Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Good news for cycling from City of London, Transport for London and Southwark Council - Real coordination taking place on the Waterloo bike route and masses of new cycle contraflows in the Square Mile

Firstly, an update on the story at Upper Ground - the main Waterloo to City of London bicycle link. Southwark Council last night issued a press release confirming what I'd posted on this blog last week, namely that Southwark Council "will not close [the route] until a full Traffic Safety Audit has been carried out which will pin point the best alternative routes in the immediate area [and] will continue to work with cyclists, Transport for London and the developers involved, to find safer routes in the vicinity."I'm impressed that Southwark has a) held its hand up and admitted it should have handled the closure of this vital cycle route better in the first place and b) once it realised its mistake, that Southwark has reacted quickly and efficiently to bring relevant parties together to try and resolve the problem.

One of the first contraflow cycle routes in the City of London.
More coming soon. 
What's equally impressive, though, is what is happening behind closed doors elsewhere:

My understanding is that (partly as a result of Southwark's initially clunky handling of the bike route closure?), Transport for London was not involved in the decision to close the Waterloo to City bike route. There's no reason why TfL should be involved in the closure itself. But Southwark's proposal was to shove people from the safe cycle route on to busy TfL roads instead (namely Stamford Street and Blackfriars Road) - thereby making this a TfL problem.

It seems that in the few days since the team at Southwark Cyclists and this blog raised the issue of the bike route closure, Transport for London has been fully engaged with Southwark Council and the two authorities are working cooperatively to come up with alternative routes. This is how things should be. It means that both of the authorities responsible for the roads around this area are working together to think about how to enable people to travel safely and conveniently around London. We need more of this elsewhere in London too.

I've been led to believe that TfL is keen not to close the Upper Ground cycle route if at all possible.  That doesn't mean that the closure is avoidable. But it does mean that the right people are trying to find proper alternatives by working together. I've also been told that Southwark and TfL are reviewing the entire corridor between Blackfriars Bridge and St George's Circus (down at the end of the nasty and intimidating drag race strip that is Blackfriars Road) with a view to making it radically safer and more convenient to cycle along. There's plenty of space to do something meaningful along this corridor to improve bicycle transport. It may be some years before we actually see that emerge on the ground but it's clear that senior people at both Transport for London and at Southwark are thinking constructively about how to make bicycle transport more practical and safer along this corridor. That's good. It would benefit everyone to change this street - which is currently something of an express sewer pipe for several lanes of motor vehicles to floor it from one end to the other - into a place that is safe and pleasant for everyone.

But that's not all that's happening on the cycling front.

Lots more of these signs heading to the Square Mile soon
Over the other side of the Bridge, in the City of London, the authorities have announced that they intend to turn nearly 30 one-way streets two-way for cycling. One of the most interesting developments is the idea to create a series of two-way cycle routes in the streets around Bank junction that would act like a sort of cyclist bypass, allowing people to cycle around the outside of 3/4 of Bank without having to negotiate the junction itself. Given that Bank is one of the most dangerous junctions in London and is in any case horribly slow and congested to cycle through, I think this is a hugely positive step.

The proposals will be listed on the City of London's website by next week and the stated intention is to:

·      Improve safety by providing alternatives to some of the busiest City streets.
·      Improve local access for all traffic where possible.
·      Improve provision and facilities for people who cycle.
·      Reduce journey distances and times.

A summary of the streets affected is listed below.

Streets Proposed for Contraflow Cycling
Carey Lane
Dowgate Hill
Gutter Lane
Old Jewry
Basinghall Street
Cloak Lane
Finch Lane
Ironmonger Lane
Portsoken St
Birchin Lane
College Hill
Foster Lane
Moor Lane
Seething Lane
Bouverie Street
College Street
Great Swan Alley
Muscovy Street
St Mary Axe
Bow Lane
Copthall Avenue
Gr.StThomas Apostle
Nicholas Lane
Whitefriars St
Bride Lane
Crutched Friars
Great Winchester St
Noble Street

Streets Proposed for Two-way Traffic for All Vehicles
Bridewell Place
Carmelite Street
Foster Lane
Seething Lane
Tallis Street

I think this is fantastic news. It is all the more impressive when you consider that in neighbouring Westminster, one-way streets rules supreme. Ever tried cycling through Soho or Mayfair? You simply can't cycle sensibly through the West End without deviating down big one-way diversions which have the effect of making cycling impractical and often downright dangerous. So, hat's off to the City of London for this bold move. 

