Wednesday, 17 April 2013

City of London & Transport for London plan to redesign Aldgate gyratory this year. After all the positive noises coming from City Hall, if this is all we get from the Mayor's revised cycle strategy, we might as well all give up and move to the Netherlands.

Redesigned Aldgate junction. Dogs breakfast for cycling, as far as I'm concerned

UPDATE on 19 April 2013:

The City of London has been in touch to say that this is not the latest version of the scheme, that the scheme hasn't yet been finalised and that these plans are still subject to change. The City of London would like me to let people know that they will share the detailed designs with the wider community in the summer for full public consultation and will welcome comments on the design proposals at that time. 


I'm going to get in a lot of trouble for posting the image above. What this image shows is the City of London / Transport for London plan for redesigning Aldgate gyratory. It's a confidential document and I'm not supposed to publish it. But I'm going to publish it because I think it deserves a wider audience than it's getting at the moment. If I get into trouble, so be it. 

What you can see above is Aldgate High Street running east to west along the middle of the map. This will be returned to two-way traffic as will the northern side of the gyratory (both of these axes are currently one-way multi-lane nightmares). The bit in yellow is pictured below and will be turned into a pedestrian area. What you can also see is some tiny little bits of green which represent a few paltry advance gates for people to cycle into the advance stop boxes. 1990s road design writ large all over this scheme. Simply not good enough for the sort of future London is planning. 

St Botolphs as it looks now. Soon to become a pedestrian
(and cycling?) only area
Aldgate gyratory is a horrible mess. It's noisy, full of fast-moving traffic, dangerous and deeply unpleasant place. It is a major barrier to cycling east of the City of London. In the top right of the map is Whitechapel High Street where the low-grade Cycle Super Highway to Bow roundabout starts. That is the same Super Highway that will be upgraded to a segregated bike track between Bow and Stratford later this year. The City of London is absolutely right to want to do away with Aldgate gyratory, even when you take into consideration the extremely hefty £14.5million price tag.

The plans as they stand are to close the area alongside St Botolph's church and create an area that only pedestrians and people on bikes can use (the big yellow patch on the left of the map). A lot of streets in the area that are currently one-way racetracks will become two-way, and a lot of smaller streets will open up to two-way cycling. All these things are good. 

St Botolph's as planned (pictured from the left of the previous image)
Source: City of London Aldgate strategy document
However, what alarms me about the scheme is the really poor quality provision for cycling into and out of the City. One of the aims of the redesign is to make this whole area "easier to walk or cycle through".

But if you look at the details planned for the main roads through this area, you can see that the proposal is to basically paint some bits of green paint within a road layout that will look and feel almost identical (on the main east west access) to the current scary-as-hell-dodge-the-buses-and-tipper-trucks layout that's there at the moment. This, bear in mind, is a route where fully 32% of vehicles in the morning peak hours are bicycles. Yet the provision for cycling is, as far as I'm concerned, null. 

Same road as the road through Aldgate will look similar to this
down in Stratford. Why not in Aldgate as well?
This simply isn't good enough. The Mayor is building a top-notch piece of cycling infrastructure at the other end of the same road down in Aldgate where he is building Cycle Super Highway 2. The City of London expects 10% of its workforce to travel to work by bike by 2020. Given the massive population growth expected east of Aldgate over the coming years, the City of London should be building Aldgate to make it easy for people to cycle safely along Cycle Super Highway 2 to their workplaces in the Square Mile and beyond. I think the scheme as it stands is an abrogation of the City of London's responsibilities to the safety of 10% of its workforce. The same design that is being applied in Stratford could and should be applied at Aldgate to enable people to cycle safely into the City of London.The current plan simply isn't good enough. 

