Wednesday, 16 November 2011

National embarrassment: TfL builds cycle lane to Olympics. Two people killed already. Tells cyclists not to use it.

This video shows the cycle route to the Olympics from start to finish. Bear in mind, this looks like a Sunday when the bus lane is in operation (only six hours a day) and that on most days the road is considerably busier than this. Mid-week or outside the bus lane times (ie most of the time), both lanes are packed with motor traffic, parked cars, a lot of HGVs. Most of the time you're not protected by a bus lane in any case and the Super Highway is just some blue paint. There are some massive junctions on this route with no space given to cycling. Especially towards the end of the video, you can see just how much spare space there is to create a safe junction for people on bikes at Bow. At the London Cycling Campaign AGM last night the people who met with Transport for London officials to survey the route when it was planned said that Transport for London had agreed then and there to build radically safer space for cyclists to get through these junctions. For some reason, TfL then chose not to implement those designs and built something on the cheap instead. No-one really knows why.

Leon Daniels, the man who is in charge of London's roads thinks this is the way that families and visitors should travel to the Olympics. On his blog, he quotes information that has been parroted elsewhere by Transport for London: "One of my correspondents stated recently that there is no provision for cyclists at the Olympic Games. This is not true!"

The best definition I have seen of the route to the Olympics is by a woman who cycles the route regularly: "If I were either the Mayor of London or Barclays, I would be absolutely furious, utterly livid, at what is being done to cyclists in my name."

Let's just be clear, this is a route that has killed two people on their bikes in the last few weeks.

Olympic cycle route - pic courtesy
London Cycling Campaign
This isn't rocket science. As the London Cycling Campaign points out, there are two main routes for people to get to and from the Olympics by bicycle:

One option is along the Cycle Super Highway pictured left, underneath the left turning lorry. There is masses of space here for alternative solutions - for a bike route that isn't shared with lorries for example. It wouldn't even require the removal of any road space from motor vehicles (and by the way, this identical design with an identical left hand turn for lorries is about to be installed on Vauxhall gyratory)

Alternative route suggested by TfL?
pic courtesy London Cycling Campaign
The other option is to head over the flyover, pictured left.

As the London Cycling Campaign makes very clear, in a civilised city, neither of these options is acceptable.

The Cycle Super Highway scheme that has been  implemented here by Transport for London is killing people. The situation is so bad that TfL director Ben Plowden has promised to look "very closely" at the cycling superhighway which ran through the Bow Roundabout.

He also said cyclists would be advised to avoid the route, which runs to the Olympic Park, during next year's Games.

Get that?

Transport for London has spent millions building an impossibly dangerous bicycle route for families and visitors to cycle to the Olympics. And a Transport for London director is now telling people not to use it, only months after it opened.

The thing is, the only other routes which avoid it are shut for the Olympic works.

Frankly, it's a bloody disgrace. The Olympics are meant to leave a legacy to London. Transport for London could have built a proper, wide, safe cycle route along this road. There is tonnes and tonnes of space to do that. But it chose not to. I feel it chose to build a bike lane on the cheap so as not to interfere with its agenda of 'smoothing traffic flow' for motor vehicles. 

Let's just put that in perspective. Here is another video from a cyclist going around Bow roundabout.

The fundamental problem is that TfL et al. want us to cycle and walk more - but are not prepared to compromise traffic flow in order to help us do this."

Paris has an entire cycle network that criss-crosses the entire city from end to end. It looks like this.

One bigger routes, the cycle paths are significantly wider. I'm not saying London cycle paths should look identical to this. And Paris is not cycling perfection. But it's building a hguely different cycle and street culture to London. Paris has built something that says this-is-designed-for-safe-easy-cycling all over it. London's Cycle Super Highways say this-is-designed-for-cars-and-you-cyclists-can-just-fit-in-and-try-not-to-get-killed.

Very different.

Paris was a contender for the Olympics. Do you think you would have been able to cycle safely to a Paris Olympics?

I think I'd much rather take my car to the Olympics in London thanks.

What you've built out to Bow, Boris Johnson, is a national disgrace. It should have been built properly and you should have made sure of that.