My issue with the City of London's plans remains, however, that the Square Mile lacks an overall plan for cycling. That is amply demonstrated by the latest batch of the City of London Area Plans which state the City's intention to "Review the current hierarchy of cycling routes, and explore the possibility of encouraging alternative routes through the quieter streets of Hackney and Islington." Do they want to make cycling practical and safe in the City or don't they?

Nonetheless, the addition of contraflow cycling in many one-way streets is very positive. But those streets need to link to other routes and create a viable network that flows in the directions people want and need to go. The contraflows will help people who are intrepid enough to want to try out new routes down a network of higgledy piggledy back streets. But that's only ever going to represent a small cross section of people.

If the City could link its network of quiet routes, connect them properly, especially where they cross large roads, there is a realistic chance of seeing a genuine cycle network through the Square Mile. But it will also need to consider optimising some more major routes for cycling, not simply go about narrowing all the through routes and expecting cyclists to stick to a network of second-class back routes that don't link to anywhere in particular.


  1. I shall await with interest the proposals for Bridewell Place – do they intend that southbound traffic on New Bridge St should be able to turn right into here, or just that northbound traffic should be able to turn left? At the moment there is a single light phase to permit traffic to exit Bridewell Place across the traffic to the southbound lane only.

    In the spirit of heaven rejoicing more over one sinner that repenteth than ten righteous men, I certainly think we should celebrate the cycle contraflow proposals. These have clearly accelerated, as we have managed about a dozen (including general 2-ways) in each of the last two years and now we are talking about 34 more. Although of course it was first necessary to get the City’s Policy & Resources Committee on-side – achieved by proving to them that the first batch had not led to the sky falling in over their heads, despite their confident predictions that it would – the running has been made substantially by the highways dept staff including the cycling officers. Now that P&R has approved the principle (as indeed they had no choice but to do, although I suspect that many of its members were grinding their teeth as they did so) the staff can carry on as long as they can scratch together the relatively modest budgets required, and they have been assisted by the law change which permits them to sign no-entries simply as “Except Cycles” instead of substituting for the flying motorcycle sign.

    Getting a result on the various are strategies, with their toxic Cheapside-style road-narrowing schemes, is somewhat above their pay grade. Hopefully lots of people will write in to the consultations email addresses and press home the point so just possibly there cold be a change of heart on that score.

    Getting acceptance of the need for a coherent, consistent, City wide plan which links to neighbouring boroughs strikes me as something which will only happen if TfL descends from Mount Sinai with commandments engraved in tablets of stone. I have no doubt that the same is true anywhere – relying on amateurish local pols with bees in their bonnets about heaven knows what is a futile exercise: we need the same determination of national policy and standards to govern local authority cycle provision which already governs basic highway design and the schools curriculum.

  2. Crutched Friars is already mainly contraflow, I assume this refers to the small section between the junctions of Crosswall and India Street.

    I am bitterly disappointed that Coopers Row is not listed - this is a major barrier for those who wish to go northwards from Trinity Square.

    This is indeed a reason for celebration, but the area plans remain to be tackled and do nothing for cycling. The idea that by opening up small streets to two-way buys into the idea that cyclists can be shoved elsewhere (including into Hackney) and the main routes can be retained for cars, buses and endless taxis. In my response to the Fenchurch consultation I questioned whether at least one major route in this area might be closed to through traffic. Lower and Upper Thames streets remain a disgrace, and need radical work to divert through traffic out of the City. I realise with the large number of pedestrians and narrow streets, cycle lanes are not practical on every route, but if the 20mph limit were imposed and traffic volumes were reduced, that would start to make the City safer and friendlier for us all.

