Dual network strikes again

Yesterday Transport for London announced their plans for Elephant & Castle, which had been out to consultation earlier in the year. There are some good elements here, but there’s a worrying amount of inconsistency. Attractive conditions for cycling aren’t continuous through the scheme.

This is most obvious on the Link Road, the bit of road that connects the main roundabout with the junction to the south – the junction where Abdelkhalak Lahyani was killed in May.

Screen Shot 2014-08-21 at 17.20.58

What TfL are going to build on the Link Road. The roundabout is to the left; the southern junction is to the right.

A cycle track runs northbound on this stretch of road, at bottom (the TfL plan is oriented with north to the left). This bypasses a large bus stop. There is no reason why this won’t work, providing it is designed properly.

But curiously, in the opposite direction – southbound – there is no cycle track at all. Instead we have a cycle lane running outside of a long bus lane/stop, sandwiched between stopped, or moving, buses, and general traffic lanes.*

At both ends of this cycle lane there are problems. At the northern end, buses and cycles will be moving across each other’s paths, at the point where the protected cycle track ends.

Screen Shot 2014-08-21 at 21.26.12

And at the southern end, we have similar problems -

Screen Shot 2014-08-21 at 21.29.39

People cycling straight on (south) will have to deal with motor traffic (including HGVs) wishing to turn left cutting across them, and buses moving out in the opposite direction. And this at a junction where someone has recently been killed by a left-turning HGV.

It’s a mess. And, more importantly, a needless mess, when there is sound design on the other side of the road that could just be copied across. There should be a cycle track here, running behind the bus stop. There is little to no point attempting to do something properly in one direction, and giving up in the other.

There is plenty of space to play with here. You can see on the diagram above that a median (in yellow) is being retained between the two carriageways, which is 1.5m wide. It has a fence on it, in an attempt to stop people crossing the road; presumably this is why it is being retained.

In addition, it seems that space is going to waste, due to some familiar (pervasive) ‘dual network’ thinking. TfL write that they will be implementing

additional improvements for cyclists who wish to remain on the carriageway such as, widening the carriageway northbound on the Elephant and Castle Link Road to allow for 4.5m bus lane to offer space for cyclists to overtake buses, and introducing a new cycle feeder lane on the approach to St George’s Road to offer better protection to cyclists approaching the junction [my emphasis]

So rather than doing things properly, and providing cycle tracks away from the carriageway that anyone – fast or slow – would naturally want to use, a 4.5m wide bus lane is being implemented in parallel to the northbound cycle track.

This is a waste of everyone’s time. As David Arditti argues -

There is no question of us having a network of roads for “less confident drivers” and a different one for “fast and advanced motorists”, and this is how the places that get cycling right also treat cycling. They build cycle lanes, paths and tracks that work of all types of cyclists and all abilities at the same time, and have sufficient capacity to cope with all, taking the attitude that if it’s not safe enough for young children, it won’t be safe enough for anyone, and if it’s not convenient enough for commuters in a hurry, it won’t be an attractive option to anyone. They build up to a common standard that works for all, and don’t say “If you don’t like it, there’s always the busy, dangerous main road”.

But this is what TfL (and doubtless most other councils in Britain) are still doing. Indeed, quite explicitly, in this specific instance. In response to requests in the consultation for wider cycle tracks in the scheme, TfL respond [pdf] -

The proposed cycle lane will be two metres wide, which is the same width as the segregated cycling facilities that are being introduced elsewhere. This is wider than many cycle lanes in London, and because cyclists will also have access to the 4.5m wide bus lane there is in effect greater capacity.

In effect – we don’t need to do things properly, because we are fully expecting a large number of people to continue cycling with motor traffic on the carriageway.

The logic is circular – the low quality of the cycle tracks will hold up people who want to cycle faster, and these people will opt for the main carriageway; those people opting for the carriageway are then used to justify the low quality of the cycle tracks. It’s insane.

No country that does things well designs for cycling like this. Instead, they employ high quality, inclusive networks that anyone is happy to use, because they are fast, direct, safe and continuous, for everyone.

