Much of the talk from Transport for London around the time of last summer’s protest on Blackfriars Bridge – a protest that centred on the failure to keep a lower 20 mph speed limit through the junction, and to design a junction adequately suited to the needs of vulnerable users, not simply an urban motorway – stressed that the redesign of the junction, while not what cyclists might have wanted, was largely necessary because of the increased pedestrian flows at the new station.
Take these comments from Ben Plowden, for instance –
Well the first thing to say is that it’s very important to remember why it is we’re doing these junction works. The junction works are necessary to allow the re-opening of Blackfriars Station after its three year, £550 million, upgrade, and there’s going to be a huge increase in the number of people going into and out of the station on foot. In fact there’s going to be a ten-fold increase in the number of people going into and out of the station on foot, and in order to accommodate that increase we’ve had to make more pavement space available for pedestrians and put in two new pedestrian crossings to allow street-level access to the station.
Similar comments were made by Plowden to the Evening Standard –
Ben Plowden, TfL’s director of better routes and places, said the changes were designed to cope with a huge increase in pedestrians using the pavements around Blackfriars station, as a result of extra trains and the closure of pedestrian subways. He said pedestrians would account for 57 per cent of people using the north-side junction, compared to six per cent of cyclists. He said the speed limit was temporarily lowered to 20mph because of construction traffic and not because of speed-related safety concerns. The final changes to the junction will not be completed until Christmas, when the station reopens. Mr Plowden said: “I understand the anxiety, but in terms of the practical experience for most people most of the time, the traffic will be going fairly slowly, and for those particular right turns, [cyclists] will have a chance to move across the lanes when the traffic is held at red. The whole point of the junction is to make sure pedestrians can get to and from the station in the morning and evening.“
And in this interview with BBC London News.
These comments are singing from the TfL hymnsheet, a.ka. ‘Boris’s script’ –
Blackfriars station will reopen in December 2011 following a £550 million, three year upgrade project. Over 24,000 pedestrians will enter and exit the station during the morning peak and the junction outside of the station has had to be redesigned to accommodate these hugely increased pedestrian flows. The need for new pedestrian crossings has created an opportunity to reassess the whole junction and deliver a new layout that would mean improvement for as many users as possible. This new design accommodates the huge increase in demand from pedestrians, who will make up 58% of all users of the junction whilst improving facilities for the estimated 6% of people travelling through by bicycle. This has been achieved without creating conditions which would severely disbenefit other modes, including bus and taxi passengers, who will account for around a fifth of those using the junction.
This same ‘hymnsheet’ also cites the new pedestrian crossings as a reason for rejecting the maintenance of the 20 mph limit – they would keep average traffic speeds down.
Now that the new layout is almost complete, what does the junction look like for pedestrians – the users for whom TfL say it has been explicitly redesigned?
As both Cyclists In The City and War On The Motorist have noted, there are now no pedestrian crossings across the southern end of New Bridge Street, where it meets the Victoria Embankment and Queen Victoria Street. It has been removed.
Here’s how pedestrians are crossing that stretch of road, on a relatively quiet afternoon last week –
To my mind, this is not evidence of a junction that has been redesigned for pedestrians; quite the opposite.
This is before the station, in the background, has even opened. The chances of a collision occurring once those ‘24,000 pedestrians’ TfL refer to are coming in and out of the station – many across this very road – are surely very high indeed. Especially when we consider that those vehicles coming from the right and left in the video are travelling in what is currently a 20 mph limit; a speed limit that will disappear once the junction works are complete.