  3. With regard to the developments planned for the City, anything which increases the permeability of the bicycle is always to be welcomed, so let me extend my appreciation to everyone involved. Obviously the proposed changes have very little strategic value, but even so, this is a very positive development.

    In particular, I think credit must go to the City authorities for making so many changes at once. I hope other boroughs sit up and take note.

    I do disagree with your assessment of the cyclist by-pass around Bank, however. This was a favorite strategy of the original LCN, and it just doesn't work. The fact is, if you're already cycling in London, to get to Bank you've probably had to negotiate who knows how many other dangerous junctions, and one more isn't going to make much difference at all. Moreover, if you're heading east to west, the by-pass route obliges you to make a number of right-turns, and I know for certain that some cyclists are really not comfortable with this.

    The main issue with the City of London's proposals is the lack of an overall network plan, as you point out. And this leads me on to Paul M's comment, which says:

    "Getting acceptance of the need for a coherent, consistent, City-wide plan which links to neighbouring boroughs strikes me as something which will only happen if TfL descends from Mount Sinai with commandments engraved in tablets of stone."

    Now this approach has been tried before, with the LCN+, and that didn't work either. If TfL tried to force their will on the boroughs, in favour of cycling, say, some of them would simply refuse to cooperate, and if necessary, let the courts decide.

    This is what I proposed to the TfL Task Force:

    "The best way to approach the development of a cycle network is from the top-down. This global approach is given the name 'voluntarist' policy. I think all London boroughs should be obliged to do the minimum necessary in order to get the network to function. Those that want to go further than this - and I am sure that there are several who would - should be encouraged and enabled to do so."

    What do I mean by "the minimum necessary"? To my mind, it means making the route available to two-way cycle traffic, and ensuring that the routes are properly waymarked.

  4. It really does help to have a clear idea for whom this network would be designed, and what purpose would be served by its introduction.

    I am very clear that this network would serve the needs of existing cyclists, primarily, and would also appeal to those people on the margin, the ones who are most likely to start cycling.

    But as I say, primarily this network would be for existing cyclists. Indeed, I have never understood why there is such a pressing demand to develop a cycle network for people who don't yet cycle, since they're not the ones who are being killed on their bikes! Surely you would first develop a network for the people who are being killed on their bikes, and then set about the harder-to-deliver task of strengthening the invitation to cycle such that it would appeal to a broader section of the population. And before the LCC say anything about routes which function at a minimum level doing NOTHING to make cycling conditions safer, 70-80% of existing cyclists say that the Cycle Superhighways help to make them feel safer.

    That's not to say I approve of the proposed layout of Millbank roundabout, say, or the widening of pavements, because I don't. But we might take note of this comment from David Arditti:

    "The big thing that tends not to be understood in the UK about segregated cycle lanes, Dutch-style, is that their main purpose is not safety, per se, as cycling is inherently quite safe anyway; it is the prioritisation of space for cycle traffic. It is, in other words, to give the bike a competitive advantage in the struggle for space on the roads, which makes bike journeys quicker and more efficient, as well as more pleasant. There is no other effective method of preventing parking, loading, queuing, bus and taxi stopping in cycle space, and general obstruction by motor vehicles, other than physical segregation. This is why it is used so extensively on the continent."

    And what purpose would be served by the introduction of this network? Well, first and foremost, it establishes it. That is to say, what is well done once, is well done for ever. From here, the only way is up.

    The establishment of a functioning network is entirely possible if people are prepared to accept the prudence of introducing it to a minimum level of functioning. I don't see the point of putting the ball in TfL's court just yet; let's bat it over to the LCC first and see what they have to say, given that they are the most vociferous opponents of this approach.

