Thursday, 29 November 2012

Transport for London plans upgrade to Bow roundabout junction: Genuinely impressed by these proposals and first sign that TfL is beginning to "think bicycle". But why has the rest of the Super Highway route been ignored?

TfL's proposal to upgrade the junction approach for cyclists
travelling through Bow roundabout. More details on
TfL's website.
Earlier this week, Transport for London published its plans to upgrade the westbound cycle super highway at Bow roundabout.

Astonishingly, they're rather good.

TfL has clearly listened and come up with plan that is several times better than the solution it built earlier this year on the other side of the roundabout heading eastbound. You can see my review of what the eastbound scheme looks like in this post.

The eastbound junction features a standard cycle super highway lane (some blue paint) leading up to a small section of segregated bike track that is a few metres long. The bike track leads to an advanced stop box where cyclists can wait and then (in theory) move off slightly earlier than other road traffic, which is held on red for a whopping three more seconds behind the cyclists.
Approaching Bow roundabout heading eastbound.
The car is parked perfectly legally in the
bike lane, which makes it difficult to
actually get to the protected bike track.
No improvements planned on this side of the
roundabout. Oddly.

The reality of cycling eastbound is somewhat different. You can see one of the problems in the picture on the left: It's almost impossible to actually get into the segregated bike track because the road space in front of it is either filled with cars waiting for the traffic lights or cars parked (legally) in the entrance to the bike track. The second problem is that the advanced stop box is so small, it's often filled with cars and it doesn't provide any time for cyclists even get moving into the junction before the lights change for the cars, who race to overtake (and sometimes overtake and cut directly in front of) the cyclists.

This new proposal for the westbound section of the roundabout is quite radical for TfL. It addresses quite thoroughly the two issues described above. By giving cyclists their own segregated bike track behind the bus stop, people will be able to cycle to the roundabout without having to weave in and out of parked or idling motor vehicles.

And the advanced stop box will be made much larger than the eastbound one - 18 metres in total. That means people should have enough time to get away from the traffic lights on their bikes before the cars behind them get a green light.

Cycle Super Highway 2 - most of the route is an utter joke. Literally,
just some blue paint along the road. This isn't a cycle track.
Picture courtesy: AsEasyAsRiding blog
The only obvious question is why on earth TfL hasn't sought fit to upgrade the eastbound cycle lane at the same time. It could apply an almost mirror-image version of this westbound scheme on the other side of the roundabout, instead of the current low-quality solution is has put in place.

Equally, given there is space along the entire length of the super highway, why isn't TfL applying this sort of thinking (protected bike lane, enough time to get across junctions without having to dodge the cars) along the whole stretch of the Super Highway all the way from Whitechapel. You can read a thorough review of the whole super highway route on AsEasyAsRidingABike blog.

TfL is also looking at a further junction along this route (at Burdett Road junction) but the solution there is less than impressive. Basically, wider footpaths, squeezing motor and cycle traffic together. Why can't a similar high-quality approach be adopted at this junction as well rather than a wishy-washy compromise that doesn't really make things better for anyone ?

Overall, this proposal at Bow is the first time I've seen Transport for London come up with a design that really understands how a cyclist approaches a junction and how the needs of that cyclist are different to the needs of someone in a motor vehicle. It's the sort of design (almost) that you might expect in Denmark.

But if cycling is ever going to take off properly in London, what it needs is consistency. What Bow roundabout shows is that Transport for London is capable of developing high-quality proposals that will make it safer and easier for everyday journeys to be made by bike. But I question why TfL is not upgrading the eastbound approach to the roundabout to make it the same quality as this new westbound proposal or why TfL isn't building the same quality just a mile up the same stretch of the Cycle Super Highway at Burdett Road. This suggests to me that there's a real problem with providing a consistent degree of quality for safer cycling.

TfL is consulting on the Bow junction now. Please take two minutes to comment on the online questionnaire and add your thoughts.

You can find out more about the scheme on TfL's website.


  1. I can see cyclists ignoring the stop light for them on the filter lane, I presume that is going to be red when the cars light is green, it makes sense but I can see it as being counter productive, as cyclists can't then flow through the junction in one swoop.

    As a fairly quick cyclist, I would also hope that they make they cycle lane more than 2 wide. As it is on CS7 which I ride daily, any form of traffic and you can't pass another cyclist. I see this is used be design in the parks (clapham and hyde park for example), if you limit the space for cyclists as only 2 wide, then you slow down cycling and the risk of hurting pedestrians.