If you want to see a blistering review of just how much space there is for cycle infrastructure and just how TfL has completely and utterly ballsed it up, have a look at this blog as well.  For a more measured and balanced view from the excellent local diamondgeezer blog, see this piece.

There will be vigil this Friday at Bow roundabout in memory of the two cyclists killed there in recent weeks. Click here for more information.

The London Cycling Campaign is petitioning the Mayor to sort Bow junction properly. It takes 20 seconds to send your petition. Click here for more details.


  1. nice post. thanks.

    i'm wondering how long before TfL decides the routes are too dangerous, and simply scrubs them out - not replacing them at all. i can imagine that happening.

  2. I whole-heartedly agree that the cycling superhighways are ill thought out and, as we have seen, can be down right dangerous.

    To play devil's advocate, I don't think the first video is necessarily a good indication of this. The cyclist doesn't actually use the cycling superhighway, which can be seen empty and clear on the left for the majority of the video and instead filters through traffic, which arguably can be more dangerous. The van pulling out on the cyclist near the junction is an example of this. Although I can understand why they wouldn't use it, stopping buses and left turning traffic, for example. So what would be a better solution than the superhighway in this case on an obviously busy route into London from the east?

    This video does show that the superhighways are lacking at junctions, though. That junction in Mile End is particularly bad for cyclists AND pedestrians. There are a lot of left turners going that direction and there has been at least one fatality as there used to be a ghost bike there.

    I have never cycled around Bow roundabout or even seen the superhighway so the video of this is enlightening and saddening. It directly puts cyclists in harms way from left turning traffic and also encourages cyclists to filter down the left side, which can be disastrous.

  3. The whole cycle superhighways thing is a joke - you can't create a safe infrastructure for cyclists just by putting a bit of blue paint down on some of the busiest and most dangerous roads in the city.


  4. Funny seeing someone hold up Paris as an example of a good citizen here... Amsterdam, maybe, but Paris? Cycling in Paris is something of a nightmare. There are some nice cycle lanes along some major thoroughfares, but try cycling across l'Etoile or Place de la Concorde, or anychere near Haussmann/Opera and tell me that Paris is great for cyclists...


  5. Don't try to pass left turning lorries on the inside. Use the advanced stop zone and be visible to the drivers waiting behind you. In short, avoid being squashed by being sensible.

    The flyover carries a clear warning that it's "not suitable for bicycles", as if common sense wasn't enough.

    It'd be nice if the feeder lane before the Bow interchange wasn't permanently blocked by waiting traffic. The temporary solution is to wait behind the traffic.

    Until someone demonstrates that the accidents are caused by motorists or by killer design flaws, rather than by the actions of the cyclists themselves, I'll withhold support for the continuing stream of whinging about cycle lanes.

    By the way - you can't have done much cycling in Paris if you think it's worth London aspiring to.

  6. Afraid I'm going to echo Alice and Anonymous above. For better or worse I'm a confident cyclist in London and have neither looked forward to the CS routes nor used them regularly since their introduction. I've also never thought of them as marking safe zones. Was that ever their intention?

    I fail to see how the Bow Blue Line would have had any affect on the tragic incidents unless the cyclist was at fault. But please correct me if you have more information - it's worrying having so many fatalities at so many locations near to my entire commute.

  7. Anonymous (1) - The flyover is used by cyclists, including me, and I consider it safer than the roundabout as you are more visible to traffic - the roundabout is simply horrible with multiple streams of fast moving traffic. There have been fatalities involving lorries and cyclists where the driver was at fault and was convicted. Including, if I remember, one involving a drunk driver texting. So I wouldn't bank on the assumption that simply not undertaking left turning lorries will stop cyclists being squashed.

  8. Anonymous (2) - The issue at Bow is that, not only is a terrible cycling junction to begin with, but the blue paint shepherds one to the left (with a divider between CS2 and the carriageway) and then past the exit roads. CS2 in general is a poor compromise, much of the road is two lanes and the inner lane has simply been painted blue for half the width. Use the blue paint and get close passed or take the whole lane and get harassed by motorists who think you should be in "your" lane. At these points CS2 not only doesn't afford the cyclist any help or protection, it directs cyclists to the most dangerous road positions.

