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. 


  1. If this can be built, it's an advance for London. It should not be seen as particularly ambitious, though.

    It's a mistake to say that this would be normal in "Holland". Maybe this might have been normal thirty years ago. However, today, in the Netherlands, you wouldn't expect to see on-road cycle lanes and advance stop boxes on roads with such a lot of cars. Designs have moved on a long way from this.

    That's why I say it shouldn't be seen as particularly ambitious. This type of thing is a starting-point for better infrastructure, not an end-point.

  2. I think it's generally a very good design, certainly streets ahead of TfL's current plan.

    I'm not sure about the purpose of the advance stop lines, though. According to the LCC video sequences, right-turning cyclists will have their own light phases that keep them separated from motor traffic - they will turn from the cycle lane on the left. Surely those ASLs are redundant, therefore? This is even clear from the LCC videos, where no cyclists pass through them, or use them. Minor oversight there, I think.

  3. Thanks for the post!

    Design is certainly more advanced than anything I've seen before (from LCC and other UK campaigns). Mr Hembrow is correct though, Netherlands still way ahead of the game, but you know, we have to start somewhere.

    My only comment: why the Advanced Stop boxes, surely they are not required when deployed with 'cycling phased' traffic lights?

  4. When I started working as a graphic designer I have created a couple of graphics and showed them to my friends, who were professionals. For me they looked awesome and I've never created anything better, but they were heavily criticised by my pro friends and I hardly knew why. Then I started looking at really good 3d renders on the web and realised why my designs, although good for me and probably for many more people who knew no better, looked good, but they weren't good enough for the pros. So I kept improving the designs until they were really good and matched the work of top designers.
    I can see the same situation here - while it is certainly improvement from the first of LCC designs I think it's hardly there. You can call me overly critical, but anyone who has seen how it should be done will tell you the same thing. Now since it's a place where money and support is available the design should be of the best kind, not an improved "London style".
    Please LCC, do contact the Dutch Cycling Embassy for advice - I am sure they will be happy to give you advice. Hope you're not too proud to learn from professionals...

  5. so ndru, david, chris...

    how could this be improved?

    (david - i think there are concrete kerbs between the cycle lanes and motor vehicle lanes... and the asls are there for those lcc member who really want to cycle with motor traffic....)

  6. we need a new mayor. seems pretty clear to me that boris is after a path of least resistance when it comes to transport policy (hence same old junction design and the ultimately useless greenwich cable car). the only alternative would be ken, so goodness knows what kind of cycling infrastructure we would get.

  7. Perhaps we do need a new mayor, if we are saddled with the current undemocratic structure, but far better would be for the London Assembly to have some real legislative teeth. At the moment the mayor can safely ignore them entirely.

    As for Anonymous' comment, I agree. We can't endlessly hold up all London or UK cycling schemes to comparison with the Netherlands, notwithstanding their greatly superior provisions. Like it nor not, we have a peculiar cycling culture here, of the "vehicular cyclist" and they have rights too - even if one often gets the feeling that their lobbyists don't think the other kind should have rights in turn.

    ps: does anyone have a good snappy term to describe bicycle users who are not vehicular cyclists? We can't frame ourselves in their terms by calling ourselves "non-vehicular cyclists".

  8. @Paul M - people on bicycles sounds good. The vehicular cyclist should take the lane or perhaps change to a different bridge. I think the time of listening to a minority within minority is over.
    If our aim is cycling levels which we see in NL we'd better learn from them and not try to reinvent the wheel and claim that we are oh so different.

  9. Just to clarify regarding some of the remarks about advance stop lines: the point of these is that some cyclists will want to choose to continue using the carriageway--and this is to facilitate that choice and display to motorists the important point that cyclists continue to have a right to use the carriageway. However, everyone else (the majority and even eventually the hardened vehicularists) will be able to use kerb-separated cycle lanes including for dedicated turns. I have based the design on Copenhagen, not the Netherlands--because the finish quality will be more achievable in the UK, whereas Dutch infrastructure is unattainably excellent at the moment. Richard Lewis--scheme layout designer.

  10. great work, richard...

    i wonder if lcc can start to work on a similar cycle and pedestrian friendly redesign for king's cross, as well? apparently reconstruction work will start there quite soon, too.. and the proposed improvements for cyclists to this very dangerous junction include... a new advanced stop line....’s-life-kings-cross-junction-safety-work-was-

  11. Out of curiosity, since TfL will undoubtedly cite this as an oh-so-important issue (even though it should be entirely secondary to safety): how does the potential flow of motorised traffic through the LCC design compare with the TfL design?

  12. I like it. My only concern is that the left hand turn taken northbound after the bridge seems very tight. Not sure whether a large lorry would be able to take the junction without running over the kerb.

  13. @paul m. Actually you're right about the London Assembly. There seems to be very little they can do to hold the Mayor and the relevant public authorities to account, aside from asking questions and demanding written responses.

  14. What is needed as a starting point is for the blackfriars cycle lanes to be a) mandatory at all times and b) have bollards segregating them from the main traffic as seen here (2nd picture down, admiralty arch)

    No HGVs can flatten cyclists and no buses and motorists can drift into the cycle lane if there are clearly visible bollards separating the two.

    Of interest - at the Admiralty Arch bollards - there is no competition between cyclists and motorists. It's a calmer experience for everyone by far. Pleasant, even.