Saturday, 6 July 2013

Second cyclist killed on Cycle Super Highway to Bow. Boris needs to sort this out now. And so does the City of London which is planning a whopping 50 centimetre wide bike lane down the road from here. That's hardly going to make things better, is it?

This is the Cycle Super Highway to Bow at Aldgate East. It is a completely negligent design. 
On Friday night, a young woman was killed while cycling past Aldgate East tube on a Boris bike. The Metropolitan police issued a statement that the cyclist wasn't wearing a helmet. The woman was killed in a collision with an HGV. Does anyone seriously think the key issue here is whether she was or wasn't wearing a helmet?

The BBC's London correspondent Tom Edwards got the message right when he reported: "The overwhelming feeling it leaves me with, is that for all the education programmes on blind-spots and millions being invested in safety, and for all the well-meaning exchange programmes for cyclists and HGV drivers - I'm afraid it doesn't seem to be working yet."

He's right. These things do help but they are only part of the answer. As the Dutch have been saying for years, "The ultimate solution for the blind spot problem is a structural separation of trucks and cyclists."

This is the second person to die cycling on Cycle Super Highway 2. The bike lane is a disgrace. It consists of blue paint and nothing else. The junctions are intimidating and difficult to cycle through, even for highly competent road cyclists. The bike lane is full of parked cars and vans. Lots of money has been spent on blue paint and PR and nothing more. It's a negligent disgrace.

What's even more of a disgrace is that lessons still haven't been learned. Last week, dozens of people attended the City of London cycling forum. The key topic of the evening was the Aldgate gyratory, ie the very area where last week's fatality took place. The room was asked to write down three things it liked and three things it didn't like about the City of London's plans to spend £12million getting rid of the Aldgate gyratory.

These are the plans by the City of London for Aldgate High Street. A one metre bike lane next to a 2.5 metre
loading bay for lorries. Spot the problem? Lorries are usually 3 m wide. That means the bike lane is actually only 50 centimetres wide. 

The feeling in the room was unanimous: The City of London's plans for Aldgate were woefully rubbish for people cycling east to west, just like the woman who was killed here last week was trying to do. What people wanted was proper, safe space for cycling. What people are going to get is bike lanes that stop, start, stop again and pavements that are massively wide. What they are also going to get is two metres of bike lane in one direction and a bike lane that is only one metre wide in the other direction. That one metre bike lane will run alongside a 2.5 m wide loading bay for lorries. Given most lorries are nearly 3m wide, that leaves 0.50 metres for you to cycle in. Oh, and the bike lane only lasts a few yards. After that you have to mix with the lorries and coaches through a police checkpoint that will be as wide as a coach but offers no safe way through for people on bikes.

There are, to be fair, some very good bits about the design: a brand new public space with a new north to south bike track is the highlight. But the scheme leaves a lot to be desired on the heavily-used east-west axis.

Detail of the planned road layout at Aldgate. Spot how the bike lanes start and stop all the time. Why? 
You can look at the City of London's Aldgate plans online and you can comment on them via the online survey. 

You can see a video fly-through of the Aldgate plans on the City of London website. It's interesting to compare them with the plans for a bus and bike lane in Manchester for reference.I know which road I'd rather cycle on.

Last night's death is horrific. And two groups of people need to do something about it. Transport for London needs to upgrade the whole of Cycle Super Highway 2 to make it safe to use because it quite clearly isn't. And the City of London needs to upgrade its plans a couple of hundreds yards down the road at Aldgate to make that area safe to use, because it quite clearly won't be under the current proposals.