Believe it or not, this is an official
City of London bike route (Fleet Street)
Hardly compelling place for people to cycle.
More of the same coming to Aldgate?
What makes the Aldgate scheme even worse is the fact that the Mayor is explicitly focussing on getting junctions right for cycling. The much-touted Junction Review is being upgraded. According to the Mayor's recently refreshed cycling strategy "Spending on the junction review will be significantly increased, and it 
will be completely recast to prioritise major and substantial improvements to the worst junctions".That document explicitly singles out how the Mayor will improve Aldgate junction in the spirit of "quality not quantity". Sorry Boris, this scheme isn't quality for safer cycling. This is nice landscaping, looks nicer, certainly has some merits. But as far as east-west movement is concerned for people cycling into the Square Mile from Cycle Super Highway 2, this is rudimentary at best, regressive 1990s street design at worst.

There have been a lot of positive noises coming out of City Hall around cycling recently. Aldgate has been primed by the Mayor as one area that will become dramatically easier to cycle through. I'm afraid the plans as they stand at the moment simply aren't good enough and if this is the best we should expect from this massive push to make London a better and safer place for cycling, we might as well pack up and move to Denmark or even to Chicago frankly, given Chicago is doing way more exciting things than London at the moment.


  1. Why aren't they sending the street designers on courses to Holland? employing designers with some knowledge of segregated space and human size streets?

    1. I think it would be simpler and easier for everyone involved just to bring some dutch traffic engineers over (or just email them the plans). TFL has not demonstrated any capacity to learn, it's not like any of these concepts are new and this design isn't even any good by the old standards!

    2. I agree. Bringing in expertise from outside the UK seems to be the only way forward. For whatever reason TfL seems unable to do what is needed, despite ample evidence of good practice from European and North American cities. It is so disappointing to see London once again spending substantial sums of money on poor design.

  2. Is there any kind of public consultation or email that Londoners can use to make their disapproval of these plans known?

    1. If it is a City of London scheme then very little chance- the Corporation is notoriously opaque and not subject to many of the normal rules and laws regarding local councils. The only way to really influence this would be to try and figure which CEOs etc cycle- specifically, which ones at companies that have votes in City elections- and try to get them to improve things.

  3. i think the city may be planning to consult on these plans in june. but by that point, given they want to start building in april, it may be essentially a fait-accompli

  4. I lived in Whitechapel for about 8 years. Aldgate's always been absolutely horrible for cyclists (and pedestrians). They desperately need to change it, and there is loads of space for separated cycle provision if they wanted. This is very disappointing.

  5. You've done the right thing by publishing this and it hope it doesn't hold your influence back in future. This is absolute dross - an embarassment to whoever designed it and signed it off so far. As someone who lives in Tower Hamlets, I hate the many occasions I'm forced through this area - this will be no better - perhaps worse actually, squeezed into even less space. It's as though nothing has been learned from the absolute failures at every other junction designed like this. I'd echo George above - to whom do we complain?

  6. Here's an article from Gilligan himself from 2007 in which cycle routes to the City of London, including through Aldgate specifically, are lambasted by our Cycling Commissioner for not being good enough:

    Seems deeply hypocritical from Gilligan to then come up with these hopeless plans...

  7. Gilligan said some stuff still coming off the conveyor belt is likely to be rubbish, is this possibly just about falling into that category?

    Also, removing gyratories and returning to two way sounds like a familiar policy? Potentially this is what some campaigners have been asking for?

  8. Doesn't excuse it, but perhaps this is one of those schemes that Andrew Gilligan explained by saying "there will still be some rubbish schemes"? Feedback - I don't think using the terms 'nightmares ' and 'racetrack' will win the non-believers over, so how about starting to cut out the emotive stuff, which admittedly, lots of users / groups use - just a suggestion.

    1. Actually, that's a fair point. Tend to use these sorts of terms when I'm getting frustrated. Happily accept alternative suggestions if you have any

    2. Hmm, trying to come up with alternative words ends up in somewhat longer-winded phrases: one-way multi-lane vehicular dominated; one-way roads dominated by fast moving traffic. Best stick to the emotive stuff :-) I was just trying to point us all in the direction that Gilligan feels is a better approach, i.e not going in all guns blazing, banging our fists, demanding this and that, but taking a more measured approach to buy-in.

