Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Significant change in tone from City Hall on cycling but proof is in the pudding: Tottenham Court Road junction is a litmus test for Mayor's new strategy on cycling in London

TfL's proposal for Euston Circus - top of Tottenham Court
Road. Nirvana for cycling? Err, no.
Back in January, Transport for London issued its proposed re-design of Euston Circus for consultation. This is the junction at the top of Tottenham Court Road. 

It's a place with six lanes of motor traffic and virtually no safe, sensible bike access either north- or southbound. Not unless you like playing hopscotch with buses and lorries. 

So, you might wonder, what is TfL proposing to do here to make the junction safer for everyday Londoners to get on their bikes and hop over the Euston Road into town? Well, it proposes making the road narrower, with half as many lanes. Each lane will be nice and narrow. But don't worry, there'll be a small feeder lane for bikes. So, if you're very lucky, and there aren't any queues of motor traffic, or dozens of buses on this heavily bus-trafficked route, you might be able to squeeze yourself up to the junction and avoid being squashed by a lorry turning left. I exaggerate slightly but the fundamental truth is that, once again, Transport for London is mistakenly going about trying to make London a cycling city by squeezing people on bikes on to ever narrower roads and making them play human speed hump with the buses and lorries. 

This is not how they'd do it in New York. Or Copenhagen. 

The consultation period for Euston Circus ended back in February. What happens now is anyone's guess. But my assumption is that Transport for London is having a good old think about all the feedback it's received. It will either go ahead with its original scheme or it will amend it and come up with something that actually includes the sort of cycling infrastructure you'd let your kids cycle down to, say, the British Museum. 

Here's how Transport for London normally
designs bike lanes at junctions. Lambeth Bridge. Can you
spot the numerous danger spots deliberately designed
into this road layout? 
And I seriously hope that TfL considers doing the latter. Bournemouth council came out this week and announced it plans a network of cycle tracks that are "'Dutch style' cycle paths on a main road..suitable for primary aged children to cycle on." 

The new deputy chairman of Transport for London, Isabel Dedring, went even further, explaining that she wants to see a more standardised approach to junction design, similar to that being rolled out in New York, suggesting that people on bikes should expect a standard sort of treatment at a junction where it is clear "what level of protection they have, what their rights are, what they can expect motorists to do, and all those kinds of things."She's absolutely right to flag these things.

I reckon the plans for Euston Circus are exactly the sort of junction that Transport for London needs to get absolutely right this time. 

They have the money. They have plenty of space in both north and southbound direction. They have a large and dangerous junction. And they have an entire cast of politicians and their senior TfL leadership suggesting they need to get junction design right. 

I'd like to see a junction here that is suitable for my mum to cycle through. Or my young niece. Question is, whether Transport for London will get it right this time. It has had plenty of time to put its thinking cap on. And it has no excuse not to. Mr Hendy, here's a junction where you can prove you've learnt that, as cycling increases, you had better design it in the best way you can for cycling. Your words, not mine.