Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Tottenham Court Road - Boris announces a 'world class cycling city' in Davos today and builds a 'worst class' cycling city on the ground. Send in your comments now. Six motor lanes reduced to three and still 'there's no room' for cycle path. Even Boris Johnson's 'fiddly thing' is cut off at its tip

TfL's plans for Euston Circus - top of Tottenham Court Road/Warren Street
Today, Boris Johnson told world leaders at Davos that London will host a 'world class two day festival of cycling next year'.While Boris makes London sound like a world-class cycling city, his officials are busy getting on with designing a worst-class cycling city on the ground. One that alienates cyclists and manages to wind up drivers simultaneously. Here's how:

Talking about the bizarre bike paths at the top of Tottenham Court Road Boris Johnson said this: "You get to that bit where you come to the underpass, and then the cycle route takes you on a sort of fiddly thing, where you go over… there’s a path, and you’ve got lots of oncoming pedestrians, and then you’re invited to cross at a traffic light, and so on and so forth."

He's kind of right. There is a sort of fiddly thing. It's that green squiggle that is the bike lane (shown above) which you can use to come off the Euston Road, then cross two lanes of motor traffic and then hop into an advance stop box at the top of Tottenham Court Road. 

And pictured above is the new plan that TfL proposes here. Keeping Boris Johnson's 'fiddly thing' in pride of place. Although they chop off the end of it and dump you in that bicycle box at the end of Tottenham Court road so you can't cycle westbound any more. So, they've chopped off the end of Boris's 'fiddly thing' and made it look and feel an awful lot worse.

What's really happening here is that five lanes (six if you include the slip roads) are being reduced to three. And there's still apparently 'no room' for a decent bike route through here. Which is complete bunk and they know it.

Plenty of space for this sort of thing at Warren St junction.
Clearly no space for a bike lane though?!
Head south and the slip road that turns left towards Euston Road is going. But there's no bike path to get you past the queues of stinking buses and motor vehicles clogging up the road, waiting for the traffic lights. There's plenty of space for a bike path all the way up to the junction here but the road space is used for white lines instead that take up the middle of the road. Similar to these white lines down the middle of the road here. Lots of room to create a bike lane. But no, let's just put some hatchings down the middle of the street instead. 

Want to head south from Camden? Take the two lane dual carriageway into Gower Street with its gentle race track curves and then pace for what your worth down this charming urban race track - Another 1960s gyratory but with wider pavements and cycling infrastructure benefits from some, err, advanced stop boxes. 

There are some merits. Less slip road and simpler paths through the junction. That is probably going to calm the place down a bit. The removal of the slip roads is good. But why not make this a space you could cycle through with your kids to the shops or into the West End? Not going to happen. Oh well. 

What's happening is that the roads are being made narrower for all vehicles - motor cars, buses, HGVs and bicycles ALL get to share less space. Pavements get made wider. And there is suddenly 'no space for a bike lane'. 

This is exactly what's happened on streets like Cheapside in the City of London. As I said a few months ago, I can think of no better way to simultaneously wind up car andd bus drivers AND make cycling less pleasant and more dangerous in one sweep. 

It's deeply depressing. Boris Johnson has announced a complete review of cycling and safety in London (to replace the one he has been ignorning since 2005, in fact) The point is people have to feel that it's safe enough for them to opt to take a bicycle. Those of us who already cycle kind of put up with it. But even Transport for London admits that very significant numbers of people would cycle instead of driving or packing on the bus if they felt safe enough (depends on the question but numbers vary between 27% and 51% of all Londoners saying they would cycle here and would like to cycle more if they felt safe enough). This sort of scheme will do nothing to achieve that. And that's my problem with it.
Cycling will always be a minority activity if it looks and
feels like this. More of the same coming to Tottenham Ct Road
There's one difference this time. Transport for London is actually consulting on the plans. TfL completely ignored 650+ letters asking it to change its design at Blackfriars and ignored two London Assembly votes as well as three mass flash mob protests attracting 2,500 people to protest. But I can just about summon up the energy to write a strong response. 

My tone will be broadly: It's better than it is now. But it falls very short of what I think would encourage me to cycle here with a 12 year old. Or with my mum. 

There is a page on the Transport for London website for your comments. Enter your comments on this page here

For more background, see this TfL page here