As you know, Transport for London are consulting on improvements for cycling to a series of junctions in London, that are the most dangerous (I’ve written about two before). A consultation closes tomorrow, Friday, for the four-way junction of Battersea Park Road/Havelock Terrace/Prince of Wales Drive, so I thought I’d share my thoughts on this junction, and what TfL are proposing.
It’s really quite a horrible spot, with plenty of lorries thundering through, amongst plenty of other motor traffic, often at speed – principally up and down Battersea Park Road.
My immediate first impression was that this quite a hazardous and intimidating place for riding a bike, particularly when attempting to make turns. Casualties must have occurred here for this junction to feature in the review, and it’s not hard to see why.
I’ll start with the slightly good things that TfL are proposing. Currently, the Prince of Wales Drive entry to the junction looks like this -
Two lanes for motor vehicles, and no cycle lane. However, the new arrangement will take one of these vehicle lanes away, and replace it with a 2m wide cycle lane.
This is good, but there are two slightly odd things here – the cycle lane could surely be wider than 2m, given it is replacing an entire vehicle lane. The ASL also seems to be a bit pointless, given that everyone emerging from this junction – bicycles and vehicles – can still only turn left. There’s no point placing bikes back in front of motor vehicles if they’re all progressing in the same direction. It would be better just to have a cycle lane ending some distance in advance of a stop line for vehicles.
Other improvements. There is currently an appallingly narrow mandatory cycle lane, heading north on Battersea Park Road.
This will be replaced with a wider, 1.5m mandatory cycle lane.
Again, an improvement, of sorts, but when you look at this stretch of road, a 1.5m wide cycle lane is actually a bit of an insult.
This is an enormously wide bit of road. I can’t understand why the cycle lane should only be 1.5m wide, when there is ample scope for making it much, much wider, or indeed for protecting it with kerbing, or some kind of ‘soft’ measure.
Further, the cycle lane only appears after the junction.
There is no protection at the apex of the left-hand bend, just where it is needed; see, for instance, the line this van is taking.
This would be an ideal spot for some kerbing to keep cyclists and vehicles apart. But it is absent from the proposals.
Curiously, however, there is a proposal for a kerb on entry into Prince of Wales Drive.
This kerb doesn’t seem particularly important to me, given that the proposed design expects cyclists to cycle – much more hazardously – along the outside of vans and lorries as they turn right simultaneously into Prince of Wales Drive, on a green stripe.
This is the design change. I have a horrible feeling about that sharp corner on the island in the middle of Prince of Wales Drive, to the left, and what it might mean for vehicle movements when a cyclist is alongside.
You can see that one of the three southbound queuing lanes has been replaced with a cycle feed-in lane, for an ASL, and for making right turns – it’s nice to see that, as with the Prince of Wales Drive entrance, a motor vehicle lane has been taken away, and replaced with space for bikes. However, this is still a problematic design, for several reasons. As I have already described, it expects cyclists to move through a turning on the outside of a lorry, on a green stripe.
Another problem is that for cyclists going straight on through the junction, the feed-in lane to the ASL has great potential to leave cyclists stranded on the outside of vehicles progressing straight on in lane 1, which would not be a pleasant experience.
The final problem is that, while cyclists wishing to turn right no longer have to get in to lane 3 to make a right turn, they still have to negotiate across one lane, and hold position between vehicles passing on both sides of them. The cycle lane will be between these two lorries.
So, it’s an improvement, of sorts, but hardly ‘Going Dutch’.
The only other change I can see is a widening of the pedestrian island in the middle of the southern side of the junction.
In other words, the deliberate creation of a pinch point, forcing lorries and cyclists into the same space. Why? Why would you do this on what is a very, very wide road, with ample space to keep the two modes apart?
There is enormous potential for making this wide, busy road into a pleasant place to cycle, through the construction of infrastructure that separates cyclists from the movements of large vehicles. This consultation, however, is just tinkering around the edges. It’s still going to be a horrible junction. You will still only be able to cycle in certain directions from certain arms of the junction (you won’t be able to turn left into Prince of Wales Drive, for instance, and you will still be forced to turn left out of it).
The motor vehicle will still be king, in other words. Pedestrians will continue to have to cross in two stages on each arm of the junction. Indeed, if you wish to cross to Battersea Dogs Home on the north side of the junction, you will have to take six separate crossings around the entire junction, which is a complete joke.
Direct crossings would not only be better for pedestrians, they would also obviate the need for the islands which form the pinch points, and consequently free up more space for cycling. But ‘smoothing traffic flow’ doubtless prohibits such a move.
I’d really like to see Transport for London trialling proper, continental-style solutions as part of their junction review process. Just one junction like this one, to see how it works. The Mayor pledged to support London Cycling Campaign’s Go Dutch agenda, which, as I’m getting tired of reminding you, demands that TfL
Make sure all planned developments on the main roads that they controls are complete to Go Dutch standards, especially junctions.
And this demand has been repeated by the London Assembly’s recent Gearing Up report.
There are some promising signs of change in TfL’s recently-announced proposals for Bow westbound, particularly in the arrangement of a bus stop which cyclists can bypass by a pavement-side track.
But this junction in Battersea would have been an ideal place to try something much bolder than what is contained in this review. I have to say that what TfL are proposing will make only a negligible difference, at best.
And as Danny at Cyclists in the City notes (and Cycalogical), these junction reviews don’t address the rest of the network, which may be just as intimidating, if not as statistically dangerous. The roads to and from this junction will remain hostile and unpleasant.
You can add your comments on the consultation here.