Screen Shot 2014-08-21 at 17.32.59

Can we really not achieve this here? Can we not build two wide cycle tracks, in each direction? Or are we going to waste space continuing to  attempt to cater for two different kinds of cyclists simultaneously?

 

 

_______________________________________________________________

*It’s not entirely clear from their response whether TfL will be employing this ‘cycle lane outside bus lane’ design – which appears on their updated design drawing, showing the new changes – or a a wide bus lane, with no cycle lane at all, which is mentioned in their changes. Either way these conflicting movements will still exist.

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37 Responses to Dual network strikes again

  1. “You’ve gotta fight the fights where they need to be fought. Not always City Hall … basically you’ve won the argument there” – Andrew Gilligan, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T4aSZ4TEgog (6:05)

    Needless to say, this is not Dutch. What it is, is a mess. If you compare the old and new plans you’ll notice that, incredibly, they’ve managed to squeeze in another traffic lane for right turns off the junction into St George’s Road – yet still they expect you to believe that there is “not enough space” for segregated cycle lanes all the way around. I despair, I really do.

  2. Paulc says:

    risk of conflict at the end of the bus lane going South? It’s 100% gauranteed as everyman and his dog trying to turn left will be trying to change lanes in those last few yards. Cyclists should NOT be there in the “mix” so to speak…

    I get this same problem myself whenever I try this route as people chop across me to turn left as they’ve had to stay out of the bus lane I’ve been merrily cycling down…

    http://goo.gl/maps/XINTq

    and they wonder why cyclists (the less confident ones) lllegally cycle on the pavements when the roads are filled with massive, fast squishing machines driven by impatient idiots.

    • Fred says:

      Completely agree – it’s not possible there will be conflict at the end of the bus lane going south, it’s certain.

      Incidentally, once they get to the southern junction, cycling on the pavement is legal as it’s all shared space & cyclists can legally bypass the traffic lights.

  3. Ravindra rao says:

    Bicycles are the most energy efficient vehicles. The carbon foot print for manufacturing bicycles are the lowest. Bicycles do not involve rare earth metals whose extraction leads to toxic pollution.
    However bicycles cannot share the same space with fast moving heavy vehicles without the risk of accidents to the bicyclists. The only way to encourage bicycles is to have an elevated pathway for bicycles and pedestrians. This means designing buildings which will have shops on the 1st floor instead of the ground floor. People need not come down to the road level.

  4. ppphotographer says:

    One of the best arguments for well designed bike lanes is how they benefit drivers. Less conflict gives them an easier & better journey.

  5. James says:

    Unfortunately, the south bound bus/cycle conflict cannot easily be solved. Even if you used the space in the middle of the road, this is still an exceptionally busy bus stop on a fairly narrow bit of pavement. When (hopefully not if) the shopping centre gets demolished and the lower-level market and food outlets can be replaced, then there will be space for the design to be done properly, but until then I can’t see a solution. TfL want to reduce congestion on the pavement by making buses for the Walworth Road stop further south, but this understandably has also been unpopular in the consultation as it defeats the purpose of a bus/tube interchange.

    The bigger problem here is the delay in sorting out the shopping centre. The previous owners delayed for years arguing that the centre could just be reclad with the basic structure retained. It now looks like the centre will be demolished and rebuilt from scratch, but it is going to take a few years. Until that happens, the space on the east side of the junction is going to be too tight to allow for a decent bike lane, unless you take away a whole traffic lane, which is realistically never going to happen.

    • Fred says:

      I agree – I met one of the designers of this on Wednesday at 5:30pm at the junction (discussing the southern junction). While I was there it was obvious a key aspect of designing for pedestrians are the bus stops. Due to lack of tube connections in south London there are not just a few people waiting, it was more like 40, so the bus stops need lots of space to accommodate them. That really complicates trying to take bikes round the back of bus stops as you still need space for all the pedestrians not taking the bus to stay on the outside of the cycle path.

      When we met the designer suggested there had been big improvements to this scheme and hinted ‘wait until you see our plans tomorrow’. For the southern junction letting people on Newington Butts jump on to the cycle track is a bit better, but as soon as I saw the plans for the end of the cycle lane going south I knew the revised plans were deeply flawed.