    The entry to this system is key for me. If we look at other systems like this, whilst the kerb is dropped, there can often be a bump that isn't safe to take at speed in the wet. Perhaps something like the following would be better -,-0.136181&spn=0.005372,0.010386&t=m&z=17&layer=c&cbll=51.422165,-0.136124&panoid=VdlPhRZX-f5Xp70XBNwRSQ&cbp=12,0.9,,0,15.43
    As you then aren't taking it at an angle.

    1. Through the bus stop section the cycleway is marked as being "at carriageway level"- it appears it ramps up to "footway level" beyond the bus stop. So hopefully that means no awkward angled not-dropped-far-enough kerb.

    2. You've hit the nail on the head – this two-stage-signal design means that cyclists using the facilities will *always* get a red light here, which doesn't sound like cycling is being prioritised to me.

      But not to moan too much – some of this stuff (the behind the bus stop stuff) looks pretty decent.

      I agree about the angle of entry though – at the moment it looks more like a left-turn. It needs to be like a motorway junction slip-road – smooth, level and at a very slight angle.

  2. So much better than the layout now, but 50 yards after Bow it is blue paint to the City. Perhaps this will get sorted next, but with proposals like Burdett Road, I doubt it, but maybe TfL is getting better? Hey, there is even a junction on the A12 out on the edge with a toucan which now goes green without needing to push a button!

  3. Starting to wonder about the questions in the consultations. This one asks 'Do you live in the area' and 'Do you work in the area'. I'd have to answer no to both of those. However, the answer to "do i ever cycle in this area" and "would I be more likely to go to this area by bike if the roads were safer" would get a 'yes'

    When assessing a junction for motor traffic TFL concern themselves with 'traffic flow'. When consulting on cycling they're concerned with local people - it seems slightly at odds.

  4. Very impressed overall with this - it's the start of something closer to thinking about cyclists properly. Yes, it looks like cyclists may always get a red but that might just be bad descriptive work - the one thing this does do it make it very clear to motorised traffic where they stop. There should be no excuses here for creep into the ASZ.

    But I'm not impressed by the consultation. No chance to see whether I cycle through, no chance to ask why they're not doing the same to the eastbound. Will emails count?

  5. Has anyone thought about the poor old pedestrian pensioner getting skittled over by cyclist?

  6. Basically its still crap and fundamentally flawed. A simple act of sitting outside the Three Mills Cafe between say 07.30 and 09.00 and actually observing what cyclists are doing gives the clue to the proper solution.

    CS2 is basically an East-West route as a radial commuting route in to London, journey times for cycling from Stratford are generally comparable with getting in to Stratford Station, waiting, and catching a train, and then getting from the station to where you want to be. Stratford, like Chiswick in the West is roughly the change-point, between cycling all the way and a cycle-rail/bus/tube option.

    So what does one see at the cafe? Well there isn't that much motor traffic going over the flyover (A11), it's all heading for the roundabout to get on to the A12/A102(M). Blocking back almost to the Cafe at times. However from a 20 minute count over 70% of the cyclists were going over the flyover, at times the only vehicles visible heading West over the flyover were bikes 15-20 of them strung out in a line. Most of the cyclists going over the top were confident enough to take the middle lane and ride cleanly through, but a few less confident ones cut over through the stationary/slowed down motor traffic at the foot of the ramp. One amazing rider blasted through passing the cars in the outside lane. The lack of motor traffic s reflected by the fact that the outer lane on the flyover is closed off by hatched lines, and during the Olympics both Eastbound and Westbound flyover carriageways were reduced to a single lane, and Eastbound cyclists had the near perfect delivery of the safe route, being able to cycle inside a line of cones across the flyover, and with a set of traffic signals regulating the motor traffic coming out from the Eastbound slip road. These traffic signals are essential because of the badly compromised road layouts on the east side of the roundabout that everyone seems to fail to mention - the slip roads on both sides have 2-way traffic with no dividing median, or prominent indications of this fact, approaching the roundabout there is a pigs breakfast of cut-through lanes to get Westbound traffic on the Eastbound slip road across to be Eastbound traffic on the Westbound slip road and vice verse, plus unsignalled links on and off the roundabout, and these linking lanes are abused by drivers who use these to queue jump by making illegal turns (left instead of right)

    Very few cyclists and pedestrians turn left or right to join the A12 or A102(M) (clue?) and those that are heading to the Three Mills (Big Brother) complex, Bromley-by Bow Station, etc could be taken directly to the service roads without actually going on to the roundabout, or be sent round via an earlier turning, or the Lee Navigation Towpath.