  9. As a final comment, I cycled over Bow Flyover today (Eastbound), and got passed by a Royal Mail van doing way over the 30mph limit. I would hazard they were travelling around 50mph. If the 30mph limit was actually policed (as opposed to some pleading signs on lampposts) it might be a start.

  10. Good post Danny! Although it was plain to see for anyone cycling, only now does it come to the attention of everyone else that CSH were a "there, I fixed it!" gesture from TfL. Since "confident cyclists" have no use of it and don't even bother and it offers no protection whatsoever to the average cyclist it's plain to see it was a complete waste of money. As I've mentioned many times before I'd rather see one continuous, coherent and Dutch quality route than 8 routes like those.
    Just wanted to point out - it's great that experienced cyclists find there's nothing wrong with London streets, but please don't be selfish and elitist - think about normal people who don't like to battle for their survival every time they go to work or who'd like to cycle with their children, and support calls for Dutch-style infrastructure.

  11. Does Seb Coe have an opinion on the legacy left to London - two dead ? He might be able to increase pressure on TfL.

    Lord Coe: London 2012 Organising Committee Chair.

    1. Think Coe would be interested. Take a look at the sponsors for the Olympics. People still dieing in India because of the BOPAL chemical disaster.

  12. Don't try to pass left turning lorries on the inside. Use the advanced stop zone and be visible to the drivers waiting behind you. In short, avoid being squashed by being sensible.

    Doesn't work if the lorry driver behind you creeps forward whilst waiting at the lights so you end up in his blind spot anyway.

    I was parked in the middle of the lane and so he straddled the white line and then turned left in front of me when the lights changed.

    Genuinely amazed I survived that one, had to get onto the pavement and have a bit of a wobble.

  13. Hi, I was aware after I posted that my first paragraph might sound elitist! I was going to put it as a p.s. to maybe give some context to my comments, but it ended up being more negative than intended.

    I suppose my feelings stem from a disbelief that a city of the size and road type of London can shoehorn safe cycle paths into existing tarmac. To an extent that would be safe for all cycling abilities and levels of confidence anyway. So with no good suggestions of my own I just make do.

  14. When is everyone (including bicycle advocates) going to take a good hard look at the studies that have been done (such as the 1998-99 Aultman-Hall studies in Canada and the 2007-08 Jensen and Agerholm studies in Denmark) and realize what the studies have been saying all along - bicycle paths and bike lanes are INHERENTLY DANGEROUS!

    An unmarked road is safest to cycle on precisely because it does not insert any complications in the form of markings or coloured stripes. When cyclists behave as any other vehicle, people around them know how to deal with them. Segregation of any kind does not work and it creates an us vs. them mentality. The US found this out during the race riots of the 1960s. It applies equally to transportation.

    All that's needed for cyclists to be safe on the road is for transportation designers to switch their mentality from segregation to integration and start educating cyclists and drivers to use the road properly and to respect each other as equal users of the road. This worked from the 1890s all the way to the 1960s. As a proponent and practitioner of road cycling, I can assure everyone that there's no reason it can't work today.

  15. Totally agree with Beery. When cycling, I always feel safer when I use the road ike I do when I am driving. (As for as possible)

    I will be publishing articles about Cycling at The London Olympics

  16. Sooner or later the people holding the purse string will work out that a cycling infrastructure across London is THE ONLY viable transport solution to congestion in London ... it'll be unpopular but the public are going to have to get behind cycling or face gridlock


    Cycling Optimist ;)

  17. Aaaaaaaaaarghhh. Did my route to the olympics today to get some wine from waitrose at westway and was so pissed off by the time I got there. The journey up the canal and through Victoria park was wonderful, but why is the Greenway closed and why is the cycle path leading up to the westway on pavement that will be full of clueless pedestrians? Also cycle parking is minimal when you get there. This could have all been planned beautifullY for the GREEN OLYMPICS. Again cars are well planned for but and pedestrians are directed through a shopping metropolis but little if any thought for cyclists.