      Buses are the key issue here. As far as I can see there is only one way to avoid conflict with buses & that’s a cycle path going behind the bus stops with a decent width of pavement, cycle path and island. All of the other solutions with bike lanes seem to design in conflict & to me seem more about blue/green paint than lanes which actually do anything for cyclists. I guess a lot of people won’t agree but I really don’t see how those types of arrangements are better than a wider bus lane.

      Probably also not a popular view but in my opinion bypassing the junction entirely is probably the best option for everyone due to the buses and lack of space*. There are some bypasses which are reasonably direct but they’re totally let down by lack of quality (including the bit where you have to be a pedestrian to cross the road and connect to a narrow path which has a telephone box in the middle of it). The reason this option is so poor is the repeated failure of Southwark Council to design for cycling. If we could get the councils taking their responsibilities seriously we could significantly improve cycling in London as they control the roads which are easiest to make truly cycle friendly.

      I am all up for slamming TfL – they shouldn’t even be putting options like this forward for consultation, let alone launching them as a solution, and we need to get this changed. However we need to also hold to account the boroughs, who get away with so much terrible design & lack of provision without even a protest .

      *Note – One solution I could see working would be a two way cycle path on the west side of the junction, but that would require the southern junction to be re done otherwise the south bound cyclists wouldn’t have anything to connect on to. Unfortunately that option doesn’t seem to be on the table.

      • fred says:

        Agree about the uselessness of green paint. Disagree about bypassing the junction entirely. If the slow, indirect, partial bypasses are still the best option, after 26 million has been spent, that money was wasted. TfL should at least provide cycle routes that are fast, comfortable, and suitable for all users on the key desire lines, even if they can’t do so on every desire line.

        • Fred says:

          Hi Fred,

          I agree that a high quality path on the desire line is the best solution, and I hope the junction can be made to work like that (maybe with new TfL designers?). I definitely agree main roads need to be made as cycle friendly as possible whether there are alternative routes or not (and if they fail it will be a huge waste of money).

          The issue for TfL is the competition for space – not easy to solve unless they’re prepared to say “well we just don’t have space for two car lanes so they’re only getting one” (which would be brilliant).

          I agree that the bypasses are too slow & partial. In their current state they get a minority of the cyclists and once the junction is revised you would expect even fewer to use them. However I still think they will have a place as infrastructure which suitable for everyone and a bit more pleasant away from some busy roads, so would like to see them sorted out for that reason – hopefully in addition to high quality provision on the main roads.

  6. fred says:

    James:

    Not true. There’s 1.5m that can be taken from the proposed 4.5m bus lanes, both north and southbound, and potentially another 1.5m that can be taken from the central reservation. Even without the central reservation space, that’s enough for a 2.5m bike lane and 0.5m extra footway. With the central reservation removed, one could have a 3m bike lane and 1.5m extra footway width – more than enough for pedestrians and cyclists to have space to use the road safely.

  7. James says:

    Fred: How familiar are you with the bus stop? If you are familiar with it, then we’ll just have to agree to disagree. If you’re not familiar with it, I suggest you pay a visit during afternoon and evening rush hour.

    I’ve been using it for 7 years. It’s exceptionally busy in afternoon and evening. All the people coming off the Bakerloo and Northern Line wanting to head south wait for the bus there in addition to people changing bus for local destinations with an area that relies of bus services. People waiting for buses share the pavement with customers of several little stalls and the entrance to a popular noodle restaurant. Buses can stop just about anywhere along a line of bus stops that stretches for 100m and if other buses are already at the stop, they may pull in well before the official stop for that particular bus route. As a result, the pavement is chaotic with people waiting for buses surging back and forwards to see whether the bus they are waiting for is queuing up behind. If a popular bus, like the 343, stops further north than its official stop at the south end, then there is a crush of people moving towards it. I cannot see how a bike lane could be put through the middle of this. This issue is not just the width of pavement but the number of people moving backwards and forwards across it, concentrating on buses not on cyclists. It would require radical redesign not tinkering and that requires the layout of the shopping centre to change.