  9. TFL just don't seem able to deliver the mayor's vision on their own, which is a pretty poor state of affairs. I think the mayor has to take that away from them and set up a cycling unit if they want progress.

    Chicago is really cold in the winter. Lets go dutch!

  10. If the only cycle provision is feeder lanes into advanced cycle boxes, then that's as good as no cycle provision at all - as virtually no drivers pay any attention to the ASLs.

    From my experience of cycling in London I find myself joined in the cycle box by a vehicle of some kind (usually taxis or buses) more often than not.

    The ASLs aren't worth the paint they're painted with UNLESS THEY'RE ENFORCED.

    And education on them as well - a lot of drivers I've spoken to (especially commercial drivers) say something like "nah, mate, they're only advisory" or "don't count after 7pm" or some other random excuse.

    They certainly know they're not going to get the 3 points and £60 fine I tell them is the penalty for jumping a red light, so they know there's no need for them to pay any attention to the potentially life-saving but practically POINTLESS lines painted on the tarmac.

    Clearly the people who design these schemes don't care at all about the lives of people who choose to move about London on a bicycle - they're just trying to make the place look pretty so the bank workers can eat their sandwich under a tree.

    But their lunch won't go down so well when there's blood splattered all over the street.

    Sorry, but that's how high the stakes are here - it's a matter of life or death.

    There's plenty of space here to keep people safe and happy and alive. And to make the city a lovely vibrant and friendly place to live in and move through.

  11. "as virtually no drivers pay any attention to the ASLs"

    I really don't think that's fair - at least for the parts of London I cycle in. It is motorcyclists who I would say 90% of the time ignore the advanced stop line; drivers of larger vehicles I would say more than 90% of the time obey it. We have plenty of strings to our bow without having to risk being tripped up by exaggeration.

    1. Maybe a little unfair, but I suspect we cycle in different parts of London.

      I generally cycle between Bethnal Green and Soho and I rarely find a cycle box that doesn't have a vehicle in it. Cars seem to be better behaved than taxis, who appear to be getting more aggressive and intimidating by the day.

      Generally I've stopped filtering through to the ASL - I just take the lane, and stop in the centre of the lane where I am, as I feel that's safer than sharing an advanced box with drivers whose feet are poised over their pedals ready to stamp down.

      I only use the cycle box if I get there first, and then I often soon feel the pressure of the annoyed vehicles inching onto my tail behind me.

      And you're right, the cycle boxes are full of motorcyclists, but in my experience and from looking at the stats they are less of a threat to my life than the bigger motor vehicles are, so I'm less worried about them.

  12. The big thing everyone seems to have missed so far is that this design would effectively get rid of a key London Cycle Network route. Dating from the start of the millenium, it is one of the few bits of cycle route the City of London has ever managed to implement in its years of alleged commitment to cycling.

    The right turn out of Jewry Street would become impossible due to the new kerb in the middle of the road. You could try to nip onto the pavement to access the wide crossing but the pavement itself is not wide and has lots of people walking on it. Getting from Houndsditch to Jewry St would mean going the long way round via the junction with Mansell St.

    And as for cycling across the stopped up area of highway that is to become a park? Well maybe okay for a few people an hour to push through but not for current let alone future levels of rush hour cycling. Hardly good planning for the future of the City.

  13. If the revised designs are no better than this Andrew Gilligan needs to be informed as the Mayor's Office may be able to block the scheme. He acknowledges that many road schemes in London are of extremely poor quality and often dangerous and this has to change but this will require time and effort. I do think there should be more training for engineers (including a Dutch study tour) so that they can be confident in designing high quality roads.

  14. i am agree with Fred Smith.
    There have been a lot of positive noises coming out of City Hall around cycling recently.

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