Tuesday, 4 June 2013

A brand new bike track - blocked entirely by a parking meter: The Tower Hamlets teams responsible for this waste of taxpayer money could have done this so well by copying proven solutions. Instead they reinvented the rules and got it horribly wrong.

Just look at this. It's simply unbelievable. This slide show was made by Alex King who quite rightly calls it a 'new contender for the worst bike lane in London'. Acutually, it's worse than that. This bike track was built only weeks ago and it is an utter scandal.

Sofoklis Kostoulas - killed cycling on
Bethnal GreenRoad last year
Before we look at the details of the scheme itself, let's just look at the location. This is Bethnal Green Road - an extremely busy route for people travelling by bike and packed with buses, lorries, vans and cars. It's a nasty place to cycle but a critical link between the City of London and the various hubs in Hackney and the rest of Tower Hamlets where more people now cycle to work than drive to work. You'd think that Tower Hamlets might realise that if it's going to tinker with an important bike link, it has to get it right. It has known from the outset that this scheme is insane. Tower Hamlets Wheelers, the local group of the London Cycling Campaign, warned the council in the planning stages that this scheme was a "waste of money" and that it was "unclear who was meant to be benefiting" from the work. 

What makes this worse is that the road is a known danger hotspot. Last year, actor Sofoklis Kostoulas was killed further along this road in a collision with a lorry. The collision took place at a pinch point where the council has chosen to put cyclists between parked cars and a traffic island that is not wide enough for a lorry to pass a person on a bicycle.

The crazy design in detail. Courtesy Tower Hamlets Wheelers
With so many people using this route and the clear evidence that the road needs to made safer to cycle along, Tower Hamlets has absolutely no excuse to get this wrong. As my good pal Mark Ames of ibikelondon blog pointed out earlier this year "the planners and designers here have tried to do right by the bicycle; they're installing some separated cycle paths that run along the inside of parked cars".

But, as ibikelondon quite correctly says "there simply isn't room enough for wider pavements, two separated cycle lanes, two lanes of traffic and two rows of parking.  The cycle tracks being built are woefully inadequate; narrow, within the dooring zone of the parked cars, and ridiculously short before they spit you back in to the road from behind some parking."

What Tower Hamlets could have built. Bike track in
Brighton with priority over side roads AND no
parking meters taking up the whole track
Actually, now the thing has been built, it's even worse than that. There's a sodding great parking meter taking up the entire bike track at one point. Just imagine if the council had built a new road and installed a bike parking lot across the entire road. "Drivers" (and by the way, I'm a driver too but I also use a bicycle for most of my London trips) would be outraged and heads would roll.

What's worse is that the road itself is now so narrow that if you don't want to use this dangerous cycle track (and, frankly, why would you?), you will find cycling on the main carriageway highly intimidating and more dangerous. What Tower Hamlets has done here is made a bad situation even worse for who knows what intention.

The bike track dumps you back onto the road
at a right angle, just as the road narrows
at a pinchpoint. This is insanely dangerous. 
The bike track itself is unbelievably narrow. It gives way to a side road but with no clarity about why or how. And it dumps you back on to the main carriageway at a right angle straight into a pinchpoint where the carriageway narrows as if to say that Tower Hamlets couldn't care less about your safety on the road.

To be fair, the real culprit here is the eastbound bike track. Westbound is definitely more usable and people are using it as intended. But this eastbound track is a scandal.

Frankly, heads should roll on this scheme. You can't get away with making conditions more dangerous for people on bikes any longer. What's more, why on earth should Londoners pay good tax money for utter junk like this scheme.

Tower Hamlets should rip this up and start again. Either create wide carriageways where there's enough room for bikes and heavy goods vehicles or create a proper bike track inside the parked cars, like they do in New York, the Netherlands, Germany, France, you name it.

Brighton's Old Shoreham Road has a bike track these days. It is wide, straight, has priority over side roads and, what's more, does not have a ridiculous parking meter taking up the entire lane. Your kids could use it. The exact opposite of what's been built on Bethnal Green Road.