  8. James says:

    I’ve just checked and 17 day time bus routes use the bus stops on that stretch of road (bus stops P & R).

  9. fred says:

    James:

    I know, it’s busy. This is why I’m suggesting additional footway, as well as the cycle track. But remember that the cycle track won’t be taken from the footway – It’ll be additional space, taken from the road. And that much of the pedestrian traffic is moving along the extended bus stop island, changing buses, not crossing the track. I suspect that this’ll actually be safer than the current arrangement – it’s much safer for pedestrians to step briefly in a wide cycle track, when the footway is crowded than in the road.

    Sure it won’t be perfect – but much better and safer than forcing cycle traffic into conflict with buses (17 bus routes) and turning HGVs.

    Take a look at this. 1 tram has same capacity as 3 buses.

    People actually negotiate these situations quite sensibly…

  10. Pingback: For better or for worse, it’s still progress

  11. James says:

    I still have strong doubts as to whether it could work at E&C. That stop is just for one tram at a time with passengers able to board or exit through many doors all along the length of the stop. What happens when pedestrians (including school children on way home from school and those dealing with pushchairs or luggage) are rushing to get 20 metres down the pavement so they can board at the single entry point of a bus that has stopped where they didn’t expect it and which they fear is about to depart? In those cases, will pedestrians and cyclists be quite so successful at negotiating each other? Even if accidents were rare (as I expect they would be in reality), people get stressed over near misses and feel threatened in such situations. So even if it did work from a technical point of view, I expect there would be endless complaints. TfL are not likely to take risks in relation to either possibility, especially given they know the area is going to be redesigned in a few years for the new tube entrance and shopping centre.

    • Doubts about floating bus-stops working would be based on ignorance of the fact that they do work -examples on the continent are legion. But a key point you might be overlooking is the amount of width available to make them work in this spot. What is the appropriate width of a general traffic or bus lane? This is entirely dependent on what speed you design them to carry. TfL, if they wish to make a success of a floating bus stop, can enlarge the pavement available to passengers while waiting, and the zone in which they cross cyclists, simply by allocating lower speeds to the general traffic and/or busses, thereby freeing up road width for other purposes. There is no absolute limit here- a range of objectives are in balance. What TfL appear to have done with the available width is continue to prioritise general traffic flow over safe and workable relation between busses and cycles.

      • Fred says:

        Hi David, I think the key part of what James was saying was his concern about it working “at E&C”. I think we all agree that floating bus stops can work really well, but they need sufficient space for the footpath, the cyclists and the people waiting & exiting the bus. With the large numbers of people here my feeling is that there probably isn’t the space to do this properly.

        I think there is a particular challenge in London to do with designing for cyclists and buses. The Netherlands don’t have so much in the way of buses. Amsterdam Centraal station has a whole bus station but probably fewer buses than E&C. They wouldn’t dream of trying to take the bikes through the middle of it.

        Floating bus stops work, however they need to be done properly. If a Dutch traffic engineer wouldn’t do it, we probably shouldn’t either.

        I have recently seen a proposal put forward for Blackhorse Road in Waltham Forest in which they seem to have omitted the pavement in order to make space for the bus stop island, forcing people walking down the road to cross the bike lane twice. On another attempt the pedestrians and cyclist cross over occurs on a side turning, bringing people, bikes and vehicles together in a small space almost certain to cause conflicts.

        I think we are going to find places where a Dutch traffic engineer would say that we can’t cram the amount of traffic in to that tiny space and make a Dutch design work. For me the ultimate goal should be to achieve a Dutch style solution by reducing/diverting traffic or increasing the space available. However for schemes like this that’s not an option we have right now. So where high quality provision can’t be be put in we’ll need to campaign for alternative routes, traffic reduction and reallocation of space.

        • Fred says:

          Obviously if someone produces a scheme which makes it work at Elephant and Castle (or Blackhorse Road) that would be great and is the best option – just because I can’t see how it would work doesn’t mean it can’t be done!

