Oval, Vauxhall, Blackfriars, Lancaster Gate, Archway or Aldgate, don't come. But if you don't come, nothing will change.

Blackfriars - 'Before'. This is what the Mayor thinks London wants
London Cycling Campaign has now come out with a handy before and after guide to Blackfriars. 'Before' shows the multiple problems with the design sanctioned by the Mayor's Transport for London. This is the scheme that the Mayor is building right now at Blackfriars Bridge.

Blackfriars - 'After'. This is what a growing number of Londoners want
The 'after' shows what this area could be like if it was designed to give pedestrians and cyclists the same status as motor vehicles.

Tomorrow's protest will be joined by four London politicians:

Andrew Boff (Conservative) is the Mayor's special advisor on cycling
Val Shawcross (Labour) is former chair of the London Assembly transport committee
Caroline Pidgeon (LibDem) is the current chair of the transport committee
Jenny Jones (Green) is a mayoral candidate and former deputy mayor

It will be properly marshalled by volunteers with bibs and the police will be there to protect you. And with any luck, a large number of you will join in. What more can I say?

If you like cycling and walking through Oval, Vauxhall, Blackfriars, Lancaster Gate, Archway or Aldgate, don't come tomorrow. But if you think these places, and the plenty of others like them, could be better, safer, more convenient for cycling and walking, you should be there. If you think that walking and cycling deserve to have equal status on London's streets, you should be there.
Meet at 5.45pm, outside Doggetts Pub, on Wednesday 12 October, and from 6pm a peaceful ride will take place as thousands of people show their support for a safer junction here and for proper cycle-friendly streets all across London.

Further reading:

Let them hear your voice at Blackfriars

Why your help is needed at Blackfriars

Blackfriars junction: a redesign by cyclists for cyclists

LCC proposes pedestrian and cyclist friendly Blackfriars

Monday, 10 October 2011

London Cycling Campaign releases alternative vision for Blackfriars and for the whole London road network. This would be normal in most countries but Mayor's TfL will call it 'very ambitious'. Why exactly?

Blackfriars if New York or Denmark designed it. Proper
pedestrian crossings, place for cycling. More at
UPDATE: check out the Before & After images with commentary here.

Brace yourselves. Here's a scheme that would be totally normal in New York, Denmark, Holland, Frankfurt or Paris. But something that the Mayor's Transport for London will probably define as 'very ambitious' for London. Because it wants Londoners to think proper streets are only possible for private motor vehicles. 

The London Cycling Campaign has gone on the offensive about London's streets, starting with Blackfriars where the Campaign is aiming for a demonstration of pedestrians and cyclists, joined by politicians, on Wednesday 12th October at 5.45pm starting at the south side of the bridge. 

The Campaign has today released a series of images and videos showing how the traffic could be made to flow on a Blackfriars Bridge designed by anyone other than Transport for London. And it's a million times better than anything Londoners are ever going to get unless the Mayor either starts taking walking and cycling seriously up or he loses the election. 

Click HERE to see the general view and HERE to see videos of how the streets would work.

Transport for London pays lip service to 'encouraging modal shift', to 'encourage' Londoners to shift from motor vehicles to walking or cycling. But look at most streets. Cycling is squeezed in as an after-thought with schemes that the average Londoner would find extremely dangerous to use and are at best highly inconvenient. Walking is also made less convenient and more dangerous by giving people less time to cross the road and removing crossings. No wonder the roads are congested with motor vehicles.

I've focussed on Blackfriars Bridge recently because it's a place where bicycles outnumber cars and taxis. People deserve the right to travel safely and conveniently on bicycles, especially here. It is also heaving with pedestrians. If the Mayor can't get it right at a junction like Blackfriars where pedestrians and cyclists make up the massive majority of users, you have to ask if anything is ever going to change.

This is not an anti-car agenda. It's about showing there is both enough space and moneyto create something that works for driving, for proper, safe cycling and for easier, safer pedestrian crossings. It's also flags the point that that although the Mayor is happy to admit in public his scheme for Blackfriars is a pigs-ear, he doesn't seem prepared to actually do anything about it and you have to wonder why.

Mayor's plans for Blackfriars. More of the same, lots of
motor traffic, lots of congestion. Dangerous cycling. Ages
waiting to cross the road. Thanks Boris. 
The facilities for both pedestrians and cyclists at Blackfriars are pretty bad. They're not great for driving either, to be honest. And despite thousands of people protesting, the Mayor's Transport for London is in the process of making them worse. 

My view is this:Blackfriars is emblematic of Boris Johnson's failure to deliver on cycling and walking. He has quite deliberately allowed his transport authority to design for more and more motor traffic, paid for some fluffy cycling marketing campaigns and then wonders why the congestion is getting worse and people aren't taking up cycling. 

If Blackfriars looked anything like the scheme designed by the London Cycling Campaign, I would cycle more and I know some of my colleagues would switch to cycling - they're too scared by the bridge at the moment. I would feel I had a decent right to my own safe space on the road. It would give me easier and better access as a pedestrian as well. I don't think Boris wants me to feel equal on my bicycle or on foot. All that seems to matter to him is motoring. And a sodding cable car.