Bike track and car parking in the Netherlands. Courtesy
AsEasyAsRidingABike blog
Tower Hamlets has tried to re-write the rule book here. It has tried to put cyclists out of the way of motor vehicles, which is good in theory. But as AsEasyAsRidingABike blog quite rightly says: "We don’t need ‘innovative’ solutions – just copy what works". Just look at the thousands of schemes that do this successfully and copy them, in other words. Don't create something that fails on every single count. 

Tower Hamlets deserves a serious rap over the knuckles and the councillors should be taken to task for their utter abuse of common sense


  1. Too right. This is a cynical - not even well meaning - complete waste of money.

    Surely Tower Hamlets need an urgent visit from Andrew Gilligan if they think they can foist this crap on Londoners and then say they are providing infrastructure for cyclists.

  2. By forcing cyclists into the door zone of parked cars aren't they forcing them to reject all cycle training currently available and even the highway code?

    I used to live next to where this so called cycle lane is, there's plenty of room to do it properly. Maybe they could, you know, stop cars parking on a main bloody road???

  3. Councils have proven to be an ineffective way of constructing cycling infrastructure. They simply waste taxpayers money on unacceptable schemes.
    After cycling the coast of Britain there are a very few good retrofit cycle lanes in the country. I will take your word on Brighton. Though the south coast was poor on our ride.
    For us country dwellers strict liability is a far higher priority over useless infrastructure

  4. Is there a local authority Public Accounts Committee, that can investigate this?

    You are right: heads should roll. Whoever authorised this should be excluded from public office.

  5. That parking meter followed immediately by a lamppost, is classic inner-city design stupidity!
    I'm sure those responsible, never drive, never cycle; probably don't know how to walk and talk at the same time, either...
    Guarantee that pedestrians will be walking all over it, too.
    I'd much prefer to ride in the (widened) road with the rest of the traffic, than risk my life and sanity on that.

  6. I walked down this part of Bethnal Green Road the week before last. The only reason I knew this was supposed to be a cycle track was because I had read Mark's blog post. It's beyond awful, you would be insane to cycle down this track. In fact on the day I was there this would not have been possible due to all the open car doors (which take up the entire width of the track) and people quite understandably walking on the track, because there is nothing to distinguish it as being for bikes. There is ample room here for a decent quality cycle track. The fact that the local council instead chose to give both sides of the road over to car parking, in a borough where nearly two thirds of households don't even have a car, speaks volumes for how out of touch they are with their constituents.

  7. The installation is even worse than in the sketch plan. At the end of the east bound track it re-joins the road just as the road narrows. The track joins at an oblique angle forcing cyclists to "Look behind you" while negotiating the junction.

  8. In April this year, you wrote: " We need to be extremely vigilant to borough developments and to flag them loudly and clearly to Transport for London and the cycling commissioner, especially if things look like they're going wrong." Of course, this is always going to be the case for as long as the development of an amenable cycling environment is pursued from the bottom-up (i.e. Adjustment policy).

    Depressingly, it is possible to "go much further than [such] a strictly pragmatic and ad hoc approach", relatively quickly and for relatively not much money. In the language of Cycling: the way ahead, "The existence of a plan increases the effectiveness of each intervention made in favour of cycling by the mutual consolidation of the various measures taken or features installed." However, it seems unlikely that such a "prudent" course of action would be followed here, for as Orwell reminds us, when it comes to town planning, the English don't care much for "mere efficiency".

    David Hembrow has recently written that Going Dutch is "not about a few exceptional pieces of infrastructure in a few places, but about an accessible and convenient cycling network for all which goes everywhere." Such a network can best be developed from the top-down. As Steffen Rasmussen told the GLA's Investigation into Cycling, "The key word is an holistic approach and then a separation of functions."

  9. Everyone please beware - THIS IS NOT A CYCLE TRACK! Tower Hamlets council obviously realised what a pigs ear they'd made and haven't designated it a cycle track. Though it looks like one, it's actually a weird ugly bit of pavement.

    If you cycle it and you hit a pedestrian or are hit by a car door, you may be liable as you are cycling on the pavement. You could also be fined for cycling on the pavement.