        • fred says:

          Just in terms of figuring out how many people can wait (and circulate) on an island structure safely – I think Clapham Common tube platform at 8.30 am is a pretty good example!

          • Fred says:

            I estimate the platform is just 3.1m from looking at a photo and scaling the paving slabs (not very accurate I know). The incentive for pedestrians to avoid spilling over is rather different for an electrified railway and a cycle path though!

    • jeldering says:

      If indeed bus passengers blocking the bicycle path would be a problem, then there are ways to solve this, see e.g. http://goo.gl/maps/YNENB for a bus stop in Utrecht. Although it doesn’t show so much in the streetview image, this is a bus stop in the middle of the city centre, which is one of the main routes both for buses and cyclists from the central train station to the university campus, so very busy (although maybe not quite as busy as E&C). The bus stop waiting area is separated from the bicycle path and footway by a glass “fence” (nicer looking than the typical UK ones), so bus passengers only cross the bicycle path at the endpoints of the bus stop, which makes the situation clearer for everyone.

      Secondly, indeed the cycling path would have to be clearly distinguished from the footpath, as I suppose it would also be slow process of pedestrians in the UK getting used to not stepping blindly into a cycle path. I find it curious also how pedestrians often seem to be so afraid of cyclists, as if they are more dangerous than cars. Probably due to the stereotype of a fast, agressive, lycra-clad cyclist on a racebike.

  12. fred says:

    Well, you could equally argue, what happens right now (with less footway available) when pedestrians (with luggage, pushchairs) are running for a bus that has stopped in the wrong place? Do they step into the road in front of oncoming traffic? Or do they act reasonably sensibly?

    I suspect pedestrians are more likely to step into the cycle track than into the road. But they’ll do that because it’s safer. And cyclists will need to come through here slowly. But that should be obvious. The key to avoiding complaints and misunderstandings will be to design the cycle track so it looks a bit like a road, not like part of the footway, but is still easy to cross for those with limited mobility.

    The key choice here is, do we want to engineer clear conflict between cycle traffic and HGVs and buses (high risk, clearly dangerous, leads to death and injury, also a significant barrier to cycling through here – and stressful and threatening for most cyclists) or do we want a cycle track with some obvious potential for (maybe irritating for cyclists, but safe, and not a barrier) conflict with pedestrians..?

    • otherhannah says:

      The argument isn’t that there isn’t enough space, on the stretch of road as whole, to accommodate bi-directional bike lanes, but I agree with James that a bus stop bypass in front of the shopping centre would be inappropriate with the proposed dimensions. You would have pedestrians standing in the cycle lane waiting for the bus, completely blocking it. Have TFL seriously considered a bidirectional path on the other side of the road (with appropriate fast links at either end, not waiting for four separate sets of traffic lights to cross) or taking a traffic lane away to create a large plaza in front of the centre big enough to accommodate bus passengers and a bike lane?

      • fred says:

        @otherhannah.

        that’s exactly what’s being suggested – except that the space is not being taken from a motor traffic lane – but from the two 4.5m bus lanes that TfL wants to use to accommodate cyclists on the carriageway. Reducing these to 3m each gives the 3m you need (equivalent to one traffic lane) to provide both a 2.5m cycle lane and more space for pedestrians in front of the shopping centre. Removing or reducing the central reservation will give even more space.

        • James says:

          Do you think the 4.5 metre bus lanes/bus stops are there purely for the benefit of cyclists or because they are actually needed by buses manoeuvring into and out of bus stops between other waiting buses? I suspect that the claim that the extra space is for the benefit of cyclists who want to remain on the carriageway is just a spin and that this width is actually needed as it is the space into which the rear and front right-hand corners of buses will be jutting out. However, if the extra 1.5 metres really is unnecessary, then your suggestion might work, but you’d certainly need to provide plenty of additional space for pedestrians in front of the shopping centre otherwise they’d blame cyclists for any perceived increase in risk.

          • There is no space designated ‘for manoeuvring into and out of bus stops between other waiting buses’ in these plans. If you want to make such space available, this is simple to arrange. Put the Busses on the outside of the cycles and in proximity with general traffic lanes- busses manoeuvring around other busses by using the general traffic lanes is the normal pattern.