  5. @bikemapper

    Briefly, a network like you describe for existing cyclists isn't going to happen - or if it does, it'll be exactly what's there already, with added signs or a bit of coloured paint. Wayfinding, essentially - and most existing cyclists know where they're going already. The kind of modifications that actually make things significantly safer take up considerable road space, and mostly cost a lot of money. On the other hand, it's almost exactly the same modifications that make cycling feel much easier and safer for people who don't currently dare to cycle. The only way we're going to get a network that's better than the existing roads (and that makes things significantly safer for existing cyclists) is by arguing that it will also lead to changes in modal share (as people move away from driving), and reduced congestion - and that the money will have been spent for everyone, not the 2% who cycle already...

    1. Are the readers of this blog so blinded by ideology? A strategic cycle network for London was first proposed by the LCC in the late 70s. Thirty-five years later we are now having this discussion.

      A network which functions at a minimum level is a first step! We plan the network, we study the feasibility of the network, and then what do we do? Introduce all at once or one piece at a time? Answer the question, why don't you!?

      This network would have routes that allow two-way cycle traffic, which is not something to be sniffed at. And as for the comment which says that most existing cyclists know where they're going already, this is so incredibly macho.

      Mike Wilson has said: "I occasionally park in Hyde Park and cycle to Holborn. Never taken the same route twice - just know general direction and take off. Sometimes my life is in danger, other times I go along a network of quiet back roads."

      Sorting this sort of thing out, making the best use of what is currently available, establishing the network, making one-way streets available to two-way cycle traffic, and so on, are all worthy goals that can be achieved within the next mayoralty. But how funny it is that Paul M should expect TfL to come down from the mountain without requiring cycling ideologues to budge even an inch.

    2. @ Anonymous

      You say that a network introduced to a minimum level of functioning isn't going to happen, or if it does happen, it'll be exactly the same as what's there already, except with improved waymarking.

      Firstly, even if this were true, so what? Not every single cyclist knows the best way to get from A to B. Indeed, research has revealed that "not knowing where to go" is actually a major obstacle for many people.

      Route confirmation markers on the road couldn't possibly make conditions any worse, that's for sure, might make them a little bit better even, could be implemented quickly and cheaply, and would serve as a not unreasonable stopgap until more highly engineered solutions can be delivered. What's wrong with that?

      Indeed, what is the point of not waymarking those sections which are 'substandard, still to be upgraded'? What do we gain from pursuing this way forward? How does this approach help existing cyclists?

      Secondly, please don't turn this into something it's not. The proposal we're being asked to consider isn't just a wayfinding measure (though for some reason, the LCC insist on regarding it as such). It includes many routes through the so-called 'cycling wastelands', such as parks and one-way streets, which, according to KatieP, a 51 year-old from Camden, "would make cycling a whole lot more attractive/feasible, and safe to so many people".

  6. @ fruityblue..

    Where's the ideology?

    The question here is, what's the point of the network?

    If it's just to point you down some quieter streets, with maybe a few little interventions where they don't disturb the motor traffic - but still making forcing you to cycle with heavy traffic and HGVs on the wide, fast roads, the rat runs, the gyratories where there's no other option - then that's one thing - but that's what the existing bits of LCN already do - one could improve them a bit, sure, but it won't do much.

    If it's to make things actually safer - then that's a different matter. It needs money, and it needs public support to transfer road space away from motor traffic.

    There's clearly a solution here - which is to map out a network, but also to say that it should have a consistent standard of safety everywhere (say, safe for children of 12 to cycle on their own.). Clearly, this can't be achieved immediately, everywhere. So the map will need to consist of bits of network that are already at the required standard, and sections that will be labelled 'substandard, still to be upgraded.'. Then, when it comes to finding the resources and support to deal with the difficult bits (vauxhall bridge and gyratory, say..) one can point to the network map, and say - this is the missing link, and when it's completed to standard, we'll have a route for everyone from Oval to Victoria (or whatever)... which is good enough to help change modal shares...