    Clearly the best way to minimise the risk is to remove the hazard entirely, and the key hazard arises from requiring cycle traffic to cross turning motor traffic at-grade. Clearly the majority of cyclists have worked this out already and are cycling over the flyover. A minority, who I suspect may be the less confident, and a very small number of pedestrians continue the risk their lives crossing at least two of the slip roads to & from the A12.

    The solution for those who still don't get it is to move the closed Westbound lane to the outer edge of the flyover and split it into a 1.5m wide footway and a 2.0m wide cycle route, doing likewise for the Eastbound carriageway. The build out already in place to prevent Westbound traffic driving head on into the Eastbound local traffic on the slip road, should be altered to provide the island for a signal controlled crossing that gets pedestrians and the less confident cyclists on to the Flyover Westbound and THE EXISTING traffic signals regulating the Eastbound slip road towards Stratford, linked in to providing the crossing on the other side at the Stratford end.

    1. I regularly cycle easstbound through the Bow roundabout in the morning, and very rarely take the Flyover route, the reason being the fact that the lane at the other end brings you out into a filter of potentially fast moving traffic coming off the A12, and cutting back over to the left can be a tad hazardous.

      Coming back home westbound I always go over the flyover rather than risk the "wacky races" that occur at the lights for the A12, and then stay right to go towards Angel Lane, so I avoid cutting back across the traffic.

      Even in a car this particular intercgange, is a nightmare of the highest order.

  7. Part 2

    This of course leaves the dilemma of what happens on the West (Bow) side of the flyover - well I reckon that the residents of Bradley House and the other LCC walk-up blocks might actually appreciate a light controlled crossing at the East end of Bow Church and the Westbound flyover already has signs calling for drivers to slow down coming in to Bow High Street and the Westbound slip road has hatching and space that can be vacated by the cycle lane to deliver the required island and filter-in for moving cycle traffic merging in to the motor traffic flows I do have an experimental option which could be used here a median strip which is permeable to the cycle traffic pulling in to merge with and pass through the motor traffic flow, but impermeable to motor traffic pulling directly out into the path of the cyclists, effectively controlling the more dangerous movements.

    For the Eastbound flow the road has plenty of width to deliver the signal controlled access and those cyclists who choose to ride with the motor traffic flow should equally find it comfortable to move-out, if the fly-over traffic flow is directed to the outer lane(s) as it leaves the junction at Fairfield Road - just West of Bow Church.

    My impressions of the motor traffic demand to go round the roundabout are confirmed when viewing the Google Maps, just 3 cars heading East and 11 heading West over the flyover but traffic on the slip road from Stratford on to the A12 is solidly 2 lanes backed up to the beginning of the flyover ramp.

    I gather that one of the voices opposing the over the top option was actually an LCC rep at the meeting discussing the proposals. With a cyclist mindset like that what hope have we of seeing decent and safe cycle facilities in London?

  8. I agree, most cyclists i know going straight east or straight west take the flyover at Bow, not the roundabout. Having been knocked off my bike twice on the roundabout years ago, I have always since then taken the flyover. I cycle there twice a day and haven't once used the new layout. I see about 75% cyclists do the same. Most cycle commuters would not even know the new layout is there. I agree with the above, why not have a safer system for the cyclists who use the flyover? That could do with some serious improvements, not least simple vehicle speed limit enforcement.

  9. I take flyover heading East but now choose to use the roundabout heading west as I am not a fan of the longer climb and the usual westerly wind in the mornings slowing me down in the winter!

    When heading west I jump onto the pavement near the roundabout and pause at the pedestrian crossing, moving when there is no traffic - usually I am stationary for no more than 10 seconds. Of course I would never risk joining the main traffic flow on the roundabout in its current state.

    IMO the flyover option should be discouraged and the roundabout option should be fixed properly for cycling.

    It's all well and good for us young fit males to take the flyover but these superhighways should be encouraging EVERYONE to cycle, young or old, male or female.