            It is not entirely clear why you would *need* to have busses manoeuvring around other busses here, except in the case of breakdown. Can you explain what you mean?

            • James says:

              It’s very clear if you ever visit these bus stops. There are approximately 170 buses an hour in each direction stopping at them and they struggle to all get to the kerb at the correction point, hence a lot of manoeuvring is required. This gives an indication of what it’s like:

              • Paulc says:

                all the more reason to put a bus stop bypass in behind the bus stops…

                I’m amazed at the sheer lack of faith you have in the intelligence of your fellow humans… the Dutch have bus stop bypasses behind their bus stops, they don’t have problems between cyclists and pedestrians. Why the bleep do you have such little faith?

              • Paulc says:

                OMG a whole 170 buses per hour, that’s almost a bus every twenty seconds!!!! Whoop de doo… if the bypass is a decent distance behind the bus stops, there will be no problem. Pedestrians are not stupid… you seem to have a distinct lack of faith in their ability to stay out of the bus stop bypass…

              • James says:

                PaulC, “if the bypass is a decent distance behind the bus stops” – yes the question of whether there could be enough space in this location was the whole point of the discussion. And, before your contributions, it was a fairly intelligent discussion in why Fred made some good points.

              • James says:

                …in which Fred made some good points.

  13. Jitensha Oni says:

    There are a number of points one could make (executive summary – I’m with fred). I leave it at two:

    1. The aim is not to fit in bike paths where they will go as an exercise in topology. Either you think it is worth slightly inconveniencing pedestrians and bike riders in the rush hour by installing a cycle path to save some KSIs (and increase subjective safety), or you don’t, and plan accordingly. I’d go for the one that saves most lives in the long run, but you all may differ. As the OP says making it safe on one side is insane. The southbound carriageway with its huge number of buses, must be the more dangerous. However the northbound side cannot be immune to pedestrians and cyclists having to negotiate, especially in front of the Tabernacle, yet i haven’t seen any comments that this would be inappopriate. Where do you draw the line…

    2. As fred says, active travellers negotiate quite well. Here’s somewhere you see that at rush hour (rotate left to see more), as well as in the station itself

    https://www.google.co.uk/maps?ll=51.504305,-0.113441&spn=0.002895,0.004683&t=m&z=18&layer=c&cbll=51.504151,-0.114164&panoid=unsAmly2sYKndF45mjH8Bw&cbp=12,277.45,,0,13.05

    while in the following in the distance (can’t get closer on StreetView) we have shared use round market stalls in the middle and shops on each of the sides of the plaza with narrow footways . Think of the market stalls and shops as buses. Most bike riders walk through (I’ve even seen London Dynamo riders do this!) when it’s really busy. It works.

    https://www.google.co.uk/maps?ll=51.408991,-0.30618&spn=0.011551,0.018733&t=m&z=16&layer=c&cbll=51.408979,-0.306279&panoid=2yy6stpdSSc5jC0s40Hs6A&cbp=12,357.34,,0,8.16

    And remember with the E&C scheme the paths are for the non-vehicular who probably won’t mind walking or scooting a few metres. The fast guys I expect will still be taking the lane among the motors on the carriageway.

  14. The Fiendishness of the ABD crowd (Anything But Dutch) extends to providing an entirely different treatment in one direction to another, in the hope that this will keep down the numbers using even the relatively successful track to a minimum.

    Imagine if they built the M1 in one direction only, saying ‘but there isn’t room to drive from Birmingham to London direct, so please go via Oxford’.

  15. Nick says:

    If there is more space for the bycicle more people will use the bike and less people will need the buss, in the long term that means less busses are needed giving more space to everyone.

    • Dan B says:

      This is the thing that nobody has mentioned. Pretty much everyone above is trying to design for existing users, as if this is set in stone. Design for what is wanted, not what you have.

  16. platinum says:

    It’s funny how in all these arguments about space, it’s the narrowest vehicle that seems to be the only one that’s ‘too wide’ to be accommodated.

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