The London Cycling Campaign plan has many merits. It keeps pedestrian crossings where people need them (TfL is removing many of them). It lets you cross in one go (TfL is making you wait in the middle of the street). Instead of having to walk along a ridiculously narrow pavement (at the top of the bridge) you can walk along a wide paved area instead. It lets people cycle and turn safely next to the motor traffic (TfL makes you cross three lanes of motor traffic to turn right). It lets people cycle in their own space (TfL mixes you in with HGVs and buses). It lets drivers turn without worrying about crushing dozens of people on cycles (TfL lets you drive left across the cycle lane where thousands of people are cycling straight ahead). 

As I said earlier, this isn't revolutionary. This is completely normal in New York these days. The same goes for Paris, Holland, Denmark, Berlin, Frankfurt, Zurich, Geneva. But for some reason London is years and years behind the rest of the world.

London has a choice. More motor traffic, more congestion, more dangerous streets, more conflict between people in motor vehicles and on bicycles. Or it can calm the whole thing down and give people a proper chance to cycle and walk instead of drive everywhere (remember even TfL states the majority of car trips in outer London are less than 2 miles and easily cyclable if the streets weren't so anti-cycling). It could follow New York where streets are being designed exactly like this. Rather than giving Londoners some Cycle Super Highways that are filled with parked cars and nerve-shattering junctions, Mayor could start to show people it's genuinely safe and easy to use a bike through central London.

Last week Peter Hendy, Transport Commissioner for London spoke at a conference where he declared Boris's ambition of increasing cycling rates by 400% to 2026 were "very ambitious"

I think Boris's cycling revolution is 'very ambitious' because TfL doesn't want it to happen. I think Boris needs to get a grip on TfL and deliver on his manifesto promise to cycling. Either that or we need a new Mayor. Simple as that, really. 

If you think cycling and walking deserve better in London, please join us on Wednesday evening. Several London politicians have committed to join us as well. Blackfriars Bridge, southern end. 5.45pm, October 12th. 

Friday, 7 October 2011

Revealed: TfL tells politicians it is planning for cycling growth but road scheme assumes cycling will decline and there will be more motor traffic - hence more congestion

The Mayor's Transport for London has tried all sorts of ways to justify why it doesn't believe cycling needs serious infrastructure investment in London. Just have a look at how the Camden New Journal has been reporting TfL's unbelievable claim that simply adding an advanced stop box is going to make it safer to cycle around Kings Cross, scene of yet another woman killed by an HGV on her bicycle this week.  

At Blackfriars, I think Transport for London has been particularly duplicitous.

Early in the summer, Transport for London was forced to sit down in front of a committee of London politicians to explain how it was planning to make cycling safer at Blackfriars. This, you might recall, only happened after hundreds of people wrote to their politicians and protested at the bridge to make the point that they want the Mayor to make cycling safer, not to remove the already useless facilities for cycling and replace them with something worse.

Transport for London justified its new scheme at Blackfriars by saying that cyclists would make up only 7% of the people using the junction during the morning rush-hour and specifically stated that the junction was safe for cycling because other junctions in London are designed in a similar manner. That's exactly the point. Junctions like this are designed for motor vehicles. Pedestrians and people cycling are made to fit around motor vehicles. They're not 'safe' for cycling, any more than addign a bit of paint to the killer juntion in Kings Cross makes it 'safe' for cycling.

In any case, the Transport for London presentation tried to show that the number of people cycling through the junction would decrease as a percentage of the total once the new station had opened. They showed cycling dropping from 9% of all the people using the junction to only 7%. They were then extremely duplicitous and showed cars and light vans as the biggest percentage vehicle group, which hides the truth that there are more people cycling here than there are in private cars. In other words, TfL was trying to spin the story to the politicians to make it appear that cars vastly outnumbers cycles, which just isn't true.

The reason this all struck me as odd is that we know cyclists made up 35.6% of the traffic using the junction in rush-hour during 2010, cars plus taxis combined made up only 31.9%. The figures that Transport for London showed the London politicians just didn't add up.

John Biggs, Labour London Assembly Member for City and East London thought so too. So he asked Transport for London to justify the claim that only 7% of people using the junction would be cycling.

And guess what.

Transport for London has based its claim on numbers from a miserable January day and then fiddled around a bit to come up with a number of people cycling. 1,666 cyclists, to be precise. So, Transport for London claims that 1,666 people will cycle through the junction in the morning peak in 2012.

Using exactly the same rules as Transport for London's data but using 2010 statistics (which were available to TfL at the time, they just chose to use material that was three years out of date), I've calculated that:

  • Transport for London told London politicians the number of people cycling in 2012 would increase by 42%. They've actually modelled it showing it would decline 7% on current levels.

  • They told London politicians the number of people in cars and light goods vans (drivers and passengers combined) would decline by 7% to 2012. They've actually modelled it showing a 5% increase on 2010 levels.

The movements aren't enormous but they speak volumes. Transport for London claims it is building to support growth in cycling. But it's not. It's building on the assumption that cycling will decline and motor vehicle use will increase. More congestion, more crap transport, more deaths on the road. It's not good for anyone, whether they cycle or not. The Mayor knows there's a problem. He told the London politicians: "I do think is that more work needs to be done on cycling over Blackfriars Bridge and the accessibility of cycling over Blackfriars Bridge”. But it seems he's not telling TfL to actually make that happen.

If this rings bells for you, then come and make some noise to let the Mayor know you think things should change. Blackfriars Bridge. Wednesday October 12. 5.45pm.