    They should put 'pedestrian only' signs up to make this clear.

    It's crazy as the road itself is now more dangerous as it's FAR narrower, and was too narrow before - and there's the danger that motorists will be more annoyed at being 'stuck behind bloody cyclists' as they can see there's something that looks like a cycle lane nearby.

    Insanity. Every inept person who had anything even slightly to do with this should be fired immediately.

  10. One of my colleagues reckoned he had no choice to use this 'cycle path' recently because the road - which has recently been narrowed - was so full of motor vehicles that it was impassable by bicycle, except by going off the road.

  11. I don't understand why we need car storage spaces on a very busy A-road. If they took out the parking spaces there'd be plenty of space for a pavement, proper separated cycle track and a motor-vehicle track.

    Very close to here, I don't know why there's parking on Brick Lane - if the parking were removed there'd be space for a contraflow cycle lane, which is direly needed as many cycles make their way down there anyway - there's no other route without going a long and dangerous way round busy motor roads.

  12. engineers will have been involved in this

    To be fair - what was the brief - was one written down, were there objectives, why was so much parking created??? The trouble is that politicians seem to push parking quite a lot in East London and not just the outer boroughs.

  13. Can someone who lives locally put in a Freedom of Information request to ask to see the safety audit for this? They should have done one of the compelted works and I suspect it's probably fairly damning. It will make a good story in the Evening Standard too I suspect.

  14. This would be the same Tower Hamlets that spent 50,000 pointlessly removing the bricks from Brick Lane (instead of doing something useful like putting in place 2-way cycling..)

  15. I am a Tower Hamlets resident and follow the state of local politics through this depressing blog: http://trialbyjeory.wordpress.com

    One highlight that Jeory has noted recently has been the fact that councillors travel all over the shop by taxi, at stratospheric prices. See, for example: http://trialbyjeory.wordpress.com/2013/05/07/council-uses-health-and-safety-to-block-details-of-councillors-cab-journeys/ and http://trialbyjeory.wordpress.com/2013/03/06/oli-rahmans-apology-for-1400-of-taxi-fares/

    The council is barely functioning, they may have other matters on their plate? http://trialbyjeory.wordpress.com/2012/12/17/doing-a-doncaster-in-tower-hamlets/

    Never mind worrying about being broken into:

    Happy to do it this weekend.

    1. Also...

      I wrote to the mayor (who is "keen to take up residents' cases") twice this year and received no response. I turned that into a complaint, and still no joy... May try again.

  16. We should be given contact details on who to complain to about this travesty - perhaps they'd pay attention if a few thousand cyclists and other road users made their feelings clear. Additionally, the specific departments and people responsible for this travesty should be named and shamed.

  17. "What makes this worse is that the road is a known danger hotspot. Last year, actor Sofoklis Kostoulas was killed further along this road in a collision with a lorry. The collision took place at a pinch point where the council has chosen to put cyclists between parked cars and a traffic island that is not wide enough for a lorry to pass a person on a bicycle."

    Too right. These sorts of pinch points are putting cyclists lives at risk completely unnecessarily. Council should be prosecuted for manslaughter...

  18. I guess you can send an email to this adress: roadsafety@towerhamlets.gov.uk
    you can report a road hazard here:
    (I think the parking meter should count as one)
    the councillors are here:

  19. My advice (as a former LBTH employee) is to make an official complaint, politely pointing out the failings and putting forward positive alternatives. Copy this to your Ward councillors if you live in the borough and ask them for a meeting about it.

  20. I would avoid that cycle path because I don't cycle less than a cardoor length from cars and the cars are parked flush next to the path...

  21. As a regular cyclist in the area, I recommend taking 3 Colts Lane/Cheshire St which runs parallel to Bethnal Green Road to the south. Far quieter and fewer traffic lights.

  22. .

    **** DOOR ZONE ****


  23. Unbelievable! Not only have they made a bike route with a parking metre and a lamppost in the way, they have put it right next to people opening their car doors... and not to mention dumping cyclist back onto the road at a pinch point.
    A big waste of money.