    1. You ask, what is the point of the network? It wouldn't matter even if I told you, because you're not listening.

    2. I completely disagree with Anonymous. The solution he is proposing is exactly the same one employed by the architects of the original LCN.

      Get the network up and running!

  7. @fruityblue (&tom hyde)

    ok, let's turn this around. what (exactly) is the goal of your network (in the short, and the long term) -in terms of safety, in terms of wayfinding, in terms of who you expect to use it? and what steps do you think one should take to get from here to there (in order)?

    1. For a more detailed response, please see this article published on the Movement for Liveable London website.

      1. Think in terms of a network.

      Only by studying a cycle route network will it be possible to truly grasp the situation. (p.40, Cycling: the way ahead)

      2. Plan the network.

      Analyse journeys — origin/destination (headcounts, statistics, interviews). (p.56, Cycling: the way ahead)

      Design from patterns to details.

      3. Study the feasibility of the network.

      Studying the feasibility of a network is of a similar importance to setting up a cycling unit or appointing a cycling coordinator. (p.57, Cycling: the way ahead)

      4. Introduce the network.

      The level of minimum functioning is a prudent course to follow. (p.56, Cycling: the way ahead)

      5. Develop the network.

      Implement the network on the basis of priority interventions and a timetable. (p.56, Cycling: the way ahead)

      The key here is sustained investment.

      * * *

      Let's consider Stewart's journey (below). He wants to get from Islington to west of Aldgate. The route he would probably prefer to take is C8 - City Circular route. But the problem is, of course, that the C8 route is not yet functional, that is, it does not allow two-way cycle traffic (see this article from Cycling Intelligence). I mean, it's nearly functional, isn't it? Nearly, but not quite.

      Now, it would be much easier to resolve this situation, and many others in a similar vein, as part of a London-wide, co-ordinated, co-operative effort.

      Once we have the network up and running, we have a solid base. That would be a very good thing, I believe, not least because it is almost impossible to build from a base which is constantly shifting. However, because we are working with a range of different authorities, some of whom are really quite timorous in their attitude towards the bike, it's not tactically very prudent to insist that the bar is set too high at this early stage.

  8. By discussing City of London cycling policy, cycle lane closures and ways to avoid nasty junctions, this article gets very close to my biggest current cycling frustration - the closure of a tiny stretch of cycle lane near Aldgate.

    I cycle to work from Islington to just West of Aldgate, not a long or difficult journey but due to the mess of one-way streets and traffic lights that forms the City, an awkward and potentially dangerous one. One thing I hate doing is cycling 3/4 of the way round the Aldgate roundabout - a cycling hell, perhaps not quite rivalling Elephant & Castle and Bow but not far off. Fortunately, there is a handy little cycle path that enables me (and many others) to cut right off Hounsditch though to Creechurch Lane and Leadenhall Street. Or at least there was until last week when builders closed the cycle lane so they can park their vans on it. Now I am faced with either risking my neck on Aldgate or cycling backwards down one of a number of one-way streets or on pavements to get to work.

    Here is an example of a route that runs around a busy junction (like that proposed at Bank) that has been closed for building work (like Upper Ground) with apparently no thought from the authority (here, the City of London) for alternative cycling routes. What is the point of the City of London planning to increase cycleable routes if they just close them on whim to form temporary car parks?

  9. Back to the City, and the question of 1-way for motors and 2-way for cycles, is it too simplistic of me to consider the ultimate aim to be:

    - blanket square mile 20mph limit (the ring-of-steel chicanes mark an obvious and natural point to switch from 30 to 20)
    - major roads: segregated cycle lanes & 2-way motors
    - backstreets: 1 way for motors with ability for cycles to go contraflow. probably no need for markings/segregation here.

    i might even be so bold as to suggest that only Upper/Lower Thames St, Queen Vic St, Ludgate Hill, Cannon St, Newgate St, Cheapside, London Wall, Moorgate, Princes St, King Bill St and Gracechurch St would be "major" i.e. qualify for 2-way motor traffic.